She arrived at ‘scent’ five minutes late to discover that her date wasn’t there either. After another five minutes had passed and there was still no sign of the guy or word from him on her Conncomm, a ball of anger and frustration began to form in the pit of her stomach. She thought of the advice her father had given her once, the advice that had inspired some of PAT’s own programming: if you need the other person to be there, you show up five minutes early. If they need you there, you show up five minutes late.
As her Conncomm marked fifteen minutes passing and Jasmine began to wonder if some terrible fate had befallen her would-be date, a man walked in with glowing blue eyes, a robotic earpiece, a throat microphone, and an expression on his face like someone had just shit their pants in front of him. Oh, God, she thought. He’s a gear head.
The man navigated around the tables and patrons of ‘scent’ with the practiced ease of someone used to spending their time divided between two worlds. His vision was locked firmly ahead, his attention fixed on whatever data was being relayed to his smart lenses, the whole thing giving him the demeanor of a machine being piloted remotely. He reached the center of the restaurant and a single eye stopped glowing. He turned in place like some kind of ancient radar dish, doubtless looking for Jasmine. She shrunk into her seat, her eyes nervously glancing around seeing the irritation and judgment on the faces of the people around her. Even in a world where everyone had computers in their brains, their attention focused on screens, robotic servants catering to their every whim, there was something downright rude about being a gear head. It was like, come on, just upload your mind to a cloud and drop out of the world already.
The man’s eyes locked onto her, his head snapping towards her with mechanical intensity. Maybe he was programmed to see her movement, some kind of technological predator, but that thought was silly and vaguely insensitive. The blue glow returned to his free eye (Rude!) and he made his way towards her table.
Alright, then. Sit up straight, look him in the eyes, smile. Confidence, confidence, confidence.
“You Jasmine?” he asked as he stood over her, his gaze directed at her but not seeing her.
“I am,” she replied brightly. She smiled. She held out her hand to shake his. She tried to recall the things she had read on his profile, his hobbies, his interests. “You must be Ti–”
“Alright,” he said, pulling out the chair and dropping into it like dead weight. “Let’s make this quick.”
And it only went downhill from there.