Jillian Hayden, formerly Jillian Clark, was unhappy, very unhappy, and she had no idea why.
Two days earlier, while studying in the Student Union, a gray interdiction wall appeared, and she was extracted. She had been chosen by a graduate student that she actually knew - albeit slightly - and her test drive had been wonderful.
Joseph Hayden had proven to be a considerate lover, attentive to her needs, and his choice for a second concubine was a slightly-older-than-Jillian graduate student majoring in music, as was Jillian. The pair of them complemented each other in looks, interests, and temperament.
He had status, too. Having served in the reserves, Joseph had been made a provisional sergeant. A buck sergeant, but rank none-the-less. She had been proud of him, happy to be on his arm.
Jillian thought through the past forty-eight or so hours, looking for the source of her unease.
The two concubines, being healthy, were sent with their sponsor to his pod while others with serious issues were screened and fixed. After their initial intake and orientation briefings, the three went to the nearest dining room for a meal, chatting happily together. Shortly afterwards, they had returned to their pod to settle in as a family.
Sex that night had been splendid. Joseph, Jillian, and Julie were all experienced, enthusiastic and adventuresome lovers. At first, second, and third pass, it was evident that there was going to be little if anything they were unwilling to try. Life was looking really good.
After the next morning's breakfast, two med-tubes were available. Joseph and Jillian took the openings, with Julie to replace Jillian when she returned, alone. Because Joseph had rank, his initial enhancements were to begin immediately in order to give him 'authority' with his soon-to-be charges. That caused his time in the tube to exceed that of his two concubines, and Jillian finished long before he did.
When Jillian exited the med-tube, another sponsor was exiting as well, and the technician asked him to escort her to her sponsor's pod. As a precaution, he told the young man, "Remember, she isn't yours, so you need to keep your hands and other body parts away from her."
She and the young man walked silently to the Hayden pod door, which as previously instructed, opened for her. Jillian politely thanked her escort, entered the pod, and sent Julie on her way.
By lunch time, Joseph had returned to his ladies, and they decided to eat in the dining room. As they entered, Jillian saw her former escort, who waved casually, and a deep need started in her groin. Trying to ignore the feeling, Jillian accompanied her family to the replicator and ordered a salad and small bowl of soup.
At the table, the need continued, and every time Jillian looked up, she found herself turning to look at the young man sitting across the room with his two concubines. She felt like a sunflower turning to follow the light, and the feeling continued as her eyes followed him when he left the room with his small retinue. Waves of sadness followed his departure.
By the time Joseph's trio returned to their pod, the sadness had deteriorated to weeping. Concerned, Joseph took his unhappy concubine in his arms and tried to determine the reason for her unhappiness. Jillian sobbed, "I was so happy with our little family, but now I feel so empty, and I don't know why."
"Was there something I did?" Joseph asked. "Did another sponsor bother you while I was in the med-tube?"
"Noooo," she wailed, "nothing like that, and I like you both a lot. But, somehow, it just isn't the same as it was this morning."
Being free for the afternoon, both Julie and Joseph engaged her in sexual antics. She experienced pleasure, but her heart wasn't with them as it had been the previous night. Concerned, but horny, her partners disengaged and spent their lust on each other. Much lust! Jillian was pleased for them, but continued to be even more miserable for herself.
As the evening meal approached, Jillian did her best to put on a pleasant face. She dried her tears, showered, and applied makeup from the purse that Joseph had allowed her to bring. Bravely, she clutched Joseph's right arm as Julie clutched his left and they strolled in that manner to the dining room.
As they entered, Jillian straightened and brightened as she felt the glow of awareness from across the room. She was almost irresistibly drawn; so much so, that her companions noticed the change. "What's with that guy that attracts you so?" asked Julie. "It's like someone shined a light on you. I don't get it."
Joseph followed the gaze of his two companions and frowned. "Are you sure that man didn't do something to you this morning?" he asked, more concerned than ever.
"No, he was a perfect gentleman," countered Jillian. "I surely don't want him in trouble for something when he did nothing wrong."
Joseph, only beginning to learn to communicate sub-vocally with the AI, asked, <AI, did that guy bother my concubine, Jillian? Did she do anything with him?>
<Sergeant Joseph Hayden, Lance Corporal Louis Ambrose has not touched nor spoken with your concubine Jillian Hayden, > responded the AI, <and Jillian Hayden's only words to him were 'thank you.'>
<Why did she speak to him at all?> Joseph asked.
<Technician Henry Johns asked him to walk with her back to your pod when she completed her time in the med-tube, > answered the AI - leaving Joseph more confused than ever.
That evening, Jillian withdrew even more. She wept silently, trying not to disturb the other two while she reviewed her time aboard ship - over and over - seeking the reason for her unhappiness. Only the ever increasing ardor of the other two kept them from being completely frustrated with her.
Morning found Jillian curled into a fetal position, still weeping. Only the insistence of her sponsor resulted in her uncurling and venturing with them to eat.
As she entered the dining hall once more, she became radiant - staring across at Corporal Ambrose.
Joseph took note and thought to himself, 'This is ridiculous! I need to figure this out and get it fixed.'
<AI, how soon can I get in to see the Civil Service?>
"Well, just bite me!" the signifer yelled. "Another one. AI, who was it this time?"
For an AI, the response in their heads 'sounded' rather sheepish, <Sergeant Joseph Hayden's concubine, Jillian, was escorted back to Sergeant Hayden's pod by Lance Corporal Louis Ambrose.>
"So, another what? What's going on here?" demanded the anxious sponsor.
Picking through his inventory of insulting names, Signifer Bennett began, "Shit-For-Brains, here, had a brain fart and decided that the trips to the colonies were wasting too much time. Time that could be saved by speeding up the bonding of concubines to their sponsors."
He continued, dripping sarcasm, "So, without consulting with crew, or any human for that matter, it took it upon itself to 'improve' the programming of the nanites that are given to concubines during their initial physical."
<I still fail to see a problem, > came an almost petulant interjection, <they are only concubines. Nothing was changed in the nanites for sponsors. Besides the Earthat AIs agreed it was a worthwhile change.>