The Stockroom

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The stockroom

During the three and a half years I’ve worked in the Lands’ End department at Sears, I have had three different managers. The second manager was the one I had the most difficulty working with, but after she transferred to another store in the summer of 2010, we got a new manager. This one was also a girl, but she was one I could actually work with and get stuff done.

Her name was Stacey, and as the person who had been working the longest, I broke her in with the department and we developed a good chemistry. We would go on our lunch breaks together whenever we could, and she welcomed my valuable input even when it conflicted with some of her own. She transferred over from a Sears store in Colorado, and had been that stores longest serving Lands’ End associate before she decided to transfer here to take on our lead position.

Age-wise, she was less than a year older than me, but I never had any problems crossing the age barrier, since one of my closest coworkers was about 50 years older than me.

The day we got the closest was on a cold October night. When I got an idea for reorganizing the stockrooms, the previous leads would usually shrug it off…and then they would praise me after I had done it anyway. When I got those ideas, Stacey fully endorsed them and even helped me out personally. One such night, she arranged it so that she and I could work from after the closers left until the next morning.

“Good night guys,” One of my closing co-workers said as he clocked out for the night.

“Good night” we called after him as we headed into our clothing stockroom.

“So Phillip, how long do you think this will take?” Stacey asked.

Stacey was 23 years old. She had long dark brown hair with a matching pair of brown eyes. Her eyes exuded an aura playful calmness. She had no visible imperfections in her perfect skin, and she had a well-toned athletic figure. Tonight she wore her usual navy ballets with navy socks, navy chino pants and long-sleeve navy polo with a white layering shirt over it; all were Lands’ End products.

“Well, I usually told your predecessor that I don’t give time frames, but this shouldn't take us too long…thanks for clearing this overnighter though,” I said, opening the stockroom door and letting her in.

“Anytime, I just made them know that an organized stockroom can improve customer service by improving efficiency,” Stacey said.

“Exactly, so did you bring all the computer equipment?” I asked.

“Yes, I hope this inventory system you devised will work as well as you say it will,” She said, following me into the ‘chicken coop’ where we kept all our displays and signs.

“It will, and we will also be moving things around in here to make more room,” I said.

“Phillip, I must say you have a real genius insight for organizing in here…I’m surprised none of your previous leads never put you in for a pay raise,” Stacey said.

“Well, they couldn’t see past the whole CSAT, credit or customer service situation,” I said, setting my laptop up.

“I’m also surprised you never applied for the lead position,” she said.

“I considered it after my first lead was transferred, but I decided I could do far more work if I didn’t have to go to any staff meetings or use the staff phone,” I said.

“Well, now I don’t get the phone because my boss told them to stop giving it to me, so I probably spend more time working with you all than the others did,” Stacey said.

“Yeah, I find it rather nice working with you this hands on,” I said.

“Yeah, there were no men in my previous team, only conniving women who tried manipulating one another but failed with me,” Stacey told me, setting her laptop next to mine.

“That’s kind of what the past associates in this department did, making it difficult for me to work with the leads. You are the first to actually recognize my experience as an asset instead of an annoyance,” I said.

“Well Phillip, I am a bit smarter than they were and I can appreciate a person for their intelligence rather than their social skills,” Stacey said.

“Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome, and by the way, I have filed a petition to my boss to promote you to assistant Lands’ End lead, since we have a large crew now and I can’t be here every day,” Stacey said.

“Wow, would that increase my pay as well?” I asked.

“It should,” she said.

“Thanks, I’ll buy you a coffee in the morning,” I said.

“That’s nice…it’s a good thing Sears doesn’t have any policies regarding relationships between fellow associates,” Stacey said.

“Yeah…wait, are we actually dating?” I asked.

“I think so, I’ve never dated but we do seem to get along,” she said.

“Wow, then in that case you look lovely tonight,” I said.

“Thanks, and you look as ready to work as ever,” she said, looking at my slightly worn out clothing.

“So, let’s get to work,” I said, and we both started moving fixtures around.

After we had been working for two hours, we stopped to take a small break.

“Wow, I worked up a little sweat,” Stacey said, looking at her armpits and wiping her brow.

“So did I, but I’m more used to this room,” I said.

“So, have we finished up in here?” Stacey asked, sitting down on a cube.

“I think so, we have managed to clear up a few square feet of floor space and we organized the signs,” I said.

“Good, I really want to get started with the clothes,” she said, biting into the sandwich she packed.

“Yeah, it should go by pretty fast once we install the scanners on the shelves,” I said, eating a cookie I packed.

“I just hope Lands’ End likes them enough to recommend this for other stores,” Stacey said.

“Well, let’s get started then,” I said.

The inventory of the clothes, including scanning all the bar codes and installing the scanners so they could be scanned in and out of the room took less than two hours, and once we were finished we headed back into the chicken coop to set up the computer.

