The hall opened inward, a vast iron and glass space polished with precision and filled with grey chairs, tables draped in white table cloth. I sighed and switched my weight to my right foot, bracing myself to step into the mire of office party conversation. And I probably should have worn flats, I bemoaned silently. Heels make walking so difficult.“Maya!” I turned at the sound of my name, posture relaxing as Daniel approached, limping slightly in his new shoes. “Daniel, I’m so glad you’re here. I need help with people’s names." I whispered, grimacing as an expressly average lady sauntered over, waving. His eyes swung around the room, taking stock of the clumps of milling people. “I’ll make a deal with you- I’ll feed you names if you get the drinks.” “Fine, yes. You have a deal. I made a face return and went in search of some champagne. At least we were in this together. Daniel joined the Cygnus Labs family shortly after my promotion to division laboratory manager. It took a few months for us to hold a conversation lasting more than four sentences, but once it happened we had no trouble finding things to talk about. Time heals most awkwardness, I suppose.
The controlled tap of a champagne flute brought my attention to the projection wall emblazoned with newscasts, clipped voices ringing off the glass walls. “It was confirmed today by the head of Cygnus Laboratories that two scientists, Maya Derosier and Daniel Grayson have successfully found and extracted the root of consciousness….” I felt every eye in the hushed room swivel towards me as the broadcast was silenced and the CEO began to speak. “Welcome, all. We’re here to celebrate the achievements of two of Cygnus’ brightest minds, Daniel Grayson and Maya Desrosier. Join me in congratulating their strives toward a more self-aware future.” He raised a toast to signal the end of his brief involvement in the affair. The keypad flashed as I entered my code, and with a pneumatic wheeze the doors parted. I lunged for my boots to free my feet from their shiny constraints. A metal shop is no place for heels. Catching my attention, Daniel pulled one leg of his black trousers above the top of his dress shoe to reveal photorealistic Sprite socks, which made his legs look like cans. I busted out laughing and he cocked an eyebrow. "Something funny?" "It kinda looks like you have can ankles." "Well...yeah. I guess I do." He chuckled for a few seconds, then staring at the floor, began to untie his shoes pensively. Steeling some nerve, he looked up at me. “Jerry from accounting told me you were building the suit,” he started, and I threw my hands in the air in almost mock indignation. “Well now I have no surprise for you.” Daniel laughed and raised an eyebrow expectantly. “You got excited and told him, didn’t you?” “Well, not exactly. I was on the phone with my mother and he overheard. Anyway, surprise! I built the suit to save some time, but it’s had to undergo a few revisions between blueprint and prototype. We’ll discuss them tomorrow.”
Recently the benefactors had taken to dropping the phrase “the greater good” in their emails, but their greater good was a glaucous, silver edged, multi-plated metal alloy exoskeleton, equipped with limited food, water and ammo storage, 8 in armor M202 rounds, a poly-weapon spinal holster, and an internal consciousness port. Mine was closer to walks in the forest and socialized medicine, but both Daniel and I were contracted employees. We had no say regarding the ethics of our projects so long as Cygnus was signing our paychecks.
Daniel took my cue and turned towards the wall. I walked towards the somnolent chassis, standing halved with its front plates retracted to expose the gel innersuit. I tied my hair and pressed my back against the gel. The room echoed of metal joints clashing and fastening as my body was encased. When it had finished, I took a step forward to call Daniel’s name but he was already striding towards me with a radiant smile, changes to the original blueprints already forgotten. “For an androgynous piece of machinery, it’s surprisingly beautiful. OSIRIS will proceed ahead of schedule.”