Day 1 - 31:87

"Hullo. We're assigned to work the Underpipes together. You can call me Briggs." I extended my hand out accompanied by a smile. The chatter in the dim pub did little to cover the faltering in my voice.

The woman brushed jet black hair out of her face and looked up at me with matching dark eyes.

"That's funny, I didn't know we were supposed to make up names. If I were you, I'd try a little harder than Briggs. It sounds like the main character of a bad sci-fi movie. I'll just call you Sally. See you tonight." She stood up abruptly, gently pushing my hand out of the way. She walked out of the pub without looking back, leaving me dumbfounded. She didn't even bother to finish her drink. A few lowlifes in the corner snickered at my expense. I took a seat at her table and pretended to check my Memax, avoiding the moment as best I could. Little things like that got to me. It wasn't like I should have expected any different from her though. A few of the guys back in the pen told me when I got assigned that Kira was a hopeless endeavor, but of course, that didn't stop me from making a fool of myself.

I spent the next few minutes finishing the setup on my Memax. When they first gave it back to me this morning, I didn't even want to put it on, so I figured a few hours off the grid wouldn't hurt anybody.

Do you agree to let the RSIA record your location, vitals, and brain activity? Please keep in mind that answering "no" will result in an immediate termination of your citizenship.

A wonderful reminder scanned across my inner eye. I selected "yes" again, despite the little voice in my head screaming no. The "recovery agents" in the pen always justified the RSIA's involvement in citizen monitoring as a safety precaution. Maybe in my case, it was good they picked me up before I reached his house. But either way, I didn't like knowing I was on the drives with keyboard monkeys writing code to check my every move for suspicious behavior. I closed down the interface and finished off Kira's fruity drink. It was the sweetest thing I'd tasted in five years. The pen was like a bland vacation. I had a bed, activities, exercise, even socialization any time I wanted it. I almost missed the clockwork of the place. Almost.

Day 1 - 39:27

"Kira?" I leaned into the dark room. I didn't hear anyone. I was three minutes early but Kira struck me as the type to be prompt. I walked in and the lights faded on. The room was empty except a small, sturdy table in the center. There was a folder on the table, resting underneath a hand-sized crawler droid. I looked back out the door, up and down the hall. The ceiling was far from vision, obscured by large pipes. Hundreds of doors lined either side of the hall, each marked with a large number. I looked up at my door's number: 341. I quickly checked my Memax's notes to make sure I had it right. Not wearing one of those things for a few years really let my eyes get out of shape. They were tired already and it was just barely midnight. I was in the right door. Where was Kira? I turned to look down the other direction.

"Don't look so surprised to see me." Kira stood before me. She made it exactly on time—didn't she know missing her first assignment would mean she'd be right back in the pen? She briskly walked inside past me. I followed.

The room's thick metal walls reminded me of incarceration and crime. Kira leaned over playfully and flicked the crawler robot on the table until it popped open.

The bot emitted a high pitched synthesized voice: Kira Eliani identified. Jeremy Briggs identified.

"His name is Sally, little robot." Kira flashed a smile at me. Ever think someone is smiling at themselves when they smile at you? It was a nice smile though.

The bot droned on without pause: You have been assigned to search the Underpipes with a V-867 for possible leaks. Please apply signature to the forms provided and proceed to hanger 12 now. Note that any failure to comply will result in instant termination of your citizenship and possible re-incarceration."

We both leaned in and fingerprinted the forms.

Day 2 - 00:35

"Look at that..." Kira pointed out the front window of our V-867. I leaned over and looked up to where she was pointing.

"What do you think?" She looked at me with her dark golden hazel eyes. I wasn't fit to resist, or to remain calm. The cramped hover ship rattled as she floated us in front of the leaking pipe. I paused.

"Yeah, here, I'll get the.. the uh.." I trailed off as I reached back over my seat for the pad with report forms. "Here, okay, where are we?" Being in the pen around only guys for so long really hurt my way with women.

Her eyebrows were scrunched together, and the corners of her mouth arched downward. She looked serious, almost more serious than I initially thought was possible of her. Then I realized she was play-acting and her concern was just a thin layer on top of her normal cynical self. She was making fun of me.

"We're in the Arronaun district, sector fifteen, cell six. That's A-R-R-O-N-," I cut her off.

"Yeah, yeah, I got it."

"Oh well, sorry. Just trying to make sure we get everything right. This is very important work." She smiled slightly before falling back into her serious act.

I nodded, deciding not to let her bait me so easily. "I got it, let's keep moving."

Day 2 - 08:52

I fell face forward on to the bed in my newly rented apartment. It was more like a cell than an apartment, which actually kind of worked for me. The walls were plain, the ceiling was low, and the so-called kitchen was just a dispenser and a cooker nested in the wall near the door. The best part of this place, and the only real comfort to me, was the lock was on the inside of the door.

I rolled on to my back and let my mind wander. Kira proved to be an overly playful but rather talented pilot. Not until now did I realize I felt at ease with her flying the craft. I wasn't exactly looking forward to more assignments with her though. She spent the entire time testing me, poking at every possible weakness in my character. I got a little mad at myself for thinking about her, turned on my side, and fell asleep. My Memax logged my beta waves as they increased, uploading blip after blip.

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