Climbing the stairs is like walking up a fucking pyramid, all geometry and lower back pain. I am too big for this world. My ankles sit at unnatural angles and it’s a miracle that the thermodynamics of my body don’t give my calves cramps so bad that they snap like the overwound strings of a guitar.
But it’s also only like twenty feet, so, you know. Whatever.
I make my way over to the fitness center, the sound of clanging metal and impressed oohs and aahs filling the air. Someone’s trying to show off by lifting heavy things and then putting them back down again. I kind of wish I’d thought of that, but then I’d have to talk to people. No sense in impressing myself.
I swing open the door and there’s a couple I’ve never seen before fucking on the bench press station, the man lying on his back and the woman riding him, her hand on the barbell. My stomach jumps inside me and my face twists in disgust.
They didn’t even bother to take the bar off the thing and the bench is terribly narrow. The whole thing’s dangerous and impractical. The villa’s full of far more sensible places to have exhibitionist sex in. Honestly, if you’re going to do a thing like this, you might as well do it right.
The door slams shut behind me, the noise loud enough to get the attention of the two lovers. They stop mid-bounce, the man craning his head up to look at me, the woman twisting and looking over her shoulder.
“Dude!” he shouts. “Get the fuck out!”
I shrug, walk over to the auto-doc in the corner. “Please re-rack the weights and wipe down the equipment when you’re done using it.”
“Get the fuck out!” he shouts, louder this time. The woman is silent, either shocked and embarrassed beyond words or else a paragon of restraint relative to the man.
I am neither of those things. I spin on my heels and take a deep breath, exhale forcefully. My words spill out of my mouth, thick as oil, punctuated by spittle and snorting, a bear given utterance. “You are real fucking mouthy for somebody naked and on their back. Why don’t you try being polite before I come over there, bash your skull in, and give your corpse the kind of fucking you couldn’t give her if your life depended on it, huh?”
The man’s eyes go wide, his mouth silent. The woman snorts, stifles laughter. Whatever bestial spirit possessed me disappears just as quickly. Probably about as quickly as the tough guy’s erection. I turn back to the auto-doc, activate it, wait for it to boot up. Behind me, I can hear muttering, apologies, the sound of people putting on clothes, the door opening and shutting. It’s not until that click fills the air that the blue LED face shows up in front of me. Like it was waiting.
“Welcome back, Sir,” it says with a smile. “What can I do for you? Ringer’s Lactate again? A small dose of caffeine, perhaps? Or did you just want someone to listen to you for a little bit.”
I’ve already forgotten why I came in here. All I can think about is the couple I chased off. What’s that guy going to do once his embarrassment and his pride overcome his fear? Come after me, maybe. Get his buddies, maybe. I might have to fight. I need to be sharp.
“Yeah,” I say, my voice coming out like a croak. “Stim. Long-lasting. Nothing too heavy, though. And, uh, my knuckles hurt. Topical anesthetic, please. Also long-lasting”
The LED face stops smiling. It looks at me with lidded eyes and thin line for a mouth, the digital equivalent of a look of profound skepticism. “Well. That’s sort of an odd request.”
“You offered me caffeine.”
“I meant the anesthetic. Why do your knuckles hurt? When did this begin? On a scale of one to ten, how would you describe the pain?”
“Ten. It’s the worst pain of my life. I think I’m going to die if you don’t give me a mild but enduring topical anesthetic for my knuckles.”
“Sir. Just because my screen wasn’t on doesn’t mean I didn’t take an interest in your conversation with the lady and the gentleman who were in copulating earlier. I know what you want the anesthetic for.”
My breath catches in my throat. A cold sweat breaks out on my skin. I could try and keep myself calm and collected, but this damn thing’s a robotic daughter. I’m sure it has cameras capable of reading my pulse and determining whether or not I’m lying by the fact that my face is flushing and its temperature has increased by a half of a degree. “Oh, yeah?”
“Yes. You’re going to rub it on your genitals in an attempt to prevent premature ejaculation.”