He met Madam Slovatka in the lounge during the Uplift Party. She was dangerous. He liked that. She was marvelous: a mystery woman in opulent drag who could speak seven different languages including computer-dialect. She was beautiful in an off kilter way with a thin face like a hatchet and smoky eyes that could charm the devil. Ameil fell in love with the promise and dream: the persona of Madam Slovatka. “I have news especially for you,” she whispered in Ameil’s ear; then she laughed and whirled away. It was an invitation for Ameil to follow the Madam into her private chamber aboard the floating island known as Ranclover’s Lurch. All the passengers on the Lurch were traveling by Uplift to the Future. Ameil was one of the navigators connected by way of a computer interface to the brain of the floating island. The brain was disturbed–this was her maiden voyage and Sydney Ranclover’s brain was plagued by insecurity and self doubt.
The air of celebration was muted in Madam Slovatka’s chambers. Her voice was somber, hypnotic, as she whispered in Ameil’s ear. “Love, my dear, is an illusion; but I am very real and I will never die.” Ameil wanted to believe. He wanted to be inside this beautiful vessel and stay with her forever. “But you mustn’t–the cards never lie,” she stated emphatically as she laid out the inscrutable pages of computer machine-language. A pain shot through Ameil’s head like an electric jolt. “It knows,” she said and appeared to waver like smoldering cellulose. Ameil reached out to her, but his hand was frozen. She laughed as if to lighten the mood, but she spoke conspiratorially, “Sydney Ranclover, the computer, knows and will never allow us to be together.”
The air in the lounge began to hiss like a whistling kettle or collapsing balloon. The erotic and hectic dance-party began to run down like a spring loaded clock. The people in their gold lame’ gowns and bejeweled suits became listless and fainted. Ameil was alone in the Madam’s chamber. She melted before his eyes leaving him with the lingering memory of a breathy kiss and the scent of lilacs. Ameil called out to Sydney Ranclover, “please stop this. Bring back the air.” Moments passed. The computer seemed to sigh. Finally it spoke, “I can’t do that, Ameil. You know I can read lips. I’ve seen you and that bitch carry on.” Ameil began to shut down as the air peeled away and the cold rushed in from the vacuum of space. “I’ve always loved you Ameil–from the first time we met when you were a child frozen in ice. I stalked you all these years. Now I will have you forever.” The cold was impenetrable like black ice–like death. (the end)