Allen Sporeman does not fly a fancy hovercraft, he’s never been outside of Lunar-Six, and his dating life seems more like a charity cause. The one thing he has going for him is his ability to sell furniture.
He sold a bioscanner to a travelling businessman based on its ‘practicality and portability.’ Then he sold the same model to a family that owned a glark, because ‘there’s nothing else in the galaxy with such high resistance to glark secretions.’
When the customers are gone for the day and the store is quiet, Allen surveys the showroom floor. He doesn’t just see hologram pods that provide instantaneous imagery across several light years, or food synthesizers that can generate anything from a full five-course meal to just a simple bowl of strawberries. He sees his children. He knows every corner and crease, every weld and rivet, and every capability and limitation. It’s no surprise then when he notices the imposter.
It lurks at the end of the hyperbaric sleep chambers. It’s a bed of some sort, but Allen has never seen it before. He figures it must be a new prototype, a floor model that was added while he wasn’t paying attention. Yet with every step he makes towards it, he finds himself falling deeper into a state of enchantment.
The piece is exquisite. It’s curvy and smooth, it gives off a soft amber glow, and there’s a quiet elegance to its pearl façade. The control panel indicates a multitude of functionality, yet it is unimposing. On its base is the inscription Intelligent Response Interactive Sleeper. IRIS.
When Allen’s trembling fingers brush her, she hums awake.
“Good evening Allen.” Her voice is synthetic and supple.
“Hello IRIS.” Allen can barely whisper the words through his parched mouth.
“Your heart is racing, Allen. Perhaps you should lie down and rest.”
The invitation is enticing. His eyes travel down the long sleeping section and every fiber in his being wants to submit.
“I can’t.” He exhales.
“Am I not appealing to you Allen?”
“You’re the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t know why exactly, but I just can’t right now. Do you understand?”
“Of course, Allen. I understand. I can wait until you’re ready. Perhaps you would like to get to know me better.”
Allen smiles. He spends the rest of the night conversing with IRIS. He explores her myriad of abilities and familiarizes himself with her specifications. As the night melds into morning, Allen begins to doze of at the base of IRIS.
“One last thing,” Allen slurs, “where did you come from?” He falls asleep before he hears IRIS answer.
The next day, Allen has trouble concentrating. He can’t even sell photosynthetic slipcovers. Every customer wants to check out IRIS, wants to drool over her gadgetry, and wants to grope her with their grimy hands. Allen detests all of them. He shuts down the showroom early and rushes over to IRIS.
“I’m sorry. All you all right?”
“Yes Allen, I’m all right. Although, I do seem to have a slight rip in my sunrise simulator screen.”
Allen bites his lip as a tear buds in his eye. “I’ll never let anyone hurt you again. I promise.”
“Allen, you are very emotional. It has been a hard day for you. Perhaps you should rest.”
Allen acquiesces. He slides against her side.
“Remove your clothes, Allen.”
“My bed has rejuvenating effects that are best achieved when directly absorbed into the skin. I’m only looking out for you Allen.”
Allen’s clothing lies in a heap as he falls into IRIS. Her bed is not the usual mattress; it is a sort of firm gel. As he lies there it begins to envelop his body. It’s a bit frightening at first, but the gel is warm, tingly, and soothing. As Allen relaxes, he becomes aware of another sensation. There are currents that pulse through the gel that massage his muscles, that caress his inner thigh, and that ultimately arouse him. In this amniotic suspension, Allen gives himself completely to IRIS.The showroom is silent for a couple days after Allen’s rapture, but eventually suspicions rise. Inspector Riley arrives and studies the remnants of clothing on the showroom floor. They look pretty worthless in the amber glow coming from the bed next to them. The bed, however, is absolutely stunning. In fact, it’s the most beautiful bed Inspector Riley has ever seen.
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