"Masturbation, so it is said, is its own reward."
I stared dumbly at Fyche, not sure what to make of this unexpected declaration.
"It has many desirable aftereffects; physical release and relaxation being foremost. It favorably affects cardiovascular and endocrine activity, promotes sleep, reduces depression and increases self-awareness of sexual response. Though in your case such knowledge is redundant."
"And you are telling me this because...?"
"You've been moping about the ship in a complete funk for three weeks. I've been remotely monitoring your physiological vital signs, and I know, for a fact, that you have not had sexual release since we left Spaceport Adana."
"I've been meaning to talk to you about the bounds of privacy..."
"I am the Jalapeno's AI unit. I can't help but monitor your vital signs. Your health and well-being are my raison d'etre."
He had me there. Being my guardian angel went with his programming. Sometimes he took his interest in me way beyond mere programming. "That doesn't mean you have to pay attention to it."
He gazed at me from the door to my cabin with the gorgeous eyes I'd bought him. "While I process that non sequitur," he said smoothly, "I wish to emphasize that it is not healthy for you to go so long without sexual release. It signifies a break from your basic pattern of behavior which I have observed for many years, and it concerns me."
I saw the direction in which this conversation was heading. It was an old argument from way before I'd bought him his humanoid body. "Does your desire to get into my pants have anything to do with this concern?"
"My desires are always secondary to your own. You know that. The fact that in this regard the two exactly coincide is further reason to indulge them."
"As usual your logic is impeccable, yet I am unmoved."
"Clearly another symptom of your depression."
"Be that as it may, for the last three weeks we've visited four of the planets my mother and I went to after we escaped Nova Town. We are unremembered and we don't appear on any refugee register or bank record. How did we get in and out of these planets and not leave a trace? I'm perplexed, frustrated and depressed about our failure. Is that so unusual?"
"I did not say I didn't understand the reason for your funk. It is how you are coping, or rather not coping, that concerns me."
I knew what he meant. Generally whenever I was feeling low I'd jump the bones of any good-looking male in the vicinity to satisfy my insatiable physical cravings and get out of the funk, as Fyche called it. Luckily, writing for a galactic sex guide pays the bills and allows me to indulge myself in that wonderful pastime as well as maintain my sanity. The last few months, however, had thrown me off that well worn track. First Laz, my intergalactic warrior who I think I fell in love with, left me to fulfill his political destiny. That was, now that I reflect on it, not as devastating a blow as I thought it had been at the time. Distance and events have a way of raising uncomfortable questions about the strength of one's former feelings. Was it love? I really can't say anymore.
Then there was Silas Archimedes, the private dick on Spaceport Adana, whose bones I'd jumped to forget about Laz. I think I fell for him as well. Then he left me so he could perform whatever mysterious duty was more important to him than I was.
Maybe Fyche was right. Maybe I should just let him fuck me and, by doing so, fuck Silas the hell out of my head. I rebelled at the notion, and it occurred to me then that maybe I didn't want the feelings I had for Silas to die the way Laz's light had so quickly dimmed, and the one way to ensure that was not to indulge myself with another man. Could that be true? It seemed a far too convoluted motivation even for me, but the notion lingered in my mind like a favorite old song.
So, what did I really want? Holly seemed to have found a cozy little arrangement with Maxim Dollavera. By all accounts they were now inseparable. Did I want that? Exclusivity? Surely not. If that was the case and all I wanted was a sure thing, hell, forget the others, I'd jump Fyche and be done with it. At least I'd be assured of his lifelong devotion. He wouldn't leave me for some noble duty. I was and always would be Fyche's only duty.
Did I want to be a duty? Of course not. But neither did I want that smothering type of relationship Holly had found. But if that was the case, why was I pining over Silas and Laz? They had their careers and I had mine.
I guess I could arrange to intersect with them every now and again to keep the juices flowing and still do what I've always done. Fyche would be a useful backup for those long lonely trips in between.
Fyche. I ran my eyes over his perfect body. It was the best money could buy. As far as sex toys go, Fyche would be the best there is; handsome, built like an athlete, intelligent, sensitive and... he was just too perfect. Maybe that's why I hadn't jumped his synthetic endoskeleton. I'd already told him I should have given him a blemish, a squint or a scar, maybe eczema, just so he wasn't so damned attractive.
I realized that Fyche was still gazing at me with an excruciatingly patient expression. I felt like a recalcitrant child trying to explain away a broken vase on the floor. "I'm on a mission to find my mother," I said defensively. "I'm preoccupied with other things apart from sexual gratification."
"As I believe I intimated. That is definitely out of character."
"Haven't you got things to do? Like running the ship?"
He smiled that annoying little I know I'm winning the argument smile. "As you know, I can be in two places at once. This body you see before you is an independently functioning peripheral AI device. My brother AI, for want of a better description, is still in the ship's CPU, flying the ship, while I am here, standing before you, expressing my concern for your well-being and offering myself as the remedy to what ails you."
"Well, thank you, Dr. Fyche, but I'm tired and I want to be alone. Go and fix dinner, or something."
"Chicken soup, perhaps?"
When the hatch closed behind him I stared at the ceiling for a minute then decided to put his assertion to the test.