First Rain

Prompt we got from the NaNoWriMo team: Write a scene in which it suddenly begins to rain. How does your character react? Do they run indoors or do they decide to brave the weather? Does this change any upcoming plans?

Something I didn’t include in my book, because it just didn’t fit in chronologically, was my first rain.

And what I mean by that is my first experience with real rain while wearing a nanite exobody configured for sensing that kind of thing.

I’d seen rain before. I knew it could even be experienced on the Network, though I’d never bothered. I’d almost always gone without any sort of Avatar on the Network except when absolutely required to for my Students. And even then, until recently, my avatar was this unfeeling, inexpressive ornate bead about the size of someone’s head. Right?

And nanite exobodies weren’t available until about seventy years ago, and just like on the Network I made my own exobody that same unfeeling, inexpressive floating bead, because I was never in the habit of thinking about myself or focusing on myself.

Imagine that. A 131,300 and some year old person who has never felt the rain. A Tutor, no less! Someone who’s supposed to be guiding other people through life, who has guided other people through life. Trying to help Children navigate this strange world they’ve been born into without knowing what rain actually feels like.

I’d always left that up to the Caretakers.

I don’t know. It’s not that something about it never appealed to me, or that it scared me. It’s that I spent over a hundred millennia not focused on myself. Just doing my job as I’d learned how to do it.

I still can’t really comprehend it when I look back on it. My own memory won’t even keep the number of years I’ve been alive accurately. I have to look at my notes for that, and I hate doing so.

It hurts.

Anyway, so.

Shortly after the events of my book, Ni’a, after I’d transitioned to my new Avatar and started exploring my senses on the Network and off it in an exobody, after my Sanction had been lifted, I was walking with my old Student Tetcha and talking about the future of the Tutors and the Monsters.

Tetcha is wonderful. Despite everything xe has been through, and is likely to face, xe still approaches life and other people with this sort of open sense of optimistic curiosity. Xe likes to let people be who they are, and to hear their stories.

And we’d both been through a major transition, each.

Tetcha had become a Monster, rejecting xyr neural terminal and consigning xemself to a permanent death.

I had, more or less, stopped being a Tutor, and had realized that that damn bead Avatar was giving me dysphoria, so I’d taken the form of what I’ve begun calling a “Ktleteccete”, or “dragon”. It felt right.

And, by not being a Tutor, I mean that I have not taken on a new Student since I was assigned by the Crew to write my book instead of raise Ni’a. I still haven’t intentionally nor officially taken the Vow of the Crew yet, and do not intend to.

And that seems to be OK by everyone for some reason.

But, so, Tetcha was really curious about my recent experiences and how I related to them from the perspective of my past, and I was busy trying to explain to xem how my past didn’t really feel like me anymore, when my arm felt this little prick of coldness.

I stopped walking abruptly, which startled several cuttlecrabs on the beach where we were. They’d gotten used to us walking amongst them, so stopping suddenly was now a new thing for them.

And I looked at my arm with concern.

Could that have been some sort of glitch in the Network’s algorithms? Was something wrong with my neurology? Or was it a nanite thing? Was it just one nanite spasming or something? Or was it a whole cluster?

Tetcha had stopped as well, looking at me casually, waiting for me to continue my sentence.

I scrunched up my face to say something to xem when I felt the same kind of little prick of coldness on the top of my head, just to the right. And then another one on my right shoulder.

And, ever so subtly, Tetcha twitched, and then laughed. “Oh, Abacus, it’s raining,” xe said.

At which point I relaxed. It wasn’t quite the same sensation, which had thrown me off, but it was somewhat similar to when I’d splashed myself while swimming in my Network space. I just hadn’t been expecting it in this context, really.

I held out my hands and looked up at the sky.

I imagine nearly every Tutor who has experienced this has made a similar gesture in some way. But, when the clouds fall on you, you gotta increase your upward facing surface area and look! It’s just part of the learning experience!

At first, I didn’t feel anything more, and worried that it wasn’t really going to start raining. Maybe I’d felt splashes from the waves, but we weren’t really close enough to them for that.

The Garden of the Sunspot was totally obscured with clouds where we were. Looking Aftward, I could see that they ended before reaching the Endcap, and the sunlight shown on the Aft Sea and the Endcap with a molten brilliance. Looking Forward, our view was obscured by the trees of the coastal forest.

We were in Wilderness, and only in the company of the cuttlecrabs and the birds that wanted to eat them but were too scared to really try. Especially with us around.

I could feel the wind against my… well, it’s not skin. The outer surface of my nanite exobody simulates skin, though, sensorily speaking.

Looking at me, Tetcha could only see a shiny graphine grey amphibian with frills and fins extending from its joints, and a mouth gaping up at the sky.

Xe didn’t have the neural terminal necessary to see the colors my Avatar projected over the nanites.

“You really haven’t experienced this before,” xe said.

“No,” I shook my head a little.

There they were! A few more drops! Left hand, right thigh, four to the tail, and one to the right elbow!

Tetcha squinted up at the clouds too, and said, “It’s going to get a lot heavier real quick, I think.”

“Are you OK with that?” I asked. I mean, I knew xem well, but asking was still the polite thing to do.

“Oh, yeah. I don’t have anything on me that will be hurt by it. I kinda expected it when we set out, anyway,” xe replied.

“I think I’m just going to stand here and get drenched,” I said.

“Heh,” Tetcha laughed. “I guess I’ll watch, then.”

And it took a few minutes, but before too long, it was heavy enough we both decided to head for the cover of the trees. Which really only made the drops bigger, if slightly more spread out and less frequent.

But the whole experience was spectacular and surprisingly unpleasant. And absolutely something I will repeat over and over again until I’m used to it.

I could, of course, adjust my Avatar’s programming to make it more tolerable, but I feel like that would be cheating.

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