[Faye and Bubbles are lying side by side in bed, staring upwards.]
BUBBLES: You said once not to ask you what you are thinking.
FAYE: Yeah, 'cause usually I'm thinkin' how much I hate that question.
BUBBLES: But it seems that something is on your mind.
FAYE: I'm worryin' about tomorrow. What if everything goes wrong?
BUBBLES: Everything is in place. We have arranged for every contingency.
FAYE: But what if Dora gets mad at me, or Hanners has a stress meltdown, or Pintsize blows it all up?
BUBBLES: Dora is not mad at you.
FAYE: I know.
BUBBLES: Hannelore is surprisingly capable.
BUBBLES: And Pintsize does not have a fraction of my offensive or defensive capabilities.
FAYE: You're not helping.
[Exterior of a shop with a large front window bearing the inscription “Cognoscentea: A Tea House for Everyone”. The inscription is flanked by a smiling robot face and a smiling human face, drawn in an endearingly awkward and cartoonish style. Over the door hangs a metal sign in the shape of a teacup, partly obscured by a banner reading “GRAND OPENING”. Hannelore, wearing a full hazmat suit, is polishing the lower right corner of the window as Bubbles and Faye approach. Faye has keys in her hand.]
BUBBLES: Good morning, Hannelore.
FAYE: Hi Hanners! Ready for our big day?
HANNELORE: Yes! I was just giving the window one last shine! It will be the shiniest window!
BUBBLES: It is fortunate that I anticipated that you might do this and told the security AI to expect you.
HANNELORE: Oh, that's fine, Luis and I are already friends!
LUIS, speaking through a small speaker over the door: I haven't seen Miss Ellicott-Chatham since I moved down here from the station! We've been catching up.
BUBBLES: It appears I may need to increase security levels.
[Interior of the shop. There is a counter with a cash register. A chalkboard hangs on the wall. It's all very similar to the setup at Coffee of Doom. Bubbles, Faye, and Hannelore are standing in front of the counter. Hannelore is removing her suit hood.]
BUBBLES: May I ask why you are wearing protective gear?
HANNELORE: I wanted to make sure I didn't get any accidental splashes of window cleaner on my outfit.
[HANNELORE stands in a white jumpsuit decorated all over with the letter T in different typefaces and colors. "Garish" is too kind a word for it.]
FAYE, squinting: Well, that's topical.
HANNELORE: If I spill tea on it, no one will notice!
FAYE: Did you just make a joke about spilling things? Are you Hanners or a pod person?
HANNELORE: I'll have a panic attack in a minute but it was worth it for the pun!
[Exterior of the shop. Momo is opening the door; May is hanging back.]
MAY: You know I don't like being around other AIs. Hell, I barely like being around myself.
MOMO: It's time you acquired some rudimentary social skills. Bubbles and Faye are our friends and we support our friends.
MAY: I hate it when you pull that forced-teaming shit. Just 'cause you feel some obligation to show up for things like this doesn't mean I gotta be here.
MOMO: I will attempt to use terms you understand. Faye and Bubbles protected you from Corpse Witch, saved you from the cops, and rescued you from an extremely dire situation involving three rogue AIs and an EMP. You owe them your ass. Now go inside and smell some tea.
MAY: Did you just say “ass”? For me?
MOMO, blushing furiously: You are an extremely bad influence!
MAY: Hold that facial expression. I'm writin' it to permanent memory.
MOMO: We are going into the shop now
[Interior of the shop. Two AIs are seated at a small table looking at menus. Hannelore, whose jumpsuit is mostly covered by an apron that reads “Kiss the sommelier” with “Please do not” handwritten above “Kiss” in red ink, stands with a tablet and stylus, ready to take their order.]
GREEN AI: The Tropical Vacation sounds interesting, but I'm allergic to palm trees. Can you do more of a tropical jungle sort of thing?
HANNELORE: Absolutely! Are monkeys okay?
GREEN AI: Oh, no, no monkeys, please. I get hinge-glitches.
