Sohee's Apartment

Limp, matted hair hung heavily from Sohee's head, clinging in clots against her light office blouse, damp with sweat. The humidity in the air gave one a feeling of swimming in a thick soup; the red sun was an angry egg yolk sinking in the west. A row of older two-floor apartment buildings lined the street from one end to the other, their identical brick faces baking in the heat. Hers happened to be the farthest of the five from the parking lot. Sohee went up the steps of her building; the quaint, old-fashioned charm of her new apartment quickly wore on her tired feet. Her door was the one in the middle, with another door and a set of steps on either side of her apartment. She hadn't gotten a chance to meet her two neighbors yet, but she was not terribly interested... She had rented the place to get away from attention, after all, she reminded herself.

Stumbling into through her own door, she secured the door and finally allowed herself to breathe freely, her body losing its tension even as her mind began to race. Her work in patent lawsuits had ended, but her real work was beginning. She hadn't written for the past week since she had lost her old Navi, which had stored her latest novel in progress. The move from the old apartment to the new, more private apartment closer to work had been a hectic one; an entire piece of luggage had been lost in the shuffle--the one that happened to contain all of her writing work, not to mention her PET. The thought of beginning anew was demoralizing, but she felt herself crumbling without her routine writing.

Besides, she had just become the operator of a new Navi through a rather unusual course of events through her daytime work. If the Navi was one with some literary skill, as her previous one had been, perhaps he or she could read over her work, help in revision, or compare it to similar works over the Net. At the least, it would store her already growing mass of paper notes and organize her sketches, she noted gratefully. In her excitement, she felt a headache approaching fast. Something was bothering her she couldn't quite put her finger on. Slipping into the shower, she reflected over the day's events, attempting futilely to smell out a rat. Why did the SciLabs representative let her keep this PET prototype? In her most recent work with SciLabs over a minor innovation in Navi design, she had asked for the schematics of a prototype or an in-house expert to help explain the difference between the new design and the prior state-of-the-art design. She had gotten one better: a technical manual of incomprehensible length to peruse over and... a Navi to call her own. She had marveled at the man who had presented it to her. How easily the research department had given up a PET... and a model that was supposed to be unreleased to the public at that... One couldn't help but suspect something. Did it even officially belong to SciLabs? Perhaps it was simply a goodwill gesture or marketing gimmick, a free sample or preview to get her interested in purchasing a more official product later on.

Stepping out of the cold shower, she made up her mind that the simplest explanation was best; SciLabs had meant her no harm and had simply given her a Navi as a perk to her hard work. She decided to take the PET out of her briefcase and give the Navi a spin. Dressing herself in a light nightgown and wrap, she activated the PET, an odd, plain-looking thing curiously devoid of homely commercial icons or identifying trademarks. She stared intently as the display screen lit up, vaguely wondering what to expect.

As the screen flickered on, she let out a cry of surprise as she found herself staring at a pair of two lean emerald eyes occupying the entire display. She watched mesmerized and fearful... The eyes looked, well, so human. Suddenly, the eyes narrowed into a pair of wickedly grinning slits, and appeared to back away from the screen, revealing a rather morose and unkempt face. " 'ello there, beautiful," came a rough, accented voice that evoked memories of a smoker's cough or a gravel pit. He athletically flipped back some more in an effortless show of acrobatics, revealing his entire body. Sohee looked in undisguised distaste at the Navi's lack of sophistication in dress... His gold bandana, white tank, and dirty jeans reminded her of unsavory characters in back alleys--a tawdry imitation of a sub-par romance novel's testosterone-pumped protagonist. The Navi's programmer had poor taste, she mused. If it were all the same, she would much rather have had an aging bespectacled type in professor's tweed or bohemian turtleneck.

"Hey, hasn't anyone told you it's not proper to stare?" asked the Navi, non-commitally pulling out a stiletto and scratching his arm with it. How human, Sohee once again marveled. Regaining her composure, she began introductions.

"Your name?" Sohee asked, commandingly, in the tone of voice she addressed those she considered beneath her.

He seemed to stare at her for a moment. "Aidan," he said at last, putting his stiletto back into some concealed place in the blink of an eye. A longer pause followed. "And what's yours, love?" he finally asked with a teasing smile.

"Sohee Mun. I am a writer. I expect you to record my writing ideas as necessary, take dictation of my notes, edit my work, and compare my writing style to other similar works as I direct."

Aidan looked blankly at her. Sohee stared back icily, waiting for acknowledgment that she fully expected to come. Aidan seemed to nod slowly, as if approaching a dangerous animal, but then began to shake. Sohee wondered in a panic if the PET was malfunctioning. Aidan continued to shake, then burst into an ear-splitting, raucous laughter. "Just jack me in, beautiful; wait till you see what else I'm capable of."
The dagger hit hard to the spooky's heart, shattering the virus into bits. Aidan breathed a sigh of relief as finally the air cleared; he had won. "Whoo," he whispered under his breath, wiping away a trace of blood and standing up straight. "Got more than I bargained for that time," he smirked. "Wanna go for another round?"

Sohee shared his exhilaration at seeing her navi survive, but kept a stony face. "That's quite enough," she directed him. "I'm jacking you out before I have a real mess on my hands." Before Aidan could protest, she pulled the cord of the PET out of the jack. "Now rest tonight and come ready to work... You'll have a busy day tomorrow, as per our agreement."

Aidan taunted her with a mock strut. "Who says I need to rest?" he said, but let his body slump after he felt the PET unplug. It was exhilarating, being back in battle again. But he body did ache... He felt himself regenerate as the system disconnected and reset...

Sohee breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness that was done. The PET had really ended up being more than she bargained for. She set the PET on the coffee table and slipped off to the much overdue nap.

Sohee woke up a few hours earlier than usual the next day, in a sweat. It was another sweltering day... She rolled over her bed and felt something dig into her ribs. Oh, it was the technical manual she had fallen asleep reading later that night. It poked menacingly under a mound of green silk sheets. Drearily, she remembered where she was... how she had moved only a little over a week ago to get away from it all, how she had awoken in the middle of the night to begin reading through the manual she brought home from her latest patent case—oh, how she hated bringing work home—and... there was something else that had happened, wasn't there? Her head hurt with a dull pain from dehydration and a lack of restful sleep. She wondered what it could be.

The alarm had not yet rung, and she softly pressed at the button with a light fingertip. She'd have to get to work early today to finish her research; perhaps she'd find a way to get home early before the evening rush. Tiredly she showered and went through the morning routine. Dressing herself carefully in a pinstripe skirt and loose blouse, she carefully applied a layer of makeup and dark conservative makeup. Suddenly, she dropped her mascara. Ah! She went alert in a flash. Yes. Now she remembered. She was now the owner of a brand new PET, and a new navi had entered into her life. And had prevented her from her precious evening writing. She paused over the memory with a frown. What a colorful character, though, she mused. She'd have to base a novel off of him someday.

After wrapping the PET carefully inside some papers in her briefcase and checking the contents of her leather bag, she put on her heels and walked off in a brisk pace to the commuter stop, locking the door smartly behind her. She wondered if Aidan would be ready for his first day on the job.