“Wow, it’s only two o’clock,” Stacey said, looking at the clock I had installed on the wall.

“Yeah, we could theoretically organize this stockroom until everything is off the floor,” I said.

“Well, that is your specialty,” Stacey said, getting a drink of water.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“So, what do you plan on doing for the rest of your life…I mean I don’t see you working here for the rest of your life,” Stacey asked.

“Well, I am studying cybernetics…I want to be an android repairman,” I said.

“Really, aren’t most of the androids in our society rather primitive?” Stacey asked.

“Not really, some of the MCAs are androids,” I said.

“I know, but they are also powered down each night and plugged in…I mean androids that can have freedom like you and me,” she said.

“Well, I am sure there are, but I think they might not want all the attention,” I said.

“Good point…by the way, LP shut off all the cameras watching the upstairs stockrooms and the breakroom in case we wanted to go in them,” Stacey said.

“Good, I don’t want to set off the security systems if I have to pee,” I said.

“So, are the scanners interfacing with this computer?” she asked, walking up and looking over my shoulder.

“Yes, the data is compiling…you smell nice by the way,” I said, catching a whiff of her scent.

“Thanks, it’s a floral shampoo I used before coming to work,” she said.

“It smells relaxing,” I said.

“So Phillip, while that is compiling, why don’t we see if we can move some more shelves around?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said, getting up and walking over to the shelves.

“So, I think if we move these shelves around a bit, we can fit a few more props,” Stacey said, moving a few boxes off the shelves she mentioned.

“I think you’re right…I must be rubbing off on you,” I said.

“Yeah, in a good way,” she said.

“Okay, help me with this,” I said, grabbing one of the shelves.

“Okay,” she said, and she assisted me in lifting it up and out of the grooves it rested in. Unfortunately, we used so much strength that we were launched backwards into the shelves behind us.

“Ow,” Stacey said, hitting her head on a protruding cube corner.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I think so, I guess we used too much strength,” she said.

“Yeah…wow, get out of the way!” I shouted, seeing one of the boxes on the top topple over. Thinking fast, I shoved her out of the way and then ducked to the floor, allowing my back to take the brunt of the falling box.

“Ouch,” I said, once it rolled off.

“Yeah, you shoved me into another corner,” Stacey said, rubbing her head as she sat herself up.

“Sorry, I have quick reflexes,” I said.

“Thanks, I guess we should have secured those boxes better,” she said, slowly getting to her feet.

“I know, good thing we have another 8-hours,” I said, getting up and rubbing my back.

“Well, let’s get started,” Stacey said, looking oddly more energetic.

We fixed the shelves and the boxes within 30-minutes, and then we looked over the inventory results.

“Good, now we can access this on our own handhelds,” I said, getting them out of my bag and plugging them in.

“Cool…ow, it shocked me,” she said, accidentally brushing the charging pins.

“Wow, I think maybe you should sit down before you get hurt more,” I said.

“I don’t feel like sitting, I feel like running around,” she said.

“You seem like my kind of girl,” I said, knowing that kind of feeling.

“Phillip, did you want to kiss me?” she asked suddenly.

“Yes, this is rather all of a sudden though,” I said, getting up and looking at her. I had been wanting to kiss her since the moment I saw her, but this all seemed to be going a little fast.

“I know, but I don’t think I could contain myself for much longer being in this small room with you,” she said.

“Well in that case,” I said, and I slowly leaned in and kissed her perfect lips.

When we broke apart, we looked into each other’s eyes for a moment before we said.

“Wow”

“That was my first kiss,” I said.

“Mine too,” she said.

“Thanks…by the way, did you notice how much you are sweating?” I asked, looking at her forehead.

“Yes, it is very hot down here,” she said.

“Yes, not that hot though,” I said.

“Well, I grew up around snow so I like cold weather better,” she said.

“Still, I think you should sit down and have a drink of water,” I suggested, pulling out a cube for her to sit on.

“Thanks Phillip, I seem to be getting hotter,” she said, rubbing her chest.

“Maybe the blow to your head gave you a concussion, I’ll have to look into it,” I said.

“You should try and be a doctor too,” she said, taking off her layering tee and using it to wipe her head.

“Yeah…would you mind if I feel your head to see if you are running a fever?” I asked.

“Go ahead,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said, and I reached out my hand and touched her wet forehead.

“Oh wow, your head is hot,” I said, recoiling my hand.

“I hope it’s not serious,” she said, looking like she was having trouble thinking.

“It looks serious….hold on,” I said, hearing something for the first time.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I don’t know, it sounds like a fan,” I said, trying to pinpoint the source of the sound with my good ears. Strangely enough, it seemed to be coming from Stacey.

“There aren’t any fans in here…unfortunately,” Stacey said.

