Prom Date


Author's Note: This takes place in the same universe as Let He Who is Without Sin and The Lonely Autopilot. Just removed a few millennium. Also, just to be clear, everyone is eighteen. Enjoy!



The tone of voice was older than the solar system and recognizable across most of the long, patchwork history of humanity. Prehistorical neohominids would have grokked it, those that dwelt on the upper edge of the baneworld manifold would have grokked it, and everyone born in the vast eons between would have grokked it.

It was the tone of a teenage girl, trying to squirm out of something.

Mom didn't stop dragging her brush through her daughter's -- Glimmer Retrograde -- hair. The bristles caught and whisked away every bit of radioactive grit and dust that Glimmer had picked up during her day's play. She and her friends -- Twilight and Soyuz -- had spent the evening tossing antimatter bombletts on an uninhabited nullworld. Ever since Sin and her Dashing Heroes had saved the human race -- granting them the delights of faster than light travel and forging a peace-through-war with the beings known only as the Manifold -- the human race had lived in an idyllic universe where nothing was too far away, and nothing too expensive to get.

It was a universe where three eighteen year old girls could entertain themselves by unleashing more firepower than the entire combined force of the first twenty two centuries of human militaries on a nullworld -- just to enjoy the flashing lights and to walk through the glassy, sun-hot craters.

That didn't make raising teenagers any less a herculean task -- even with AI minders and wormholes and a million years of cognitive science to fall back on. Mom pursed her lips and flicked her fingers -- sending the radioactive particulates to be scrubbed and fed into the house-dome's recycling systems. Really, the scrubbing was what mattered -- there was enough raw matter for the dome to fabricate entire cities worth of palatial structures and diamond fiber clothing.

Glimmer shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. "I can't believe this."

"I just don't want my daughter to go to prom with a gestalt-mind," Mom said, pursing her lips. "I don't think that it's right -- how can you know which person you're falling in love with?"

"Mom!" Glimmer squirmed, then stepped away from her mother. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked rebellious. "I'm eighteen -- and it's just prom. I'm not going to date Beta-2 forever."

Mom shook her head. "Gestalt-minds are still a big ask for an eighteen year old."

"But Beta-2 has his own hand crafted sky-car!" Glimmer whined.

"The prom is being held on our primary's chromosphere!" Mom exclaimed. "You're all wormholing there -- how is a sky-car going to matter?"

"You just don't get it, Mom!" Glimmer scowled at her.

"Don't take that tone of voice with me, young lady," Mom said, putting her hands on her hips.

"God!" Glimmer threw up her hands. "You're not my boss. What are you going to do, ground me?"

"I can revoke your replicator privileges for the night if I want too," Mom snapped -- her voice was growing increasingly edged as she stepped around the bed and looked down at her daughter.

"Fine! Do it! I can find something to eat somewhere else!" Glimmer scowled. "You can't tell me who I'm going to fall in love with!"

"I thought it was just a prom date, dear," Mom shot back -- but before the words were even out of her mouth, she knew it had been a mistake. Glimmer crossed her arms over her chest, turned her back and stuck her nose into the air.

"I'm wormholing to the Kupiter Belt!" she said, furiously -- a distortion in space rippling before her, revealing the vast emptiness of space.

"Honey, I-" Mom started.

But Glimmer was through the portal and it had snapped shut behind her a moment later -- the faint crackling sound of dark-matter interacting with real-space the only noise in the room. Mom sat down on the bed and sighed.


Glimmer floated the vast emptiness and let her body adapt to the nothing. Her body looked, from outside, like any human being's. She could have been from any period after the Great Churn -- travel and globalization had ended up mixing more and more races, leaving essentially everyone the same brownish-gold, with epicanthic folds and hair that ranged between blond and black. But if one looked close, one might see the little differences that indicated something more. For one thing, her irises were gold -- not actually gold. It was an advanced material that let her see (if she wanted) deep superstrings, or high end gamma-rays. Her skin shimmered ever so slightly, as if she had been dusted with diamond powder.

