The Beast, Pt. 80 (Chapter 19c)

For a long time, I say nothing. “That’s pretty poetic for an auto-doc,” I finally mutter. It’s meaningless, cheap and petty. I’m being psychoanalyzed by a robot, and it’s circumscribed the entirety of my rich internal life with a single pithy sentence after two days of knowing me.

It’s kind of disheartening learning that you’re not a complicated person.

“Thank you,” the auto-doc says, and it goes silent. I guess it lost interest in bantering with me.

* * *

I wake up on the exam table I don’t know how many hours later. My head hurts and my body aches and there’s a foul taste in my mouth, but the fact that I’m able to push myself up and hop off the thing without any pain tells me my situation’s drastically improved. I glance over my shoulder to find the auto-doc’s screen off. It doesn’t seem to care that I’m conscious and moving about. “Seems like bad bedside manner not to greet a patient,” I mutter, but even that isn’t enough to rouse the auto-doc. I watch the screen another moment, sniff, leave the room.

First order of business is finding my Conncomm. Part of me wants to try and piece together what happened last night, but a larger part of me is just curious about where my friends are. Concerned, even. Not that I think they’re in any sort of danger or need my help. More likely they left without me because I thoroughly pissed them off.

I flex my right hand, clench and unclench it. Poke at it. The second knuckle’s swollen and tender but it doesn’t hurt that bad for being broken. Must be a mild fracture.

The safe. Combination’s __________ birthday.

The thought feels like a needle poking me in between my eyes, but I know that it’s true. Whether I was trying to keep it away from myself for whatever reason, or else trying to protect it because I knew I was going to do something stupid and dangerous, I’d hidden it in one of the villa’s safes. The master suite probably, since I’d gone and claimed that for myself the other day. “Huh. Okay. Thanks, brain.”

The bed in the master suite is untouched. The room itself looks minimally inhabited. I guess no one ever got up to anything especially fun in here, although I can’t imagine why. The safe is embedded in the wall next to it, its screen blinking dimly in anticipation of an entry code.

I punch in a string of numbers. They mean nothing to me, but they open the safe.

My Conncomm’s inside, screen pulsing like the beating of a heart. There are a lot of messages on it.

“What the fuck, man?”

“We need to talk.”

“Call us when you wake up.”

“Dude, I hope you’re alright.”

“We’re getting lunch. Let us know if you want to come or you want anything.”

“Hey, the hotel’s asking about what happened last night. We told them to talk to you.”

“The hotel’s seriously pissed.”

“Are you alright?”

“You’d better not be dead, asshole.”

I sigh and slip the Conncomm into my pocket. I don’t want to deal with any of this now. Not my friends, not the clean-up, and especially not the Libretto. The only thing I want now is a shower and some food.

And maybe someone to talk to.

I scroll through my contacts, see the name, start typing.

“Hey, Notlil.”

The response comes a few moments later. “Hey. Notchad.”

“You wanna grab lunch?”

“It’s three in the afternoon.”

“You wanna grab a late lunch?”


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