HANNELORE, writing: No monkeys, got it!
GREEN AI: In fact, no animals at all. I mean, insects are okay, you can't have a jungle without insects. Like crickets and things, for background noise. Not biting insects.
HANNELORE, scribbling: Crickets—no biting—
GREEN AI: Not that insects tend to bite me, I guess because I don't sweat or have pheromones—
PINK AI: And I'll have one Unicorn Visit exactly the way it comes. Sorry about my friend, they're a little delicate.
HANNELORE: Oh, that's all right, I like a challenge!
PINK AI: In that case, the unicorn should have rainbow stripes and pearly hooves and be named Christine.
HANNELORE: Kristine with a K or Christine with a CH?
PINK AI: ...you win.
[Bubbles emerges from the storage room, carrying a large box. Hannelore is standing in front of an array of metal canisters and using an extremely small spoon to measure leaves into a teapot.]
BUBBLES: Here is more of the Space Wormhole blend. I am pleased it is so popular.
HANNELORE: Humans seem to like it too! I thought it was only going to be for smelling.
[Bubbles goes over to the register. Faye is writing on the chalkboard: OPENING DAY SPECIAL: FREE CUP OF SOOTHING MINT WITH EVERY POT OF VERTIGINOUS ROLLER COASTER]
BUBBLES: So far all appears to be proceeding according to plan.
FAYE: Yeah, so far so good, but Dora still isn't here.
BUBBLES: I have received some intelligence suggesting that our coffee rivals will attack shortly.
FAYE: Wait, attack? What?
BUBBLES: Do not be concerned. The security AI will handle it.
[Dora and Tai are standing outside the shop.]
DORA: What do you mean we have to answer a riddle before we can come in?
LUIS: It's an easy riddle! If you have a hard time with it I can give you a hint.
[Faye is behind the counter. Dora and Tai are standing in front of her holding mugs of tea.]
FAYE: You sure you're not mad at me for poachin' Hanners?
DORA: I'd already taught her everything I could about coffee. If she wants to move on to tea, it's not like I could stop her.
FAYE: That doesn't really sound like “not mad.”
DORA: I mean, I'm sad that she's not around Coffee of Doom anymore, but it is a lot quieter—
HANNELORE, rushing past with a teapot: Excuse me please I need to take this unicorn over to table six before the tea cools and it turns into a narwhal!
TAI: Also I twisted Dora's arm until she agreed not to give you crap for it.
DORA: Literally twisted. The bruises were spectacular.
TAI: I said I was sorry!
[Faye stands on a chair, tapping a spoon on a mug. Bubbles and Hannelore stand next to her, not on chairs. Faye is now almost as tall as Bubbles. Several humans and AIs look over at them.]
FAYE: So, uh, I just wanted to thank everyone for comin' out to the opening of Cognoscentea. We're hopin' it'll be a nice place for humans and AIs to hang out together. Me and Bubbles kinda have no idea what we're doing—
BUBBLES: I beg to differ.
FAYE: —and we really appreciate all the friends who've given us advice and helped us get set up and spread the word. Y'all are great.
FAYE: This is Hanners, she's our tea sommelier.
FAYE: Let her know if you have any suggestions for teas you want to drink or smell. And Bubbles will handle any complaints.
FAYE: Trust me, you're safer complainin' to her than tryin' me.
BUBBLES: This is accurate. I have safeguards against doing permanent damage.
[Exterior of the shop, evening. Faye, looking extremely tired, is locking the door while Bubbles folds up the banner. Marten and Claire stand nearby. Marten is holding a large shiny metal cube.]
CLAIRE: That seemed like it went really well! The place was jammed!
BUBBLES: We exceeded my expectations for our first day's take, and I observed a reviewer from the local AI newsletter enjoying a Unicorn Visit. I am pleased.
MARTEN: Is it weird to say I'm proud of you?
FAYE: Nah, it's okay.
MARTEN: I'm proud of you. This place is great.