It wasn't powder -- dermal microbots that could form into armor and field projectors that could let her stride unharmed through city-glassing fusion bombs. Her fingertips had tiny helix patterns that let her create and sculpt gravity waves. If she wanted to, she could tear horrifying chunks out of anything that wasn't as armored and tough as her. On the whole, the sculpting features were used to yank objects close enough for use. Her internal organs were streamlined and efficient -- a tiny replicator and a tiny fusion reactor to power it, combined with a haze of self-replicating, self-sustaining solar nanites provided her enough energy to keep everything running properly.

Being exposed to vacuum set her microbots to create an invisible skintight suit around her body to prevent wastage. Her internal organs and chemistry switched over to low oxygen use. Hypnotic suggestions triggered micromuscle contractions that focused her eyes and painted the stars surrounding her in the brightness of cosmic radiation.

"God, she's just the worst," Glimmer said -- her headcomp simulating the sound of her own voice as her lips moved in a vacuum. "Just- god!"

She replicated a pillow to press it against her face and scream into it.

The Kupiter Belt of most solar systems were places of quiet contemplation. Places for sufis and jhans and other stranger practices to come out and experience the vast silence of eternity. They stripped away their technological constraints and left themselves with nothing but human senses. They were blind to the spurts of X-rays, the swirls of dark matter, the thrum of infared that was so subliminal that some likened it to a full body massage. Glimmer wasn't blind -- if anything, she sensed more here in the vastness of space, without any atmosphere or magnetosphere to cocoon her.

It made it easy to be aware that even a few trillion kilometers was not enough when your friends were releasing bursts of hard-radiation and tachyons. Glimmer lifted her head from her pillow as a wormhole opened and two seconds or several hours later -- it depended on your point of view -- her friend Jam And Sandwich Collective appeared with a corona of discharging energy. Jammie's favored form of transport (being accelerated to near-C and then decelerating a few ticks later) produced a truly catastrophic amount of waste heat, waste heat that was bled away in the form of a rainbow of illumination.

Jammie's prime body looked a little like a whale and a lot like a dolphin and mostly like a God. She glowed from within -- the light shimmering through her diamond clear outer skin and refracting through her hardened armor. The flutes of her fins stretched outwards for kilometers, growing filaments of organic radiators to continue to dump waste heat into the vacuum. It wasn't particularly efficient -- as the radiators ended up radiating most of their heat into one another.

But Jammie didn't do things because they were efficient.

Jammie snapped out a cloud of breathable atmosphere from her pores and solidified it in place with a fibrous nanotech mesh that kept it from dissolving immediately. This had the effect of making Glimmer shiver -- then sweat as the ambient temperature dropped and rose with the addition of actual gas for Jammie to radiate into. Jammie's belly shone as diamond projectors planted in her armored plating activated and her human form appeared before Glimmer.

Jammie, today at least, had decided to look like an angel -- bronzed skin, a wild mane of golden-brown hair, and a pair of wings that spread behind her back. She had also decided to dress punk as hell: She had a spiked collar, black lipstick, wrist bands made of iron, and thigh high shit-kicking boots. She grinned wide and made two finger guns at Glimmer.

"Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup biiiiiiiiitch," she said. "Hows it hanging?"

"Awful," Glimmer said, pouting and hugging her pillow to her chest.

"Who hurt my bitch's feeling?" Jammie asked, scowling. "Was it Mark? Trevor? ...Gwen?" Her eyes narrowed. "Was it Gwen? If it was Gwen, I have like, five sub-minds that I can send to ruin her on fifteen different social networks. She still uses Facebook, right?"

"Yes. No. I-" Glimmer shook her head. "No, no, no, it was my Mom."

"Fuuuuuuuuuuck!" Jammie put her hands over her eyes. Another gemstone shone on her prime-body and a second Jammie appeared beside Glimmer, sliding her hands along Glimmer's shoulders. Hard-light holograms (a product of quantum principles that Glimmer knew but couldn't explain to anyone who wasn't able to perceive higher level interactions between physical matter and lower acceleration baneworlds) were great for people like Jammie, who never could settle on their look. The second Jammie hugged Glimmer tightly and nuzzled the back of her neck. "That's rough. What'd she do?"

"She said I can't take Beta-2 to the prom," Glimmer said.

"Well, fuck that. She can't control who you're hanging out with," Jammie said. "Besides, what, she got a thing against hive minds?" She lifted her fingers up in a gang sign five thousand years old. "Hive Mind. Represent."