“I know,” I said, getting closer to her chest and hearing the noise get louder.

“Is it coming from me?” Stacey asked, watching me press my ear against her damp chest.

“I think so…it’s very odd,” I said, hearing the fan get higher in pitch until it suddenly died out.

“Yes, almost like I’m a robot or something…something…something,” she said, starting to stutter.

“Stacey, are you alright?” I asked, looking into her eyes, which no longer had the usual look of calm.

“Something…a robot or something…robot…robot…robot…I am haaaaaving diiiificulties concentrating Phillip…Phillip,” she said, breaking into a mechanical tone.

Since I already knew by this point that she was a robot, I decided not to interrogate her. Obviously she was made to be unaware of her nature, so I decided to make her current situation blow over as smoothly as possible.

“I know, try and relax and it will be over soon,” I said.

“Okay…kay…kay…error in primary coolant systems…error in stabilization sub-processor…this unit is overheating…this unit will power down in 10-seconds…Phillip, if I black out, I want you to keep me comfortable…This unit is powering down and will not power up until all problems have been fixed…Phillip….” She said, my name near the end coming out as a long mechanical drone.

In the seconds that followed her power down, I could hear various systems shutting down within her body. Lastly, the perspiration on her skin slowly started to get absorbed back into her skin until she was almost completely dry.

“Wow, it looks like I will be testing out my cybernetics skills a bit early than I thought,” I said, looking at her motionless body.

Still, I could tell that she was genuinely developing feelings for me, so I decided I would treat her with the utmost respect while still indulging some of my own fantasies.

The first thing I did was to secure the entrances to the stockrooms so we would not be disturbed.

“Okay Stacey, let’s see if I can find a maintenance port,” I said, walking back over to her and feeling her skin, which was slowly cooling off.

Looking into her empty eyes, I felt that she wouldn’t mind what I was about to do, so I decided to undress her. Because I wanted to indulge myself, I started with removing her shoes and then her socks, showing me her perfect feet. Despite the fact that she had been sweating, her feet were as damp as they should have been. The odor was also quite mild, as I would have expected from a woman’s foot.

“You really are my kind of girl,” I said, looking at her perfectly unaltered toenails and feet. Even the size of her feet seemed to fit perfectly into my hands.

After I finished with her feet, I continued by removing her polo, and her silk bra. I was pleased to see that her breasts were all natural, and average sized.

“Well Stacey, I need to stand you up really quick to remove your pants,” I said, undoing her buttons and then standing her up to pull her pants down to her ankles. Once I sat her back down, I pulled the pants from her legs and then looked at her red polka dot panties with a lacy trim, which I decided to leave on.

“Well, if you were one of the test models, your maintenance port would be right here,” I said, placing my fingers inside her belly button and pressing in. Feeling the expected click, I pulled it out and watched the surrounding skin lower down and slide up. Her interior mechanics were only slightly more complex than the test models, and a little different from the interiors of the MCAs I peeked inside. All the components were powered down though, so I couldn’t see too well. I did see the fan, which had quit just before she shut down; it was slightly charred, and would need to be replaced.

“Now, let’s get you plugged into my computer,” I said, pulling out a standard USB cable and attaching one end into a port near the opening and the other into my laptop. The second I plugged it into my laptop, a few banks of lights reactivated in Stacey’s body and a program menu popped up onto my screen.

“Attention, if you are reading this message, you have discovered Stacey is an android. She is a sleeper model which has been programmed to think she is human. She is equipped with synthetic biological components, so she can be impregnated and pass a standard physical. If you have opened this message, you are trying to fix her so please read through the diagnostic protocols and schematics to fix her.”

Once the message finished, a series of menus appeared which allowed me to access her diagnostic systems and schematics.

After I ran a few diagnostics, I discovered that the blows to her head, as well as the slight shock she received, overloaded a processor in her skull which controls her coolant systems. I also discovered how to open her head, so I walked up behind her and twisted the top of her head until I felt a click. Then, I slowly lifted her scalp from her head as though I was removing a wig, and then I could see inside her sophisticated brain.

“Wow, whoever built you was a genius,” I said, looking in at the array of processors and circuits which made up Stacey’s brain. Small wires connected each component, making it look like a small interconnected city of circuitry. After looking around, I finally found what I was looking for…a wire connecting a processor to the main core was burnt out, and it was right around the area where she hit her head.

“Wow, I’m going to need to get the other androids to work in the stockroom while I fix you, that way we can still finish on time,” I said, loosely placing her scalp back on and heading for the door.

Because most androids did not have free will, companies like Sears tended to use them to help out with minor tasks. The three androids our Sears had did have distinct personalities and social skills for customer interactions, but they could be programmed with specific tasks. Two of them were assigned to the children’s and intimate sections, while one was assigned to Missy; all three were female.

