Automata

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#2

The next morning, back again at work, with a cup of cappuccino in her hand, Alice is standing next to the glass wall, watching the city as it wakes up to a new day, lost in her own thoughts like yesterday.

On the 76th floor of the Akimo Tower, her office is half as big as a football field and furnished minimally and accurately, as the rest of the building. Of course, it’s a corner office, like every other executive, so two of the walls are glass top-to-bottom, with magnificent views over the sunny, almost tropical city of Vancouver.

One of the remaining two walls, the one opposite to the coarse desk, is indeed a gigantic screen; unlike the other executives, she keeps turned off most of the time and relies on her vintage phone to stay in the loop.

The last wall, smooth and matte off-white, includes an automated, retractable mahogany door. Next to it, on the other side, is the desk of Two Nine Seven Sixty Eleven Nine Nine Oh Eleven Five, Alice’s personal assistant.

Alice sits at her desk and rests her hand on the left part, over the haptic interface embedded in the surface, to activate the input mode. “Five, I’m ready.”

It’s less than a minute until Two Nine Seven Sixty Eleven Nine Nine Oh Eleven Five emerges through the door and walks with short but decided steps to the desk. She’s clothed in the statutory Akimo executive assistant uniform, an indigo two-piece suit with a tight, just-below-the-knee high, pencil skirt, and holds a tablet with her left arm, ready to use it. “Good morning, Two Five Nine Oh Four Seven Nine Two Nine Eight Four Six Four. You look gorgeous today.”

People stopped having official proper names already a few decades ago, around mid-century. Once it became mandatory for women to have an ARD (Assisted Reproduction Device) implanted in their wombs, governments used the UNIX timestamp of the conception, in milliseconds, to identify each of their citizens, from that moment on.

So for Alice, conceived on February 2nd 2052 09:34:58 GMT, her official identification timestamp was 2590479298464, and everybody but her most informal acquaintances, and herself, addresses her using it. Alice is but her chosen name: the name that her parents chose for her when she was a kid, only to be used within intimate circles.

“You look fabulous yourself, Five.” Because of her position, she can get away with referring to her assistant using only the last digit of her timestamp. She doesn’t know her chosen name, nor has any interest in it.

“You think? You’re too kind…” Five blushes. She’s socially required to praise her superior’s physical presence, but it’s not that common to hear a nice word back about herself. And even more significant considering from whom the pleasant word is coming…

Once Five regains her composure, she swipes the 3-day agenda from her tablet to Alice’s desk interface and starts talking through it. “Let’s start with a quick overview, and then I will have your morning takeout delivered to your office to get you going.”

As she talks through the calendar, Alice casually leafs through the pages of her private email. She mechanically checks the details sent to her about her upcoming pleasure trip to Japan. But there isn’t a single one unread message. She exhales with relief.

As she’s reading, Alice touches the right side of her screen and checks the time reflected in it. It’s 8:11 AM. Even though she’s early, she thinks she would have been late if she hadn’t finished with XY at roughly 6 AM. She reckons she lost up to 2 and a half hours on her most wonderful orgasm of the week. Orgasms, actually.

She decides she’s going to take a full day off this weekend.

“You’ll have a meeting with Two One Seven Five Eight Zero Five Nine Six Eight for two hours in the afternoon. Then just a couple of quick minutes with Two Six Twelve Four Sixty Seven Five Nine Seven Six Six Two and the rest of the day is yours…”

While she continues chattering about the following days, Five turns around and starts walking towards the door. “I’ll go talk to Two Six Twelve Four Sixty Seven Five Nine Seven Six Six Two right now to make sure he’s ready for the meeting later. Oh, and make sure you eat at least once today, please! There will be a takeout on your desk before the end of the day.”

“Thank you, Five.” As Five leaves, Alice turns on the interface again and swipes up on the main menu to open the architecture documents coming out of yesterday’s session. She keeps scrolling down by dragging her fingers through the desk’s coarse surface until she finds the section she’s looking for.

