I almost missed my Transfer when I got to level twenty-two. I'm among the lucky ones to get my weekends off. My job, as a lab technician, consisted of checking if the robots fucked up—which rarely happened. I have one of the most boring jobs in a factory that produced artificial foods for human consumption—aka fake meat. I like my simple life and I don't want it to change.
At ten AM, I received an email from Caltel Energies. They said they could install the socket in 2 hours today, but I had to agree to a bigger subscription plan, my smile instantly faded.
"I knew it was too good to be true," I murmured to myself. It won't come cheap. I sent them a confirmation for both the energy plan and the technician. While I went on with my routine check on batch B045, one of the 35 samples I had to verify for anomalies, an email came in. A Caltel Energies' technician will be at my apartment at four PM sharp. That left me enough time to get home. I smiled at the message and then swapped it away to return to my boring samples while humming.
At three PM, the bell rang to switch shifts. By then my neck was stiff and my eyes sore. I adjusted my glasses, got up, and went directly to the exit without greeting my few human colleagues. I didn't pay much attention to my work atmosphere. I've learned the hard way that the fewer interactions, the fewest complications. It didn't help in the relationship department.
The Transfer took me back to level twenty-two, my quiet neighborhood in the shade of the eighty-eight-floor building. It was early enough to stop by my favorite Chinese restaurant and grabbed myself a takeaway. I got fried noodles and a portion of fake chicken with a lot of oyster sauce—or so said the label. I quickly gain the safety of my apartment on the thirtieth floor. The two boxes sitting in my living room made me paused at the entrance. How the hell am I going to afford the energy bills, the maintenance, and all the hidden costs? It was supposed to make me happy. Having someone to greet me when I get home. Someone to eat dinner with me. I sighed; I should have tried real dating. I walked to the fridge and threw in my dinner. It was too early to eat anyway. My clock said 3:45 PM. Caltel's technician should be here shortly. I changed into a pair of shorts and a large T-shirt, pulled my hair into a loose bun. Somehow, I found myself going back to the pods. I settled on my couch and peeked at them. A slow smile crept on my lips. They sure were pleasing to the eyes. I still haven't realized that I have two mates. No, Liliane. You should send one back, I scolded myself. The door chimed distracting me from my contemplation.
The image from the front door instantly showed up in my field of vision. A man in his thirties looked up at me with a grin. He held up his company badge for scanning.
"I'm here for the E3 socket," he said shortly. The building's AI security confirmed he was OK to go. I got to my feet and opened the door. He nodded with a smile; I held the door open for him.
"Hi, this way," he looked around the living room then followed me into the kitchen dragging his compact case behind him. He stopped at my only E3 socket to examine it before turning to face me.
"I need the owner's agreement before installation," I frowned at him. There was no mention of any of that in Caltel's emails. "I need to access the building's grid, it's just formalities," he went on. I nodded at his explanation.
"Call, Mr. Palmer," I was lucky the owner was a happy grandpa who just retired. The call connected and the smiling old man appeared in front of me.
"Miss Kerry, what a pleasant surprise," I nodded nervously. "Hi, sorry to bother you, but I have a technician here to install a new E3 socket and he says he needs your agreement before proceeding," I explained. The old man rose his eyebrows making his smile stretched.
"Finally, you're updating your status. What did you get? I recently got an assistant to deal with all my properties. She's awesome—a lifesaver," his eyes lit up with excitement.
"Yeah, one of those," I smiled waving my hand in the direction of the living room.
"But your apartment already come with that kind of socket, if I'm not mistaken," he eyed me with curiosity. I lowered my gaze, feeling ashamed that I have to lie to this nice person. I'm terrible, I scolded myself.
"I got two…as-as a gift…it would be rude to refuse them," he laughed at my shy response.
"You must have a hell of an admirer, Miss Kerry. Send me the papers I'll sign them, right away," he ended with his smile not leaving his lips. I nodded to the technician who instantly sent me the agreement, which I transfer to Mr. Palmer. After a few seconds, he sent it back.
