Tactless Strangers

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Evrey continued to study the stuff clinging to her hand. How odd. She could not remember anything like these specks. What was happening?  Should she call someone?  She had phoned her friends last night, reminding them to meet her for lunch today.  Both of them were scientists, so surely they would have mentioned it if they had noticed this happening near them.

A closer look at the fence revealed an even thicker layer of unfamiliar particles clinging to the wood.  Scrambled eggs and poems forgotten, Evrey thought furiously.  Although the specks seemed innocent enough, she felt uneasy, and dug in her jeans for the keys to her truck.

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What in the world was all over the front porch of her new home, Jyrelin wondered.  As she remembered to shut the front door, she saw that just about every flat surface near her was also covered. Quickly, she grabbed her phone and took several photos of the porch railing, gray with specks.  After studying the images she had captured, she selected two of them, and emailed them to Hanji.  He might be asleep still, but this was important. 

When her googlecar turned smoothly into the parking structure near her office, she thought of Evrey.  Surely she would call if the weird particles were also falling out at her farm?

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Carefully, mind reviewing incoming subroutine information, Hanji stepped deeper into his house, one foot still in the front hallway.  He hoped that 'oneiro, his personal android, had come back.  He felt a bit calmer now, but did not holster his weapon yet.  Two years ago, he had moved here, preferring the quiet, and commuting to his labs in the city proper.  It was different, completely peaceful, but old habits don't die, they just hibernate.

For some reason, he thought of a time 'oneiro had surprised him.  The two of them had been discussing a VR simulation Hanji had asked the android to beta test.  The conversation had been lively, with few pauses. The 'droid had stopped speaking mid-sentence, and then looked directly at him.

"What is it?," he had asked.

At that moment, the 'droid had quietly spoken, a tense, pure V-code phrase, that Hanji realized afterward was the robot's only available vocalization when it was engaged in the detection and subversion of a remote attack.  At the time, his thoughts a bit disordered, he had forgotten the tea until the hack was defeated.  He still smiled once in a while at the memory.

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The End

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