Imani admires Bahati as she sleeps. Bahati has a softness to her dark green scales other reptilians do not. Her veins are less pronounced, and her teeth are filed straight. Waiting with her hands folded before her in Bahati’s bedroom, Imani concludes it must take many hours to reach Bahati’s level of beauty.
The update Ekon gave Imani this morning has numbed her. Every thought she thinks is slow but deliberate. It is difficult for her to put words together without being prompted by someone. The conscious Imani has been nearly drowned out by the update. She is nothing more than an after thought to this body that now belongs to the updated version of herself.
Updated Imani considers the room. There are three walls without pictures in this triangular bedroom. There is one bed in possession of one sleeping girl. The one window overlooking the rest of the capital is small and round and lets a cylinder of light pour into the space.
“Holy scale,” says Bahati, squinting against the bright orange light of the rising moon, “Could you be creepier? Why are you in my room?”
“Ekon has left. He told me to see to your needs,” Imani says.
“Mother’s been dead for thirty days, and he just now sends you to me? Well, forget him and you. Bye.” Bahati says, but Imani doesn’t move. Bahati sits up in her bed. “The word ‘bye’ means you can leave.”
“But I have no place to go. I am at your service,” Imani says, confused.
“You sound dull. Are you on those pills?”
“Ekon updated me earlier, yes.”
Bahati sighs, as she shakes her head in disappointment. “Mother and Ekon had uses for bots. I don’t.”
Bots without purpose are repurposed. Even the Updated Imani knows this. In the haze of the numbing drugs, she recalls stories of bot abuse she overheard during Khalia’s private meetings with other members of the Consortium. Bots had been beaten and even mutilated by their owners. The tales had made Imani cringe. Knowing she could potentially be forced to leave this home and end up somewhere much worse makes her stomach roll.
Imani knows no other home and can not recall much of anything before coming to Khalia’s home. Though it has thirteen stories, it is a modest home compared to what others on the Consortium have. It is shaped like a cylinder, made mostly of red clay and glass. Situated near the center of the capital, the uppermost floor is all glass, allowing its visitors to peer in all directions at the constant activity of daily life.
“Are you going to stare at me while I get dressed or what?” Bahati says, letting the sheet fall from her shoulders. She makes no move to cover her breasts.
Imani can feel her dark skin blush as her dark skin warms. She drops her head but stays where she is. It does not help, when Bahati laughs. Imani just shifts her weight from one foot to the other.
“Don’t drop your head like that. It makes you look weak,” says Bahati.
Imani lifts her head at the same moment Bahati leaps out the bed, fully nude. She is not as wide as her mother used to be before she got sick. Her body has precise curves that come only in youth. Unlike most reptilians, she is closer to lean than muscular. She unpins her black hair, letting it cover her breasts. After she puts on a light shirt, she pulls on leather pants. Then, she takes a moment to yawn.
“You’re so thin. Do those updates fill you up? Don’t you want some food?” Bahati says, measuring Imani’s arm by clamping her hand around it.
“Bots don’t need food,” Imani says flatly.
“We’re the same age, bot or no bot. You look too thin.”
This feels like an introduction to Imani. It dawns on her that she and Bahati have rarely spoken, despite having lived for years under the same roof. Bahati and Khalia were close, but Khalia had spent little time at home. Imani had traveled with Khalia. The times she had not, she stood in Khalia’s bedroom daydreaming.
“First things first, if you’re going to be with me, you have to get off those updates. If you’re going to be high, it’s going to be on something I give you,” Bahati says, sitting on the bed and pulling on her shoes.
“I have done no narcotics. I am not high,” says Imani, confused.
“Your updates come in the form of three pills. I have done my fair share of drugs, and you are high. I don’t like it.”
“Without my updates, I will malfunction.”
Bahati laughed. “You mean, you will have withdrawals. We’ll wean you off. It’s safer.”