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It had been Lucia's idea. Who else? Mack didn't bother pretending that he and Lucia weren't something special to each other, even if they disagreed sometimes over what a bot could really feel. He doubted that what Lucia called love was actually the same thing as the simulated emotion he had tailored for her. Still, they were a couple. That didn't mean Mack was going to suggest they do anything intimate. Most bots? They just didn't have the interest. No need.

Lucia wasn't about to take apathy for an answer, as it turned out. She had studied Mack's specs a few times, even though she already knew them practically by heart, trying to find some feature that could be used, as she told him, “creatively.” No dice. Turns out doomsday robots don't make great sex toys. Oh, Mack knew the basic ideas behind sex and could probably get Lucia off if she asked him, so long as he kept mindful of his strength compared to Lucia's delicate human body, but Lucia insisted she wasn't looking for physical satisfaction. She could, she reminded him, get plenty of that without Mack's help.

“So what are you looking for?” Mack asked, truly curious. Apparently his detective skills needed more work, because he'd misconstrued her entire motive.

Lucia had rolled her eyes dramatically at that. “Intimacy, Mack. Intimacy. A way to . . . connect . . .”

Her voice had trailed off and she'd gotten that look in her eyes, the one Mack had gotten to know all too soon in their relationship; that was Lucia's genius kicking in, finding connections she hadn't noticed before. Usually that look meant that Mack was about to get a few days of uninterrupted personal time, since Lucia would normally lock herself away in her workshop until she'd made whatever amazing idea had popped into her head into a reality.

Not this time. This time Mack had ended up in the workshop with her, hooked up to one of her computers.

“You sure you don't mind doing this in my workshop, Mack? Humbolt could get a unit hooked up upstairs in two shakes, no problem.”

“Here's fine,” Mack told her. He didn't mind where he plugged in. Ambiance didn't mean much to bots.

Lucia smiled at that and Mack didn't know if it was because she found Mack's typical lack of opinion charming or if she just really wanted to do this surrounded by her top of the line machinery. She was a technophile, after all. He wouldn't hold it against her.

Once Mack was plugged in he waited for Lucia's instructions. Normally he'd defrag after plugging in, or just power down to conserve energy while he charged. That wasn't the point of this session, though.

Lucia was looking at the lines of code that had filled the computer screen. It had always made Mack uncomfortable when the Doc looked at his code, like she could disassemble him without lifting a finger. He didn't mind Lucia doing it, though. It felt . . . intimate.

Lucia gave herself a little nod and then looked over to him. “Okay, I'm going to try something. You trust me, Mack?”

“Hell, Lucia, of course I do,” Mack said.

Lucia smiled one of her bright, million-dollar smiles and turned back to the computer monitor. As soon as she started typing Mack could feel a difference. It was like he was . . . detached. He never really thought about how concious he was about his body, not really, but now it was as if he was floating away.

“How's that, Mack? Good?”

Lucia's voice was like an anchor. Mack's focus shifted back to her, the one who was letting him feel like this.

“Yeah, good,” he said. “It's just like you said it would be.”

“And you like it?” Lucia asked, typing a few more keys. The effect was instantaneous; Mack's vision tunnelled, and all he could see was her.

“Yeah, Lucia,” Mack said. “I like it a lot.”