Alice studies the annotations that cover the pages, and afterwards the architecture designs, the logic diagrams and the implementation details. She plans to continue working on this all day, setting them as independent threads; the topics on those two pages specifically were close to her own field, and the meeting consisted mainly of answers to her questions concerning that particular area of responsibility. She’s on the verge of getting them approved, but there are still some details to wrap up. That’s why she’s planning to work on them all afternoon.

After a while, she checks the time again. Almost 12:30 PM. She places her open hands over her nose and sighs, exhaling the breath she’s been holding all this time. She looks out of the glass wall for a few seconds. She stretches her face and head, twisting her head and neck a bit to the left and then to the right, before turning her face to the ceiling and looking back down, then to the floor and back at the ceiling again, bending her body to the left and lastly to the right side.

12:30. Alice remembers what Five said about eating. It’d be nice to go out and sit in the sun for a bit. She swipes the portion of the screen next to her and opens the restaurant choice. Most of them are ribbons, with pictures of various dishes covering their surfaces. She navigates through a few of them and settles for a place nearby, Chez St-Romain.

She takes an elevator to the ground level and takes a couple of minutes to enjoy the sunshine before finally getting into a cab and arriving to Chez St-Romain, a small restaurant in the center of town. As she walks out of the vehicle, the smell of the air makes her hungry. The place has a tiny, lush back garden with three outdoor tables, most likely reserved to tech executives much like herself. The diner is quiet, and only contains a few patrons, most of them senior executives. The back garden is completely empty.

She sits outside, by the table that’s closer to the edge of the deep foliage. With the warm breeze of the afternoon, the sun on her skin and the aroma of the dishes of the restaurant, mixed with the fragrant flowers, Alice is ready to enjoy her privilege. “Good that I went out for lunch.”

She unhesitatingly goes for the most expensive menu on the table, even though she’s not really that hungry, and even though she suspects she’ll get the superior meal. However, she likes to have small delightful surprises when she goes out.

She swipes the interface on her small dining pad and orders her choice to the restaurant. As she waits for her lunch, Alice looks around to double check she’s alone in the garden. It’s a rare occasion for Alice, she can’t remember the last time she was outside without having to run errands. Once she considers it further, she’s not sure if she ever was. She’s the executive, and her assistant is certainly good enough to take care of everything she needs. It’s easier to just stay inside all day, all week, all year.

The waiter brings her dish and sets it on the table with care. Alice looks at the plate. She’s being served a medium-rare steak and vegetables. That’s good for her. She’s craving for fresh meat. The transparent dome that was covering the plate dissipates and the smells of the food reaches Alice’s nose. She takes a few seconds to appreciate the delightful aromas before she cuts the meat with a fork and a steak knife. She’s a gourmet, or at least she likes to pretend she is, and she’s willing to pay for it.

As she’s enjoying this exceptional meal, she’s looking at the deep greens of the surrounding plants, the light breeze in the garden, and the charming little sunflowers growing in the near distance.

When the waiter comes back to take his empty plate away, she asks him to bring her a cappuccino. “Right away, ma’am.” Two other women come in the garden at that very moment and occupy one of the two remaining tables, sitting side-by-side. They are chatting discreetly but every once in a while a somewhat louder laugh seems to escape from them.

Alice isn’t happy about sharing the moment with strangers. She was relaxed, practically numb, for the first time in a while. And now these two are here to spoil it. But soon enough upset turns into curiosity, and she scans the women up and down and up again, staring at them for a while.

The woman on the left is obviously a senior executive. Alice guesses her being between 40-50 years old, just a little older than herself, but of course her aspect is that of a much younger person, surely thanks to generic therapy. She has dark, black hair to her shoulders, all a bit wavy. She’s wearing a black blouse, a silver necklace and a dark pant-suit.

