Title: I'm All Yours
Chapter 13: Living without regrets
If guilt could kill, then two people were dying right there… literally, in Zech's case. I had failed Zech. He was dying because of my stubbornness and pride, and I couldn't do a thing to save him.
Allegra's distress signal had been answered by the nearest facility able to help us—Zombcon Corp. It was no coincidence that they were so near. Most of their business came from the Labourmart after all, and that was not far from where we'd left the transport. Just before the rescue team arrived, I moved most of my nanobots back, leaving just enough to keep him alive. It's illegal to put nanobots in non cit-dwellers without permission from Central, and I didn't want any more trouble than what I had already.
Our two rescuers pumped more nanobots into me, but not Zech. They didn't say anything, but I could see it in their faces: Burb-dweller, not worth saving. I took it they were burb-dwellers too, since they talked out loud to each other rather than through a FACE connection. When I feigned sleep on the way back, they talked openly about Zech and I.
"Good-looking two, aren't they?"
"The girl's cit. Guy's burb. I know what that means." They laughed raucously.
"He sure is broken bad. Nanobots could fix that, though."
"Yep, but he hasn't any 'bots, has he?"
"If he were a Zomb, he'd get plenty of them put in him."
"Yep. Are you thinking to make a Promise with him?" I could hear his leering face in that question even with my eyes closed.
"Sure am… should have enough saved up by the time I've worked my bum off for the next fifty years." They laughed again.
"Too bad we're not pretty enough to be some rich kid cit-dweller's pet, eh?"
They continued talking, but I wasn't listening anymore. I made the decision right then. Zech would not die because of me, not while there was still something I could do about it.
I groaned loudly.
"You alright there?" the younger one asked, turning in his seat to look at me.
That was the first thing I had to do: lie. "This is so horrible!" I managed to produce a convincing sob. "We were on the way to Zombcon. He was going to enter a Promise with me." That got their attention. "Now everything's ruined!"
They exchanged glances, and again it was the younger one who said, "We're on our way to Zombcon now actually… so maybe your day isn't ruined after all."
I allowed a small pause to look puzzled. When I spoke again, I put a hint of hopefulness in my voice. "Really? You mean…?"
"Well, if you're still interested in the Promise…." They both looked at me expectantly, sensing a large credit transfer in the air.
"But he's hurt… will he die? I mean, what will I do with a dead Zomb?" The last sentence I said with a petulant pout. Let them think I'm a spoiled, rich cit-dweller out to get a new toy.
They hastened to reassure me. If I wanted to go ahead with the Promise, Zombcon would do all they could to make my dream come true. Then all I had to do was to nod tearfully… and my plan was in motion.
"He'd have to give his consent, of course." The older, more cautious one said.
I knew he would, as I put my palm surreptitiously on his. My nanobots would make sure of that.
His voice in the present snaps me out of my reverie. "What would you like me to do now, Allegra?"
This is the person who almost died to save my life. And how have I repaid him? I've switched him off and turned him on like some household appliance, and made him serve me and do the inanest of things… prepare my food, paint my nails, tidy my sicking wardrobe... in short, I've treated him with no respect. I know he is a person, not just a body. Yet the more I had tried to redeem myself, the greater the damage I had caused.
"Must you do something for me all the time?" Yet again, I've managed to sound mean. The fact that he doesn't seem to be affected by my meanness only amplifies the insult.
"Of course. My function is to serve you."
"I don't want to be served by you."
By some quirk of the Zombcon programming, he decides to take that as the opening to a flirting exchange. Taking my hands in his, he looks into my eyes. "But I must serve you… because I belong to you."
Your body should be your own, not mine. You fought for the right not to serve anyone. But from the moment I manipulated your voice in the Zombing chamber, I've stolen your body from you. "I don't want you to belong to me." Even though my heart beat erratically when you said that you belong to me, even though I'm tingling from the touch of your hands on mine.
"I am your Promised one. There is no one else I can belong to."
I know in my head that he is saying those words because Zombcon thinks he should, yet I can't control how desperately my treacherous heart wants to believe them. But how long can I hold on to this stolen body, however much I want to? I push him away as hard as I can. "It's all my fault! I stole you!"
"I don't understand."
I know he doesn't understand, he can't understand, but my emotions have taken over completely. "You didn't have to promise! I made you promise! Even after you'd told me you didn't want to... I cheated you." I fall to my knees, sobbing.
He cradles me tenderly, stroking my hair. "It's alright, Allegra… Don't cry."
"It's not alright!" I scream into his shoulder, digging my fingers into his back.
He whispers my name and presses his lips to mine. INFO: PHYSICAL INTIMACY SUBSYSTEM ACTIVATED. I don't know what I did to make that happen. All I know is, in that moment, I experience every description I've ever read about a lover's kiss, and find that most of it is one gigantic understatement. In a purely physical reaction, I find myself kissing him back, while my mind fights to regain control. It isn't Zech that you're kissing, you stupid fool. It's just programming! I'm the one attacking him now, entangling my fingers in his hair, exploring him, drowning in the nearness of him. My rational self screams at me, even as he matches me, move for fevered move.Is this really what you want? A default behaviour sequence thought up by some greasy Zombcon technician?
Sanity finally breaks through. "Zech, I musn't!" I gasp. "I can't… do this to you."
"I'm yours, Allegra," he murmurs, nibbling at my neck, "You can do anything to me."
He said it. You can do anything to him—use him, abuse him, break him, violate him—and he'll never blame you for anything. I force myself to calm down with a long, shuddering breath. I push him away again, gently this time. "I messed everything up, Zech, but I'll make it right again." I've humiliated you enough. I have to stop before I destroy us both.
He is clearly confused by this action of mine that doesn't match his physical intimacy subsystem programming. Before he can say another word, I put an end to it. "Shut down, Zech."