Hello, dear readers. Here it is, Jorah’s third and final chapter. It’s now that we start getting some closure to the stories. Read on to find out what happens, or pick up a full copy of the novel through this link. We do nothing alone.
Well, flying fucking Fortuna. Jorah was out of the closet. It was almost enough to make him forget that he had left his arm behind in the Feast Hall. Almost.
He had been too excited to finally tell the truth—and hopefully end his employment with that android-hating asshole Walker—that he didn’t think twice about dropping the mic and his entire arm along with it, but now how was he supposed to get a new one? It’s not like android arms were something a person could just order up on any old printer. Or were they? He had actually never tried. Maybe he could.
Jorah stared at himself in the infinitely reflecting mirrors of his elevator car, and he felt more like himself than he ever had—even despite the missing arm. It was as if he was somehow more confident, stood up straighter, took more comfort in his identity. Sure, he had always acted like he was cool, collected, and in charge, but it was just that: acting. His job. And even if he was the best—and most highly viewed—actor in all of the worlds, there was no substitute for the genuine confidence of finally being able to be honest with his audience, and himself, about who he really was.
Jorah was reliving the moment in his head, relishing the looks on the mostly surprised owners’ faces—especially the ire on Mr. Walker’s—dropping the mic one more time, and again his arm with it, when the elevator stopped, its doors slid open, and in the place of his own infinite reflections, Jorah found the eminently finite director Wes Lee waiting for his own elevator.
“Jorah, my man. I…” Wes started to say, but he trailed off, staring at Jorah’s empty arm socket.
“You…” Jorah urged him on, acting like he didn’t know what Wes was staring at.
“I—uh…” Wes tried to continue, but he was too confused. “Well, I just came by to ask how your—uh—how the thing… What’s it called? But, no. That doesn’t matter right now. Because you— You’re…”
“Are you alright?” Jorah asked, trying not to grin. “You look a little pale. Almost like you’ve seen a ghost in the machine.” He couldn’t help chuckling.
“No. I, well… You—” Wes finally blurted out. “Your arm!”
Jorah looked down at his left arm, the one that was still there, then back up at Wes and said, “What about it?”
“No, Jorah.” Wes was getting flustered now, and Jorah was enjoying it a little too much. “I— The other one. It’s gone. What happened?”
Jorah looked down at his empty socket now, acting surprised—and doing a damn good job of it, as always—then back up at Wes. “Fortuna,” he said. “You don’t say.”
“But how?” Wes asked. “Are you alright?”
“I’d be much better if I could sit in my room and relax,” Jorah said. “But some clueless director’s standing in my way, and I can’t even get off the elevator.”
“Oh. I—uh,” Wes said, stepping aside and clearing the way for Jorah. “But how?”
Jorah just laughed, strutting off the elevator, past Wes, and into his dressing room, saying, “You’ll have to wait until they make the Christmas Speech public if you want to find out. If they ever do lift the embargo, that is.”
Wes started blubbering and stuttering, trying to find out more, but Jorah slammed the dressing room door closed between them, leaving Wes in a shroud of mystery.
Now that was fun. Jorah laughed to himself, pacing his dressing room and trying to expel some of the pent up energy he was still filled with—from coming out during his Christmas Speech and teasing Wes alike. The look on their faces. All of their faces. Wes’s, too. None of them could ever deny what androids were capable of again. Jorah couldn’t wait to rub it in Mr. Walker’s face in person. He didn’t even care if he was blacklisted by every production company Mr. Walker owned—more than half of the profitable ones, but not all. Jorah’d be able to find work somewhere after the publicity he’d gain from coming out. Hell. They could take his printer, even. Jorah never used it for more than smoothies anyway. And who’s to say that his next gig wouldn’t have their own printer on offer? Jorah was a star after all. The star.
Thinking of printers reminded him that he still had one and needed to use it, so he did just that, pressing the printer’s red voice activation button to say, “Uh. Arm.” with a shrug.
It took the machine a while to contemplate Jorah’s request, and he didn’t blame the thing. He never really expected it to know what he wanted, much less to be able to produce an arm compatible with his socket and skin tone. So he wasn’t at all surprised or angry when out popped a book instead of a fully functional android arm.
“That’s alright, little buddy,” Jorah said, picking the book up and flipping through the pages. “How about a smoothie, instead?”
