She would have to brace herself for the inevitable “makin’ it with a robot” jokes from her friends.
The Watchers had asked her to do this. She’d agreed because...well, she didn’t quite know why, but she owed
them. The group took care of her. They said she possessed the right knowledge and temperament for this job. Gemini braced
herself. Living with an Agent would be some job.
It did help that this Agent wasn’t ugly. Understatement of the century. Most anyone looked good in a suit, but a
few rare individuals took it to a higher level. The Agent standing in her doorway was one of those individuals.
“Are you going to let me in?” he asked.
The moment of truth. “I need your gun first,” she said.
“What?” The word fairly dripped with contempt.
Great way to start the relationship. “I have to secure my own safety somehow.”
“I won’t shoot you.” He tugged on his cuffs. “Unless you provoke me.”
“Somehow I doubt that.”
The Agent stepped closer, his entire posture radiating hostility. “You were given orders.”
“Fine.” She held up her hand. A Desert Eagle identical to those used by Agents materialized in her palm. A
snug leather holster snaked dramatically around her torso. “Now we’re even.”
“We are *not* even.” He glared at her through his sunglasses. “Will you let me in?”
If there wasn’t a bucket of innuendo there for her dirty mind to feed on... She thought about the “makin’
it” phrase again and fought a blush. The Agent would have no way of understanding. But after this job, he would. Oh
God, he would, wouldn’t he?
Gemini stepped aside and gestured with a flourish for the Agent to enter. He moved with unnatural grace and stood in the
middle of the room as though he expected a plague of locusts to descend upon him. Not far from the truth, if he ever met her
Gemini took some time to look at her Agent. Tall, slender, nondescript hair except for an attractive receding hairline,
dark suit, sunglasses and earpiece. Like every other Agent in the world. Except she knew each one had tiny hints of individuality.
Those were what she must focus on to get through this. And get through this she must. As a senior member of The Watchers,
she’d be required to report all her findings in great detail. It was the possible nature of those findings that scared
her. She’d only been given a brief rundown for her mission. Granted she was a good teacher, but she’d never taught
an Agent before. Teaching this one about humanity would be no small task.
Shaking off her thoughts, she said, “I’m Gemini. Do you have a name?”
“Smith. Agent Smith.”
She was still holding the Desert Eagle. Making sure the safety was on, she tucked the gun into the waiting holster and
folded her arms. “What’s your first name, if you have one? And don’t tell me something cliche like John.”
“Agent...*is* my first name.”
It took her six full seconds to realize he was attempting a joke. She smirked. Maybe the task ahead wouldn’t be quite
“You are Margaret Shriver,” Smith said, “freelance photographer, philosopher, and member of The Watchers.”
He had a slight sibilant hiss.
She gritted her teeth. “That name no longer belongs to me.”
He flicked his cuffs again. “Doesn’t matter. What is relevant, Ms. Shriver, is your present knowledge...”
“My present knowledge,” she interrupted, “of the Matrix you mean, is why you’re here.”
“It’s why you should be dead.”
“No, it’s why you won’t hurt me. Look...Smith, I’m not at war with you. My group is not at war.
They asked me to do this, and I will.”
Smith made a low growling noise. Cute, actually.
“Okay,” she continued, “some ground rules. Since you know I know about the Matrix, we can save ourselves
those pointless ‘you’re going to assist us or else’ discussions. I *am* assisting you. Second, if you do
try your gun on me, you won’t like the repercussions. My group does not like violence, but we’re very good at
it when the need arises. But you should know that,” she waved her arm dismissively, “as long as you have access
to the DC-147 files.”
“I do.” He sounded petulant, like a child being patronized. He frowned. He obviously didn’t like this
arrangement, but since he’d been given orders as well, Smith remained silent.
The hostility was slowly seeping out of her. “So, for the record, you’re here to learn about humanity. You
don’t like being here, and frankly neither do I. If we just try to get along, this thing will go much more smoothly.”
Smith inclined his head, which Gemini took for agreement. It was hard to tell with AIs sometimes. They mimicked human behavior
well enough, but to a trained eye they constantly gave themselves away. It was like they were trying too hard. Regular humans
perceived Agents as more than slightly creepy, though it helped that most people thought government types were slightly creepy
by nature. This Agent was better than most at playing human. It probably perturbed him to no end. He was trapped.
Gemini’s harsh demeanor softened more. She knew about being trapped. Still, she couldn’t let her sympathy for
this Agent lead her to underestimate him. Just as he shouldn’t underestimate her.
