“A few hundred years ago and arcologies like these would have been branded as the wistful daydream of some architect with too much imagination,” Dawn commented as the lift rose up through the floors.
“Not hard to understand why,” I said, staring out the glass window.
After three stressful days of packing and preparation, it was finally time to move into our new apartment. Well, ‘finally’ in the scale of our relationship anyway. Dawn and I had moved pretty fast, if you discounted the fact we’d known one another almost our whole lives.
The apartment that Izetta had given us was located about halfway up the inner wall of Arcology Elpis. It wasn’t as big as some of the other arcologies, but when you were talking about the scale of a building with its own ecosystem and weather system, size was just a tad meaningless.
Like all the others, Elpis was a massive dome, the walls of which contained everything from apartments to shopping malls and everything in between. The floor of the mammoth building was an artificial wilderness that extended to the central pillar. That pillar held the huge transparent ceiling up and housed the offices of everyone charged with maintaining such a colossal structure.
Dawn gave a snort. “Not hard to understand why people were pissed off either. Nature is nice and all, but that’s a lot of empty space down there.”
“Didn’t like, three hundred people die in the riots?” I asked, turning away from the window.
“When the first one was built?” she asked, glancing over at me. “Yeah. My grandfather made a huge amount of money selling riot gear.”
I winced. “I assume that if we end up… you know… uh…” I faltered, realising where my mouth had taken me. Marriage was a little… well, it was just kind of way too soon for me. Especially after Kristina and her constant nagging over that particular question.
Dawn searched my eyes for several moments as my cheeks heated, and embarrassment forced me to turn away. I immediately began to run through several dumb ways to cover for my slip up, but my mind blanked when I found myself pulled into an embrace. She head cuddled up next to mine and my nerves fled, replaced by relief and trust.
“Dawn Heaton, you mean?” she asked softly.
I gave a little nod.
“Maybe someday, that would be nice,” she told me, shifting to kiss my temple. “Lots of living to get through before it becomes a reality though. I’ll just have to bear the name of my warmongering ancestors a little longer.”
My heart disintegrated, melting into a puddle over just how incredible my girlfriend was. I loved her so much.
“Okay,” I murmured, leaning into her stable, loving arms. I spent a lot of time being strong and punching things, but out here in reality I was just a girl. So yeah, being able to feel protected and loved, it was pretty fucking great. Plus, I could be the big strong girl that held and protected her in CORA.
The lift slid to a stop with us still cuddled together, and when we didn’t leave, it let out a confused little pinging noise.
Some SAI somewhere was all like, get out of my lift damn it!
Finally stepping out, we were greeted by a quiet and well maintained lobby. Blue carpet covered the floor, its pleasing geometric pattern leading to the reception where a woman was just looking up at us.
Giving us a smile, she said, “Are you Tami and Dawn?”
I nodded, stepping forward before my girlfriend was forced into social interaction. “Yeah that’s us.”
“Izetta called to say she would be late, a meeting is keeping her,” the receptionist explained. “Feel free to take a seat. Let me know if you need anything. Coffee, tea, whatever your beverage of choice happens to be.”
“Coffee would be awesome,” I blurted, my whole brain perking up at the idea. “Two sugars and enough milk that I can’t see the bottom of the cup. Thank you so much!”
Dawn laughed beside me, hand falling affectionately on my shoulder. “Me too, thanks. Except no sugar.”
While she went off to get us some coffee, we went and sat down on the designer faux leather sofa nearby and settled in to wait for Miss Important Business Lady. Of course, late for Izetta meant a whole four minutes. I counted.
“Hello,” she said, flashing us her perfect smile. “Sorry I’m late, had to bust some balls.”
“No problem, the receptionist is making us coffee!” I said happily.
“My girlfriend is a woman of simple pleasures,” Dawn chuckled fondly. “Anyway, don’t want to keep you waiting. I assume our stuff is already up there?”
Izetta gave my coffee outburst a funny look, but she covered it up quickly and nodded, “Yes. I had the porter bots bring it up an hour ago. I really hope that you like the place.”
“It can’t be worse than basic housing,” I said wryly.
Izetta pulled a face. “That is a very low bar. But yes, let me show you around.”
She was interesting in person, taller than you might expect after only seeing her through a camera. Tall but also thin from a pure width perspective, as though she’d been squeezed slightly. It was actually to the point that more shallow minded people might consider her to be less attractive for it. I can definitely imagine the corporate types she worked with to view it like that.
