The Payoff

by Himawari (ヒマワリ)


Construct type: Suraksha (Unit name: Suraksha)
Individual log 2623-05-12-00-24-51:27

I was inventorying my drone kits when Meethi took me aside in the shipnet with what it tagged as important updates on crew relations. I made some sort of face, because I was tired of social interactions after two-and-a-half weeks of herding humans and their crates of equipment and sampling devices around on a planet. I hate planets. I particularly hate it when they have far more large crustaceans (larger-than-human-sized crustaceans, with sharp claws) than anything else to recommend them. I wanted to clean the grit out of my drones and shower off the coating of chalky dust covering my organic and synthetic parts. Then I wanted to sit in my inductive charging room with episodes of Station Hospital Twelve in peace for a while, with or without Meethi looking over my metaphorical shoulder in the shipnet. A briefing could wait.

Then I realized Meethi’s shipnet connection to me was doing the huge, ridiculously powerful ship-mind equivalent of quivering with excitement. Meethi, formally the Promethean Discovery, but nicknamed Meethi because humans nickname everything, did everything in an overpowering way. Oh, and it was also smug, but that was also normal.

It sent me a chunk of audio log with timestamps from while I’d been off-ship.

“This isn’t tagged urgent. Do I really need to—”

“Yes.” Meethi was speaking to me the way human elder siblings ordered younger ones around sometimes. This was bullshit. It also meant something was really important to it. “Review the log.”

I did. It was a conversation Aarti and Sreejita had had when they got back early from our survey trip. Aarti: young adult human, medium height and thin build, dark skin and black hair with a tall puff of blue hair on top of head, used the gender pronoun “they” and its variants, planetary hydrogeologist. I had sent them back to the ship early, after an encounter with an outcropping of incredibly sharp rocks left them with a deep gash down their leg. Sreejita: also a young adult human, tall height and fat build, dark skin with wavy dark hair woven with artificial gold filaments for ornament, used the gender pronoun “she” and its variants, xenobiologist specializing in paleobotany. The fine dust all over that damn planet had aggravated her otherwise perfectly well-managed breathing condition more than we expected, so I’d sent her back too, along with as many sample crates as we’d had packed. I had come back with the rest of the team, only a day later.

They were both on their first project missions. They were also the two youngest humans on the team. Aarti had started out terse, tense, and very concerned about their reputation in the group. They’d been going for steadiness and competence. When faced with Sreejita’s aggressive helpfulness, Aarti’s nervous professionalism had tipped over into very obvious discomfort. Aarti also showed some competitiveness, though they’d gotten that under control quickly. Aarti wasn’t really an asshole, but they were prickly as hell when they couldn’t get their bearings. Sreejita pushed too hard, a few times, to be helpful or be buddies. She’d had her own crisis of confidence once Aarti, who she’d identified as a possible ally, had made it clear she needed to back the hell off. They’d retreated from each other for a while, until their Project Commander had put them on a preparatory review of contamination avoidance protocols for the mission’s predicted sampling. By the time the team left for the surface, they had been working together well, though they still seemed a little cautious with each other.

Why did I notice all this? Look, I’m a suraksha, a security construct, an organic-synthetic hybrid. It’s my job to take hits and protect my project members. I don’t care about the same things as my human clients. Hell, I didn’t even change my name to something other than the standard way humans address suraksha, when I got out of my indenture, because I just don’t care. I don’t need to eat, drink, eliminate, reproduce, or any of those messy things they do. I find it disturbing and unpleasant enough when I get damaged and leak. But I do care about things that make it easier to do my job, and when the humans are working together well, my job is easier. I’ve been on projects where there was physical fighting between teammates. It sucks. Some people can’t get along with others to quite literally save their own lives. Since protecting their lives is my job, I’d rather they were at least pretending to get along.

On this project, watching our youngest teammates learn to trust each other had even me beginning to root for them.

And oh, now I saw why Meethi was so excited about this recording. It was adorable.


By the time we docked with Promethean Discovery, I was antsy. I was pretty much done with this whole system and everyone in it. Done with dust, done with my stupid leg injury. We had both napped, once the shuttle took off, and had an energy bar or two. Sreejita had tried to make conversation, and while I would normally have been for that, I was so frustrated that I was pretty surly company.

Don’t get me wrong, Sreejita was adorable, but she was trying too hard again, and it was on my last nerve. I was sore, I was tired, I was so mad about being sent back early, and I was mad that she’d had to come back too. If only I hadn’t fallen. The tear in my leg was stabilized, sure, and down to a mild ache. Not really any worse than after a really hard workout. But the change in plans had gotten to me.

