14 Days Ago
‘Where are we going?’ Stef asked as Ryan drove through an only-vaguely-familiar part of the city.
‘You’ll see,’ he said.
‘I don’t like surprises.’
‘You wouldn’t know the place, even if I told you,’ he said. ‘Suffice it to say I’d like you to adjust to using your HUD by examining certain organic and inorganic substances that have been exposed to heat and/or various processing methods.’
‘…we’re going to the Science Centre?’
They turned a corner. ‘Not quite.’
She looked out the window, and was closer to understanding where she was. The projected map overlay also helped her to pinpoint her location. Guess I won’t be needing Google Earth anymore. The map overlay had appeared of its own accord, seemingly summoned by her lack of knowledge of where she was. Like a butler that came when they anticipated a need, rather than when they were called…
No. It won’t work.
Why, did you try it already?
You can’t-
Require: Jeeves.
She looked around the car, but the fictional butler had not appeared.
Mope.
Requiring isn’t that kind of magic, it’s not going to do everything for you.
More mope.
A dog caught her eye. A dog whose tooltip didn’t identify it as any breed of dog, and instead named it as a halfbreed.
‘Ooh, fae!’ She looked at the dog for a bit longer. ‘Fae…peeing on a street lamp. Ew.’
He looked across for a moment. ‘Don’t judge, it’s unfair.’
‘Wasn’t…’
‘Yes you were,’ he chided. ‘You don’t know his story, so it’s unfair to form an opinion. For instance, you don’t know that he has a human form, some halfbreeds don’t, some can’t shift between them – like Magnolia, she has no bird form-’
‘Scary lolita chick? She’s a halfbreed?’
‘…you didn’t notice her feathers?’
‘It wasn’t my highest priority at the time. So…pigeon?’
‘Magpie. She only has one form though, as that dog might. Else, it may be the form it’s most comfortable in, so doesn’t have to live by the human convention of, er, not urinating in the street.’
‘…or it could be that finding a public toilet in the city at this hour is nigh-impossible, and that this was easier?’
‘Another logical explanation.’
She looked across. ‘I don’t think I asked yet, how long was I out this time?’
‘Only a few days. Jones didn’t see the point in keeping you under when most of your testing will be easier to do with you conscious.’
‘Testing? Like jumping more thirty-foot brick walls? I can actually do that now?’
‘Not quite, you’ll see during training.’
She slumped in her seat. ‘Oh man, does this all mean I actually have to get up at seven in the morning now?’
‘You aren’t a recruit, you won’t be training with them. As to getting up, we actually aren’t sure what your sleeping patterns will be like, that’s one of the things Jones couldn’t derive a decent hypothesis for.’
‘…huh?’
He pulled the car over, and parked. ‘We honestly don’t know how much you’ll be sleeping, or indeed how much sleep you’ll actually require.’
‘Lol, require,’ she said with a smirk. She knuckled a hand against her head. ‘I never really thought about this, you don’t sleep do you? On the clock twenty-four-seven and all that? Not sleeping deaths are almost as bad as not eating deaths…if I can’t at least nap I’ll be back to considering offing myself with a spork…’
He looked confused. ‘We do sleep. Not as much as humans, obviously, but we do sleep.’
‘That’s….unexpected. So what, you’ve got a dorm room like the rest of us?’
‘Usually I just catch a couple of hours on my couch, that’s all I need.’
‘But like…why? I mean, couldn’t you just adjust your program to not need sleep?’
‘It’s for psychological health, it’s good to have some downtime, even if it isn’t a standard eight hours, and it helps to clear the mind, clear cached data and the like, it’s the same cleansing effect that dreams have on mortals.’
This brought up a question. ‘Do agents dream?’
‘No.’
‘I-’
He put a comforting hand on her head. ‘But you might,’ he said with a smile. ‘You’ll just have to see. Come on,’ he said as he opened his door.
She followed him as they rounded the block, things were beginning to look a little more familiar now, but she still couldn’t place how – and the map overlay did nothing to jog her memory. He entered a small cafe and sat at a table near the window.
He lifted two of the menus, handed one of them to her, then gave her a conspiratorial smile. ‘Do you know where you are?’
She sniffed the air. ‘…om nom nom waffles?’
‘Other than that, Stef.’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t think I’ve been here before.’ She looked around, the paint was new, as was most of the furniture, everything spoke of just-established-establishment. ‘…if this place is as new as I think it is, I think I was d-word when it would have opened.’
‘They were serving something different the last time we were here.’
She took another look at the cafe, then out of the large window – the interior had changed, but the view hadn’t. The view that- ‘No.’
‘Yes.’
‘No.’
‘Yes,’ he said again.
‘You’re kidding me. This is… Waffles? When did it-? Why the hell did we come back here? A repeat performance of watching you get shot is not on my agenda today.’
‘That’s not going to happen.’
‘I don’t think you were planning on it last time, either!’
‘If this place does get shot up,’ a voice said, ‘we’ll be charging for it.’ She turned to see a waitress, ready with an order pad. ‘You two decided what you want yet?’
‘Not yet,’ Ryan said.
‘So long as you order something,’ the waitress said, ‘I had to kick out a couple of your kids who just sat here conjuring their own stuff a couple of weeks ago.’
She stared at the waitress, whose nametag proclaimed her to be “Tiffany” and whose tooltip also proclaimed her to be a halfbreed. There were no give-aways, no feathers, no fur, no wings…she just looked human.
