Friday, March 21, 2014

Chapter Five

"Recursive accounts department," she said, shrinking into her chair and trying to keep her tone routine. "Bitsy BO9 speaking. Can I help you?"

"Is this the coffee girl?" It was that voice, that only-heard-once voice that she recognized immediately, even though she'd only heard it once, because you don't have to hear a Real voice more than once to know it.

It's him. He's really calling. Say something!

"Ha-ha," she managed, though it came out more like a squeak of terror than a laugh. Maybe he won't notice. She felt her embarrassment code dumping color into her cheeks. "Yes, it's me."

"Bitsy," he said, like he was testing out the sound of it. "Well, it's nice to put a name to the number ... and the coffee invitation."

 Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. "Um, yes, that's me, Bitsy the coffee-inviter. Do you still want to? I mean, obviously you're calling so I'd like to assume you still want to, but I don't want to be rude by assuming."

Okay, now stop saying somethings, because the somethings that are coming out of your mouth are dumb.

"No, I don't think that's rude at all," he said, then laughed. "Really, you don't have to feel so bad about spilling my coffee. If I get to be asked out by a pretty girl, I think it's well worth losing a cup of java. How is your shirt?"

She looked down. "Beige. Or maybe somewhere between beige and off-white. But that's fine, really, I didn't like this top all that much anyway. I'm fine getting rid of it."

"Okay, good," he said. "So when were you thinking?"

"Uh, I don't know, as soon as I get home and can change into something else. Wait -- do you mean when was I thinking of getting rid of the top, or when was I thinking of going out for coffee?"

He laughed again, a deep, healthy laugh. Real. "Either one. I'm in complete suspense about the fate of your outfit, and I'm also looking forward to finding out what you look like when you're not drenched in a steaming hot beverage."

"I can't tonight," she said. "I mean, I can throw the top out tonight, but I can't do coffee. Work is keeping me at least another hour."

"Because our run-in made you late to the office?" Now his voice refreshed from amusement to concern.

"No, no. I wasn't that far off from the shift boot-up. I just, well, there are these reports -- anyway, you don't want to hear about it, it's dreadful and boring."

"Somehow, I doubt it would sound that way with you telling about it. But I don't want to keep you if you've got a late evening ahead of you. Tomorrow morning? Half an hour earlier on the same platform?"

Bitsy's circulator pounded in her chest.

"Hello?" he prompted.

"Oh, yes. Of course, that would be great!"

That laugh again. "Okay, Bitsy BO9. I'll see you then."

She blinked for a moment, then said, "Wait! Wait!"

"Yes?"

"Who are you?"

"Ha, sorry, that was daffy of me. I'm Cord. Cord 76S."

Bitsy could hardly breathe. It wasn't his real name, of course, because he was Real and that was an android name. But it was a name. A name to go with that face, those eyes, that laugh.

"It's very nice to meet you, Cord," she said, quiet and floating in her chair.

"You too, Bitsy. I hope you're not working too much later. See you in the morning."

"Yes, goodnight!"

The phone clicked.

Cord.

Coffee in the morning.

The dream feed was going to get all of this tonight, she knew. It was going to pull the whole day together and synthesize a crazy loop of splashing hot liquid and beautiful brown eyes and embarrassment and moongathering and Gigory's yellow shirt and 6-O-2 reports and Cord's voice, Cord's name, Cord's laugh. And that loop was going to run all the way through to the alarm buzz.

She picked up the pace on her report processing, suddenly blowing past her file capacity with excitement about getting home and getting to sleep.

Cord.

Her Mister Real.




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