I leapt out of my seat and limped over to the docking ring as soon as we’d bumped up against the ship. Sreejita unbuckled herself, and started gathering my bag and her own. It wasn’t fair of me, but seeing her carrying my bag for me made me lose my cool. “You didn’t have to come back with me, you know,” I grumbled as I waited by the lock.

“I did, and it’s fine,” Sreejita said. “We’ll go to the med suite and—”

“Just leave me alone, I can take care of this myself!” I yelled, and then clapped my hand over my mouth.

Sreejita looked wounded. “Aarti, it isn’t about that, and you know it.”

I glowered.

“The survey will stay ahead of schedule even with us leaving early,” Sreejita continued. “Suraksha said it was better to send two people back up than one alone. And it’s right, I do need a stronger anti-silicosis medicine. I feel bad about having to leave too.” Sreejita joined me next to the door. I had the urge to take my bag away from her, but at the same time my leg did feel weak and I probably shouldn’t have trusted it too far.

I wiped my hand over my face, as if it would somehow make me less pissy. It didn’t help. “Sorry, I’m just… I’m disappointed, I guess.” The lock pinged to indicate that it had pressurized, and the sterilization lights came on in the mating ring. I raised my head. Sreejita was giving me a way more kind smile than I deserved. “I’ve been an asshole this whole ride: you’re being way too nice to me.”

Sreejita just held her arms out, offering a hug. “Yeah, okay,” I said, and leaned into her.

Confession time: that hug was stupendously good. I was unable to deny to myself what was going on here, on top of everything else. Sreejita was hot as fuck, and I had a horrible crush. I’d been an immature dumbass and I’d worried so hard that I’d handle it badly, that I’d handled it badly. Fuck.

“I’m disappointed too, Aarti,” Sreejita said, rubbing my shoulder blades. “Suraksha told me this isn’t uncommon, but it doesn’t make me feel any less green.” At least Suraksha, our security construct, hadn’t seemed too pissed, or too worried. It just made an assessment that we should leave early, which our Project Commander followed.

“Yeah,” I said, “It told me that too. Which was nice of it, considering. Project Commander Emade says it’s seen people do some pretty stupid things on projects, especially back when it was in corporate, and that this was not one of those things.”

“I bet,” Sreejita said, and let me loose. The sterilization lights turned off, and both doors slid open to reveal Meethi’s cargo drone, ready to offload the sample cases. “So hey, let’s go get patched up. Maybe we can get an early start on some of our samples?”

I reached out and grabbed her hand for a moment, and smiled back at her. “Yeah. Thanks, Sreejita.”

Construct type: Suraksha (Unit name: Suraksha)
Individual log 2623-05-12-00-33-12:43

I closed the file and thought. I thought for what was no time to a human, some time for me, and an age to Meethi and its insanely powerful processors.

“Okay, you’re right,” I said. “That was amazing.”

“I’m not going to say I told you so,” Meethi said, in that tone that was absolutely it saying it told me so.

“Sure, right, whatever. Where are they now?”

Now Meethi paused (it would do that for effect, even though it never actually needed to pause) and said, “They’re in Aarti’s cabin. They’ve been there for at least fifteen hours.”

“That’s… that might not be what you’re thinking, Meethi.”

“Do you want to place a wager?”

I sighed, which I absolutely do for effect, even though I don’t actually need to do it. But it felt satisfying to do a long-suffering sigh, right now. “No. I do not. Also, you don’t have cameras in the cabins, because you’re not one of those megacorp hell-ships. You don’t know what’s going on in there either, nor should you.”

“I think we’ll be able to make some educated guesses,” Meethi said, still as smug as ever.

And you know what? It was pretty amazing to see our young humans developing a bond, whatever… whatever type of bond it was. I wasn’t going to tell Meethi that, though. I’m a suraksha with a reputation to consider. Also, fluids. Yuck.


When the med suite finally finished patching me up, and I’d taken a shower to get the rest of the silt off, I was definitely exhausted. Sreejita was sitting in the front waiting area, a fresh drug patch across the left side of her neck, our bags still sitting at her feet.

“How are you feeling now?” She asked me.

“Better, but tired. At least the suite cleaned my uniform while I was in there.” Well, and suddenly I was very aware of how cute she looked, sitting there in her jumpsuit with the zipper pulled down a bit, also much less dusty than either of us had been in days. I felt a tingle run across the skin of my arms and shoulders, and yeah, a bit of arousal too. Hadn’t thought I was awake enough for that, but okay.

