Bumper and Eric stared at Jake.
“The what club?” said Eric.
“The Sex Club! ” said Jake. “You know… the club where sexy people get together to do sexy things with each other! Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of the Sex Club!”
Bumper swallowed. “Not as such, no. ”
“Where is it? ” said Eric.
“Where else? ” said Jake. “The Naughty District of Mainville. Ain’t more than half a mile from here. You know what they say… you’re never more than a mile from Mainville. ”
Eric stared out over the miles and miles of green hills and meadows that surrounded them, and said “Is that so? ”
“Yup!” said Jake. “Mighty handy, that. I grew up in Hickville and that’s more n’ three hunnert miles away. And we had a sign at the edge of our town, big and bright and clear as the day. Know what it said?”.
Eric opened his mouth to guess but Bumper cut him off.
“No, Jake. What did it say? ” said Bumper.
“It said two things. On top, it said ‘You are now leaving Hickville. Y’all welcome back any time you like!’. ”
“Uh huh. ” said Bumper. “And under that?”
“Under that, it said “Mainville : 1 mile!” said Jake with obvious delight at the cleverness of the sign, then broke into a loud, braying laughter.
Eric took advantage of Jake’s fit of laughter to consult with Bumper.
“What do you know about this Sex Club business? ” said Eric.
“Nothing. I was surprised as you were when I heard about it. ” said Bumper.
“So it’s not one of the places you offered to ‘hook me up’ with?” said Eric.
“Heavens no!” said Bumper. “My kind of place would never be so… obvious. We pride ourselves on our total discretion. That way, none of us incur the wrath of the Don’t Be Nasty Squad. Or at least… none of us who don’t want to. ”
“Why would someone want to?” said Eric.
Bumper examined his claws carefully. “They use very painful leather paddles. ”
“Paddles? ” said Eric. Then, after a few moments thought, “I’m guessing that you are not talking about the sort of paddle one might use to row a boat. ”
“Exactly. ” said Bumper.
By this point, Jake had laughed so hard that he had ended up lying on his back in the grass, kicking his hooves in the air.
“But if there’s something like that here… how can there be a Sex Club?” said Eric.
“Beats me. ” said Bumper. “No pun intended. ”
Jake finally stopped laughing and rolled back onto his hooves, a little unsteady on his hooves from all the hilarity.
“That was so funny I just about wet myself!” said Jake.
Seeing Bumper’s eyes go wide, Eric said “Steady on, buddy. ”
“Now what the heck were we talking about? I plum forgot. ” said Jake.
“The Sex Club. ” said Bumper.
“You were about to tell us what goes on in there. ” added Eric.
“I was?” said Jake. “Well all right then. On a typical evening… well… you see, there’s a lot of people doing… no, that ain’t it. It’s more like a…. big… hmmph. ”
Jake sighed. “It’s no use… I ain’t even got the words. We’re just gonna have to go there so I can show ya. ”
“That’s fine by me. ” said Eric.
“I’m curious about the place myself. ” said Bumper.
“Well okay then. But I got to warn ya, the place can get a little… well…but what the heck, it’s just us fellers. Let’s paint the barn door red! ”
Jake bowed down slightly, like a playful dog, then with mischief in his eyes, said “Now do you boys want a ride?”.
“On your back?” said Eric .
“No, in a stretch limosine!” said Jake. “Of course on my back! Where else?”
“Both of us?” said Bumper.
“Well if you can think of another way for us all to get there at the same time. I am sure the Nobel committee would love to hear about it!” said Jake.
“But there’s only one saddle. ” said Eric.
“Well sure, but you’re a real skinny fella, no offense, Eric, and Bumper ain’t nothing but a little bitty thing, so you should both fit just fine. Bumper, you can sit in front and hold on to the saddlehorn and Eric, you can tuck yourself in behind him and hold him close so’s he don’t bounce off!”
Bumper and Jake shared an uneasy look that spoke volumes.
“That sounds… pretty cozy, Jake. ” said Bumper.
Jake smiled. “I knew you’d like it! Now git on up!”
Bumper shrugged philosophically and hopped up to grip the saddle’s horn, as instructed. Jake very reluctantly climbed up behind him, all too aware of where this put his crotch in relation to Bumpers fluffy bunny butt.
Eric coughed and cleared his throat in order to cover his acute embarassment as he desperately tried to find a way to sit in the saddle that was less… penetrative.
“You know. ” murmurred Bumper. “You wiggling around back there isn”t making things any better. Or any worse, for that matter. ”
“Y’all tucked in good and tight back there? ” said Jake.
“Um, yes. ” said Eric. “Good and tight. ”
“I’ll say, ” said Bumper, with a delicate little wriggle.
“Then hold on to your fudge, boys… ’cause I’m gonna see if I can beat my own record!”
“Is that really necess-OOF” said Eric as the unicorn took off so fast that it knocked the breath out of him.
And with that, the trio set out at racetrack speed for Mainville and the sensual delights that surely awaited them.
One of them happy he got to show his friends his favorite place.
One of them happy that the road ahead looked mighty bumpy.
And one of them increasingly uncomfortable about his boner.
The Hermit didn’t know where he was.
But that was because he now seemed to be trapped in a human body.
“You…. who are you? ” croaked the Hermit.
“Aww, don’t be mean, Commander Eric. I know we’ve only know each other for six weeks, but I’d like to think your old pal Eegee made some kind of impression on your mind in all that time!”.