The printer hummed into motion—as if happy to do its part—while Jorah read the book cover to cover. ARM it was called. Book three of the Flatlander series by Larry Niven. A tale about Gil “The Arm” Hamilton.
Huh. No wonder the printer had come up with that when he said arm. Too bad. Jorah tossed the book—not terrible, but he wouldn’t hurry for a part in the big screen adaptation—down the trash chute and started sipping on his smoothie. He was just about to sit on his couch and finally relax when a knock came at the door.
“Yoo hoo! Jorah!” Meg’s voice called from the other side.
Of course. Exactly what Jorah did not want. He knew he would be bombarded with interview requests about his coming out after the embargo was lifted on his Christmas speech, and all he wanted to do until then was to relax. Jorah considered not answering her calls, pretending he wasn’t there at all, until Meg dashed even that last bit of hope. “I know you’re home,” she called. “I just talked to Wes. He was acting… well, strange. Is everything alright in there?”
“Just a moment,” Jorah yelled back, unable to go on with the lie of not being home after being so blatantly called out on it. “I look terrible. Just freshening up a bit.”
With some quick thinking, he sat in front of his battle station and ordered it to make him up to look ill. If he was ever going to have any chance of getting Meg out of there so he could rest, he was going to have to keep his missing arm hidden from her. He ordered a blanket from the printer, threw it over himself like a cape, hiding his arm—or lack thereof—underneath, and put on his saddest, most pitiable face before slowly opening the door with the perfect phlegmy cough.
“Hack hack. Ugh. Hello?” he groaned, sniffling and wiping his nose on the arm of his blanket cloak.
“Fortuna, Jorah.” Meg gasped. “You look like Hell.”
“Beauty’s only skin deep,” Jorah said, making his voice sound scratchy. “I’m feeling like Hell much deeper than that, though.”
“Wow.” Meg shook her head. “I’m sorry, hon. Is there anything I can do for you? Maybe order up some soup or something?”
Jorah kind of groaned at the same time that his stomach growled. He was never fond of eating, sure, but soup was a different experience entirely. Not only was it similar in its liquidy texture to the smoothies he preferred, there was something about the human act of making a bowl of soup for an ill relative that Jorah had been attracted to ever since he had seen it on one of those early television shows that he studied while he was learning to pass himself off as a human actor. So even if he didn’t like eating, even if he wanted to be alone, and even if he had once considered himself tiring of Meg’s advances, something about the strange combination of circumstances—and no doubt his lack of any other support network of any kind since Russ’s tragic death—led Jorah to abandon his defenses and invite Meg inside.
“Ugghhh—aaalriiight,” he groaned, stepping aside to let her in. “But it has to be tomato. No chicken noodle. I don’t eat meat unless it’s the special at a restaurant that I’m supposed to review, and that includes stock.”
“I didn’t know you were a vegetarian,” Meg said with a big smile, leading Jorah to sit on the couch before going into the kitchen to order a bowl of soup out of the printer like she owned the place. “You sure you just want tomato soup?” she asked as she did. “I know you’re not feeling well, but it is Christmas. If you can’t make it out to a fancy restaurant, someone as famous as you ought to at least do a little feasting at home. Right?”
“I’ve never been a fan of Feasts,” Jorah said in a too clear voice, losing his character for a moment before hamming it up again with a loud sneeze and sniffle, adding, “But feel free to order whatever you want. You should be feasting, yourself.” And I’d like to get as much use out of that printer as I can before they take it away from me, he added in his head but not out loud.
“You know, maybe I will order a few things,” she said. “I don’t have a printer at home, and it’s fun to get to operate one. Thanks.” She ordered an entire feast—turkey, potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, rolls, pies, fruit salad, corn pudding, sweet potato casserole, deviled eggs, you name it—and brought them along on a serving cart to the couch where she set Jorah’s soup in front of him then stacked as much of her food as she could on the coffee table before rolling the cart closer to her so she could reach whatever food was still left on it as needed.
As Meg dug into her feast, eating a little taste of everything but never all of anything, Jorah slowly slurped his soup, savoring not the taste—because, again, he never really liked food in the first place—but the sense of belonging, the feeling of being loved, the knowledge that someone cared enough about him to provide for him when he was in need, even if that provision took no more than pressing a button and asking for a simple bowl of tomato soup. It was the thought that counted, and the fact that Jorah knew Meg would do much more than that for him if he were truly in need—break down a door to fight his abuser, even. So Jorah didn’t mind when Meg finally got over the novelty of the printer and her feast to start asking him questions about his speech, his sickness, and whatever else came to mind.
