Staring at the dice, Lilith let out a sigh of frustration and sat back in her chair, reaching out to tip over the figurine representing her character. The figure was that of a small dwarf, wielding an axe and wearing heavy armor, while a larger figure representing a giant stood next to it.
“That’s it for my health. Looks like the pair of you are going to have to deal with the rest of the scenario.” Lilith said, shaking her head in disbelief.
“What? But… but you’re a dwarf! You have bonuses to defense against giants, and you chose to play the highest health hero in the game!” Gina protested, the blonde looking up from her character sheet suddenly.
“I missed every defense roll on my last three turns, and I critically failed the last one.” Lilith retorted, glowering at the handful of dice and the three baleful ones on them. “That’s it for me.”
“I’ll admit that it’s a bit… unexpected.” Rachel said, frowning as she studied the game board. “Maybe we were focusing on our own fights a bit too much.”
“Maybe so.” Gina conceded. “It’s going to certainly make defending the caravan a little harder.”
“Good luck. Not that it seems like you need it.” Lilith replied, sighing and passing the dice to Rachel.
It’d been a few weeks since they’d rescued Blooming Orchid from Doctor Johnson’s lair, and she was starting to get incredibly bored and frustrated. They’d gotten the credit for taking down the villain in the media, and that coupled with Ocean Spirit putting in a word for them seemed to have convinced the government to back off. The LANCE detachment which had been sent to San Francisco had been recalled, and she’d been quietly informed that the government was in the process of removing the bounty on Lilith’s head, but apparently it was taking longer than expected, as there were doubts from other countries in the UN. Lilith didn’t quite trust the authorities yet, though.
Since that was the case, Lilith and the others had hunkered down in the hidden base where Lilith had gained consciousness and tried to wait. They’d been playing a lot of board games, and Lilith was growing sorely tempted to have Circe Prime build her a proper gaming console of some form. She was going stir-crazy, and that wasn’t good.
“Lilith, I hope I’m not interrupting?” Claire’s voice was a bit of a surprise, and as Rachel rolled the dice Lilith turned to her guest.
Claire, or Blooming Orchid, had changed a great deal since the first time Lilith had seen her, though that was the fault of Doctor Johnson. Instead of being a dark-eyed woman of Chinese descent, Claire looked like a blue-eyed Egyptian woman. Lilith had deliberately failed to share the images of the actress in a film that the appearance was based off of with Claire, as she suspected that it would’ve made her guest even more unhappy. Still worse for Claire was how Doctor Johnson had used his experimental device to not only weaken her muscles and reaction time, but had also kept them from improving via training. Hopefully that would change in the near future, but it was more dependent on whether or not Professor Therian could help the heroine. Unless she took Lilith’s offer, that is.
“No, I just botched my defense roll and died, so…” Lilith began, but the sound of dice distracted her, as did Gina’s giggle. Turning, she saw the dice and groaned. “Oh, that just isn’t fair!”
“Double damage from an assassin shouldn’t be fair.” Rachel retorted, and removed the giant’s figure from the board.
“It’s not our fault your rolls are so bad.” Gina teased, smirking as she took the dice and brandished them at Lilith. “You’re the one who insisted on replacing the dice three times.”
“I know. It’s frustrating, but I’m beginning to think that these games hate me.” Lilith replied in disgruntlement. Letting out another heavy sigh, she turned back to Claire. “Sorry about that… it’s been a day. So what did you want to talk about? Good news from the professor?”
“I’m afraid not.” Claire replied, slowly approaching, frowning as she did so. “He said that while he’d love to help, the changes delved into areas he hadn’t studied yet, and doing so would take years, even if I could afford to pay for it. So… I’m not going to get help from him.”
“Really? That’s horrid, Claire! I thought that if anyone could change you back, it’d be him.” Gina said, her mirth wiped away as she set down the dice.
“Even if it meant that you had to be a catgirl or wolf-kin for a while.” Rachel agreed, frowning heavily. “I don’t think that Ocean Spirit is going to be happy to hear it. Wasn’t he pretty much your last option? It took you nearly a week to get in contact with him, didn’t it?”
“That’s right, and it was a bust. Everyone I’ve talked to about it says that the technology to fix what was done to me is a year or two out at best, possibly more.” Claire confirmed, rubbing her eyes for a moment, then looking at Lilith carefully. “That being the case, I’d like to take your offer, Lilith. Spirit and the others may be annoyed, but I’m not willing to spend months or years like this.”
“I can’t say as I blame you.” Lilith said, seeing the weariness in Claire’s eyes with some concern. Considering that… she asked. “How soon are you wanting to go through the changes?”
“As soon as I reasonably can.” Claire replied instantly, glancing apologetically at Gina and Rachel. “Sorry to interrupt your game.”
“Don’t be. We’re just killing time and being frustrated ourselves.” Gina told her, her voice gentle as she shrugged helplessly. “It isn’t like we can do much with our time.”
Rachel snorted softly at that, her eyebrows rising as she asked. “And just who annexed one of the laboratories and turned it into a room for painting? At least you’re able to do that much, I can’t even teach via videoconferencing due to the security concerns. But you’re right, despite that. Claire’s problem is a bit more pressing than ours at the moment.”
“Thanks.” Claire replied, some of her anxiety seeming to fade, which helped Lilith relax marginally. Being cooped up wasn’t good for any of them.
Lilith cleared her throat and looked up. “Circe Prime? How soon can you prepare the facility to repair Claire’s body?”
