"I want my face back."
The lead in Homer's mechanical pencil snapped. He shoved aside the yellow legal pad, its pages filled with notes for XM-14's field tests. "Can't you see I'm—"
Staring at the XM-14. In the flesh. Standing on the other side of his drafting table. He blinked. Confused by what couldn't possibly be, yet was.
This woman had the same chocolate brown skin. Same shoulder-length black hair. Same almond eyes he'd programmed to flash when she was angry. In this real version—was she real?—there was a virtual electrical storm.
Impossible. He'd locked XM-14 in the vault under armed guard and a fail-safe security system he'd designed himself.
In one smooth motion, she removed her heavy wool coat and draped it over her arm. Although ambulatory, XM-14 didn't have access to that curve-hugging red dress or the jasmine perfume drawing him to her like a drug.
Since his arrival, this lab had been his world and he its god. He avoided contact with people whenever possible. He couldn't ignore this woman, couldn't expel her like the others.
His briefing on contemporary earth manners and customs included an admonition to avoid staring. For some reason being stared at made women feel like a piece of meat. He hadn't understood that at all. If they didn't want to be stared at, why did they dress the way they did?
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