"You're not a hive mind, though," Glimmer said, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I'm close enough," Jammie scoffed. "Just cause I don't have discrete self-aware subroutines doesn't mean I'm not a hiver."

Glimmer shook her head. "Still, Mom said that she didn't think I was old enough to date Beta-2."

"But he has his own hand made skycar!"

"That's what I said!" Glimmer said, spreading her arms wide. "It's just -- argh! She's so old, you know."

"So, you know what I think might be fun?" Jammie said, projecting two bodies to either side of Glimmer, grabbing her arms.

"Shopping?" Glimmer asked.

"Not just any shopping." Jammie beamed. "Slumming."


The wormhole crackled away as Jammie -- her mind compacted and sleeved into a biological body that was merely the upper edge of human potential with a few dozen safety and security integrated technologies -- and Glimmer -- similarly defanged -- appeared on the landing platform near the colony of Terra Nova. The sky was a pale blue with streaks of warm clouds that were intersected occasionally by the double-lines of contrail behind ancient turbine planes. Jammie breathed in, then out, shuddering.

"Smell that?" she whispered. "You can practically taste the carbon."

Glimmer coughed. "Gah." She put her hand over her mouth. "I think I got a cancer just by breathing."

"Isn't it great?" Jammie asked. "They still use money for physical items here." Her eyes glowed and she slapped Glimmer's chest.

That was when several dozen sleek looking tanks drove up -- their treads grinding up the ground and kicking stone and pavement up behind them. Their turrets swung to face the two teenagers and one of them slewed to the side -- it was smaller and thinner than the others. This one opened and twenty four men and women hit the ground. They were clad in the most adorable power armored exoskeletons that Glimmer had ever seen. She put her hands over her mouth, then whispered to Jammie: "Holy crap, they're using steel. As defensive material."

"Steel composite, actually," Jammie said, then waved at the half-circle of heavily armed and armored military that had formed up.

A man stuck his head out of the tank and held up his microphone. "Raise your hands above your heads and state your business on Nova Terra."

Glimmer frowned. "Jammie..." she said. "Is this world on the self-quarantine lockdown?"

"Well, it's not slumming if you don't go to a slum, now is it?" Jammie asked.

"Jammie!" Glimmer snapped.

"If you are Concord citizens, you need to vacate our planet immediately," the man said.

Glimmer looked at him. Her security systems were essentially designed to keep her safe even without her operative implants doing anything. So, she might not have had her gravitational manipulators, or her nanofactories, or her anti-matter generation capacity. But she still had the sensors that would tell her subconscious defenses that near-C projectiles were heading to her head and activate countermeasures. Those sensors did a complete sweep of the man and her eyes widened.

"Uh, sir?" she called.

"Identify yourselves now or we will open fire," the man said, his voice firm.

"Sir!" Glimmer shouted.

"Open fire!" the man called down. The infantry opened up with machine guns. Their bullets were guided smart munitions that got fifty feet away from Glimmer and Jammie before focused dark-matter sublimation fields tore them into glowing clouds of subatomic particles. The cannons on the tanks spoke and the two women simply redirected their laser guidance to gently slew the sabot-loaded tungston darts into an upwards angle. They impacted, fifteen miles back, on the edge of an abandoned hill, filling the horizon with smoke and fire. Not shrapnel got within a mile of the teenagers.

"Sir!" Glimmer said, her voice ringing out over the sudden silence -- the men and women had been trained to not waste ammo and had stopped themselves.

"Uh, Gee?" Jammie whispered.

The men and women were hurrying back into their armored personal carriers. The tanks were backing up -- tearing up more pavement and earth. The whole armored force drew back at incredible speed, considering the technology they were working with.

"God!" Glimmer shook her head, then tried broadcasting on the radio: "Sir! I-they're jamming us! That's so rude."

"Gee! Look down!" Jammie said.

Glimmer looked down. A huge haze of laser light had appeared where they stood. It was slowly starting to focus -- the laser honing in on their position. Glimmer looked up into orbit and scowled. She focused and snapped a wormhole open. She appeared in orbit beside a classic Thor's Hammer SDS. It looked a bit like an ancient aircraft carrier that had been stripped of armor and internal chassis, leaving nothing but a hollowed space surrounded by magnetic focusing lenses and armored compartments that held the munitions. Munitions was a bit generous, though.

