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The Saphirine, Part 1

Redoing the story correctly

By Meredith HarmonPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 17 min read
Shetchbooks are bleeping messy, but quite useful.

A tray of frosted rings glinted in the harsh fluroescent light. Occasionally, one would give off a wisp of gaseous emission that trickled towards the floor like a ghostly headless snake.

A cluster of older men in well-tailored suits tried to chat with a knot of artisans in loose-fitted work clothing, but the conversation was strained and quiet. The artisans looked like they had come from their work benches with soot smears on hands and faces; the suits looked like they had risen from their death beds. All of them kept glancing at the rings. Even the scattered technicians and scientists looked nervous. They were new at their jobs - and they all knew what had happened to their predecessors.

Another set of techs set up a video camera. They were less nervous, but only because they were far, far away from the tray of rings. They had gone through this before, and though they expected some action, it wouldn't be from the camera. Then they put a clear plexi wall between the camera and the rings - just in case. A thick one.

When the bell finally sounded, none of the suits moved. After a mock-whisper "We're agreed?" and nods from the artisans, the oldest of the bunch looked directly at the camera: "The other tapes have recorded our previous failures. This time, we stand on no ceremony.

"The jewelers here helped us create new parameters for the rings, and they've entered a lottery to determine who picks first. Susan - "

A tall brunette with a face known to the world as one of the top jewelry designers swayed over to one of the couches that were half-hidden on the other side of the room. The cameramen swung around to focus on the new area. As a tech hastily donned gloves and tongs and picked up the tray, she settled back and immediately picked up the ruby ring - and juggled it from hand to hand till it warmed up enough. She put it on, lay back, and everyone held their breath. After a few breathless moments, she looked over and shrugged, opened her mouth to say something - and her eyes and mouth lit up with a delighted smile, and she passed out. Techs swarmed her couch, but everyone could see the monitors, and every light stayed green. As they watched, tendrils of bright crimson seemed to paint themselves over her wrist, coming from the ring on her finger. They crawled like animated vines, grew again, and spiraled in lazy curls towards her elbow.

Everyone exhaled at the same moment, and tense shoulders relaxed. Did the room seem brighter?

The suits seemed most relieved. "Jase? You're next, if you wish - "

"You better believe it!" Jason was also well known, but for finding some of the biggest and best emeralds seen in over a century in a dozen new mines he helped locate. He aimed straight for another couch and snagged the emerald ring on the way by. It didn't take him long to get the ring up to temp and put it on. His eyes closed, with darting movements like he was in REM sleep, and the hand weakly rose to give a thumbs-up before flopping back onto the couch. Everyone had seen green streaks like a spiderweb on his fingers. And his monitor lights were also green, pulsing in time to his heartbeat.

Another collective sigh. The third artisan was already walking towards a couch, and the rest trailed along. The fourth artist muttered, "I bet she'll take the diamond away from me", but she threw a look over her shoulder as she sat down. A tech attempted to waft her into lying down, or at least leaning back, but she shook her head with a smile as she picked up the sapphire ring.

She cupped it in her hand, and they could see a bright blue radiance already shining through her fingers.

Circuitry glittered under the filigree dome, and even the soft overhead light couldn't hide the six-point star in the cabochon. It slipped onto her middle finger, and she held up her hand so they could watch the circuitry rotate and clamp down. She barely felt the prick as it penetrated.

"What, no diamond for you?" mocked the last volunteer. Always a pain the ass, she thought, but smiled as she felt the filaments work their way through her bloodstream, watching her veins turn glittery blue in their wake. "Sapphires are every color but red," she whispered, "Your diamond has no color. Always, you need color, for contrast." The tech caught her as she slumped sideways, and he settled her onto the couch. The lights stayed green.

