“Alright folks, welcome to Friday Night at the Museum, and we sure hope each and every one of you has an amazing experience,” says Minerva, their guide for the evening. “Now, just some ‘house-keeping’ before we get started. First up – your dates will probably seem much the same as you and me – but just remember, they’re not. There’s five hundred thousand years of evolution between Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus, and it counts. Second, in your brochure you’ll all find a brief list of what we like to call ‘triggers’. As long as you avoid those triggers, everything should be fine and dandy. And if you do slip up – don’t worry, you’re still absolutely safe. But here at the museum we’d like you to have the best experience possible this Friday night, so – just put aside ten minutes to study the leaflet, folks, if you will.”
Juno bends her head over the glossy leaflet, pretending to read, but it’s hard to take it all in. She’s too excited: a surge of electricity races through her circuits. Her eyes flash momentarily neon-green and her fingernails spark. Triggers…
“Before your date commences, please set surface power levels to below 30 watts. Your Homo Sapiens’ structure is fragile and delicate, despite his robust appearance, and he will not appreciate being incinerated.”
Juno has already adjusted her settings. She’s well aware that ancient skin is butterfly-thin, unlike her own alloy exo-casing.
“Ask, don’t tell, and speak softly, as you would to a favourite pet. Your Homo Sapien is easily intimidated, and a frightened HS is not a romantic HS.”
Juno studies the photo on the brochure. It’s a generic image – her own date won’t look quite like this – but he looks anything but fearful. Blue eyes (‘natural sea’ blue) stare out almost fiercely from beneath heavy brows, and the upper lip is raised in a slight snarl. The bulging pectorals bristle with fur: prehensile hands hover over his groin, which is encased in a pale blue material the brochure boasts is ‘genuine antique denim’. But then – so the small print informs her – this is the ‘cowboy’ model. She’s paid for the ‘miner’ experience, which is somewhat cheaper.
At last they are done with the formalities (which include, Juno notes, a signed form indemnifying the Museum against any and all contingencies). Minerva hands each of the twelve participants a swipe card which will enable them to enter their own ‘theatre’ of primitive romance. Juno notices the woman next to her adjusting her brassiere: the garment is uncomfortable but apparently indispensable to the ancient dating scene.
She places the card in its slot, and the door slides open silently, then closes behind her. She fingers the emergency commslink in her left elbow crease.
He’s sitting at the bar. His name – so she’s been told – is Bob, but it’s better if she pretends not to know that. The first thing she notices about Bob is his forearms. How thick and hairy and dirty they are! It has been centuries since the death of the last actual male, but even he – according to the records – looked nothing like this. Bob’s shorts hold his crotch in an iron grip: his muscular thighs spring out of them like girders. A dark and lusty froth tumbles over the scoop of his blue singlet, and his belly sweeps majestically over his crotch, a wave crashing on a savage shore.
“Hi,” says Juno nervously, softly, leaning on the bar.
Bob’s swamp-green gaze drops from her chest to her lap and then to her face. She’s glad she turned down the heat, or else right now – she’s certain – she’d be glowing red as a reactor core.
“Hi there, honey. What do they call yer?” Bob’s voice is pure coal. Juno would like to lay waste to him right there and then but Minerva has warned all of them that the HS male prefers to take the initiative. “You’ve paid for him,” the guide had explained, with a complicit smile, “but you want to let him think that he’s paid for you.” “Do you train them that way?” one of the participants had asked. “Nope – it’s innate,” Minerva had replied. For a primitive animal, Homo Sapiens is rather complicated.
“Juno.” She can’t resist. She reaches out to touch that powerful forearm. One huge hand shoots out and pins her tiny fingers against the skin. Juno is startled, but entranced.
“Cute name for a cute chick. So what do yer – ah – do, Juno?”
“Do?” For a moment she’s confused, then she remembers that of course, back then, the species performed ‘work’. “Oh, I’m a, um, secretary.”
“Yeah?” Bob’s gaze scans her chest again: she wonders if he likes it. All the women were issued with a pair before they came. Hers, she thinks, are rather nice. “Wanna beer?”
By the end of the first hour, Juno feels a lot more relaxed. Her satin knee is touching Bob’s knobbly extrusion, and he’s holding her hand, stroking the back with a large horny finger. He’s already told her about the time he drove a B-double and got it stuck under an overhead bridge, and about the time a croc wandered into the compound pool and ate his best mate’s dog Blue. He’s asked Juno what a pretty girl like her was doing without a bloke: up at the mine, he says, the only pretty girl’s the boss’s parrot. It’s going well, but Juno is getting impatient. She didn’t spend two hundred megabits to talk about parrots, but to do – the thing. The authentic, primitive Thing that only an authentic, primitive Man can do. Juno puts a hand on Bob’s thigh.
“Where you staying?” he says, his mouth falling sideways in what Juno has been told is a ‘leer’.
“I don’t know…I’m new in town.” Juno winds a strand of her hair around her finger, as she’s seen in the old films.
“You wanna come up and see my digs?”
“Love to.” Juno’s voice is still soft and sweet, but she pulls a little too hard at Bob’s hand, jerking him off his stool. He flexes his biceps.
“Hold your horses, gorgeous, we’ll get there.”
Bob’s digs are as deliciously crude as he is himself. An unmade bed, a stove top with the remains of some ancient canned meal, a screen bearing the leaping images of other be-shorted men in striped uniforms chasing a ball. With barely a glance at all this, Juno flings herself on to the sweat-stained mattress. Bob collapses on top, fully dressed, and presses his beery, hirsute, tobacco-stained lips to hers. One hand squeezes her left chest, and a jolt of pure tingling energy goes straight to Juno’s pleasure centre, just as they promised it would.
Now Bob is pulling at her dress and she’s pulling at his shorts, and all the while he’s deep in her mouth, mining her throat like a rotating drill, plundering her resources, pushing and pounding, driving into the very core of her neural networks. Any moment now and Bob and she will strike that seam of liquid gold of which the women whisper, an explosion sending the amygdala into ecstatic overdrive…
“Take me now!” Juno roars, forgetting to keep it sweet and low. But it doesn’t matter to Bob, he’s ripping her clothes away like an earth-mover, nuzzling at her neck, muttering words from an ancient litany long forgotten by civilisation…”oh yeah, oh alright, you’re a filthy little…” Juno revels in it all. It’s a pagan rite, a descent into the wild animal roots of humanity from which she – yes, even Homo Deus – has ultimately sprung. She thrusts and sighs, and then feels Bob’s full weight relax on to her, the belly spreading to encompass them both. After a moment, she realises that there is something not quite right.
She pushes at his head, now fallen into the hollow of her neck, and he gives a long, gape-mouthed groan. His lids droop into an intricate network of lines and channels: his fists are open like a baby’s.
But Bob is done. Nothing Juno can do will wake him now: asleep, he is picturesque but useless for all practical purposes. She pulls a blanket up over his slumbering form, sheds the low-cut dress – there’s no need for it now – and pads back to the bar. The juke box in the corner is banging away: the smell of hops hangs like a haze in the air. They should have warned her about the beer, they really should have. But then, you get what you pay for, Juno reflected.
“Yes, well, that’s miners for you, I’m afraid. You should try a surf lifesaver,” suggests the mellifluous lady on the phone, when she rings to complain. “They’re a little more pricey but just as primitive….and they don’t drink as much.”
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