The Thor's Hammer SDS used tungsten rods the size of small buildings. They hit like nuclear bombs, without the nuclear part.

Glimmer swept her eyes over the station, identified its computer core, then wormholed beside it. Even human strength was enough if all you wanted to do was unplug something -- though she had to open a wormhole from the outer edge of the armor, reach inside, then yank the guts out. Once she had disarmed the station, she focused and wormholed down to land on the tank with the man in it. She appeared on the hood, keeping her balance thanks to internal gyroscopes. The man was still looking out of his turret -- though he had blast goggles.

"Come on, faster, faster!" he said, his teeth gritted.

Glimmer heard the radio broadcast wash through her -- they weren't jamming this far out: "Sir, the Thor's been dis-"

The man turned to face Glimmer. Glimmer had stepped from the front of the tank to stand on the barrel, her feet poised like an olympian gymnast, her hands on her hips. She glared at him.

"Sir!" she said. "I've been trying to tell you for the last five minutes! You have prostate cancer!"

The man gaped at her.


Jammie and Glimmer stood before the President of Nova Terra and tried to not look guilty. The President -- a firm boned, strong looking woman who looked like she was nearly five millennium old (and baffled Glimmer by merely being sixty) -- was on the phone.

"I see," she said. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh." She paused. "I see."

She frowned, then slowly set the phone down on the side of the desk

"Miss Retrograde," the President said. "Your mother is very disappointed in you."

"But-" Glimmer started.

"And Miss-" here, the President's ability to speak Presidentially was taking serious damage "-And Sandwich Collective, your parent-clan has expressed their distaste in such a voluable format that they had to use a ninety percent compression to get it through the quantum link."

Jammie pouted and crossed her arms over her chest and looked completely non-repentant.

"So, we have before us a dilemma," the President said. "Neither of you are adults by the measure of the Concord. And you have violated Terra Nova territory and damaged TNSDF equipment. The damage caused to the Thor SDS will run up more than five hundred thousand insols, while the amount of munitions expended on you will ramp the cost up to a full million."

"They fired five hundred thousand insols worth of freaking bullets at us!?" Jammie spluttered.

"Those were nanotech smart rounds sold to us at great expense by the Concord, under the express intention that they would be used to dissuade this exact kind of fishing expedition!" The President growled.

"Well, see, we helped!" Jammie said. "Now you know they're useless!"

"W-When did you buy them?" Glimmer asked.

"A previous administration-"

"See, there's your problem!" Jammie said. "They're a week old -- they're obsolete!"

"The previous administration was ten years ago," the President said, pursing her lips. "Still. You owe us, and your parents have both agreed to my proposition."

Glimmer gulped. Her mind went through the worst possibilities. Grounding? Getting her best capacities pruned back? Maybe replicator privileges being revoked? She tried to not quiver in place as the President glared at the two of them and pronounced sentence with all the power and severity of a gavel being brought down -- with the impact of a near-C bolide smashing a planet to smithereens.

"Community. Service."

"Nooooooooo!" Jammie put her hands over her face. "Ugh!"

"You will be both pruned down to our tech level and set to remedial community service for two weeks," the President said. "And the Concord will assist us with a few technological issues that we cannot deal with without breaking our own constitution."

"Like what!?" Jammie asked, sounding offended. Glimmer just withered.

"Excess carbon," the President said, crossly.

"Well, if you had just had a nuclear war like Earth did, then you wouldn't have this issue!" Jammie snapped. "God! Do we have to think of everything for you!?"

The President didn't look amused.


"This is Commander-Major Luis Chernkov," the woman who had taken over for leading Jammie and Glimmer from the President's office to the outside said. She gestured to the same man that Glimmer had faced before. Commander-Major Luis Chernkov, once he was out of a tank and not trying to shoot her, was actually fairly handsome for someone who had never been sculpted. He had a firm jaw and ice blue eyes, with pale brown hair, and a set of discolorations that Glimmer realized were freckles after a bit of narrowing her eyes and cocking her head from side to side.

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