Most followed the last artisan to the couch to watch him claim his diamond ring, but three of the suits stayed behind to watch the deep blue color creep up her arm. One of them perched on the edge of the couch, and after very carefully putting on a thick pair of gloves the tech offered, took her ringed hand in his own. Blue glow shimmered off his leather-covered palm. It did not take long for the blue strands to reach her shoulder, pulsing and glittering.

They were still watching her sleep peacefully when the alarms went off on the fourth couch. Everyone near him flattened themselves to the floor. The lights were flashing bright red before they, and the circuitry around them, and the circuitry in the couch, and the wall monitors, and the rest of the wall, exploded.


The Saphirine walked along the dark corridor, but she didn't mind. The faint blue radiance emitted through her skin showed her enough detail to walk confidently, and if she chose, she could shift her eyes with the embedded circuitry to show each detail in walls, floor, ceiling - so much so that she could detect flaws in the metal, or even in the concrete beyond.

When she and the other volunteers finally woke up, the microelectronics from each ring and the attached machinery had integrated with each human subject based on the elemental composition of the gem they'd selected. Each individual could sense their specific gem, whether it was in someone else's jewelry, in a mine, or even a synthetic compound in the labs. They could evaluate uncut pieces, and even detect weaknesses in mine shafts. Useful, accurate skills, just like the company wanted.

There were also other benefits. Each one glowed in their chosen color. All senses were heightened. All were healthier than they had ever been, and the techs were taking bets as to how long they'd live. At least one was saved from serious injury, and another was saved from being burned alive. The techs weren't sure how those happened, but they were reviewing the videos for clues.

There were drawbacks. You were never alone; you were like a queen bee constantly swarmed by techs, testing everything from breaths per minute to nutrient absorption to "coital symmetry". The Saphirine had no lovers with which to test that last parameter, but Jase - now calling himself the Smagardas, and Susan, now calling herself the Rubine - more than made up for her lack. Even the very-new Diamant had a double handful of "friends with benefits" that he called on regularly.

The problem? All the lovers were girls. Even for the Rubine, which surprised everyone but her. "We were tested for compatibility with gems, not with mates," she once marked acerbically. "Whomever I decide to take to my bed is still technically MY business." When her techs got too pushy, she'd pulled the plug on all the recording machines, then fired her techs. The few that begged for forgiveness within a few hours got rehired, but the rest suddenly found themselves sweeping the parking lot. Her new techs treated her with much more respect. The other sets of techs took the hint and dialed back on measuring every single miserable parameter they could think of.

The pressure to produce - er, reproducible results - had been constant till the company had produced a second set of rings: garnet, amethyst, citrine, onyx. The Amethystine and the Citrinine were near-identical twins, the Onicine was an ex-Goth (but now you can wear black all the time, why leave our club now to tour the world?), and the Grenadine was fond of wine and poetry - and all happened to be straight girls. All sorts of biometric feedback was now being studied.

The suits who had first founded the technology were long dead. Ironically the research had started as their personal longevity plan, but had veered wildly off course when the gems they'd been experimenting with as the circuit base showed affinities for individuals. There hadn't been enough time left in the first set of suits' lifetimes to explain to them that they weren't just cyborgs, they were symbiotes with rocks that had seemed to be inert, but were no longer. The gems are waking up, they'd said. They are curious, they are incredibly inquisitive, and they're using our bodies to interact with this new organic world. And developing personalities...

The techs got it, but the suits didn't. So while the old men frittered their last time away thinking up more and useless experiments, the living gems learned about themselves and each other. Circuits implanted by the techs and interwoven with their own gem-fiber bodies allowed them to talk to each other and across the planet. Techs wore impermeable gloves, because skin-to-skin contact always led to fibers emerging from a living gem to burrow under others' skin, with various interesting results. Even the people who tolerated sex with the living gems had rash issues that kept them away for days, or weeks.

Plane trips weren't fun, and space station trips were right out. The gem part of the living gems wanted to keep contact with Mother Earth.

