“There is something wrong with the woman I purchased,” Stone said looking directly into the holoscreen that held the image of his closest acquaintance and for the most part, his only source of intelligent human conversation, Yuri Romanov.
“I swear she was virgin!” Yuri proclaimed in his rich Russian accent. “No one touch her. Doctor look at her and say so. I to send you medical form.”
“That is not the problem,” Stone said, though he was reassured at the information that she hadn’t been compromised. Sitting back in his tall-backed office chair, he took a short breath to calm himself and continued. “I cannot communicate with her.”
“What communicate?” From experience, Stone knew that Yuri’s accent was thicker the more frustrated or confused he was. He used that to his advantage when he was bargaining for a job or goods, but it was little help when he needed information. “You strip her naked, take her to bed. Male part go in female part. Is enough communication.”
“I can’t just–No!” Stone was the one who was frustrated and confused in this case, running his hand through his thick brown hair. “I want to communicate with my wom–with … I don’t even know her name!”
“I no ask name. Just ask for Earth woman, virgin. Pretty. I make sure she pretty because you good customer and I like you.”
Stone understood the compliment, and even gave a quick, “Thank you, Yuri,” in reply because he was just too polite to let it pass. “But where did she come from?”
“Earth. Like you ask.”
“I mean where on Earth?”
“You no ask such questions to men in black market,” Yuri replied. “They think you police.”
“Right. Right.” Stone nodded and sighed. “I just wanted a companion from Earth. Someone to talk to that I knew was completely free from the plague.”
“Quarantine on Mars make Earth goods very expensive.” Stone could plainly see that Yuri was trying very hard not to grin like the cat that ate the canary.
“Earth goods…” Stone mumbled and wiped his palm over his face.
“Just take clothes off. Put her in you bed. Naked. She understand.”
Stone shook his head again, stronger than he had before. “I can’t.” He looked up from his hands to Yuri’s black bearded face. He looked like a pirate, Stone thought, down to the gold hoops in his ear. “I can’t do that to her. This is a delicate situation. She is like a–” His mind searched for the right word, his hand swirling in the air in front of him as if it could help conjure the precise phrase he needed. “–a flower. You can’t force a flower to bloom. You have to wait for it to open.”
“You no good with plants,” Yuri replied. “I to be remembering you mother. She good with plants. Romanov’s buy many plants from her. You mother die, plants die, but I still keep you as customer.”
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