Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

‘The night is yet young’ as my grandmother used to say. Apparently it was my grandfather’s favourite line before they’d go out and party. She told me about the two of them jetting off to Dubai for breakfast and always being in Shanghai for Chinese New Year. She also bemoaned the difficulty of remaining elegant in the face of a weekend of partying. It was difficult to be elegant on a Sunday evening when you hadn’t seen your wardrobe since Friday afternoon.

Fortunately, the times have caught up with the needs of the modern lady. Nanite refresher booths are a feature of every ladies room these days, and my nanofluidic couture allows me to vary my styles in response to the slightest need.

Tonight I am a belle dame from the Mississippi Riverboat era, swanning about in a flounced and ruffed creation appearing to be of jade velvet over black leather. My Personal Access Device is transformed into a pair of long lace gloves. Elegance at will.

“Christina, my dear. You look ravishing.”

His choice of words makes me smile. Carmody has a reputation for taking the ravishing bit all too seriously. But he knows that I know his tastes. He slides closer with a devastating smile in a face that cost a million. A shame that making his personality pretty is more than cosmetic science can accomplish.

“Why don’t we take a stroll somewhere quieter, mademoiselle?”

I am just about to tell him to fornicate and depart when my PAD clenches about my wrists as my dress locks up.

Carmody smiles: “Oh dear, cheap bodyware? Wonderful.”

My intent to shout for aid is pre-empted by my choker acting literally. Carmody is the very soul of attentiveness, helping me past concerned partygoers, onto the veranda and down into the bowers of the love gardens. The bastard is using a slaver program to turn my couture into a prison. I think about what I’m actually wearing and realise I am, to put it politely, vulnerable to manipulation.

Carmody walks through the starlit evening to a remote nook containing a low table, with me accompanying him like a meal in a serving-droid.

“I think we’ll start with obscene and get inventive from there. Any objections? Thought not.”

Bastard bastard rapist bastard. I am striving to remain calm when Carmody emits a falsetto shriek and collapses rigidly, his face slamming into the gravel with a satisfying crunch. A figure steps into view as my couture rushes to cover my nakedness.

“My apologies for being a tad late, Miss Christina. Your brother’s compliments; he felt that you would object if he insisted that you employed a Safeguard.”

Safeguards are personal bodyguards trained, enhanced and equipped with the latest countermeasures for just about anything. Using them is deemed as gauche, but after tonight, I’m a convert.

He offers his hand and pulls me up without effort. His impeccable couture changes colour and style to complement mine as I take in his two-metre tall frame. I could become accustomed to this. Turning slightly, I nudge Carmody with my toe.

“What happened to him?”

“I thought it best to dampen his ardour by restricting the volume of his codpiece as I locked his couture. The servants will take him to the gatehouse for collection by the Police.”

I like the edge to his voice as he describes defending me, but I have to confirm my suspicions: “What volume, exactly?”

He actually blushes.

“Five cubic centimetres.”

I laugh. My Safeguard and I are going to get along just fine.


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