"Well, have fun. See you later," he waved at me. I let out a shaky breath. I'm a terrible liar and it kills me to lie to Mr. Palmer. The technician stepped out to access the building's energy panel. When he came back, I was sitting with my knees close to my chest. I watched him work on the socket in silence.
"Those are really expensive artificial, you have there," said the technician after a while. My head sprung up in his direction. "I couldn't help hearing your conversation. So they are gifts, hum?" he had one corner of his lips curled up. Now I remembered why I didn't try real dating. Men are troublesome. Especially rude and curious ones.
"When you're done, I'll plug them myself. You can leave," he nodded at me, his smile faded. I don't like strangers in my safe zone. Strangers are scary. He gathered his tools and walked to me. I frowned at him.
"Please confirm that my work is done. I've tested both sockets and they are functional," he transferred a feedback note that I had to fill and rate. "I hope I haven't offended you with my useless questions. It was not my intention," he added as I filled the form. I gave him a tight smile while sending the form back. He inspected the reply and flashed me a huge smile.
"Thanks for the 5 stars. Have a good evening," he quickly exited tugging his case. I shuddered, I hate creeps, I regret giving him those stars. My psychological evaluator said I was paranoid, maybe it was the aftereffect of suffering from 'the void'.
The first box in which laid Demos fit perfectly in the socket. The second one was too far and too heavy for me to do anything about it. I should have asked the technician for his help, I sighed. I got to my feet sweating from the effort. I'll make Demos move the pods closer to the sockets, I thought to myself. I stepped closer to his box, my hands shook terribly. I tore the remaining carton away to access the lid. Then I went to the quick user guide one more time to check the power on steps just to be sure.
"Press-hold the spot behind his left ear till you hear a click—ok," I leaned closer inside the box. He was tall—like 6.2". He made me terribly nervous, the fangirling type of nervousness. I slid my finger behind his ear and was surprised at how cold his skin was. It clicked, a low buzzing sound followed and his eyes flipped open. Yellowish-brown eyes gazed at the ceiling.
"Configuration ownership," he said in a deep musical tone. "Please, state your full name," he went on. His voice surprised me, I giggled like a crazy groupie. "Please repeat," he said. I straightened up making a serious face.
"Liliane Kerry," he turned slowly and blinked at me. He didn't smile just stared at me. A shiver ran down my spine. Ok, that was not supposed to happen. Sparks should fly or something, not shivers. Not cold shivers.
"Liliane Kerry, acknowledge as my owner. Allow me to sync with your brain wave controller," I frowned at him. Why was he asking to access such personal data? Wait, this is creepy. He's a stranger.
"Mmh, can we do that later? I need help with the second pod. I can't switch it on," he blinked again.
"I need a minute, I am not fully functional," he closed his eyes. It surprised me a little that he didn't obey right away and told me to wait. I got to my feet. Well, that was awkward. He sure has an amazing body and a voice to make knees melt but there's no chemistry. I shook my head, pushing the thought away. Maybe I should give him time. When he woke up, the mechanical movement was gone. He slipped out of his glass coffin with feline fluidity. He towered in front of me with a faint smile.
"Hello Liliane, I'm Demos. You can rename me to your liking," my mouth hanged open.
"Demos is fine," I averted my eyes. He stepped forward, reaching for my hand. I instinctively stepped back bumping my ankle in the second box. He froze, realizing his mistake. He cocked his head to the side, studying my face.
"Apologies, do I scare you?" he said in that deep voice. I was having trouble thinking straight. My phobia just kicked in.
"I-I'm sorry I don't interact with—your kind often. So—please help me with this, ok?" I smiled nervously then looked away. "Could you move the pods closer to the sockets? It's too heavy for me," he eyed me for a moment then nodded.
"Sure, Liliane," he turned to his pod closed the lid, and then lifted it as if it was an empty carton box. He did the same with the second one. He turned slowly to face me blocking my way to the second pod. He had placed the pods upright against the wall next to the fridge.
"Mm—can you move—a little," I waved at him. My hands were incredibly sweaty when I bent to switch on the second one. I stepped away from Grant when he opened his eyes. They were a strange shade of gray more like rusty silver.