The suits, and the following set, and the subsequent set, were now long gone, but they had provided for their strange children. A subdivision of the company held enough money for component upgrades in perpetuity, plus tech salaries and retirement plans. Each gem supplemented their own stipend with jewelry-making and mining advice and other services, making them independently wealthy.

But not for the children of the gems. There were none to make provisions for.

Instead, they concentrated on another way to reproduce - growing interface technology within their own bodies, enhancing their own lives and their techs' with implantable biocircuitry that kept them healthier and let them live even longer. The company tried to keep it to themselves, but the gems themselves donated as many pieces as they could make to everyone else. With the caveat, of course, that the more implants each person received, the less children they'd likely have.

There was only one gem of each kind. Attempts to duplicate the rings had ended... badly. Some got along as long as parameters were clearly defined - ruby and sapphire were the same gem, one was just a single color of the other. But as long as the Saphirine stayed away from red and pink, the rest of the spectrum was hers. They had to be much more careful with the quartz-derived gems, but so far, the lab explosions had stopped. Techs and gems everywhere breathed a bit easier.

Though the original contract between the company and the living gems had expired a lifetime ago, maintenance and life and income went on. They were celebrities, called on to give guest appearances. They were still the world's experts on mining, and visited often for inspection and maintenance. The workers always treated them like gods, despite their protests - but who can blame them when their lives were so much safer? The gems still in the ground didn't like organic squishiness "between their toes" when there was a mine collapse, and the living gems were insistent on blood-free working conditions for their people. With the potential for the minerals beneath our feet to fully wake up, what would they think of organics who treated them like, well, dirt?

They were expert cutters, and the gems they themselves cut held a sparkle and fire that couldn't be accounted for by regular light conditions. They were tech troubleshooters, when the circuitry could mesh with the machine and let you know what was wrong. They were first responders, when a building collapse needed hair-thin flexible optics that machines alone couldn't provide.

They were ambassadors, interfacing between the worlds of crystalline lattice and human reason. The metaphysical practitioners loved them, even though their magic was based on science. The geologists loved them, for describing hidden contours and folds hundreds of feet below, far better than their equipment could produce.

They had groupies, and fanatics, and worshippers. They had lived into their late two-hundreds with no signs of stopping, and no hint as to why.

They still couldn't have children. The interface kept saying "not till the circuitry is complete", whatever that meant.

The Smargadas was delighted, he'd gotten his circuitry to blunt his sperm and render them sterile, though there was a persistent rumor that sex with a living gem would be healthy for the recipient... well, when the awful itching cleared up...

The company had tried duplicating the technology: more diamond rings, and ruby rings, et cetera ad nauseum - only to have the rings explode, or for the scientists to get biofeedback zaps that erased memories, and finally all the extras had just gone inert. They subsequently focused on other gems, and had gone on to semi-precious as well, and those worked, but not as well as the four original gems. Sure, they'd always had problems with the Diamant (the fifth person to try on the ring finally stuck the landing, so to speak), but who didn't? Anyone arrogant enough to want that gem also had to compromise with a just-as-arrogant symbiont gem, and hold that balance. Type A personalities need not apply!


When the techs finally arrived, the scene should have been an unmitigated disaster. The place was shredded - electronics and furniture and pieces of the drywall were thick on the floor, and whatever was left was hanging from destroyed components or pieces of the ceiling itself. Only two things looked untouched: the Saphirine, who was holding on to the Opaline, in the middle of the aftermath. She looked like letting go might kill them both, and the Opaline was howling her unhappiness to the world. In her case, that was more truth than euphemism; the lights throughout the city were pulsing in time to her ragged breathing rhythm. Saphirine was rocking her, cooing to her, and though both tech sets could see skin touching skin, everyone's touch pads showed green.