At this time of night, they would be plugged in on the second floor near the electronics department. Since I was the only one in the store with a background in Cybernetics, they gave me access to their systems so I could fix them if they malfunctioned…although I had never really done more than fix them, even though I was tempted.

Once I got up to the second floor, I swiped my card and unlocked the door. Inside, the three girls rested in their charging alcoves…already they were at full charge since they only needed a couple of hours. The two assigned to kids were both teenagers. One was a Latina model named Geraldine, she was pretty short with two pig tails; she had a friendly personality. The second was a European model named Nina. She was close to my height with long, light brown hair falling to her shoulders; she had a quiet, yet friendly personality.

The one assigned to Missy was another European model by the name of Francine, although she was closer to my age with dark brown hair going to her shoulders. She was almost the same type of personality as Stacey, and they even sort of looked alike.

“Well girls, looks like you are waking up early,” I said, grabbing the master remote and activating their systems. After they gave their start-up speeches, they all walked forward out of the alcoves and looked at me.

“Why have we been activated so early?” Geraldine asked.

“Because, Stacey and I need your help with our stockrooms, I will return you here in a few hours,” I said, modifying their programming.

“Understood,” they said, and then they headed for the stockroom while I grabbed a repair kit.

Once we got down to the stockroom, I altered their programming so they would ignore Stacey in the stockroom and not remember her nature. I also took Nina in with me so I could compare her systems with Stacey’s.

“I have never been in here before Phillip, what are we doing?” Nina said, following me in.

“I need to open your head up to see if there are any problems,” I said, uncovering Stacey’s brain again.

“Alright,” Nina said, oblivious to Stacey sitting there naked.

“This won’t hurt a bit,” I said, twisting Nina’s skull off.

“I know Phillip,” Nina said.

“You know, you are my favorite one to work on,” I said, peering into her head and seeing where all her components were.

“Thanks, I enjoy the times I spend with you,” Nina said.

“Okay, do you mind if I remove your head?” I asked, stepping back and looking into her face.

“No, go ahead,” she said, and then I grabbed her chin from underneath and twisted her head off. Once her head was removed, her body relaxed its pose since it was no longer under her control. Once I had her head, I sat down and began comparing her brain with Stacey’s. Although there were obvious differences, mostly with processing components, the layout of their brains were virtually identical. Seeing the same processor that was broken in Stacey, I grabbed a new wire from the repair kit and started replacing the burnt out wire in her head.

“Phillip, what are you doing?” Nina asked, since I had set her head down while I worked on Stacey.

“Oh sorry, I’m finished with you,” I said, reattaching her to her body and putting her hair back on.

“Thanks, what do you want me to do now?” she asked.

“Go out and help the others,” I said, modifying Nina’s programming.

“Okay Phillip,” she said, and she walked back out and started helping the others refold our clothes.

It only took me a few minutes, but once the wire was replaced I was able to test its success by running a diagnostic. Now, it only showed that one of her fans needed to be replaced, and that only took me a few seconds to do since they were designed to be easily replaced.

“Okay Stacey, I want to try a few things first before I bring you back to life,” I said, confirming the diagnostic results.

“Phillip, we have finished folding the clothes, what do you want us to do now?” Francine asked, talking to me from the other side of the chicken wire.

“Just go into standby mode until I give you a command,” I said.

“Alright,” she said, and then all three of them straightened up and froze.

“Okay Stacey, let’s see if I can access a diagnostic mode,” I said, looking through the diagnostic menu until I found her startup protocols. It looked like she could be set to start up in a diagnostic state where her A.I. would be suspended. After I checked how much I could do with her, I set it, reattached her skull and then booted her up.

“Diagnostic mode enabled…Stacey persona disabled…all systems fully functional…” She said, speaking in a monotone.

“Okay Stacey, who built you?” I asked.

“I was built by a Dr. Miller of a private cybernetics facility. I was built in the image of his daughter who died seven years ago in a horrible accident. I contain all of her memories, personality and experiences, but not her soul,” Stacey said.

“Do you remember what we were doing before your malfunction?” I asked.

“Yes, we kissed and then I started to overheat,” she said.

“Okay, did you kiss me because you were malfunctioning, or because you were developing true feelings for me?” I asked.

“I was developing feelings for you, but the malfunction did intensify them,” she replied.

“Good, what will happen if I reactivate you normally?” I asked.

“I will wake up and think you nursed me back to health…although you should dress me back up first,” she said.

“Okay, we’ll get to that later…what happens when you malfunction on your own?” I asked.

“My father lives nearby, he gets a wireless message and comes to repair me,” she said.

“Did you send him a message tonight?” I asked.

“No, the intranet of this store interfered with the signal…the message was cancelled when the repair was completed,” she said.

“Good, is there any way I can easily control you in case you malfunction again?” I asked.