Time for a test. “Take off those sunglasses, Smith. You’re inside now.” He looked at her; she could see
his eyes flash behind the rectangular shades. He said nothing, but fixed her with a stare that should have scorched the paint
from her walls. It didn’t work. He was dealing with *her* after all. “I was given permission to use my discretion,”
she said, “and you have your orders. Besides, wearing sunglasses indoors isn’t very human.”
Smith stood artificially still for a long moment. He didn’t want to obey this woman. But he did have orders. This...Gemini
person was going to teach him how to better blend in with humanity. If he didn’t die first. He was actually allowing
himself to be infected by their ways. And she wouldn’t make it easy. The first words out of her mouth had been a demand.
Give up his gun, indeed! Did she know how insulting that was? And she had good control within the Matrix. As the viruses...humans...would
say, *dammit*. However, Smith actually looked forward to debating the metaphysics of the Matrix with her. She was a prominent
philosopher among humans. Recalling the information files downloaded to him, Smith decided Gemini was formidable, at least
mentally. Maybe that would take some of the repulsion out of this job.
She was looking at him. He supposed she was attractive by her species’ standards. Smith himself had no need for such
foolish hormone-driven judgments. If she had a sharp mind, then he might find some appeal. If she was a fool as well as a
She was approaching him. Irrationally he felt the urge to recoil. [...Don’t move...] That would make things worse:
giving in to his repulsion by moving away gave her power. She wasn’t much shorter than him, and she was obviously strong.
Athletic build. He’d been briefed on that. This one wasn’t...what was the phrase?...she wasn’t a shrinking
violet. Whatever that meant. Smith had never seen a violet.
“Remove your glasses,” she said, “or I will.”
Smith did *not* want her touching him. Methodically, he peeled his glasses from their accustomed perch. He folded them
and put them in the inside pocket of his jacket. He glowered at her.
Unfortunately, she was still unaffected by his anger. “Blue eyes?” she murmured.
“Yes...” [...So what?...] “So what?”
“They’re nice, that’s all.”
Nice? That word had never been used to describe him. Because he suddenly felt he had lost the upper hand in this encounter,
Smith leaned in close to Gemini. He knew about personal space, and had often used it against people in interrogations. Noting
her stiffened posture and slight constriction of pupils, he was satisfied that he had discovered a way to irritate her.
“Nothing about me is nice,” Smith growled.
To her credit, she didn’t back away. Gemini stared at him, though it took considerably more effort than she liked
to admit. But if one couldn’t be honest with oneself, one could never be honest with others. That was a convoluted thought.
Perhaps she should just give up on political correctness altogether.
“Well,” she said, voice husky. “It’s my job to find something nice about you. Your eyes are nice,
so there.” Dammit, they were. He didn’t smell too bad either. Faintly of chlorine. Better than the harsh plastic
or metal she’d imagined. His scent reminded her instantly of a swimming pool, actually a pleasant idea since she swam
like a seal.
“Let’s start the humanity lessons right away,” she said, “so you won’t have to spend a moment
longer in my presence than is necessary.” She noticed his jaw twitch. Hmm. Gemini stepped back to get a good look at
the Agent. The suit was nice; still it projected that Slightly Creepy essence. “We should do something about those clothes.”
Smith scowled. “There is nothing wrong with these clothes.”
Did he have a sense of pride in his wardrobe? She hadn’t considered the possibility that Agents might have egos.
That would prompt some new theories among her colleagues. Just how intelligent were Artificial Intelligences? How vain were
“There’s nothing wrong with them in principle,” she said, “but you should explore other...additions
to your wardrobe. Most people don’t trust a guy who never wears anything but a suit. What do you wear on weekends?”
Smith looked confused. “Weekends?”
He didn’t know what weekends were. The poor deprived program. “Yeah. Saturday and Sunday. The weekend. The
days other than the workweek.” Smith didn’t look like he understood. She shrugged. “Never mind. It just
might be a good idea to soften your appearance. I have some ideas for...”
“Appearance does not have a texture.”
She rolled her eyes. “Access DC-147 File F-3b: Fashion and Social Influence.”
Gemini waited patiently as Smith’s eyes clouded over and his face went blank. Her good friend Star had written that
file. She knew fashion. All of it, inside and out, and all of its social nuances, the world over. If Smith didn’t find
his answer in Star’s files, he wouldn’t find it at all.
Smith returned to the land of the living. “I am expected to appear casual?”
If only humans could learn that fast. Gemini stood regarding the Agent in her living room and thought that she just might
get through this.