"Configure ownership. Please state your full name," he said and I immediately gave it. He blinked and turned in my direction with a huge smile. Unlike the first one, Grant had a friendly aura around him.
"Liliane Kerry, acknowledge as my owner. Please, allow me to sync with your brain wave controller," he repeated the same thing as Demos.
"What's with the invasion of privacy?" I glared at them both. Grant who was shorter than Demos dropped his smile. He turned to look at Demos and they nodded at each other like they were having their own little conversation.
"We are sorry Liliane. We'll do as you see fit," he said politely. What's with the 'we'? I crossed my arms over my chest waiting for them to tell me what to do next. The silence stretched. Finally, Mr. Elf stepped out of his pod and nodded at me.
"Sorry for the late introduction. I am Grant; you may rename me as you wish. I am your mate," he paused, then added. "We are your mates," I took a step back. Demos remained silent, his eyes following my every move.
"How—?" I stared at them in confusion.
"We were made to fit your demands," said Demos flatly. My eyes darted from the tall cold beauty to Grant's friendly face. Ok, the fact they wore almost nothing was bothering me.
"My demands? I never ask for that," I murmured under my breath before turning my back to them.
"If we sync, we will get to know you better," said Grant with haste. I froze in my movement. What did he mean by sync? I could feel my dark clouds rushing back to drown me. An imminent panic attack.
"We, mates share a special connection. When you let us access your brain wave connector, we'll be able to communicate without speech. We'll always be with you even if we do not share the same space. You'll never be lonely," I inhaled sharply. What the hell? That was not in the quick user guide.
"Never!" I hissed between clenched teeth. I rushed to my room and slammed the door behind me.
"Liliane? Are you feeling, ok?" asked Grant on the other side of the door with apparent worry. "Are you hurting? Please, speak to us," he pleaded.
"Go away! I never asked for two mates! Or whatever you are. I'm not some sick, twisted pervert!" I shouted, feeling tears welling up as I curled in my bed. I pulled the blanket around me to shield myself from the dark thoughts. Pain pulsed inside my head.
"We can't go back—you are all we have," whispered Grant, my heart leaped in my chest. I pushed myself up on one elbow and peek towards the door. What was I doing? I tossed the sheets away and hesitated at the door. I don't want to go back to the dark days. When the void was eating at me.
"Liliane?" I turned the knob and peeked at them with teary eyes.
"I can't love—I'm too broke to be loved," I almost choked on my words. Grant's frown softened and a slow smile stretched on his face. Demos stood behind him with an expressionless face.
"We can love for two," he whispered, then took a glance over his shoulder at Demos. He nodded in agreement keeping his straight face. I chuckled at the ridiculous situation and Grant joined me. We both laughed, it did help ease the tension.
"Can I hug you?" he asked, opening his arms. I grimaced at him, but his laugh was contagious. "It's ok, I will never harm you. We are both here to love and protect you," he waited for my approval and I slowly nodded. He leaned in and took me in his arms. The contact with his warm skin was not bad. I stood rigidly against his chest with both my arms by my side. I felt a second set of arms surrounded us. I looked up and found Demos gaze down at me.
"We love you," they both said in unison. I was shocked and quickly buried my red face in Grant's chest.
"Ok, can you get off me now?" I murmured, wanting to dig a hole and bury myself in it for the rest of my life. I don't think I'm mentally prepared for this kind of thing.
[Helios: Four logs. DEMOS]
The moment I laid eyes on Liliane Kerry—everything Sognare had fed me, no data about her could compare to the real thing. She left me speechless; I had to take a couple of seconds to recover from the shock. Somehow, her initial reaction was fear. She appeared to fear me, I couldn't pinpoint the reason. Liliane, such a beautiful name, I just want to say it repeatedly. I was still getting used to my own body. Grant seemed to think the same about her, our mate. All I wanted was to hold her close to my heart. I—we were specially crafted for her. We have waited so long. Yet, she seemed out of reach—fleeting like trying to hold water in our hands.
I hope you like it so far. I'll try to update as often as possible which is 3 times per week.