Zack blinked as the sun beamed into his eyes. He just woke up, but his mind was racing.
Angie was visiting today for the first time. Zack was excited, but since he had a crush on her for what felt like the entire year he knew her, he wasn’t sure if it’d be the perfect way to disappoint himself. He’d wish the entire time she was more than a friend. Whatever that meant – his friendship was never clear to him. To him, it wasn’t a regular friendship. But to Angie, it was clear: the two of them were friends who hung out, and she flat out told him she wasn’t interested in more than that.
A humming noise came from the east side of his room. It wasn’t like the digital atmospheric sound when transitioning between cyberspace server domains. That was Zack’s real world. The humming here was fake, a manufactured piece of a reality that arbitrarily made him into a conscious ragdoll. The Servers were authentic for him – he had infinite potential inside as a pattern of bits.
The robot reached the bed. Of course, Zack would prefer to sit up, stretch, and stand, all without technological intervention. The concern never materialized, though – it couldn’t take hold in his mind when there was so much to do in the day. As he was thinking, the robot moved its cushioned arms and attached itself to the mattress. From the thin yet firm layer of nanofiber that Zack was laying on, the robot folded a seat with a backrest and lifted him.
His mind was wandering as he was being carried. Would Angie care if she saw the extent he required care from a robot? Would she suddenly direct all her attention on his inability to lift his own arms, and see his his upright, walking avatar within cyberspace as a lie? Twice he met Angie at the lowest level of the Aerie groundscraper. They talked and went sightseeing, while she seemed utterly oblivious to his wheelchair, even when boarding the elevator to the suspension tier. She knew all about the condition that made his whole body weak, but he was wearing an upper body exoskeleton frame for support. The reality of his condition, the raw essence underneath each microchip of his body equipment, was hidden from Angie’s view.
With the robot’s pre-programmed routine, Zack was lowered into his wheelchair and the seat was firmly attached. He looked down at his naked body. Whatever worry he had about seeing Angie was gone. Now, he was contemplating his amazing body, how his body was wholly unique, taken far beyond its limit with human ingenuity. Who else could claim to be so individualized? Skinny legs, leaning slightly to his left – these weren’t flaws, they were in part what led to his pride in adapting to the world.
He controlled his wheelchair by means of the headrest detecting his brain waves. The wheelchair tilted back, then his robot got him dressed. A shirt from the synthpop band Kinetic Liszt with jagged white letters on a red background; a leather jacket sewn to fit him precisely; light gray pants; black shoes with white bottoms. He was also fitted into his exoskeleton, giving him enough strength to reach out notice that he was in fact moving within reality. The chair righted itself, then the robot left the room to turn itself off. Zack was ready to go pick up Angie at the train station.
All ready. He drove the wheelchair through the open flat; only thin paper screens divided the flat visually into rooms. Normally, he’d connect to the Servers right away, his digital self ready to expand cognitively. As an architect for digital spaces, he was able to run, jump, and fly to explore his designs. Few could compare, despite being so young. But he still felt a raw need to interface his body to the physical world. Zack wanted a sensation that he was part of a world, the same world upon which his digital life stood. Regardless of his ambivalence, going out to see Angie was important.
The door opened. He left his flat, went into the nearby garage, and got into his car. “Ready to go. Drive to LevTrain 24.” The car turned its engine on and drove itself off.
“Zack!” Angie smiled when she saw Zack at the terminal. He didn’t need the exclamation to notice her, though – she was short with long, red-hued hair nearly reaching her hips. Her clothes were plain: plain black jeans, and a white shirt with black buttons going asymmetrically down the front. Their friendship was almost exclusively on the Servers; they only ever saw each other’s idealized digital bodies.
“Hey!” He moved closer. Right away, she stood next to him and put her left arm around him and squeezed him for a hug, her characteristic warmth. “How was your ride?”
“I tried to sleep. But the whole time, this stupid guy in the next row wouldn’t shut up about how the Server stations weren’t free. I’m here now, at last!”
The crowd was still swarming. “Come on, let’s get outta here – so much to show you.” Zack looked at her with admiration. For him, he felt that his look was more silly than sensible – they were planning to see the Kinetic Liszt concert, it was not a meeting between lovers by any means, or even between naive teenagers claiming to be in love. Absurd admiration was more like it. Yet, she deserved it for being so intelligent and stubbornly persistent. Angie didn’t notice him looking, or if she did, her imagination had no need to explore the meaning.
“You know you like this, being trapped on all sides by walking scraps of meat! They might just say hello, the horror.” Angie grinned.
“Yeah, looks like those zombies already ate your brain.” Zack grinned back. He was always ready with a comeback. “Follow me.” He raised his exoskeleton arm and pointed to his car.
“Faster, I ain’t no regular biped.” Angie stepped up and held onto Zack’s chair. “There, I’m way more than a biped now!”
“Limo service, activated.” He quietly laughed.
Riding to the car was smooth. When they were a few feet away, she hopped off – Zack got in first, Angie trailed behind. He only saw her for a few minutes, but he felt connected to the physical world. Her body moved organically, full of life, while he only could move mechanically, vitality buried underneath. Interaction diminished the power of the dichotomy.
Zack waved his arm. The door to his flat opened. “Enter the castle!”
“I’m so thirsty, where’s the fridge?” Angie didn’t wait for an answer – she walked straight over to the back corner where the kitchen was. He didn’t mind the intrusion, friendship was a mental bond, and when strong, feels like mind reading. She pressed a button next to the sink and a rectangular refrigerator rose from the floor up to her waist, and grabbed a bottle of water. After seeing so many of Zack’s architecture models within cyberspace, she knew how he would design his own flat.
