Thank you again to everyone who helped me with my comment issue here. I’ve written some flash fiction as a reward. It’s set in the world of Incognito, a romance/mystery story I wrote a few years ago. Warning: the original story has NSFW content (m/m sexual content), but you don’t need to read it to understand this flash story.
Pike draped himself over Nelly’s chair. “Ooh, shiny and new.” The headset looked painfully delicate. Microfilament lines tentacled out from a behind-the-ear clip. Pike reached for the waving transparent threads.
An electric soldering iron snapped at him like a shock gun. “Hands off, puppy,” Nelly grumbled. Her soft shoulders hunched forward and she had her face-mounted display almost touching the exposed chips. The only sound was the whirr of camera lenses shifting focus.
“If I’m going to run errands for Morgan while she’s off on a case, I should get a reward,” Pike whined. He had been waiting hours for Nelly to finish working. He knew she didn’t eat or sleep like a normal person–he had spent most of those hours sitting on her closed stasis chamber–but come on. “Don’t you at least need someone to, to field test that?”
Nelly’s computerized eyes turned on Pike, rendered on-screen as nothing more than dashes. “Keep talking.”
Pike shuffled his feet and rubbed his arms to keep warm. Still dripping wet from the lake, he shivered in Nelly’s cold server room. Nelly made whimpering noises as she applied emergency drying powder to the headset’s circuits. “I’m sorry, baby. You weren’t meant for this kind of mistreatment.”
“Hey, I’m the one who had to jump three stories into a lake after the thief.” Morgan had taken one look at the sparking headset when he wrenched it away from his ear and ordered him back to Nelly. Not so much as a “good work,” either. “This job is the worst.” Nelly only grunted, but he took that as agreement.
Pike gingerly handed over the headset. The microfilaments curled into blackened spirals. “She had a flamethrower, okay? Built into her arms. If I had any hair or didn’t have self-repairing nanites for skin, I would be roasted. Be glad it was me instead of Morgan or Alistair.”
Nelly’s display switched from black to red. The volcano icons in place of her usual zero eyes were an impressive touch, too. He backed out of the room to let her work.
“I have video proof this wasn’t my fault,” Pike shouted the next time he got permission to enter Nelly’s computer citadel. “Off-world life forms with acidic goo are not my fault.”
Nelly snatched the hunk of half melted hardware from him. “Upload the video from the hospital. Morgan just pinged me–Alistair is out of surgery.” Pike fled out the door before she could say or do anything else. He told himself he only hurried to get to his boyfriend’s side, not to escape Nelly.
“What’s this?” Pike held the familiar headset in one careful palm. He recognized it, but after the last time, Nelly had refused to give him another prototype.
“First one off the assembly at Epiphany Media. I sold the finished design to Alistair’s daddy. Made a mint, too, since that video you sent helped it get off-world compatibility certification. Consider that payment for services rendered.”
“But I just kept breaking them. I hardly ever got to use it.”
“Baby, what do you think beta testers are for? And you’re the best one I’ve had. Good work.” Pike fitted the new headset in place. There were worse jobs, he thought.