When Matthew got back to his efficiency apartment, he had to deal with the dishes his room mate had left in the sink.
Crusted layers of cereal and milk cemented in place with liberal slathering of sugar encasing it took a toll on his willingness to tolerate living with Robert. They had been friends since 5th grade. Robert was not a bad guy, but he was sometimes hard to take. Matthew’s Highschool crush had shocked him by confessing to a major infatuation with Robert right before he came out publicly. This lead to a tense few weeks that Had oddly cemented Matthew and Robert’s friendship. They would be friends for life, but living with him was enough to drive a saint to murder.
Still, nobody had helped Matthew more than Robert when his parents had been injured in the accident. Matthew had been a wreck. Robert was a source of strength and calm as Mathew’s parents had been first put on life support and maintained that stolid support through their decline over weeks of emergency treatments, and the eventual funeral. The hospital bills had all but destroyed Matthew’s school funds. The funeral costs had finished the job on his school fund. Matthew had even had to sell his chip to pay for his last semester’s books. Robert had pulled strings with a boyfriend to get him enough work to pay most of the tuition, but student loans were the only option for the rest. If it hadn’t been for Lou, He would have had to get another gig through Robert’s connections. After all of that, a little dish scrubbing was not a big deal. Luckily, Robert had all of his clothing professionally laundered, so that was not one of the gripes about his slovenly housekeeping.
Just as Matthew finished the dishes and had them all dried and back in the cabinets, the illuminated screen displayed the text, “Initial Charge Cycle Complete” followed by the prompt, “Begin Initial Configuration Y/N?” He chose the “Y” with the tip of a finger. “Interface With Nearby Display Y/N?” was the next prompt. Choosing “Y” Matthew was next prompted for the wireless network password and selected the main TV in the apartment. The screen activated as soon as the device started connecting to it. After that, he worked his way through answering the questions posed on the TV to input his vital information and the access codes for everything that he needed to connect to.
As he was finishing up and was about to shut down the TV, Robert came in. The scent of Apple liquor wafted off of the smartly dressed young man, wearing an artfully crumpled pink shirt. Robert carefully removed his rolled up tie from the pocket of his suit jacket and smoothed it out on the arm of the couch and combed his fingers through his thick, blond hair. “Any luck Matt? That interview must have been hard with what they were offering.”
“I aced it. And I managed to get a deal on a chip. Check it out!” he replied, displaying the new hardware adhered to his wrist.
“Wow! Isn’t that just like the one you had to sell a while back? I figured you would go for an upgrade.” gushed the foppishly dressed young man.
“If I had the cash, I would have, but this was a bargain. Did a bit of barter to get it. Besides, this is a prototype. It’s the 6X that we were hearing rumors about. I’m not sure how my source got it, but it’s much faster than a standard 6.”
“Barter sounds more fun than just buying it anyway.” Robert responded as he flopped bonelessly onto the couch. He artfully flipped his stylish shoes into the rack as if by magic.”Got anything cool to stream? I love those old drag queen pageant shows!”
“Sorry, have not found any new sources for that stuff, but I do have some other stuff. Sci-Fi? Maybe you like a little Young Adult Dystopia?”
“I’m sick of that drivel. Throw some fantasy on the screen… Maybe something with a unicorn?”
“I know of one you would like. I have it somewhere. The lead role was played by some short, pretty, white guy. It has a unicorn and some brit with big rubber horns on his head playing the devil.”
Leaning over the near arm of the couch and kicking his heels with excitement, Robert looked at Matthew with a coquettish smile,”You know me so well. If you didn’t play for the wrong team, I would take you for my very own!”
Matthew replied with the reply he had given for years to the inside joke they had been using since the first week they knew eachother. “You could never afford me. Too high maintenance!”
“I agee! You’ve always been easy, but never cheap!” Robbert shot back with an ear to ear grin.
Matthew input a command through the touchscreen of his chip and the movie began to play.
A small icon showed on the screen. Matthew recalled that this particular icon was a prompt for activation or advanced features. THe online manuals had been vague about what those features might be.While his room mate was absorbed in the dialog of the movie, Matthew selected the icon. A small dialog popped up saying “Enable Visual Overlay? Y/N”.Puzzled, he selected the “Y”. Immediately, a grid of light pulsed in his vision, mapping the whole of his visual field. Large text formed in his vision as if floating in the center of the room. “Visual field mapping beginning. Please stand still. Process may induce motion sickness.” Just as he finished reading the text, his vision filled with shapes and patterns and shapes that popped into place randomly and began moving. Just as he didn’t think he could take any more, the shapes stopped moving and faded away. In the top right part of his vision, text faded into being. “Activate advanced sound features? Y/N” was written out in cool, blue bold text. “Look at your chosen response for 5 seconds” was displayed below. “Why not. What’s the use of having a prototype if I don’t try out the features?” he said to himself as he stared at the “Y”.
A series of might and low tones started sounding in both of Matthew’s ears. The volume slowly increased until it was just below a painful level. A small bell like tone sounded and a clear, whiskey toned, female voice said from what seemed like right behind his left ear, “Calibration of enhanced visual and auditory interfaces has been completed successfully. Do you wish to supply a name I should respond to for verbal command mode?”
“Yes. You will now respond to Synthia.
“Very good. If you wish to use typed commands, simplay draw a rectangle where you would like to have me project a virtual keyboard and I will place it in your vision. You may, then type on the keys as if it were a physical device.”
“Cool! Are there any surfaces that it will not work on?”
“No. Even the surface of a pool of water will do. If you like, I can also provide an avitar in your vision as a way of interacting. Please let me know if you would like to set this feature up and we can customize it to your liking.”
“Is this your default voice?”
“Multiple bio-queues indicated this would be a good voice to use to interact with you. Do you wish to change it?”
“No, I like your voice. It’s sexy. I’ll keep the avatar feature in mind.”
“If there is not anything else you need right now, I will begin unpacking your online backups and importing your news and entertainment preferences. I am able to locate the data you backed up from you previous chip. You will be happy to know, my capacity is more that ten times what you were used to, so you will not have any reason to worry about storage issues. Just call my name and I will respond.”
Just as her sultry voice faded, Robbert’s giggles peaked. Matthew looked over to see him tittering as the British actor emoted profoundly as his horns wiggled with each move of his head.
Matthew took his customary spot on the other end of the couch and they watched the rest of the movie, only interrupted by Robbert’s joyous giggles as the vintage 1980’ cheese played out on their large TV. After the end of the movie, they talked a bit about trivial matters, ate some ramen, and went to bed early.
Matthew stared at the ceiling of his room, still thinking about his luck finding a deal on what he needed for his new job.