CM2.05 - Girl Next Door

Jayne showed up one day on Punter's doorstep. Punter thought she was the first respondent to his obscurely placed a for students, but it turned out that she didn't know anything about the ad.

She never told him that. She just played along.

Jayne has that everyday girl-next-door look. In another time, she'd be a cheerleader at some prep school if she weren't here. She'd be animated, not wary. She'd be giggly, not sardonic. She wouldn't snap at you for daring to greet her pleasantly.

She'd be wearing make-up instead of a headjack.

Punter had never seen anything quite like it before. It's located behind her right ear, which is not unusual. What's unusual is the amount of surface area it covers, extending from the ear around most of the back of her head. And what's unusual is the array of interface elements incorporated into the plate. There's the standard Netspace jack, but there's also a direct port, and something else that Punter didn't recognize and what looks to be an infrared sensor and something that could only be an aural sensor. Why it's external didn't make much sense to Punter, but that aural sensor, once he thought about it some, was probably what frightened him the most about the whole thing.

The plate is the sort of thing that would trigger Punter's trademark paranoia. That's why two mornings after she arrived, Jayne awoke from a stupor that could only have come from being drugged. She figured it was better than she bargained for. She would never have willingly let Punter or anyone else examine her or it, so this way she didn't have to put up a fight that she would certainly have lost. Even so, when most of the cotton cleared from her brain, she found him and berated him a while. He looked guilty, but he took it without a word. She ran out of steam, eventually and asked him what he learned.

Not much, but from then on, Punter agreed to let Jayne in the Academy. In return, she allowed him to study her plate.

One of the things that Punter has learned is that she's outgrowing it. It's always a problem, resolving the mutability of organic material with the solid state of even the most pliable of plastics. But precisely because it's so difficult (meaning expensive) to keep the required adjustments current, no one ever does this sort of thing to someone so young.

Or at least no one's supposed to do this sort of thing to someone so young.

She must have chronic headaches (although she never complained of them), and the skin is beginning to overgrow the plate. Persistent scabbing borders the edges of the implant. It isn't very attractive, particularly since Punter's made her cut all of her hair off. She accepted this more easily that he thought a teenager would, and she's been careful to follow all of his instructions for sterilizing prosthetic.

So Punter and Jayne have this relationship that the other students don't have. They don't ask each other too many questions, and they take care of each other. Her bite makes Punter laugh, even when it's directed at him. He appreciates her cleverness, and her barbs are always well-aimed (and, once you think about it, well-deserved).

So when Aubrey asks her for her story, she answers briefly. "I needed some help, and Punter gave it to me."

He's tenacious, that Aubrey. "What is that, a jack in your head?"

She says, "Probably." And she starts to cry.

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