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The next step, which I was avoiding for some reason, was to show Terry. I had spent quite some time - and a lot of his money - working on this, and after his reaction to my last effort, I felt the pressure to impress. I was quite confident that this would be a winner, but something was still making me hesitant.

‘Justin.’ The very fact he used my first name was an excellent sign. ‘Let's have a look at this arm of yours, then.’

‘This is, obviously, just a proof of concept. A lot of work is needed to get to the point where a Whole Body Simulation will be feasible.’

‘U-huh.’ Terry was transfixed on the arm. Something about the way he reached out to touch it made me uncomfortable. He looked up. ‘So you think you can make a whole body act like this. React like this?’

‘Even better than this. This is just the beginning. See here, when I blow on her... on it like this, the goose-pimples rise.’

‘This is amazing.’ He couldn't keep his hands off it. I needed to get it out of his hands. With a sense of urgency that Terry didn't notice, and that I didn't fully understand, I picked it up.

‘Ummm, look, basically I need to make sure you're cool with me working on this.’

‘Of course. Go for it. The quicker we can get this into the market the better. Excellent work, Justin. give yourself a pat on the back. Better still, get that thing to do it for you!’

I laughed as I left the office, but I knew that neither he, nor anyone else, would touch this arm again.

It surprised me how taken I was with it. I had used this model of arm before in many previous jobs. It was a favourite picked off our standard catalogue - but for some reason when I decided to use it for this prototype I made a few modifications. I don't know why, but I made the wrist a little thicker, and the distance between the elbow and the hand a little shorter. Our commercial Whole Body Simulations have always felt like fashion models, and I think that, as I was going for a realistic skin, I wanted a realistic hand.

As I walked back to my workshop, I held it in my own hands and knew that nothing I had created had ever felt so real - so alive. With the new natural skin and the new natural shape, this arm was no longer one in a series. It was unique. But it was also beautiful - captivating.

When I opened the door to my workshop, I realised that I had been stroking the arm since leaving Terry's office.

Long ago.

All this was long ago.

And this was the first of many warning signs. Now, as I look through the files, looking for the designs again, I wonder if I am doing the right thing.

This time, though, I know that falling in love is not on the cards. Falling in love won't fuck things up like it did before. It won't. I've made sure it won't happen.

I finished working on the arm: the hand, the bicep. Once I was happy with that I went back to the computer to design the whole body. I logged on to our members only web site and skimmed through the various body options - legs, torso, head - just like our customers can. I had the arm, and so I planned to use the site to design the rest. But when choosing a torso to attach that beautiful arm to, none of the choices on the site seemed to do it justice. Not even the parts that I had personally designed. Same with the legs. I had even more trouble with the neck, and I had given up by the time I got to the face. I knew the problem. Each of these parts were mass produced. They were popular, and always received good ratings, but they had been refined by the focus groups and steering committees. Sure, some of them started as my designs but, after all the modifications that occur through the review process, they were no longer personal. They weren't mine at all. Not mine. Not like this would be. Not like I needed her to be.

So I started from scratch. I kept the arm, of course, because I had already made that perfect. And I built the rest up out of nothing. Nothing but my desire.

That's how I see it now, of course. Back then I had managed to convince myself that any obsessive feelings were just me doggedly pursuing my breakthrough. I was a perfectionist, and this was going to be my professional triumph. I wasn't aware of any thoughts of love at all.

But as I navigate through those same design files now, I am sure it won't happen again. Not love. For a start, I'm not gay. And this time I am building a man. So yeah, no problems there.

Each individual component of this new model will be different, obviously, and I'm going to have to design some whole new parts. But the changes will not actually be as stark as you might think. This will really be a revision, rather than a whole new version. I know, though, that the next hurdle will be the software that controls the sub-conscious. That was difficult the first time round.

After I finished her design on the computer I added an outfit from our online range. ‘Horny Secretary’ was probably our most demure costume (certainly less lewd than ‘Horny Nurse’, ‘Horny Cheerleader’ or, more disturbingly, ‘Horny Girl Scout’ - I made a note to speak to our costume department). It was still quite sexual, but at least her image on the screen was now somewhat decent.

Why was that important to me? Wasn't that also a sign?

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