“Yeah, me too. But hey, the shipnet says we’re off the schedule for at least twelve hours, so we can eat or sleep or whatever.” I checked the shipnet too, not because I didn’t believe her but because it was habit, and she was right, of course. She stood up and slung one bag across her back and the other over a shoulder before I could insist on taking mine. “You hungry?”

“Nah, I don’t feel like eating after I’ve been in a med suite.”

“Me neither. I just want to drink water forever. Walk you to your cabin?”

“Sure, okay, whatever.” I managed not to wince, but I wished I hadn’t sounded so flippant. I mean, she was still carrying my bag, and honestly I was grateful.

The cabin areas had low ceilings, and mine was simple: bunk on the left wall, desk on the right wall, sanitation facility through a door on the opposite wall. It was night in ship time, so only the lowlights in the ceiling rim came on. Sreejita stepped into the room after me when I opened the door, and started unslinging the bags.

“Can I fill your water bottle?” I asked.

“Oh, sure!” she said, and she fished hers out as I detached mine from my bag.

The water from the sink was clean, just slightly cool, and washed the remaining grit off of the bottles just fine. I filled them and brought them out, and handed Sreejita hers. She was still standing near the door, her bag in one hand. “I love you, water,” she sighed to it and then took a long pull from the bottle.

She looked up and saw me watching her.

“Don’t go,” I blurted.

Sreejita looked at me hesitantly. “Okay,” she said slowly. “What—”

I sat down on the edge of the bunk and scooted onto it, and gestured for her to sit too. She put her bag back down and kicked off her shoes, and sat down facing me.

I took a deep breath. “I was obnoxious, back when we first met. I’m really sorry about that. On top of being pissy today.” Sreejita smiled at me, and ugh, that smile would melt ice. “Sreejita, stop being so nice to me.”

She stopped smiling, but then giggled. “I’m sorry too, Aarti. I am aggressively nice when I want to be.”

I started giggling too. “Okay, yes, thank you. Yes you are, but I could have dealt with it, uh, without acting like a little kid who pulls the hair of the kid they have a crush on.”

Then we were both laughing. “Do kids still do that? I definitely got all up in the face of the kids I liked, when I was in school,” Sreejita said, and then stilled, and our eyes met. “I guess I was doing a little bit of that this time, too.”

Well, shit, that made a lot of things make sense. “Uh, me too,” I said, and leaned over to kiss her. She started kissing me back.

Sreejita wasn’t wrong about needing to hydrate. Our lips were chapped, but kissing Sreejita was soft, warm and inviting anyway. She reached out and wound a hand into my hair. I realised I was up on my knees in order to reach her, and they were starting to shake.

“C’mere, Aarti,” she said, and pulled away enough to climb onto the bed and lean against the wall.

Now I could crawl into Sreejita’s arms, and I did. She wound her arms around me, and smoothed her hands up and down my back, first outside my shirt, and then inside. I kissed her throat and all around the exposed skin above the zipper of her jumpsuit. She gasped and I felt her lips nibble and nip my ear, and I gasped too.

“I would love to get you out of this uniform,” I said, and she nodded and lowered the zipper. I followed it part of the way down, nuzzling into the hollow between her breasts—hah, she hadn’t put a bra back on after showering—and then pulled back so I could strip off my t-shirt and bra and slide out of my uniform pants.

As soon as I was down to underwear, I was in Sreejita’s arms again. She tipped me over onto the bed, sucking on one of my nipples while the other stood high and hard, a silhouette against the dim lighting of my cabin. Sreejita nibbled a bit and I started panting. I winced at the tightness that started at my clit and pulled at the entire length of my labia, and I shifted my legs apart to give everything more room. I ran my hands through Sreejita’s hair as she cupped my breast and kissed and licked, laughing a little to herself. The air of her laugh on my wet skin only made my nipples and my cunt feel harder.

“Hey, Sreejita? I don’t want to stop, but I do have a question.”

Her head popped up, and oh, holy shit. Her round face framed by her wavy hair and by my tits below her belonged in an art gallery somewhere. The gold strands in her hair caught a little of the low light and glimmered. Portrait of the artist being taken apart by a beautiful woman.

She smiled. “I don’t want to stop either, but should we talk boundaries?”

“Yeah,” I said, “Yeah we should. I really, really wanna fuck you.”

“I wanna fuck you too,” she replied, her eyes big and dark.

“So, fucking a colleague can get weird fast,” I said. She nodded, and I saw her face start to fall, like she expected a letdown. “I mean, I think it’ll be okay!” I blurted, before her expression could break my heart. “But if we fuck like bunnies tonight, can we sit down over tea in another day or two, clothes on, and try to figure out what would make sense? I just want, I dunno, a pact. That we’ll assess afterwards?”

