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Pontiac, MI

A soft chime. Artemis says “Janais, Kian would like you to meet her in the synth. Do you accept?

A half-hearted weary groan from under a mountain of blankets and plushes. Then nothing.

Ten minutes pass. A soft chime. Artemis says “Janais, Kian would like you to meet her in the synth. Do you accept?

A weak mumble and the top of the mountain twitches slightly. Still nothing.

Ten minutes pass. A soft chime. Artemis says “Janais, Kian would like you to meet her in the synth. Do you accept?

"Mrrrrrrr...?" comes the first verbalization from the pile heard in the room in over eighteen hours. "Fuck. What time even is it, Artemis?"

A soft chime. Artemis says “Janais, it is now twenty-one thirty-four on Tuesday, February third, twenty twenty-six. Also, Kian would like you to meet her in the synth. Do you accept?

"Yeah, alright. You are just gonna bother me until I do, right?"

Yes. Kian asked me to remind you every ten minutes that she would like you to meet her in the synth until you accept.

"Uggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Fine. Not gonna put pants on though."

The mountain sways, shudders, tips, and cascades to one side, scattering plushes and empty ice cream containers and food wrappers across the room. A ragged auburn mop appears. Janais shoves it out of her eyes, red and puffy and sunken with the numbness left behind by emotion. She groans again and rolls to the opposite side of the bed, swinging her legs out and catching her feet into a pair of well-loved grey slippers. She sits there, staring into nowhere until another soft chime startles her.

Janais, Kian would like you-

"Yeah yeah yeah yeah shut up."

She creaks to her feet, putting a hand on the wall opposite for stability. She catches a whiff from her exposed armpit, then glances without conviction at her stained and wrinkled cami and underwear. She almost shrugs. "Kian can deal with it, whatever."

She plods along the hall to the small room off the kitchen. The door has an eInk display reading "Recording, please keep out. NOT YOU JANAIS DO NOT HIDE =^.^="

Knowing the room is too well soundproofed to knock, she presses on the lever and swings the door out into the hall, slipping in and shutting it behind her. Her nose is immediately assaulted by the familiar scent of warm electronics, old solder and flux fumes, cheap wood varnish, and wax paper capacitors. The room used to be big enough for a king-sized bed and walking room, but Kian has converted it into a singular musical instrument. Every vertical surface except the door is covered first in acoustic foam and then with equipment racks and cantilever benches. The benches are mostly filled with ivory and black keyboards, but a few other input devices are scattered here and there. The visual cacophony of LEDs, plug jacks, patch cables in a rainbow of colors, knobs and sliders and buttons, and dozens of retro-future fonts on brushed aluminum faceplates is a familiar one, but dizzying all the same. Even the ceiling is not safe, as Kian has arrayed several racks along it to provide even more controls to the monster.

Picking her way carefully across the tangle of patch cables and effects pedals on the floor, Janais finds the only other seat in the cramped, warm room. Kian is sitting in the other one, her head bobbing and her fingers flying across controls and keyboards, a pair of high-quality monitoring headphones on her ears. Janais sits and sulks.

Kian eventually turns, evidently satisfied with whatever she was doing. Her eyes light up at the sight of her girlfriend, though tinged immediately with a caring sadness both at the woman's appearance and at the memory of the last few months. "Hey you. How are you feeling?"

"You wanted me here, so I am here. What do you want?" comes the brittle, shaky reply.

Kian starts a little at Janais' brusqueness, but shakes it off. "I've been working on something for you. Here." She grabs a second set of monitoring headphones from a rack behind her and places them over Janais' ears. "Ready?"

Janais, stone-faced, barely shrugs, but her large partner takes that as affirmation and presses a rapid sequence of buttons and switches.

A characteristic synth bass splat begins to fill Janais' head, but the soundscape quickly varies and flits around, melodies coming into focus then morphing and merging and twisting. Janais is quickly overwhelmed and filled with the work, closing her eyes and washing away in the swells of musical emotion.

Cathedrals of trees whip past her and she rides up and crests, sweeping down into a gully of bass, sparking bells leaping out of the water and crashing back down. Vines of glittering brass and shining steel crisscross overhead as she shoots through a narrow gap and is thrust out into freefall, a dizzying cloudscape of notes and suggestions in every direction. She hangs there for an unknowable eternity between one heartbeat and another, and then is jerked away, whisked down the fifth orthogonal dimension into a spiraling exhilaration of chromatic arpeggio, her arms and legs and body rent into a fine spray of bold strings and choral tones.

Some time later, she finds herself again on a seat in a room. Her face is drenched with tears and her heart longer empty. She turns to Kian and tosses herself at the woman in a tight, clinging hug. "Thank you, love. Let's beat those sons of bitches."

Kian rumbles her agreement.