From the author: This story is a re-written version of 'I'm All Yours', which can be accessed from my profile.

Formatting notes: Italics denote the main character's mental dialogue and private thoughts. Text between slash marks /like this example/ marks denote the character's built-in "operation system". The main character and her internal operating system have the same name, so when she refers to the system, or addresses it mentally, the name 'allegra' is used, spelled with a small letter. 'Allegra' with a capital letter refers to the main character herself.



Chapter 1: They said I shouldn't talk to you

Dear allegra, they said I shouldn't talk to you anymore now that I've pubesced. Well, who else can I talk to, then? No, don't list out those names sorted by frequency of contact for me. Right now I just want to talk to my FACE. Yes, that's you, Allegra.

/identification: ALLEGRAqpalz923/

Click my tongue and wave one hand dismissively – I'd do that if I could. But I don't have a physical existence here in this limbo that they call Cyberspace. Anything you want to express, you do so in words. It may be emotionally less satisfying, but it has considerable advantages over physical modes of communication – sometimes body language just gets in the way, or obscures the message.

/identification: ALLEGRAqpalz923, category: citizen, level: Delta/

Yes, allegra, I know you're actually myself. Well technically you're the interface with the Fully Amalgamated Cognitive Enhancement system we all get when we pubesce.

Pubescing—I personally prefer the archaic word 'puberty'—used to signify lots of things, including the right to copulate without sanction, but not many people know that. Not that this is in any way a shortcoming or failure - they don't need to know it, and every bit of unnecessary information is another byte of cog-space wasted; you can't unlearn what you've already got in your head. The biggest significance of pubescing now is that it's the pass to Cyberspace citizenship.

No, no, allegra, don't unzip the firsttimeuser files, I read them already.

/the user may interact with the system interface as a virtual person for initial startup/

/this operation is not recommended for long-term application/

I'm not a minor anymore, I can talk to whoever I please.

/this operation is highly irregular / risk level: permissible / termination of operation recommended / confirm?/

Shut up, Allegra.

Well, here I am, hurtling down the Main Conduit at a speed so fast that they won't even let you look outside in case the visual input overwhelms your eyes. I almost can't believe that I'm doing this. It sounds like one of old Hypotenuse's questions that he saves for the last quarter-measure of Applied Probability: "Calculate the odds that Allegra would be going down Main Conduit in First City in a transporter on a given date and at a given time." Elementary stuff, really, even if you know that I prefer to get around with the RIT system.

Have you got the answer already, allegra? Right, now do the odds I'd have a Zomb beside me. Yes, a living, breathing Zomb, not a humanoid droid.

/operation complete / display result?/

What, you got that already? Make that a NAKED Zomb then. And while you're at it, you can figure out who's responsible for this mountain of messed-up-ness. You can do that, right? Crunch those numbers. I bet the result is ten to the power of … some number that ends with 'lion' probably.

ALERT: biological support system overload / level: approaching caution

Alright, alright, I'll stop here. I'm calm, allegra, really. Not agitated at all, so don't send in the endocrine nanobots!

/alert escalating / initiate preventive operation?/

Stop fussing, allegra. I don't need doping for this. It's just shopping.

Shopping for my Zomb.

I pull the override plug on my FACE. In the three submeasures that it takes for the interface to fade into my peripheral vision, I hold my breath, releasing it together with the return of non-augmented sight. I always hate this part. It's like waking from a dream, except it's reality that you're waking up to. And sometimes reality just…. What's that word that Hypotenuse says was a popular expletive in his childhood? Oh, right, 'sucks'. Reality sucks. And thinking about Hypotenuse twice in less than one measure of time… that can't be normal, even if he IS my biological progenitor.

A status screen slips discreetly into focus, pushing insistently into my field of vision.

/status report: irregular / alert level: non-threat/

"Quiet, allegra." I mutter under my breath, brushing the screen out of sight. Some time ago, the transporter had signalled that it would arrive in thirty submeasures. It did this because passengers often don't realise they've stopped since there is no perceptible difference being inside a moving and stationary transporter. That's why I prefer the RIT—if I'm moving forward at 250 velo-units, I want to feel that I'm moving, not sitting still in a little room with brushed metal walls.

"Disembark." The side of the transporter nearest my destination dismantles itself at my voice. That's the only thing that I find endearing about the transporters—they don't let you out unless you tell them you want to get out. The transporter wall does not reassemble after me. That's right… I'm not alone. I glance over my shoulder. The Zomb looks at me placidly, still sitting in the exact same position as when we'd started the journey.

I hesitate before saying, "Come."

The curt command sounds heartlessly cold to me, but the Zomb obediently exits to stand in front of me, head slightly bowed to make full eye contact. He holds his hands behind his back. I know the bow is to accommodate our head-and-shoulders' worth of height difference and I know that the hands are in default standby position, but I'm just not comfortable with the resulting subservient posture. What tips the already unnerving situation into the goosebump-raising category is his nakedness. Well, alright, he's not really naked. There's actually an outer covering all over him, now that I can bring myself to take a closer look. It seems to be the same material as the stuff that forms personal hygiene privacy booths, the kind that's usually clear but you can make spots of it strategically translucent or opaque.

/alert: friend detected in vicinity / identification: CLEFoedka777 / contact estimated: 0.3 submeasures/

Twelve measures in a daycycle, a hundred submeasures in each measure... three tenths of a submeasure is barely the duration of a heartbeat. Not enough time to evade her. Chuck. I mean, Suck.

"Heyo, Allegra!"

Clef and I air hug. Her current hair colour is neon pink, with LEDs spelling out the name of her latest hetfriend. It matches her bodypaint.

"You finally got yourself a Zomb! I'm electrified for you!" Clef cannot speak without exclamation marks.

I mumble something, which she totally disregards. Her hoverboard is circling us in a predatory pattern. I avoid looking at her face because the LEDs are hurting my eyes. That puts my eyes at the level of her nipples, which are thankfully, covered with a layer of synth-skin under the bodypaint. My synapses drag up another piece of useless information – something about how bodypainting on a long-term basis can clog certain ducts.

"Where did you find it?" she trills, "The labourmart?"

I mumble something incomprehensible again, since it's quite clear that she isn't talking with me, but at me.

"Anyway, he's DROOLICIOUS!" She floats away, which is good because I'm getting slightly nauseous from being in the middle of a pink whirpool.

I've just been seen with a naked Zomb by the fastest social updater that I know. That should put me in the trending crowd. It is so NOT what I want that it's almost funny.

Zomb. I hate the sound of the word.

"Perhaps the term 'Promised' would be more agreeable to you."

I jump at his voice. Then I remember that as a Zomb, he can 'hear' my most conscious thoughts. Kind of like the LANs that were the precursor of the Limited Access Virtual Loop – you're supposed to refer to it as the LAVL, but I can never say that acronym without thinking of a hysterically laughing internal organ.

He repeats the word. "Promised."

It's a quintillion times better than 'Zomb'. But it's also stirring up emotions that I'd rather not confront right now.

"Zech." I articulate that one syllable through gritted teeth. It's supposed to be his name, but you'd never know that from the total lack of reaction he's giving me.

His name was—is—Zechary. We promised to be friends. Then I went and made him my Zomb. So now I own him.

And I don't want to.