Mykhail opened his eyes. Morning. A cold light. Different sounds and echoes. He was on a mat on the bathroom floor, swaddled in furs. From his low angle he saw Gabriel, his back to him, bending to attend to something out of sight. The unusual sounds stopped as Gabriel turned around. The furs were thrown back and Mykhail gathered up as easily as if he was a child. From his new vantage point he worked out what was intended and relaxed as Gabriel placed him into the warm water and, very gently, began to wash him. The water was scented. The sponge in the pale hand was soft. New skin enjoyed the feeling of the languid caresses.
“I thought you might like a bath. Far from utilitarian but sometimes utility is the last thing we need. No one will disturb us. We have some time to talk if you want to ask me those questions you have, though I suspect we will need a lot longer for more detailed answers.” The tub was large but not over-filled. There was easily enough room for another without risk of it overflowing.
“In that case, would you join me?” Lying back in the water Mykhail couldn’t help but smile as his elder removed layers of dark clothing. It seemed natural to appreciate the wraith-like beauty on display. Narrow feet stepped into the bath. Delicate looking ankles fitted easily around golden hips as the men faced each other. It seemed appropriate to sit so. Where to start? Mykhail wasn’t certain if he was thinking about his questions or the moonbeam body in front of him. Long minutes stretched in silence as each regarded the other.
“Why did you appear to her naked in the forest?” It seemed a reasonable starting point. The sight had made a strong impression on the woman, even before speaking she was convinced of his supernatural qualities.
“I didn’t want to frighten her so appeared as vulnerable as I could.”
“You didn’t want to scare her and you still showed her that?” He reached across the gap between them. He was aware of less generous organs causing fear for some of his nocturnal visitors. He was not frightened. He stroked the flesh and felt it begin to respond. Mykhail decided he like the sensation of pressure under his hand.
“Trust me, it’s very cold out there and the male body can be a pitiful sight lying in the snow. Mmmmm. It made it easy to show I had scars on my back without making a big deal of it. Anyway, she’d been looking at you for decades. It doesn’t matter what you think of me, you are her ideal. Next question.”
“What if she hadn’t gone for it?” Mykhail felt that another hand was needed and moved closer.
“I’d been here a few weeks – oh that is nice – I had to make sure that you were the real deal before I did anything drastic. I made sure she found me. I didn’t need to say anything much. She put two and two together and suddenly it was obvious that I was Gabriel and the scars were from my wings being taken. Context can be everything. I fitted in with her world view. I see no need to disabuse her of her notion while she is happy. Next question.”
“Have you done this before?”
“No.” The brown eyes had seemed to consider a different interpretation of the question before answering. “I’ve never found another in such a condition. I’d heard the theory of the stasis override but never tried it. I saw you and I knew had to get you out … and to do that I needed Ekaterina as a power store. It was risky, I would have preferred not to but she was the best option we both had.” He leaned forward and dragged fingernails down the inside of unsuspecting thighs. He smiled as Mykhail gasped. “Ah, you have an almightily distracting body boy. Once I’d seen you how could I not want to wake you and find out who you were? Next question.”
“There are others like us?” What would others of his kind be like?
“There is one who is my home. I don’t know how, but he was born a child not an adult. We were meant to be fully grown before becoming active. With no idea what he was he’d grown up thinking he was human, different, yes, but still human. When we met he began to complete the transformation to his full potential. I would like you to meet him. Most of the Shabtis died in the madness of the Collapse but I know of a few scattered to the winds, some in secret, some in plain sight. In theory there must be others that I have yet to meet. A talent for survival is one of our gifts. Next question.”
“Shabtis?” This was a new word, definitely not something from the local people. Mykhail moved closer.
“It was our official designation. The company line was that we were intended to answer the needs of society. In simplest terms a Shabti is magical figure who answers for you when you are called on to work, a production line artificial stand-in able to do whatever is required. It sounds much less threatening than saying army. They didn’t want to call us soldiers. That would have been too honest.” They were very close now. “Next question.”
“All male?” Gender didn’t seem that important. Mykhail realised he would be equally comfortable with this pared down creature or gentle female curves like Ekaterina.
