Summer arrives at the Gale estate in time to catch Aria still dressed to the nines.
“Who were you meeting?” Summer asks, uncertain. Aria has been making early rounds, talking to potential business partners about applications for Leo’s technology. But on a Sunday?
“I got back from church,” Aria explains. “I haven’t changed yet, is all.”
“How’s that been going?”
Aria smiles. “How’s the coffee shop been going?”
Summer shrugs, and smiles. "It’s … " She tries to think of a word. The experience of meeting people, doing ordinary things, the service. How to encapsulate that simple joy? She realizes that Aria’s church-going must be similar. “… Rewarding.”
Her twin nods in recognition. “Oh! While you’re here. I’d like your opinion on a Powerpoint I’m doing. Do you have time?”
Summer glances at her watch. “I think so. Your email had said something about new tech, is that…?”
“That won’t take long,” Aria assures her. “I’ve tested it myself, and you built your shell almost like mine. Come on, let’s get you fitted, then you can look at my slides.”
Both girls smile to themselves, and each other. They could have diverged in so many different ways, and have in a few key ones. That makes the ways in which they’re still the same all the more important. One of those is appearance. Pneuma’s basic insight into feminine appearance was that it worked like a bell curve, graphing attractiveness vs. attention given to what you had to say. Too plain - or too pretty - and people would lose themselves in your face and form, rather than attending to your opinion. Pneuma parked herself right at the top of the bell curve, maximizing attention given to the substance of the conversation rather than the style of the speaker, and both Aria and Summer cruise in that general area even today.
Summer enjoys the freedom a holographic shell permits. But when it comes to solid matter, she has practical as well as social reasons for sticking close. One of those is clothing - she can share outfits with her sister. Less often, but more significantly - like now - she can also share shell tech.
What Aria has is a set of implants for her arms, legs, and core. “We took your levitation schematics and made them work for carbon-type shells. Here, read the wiring diagram while I go get changed. I’ll help you get fitted.” Aria grins cheekily. “Or maybe that fancy holographic shell can do it.”
“I’ll show you. You won’t get a speck of oil on your nice outfit,” promises Summer.
“How about I get changed anyway.”
Aria slips out of her dress and throws on mechanic’s coveralls, while Summer undocks from her outer body and flickers to life as living light. The two girls systematically disconnect Summer’s limbs - a hard, but not impossible, task, given the thoroughness with which Leo built her.
“This will cost you about 15% of your muscular strength,” Aria explains. “But you can use the thrusters to add force to compensate. It’ll run your batteries dry if you overdo it, and you can exceed your structural strength.” Together, they detach strands of nanoyarn in the limbs - the “muscles” of a Newman-type android. What replaces them are long rods, featureless and rigid, with only a thin bundle of wires leading out of them. Installation, splicing, and soldering take only ten minutes. The core is tightly packed, and takes another eight minutes.
Summer re-docks, and almost loses her balance. Aria is there to steady her, with a reassuring smile and hug. “That happened to me too, I should have warned you about it, I’m sorry. You’ll adjust.”
While Summer takes a seat to rest and adjust, Aria hauls the laptop over. The presentation looks impressive. Slide after slide moves by, with Aria providing narration. Summer has been part of these discussions, but hearing it all put together sounds… a little too real. Leo and Aria have big plans. Summer suddenly feels very small and unimportant, working at a coffee shop.
The slide deck comes to an end and Aria folds her hands on her lap. “What do you think?” she asks, earnestly, worriedly.
“It’s… great. I really like it.”
Summer watches Aria’s face fall, and realizes she needs to do better. “Listen, no, listen sis. It really is… amazing. It’s intimidating. It feels like… you’ve grown up. You and Leo. I don’t even know how to judge this. It’s … it’s better than anything I could ever do.”
Aria sighs and stands. She pulls Summer up, and into a tight, unrelenting hug, resting her head against her sister’s shoulder. “I can’t do this without you, Summer,” she whispers. “I know it wasn’t easy, going off on your own, doing your own thing, but every time you tried something new, like with Jason, or Blintzkrieg, or all of it, you gave me hope that I could be my own person too. You’re my inspiration. You’ve been braver than I ever was. I’m so glad you’re still part of my life.”
Summer feels her nose wrinkling and her eyes growing wet. “Stupid. Stop saying stupid things. You can do Powerpoint. You dress up so nicely. I just serve coffee.”
Aria squeezes her into silence. “Hush up and take a compliment like a good girl.”
Summer feels herself giving in. “Okay, mom.”
The two hug in silence, enjoying the closeness of their other self turned sister. Their mutual doubts and mutual admiration doesn’t need to be expressed to be understood. Until recently, family for Leo - and for Pneuma - had been something that could only be taken away. Now, finally, they have a family that can fight back, hold together, stay united no matter what happens. It’s still difficult. The fear is still there, that if you reach out to someone they’ll disappear on you. But when bravery overcomes that fear, the reward is amazing.
Aria finally pulls away, and Summer finds that she can stand on her own without being dizzy or unbalanced.
“Now listen.” Aria is back to business, and Summer pays attention. “The thrusters will shred whatever you’re wearing if you engage them. There’s a field effect about three inches from the skin, centered on the forearms and knee to ankle. Shorts and T-shirts, halter tops, cut-off jeans. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that a dress is right out if you’re flying. If you have to wear the Gardner uniform skirt and expect to fly, a blouse and athleisure leggings, like some of those Old Navy capri pants, will be fine.”
This sounds surprisingly specific. Summer looks suspiciously at her sister, and Aria grins.
“Yes, I got some for you too. Come on, get changed. We’re going flying.”
author: Bill G.