It took hours to get Opaline to sleep, and only then did everyone's screens light up - in blue, on both sides. Yes, I'm temporarily superimposed on Opaline's symborg patterns the message said. Just to keep her asleep for a while. Only working because her gem agrees with mine. Ideally she should wake up in Australia, can we accomplish? Half set about prepping a nearby plane while the other half conversed "quietly" with touchpads. Yes, we're organically interfaced, some of my fiber implants in her and vice versa. Move us like we are one unit. Perhaps move the whole couch? Pillows, whole ones from other rooms, were stuffed anywhere they were needed as the whole apparatus was strapped in for a long flight. I can fly better than most other gems, again superimposing temporarily onto Opaline for comfort, need to shut down for interface realignment, need to hold deeper conference with gems, please hold- The Saphirine's transmission went blank, and her vitals indicated sleeping, but her EEG reading stayed active, and her hold on the Opaline didn't so much as twitch. The techs worried, and a few took clandestine pics of the two intertwined bodies - pale-white skin, blue glittering streaks following her blood vessels, blue-black hair, against golden-honey hair, and golden-tan skin, and shimmering patches of color that changed as sunlight played over her skin.

Their touchpads activated as soon as the plane's wheels touched ground. Interface concluded; positive outcome possible to achieve? Will attempt. Need shelter approx 50km into environment. Possible? Transport as unit? Techs scrambled to make preparations, and still the Saphirine didn't move. Nor did the Opaline in her arms. I'm acting as her heavy drug she "whispered" to the techs' readers. That interface will start to break down as soon as we exit. Be ready for wild readings-

And wild they got, soon after they were installed in a truck and speeding to a small house they rented on the edge of the desert. Bursts of energy they couldn't explain, equpiment overload, reboot, rescan, energy echoes that seemed to bounce off outside sources. The Opaline began to twich a bit, here and there, and finally the Saphirine could move arms, then legs. Some techs got hot feelings, and excessive sweating, and heavy breathing, and the Saphirine suggested full particulate masks for comfort. And fans, she added, large ones for air circulation. Supplies - do not know how long we'll be here-

The Opaline was trying to sit up by the time they got to the - well, more shack than house, but the two gems didn't even seem to see it. It was shelter, and finally both could settle into separate beds with small sighs of relief. Some food, some drink, some elimination, stretching, massages - small comforts, along with a very large fan blowing air over the Opaline and out the open door and windows.

The largest moth to flame ratio ever, the Saphirine replied to what they were doing here. Opaline needs a mate. Is desperate for one. Though our techs are ever here - she threw an adoring glance at her own set, who blushed - Opaline needs more contact. So we though of this attempt to draw one out, who already loves the land her gems are embedded in. So we wait.

And they waited.

Weeks later, the Saphirine snapped awake at a whining sound that was coming closer. They had not advertised their location, so whoever was approaching was tracking by a different method. The whining was interspersed with low rumbles, coughs, and a discordant POP that indicated the vehicle finally broke down. Silence, curses in a lovely accent, and a BANG that was definitely a vehicle door slamming, followed by the sound of a tire getting kicked. Footsteps approached, and the Saphirine silently motioned for all the techs to get into another room and out of sight.

She opened the door to a ruggedly handsome man caught in the middle of saying "G'day, mate, I was going down the road, and my ute seems to have - oh." His eyes went very round; by now everyone even in the outer Outback knew the look of each living gem. But she just smiled, put a finger to her lips, and reached for him with a gloved hand. She gently pulled him into the room, closed the door behind him, and led him over to the Opaline's couch.

The Opaline was just waking up and looked adorably tousled. The Saphirine had a twinge of jealousy, but it vanished when the other lady said "Safi? I just had the most strange, erotic - oh." No one believes in love at first sight anymore, do they?

No one was watching her anyway. She laid Handsome Stranger's hand into the Opaline's, monitored to make sure the thread interface did no harm, then slid out of the room to let the lovers "talk". If this works, I'm next, she sent to her techs.

It took much longer than she thought.

