Outside the orientation room was a black space – filled with pipes. Red, purple, green and yellow, they curved through what could have been infinity or just a couple of kilometres. Zara couldn’t get a handle on the scale of the place.

“Weird, hey?” Parlie said from her side. She turned, irrationally happy to find him THERE, and solid. She squeezed his hand.

“OW!” said Parlie, “settle down on the info transfer, darlin! I haven’t felt that much excitement in years!”

She tried to consciously relax, and ignore the fact that their feet were currently resting on absolutely nothing. Bit hard with no breathing to regulate though, she thought.

Parlie flashed her a quick grin. “Good girl!” he said, “Now, let me introduce you to the info flows… this yellow one is query mode. If you don’t know how to find something out, phrase a question and put your hand on it. Try ‘Where am I?’ for a start… go on!”

She got the question straight in her mind, then gingerly touched the yellow pipe with a finger.

“Ah!” she said, delighted, as a map appeared before her. It was a miniature of the room in front of her, with labels for pipes and a square marked ‘Orientation room’. “If I touch that, I go back to my starting room?”

“You’re quick!” Parlie said with a clap, “Good girl! Now… how about finding out where you can go?”

Zara set the question in her mind, and touched the yellow pipe more confidently.

Recreation Room
Sex Nest
Art Centre
Travel Theatre

“Eat? Sleep?” she asked, turning to Parlie. “Whoops!” she’d lost the list when she turned and released the pipe.

“Sleep’s very important,” Parlie explained, “It’s what separates us from AIs… our ability to sort data and cross-reference it and therefore learn. The AIs never have quite managed it – that’s why we’re here. Otherwise we’d just be suicides for real. See?”

Zara nodded slowly. “Eating?” she asked.

Parlie shrugged. “Sheer nostalgia,” he said, “we don’t need it, but we all do it occasionally. It’s like – comfort food, you know? An emotional thing, makes us feel less separated from real life, I guess.”

Zara nodded, watching him. Suddenly he looked sad, and old. It hadn’t been his choice to leave, she remembered. That must hurt, sometimes.

He shrugged, and the happy Parlie was back. “Come on, come to the caf with me!” he said, grabbing her arm, “You’re going to LOVE this!” He brought the menu back up and touched the Cafeteria button. Suddenly they were sitting opposite each other at a large, plain table with benches down either side.

“Nope, shocking!” said Parlie to the table. “Romantic!” he ordered, and slapped the table-top. The table shrank, the bare top was covered in a red cloth, the light dimmed and candles appeared, flickering gently. Zara smiled, impressed.

“This is some cafeteria!” she said, “now how do we order?”

“Menu!” demanded Parlie, and they appeared on the tablecloth. They were perfect upper-class restaurant menus – leather-bound, cursive writing, the works. “The artists are always coming up with new dishes,” he explained, “Let me see… hey, clam chowder! That’s new! I’ll have the clam chowder, thanks,” he addressed the table, and tapped.

“Ummm…” said Zara, amused at the idea of talking to a table, “Lasagne, please, and a glass of milk.”

“Comfort food in spades!” said Parlie, raising an eyebrow and tapping the table for her.

Zara silently dared him to say another word. Suddenly she was tired, and rather grouchy. And yes, she wanted something familiar and childish. Because this place was anything but.



  1. Wish I could do that with my kitchen table lol.
    Liking your muse 😉

  2. It’d be nice, eh? “Clear table!”

    Ahhh… luxury… *sigh* 🙂

  3. […] Piped […]

  4. Good form… though I am humming Depeche Mode Blasphemous Rumours …… Looking forward to the next installment.

  5. Hmmmmmm?

    I wonder if she likes him?

  6. That world seems really cool, but it also seems like one big game.

    I like the concept though, it’s… different from what I usually see in Science Fiction.

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