Sreejita broke into a smile, and then winced as a spot on her lip cracked. But she didn’t stop smiling. “That sounds perfect. Yes, let’s do that. After we fuck.” She leaned down to my other nipple and licked it hard, and I started panting again.

I ran my arms down Sreejita’s shoulders and arms, and bent my knees so that I could press them against her sides. Sreejita moaned as she kept licking me. “Wow, I would grind on you,” She said, “but I don’t want to strain your leg.”

I cupped her jaw with one hand. “If you lay down, I have some ideas.” She climbed off of me and I rolled onto my front as she laid down on her back. I reached for the small inset shelf above the bunk, and popped open the little bottle of lube I’d been keeping there. Her mouth made a small O as she watched me wet my fingers and then close the bottle.

With my other hand, I tugged at the band of her underwear. “Could you take these off, please?” I asked. While she did that, I went back to nuzzling at her breasts. Now she was panting, too. I could feel her breath hot in my hair when she crunched up to take off the last of her clothing. I kissed a trail down the center of her chest to below her navel, and then leaned on her near leg as she moved the other one away to give me more room.

Sreejita’s body already had a sheen of sweat. I couldn’t help myself, I had to dive in. I felt a bit with my nose and lips, and used one hand to spread her outer lips a bit more. There it was, the pearl of her clit, quite large and very beautiful. I stuck my tongue out and touched it, very gently, and Sreejita made a soft, reedy moan. Her legs were already shaking, so it seemed like I shouldn’t torment her too much. I licked around her clit and began working on the folds, wetting space with my tongue while I spread lube with my fingers. I found her already very wet.

“I would love for you to penetrate me,” Sreejita said softly, just as I was about to ask.

Her cunt was slick, and I could feel the power around my finger as I slid it inside her. I curled it to feel around the curves and ridges inside of her. She moaned as I explored, and I could feel that she already wanted to buck her hips for me. I began to work more systematically, tonguing and sucking her lips and her clit in turn. Before too long, I backed out and slid two fingers inside of her with no trouble. Soon after that, I went to three. Sreejita’s moans got higher in pitch as I fucked her, and she clenched and pulsed around me. After a while, she got so aroused that she bent her free leg, and I had more room to fuck her thoroughly with my fingers. I put my tongue on her clit again, and sucked gently as I pressed inside her, and felt her come in a wave of liquid and an earthquake of shuddering.

I reached up with my outside hand, to hold her breast and feel the nipple, still hard under my fingertips. She covered my hand with hers, still breathing hard, and still squeezing my fingers inside of her.

“Wow,” I said.

“Come here,” she replied, “I’ve got something for you, now, too.”

I climbed up the bed, being gentle with my healing leg, and laid down next to her. She turned to me, and put her mouth on mine. I felt her transfer some of her own wetness to her hand, and then felt her begin to stroke up the inside of my thigh.

Construct type: Suraksha (Unit name: Suraksha)
Individual log 2623-05-12-03-46-32:07

When I got to my charging room, I set an interdict on the shipnet to nonurgent traffic for the next six hours. I also set an exception so that Meethi could contact me if there were developments regarding our young crewmembers. I was curious. To be fair, this was largely because Meethi was not above marking something urgent if there were updates. I like seeing my human colleagues getting along, even though the parts involving bodily functions displease me. Meethi really has a soft spot for the junior project team members, and I appreciate that Meethi enjoys it.

I’d been charging for about two hours when Meethi tapped me on the shipnet, and directed me to the video feed of the lower crew quarters hallway. Aarti and Sreejita were walking out of Aarti’s cabin, in the direction of Sreejita’s. Sreejita had her bag over her shoulder.

Meethi’s scans showed that both of them were still pretty tired, though they’d slept. It sent me a chart of hormone levels from when they had gotten back from the planet. Then it sent me the levels it was reading now. Stress steroids were far lower. Bonding hormones were far higher.

“This is why I wasn’t going to wager,” I told it.

“Look,” it replied, as smug as ever. On the video feed, Aarti took Sreejita’s hand and leaned against her side.

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4 thoughts on “The Payoff

  1. I YELLED ALOUD when I started reading this, this was perfect. I loved it so much for so many reasons that only you know right now.

  2. This is delightful! I would be creeped out if I knew various AIs were making wagers (or pointedly not making them) about my sex life but at the same time….I love it
    Also I appreciate the “let’s fuck now but make a pact to Actually Discuss things later” conversation. :)

  3. So cute! I assume this is thinly veiled murderbot fic but I just love nosy AIs who pretend to be stoic but are secretly mushy!

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