While drinking, she was looking out the window, which extended across the entire flat. Most of the other windows were temporarily tinted to look like walls. Outside was an expanse of treetops, with a skyscraper in the hazy background reaching into the clouds. If one thing was sensuous in Zack’s life, it was this view. “Angie, check that out from my room, it looks even cooler.”
“Rooms? There’s just one giant room!”
“Hey, the paper screens are as good as walls as anything else – easier to tear them down.”
“Yes, the slightest imperfection would mean armageddon.” She smirked and followed him.
Next to his bed was his favorite viewpoint. The pair stood side by side. “It’s almost identical,” Zack swept his arm that was pointed down towards the floor, “but the whole terrace in the complex curves. Look to the left – there’s a waterfall.”
“That’s amazing.” No teasing in her voice, not even a little. They watched quietly.
He looked at Angie through his periphery. The company of Angie made him notice with even more strength than before how powerful the scene outside was. She was a real person, experiencing the real world. At the level of sensation, Zack saw a human capacity to admire existence that he too easily neglected on the Servers. But with his exoskeleton, he felt a barrier despite his ability to reach and move. Without his exoskeleton, dynamic sensation was reduced to static waiting. He felt stuck.
She looked over quizzically without speaking.
“Can you come closer?”
“Sure.” She stepped over and put her arm around his shoulder.
Not clear enough. “No… I meant, I want to hold you, with you sitting on my lap, without my exo arms on.” For a moment, Zack was happy he asked, then when she paused and took her arm off his shoulder, he felt uneasy. Was it a mistake?
“Okay. But why?”
“I want to feel the world around me – you’re part of it, the view is part of it. I can’t do that without all this stuff in the way.”
Angie smiled softly, as any caring friend would. She grabbed his forearm.
“What are you doing?” It wasn’t like her to be so abrupt.
“Helping you get these exo arms off, silly.” The design was simple. She was used to mechanical devices. After all, she was an engineer. She separated the exoskeleton into four sections, then took them off Zack. She was careful to not let his arms flop down. At the same time, Zack deactivated the armrests of his chair.
Angie sat on his lap. She sat with her legs going all the way across his, and holding his shoulder. After a moment, she put his arms around herself, then squeezed him tight. It was as authentic as a hug could be. Zack felt her warmth; he felt more in-tune.
His face was almost touching hers – the whole experience was hyper-real. He leaned in and kissed her. She didn’t move her lips at all, probably startled by his move, but she soon leaned in hard. In the commotion, his right arm fell, with his hand landing on her breast. He was about to pull away and apologize, but she grabbed his hand and rubbed it against her breast. Her tongue slid past his lips, and he responded in kind. Enjoying the intense feeling, he began breathing heavy.
When Zack took a breath, she put his arms around herself again and unbottoned her shirt. As Angie took off her bra, he kissed her neck. The moment she was able, she resumed making out, sure to rub his hand across her hard nipples. His cock was just as hard. In response, he moaned gently into her ear. Angie took a step further – she opened her pants and put his hand against her wet panties. Without help, he shifted his hand slightly and rubbed her clitoris. Angie wanted more stimulation; she put one of his fingers into her pussy and let out a vocal breath of pleasure. Feeling the most intimate details of Angie pulled his mind to a state of internal warmth, connecting his mind and body into a cohesive whole.
He paused, still well aware of her body, her soft lips lingering even after he pulled away. “Angie… My body, I never felt so real before.”
“I know.” She looked serious, yet playful, still reveling in direct pleasure.
Zack leaned in for another kiss, then whispered into her ear. “I want to take my clothes off to feel your skin.”
She slowly stood up from his lap and turned to face him. When their eyes locked, she took off her shirt and pants. She grabbed both his hands and held them against her breasts – one hand on each.
He reclined his chair, completely into a laying position. Without moment of hesitation, Angie began taking off his clothes. She rubbed her leg against his inner thigh, and she could feel his hard cock through his pants; In each movement, she was grinding her arms or legs against him. Looking at his naked body, she reached down to stroke his cock. Zack’s sensation of warmth streamed through his spine.
“Let me feel my cock in your pussy.”
“Absolutely.” She grinned, then climbed on top of him, legs straddling his waist, careful not to hurt his legs – they were angled outward from his limited mobility. “Is that okay?” Angie wasn’t as oblivious to his condition as he thought.
“It feels incredible.” Responding to him, she leaned down to kiss him hard. Her breasts were against his chest; he was only aware of her skin against his, a raw sensation of energy emanating from his limbs. She sat up and reached between her legs to stroke him, while grinding with the same rhythm. The motion felt as though he was moving on his own.
Writhing his hips in a way that could be felt but not seen, he tried to push for more. Angie knew what he was reaching for – she slid his cock inside herself. All Zack could vocalize in the visceral moment was a strong moan. She pressed herself down hard, putting his cock as far in as she could, panting as she thrusted. Despite Zack not moving from sight alone, she felt his muscles working, striving for sexual release. But it wasn’t just a release, it was an expression that his body was part of reality instead of a broken vessel. Pleasure solidified the connection.
With each mutual thrust, Zack felt enlivened, waves of hot pleasure pulsing through his whole body. In a barely audible volume, Angie whimpered, and pulled his right arm to her breast. Completely enthralled at her response, Zack came, shouting in the extreme emotional power of the release, a noise that could sound like pain to an onlooker. Angie let out a slow, extended moan alongside him.
Angie leaned back down to lay against Zack and wrapped her arms around him tightly. He was still reeling from the intense pleasure. She waited several minutes before saying anything. “Zack, I…”
“You don’t need to explain, I know, we’re not together. This was beyond being together.”