FAYE: Thanks, Marty, that means a lot.
CLAIRE: Faye, did you make the teacup sign? It looks really cool and retro, like a medieval tavern or something.
FAYE: Yeah, I got some scrap sheet metal from the shop teachers at the university. It felt good to weld again. I've been missin' it ever since I left the auto shop.
FAYE: And there was just enough left over to make the box for Pintsize.
METAL CUBE: I just turned on a flashlight and blinded myself!
MARTEN: I think that's our cue to go home.
[Faye and Bubbles are lying side by side in bed, staring upwards.]
FAYE: I'm exhausted. We have to do that all again tomorrow?
BUBBLES: My strategic analysis of opening week patterns at coffee and tea shops in the region suggests that business will drop off. It will be less tiring.
BUBBLES: Also, you did not take any breaks today. Tomorrow I will take a turn at the register so you may rest.
FAYE: Are you sure? Customers might find you a little intimidating.
BUBBLES: Yes. I have been researching customer service interactions and Momo has helped me to perfect a warm and approachable demeanor.
[Bubbles's face shifts to appear chibi-like. Faye recoils.]
BUBBLES: Good afternoon, honored guest! It is a delight and a pleasure to take your order! Would you be so kind as to tell me how I may help you today?
[Bubbles's face returns to normal.]
FAYE: Never ever do that again. Especially in bed.
BUBBLES: Hm. Perhaps more research is required.
FAYE: Does it ever feel weird, using all your military skills for running a tea shop?
BUBBLES: They are actually quite applicable. And I enjoy out-thinking our competitors.
FAYE: You mean Coffee of Doom and Secret Bakery?
BUBBLES: Yes. Hiring away one of Coffee of Doom's key personnel was only the first step. Next week I intend to undercut their relationships with their suppliers to ensure that we receive the highest-quality tea before it is offered to anyone else.
BUBBLES: My five-year plan has us expanding to six other cities in the region. The ten-year plan includes international expansion and winning the concession contract on Ellicott-Chatham Station. Within fifty years there will be a Pax Cognoscentea to far outshine the Pax McDonald's. All war will cease. Humans and AIs will drink and smell their tea together in peace.
FAYE: We've been together five years and I still can't tell when you're jokin'.
BUBBLES: I am mostly joking.
FAYE: That's good, 'cause I was about to sell you my share of the shop and go be a hermit in the woods.
BUBBLES: Being a hermit is actually quite a lot of work.
FAYE: Not as much work as bringin' about world peace through tea!
FAYE: You know, May once suggested you and me could have a baby together. I guess the shop's our baby now.
BUBBLES: Like many of May's suggestions, that one has a core of good sense wrapped in many layers of poor taste.
BUBBLES: One thing that does concern me is that it is often very difficult for romantic partners to also maintain a business partnership. I feel it would be sensible for us to establish up front that our personal relationship is our priority.
FAYE: I ain't too worried about that. We got to be friends by workin' together at the fight club, and we hooked up while workin' together at the auto body shop.
BUBBLES: Even so, I believe this is a prudent step. And... it would also ease my personal concerns.
FAYE: Aw, Bubs, you know I ain't gonna run out on you. The shop's nice and all, but it won't rub my back or know when my cordless drill's about to run out of juice.
BUBBLES: I am enjoying the exercise of running a business, but there are many places where I could find employment, even with my... checkered history. I do not think I could find another human or AI whose company I would value as much as yours.
FAYE: You're my favorite robot girlfriend.
BUBBLES: You are my favorite human girlfriend.
FAYE: Think you're ever gonna be able to say that without it sounding awkward?
BUBBLES: Possibly. I have a ten-year plan for that too.
FAYE: I gotta sack out, babe. It's late and we open at seven tomorrow.
BUBBLES: Enjoy your rest. I will wake you at the appropriate time.
FAYE: [closes her eyes]
FAYE: [rolls over and begins snoring]
BUBBLES: [smiles, with chibi heart-eyes]