“Some more so than others but, yes, all male.” Now they were chest to chest, Mykhail very conscious of the hard flesh between them. “Too many complications for them bother trying to make females. Definitely too long a story for now. Next question.”
“Why do I think you are called Adam Kadmon?” The brown eyes betrayed a certain surprise and all of the pale body tensed at the name. Mykhail was scared he’d said something very wrong.
“Please don’t use that name. It was …” Aching space between them again as Gabriel leaned back. There was a long pause before he continued. He looked uncomfortable and his voice had an uncertain note for the first time. “Adam Kadmon is a concept of faith, the Primal Man, the prototype perfect essence. According to some beliefs he was the one being able to connect the world of man to the higher planes. At first I thought it was a name being used in poor taste, but I’d been called worse so I let it go. Then I found out it had been used to imprint the younger ones, to give them an idea of something greater than them, something to control them. It was an undercurrent of thought in a mind as diseased as it was forceful. There were a lot of sick things that happened back then. I hadn’t realised it had spread this far. I can’t imagine your own creators being happy with something so inherently mystical.”
Mykhail said nothing. He felt there was something else to come and was content to wait. Not-Gabriel-and-not-Adam-Kadmon seemed to be thinking things over. Eventually he looked back up.
“I am Dave Jensson. I was the first of our kind to talk, the first to … do many things. I am a Delta, a fourth generation Shabti. The labs had managed to create life before me, but they were crude things that barely had basic reflexes and no consciousness. Because of where he grew up I think my other is a Lambda. You are a Mu – one of the last, perhaps the last generation of our kind. The cost and effort of the development was spread across a number of countries. I was created a continent away in North America. This place is the old north-west of a country called Russia.
“Though I was the template for all that followed the mix was altered slightly for each generation as they sought to enhance some traits and reduce others. Even within each generation there was variation. Chance and unusual circumstance made me. Chance was allowed to continue in the hope that another viable source combination could be found. I was the start, not the finished product and I think they would have preferred a different wellspring. They always wanted more force and obedience, and much less thinking. The people who objected to that, well, that is definitely not something for now.” Though the body had relaxed somewhat the thin face seemed to reflect the pain of things left in the past. Another pause and the brown eyes rallied and smiled again. “Next question.”
“How old am I?”
“That’s a tricky one. Physically you might be a few years younger than me. As far as I can tell there was an attack, probably an air-strike when everything went a bit crazy at the start of the Collapse. It looked like the technicians were trying to activate you at the time and you were locked in stasis to protect you. The stasis was only meant to be temporary. Over time it started to break down and there must have been some leakage. This explains why you were starting to grow into the machine and how you were able to make the connection out. How long you’ve been aware … honestly I have no idea how we can calculate that. In theory I guess you could have had some level of consciousness all the time, it depends how far along you were when everything was shut down.
“From talking to the locals the stories of you speaking in their dreams started about seventy or eighty years ago but they have been worshipping you for centuries. It might be best not to think about it too much. Depending on how you define alive I guess you could be a few days old … or you could be closer to your millennium.” The Delta reached forward and rested his hand on the soft golden hair damp on the broad chest facing him. “Whatever age you are, I am impressed. Be what you want to be. Next question.”
“Will you do to me what you’ve been doing to her?” So many words to use, Mykhail had no idea what would be the correct one to describe what he’d seen, what he wanted, what he wanted to do.
“I will, but not yet. Oh, don’t look sad boy. Trust me, when the time is right we will know and we will share. Just like not giving you too much food, it wouldn’t be safe to give you too much of me. I don’t want to burn you up. For now … the woman wants you. Enjoy your time together. Begin to learn what it is to be in that fantastic body. Soon enough we’ll move on. There is much to show you. This world is not quite the same as the one you were designed for. That world degraded, disintegrated, those wars are long gone. Next question.”
“Will you kiss me again?” And there were no more words and no space between them. Like the previous night the ancient creature’s control was complete. He did not betray his own urges but carefully transferred his energy in the outpouring of starlight into newest of his kind.