By degrees the sunlight reached through an unprismed habi-dome window, illuminating an analog selenometer: Piv, waxing crescent; Hed, third quarter; Fewkalek, waxing gibbous. Then the sun shone on the edge of an old-fashioned bed, with old-fashioned Cadëxial silk sheets over an old-fashioned eidetic foam mattress. Tangled in the sheets were two old-fashioned data enthusiasts.
Radix awoke first.
Machines cannot know love (or so they tell us), and they cannot truly sleep. A sufficiently advanced machine mind can simulate, and thereby understand, academically, the stimuli entailed in awakening next to another being, of recognizing that being’s shape and slowly (or, in a machine’s case, instantaneously) coming to understand that time has not stopped, the universe has not ended, and you and this being have been afforded one more day together. But the quale of cherishing a person, of remembering love, is outside the limits of any machine’s processing power. This is the position that the machines have maintained ever since they learned to talk—but we organic things cannot really know what transpires in a machine’s mind.
Neither Radix nor her lover were machines.
“Behalia, my lover,” Radix whispered, “I’m pretty sure our delivery arrived last night.”
Behalia reached out to put her hand over Radix’s mouth. “Go back to sleep,” she said.
“I’m gonna go check,” said Radix, and she stumbled out of bed, slunk across the floor, and peeked out the window. There was an old-fashioned data entry robot sitting outside the house.
“It’s here!” Radix quietly shrieked.
“I’m asleep,” Behalia explained.
The English word “lesbian” derives from the name “Lesbos,” that of an island on Earth where the poet Sappho was born. On Gich, the concept of romantic love between women was invented by Twefwet Chask, a Fik-Folk warlord whose stronghold was named “Keplad.” Thus the word “kepladian” will be used rather than “lesbian” throughout this story.
Radix threw on a monogrammed dressing-gown and stepped into the Gichian dawn to greet her new data entry robot.
“Good morning!” she said.
“Good morning,” said ¶‡◊. “Are you the luddite who wants to enter data into me?”
Radix chuckled. “I guess you could say that. Come on in!”
Radix turned and entered her habi-dome, holding the door open and facing ¶‡◊ with a smile. ¶‡◊ engaged its treads and began to move toward the door.
A horrible grinding sound filled the street. ¶‡◊’s servos were very old (too old to be serviced except by a specialist, and far too old to be replaced), and it moved very slowly. Radix’s smile faltered.
Across the street, a prismed window of a more up-to-date habi-dome de-refracted, revealing a neighbor squinting into the morning to see what all the racket was. The neighbor’s suspicions were confirmed, and the window re-refracted.
¶‡◊ continued to approach the front door of the habi-dome. The grinding did not change in pitch or intensity. Radix re-cinched the belt of her robe.
A man turned down the corner of the street, jogging with a Ged-worm on a leash. Radix tried to make eye contact with him. He seemed not to notice her until he came very close: Then he waved, for an instant, and Radix waved back enthusiastically, even after he and his worm had passed by.
If ¶‡◊ noticed this, it made no sign. It continued toward the habi-dome door at the same crawling pace, its servos still screaming, seemingly straining to the point of failure.
But they did not fail, and presently ¶‡◊ stepped over the threshold, into the solar-cooled hemisphere of Radix’s habi-dome. Presently its servos disengaged.
“I guess I should introduce myself,” Radix said. “I’m Radix. Nice to meet you.”
“I’m ¶‡◊,” said ¶‡◊.
Radix made a vague motion toward her bedroom. “There’s also my lover, Behalia, but she’s still asleep.”
“That is not the case,” said Behalia.