Three Years Later
Olivia Moore rapped sharply on the lab door three times. When there was no immediate answer, she entered anyway, eyes averted just in case. She never wanted a repeat of the debacle simply known as ‘the moment that which must not be named.’ Ms. Lockwood was an eccentric woman, and Olivia responded accordingly, it had only taken her two and a half years to adjust to Donovan Industries and her peculiar co-worker.
“Ms. Lockwood, Mr. Mayhew asked me to get you to sign these as a favor?”
“You know you can call me Addison,” she said not looking up from her phone.
“I know, Ms. Lockwood. You’ve told me every day…for three years.”
“Then I am not sure why you continue to insist on calling me Ms. Lockwood.”
“It’s a quirk, ma’am,”
Addison sighed, but gave no other response, eyes reflecting the bright light of her phone. Body sprawled across the hood of a 1978 Bronco, legs dangling down, swinging back and forth, toes nowhere near the ground. Today her hair was an icy violet, and her torso was clad in a faded Led Zeppelin shirt. Her lips were stained a similar violet shade, and various earrings bristled from her left ear, a think chain connecting her lowest earring to her highest. Her right ear sported a simple diamond stud.
Shoving the stack of documents in Addison’s face, she raised an eyebrow. She grumbled and gave Olivia a disapproving look, but shoved her phone into her pocket.
“What is it?” she asked glancing over it, leaning back in her chair, tugging on her lip ring as she skimmed.
“Recent reports on the Sunbeams functionality and efficiency,” she replied, giving a small wave to a security camera behind her.
“So, he’s not having me sign my kidney over?” she asked humorously, flipping through a few pages, reading them over in a glance.
“Who knows, ma’am,” she said, lip turning up at the corner into a small smile. “I didn’t notice a particularly evil glint in his eye when he handed it over, but Mr. Mayhew has an amazing poker face.”
“He truly does,” she agreed, signing her name several times with a flourish.
“Ma’am, Mr. Mayhew wanted me to inform you, that Ms. Donovan is waiting. The board wants to hear about your expectations for Donovan Industries advancements in the next year.” M.A.L.C.O.L.M. added, voice disembodied, sporting a southern drawl, coming through the many speakers throughout Donovan Tower.
“Thank you M.A.L.C.O.L.M.,” Addison said, standing to go and collecting her coat, a long silver affair. “Bye Olivia,” she said disappearing out the door, with a backward wave.
“Good morning M.A.L.C.O.L.M.,” Olivia said, straightening the corners of her documents.
“Good Morning, Miss Moore.”
“You could always call me Olivia, you know.”
“You could always call Ms. Lockwood, Addison,” he retorted.
She laughed, “I could, couldn’t I?”
“She keeps informing you of the fact.”
“So she does, but calling her Ms. Lockwood is so much more amusing,” she grinned. “and it’s the only way I can get any form of revenge that doesn’t result in my immediate termination.”
“I doubt a tastefully done prank would anger her too much, she’d probably enjoy it,”
“The real question is then, if I dared try.” Olivia said snorting, nose wrinkling, “See you later, M.A.L.C.O.L.M.”
“That is a faulty statement, Miss Moore, seeing as I have no form and, therefore, cannot be seen.”
She let out a short bark of laughter, “That’s true.”
Addison’s head popped back in, “Olivia? You’re still here, good. I made an adjustment to attempt 33 and I’ve been dying to test it out. Planning on doing it tonight, care to join?”
“Will it blow up this time?”
“Who knows.” She practically squealed, voice dripping with excitement.
“Will I be assuming Mr. Mayhew will not be aware?”
“What do you think?”
“Yes, I know how he hates you testing stuff without following the proper procedure. I think it has something to do with how he always has to clean up your mess.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“I can’t encourage you to blow your lab up, particularly with us inside. Ezra would have my head. Besides, not your assistant.” She muttered pointing to herself.
“But you bring me stuff to sign.”
“Only as a favor to Mr. Mayhew.”
Addison’s lips rolled down into a fat pout. “Please?
”You know I’d loved to, but I actually have plans.” she shrugged, not all that apologetic.
“Plans? Why don’t I know about these plans?” she asked, suspicious, eyes narrowing.
“I told you three days ago that I would be busy tonight.” Her eyes remained narrowed. “When you were hiding from Mr. Mayhew in my lab’s supply closet.”
The light bulb went on off. “Oh yes, that day.” Her eyes looked slightly haunted by the memory. “Who’d have thought he would have gotten so mad?”
Olivia raised her hand, elbow fully extended.
Addison made a face at her. “You have a date, right?”
“That is correct.”
“Can’t you reschedule?”
Sigh, “Well, you’re no help.”
“That’s what I am here for.”
She tsked, closing the door behind herself, with a good slam, showing displeasure without entering full-on tantrum mode. She had more class than that.
“Another faulty statement.”
“I believe it is your job to be helpful and effective at your capacity.” M.A.L.C.O.L.M. stated just as if it was in her programming as well as his.
Olivia couldn’t help but giggle, hiding the noise behind her hand.