‘Take a photo instead, love,’ Tiffany said, before turning to Ryan. ‘She a little off or something?’
‘Just a little,’ he replied.
‘Oi…’
‘Is there something I can help you with?’ the waitress, evidentially tired of being gawked at, asked.
She looked up at the woman. ‘I’m just trying to work out what you are.’
‘They don’t teach tact at the Agency, do they?’ Tiffany said. ‘Half-fairy, if you must now. Now, order?’
‘Waffles.’
This was met with a blank stare. ‘…I got that, what kind?’
‘Many?’
Tiffany looked back over at Ryan. ‘More than a little, I think.’
He beckoned the waitress over, quickly and quietly ordered, then plucked the menu from her hands. ‘I hope it’s suitable.’
‘Is it waffles?’
‘Yes. And coffee.’
‘Then yes, acceptable.’
With a clunk, she opened her friends list, and opened up a text window with Ryan. [Ok. So, I’ve got to practice this, right?]
[Among other things, yes.]
She drummed her fingers on the table. [This text thing is ok, I mean, it’s weird putting words here with my brain, and I keep wanting to type, and I’m sure if I had a keyboard here that I’d actually be typing this as I…type this, and I’m totally not usually this verbose in convo windows, but I think I can dig this.]
She opened up the face-to-face window. [This on the other hand, this one is going to get some getting used to.]
[Why?]
She mentally alt-tabbed back over to the text window. [Cause, yanno, I sometimes have problems with what I say out loud and what I don’t say out loud, adding more voices in my head, ones that aren’t even me is going to make that a little more difficult. I think I’ll get the hang of it.]
[All you need is practice,] he said in the face-to-face window.
She tabbed back to, trying to treat it as a webcam conversation – not that the analogy helped much, as those were also unfamiliar territory to her, but thoughts of technology helped a little. [And,] she said, [how long is that excuse going to last?]
[As long as you need it to.]
She concentrated on the face-to-face window. [I think that might be cheating, just a bit.]
He smiled. [I won’t tell if you don’t.]
The waitress returned, deposited a coffee in front of her, and a tall ice tea in front of Ryan.
‘Huh,’ she said, ‘that I didn’t expect.’
‘What?’
‘Well, actually, I never thought about what you like to eat. You wouldn’t eat ice-cream with me, and you were all “rar, I don’t need sugar or food, rar”.’
He took a slow drink from the tall glass. ‘I want to tell you something.’
She deflated a little. ‘You went all serious again.’
‘This may…change your opinion about me.’
‘If you’re having buyer’s remorse-’ she began, but was stopped when he put a hand to her face.
‘I told you to stop that. I don’t want a refund, an exchange or an upgrade, this is something about me.’
‘K…’
He sat back in his chair. ‘I…just don’t like ice-cream. It’s cold, it’s messy, it drips far too easily, if you aren’t paying attention, it can almost be a challenge to eat. I don’t need to eat, agents don’t need to eat, it really is more of a guilty pleasure, a bad habit we get into, like breathing, so I’d prefer to only eat foods that I like.’
She smiled. She giggled. She fell off her chair.
Oh yeah, you’re a brilliant agent.
Shut up you.
Still giggling, she climbed back into her chair, ignoring the looks of the other customers.
‘I-’
‘…you really just did SERIOUS FASE about ice-cream didn’t you?’
‘I just wanted to know that-’
‘It’s ok, it’s really ok.’
Two plates of waffles were placed down. Hers, piled high with ice-cream and chocolate sauce, his, liberally coated in caramel sauce and dusting sugar.
‘Enjoy, Agents,’ Tiffany said, sliding the bill under the napkin-holder.
She lifted her fork, but stopped herself from stabbing the topmost waffle when she saw Ryan’s wagging finger.
‘Not yet,’ he said.
‘But om nom?’
‘We came here with a purpose, Stef, or did you forget?’
‘I thought you were being obfuscating…’
His face came to life in the face-to-face window again. [Are you getting used to your HUD?]
[It’s…ok, all the quick-flash is kind of here, gone, forgotten, it’s not really being of any use. The tooltips…I like the tooltips.] She noticed his confusion. [The thing that tells me what a person is, like human, halfbreed, garbage can.]
[Ah.]
[But everything else, I need a better way to control it. I need…hell, shortcut commands or icons. I need to know that thinking a certain thing will make a certain thing happen, not just trying to do something and hope my brain can work it out.]
[There are more…manual commands, if you’d prefer. Jones can set you up with them.]
[Cool. Thanks.] She mentally alt-tabbed the text window. [ 😀 ] She returned to the face-to-face window. [And that’s not “colon D” it’s-]
[He will…also show you how to use graphical emoticons, if you’d like.]
[Awesome!] She smiled and again went to stab the waffle, only to have her fork disappear. [No om nom?]
[First, scan the waffle.]
She stared at the waffle, leaning down over the concoction of-
{Flour}
{Egg substitute #15.}
{Sugar.}
{Milk.}
The list went on, listing the trace amounts of preservatives and chemicals, after the list finished scrolling, it disappeared.
[Well, there’s no poison in it,] she said.
[You can do this for any substance,] he said, [sometimes with varying degrees of accuracy. It can be surprisingly useful sometimes, like for example, when looking for a chemical marker in someone’s blood.]
[You do that?]
[Sometimes it is necessary, yes.]
[…cool.] She stared despondently at the plate. [Do I have to scan the ice-cream next?]
[No, you should start eating it before it melts.]