“So?” Meg asked. “How’d the speech go? Were you already feeling horrible before you had to give it?”
“Ugh. No,” Jorah complained, having a little trouble trying to figure out how to both eat his soup and keep his blanket cloak from falling off at the same time with just the one hand to do it. “I guess you could say I caught something at the Feast.”
“A superbug.” Meg nodded conspiratorially. “The worst kind. Twenty four hour flu or something?”
Jorah groaned. “I don’t know,” he said. “Must be. Something like that. One of them.”
“It’ll only get worse before it gets better,” Meg said. “If that’s the case. Have you seen a doctor yet?”
Jorah shuddered. He hated doctors. Never visited them. Not for as long as he could remember. He made sure to take extra care of himself so he didn’t have to. Mostly because he was afraid that if he did go to a doctor, they’d easily see through his claims of humanity to the android underneath and expose his secret despite their vow of confidentiality. Even now that he was out of the closet—for the most part, at least, with the news ready to spread like a wildfire as soon as the media could report it—he still couldn’t fight that fear—or was it shame. Either way, he shook his head, saying, “No way. No doctors. I don’t trust ‘em. I’ll get over this myself, or I’ll die trying.” He let out a weak chuckle then a few loud coughs to cover it up.
“Well, hopefully not the latter,” Meg said. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. I know this is probably gonna sound sad and pitiful, or too forward, especially considering the fact that we’ve only ever spoken face to face so few times, but you’re my best friend in all the worlds right now, Jorah. And I honestly mean that.”
“Now, I—” Jorah started to protest, but Meg went on over him.
“I know, I know,” she said, shaking her head, cheeks red with embarrassment. “I told you it was pitiful. And in no way do I expect you to return the label. But it’s true. No one has ever once believed in my talent as a designer until you agreed to go into business with me, and considering the fact that all my time is spent on set at work or designing and sewing in my free time, it’s kind of difficult for me to be friends with people who don’t support the latter side of my life. So I guess what I’m really trying to say is thank you for your support. I truly appreciate it. And thanks for your time today. I finally—for the first time since I was a kid still living with my family—feel like I’m spending Christmas with someone who cares about me. So thanks.”
Jorah was probably blushing, too. He could still remember the joy he felt when he first figured out how to turn the reaction on and off—back in the earliest days of his attempts to learn how to act. Learning how to blush was the first time he ever felt like he could actually pass himself off as a human and escape the assembly line life that he had been created into. He was feeling a similar emotion then—with his blushing reflex going off involuntarily—but slightly different. This time he wasn’t happy about his ability to pass himself off as a human but rather in the idea that Meg would treat him like one whether she thought he was or not. It was as if, even though she still hadn’t heard his speech, Meg somehow knew what Jorah truly was, and she didn’t care because he accepted her for what she truly was as well. Together they bestowed upon one another importance, identity, humanity.
“You’re a magnificent seamstress,” Jorah responded truthfully—not because he wanted to pay her back for making him feel so loved, but because he honestly believed it to be objectively true. “And an even better designer.”
“Exactly what I’m talking about,” Meg said, really blushing now. “Thank you. You flatter me.”
“It’s not flattery when it’s true,” Jorah said. “And it is. Trust me. I have an eye for these sort of things.”
“I know you do,” Meg said. “I’ve been a huge fan of yours ever since Metadata Heaven. I love your taste. It’s just surreal for me to think that your eye was caught by my work.”
“It won’t be my eye alone,” Jorah said. “I’m telling you. Those owners wouldn’t know a halter top from a racer back, so it’s lost on them, but that dress you made me for the speech is going to be the biggest design this season. I guarantee it.”
“I don’t know…” Meg was still reluctant to admit how great she was. “But my designs? Do you really think so?”
And Jorah wasn’t going to let her wallow in any more self-pity. It was time to give the woman the confidence she deserved. “Have you seen me?” he said, standing from the couch, dropping his blanket cloak, and doing a spin move like he was on the catwalk, all in one fluid motion. “I know so, honey.”