“To an extent, yes. Research and testing Ms. Lockwood’s tech has little to do with blowing up her lab for fun. I can’t believe I’ve let myself get roped into doing that before. I think she likes me because I am a pushover.” Olivia mussed thoughtfully.
“You are going on a date?” M.A.L.C.O.L.M. asked, changing the subject, sounding mildly curious.
“Yes, with my boyfriend Tom.”
“Yes, I’ve brought him here before.”
“Is he the one you kissed in your lab, on July 17, at 3:33 p.m.?”
“WHAT?” she said blushing, checks flaming and hot. She cursed her pale complexion. “Were you spying on us?”
“No, I was just checking the security footage data, Miss Moore. If I have annoyed you I am sorry,” he said, voice apologetic. Olivia knew Addison had upgraded him, at least, five times to have deeper and deeper emotional responses, yet M.A.L.C.O.L.M. still didn’t quite get the complexity of human emotion. He was often baffled and confused by emotional responses and as such, unsure how to respond appropriately. His default was a formal apology.
It was funny, there was no denying he was responsive, sometimes even emotional in his responses to Addison, but with others he seemed less comfortable, more withdrawn. An odd reaction for an A.I. Olivia wished she could run tests on M.A.L.C.O.L.M., but he was strictly Ms. Lockwood’s project.
If she was lucky, Olivia would catch rare snatches when M.A.L.C.O.L.M.,’s guard was down, when he seemed as human as her, which she found intriguing. Often it would end with him doing something very artificial, as was his nature, and the spell would be broken. It was one of the many reasons she had found herself talking to him constantly in her three years of being here. She remembered the first time she heard it.
Three years, two months and five days ago:
“Miss Moore, welcome to Donovan Industries, we are very glad to have you.”
“Thank you, I am really pleased to be here, Mr. Mayhew.” Olivia murmured, eyes downcast, but lips stretched into a beaming grin.
Mr. Mayhew graced her with one of his kind, crooked smiles before turning to the elevator and swiping an I.D. card across it, sending the elevator down to their floor.
“Now Miss Moore I must warn you Ms. Lockwood is a bit…” He paused seeming to consider his words. Olivia had heard many tall tales about the famous Addison Lockwood and leaned forward, eager to hear what someone close to her would say.
“Eccentric.” a voice put in, causing Olivia to jump scattering her papers everywhere and quickly cover a cuss word, that had been startled out of her.
“Yes, M.A.L.C.O.L.M. thank you, that’s one way of putting it.” Mr. Mayhew turned to say something else, but found his new employee scrambling about the floor trying to pick her papers up.
“I am so sorry Mr. Mayhew, I don’t know what came over me.”
“You were startled. M.A.L.C.O.L.M. does that to new employees. You’re not the first, don’t worry.” he informed her, bending down to help her pick up the rest, mouth quirked in mirth.
“There is no excuse.” Olivia said, ashamed, face bright red at her slip up. “I knew about M.A.L.C.O.L.M., I’ve studied him for crying out loud. I should have been prepared.”
Olivia blinked, taking a deep breath better prepared this time. “Oh yes, robotics have been my passion since I was a child and while you’re not quite a robot, you are the most advanced artificial intelligence known to man. How could I not research you? You’re amazing.”
“Well…thank you,” M.A.L.C.O.L.M. responded, sounding unsure and hesitant.
Mr. Mayhew smiled at his new employees obvious enthusiasm and opened his mouth to respond when the elevator arrived, doors opening with a ding.
“Oh, here we are. Anyway, back to Addison,” Olivia could hear the biting edge to his tone with these words. “She is eccentric but charismatic and, well, the last analyst got a little too infatuated with her.”
“That’s one way of putting it, stalking her is more than a little.” M.A.L.C.O.L.M. said.
“Yes well, I was trying to put it delicately.”
“Don’t worry Mr. Mayhew I plan to be perfectly professional,” she stated firmly, straightening her skirt, tucking a wayward strand behind her ear. “I didn’t think I would be interacting with Ms. Addison much?”
“Ms. Addison loves to test her toys, she tends to make an appearance whenever she can. You’ll find you probably can’t get rid of her. I’ve found it’s best to just go along with her whims, less energy is expended, and you’ll probably save yourself from a few early gray hairs.”
They rode in silence for a few moments before Olivia cracked, needing to know, “Mr. Mayhew I was not aware M.A.L.C.O.L.M. interacted with all the employees.”
“M.A.L.C.O.L.M. is capable of interacting with every single one of Donovan Industries employees simultaneously while keeping Donovan Tower in proper working order.”
Olivia’s eyes practically sparkled at the new possibilities.
“No, no it’s fine,” she said shaking her head coming back to reality, “You are just an A.I. doing your job. Sometimes I forget that, though. Isn’t that weird?”
“Not really, Miss Moore,” he sounded pleased, which confused her. She hadn’t said anything complimentary, he must have been having another conversation somewhere and the emotion was bleeding through. “I was made to sound and act like a real human.”
“Well, thanks, that makes me feel a bit better,” she said smiling at the security camera. She never knew where to look, but she always assumed that was the best place. “I am heading out so I’ll see…or uhh talk to you when I return.”