They had lucked out. Bruce (Really? Like that's the only Australian name?) had no significant other when he answered the Opaline's pheromone call, but what if he'd had a life that would have caused complications? The other gems were happy with multiple lovers that came and went, but the Saphirine herself wanted something more permanent. She checked on the lovebirds frequently to see for herself if Bruce would develop a delayed reaction to the gem filaments - to find he'd upgraded to some cyborg implants of his own, developed inside the Opaline, which kept him stable and healthy. He'd never advance to becoming a side-by-side king to her queen, but he'd be a more than capable advisor and assistant, especially in the mines. Bets were already on as to how long he'd live.

So she visited various cities across the globe, and let her pheromones fly while there, and checked in on regional towns all around while waiting to see if someone showed. In a few months she'd move on, leaving instructions on how to deal with anyone who might show up looking kinda lost. Ostensibly she'd check on sapphire cutters and examine new pieces of jewelry, but she was mostly looking at the crowd - which made more than a few of them uncomfortable, meeting her symborg eyes.

Until the art exhibit. She'd taken the job as a lark, knowing full well her techs were beginning to worry about her mood. Some of the digital pads were showing telltale green-yellow indicators, and though her face was still serene, she'd admitted that her hormone suppressants no longer worked since she'd started creating the pheromones instead. Hormonally (well, erotically, really), she'd been frozen for over two hundred years, and now she had the libido of a rampant 16-year-old. Distracting! She wondered if scream therapy was considered art if she could do it in the middle of the exhibit, and one of her techs started choking on supressed laughter when he read her thought on his screen.

She tried concentrating on the work at hand, but a spicy smell kept pulling her head towards the entrance. Most of the artwork had been hung in transparent static panels that had been placed in a circle, with gaps between the panels for people to mingle. Maybe one of the exhibits was scent-based? The people allowed into the center had paid well to meet her, and she dutifully made the rounds to chat with each and every.

The last of the must-meet-and-greet - he'd hung back deliberately, a rather jolly older man who made her feel young, even though he was sixty-something and she didn't want to think about her age any more - suddenly chuckled and nudged her toward one of the exits. "Your eyes keep sliding over my shoulder. Someone has caught your attention, and I will escort you while we find out whom," and laughed again at her discomfort. "Saphirine, I have watched you on vids since I was a toddler, and you've ever been the social host at these soirees. Till now. This is momentous, and I will be front and center to see you meet this wonder."

She was clothed in clear plastic with discreet opaque panels, as always - so others could stare at her sparkling "blue blood" without actually touching her and getting the awful rash. She didn't flinch when he took her well-wrapped elbow and slipped through one of the gaps, and began to circuit the outer hall as people froze and gawked at seeing her close up.

Two thirds of the way around, she saw them. Young kids, really, staring at one of the abstracts and rolling their eyes. How they had gotten in, with no formal clothing, was a bit of a mystery; even those on the outer circle had to pony up some cash and fancy duds to view the gallery. The one with the blond pony tail had seen her first, and elbowed his buddy with the dark dark hair and hollow cheeks. He brushed some of that touchable hair out of his eyes as he turned, and he saw her, and his lovely hazel eyes grew large. One of her hands crept up to touch his jaw, finger those kissable lips. She'd forgotten what touching skin to skin could do, but no rash followed her touch.

They didn't see the cameras, the videos being taken, the look between Pony Tail and Jolly Old Guy as they slid behind their respective victims and deliberately pushed them together. A collective gasp came from the crowd when their lips met, but the kid's face didn't redden or swell up. More pictures, cheering, more video. Her techs were babbling in ecstacy. They had seen it happen, live streamed to the world.

Where were you when the Saphirine fell instantly, head-over-heels in love?

The Saphirine, Part 2: https://vocal.media/futurism/the-saphirine-part-2


About the Creator

Meredith Harmon

Mix equal parts anthropologist, biologist, geologist, and artisan, stir and heat in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, sprinkle with a heaping pile of odd life experiences. Half-baked.

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  • Ameer Bibi2 months ago

    Amazing excellent story 🎉🎉🎉

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