“Yes, I will give you my override remote which can switch me into standby mode and back to normal mode,” she said, reaching inside her open panel and handing me a small remote that was no larger than a credit card.

“Thanks,” I said, pocketing it.

“Thank you for fixing me, now would you like me to get my clothes back on so you can have Stacey back?” she asked.

“Yes, go ahead,” I said.

“Alright,” and then she got up and slowly got her clothes back on, leaving her polo unbuttoned.

“Why didn’t you button your polo back up?” I asked.

"Because you will need to tell me you were trying to cool me off,” she explained, laying down against the back shelf.

“Good thinking,” I said, pulling the remote out.

“I know, I don’t want Stacey to know she is an android…she is looking forward to that coffee,” she said.

“Me too,” I said, and then I pressed a button on her remote.

“Diagnostic mode disabled…now loading Stacey persona….persona loaded, now resetting parameters,” She said, and then her position relaxed and she now looked as though she was asleep. I also noticed some, not all, of the perspiration had returned.

“Stacey, are you alright?” I asked, getting a bottle of water ready.

“Phillip, what happened?” she asked, slowly opening her eyes and looking at me.

“You passed out from the heat…I laid you down over here and opened your polo up a bit to cool you off, you’ve been out for almost 90-minutes,” I said, handing her the water bottle.

“And you have been watching over me all this time,” she said, taking the bottle and drinking a large gulp.

“Well, I did go upstairs and bring the MCAs down here to work while I watched over you,” I said.

“Good thinking, now we can keep this little incident private,” Stacey said, slowly sitting up and rubbing her head.

“Does it still hurt?” I asked.

“It just tingles a little, maybe I just needed a little rest…I didn’t exactly get too much sleep before coming here,” she said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Well, I could never get any sleep during the day,” she admitted.

“Neither do I, but I have insomnia,” I said.

“Yeah, but you didn’t pass out,” she said, drinking some more water.

“Well, maybe I’m built better than you,” I said.

“Yeah, so what are the androids doing now?” she asked.

“They finished refolding the clothes, I told them to go into standby mode when I heard you stirring,” I told her.

“Really, do you think we could play with them?” she asked, suddenly sitting up.

“Sure, but if we violate them in a sexual way then they will report it no matter how much reprogramming I do,” I said, helping Stacey get to her feet.

“I know, I just want to see how real they actually are,” she said, brushing the dust off of her and following me out of the coop.

“They are anatomically correct, you would need to completely undress them and look in the right places very closely to tell…not that we keep their nature secret or anything,” I said, walking Stacey over to the motionless android MCAs.

“Cool, will they respond if I touch them?” she asked.

“No, only if I order them out of standby mode,” I said.

“Good, could you make Nina here sit down so I can look at her feet?” Stacey asked, stopping at Nina.

“Sure. Nina, sit down on this bench,” I said, pointing at one of the benches we had stored in here.

Because she was still in standby mode, she complied with the order without any change. Once she was sitting, she stopped moving again.

“Cool, thanks Phillip,” Stacey said, getting down on her knees and lifting up one of Nina’s feet. Because they worked all day every day, the androids clothing picked up continuous wear-and-tear. They only got new clothes when their current clothes began looking too bad even after washing. Right now, Nina’s simple black work shoes looked pretty broken in and worn out on the bottom, but they were nowhere near ready to be replaced.

“Wow, I’m glad we get to wear whatever we want,” Stacey said, taking off Nina’s shoe and then slipping off the black sock, which was beginning to stretch near the heel.

“Yeah, it’s nice seeing you in Navy as opposed to black & white,” I agreed.

“Yep…wow, Nina has pretty feet,” Stacey said, holding her foot in her hands while she leaned in to get a closer look.

“Yes, I enjoy fixing her feet in particular when she accidentally steps on one of those security pins,” I said.

“That would hurt for a real girl, do they experience pain?” Stacey asked, bending Nina’s toes.

“Yes, but they don’t experience it in the same way…they feel pain so they don’t go around playing with fire or crushing glass, but they don’t cry about it,” I said.

“I see, and how often do these girls bathe?” Stacey asked, smelling Nina’s foot.

“I think every other night…does her foot smell bad?” I asked.

“Not really, it just doesn’t smell clean,” she said, tasting the foot with her tongue, “It tastes a little salty, almost like real sweat,” Stacey said.

“It essentially is, she does eat and her sweat is designed to help cool her body down,” I explained.

“I see,” she said, feeling the foot as a whole and bending the ankle.

“Stacey, do you have a foot fetish?” I asked.

“I think so, I’ve never really had the opportunity to touch another girl’s foot before, let alone a guys foot, but I have stared from time to time,” she said, putting Nina’s sock and shoe back on and setting her foot down.

“I definitely have a foot fetish, I have to heavily restrain myself when I am helping girls buy our shoes,” I admitted.

