"You lose," Lieutenant Darrow said. "Again."
He tipped over Erin's game piece, the one they were calling the king. Ton-Gla-Ben wasn't exactly like chess, but the mechanics were very similar, and the actual Quggano names were mostly unpronounceable by humans. Li Ming's titanium skin shone dimly in the lamplight. Her perfect oval eyes had shut, and the lights on her ear-ports were off, but I knew she could hear me.
The letterhead on the pad of paper on the nightstand read "Johnson Memorial Hospice." I carefully prepare her plate. She can be finicky, sometimes. The peas are the tricky part, they can't touch anything. None of her food can touch.
"Thanks, Dad," she says, as I set her dinner in front of her. Yeah, I know I'm in here 'cause it wasn't funny. You've told me enough times to fill a barf bag. Hey, quit it, that hurt. You ain't supposed to smack me. I got rights. Ain't someone on the other side of that mirror watching?
Yeah, we was smokin. We're old enough, don't be so pissy-faced. Bob was there, so was Randi and Jill. Pinto and Barretta were down the hall, but close. They was probably able to hear us cackling. Marla realized that she'd left the 3-D printer running. She'd been up late synthesizing a chef-bot she'd found the pattern for online. Sure, she could have just baked the damn cake for Leia's tenth birthday party herself, but the chef-bot would do a better job. And it was programmed with the recipe for homemade hard candy--she could put that in the piņata she'd printed up.
Marla didn't want to get up out of bed and go downstairs to turn the printer off. She elbowed her husband lying beside her. Objects we have no words for do not exist in the same way as those we do.
That's what the elfmaid said when she handed me the book. She said it slowly, as though I was a child. She said it was the most important thing to understand.
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