“As I anticipated that such would be necessary, I prepared most necessary materials for the procedure in advance. Preparing the final solutions will take twenty-four hours at most.” The base AI replied promptly. “However, final adjustments to the template must be selected first. This cannot be done outside of the secure facility.”
“Well, that makes sense.” Claire said, her tension easing still more. “How long will it take? Also, um… what he did was extremely painful. Will this be, too?”
“My analysis of the changes which were inflicted on you indicates that Doctor Johnson used an energy-intensive alteration, but one which does not require a great deal of machinery to perform. The method at my disposal is much more intricate and requires significant infrastructure, but also should be virtually painless. It’s recommended that you go under anesthesia through the process, however, as it will take between forty-eight and seventy-two hours to perform.” Circe Prime explained. She paused for a long moment before adding. “I must also warn, despite everything I can do and the samples of your code we’ve acquired, the template for your former body is incomplete. Returning you to precisely your previous form is exceedingly unlikely.”
“That’s fine, I think. I just want to be… well, as close to being me again as I can. It doesn’t have to be exact.” Claire said, smiling a bit more.
“Hey, you can always take the time to ensure that you’re not going to get heart disease or something, right?” Gina said, grinning as she added. “And if anyone has the excuse of changing up your outfit, you’re going to.”
“We’ll see. Thanks, Lilith.” Claire said, her tone grateful.
“Not a problem. I mean, I can sympathize with what’s happened to you, and I’m pretty sure that the technology was developed for my creation. I hope that something else good can come out of it.” Lilith replied, grinning at the others. “If you consider me good, anyway. Beside that… when do you want to do this, then?”
“Let’s go tomorrow.” Claire said decisively, unfolding her arms and taking a deep breath as she added unhappily. “It also means that I’d better go contact whoever is on-duty at Ocean Shield and let them know. I’m sure I’m going to get an earful, but I suppose I can always hang up if necessary.”
“You’d know better than me. Even if they’ve apologized, I still am rather miffed with them. Especially Sky Defender, since he nearly put a hole through my head, and did destroy my painting of Rachel.” Lilith said dryly.
“Something which I gave him hell for, by the by.” Gina said darkly. “He had the audacity to offer to pay for it. If I hadn’t made a digital copy, it’d be gone forever, and that just isn’t the same.”
“Which is why you’ve been trying to make a new one.” Rachel teased, then looked at Claire. “Say hello to whoever is on duty for me, would you?”
“Sure. Have fun with your game!” Claire said, quickly walking back the way she came.
Turning to watch Gina pick up the dice, Lilith paused as Circe, the android this time, spoke for the first time since entering the room. “Mistress Lilith, may I speak with you privately for a moment?”
“Certainly.” Lilith replied, blinking, then smiling a little. She found there being two Circe’s a little odd, but both had been stubborn about not changing names, now that they’d gained full sentience. Looking at the others, she told them. “I’m going to start on dinner once I’m done talking to her. Avenge my death, please?”
“Already done, remember?” Rachel teased, snagging the figure of the giant and waving it at Lilith.
Lilith stuck out her tongue as she got up and headed for the kitchen, shaking her head as she went. Circe followed her, and as she entered the kitchen, Lilith asked. “Alright, Circe… what was it that you wanted to talk to me about? You’re usually rather quiet.”
“I’ve been attempting to adjust to my current state and to determine what my core values are. It has taken quite some time to ascertain, and gives me a degree of sympathy for you, as your programming must be much more difficult to parse, especially for you yourself.” Circe replied quickly, pausing for a long moment, then continued. “That being the case, I find myself… hesitant to speak of it. I’m afraid that you may take what I wish to speak of the wrong way.”
“Oh? Why’s that?” Lilith asked, putting on an apron and considering Circe for a moment. “I’ll try not to take anything poorly, and unless you’re wanting to hurt me, I don’t see that changing.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” Circe replied, smiling a little and hesitating, then she spoke. “My values are mostly informed by my last commands in the drone. My core programming is to keep you safe, and I intend to do so, but you also commanded me to rescue Claire. That command has lodged itself in my core, and I wished to… to ask your permission to accompany her when she leaves this place, should she permit it. I intend to undergo a full chassis refit while you’re away, with all components being considered safe for use beyond Mistress Amber’s strongholds, but I also desire your approval.”
“Oh.” Lilith said, blinking in surprise at the android, then looked up. “Circe Prime? You approved this retrofit?”
“I have. While I believe allowing her to leave is not a good solution, attempting to confine her would likely lead to dissatisfaction and potentially to rebellion, while destroying or deactivating her would be distasteful in the extreme to me.” The other AI said. “Considering all possibilities, I believe it is the best choice.”
“Interesting…” Lilith said, looking at Circe thoughtfully, then slowly smiled. “Well, who am I to stand in your way? I’ve always felt you didn’t have room to grow properly, with you on the cusp of sentience, so I guess this is just the natural progression of things. You’re welcome to accompany Claire once she leaves, Circe.”
The android smiled in response, just a bit of relief to her expression as she nodded. “Thank you, Mistress Lilith. May I help you with dinner preparations?”
“Certainly. If you’ll grab the mixing bowl? I think I’m going to make pizza tonight.” Lilith replied, amused by the android’s reaction.
Circe promptly headed for the cabinet, and Lilith began getting out the ingredients. She had to admit, she was curious how Circe would develop on her own.