Excerpt from Hotel Exotica – The Pandora Effect
He stood and grabbed the woman, who also stood and now began to struggle with him. But his action was unexpected when he grabbed her around the waist, hoisted her over his shoulder, and tossed her over the edge of the parapet and down into the slack waters of the river. He watched her go down, a height he estimated at no more than six metres, and splash into the lazy, murky waters. He leaned over the edge as did Zoe and a number of nearby patrons and waited until she surfaced and began swimming to the shore.
He sat back down and flicked his hair back into place just as a stunned waiter was delivering their lunch. He spread his hands, allowing the waiter to gingerly step forward and place the meals onto the table. He backed away and left quickly.
‘He’s going to report to management, who will call enforcement, you realise.’
‘Who fucking cares, Zoe? I’ve had enough of this shit.’ He looked down at his plate, unable to recognise what she had ordered for him. ‘What’s this shit?’
Zoe waited, casting about to look at other patrons. ‘Well, you better eat that shit before the local cop girls get here and drag you away. I’m going to have to explain the cost on my expense account and I’d rather you were able to eat it before you get pinged.’
Lucas breathed deeply and then relaxed. ‘Did she make the shore?’
Zoe looked over the parapet. ‘Yeah, she’s nearly there.’
‘Maybe we should leave before the local girls get here and ping you for carrying without a license. Yes?’
She stood. ‘Good idea. Stuff the expense account. To be honest, it was worth it. Let’s go.’
‘Do they tip here?’
‘Give the waiter a big tip. Maybe he’ll not bother with the report to management.’
‘Well, you just hastened my ejection from the force, and I think the management thing is too late.’
They made their way through the seated crowd, who were now watching them, with those in their path standing aside to get clear of their hurried exit. ‘Tip the manager as well. More.’
‘Well, there goes my retirement benefits. What else do you want to screw me over with?’
‘Keep walking and shut up. Can you monitor any of their comm channels?’
‘No. I’d need special implants for their local channels. You know that!’ She walked briskly beside him.
‘How would I know what’s in your Exy head?’
‘Well, this Exy is beginning to feel sorry she saved your poxy human arse.’
‘You don’t mean it. You know you don’t mean it.’
Cinthy cleared the table and brought him out a macchiato, which had the potential to be the best coffee he had ever tasted. ‘Did you put something in the coffee?’ he asked her when she returned for the empty cup.
She let slip a sly smile as she picked it up. ‘Why?’
He leaned back in his chair, his hand over his stomach. ‘Best coffee I think I’ve had in a very long time.’
‘Well, thank you, Lucas. I’m also a qualified barista.’ She smiled and was about to leave.
‘And you don’t need to wait on me, Cinthy. You don’t work for me.’
‘Obviously. But you need to understand this is what I do. What I’m happy to do.’
‘Yes. Just because I’m a manufactured person, a synthetic in today’s parlance, doesn’t mean I cannot have genuine feelings. And moods. And desires, which I thought would have been obvious from last night.’ She raised what passed for an eyebrow. ‘And earlier this morning.’
‘Yes, you’re perfectly correct. I apologise for my assumptions.’
‘Thank you.’ She turned to leave but hesitated. ‘Haven’t you had much exposure to synthetics, Lucas?’
‘I have, of course. Like all of us. But just not one…’ Damn it, how could he say it?
‘As sophisticated as me?’
‘Ahh, yeah. No offense meant, Cinthy. You are exquisitely human in every respect.
She sniffed, a very human-like sniff. ‘Just with chromalloy skin.’
‘Yeah, but it only looks like that. Your skin feels…like mine, but softer.’
‘Thank you. Maybe we should stop at this point? I’m beginning to feel like a microbe in a petri dish.’
She twirled and walked off back into the house. He listened. Was she humming?