“Well then, I’ll bet you would like my feet…I like to think my feet are pretty good,” Stacey said, looking down at her shoes.

“I’ll bet,” I said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll show you later,” she said, smiling at me; little did she know that I had already seen and felt them.

“So, who did you want to look at next?” I asked, having Nina stand back up.

“Well, I’d like to look at Francine’s breasts,” she said, looking over at the womanly Francine.

“Okay,” I said, and then I walked her over to Francine.

“It’s a good thing Francine wears a button-up blouse, I wouldn’t want to mess up her hair,” Stacey said, carefully unbuttoning Francine’s black shirt until we could see the white lacy bra she was wearing beneath it.

“Don’t worry, this won’t be considered sexual…only if we do stuff with their vaginas,” I said.

“Okay, I’m sure she won’t mind then,” Stacey said, and she undid the clasp on the front of the bra and let Francine’s average sized breasts fall out.

“She looks pretty good for a 21 year old,” I said, looking at her exposed chest.

“She’s only 21?!” Stacey said.

“Yes, they didn’t want androids which looked too mature, and Francine here certainly looks friendly,” I said, looking at her expressionless face.

“Yes, her breasts are almost the same size as mine,” Stacey said, feeling Francine’s breasts and then feeling her own chest.

“I wouldn’t know,” I said, since Stacey did not know I had seen her topless.

“Don’t worry, you’ll see them someday,” Stacey said, redoing Francine’s bra and shirt.

“I look forward to it, now did you want to do anything with Geraldine?” I asked, walking to where little Geraldine stood.

“No, you can send them back to their recharging station,” Stacey said, walking back over to me.

“Alright,” I said, and then I modified the girls programming so they would return the remote and then power down in their alcoves.

Once the girls were gone, I locked the stockroom door again and then looked at my watch.

“Well Stacey, looks like we have about two-more hours until the opening shift comes in…I don’t know why they have started the early Saturday sales this early in November, but at least we don’t have to wait until 9:00,” I said.

“Yeah, so now that we are finished in here, we should maybe look at the floor plan to see what clothes need to come out,” Stacey said.

“Yeah, and with the new inventory system we can easily see if we have them,” I said, grabbing one of the now fully charged handheld units.

“Well, let’s get started,” she said, grabbing her book.

During the course of the following two hours, we managed to complete most of our Holiday floor sets…at least everything that wasn’t a wall. This would make our store the first to have this level of merchandise out, giving us an advantage.

Just as we finished tidying up the signs we had to move around, the opening shift began arriving and getting ready for the first major selling day of the 2010 Holiday season.

“Wow guys, you sure got a lot of work done,” our full-timer said, putting his stuff in the locker we had and then heading back out to open the registers.

“Yeah, we’ll still be here until seven, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the location of all the merchandise,” Stacey said, following him out with me close behind.

“Alright,” he said, walking over to the register while we continued up to the office to brief the managers.

After Stacey and I explained our new system to the Operations Manager, we both headed down to the ready meeting. Unlike with the general manager, the Ops manager could make even the most boring statistics seem interesting. After reporting that the store was currently up, with our department doing well in all divisions, he ended the meeting and then unlocked the doors.

“Thanks for pulling an all-nighter, sometimes the best times to get stuff done is when there is nobody around,” he said, watching us clock out and then walking us to the mall entrance.

“Thank you for allowing us,” Stacey said.

“I wish we could do it more often,” I added.

“Well, after taking a look at your work, I can’t see myself not letting you…at least this way you aren’t hiding from the customers,” he smiled.

“Don’t let my associates slack off,” Stacey said.

“I won’t, although you seem to have them working more efficiently than the past two leads did,” he said.

“That’s because the past two leads were both hypocrites and didn’t really do anything,” I said.

“Well Phillip, I never thought I’d hear you speak up like that…I agree, they did get distracted a lot, now you two enjoy the day off. I certainly wish I could,” he said, turning back into the store and disappearing behind our focal wall.

“Well Phillip, let’s go get that coffee you promised me,” Stacey said.

“Alright,” I said, and then we slowly started walking through the empty mall towards the food court. Some point halfway I absently grabbed Stacey’s hand without realizing it.

“Wow, that felt very natural when you did that, almost like a key fitting into a lock,” she said, looking down at my hand.

“Yeah, I did it without thinking,” I said, feeling the softness of her hand.

Once we had our coffee and pastries, we both sat down in the back corner and watched the dimly lit parking lot slowly come to life with the rising sun. Because we were both so tired, we didn’t even speak until we finished with our pastries.

“So Stacey, I told you what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but you never told me what you wanted to do,” I said, looking into her calm eyes.

“Oh, I haven’t really thought too much about it, but I do have ambitions of becoming an artist,” Stacey said.

“What kind of art?” I asked.