The other woman is wearing an assistant suit, the same style than Five wears every day, but in purple instead of indigo. She is a blond, almost Peter Pan-like young woman with an anime-like presence. The two of them seem to complement each other, organically almost. They’re chatting with a leisure that Alice has not seen in a while.

When her cappuccino finally comes, she’s already too absorbed staring at the couple to notice. They’re completely turned to each other. The assistant is sitting on the edge of the seat, leaning forward to her dark-haired executive, which is herself sitting with her legs crossed and her back to the seat backrest. As the assistant is talking to her boss, she’s laughing and playing with her long hair with one hand.

Alice sips on her cappuccino. The beverage is well made: just a little bit of foam, warm enough, and with just the right amount of artificial vanilla syrup. It’s hard to find a decent coffee in her days, not a chemically composed smoothie in a straw-like packaging, but a real beverage in real dishes such as this one.

In between chatting and laughing, the assistant stops playing with her hair and takes a hand of the executive between hers, and places it on her chest gently. Still holding the hand against her, she leans forward further.

The executive moves her head slowly, her lips searching for her companion’s. Right before their lips touch, she stops herself, as if rejoicing in the anticipation. Holding her breath, Alice realizes she can almost sense the warmth of their lips on her own lips. It’s only a few seconds until the assistant finally closes the space between their mouths with a long, deep kiss.

Alice is mesmerized as they kiss. Their lips are moving in perfect harmony and their bodies are symmetrically aligned. Their faces seem to move as one and their neck and one had seem to lock in perfect harmony, as if two separate pieces of a sculpture are pressed together. For a second, Alice feels a little strange, as if she’s intruding, but she soon forgets her uneasiness.

The couple breaks apart after a few seconds. As they’re looking into each other’s eyes, the assistant continues to hold the woman’s hand in hers, pressing it to her chest and caressing it. Alice touches gently her own neck, head slightly inclined to the side. Her pulse is already going fast. She is wide-eyed and breathing slowly, almost imperceptibly.

When they finally stop kissing, the young woman opens her eyes and bites her lower lip. And then her eyes meet directly Alice’s. The assistant smiles seductively to Alice, and Alice appears incapable of looking away, even though she really wants to. Her heart is racing now, and she can see herself almost trembling. Without really thinking about it, she lowers her hand to the base of her own neck, and her wrist discreetly caresses her erect nipple. She crosses her legs and acknowledges her own wetness, which forces her to finally look away. There she is, completely red, trying to let her thoughts fall apart and relax, but unable to control her arousal.

As if she’s suddenly aware of an enchantment, she snaps out of her slightly hallucinated state. She takes another gulp of her cappuccino and her sight returns to the garden. She’s still red with embarrassment, and she analyzes her own emotions.

“Why am I so interested in this?”

Alice quickly leaves the restaurant. The couple is still kissing. She’s still red, but she is now even more agitated. The urge to run back to work and finish her work for the day is almost irresistible, but she settles down just enough to swipe her phone over the counter on her way out to pay for her meal.

Once inside the cab back to the office, she thinks about the lunch. She tries to analyze her own emotions. She’s trying to think of everything she has seen, but in the end she’s not sure of anything without getting confused. She has never felt like that, and she doesn’t know why she was so locked into this moment. It’s as if that time at the back garden of the Chez St-Romain was not real. It all seemed like a dream.

“But it indeed makes sense,” she tells to herself. “Being attracted to other women would make it all so much easier.” No more utterly disappointing dates with dull, bland, random guys. No more living inside an emotional bubble that doesn’t allow her to connect with any other human being. “It wouldn’t be that bad; I could still have an automaton to make me whole as often as I pleased.” But she has never ever been with a woman, so she’s not really able to tell for sure whether the lips and the tongue of one could completely replace the throbbing, perpetually ready dick of an automaton.

“Maybe I wouldn’t need any dicks anymore.” It’s far from clear where that idea came from, but Alice shudders from the emptiness that the thought causes throughout her body.

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