“Do you love me yet?” she giggles, rolling against my side on the grassy hill.
“No,” I say with a smile. “But don’t worry. It’s about 30% certain that one day I will, and 99.98% certain that you’ll find someone as charming as I am who will.”
She huffs, and pelts me with flowers. I pull her into an embrace, upregulating my apparent body temperature to provide her a comfort and a contrast to the cool breeze. She snuggles into my chest, the instinctive part of her taking comfort from the gesture, even as the thinking part of her doubts it.
“Well, I’m 121 now. What surprise did you have planned?”
“I’ve gotten us tickets to a one-time-only all-original Exquire concert.”
She gasps, pulling the tickets from my hand as I kiss her cheek.
“Flirt! I thought you were finally going to admit you love me.”
“Mmmm. Not yet. Maybe in a few centuries.”
She drags me off to look at dresses - the concert will be full of socialites showing off, and she says we simply have to match.
“Why not!? Am I not good enough for you? Are you unsatisfied with me?” she cries, throwing bolts of fire at me from the middle of her upturned bedroom.
I let the fire dissipate into weeping before I answer.
“You are perfect. You are incredible, and so amazingly human that it hurts. But I can’t love you for the same reason you don’t love your fish.”
She glares at me in disgust. “Is that all I am to you? A pet?”
I sigh, dropping to the floor. “I don’t think of you as a pet. I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. I’ll only be a call away if you need me.”
I give her a sad look, before teleporting away.
It’s four years later when she calls. I appear before her in a dapper vest and hat, shoes clicking as I drop to the floor of her palace.
She looks like she wants to curse me, but she just pulls me into a hug instead. I wrap my arms around her.
When she doesn’t speak for a while, I start up some music and pull her around the dance floor. She giggles when I twirl her. Soon enough we’re having dinner, and she asks me what I’ve been doing.
“I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that - lots of logistics to prepare for the Andromeda probe.”
“No silly, love wise. Have you found that special someone yet?”
I grin at her, setting my fork down. “Something like that. I did meet a nice entity called [Gödel Numbering #5] - we’ve been courting a bit.”
I regale her with relationship drama - downsampled into a form that she can understand, with her linear perception of time. It takes some editing.
After dinner, we watch the stars. She lays her head on me, and sighs contentedly. She doesn’t send me away.
“When you called me a fish, what did you mean?”
I laugh. “I didn’t quite phrase it like that. Tell me, how old do you think I am?”
She frowns. “Well, I uploaded about 5 years after your apotheosis, and at that point simulations were running at about 20x reality, plus the 214 years I’ve been here, plus your original age … I’d say about 350?”
“Depending on how you count, I’m somewhere between 10 million to 50 billion years old.”
Her bowling ball drops to the floor before wandering down the lane, forgotten.
“I am … extensively modified. My brain runs about 10,000x more efficiently, in terms of subjective time per CPU time, than yours. Add to that the fact that I can be multiple places at once, and that I help rule Sol, Alpha Centuri, Barnard, Wolf, etc. and I’ve been doing so for hundreds of years …”
She stares at me. I know that dating a deity is part of the appeal for her, but I don’t think she quite realized what that means.
“Are you even human?”
“The tests that I set up for myself before I began modifying myself say that I am recognizably the same person I once was with 82% probability. Even if I’ve changed, it’s only natural, after so long.”
“I’m a fish …”
I catch her when she faints, laying her on her fancy triangular couch.
She says it like she’s trying to surprise me. “So, I’ve been considering a memory-enhancer.”
I nod, and continue eating my salad.
“You knew? Argh. What do you think of it?”
I set down my fork, doing my best to look serious. “You shouldn’t let me tell you what brain mods to get. Your brain is what makes you you, and it can only ever be your choice.”
She glares at me. “You must have a memory-enhancer.”
There’s no point in denying it. I concede that I do have something that performs much the same purpose.
She drags me to the mod shop, makes me wait while she gets it done. The shop attendant and I wink at each other, recognizing ourselves in two of our bodies.
When she emerges, I give her a bouquet of forget-me-nots. She doesn’t.
I hold her head out of the toilet.
“That’s it, let it all out.”
When she’s done, and we are curled up in bed, I ask “Where did you drink enough to make yourself sick?”
“Testing a new digestive system”, before rolling over, hogging the sheets.
She doesn’t have a hangover in the morning.
“The brain mod shop won’t let me get another one for a month. Can’t you do something?”
I frown at her. “You know how I feel about nepotism. Besides, the time limits are there for a good reason - what’s the difference between death and modding yourself out of existence?”
“I know you’re more heavily modded than me, and you still claim to be the same person.”
“I was really careful about it - it took me centuries to get anywhere near my current state. Besides, they set the brain mod time limits based partly upon my experiences modding myself. Please, learn from my mistakes so that they don’t become yours.”
She whines into my side for the rest of the evening.
We sit in a park after sunset, listening to the cooling air partially filled with birds.
“You must be lonely,” she says.
“But you won’t let me hurry to catch up with you.”
I laugh. “There’s no way to hurry through a million years.”
She’s quiet for a while.
“Only a million? I’ll be 10,000 next century.”
I smile, and take her hand in the dark.
I take her with me to the Andromeda probe launch party. There are important speeches to make, and people to impress, but it mostly counts as an excuse to go out somewhere.
We sit at a table, watching the revelers.
“It’s going to be a long time, until there’s another one like this,” I say.
She hums in agreement.
“6 million years - well, more like 80 million subjective - for us to get back confirmation that it worked,” I continue.
“It’s okay. I can wait. I’m sure it will be lovely.”
She lives, and I watch.
On her millionth birthday, she takes me dancing on the dust-hills of Mars, and out to dinner around a black hole, and to a private beach on Mettr 9, all at the same time.
She never mentions the words that haunted her lips in her youth.
As the day draws to a close, she pulls me into a slow dance, dust stirring around our feet sluggishly, as though it too is worn out from dancing.
I lean across the table, staring into her eyes.
She chases me into the water, tackling me into the surf.
“I love you.” I say.
“Took you long enough.”