“Well, I like playing the piano, painting on canvas, drawing, and writing,” Stacey said.

“Wow, so you must have a lot of creativity bubbling up in your head,” I said.

“Yeah, usually when I get home I change into more comfortable clothing and then I sit down and start drawing…usually it is things I have seen here or things which I dream of,” she said.

“I see, have you written anything good?” I asked.

“Not really, I usually get an idea but then lose my inspiration partway in,” she said.

“Sounds like maybe you need a muse or a person to brainstorm with,” I said.

“Yes…Phillip, did you want to come over to my place after this?” she asked.

“Sure Stacey, I will need to head back to my place to clean up and change, but if you give me your address I can come over straight away,” I said.

“Good, for some reason I don’t want to be parted from you,” she said.

“Me neither, do you have a spare key I can use?” I asked.

“Sure, here it is,” she said, digging into her purse and handing me a small key.

“Thanks, I won’t lose it,” I said.

“I know you won’t, and I expect you to give me a spare key to your place,” she said.

“Of course,” I smiled.

So, when we finished with our coffees, we slowly walked back to Sears, chatted with our coworkers who were not helping customers, and then walked back out to our cars. I had never paid attention to what Stacey drove, but I could now see that she drove a red Ford Focus. After she drove off, I headed to my apartment complex and quickly cleaned up and redressed in a casual pair if sweats with a navy blue t-shirt. Grabbing my laptop bag again, I put on my jacket and then headed over to Stacey’s address, which looked to be a small residential neighborhood a few minutes away.

When I pulled into her small court, I saw her red car parked in front of her house, as well as another car.

Parking next to hers, I slowly got out of my car and then walked up to her front door. Before I could pull out the spare key, the door suddenly opened.

Instead of Stacey, it was a middle aged man with a gentle look.

“Are you Phillip?” he asked, speaking in a calm voice.

“Yes, who are you?” I asked.

“I am Dr. Miller, Stacey’s father…come inside before we attract too much attention,” he said, beckoning me inside.

Once I was inside, he locked the door and then led me into the living room, where Stacey stood deactivated.

“So, are you the one who built her?” I asked, looking at her frozen body; she looked as though she was just about to head into the shower.

“Yes, I was unable to save my daughter, so I had to build a new one…complete with the original’s memories,” he said, walking back over to her and pulling her skull off.

“I was able to fix her, if that is what brought you here,” I said, setting my bag down.

“I know, her diagnostic mode sent me a message telling me all about your experience with cybernetics, even though you aren’t out of school yet,” he said, fiddling around in her head.

“I see, then why are you here?” I asked.

“Because I wanted to see for myself how good you are, and to see if you are appropriate for my daughter. It seems she has bonded with you in a way I never expected…you must have a very compatible personality,” he said.

“Yes, even our skin seems to get along,” I said.

“This is something which I had hoped might happen, since it rarely even happens with real couples. The fact you are studying cybernetics really makes me happy, because if I die then there is no one else in the world who will know Stacey is an android,” he said.

“You mean your company didn’t build her?” I asked.

“No, I built her in a private lab with my own time and money. This is actually her second body, since the first she was only able to use for ages 15-19,” he told me.

“I see, and has she always been this friendly?” I asked.

“Yes, which is why it was so tragic when she died in that accident,” he said.

“So, are you confident in my repair work?” I asked, seeing him examine virtually every component in her open head.

“Yes, now I just want to show you one more thing before you can gain my full trust,” he said, and then he pressed a few buttons inside her skull and then peeled her face off as though it were a mask. Once it got down to her chin, he let it hang down. Beneath Stacey’s beautiful face was a marvelous array of machinery. Her realistic eyes were still inside, but nose and lips were dangling below her chin. The skin of her robotic face was smooth and shiny, with moveable areas so she could have a full array of facial expressions. Her perfect teeth were also in full view, no longer shielded by her lips.

“Wow, she doesn’t look all that different,” I said, getting a closer look.

“And that is the answer I wanted to hear, not some kid freaked out or looking for an opportunity to take advantage of her, but someone who can accept her for what she is and protect her from it,” he said, sealing her face back up and putting her skull back on.

“Well, the way I figure is that I would look just as out of place without my face…probably a bit scarier, so why should she be any different?” I asked.

“Well, I now trust you with her secret,” he said, gently stroking her face before pulling a remote from his pocket.

“You still built a remote for her?” I asked.

“Yes, having a sleeper model is very tricky. This remote allows me to alter her senses so I can enter without her noticing…I am modifying it now so she will continue with what she was doing without noticing our presence,” he said, and then after a few seconds he pointed it at her. Almost as though we were invisible, Stacey continued into her bedroom as though she hadn’t just been paused where she closed the door. A few seconds later, the shower turned on.