Meg was dumbstruck. Her jaw had fallen down and she couldn’t pick it up. She just stared wide-eyed, stammering but unable to form intelligible words. She really was a great designer, and Jorah was the perfect model for her style. They’d be the biggest design team in all of history, and it was only just sinking in for Meg.
“See,” Jorah said with a huge, triumphant smile on his face. “I told you so.”
“But, Jorah. You…” Meg said. “Your arm. What happened?”
Jorah looked down, wide-eyed in surprise himself now that he realized what he had done. He tried to cover up his empty shoulder socket, but the damage had already been done. “Oh,” he said. “That.”
“Yeah, that,” Meg said, finally composing herself enough to cross over to Jorah and wrap him up in his blanket cloak again then sit him carefully on the couch like a dying child. “You never were sick at all, were you?” she said. “Does it hurt terribly bad? Is there anything I can do to help you? How’d it happen? Tell me everything.”
Jorah kind of chuckled, relieved that Meg was so unaffected by the revelation but unnerved by that fact at the same time. It was as if here reaction was too perfect, and at any moment, everything would turn for the worse. “You don’t happen to have an extra arm on you by any chance?” Jorah asked, trying to keep the mood light since the subject matter had gotten so heavy so quickly.
“Actually…” Meg said, taking a big bite off of a roll that she had piled high with mashed potatoes and gravy. “I might be able to help you with that.”
“Pffft. What?” Jorah said, spitting out some tomato soup. “You’re kidding.”
“Of course not,” Meg said, looking a little offended. “I wouldn’t joke about something like this. You’re gonna need it soon if you don’t want Mr. Walker to find out, right?”
Jorah was seriously impressed now. Why had he ever been hesitant to start up a friendship with Meg? “Well,” he said. “Mr. Walker kind of knows already. I came out during my Christmas speech.”
Meg dropped her fork with a clink on her plate. “No,” she said. “Damn. How’d they respond to that?”
Jorah chuckled. “I didn’t really stick around to find out.”
“Probably for the better.” Meg laughed a little then stopped herself right away. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s not funny. But you’re gonna need an arm either way, right? So I was gonna say that I could look into it for you—if you want. But now that you’re out, I guess you can go to a more overboard operation to get something of better quality. Whatever you prefer, though. My offer still stands. Just let me know.”
“I—uh—well…” Jorah didn’t know what to say. “How do you know all this about android arms anyway?” he ended up asking.
“There are more androids in this business than you’d imagine,” Meg said. “One way or another, I’ve found myself working with plenty of them—yourself included—and in such cases, one can’t help but to learn.”
She sounded so nonchalant about it, too. Like it was no big deal that she had probably had to find limbs of one sort or another for other—closeted—androids before him. But Jorah thought it was a huge deal, and he was starting to adore Meg much like he had adored Russ. “Well, I’m blessed to have met you for more than just the clothes, then,” Jorah said. “You don’t know how close I was to losing my mind trying to figure out where I was gonna find an arm. The printer does not make them. I’ll tell you that much.”
“So it’s your first lost limb,” Meg said with a grin. “Well, don’t worry. I’ll get you one in no time. Tomorrow, next day tops. Though, again, if you did it during your speech, I’m sure you’ll have all the top part designers offering you something to wear for free. It’ll work in exactly the same way as clothes do now that you’ve made being an android acceptable. I guarantee.”
“Have you ever thought of designing parts?” Jorah asked.
“Are you kidding?” Meg chuckled. “That’s the dream. But the equipment’s way too expensive for the likes of me. That’s why I do clothes instead. More affordable.”
“Well, it looks like I need a parts designer. Doesn’t it? And I have plenty of money to start you up. We could expand the purview of our company.”
Meg laughed. “You’re kidding? Of course. I’d love that.”
“No,” Jorah said. “I don’t kid. What say you and I go for a walk in the Garden of Fortuna and start hammering out the details right now? How does that sound?”
“I—uh…” Meg took one more big bite of potatoes and gravy. “Of course. Yes. Obviously. Let’s do this.”
And so Jorah led her out to the elevator, and down they rode toward the Garden of Fortuna and their future business prospects.
# # #
There it is, another chapter in the Infinite Limits saga. Tune in next week for the continuation of the story, or pick up a full copy of the novel through this link. Thanks for joining us, dear readers. We do nothing alone.