From the Inside Flap
The lead in Homer's mechanical pencil snapped. He shoved aside the yellow legal pad, its pages filled with notes for XM-14's field tests. "Can't you see I'm--" Staring at the XM-14. In the flesh. Standing on the other side of his drafting table. He blinked. Confused by what couldn't possibly be, yet was.
This woman had the same chocolate brown skin. Same shoulder-length black hair. Same almond eyes he'd programmed to flash when she was angry. In this real version-was she real?-there was a virtual electrical storm.
Impossible. He'd locked XM-14 in the vault under armed guard and a fail-safe security system he'd designed himself.
In one smooth motion, the woman removed her heavy wool coat and draped it over her arm. Although ambulatory, XM-14 didn't have access to that curve-hugging red dress or the jasmine perfume drawing him to her like a drug.
Since his arrival, this lab had been his world and he its god. He avoided contact with people whenever possible. He couldn't ignore this woman, couldn't expel her like the others. His briefing on contemporary earth manners and customs included an admonition to avoid staring. For some reason being stared at made women feel like a piece of meat. He hadn't understood that at all. If they didn't want to be stared at, why did they dress the way they did?
Still, Homer tried not to stare. In this, as in other things, he deferred to his trainer, Mike's, judgment which meant he should introduce himself. He extended his hand, fingers semi-curved, palm parallel to the floor, just as Mike had instructed him. "I'm Homer Jackson. And you are?"
As he understood the custom, once he extended his hand she would reciprocate by grasping it, a socially acceptable way to touch her, something he very much wanted to do. A handshake, Mike called it. Given its up and down motion, hand pump seemed more accurate.
Her hands remained at her side. "My name is Jasmine Green. What are you going to do about my face?"
Homer headed to his laptop to verify the security feed. "If you can just give me a minute."
"We need to talk about this now." She looked around. "Don't you have any chairs?"
"Actually, no." Homer didn't have many visitors. And since he stayed more focused standing that's how he worked. No chairs prevented people from staying too long. He wanted her to stay. If chairs would help achieve that objective--he made a u-turn and dashed past Jasmine.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"To secure chairs." He sprinted to the conference room and rolled two cushy chairs from there into his office.
Since Jasmine might feel uncomfortable sitting while he stood, and he did want her to feel comfortable, he'd sit too. The more comfortable she felt, the longer she'd stay, the more she'd tell him about herself. He wanted to know everything about her.
She'd artificially made herself taller than XM-14 which explained her request for a chair. Standing for long periods of time on those five and a quarter inch heels would be quite uncomfortable. He made a quick calculation. Sans heels, she and XM-14 were the exact same height.
She descended into the chair with the grace of a queen, far differently than XM-14 would have. "Thanks," she said. "Can we make this quick? I'm off today and have ten thousand things I need to get done."
Remarkable. Completing ten thousand tasks in a day made her every bit as efficient as XM-14. Despite her attire, there was obviously more to this Jasmine than his initial analysis.
Social mores dictated offering guests food and drink. The only food he had were MRE's: meals ready to eat. He did have drink. He'd developed quite a liking for chilled, sweetened, carbonated, coca-flavored water.
She pushed back the can of Coke he brought her from the supply he kept in a small refrigerator and followed him to the counter where he kept his laptop. After taking a swig from his drink, he pulled up the security feed. A check of all four views verified that XM-14 was in the vault.
He found Jasmine's audible expulsion of air curious. She returned to her chair and collapsed, almost like the muscles responsible for her prior graceful descent had evaporated. He pulled his sketch pad and notes from the file and settled in the chair across from her. After righting herself, Jasmine crossed her legs, another maneuver XM-14 didn't possess. Even if it did, he doubted the maneuver would have the same appeal in XM-14's white jumpsuit as it did in Jasmine's red dress. He was staring again.