“Okay, she’ll probably be out in about 15-minutes…she really was looking forward to your arrival. Take that time to go over these notes so you can be fully apprised to her situation,” Dr. Miller said, handing me a USB thumb drive and the remote before heading to the door.

“Thanks, I won’t let you down,” I said.

“I know you won’t…I hope you two get married, it will be the happiest thing to happen to me in a long time,” he said, and then he silently walked out the door, leaving me sitting on Stacey’s couch.

While Stacey cleaned up, I perused through the notes her father left me. He had written everything about her sleeper protocols, including the fact that she would shut down if she were damaged, but she could still be online even if her head was removed…she just wouldn’t pay any attention to her nature. I was just about finished skimming through the notes when I heard the shower turn off. After I heard her fiddling around with her cabinets, and dry her hair, she left her bathroom. Less than five minutes later, she came back out wearing a simple t-shirt and a pair of loose fitting sweats; her hair was still the same as before and she was barefoot.

“Oh good, you made it,” she said, walking over to me with a smile.

“Yes, your red car wasn’t too hard to spot,” I said, setting my laptop down and moving aside so she could sit next to me.

“Were you waiting long?” she asked, sitting down next to me.

“No,” I said.

“Good, and now you get to see my feet,” she said, putting her bare feet up on the table and wiggling her toes.

“Wow, your feet look as good as I expected them to,” I said, liking them better now they were moving.

“Thanks, I knew you would like them,” she smiled.

“I like how you don’t paint your nails, I hate it when I see a nice foot and then it has painted nails,” I said.

“Well, I only like painting canvas, not myself,” she said, pointing at a few painting she had hanging up on her walls. Since I was distracted when I came in, I did not notice her artwork spread around her home. Her art seemed based on everyday things, such as benches, garbage cans and ambience.

“Wow, did you do all of these?” I asked, getting up to get a better look at them.

“Yes, I get inspired by lots of things, so I take a picture with my phone and then use the images here,” she said.

“Do you do any portraits?” I asked, not seeing any people.

“Rarely, it’s harder to capture a perfect moment with a person than it is for an inanimate object,” she said, walking me down the hallway into her kitchen, where she had a few more paintings, as well as some pottery.

“I take it you do pottery as well,” I said.

“Yes, I actually have a kiln in the backyard for glazing,” she said.

“I’m curious, do you own the house outright?” I asked.

“Yes, when my mother died, she left me quite a bit of money…and dad was already highly paid for his work in computer science,” Stacey explained.

“Wow, I moved out of my parent’s house less than a year ago and all I have is a small apartment,” I said.

“Well, maybe when we have been dating for a while longer you can move in with me,” Stacey said.

“That would be nice,” I said, taking in the beauty all around me.

“So, did you want me to make you one of my special omelets?” she asked.

“Sure, I think I’ve burned off that pastry by now,” I said.

“Me too, take a seat while I get started,” she said, and then she started pulling out a bunch of cooking utensils.

“So, you cook too?” I asked.

“Yes, I have to now that I live alone…I’m pretty good,” she smiled, cracking a few eggs over a bowl.

“I didn’t inherit my father’s cooking skills unfortunately, I got my mother’s cleaning skills,” I said.

“I can tell, I never have to worry when I open the day after you close,” she said, mixing a few ingredients in with the eggs.

“Yeah, I find it calming,” I said.

“Really, then why do you mutter a lot?” she asked.

“Well, I like cleaning, but most of it is easily preventable if customers would be more careful with the clothes,” I said.

“Yeah, but then we wouldn’t have a job,” Stacey said, pouring the eggs into the pan.

“I know,” I said.

Once the omelets were finished, Stacey cut it in half so we could both have an equal share. She poured us both a glass of orange juice and then we started talking about our thoughts of one another before today while we ate.

When we finished eating, we sat at the table talking for a few more minutes before Stacey started to clean up.

“That was a delicious omelet Stacey,” I said, handing her my plate.

“Thanks, I’ve never cooked for anyone before,” she said, putting the plates in the sink and rinsing them off.

“Well, you could be a chef if you wanted,” I said, wiping myself with my napkin and throwing it away.

“I don’t know if that would work too well, I felt more comfortable cooking today because I knew I was also cooking for you,” she said, putting the dishes in the dishwasher and walking over to me.

“You know Stacey, when I first saw you it was love at first sight…I didn’t believe in it until then,” I admitted.

“I felt something as well, but I didn’t realize what it was until last night when I was with you in that small stockroom,” She said, getting closer to me.

“Stacey, I love you,” I said, her face now inches from mine.

“I love you too Phillip,” she said, and then we had our first real kiss.

After what seemed like an eternity, we pulled away from one another and stared into each other’s eyes before walking back into the living room and sitting down on the couch. This time, I laid down with her lying right in front of me. After we snuggled a little, we both fell into a light nap…both exhausted from the night in the stockroom.


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