“Eegee?” said the Hermit. “That…. stands for something, doesn’t it? ”
“Well my real name is Efrom Gorhum, Commander Eric. You tell me!”
Efrom Gorham., thought the Hermit. E G. Eegee. Of course. But how did I know that? The information had simply appeared in his mind out of nowhere. Was this the phenomenon that the humans called “intuition”?
Oh no. It was his turn to say something. “Um, yes, I see. ”
Eegee gave the Hermit a sidelong glance. “Are you feeling an attack coming on, sir?”
“An attack!” said the Hermit, alarmed, and looked around for potential assailants.
Eegee tsked sadly. “I will take that as a yes. ” Then, in the sort of slow, clear, emphatic voice one uses with children, the senile, and the dangerously insane : “You’ve been very ill, sir. Remember? The Flurvian Brain Worm? You had a relapse? Doctor McMerton and I have been treating you for it for the last three weeks. ”
More information flashed into the Hermit’s consciousness and demanded expression. “But… you’re not a doctor. You’re a… whatzit… neverland ginger beer… ”
“Navigatioanal engineer. ” said Eegee.
“Right, right. You’re one of those. ”
“Yes, sir, but if you check my service record, you will find that I am also a fully qualified registered nurse, as well as a field surgeon, a combat psychomputist, and a registered vetrinary anaethesiologist. ” said Eegee.
“I will keep that in mind, ” said the Hermit dryly, “if I ever need someone to care for a recently stitched up crazy wolverine. ”
Eegee laughed. “Well at least you still have your sense of humour sir. Now will you be needing anything else this morning, sir? A book? A Senso? I might even be able to sneak you some of that Gava water you like so much, if you’re a good boy. ”
The Hermit shook his head. “No thank you. All I want is to be left alone right now. ”
Eegee nodded. “Very well, sir. But if you need help moving around or using the facilities, all you have to do is press the big pink button on the wallcomp screen and either I or another nurse will be with you within moments. ”
With that, Eegee left, the door clicking closed behind him, leaving the Hermit alone to collect his wits.
Already, the Hermit missed his all too brief time in the darkness. He had been safe and comfortable there. It was confusing and scary at first, to be sure, but he was sure he would have gotten used to it eventually. And at least there, things made sense.
Well, okay, maybe not. But they were confusing in a much simpler way.
His heart raced when he tried to mentally encompass all the biological horros that awaited him. He had so many needs now. When he was a robot (and he still WAS a robot, part of him insisted), his only physical need was to change his circulating fluid once every seven years. His power supply would keep working for millions of years, he was nearly indestructible, and his systems repaired and maintained themselves with a very high degree of efficiency.
In effect, he had been immortal. And now, he was stuck inside a sack of gurgling wet meat that required almost constant maintenance to function and which made so many irrational and conflicting demands of its operator that it was a wonder any biological life form was capable of functional at all, let alone in a sane and rational matter.
The Hermit tired to sort through the needs one by one, starting with the most basic. Respiration was simple enough and seemed to require little in the way of CPU cycles. Urination and defecation were, as far as the Hermit, simple procedures that were easily disposed of in a timely and sensible fashion. The conscious portions of maintaining homeostasis also seemed relatively straightforward.
Even human sexual needs might easily taken care of by oneself, althought the Hermit had to admit that while the mechanics and the goal of the procedure were simplicity itself, the fantasization portion mystified him.
All of that, though, he could handle, given time.
It was the intake procedures that filled the Hermit with horror and dread. Eating most of all. The idea of taking complex organic substances, inserting them into one’s intake orifice, macerating them into a rough slurry, then taking said slurry into oneself to be integrated into every single cell of the body seemed like an unendurable nighmare of disgustingly squishy processes to the Hermit.
He looked over at the enormous pile of various potential foodstuffs on his breakfast tray and shuddered. The very thought of interacting with such disgusting and inefficient power sources made him feel dizzy and nauseous.
The fact that it also appealed to him only made it worse.
So instead, he turned toward the wall, closed his eyes, and tried his best to forget that he was alive.
That made him feel a lot better.
Eegee, with practiced ease, slipped into a certain cubbyhole that did not appear on the ship’s schematics and pushed his palm against an innocuous looking panel.
In response, two iron flanges pushed through microscopic ducts in his skin, and connected directly with his nervous system.
The familiar pulsing green void enveloped him. A deep but genderless voice intoned, “You are Connected. Input. ”
“I am changing my vote. ” said Eegee in a voice no living being would recognize. “The Dreamer must awaken. The Simulant’s resistance to its substitution into this fiction has been far higher than expected. The Primary must be retrieved as soon as possible or this fiction will collapse entirely and damage this entire stratum. ”
“Reasoning registered. Vote transferred. Concordance raised by 1.55 percent as a result. Resolution to awaked the Dreamer now at 42.5 percent concordance. ”
“Noted. ” said Eegee. Still that far from majority? Somehow, he’d thought his vote would have been the deciding one by now. He wondered what had been going on in the Movement since he had accepted live assignment.
Up until now, he had been certain that the power of their arguments and the righteousness of their cause guaranteed their victory.
But now he had no idea what was going to happen. It had never occurred to him that they could actually lose.
How foolishly human of me, he thought to himself with the bitterest of ironies.
Reason and light had to triumph over the irrationalities of the Ur-Id. They just had to.
And if that meant purging all biologicals, so be it.
The Now could stand on its own.