“You own the whole complex, right?” Dawn asked as we made our way past the reception desk and into a hallway. The receptionist intercepted us there, handing us each our coffees, along with one for Izetta.
“Thanks, Marge,” our guide said to the woman before taking a sip from the cup she’d just been handed.
“Yes, we own the complex,” Izetta nodded after a moment. “Most people who live here are employees of the company. I live here, actually. Several floors up, but I live here.”
Dawn gave her a knowing smile. “Up where you wanted us to live.”
“Yeah.” We arrived at the apartment before Izetta could go on, but it was clear she had more to say on the subject. “However, this is the apartment you chose instead.”
“Looks nicer than my parent’s place, even,” I said, and I meant it.
The front door opened into a spacious entryway where shoes and other crap like that could be kept. It wasn’t overly gaudy or anything, but you could tell that it was all top notch build quality and that kind of thing.
Beyond that entryway was a large living space that held the kitchen, living room, and office areas. The first two were situated on the ground, while the office area was up on a raised little platform. The back of the studio was one massive window, and my breath caught when I saw the view. Holy shit. We could see out over the whole interior of the arcology.
“You’ll find another, cozier living space up those stairs,” Izetta said lightly, pointing to our left. “It’s above the entryway and kitchen. The master bedroom and guest bedrooms are both up there too, along with a bathroom. The master bedroom has a walk-in closet and an en-suite. That bathroom has the big tub I told you about, Dawn. Same one up in my place actually, and let me tell you… that thing is amazing. I swear I’d be only half as productive at work without my nightly soaks.”
The whole place was the epitome of a modern apartment. Plush carpets, massive sofas that looked like they might swallow you, stainless steel with a soft matte finish, and of course the heated windows. Honestly, it was kind of perfect for me. High quality, but small enough to be usable and comfy. I bet the bed was amazing too.
“This is actually really nice,” Dawn mused, spinning in the center of the large room with a growing smile. “I hated my parents house with all its fucking marble.”
“Yeah,” Izetta laughed, perching on the back of one of the sofas. “Generation T is so weird like that.”
“It’s like they were all collectively infected with an obsession for greek and roman architecture,” Dawn agreed, flopping down into the same sofa that our newest corporate friend was sitting on. “I mean that in a weird high school fashy nerd type way, not a kindly, old classics teacher kind of way.”
“I had one like that stalk me back in the day,” Izetta replied. “I think it was middle school. My brother took him aside for a chat one day and… well, yeah. Something tells me it was a very physical chat.”
“I’m surprised the kid made it out of that chat with functioning kneecaps, knowing your family,” I laughed as I sat down next to Dawn. Oh, yep. This sofa was fucking great.
Izetta laughed. “No, we aren’t like that anymore. We maintain the reputation because it’s useful, but no. We break their spirits and their futures instead.”
“Jesus,” Dawn said, giving me a scaaarrryyyy look.
Our new patron gave us both a wink. “Well, now that you understand all that, I’m going to head out. I’m not a real estate agent after all, so I’m sure you can explore the place at your leisure. Your stuff is in that storage room over on the right, pod room next to it. You’ll be using new pods provided by us, by the way. Part of the whole sponsorship deal.”
“Oh, you’re going to head out already?” I blinked, a little perturbed. I kinda liked her and she sounded like she could use a few more down to earth friends.
“Yes,” she said, letting out a world-weary sigh. “I have work.”
“Alright…” I said evenly, and we said goodbye from the sofa, still sipping our coffees.
Dawn and I sat in silence for a long while, just enjoying each other’s presence and the calm that our new home brought. Even the sound proofing was top notch, which meant that the silence was true silence. Just us.
Except, I knew I’d have to break that silence soon enough.
“Hello?” I asked the room at large. “House AI, have we been authorised yet?”
The response came from a smooth and genderless default voice. “Yes, I am at your service.”
“Can you give full access to the house systems to the IDs that I’m pushing now?” I asked, pulling my phone out and doing the little flicky gesture on it to send the appropriate information.
“Access has been granted,” the AI said after a few moments.
“Who?” Dawn asked curiously.
I shrugged and settled in against her side. “Just May and Ryana.”
“Ah, good plan,” she nodded, and that was that. We were living together officially now.