{Communication unit}
/Heero's thoughts/


Digital by Pilot02
Part 1


Heero Yuy sighed tiredly as he walked into the building in which he worked. At the Tech Systems building that housed his office he had a reputation for being cold, unfeeling, and withdrawn. He was--on the outside--but it wasn't entirely his fault. He had had an unhappy childhood, and it was because of this that he was antisocial and seemed cold.

He worked in the section of the third floor marked "Experimental Technology--Caution," and it was to this place that he headed. He stopped to get his mail from the secretary with a glare--she was too happy for her own good, really--at the reception desk; he received his mail, a smile, a cheerful greeting, and a written message, not necessarily in that order.

The message was simple, to the point and neatly written, just like the person who wrote it--Trowa Barton. Trowa, like Heero, had a bit of a reputation for being reserved and quiet, but behind an apparent introverted personality, green eyes, and odd hair, there was a rilliant mind. He was the second in Heero's group of fellow "ETechs," as they called themselves, the name coming from the department label.

Quatre Winner was the third ETech; he was a nice guy, young, smart, a smiling blonde that was head over heels in love with Trowa.

The fourth, a justice-obsessed Chinese, was Chang Wufei. His wife, Chang Meiran, had a part-time job in a small bookstore down the street, and she regularly brought her husband meals at lunchtime. Often she stayed with the ETechs and gave them suggestions; she was by no means dumb. It was a long running joke that she should get a job at Tech Systems, but she had refused as of yet.

Heero stepped off the elevator and walked down the hall toward his department, his gait a bit more lively and hurried, and his glare a bit less severe. The reason?

The message.

* * *

The four self-dubbed ETechs had been collaborating on a double project--a life simulating Virtual Reality system, and a "smart" program, that is, one that "learns;" it reacts to stimuli, learns from past experiences, and is remarkably like a human being learning to live if done right.

Heero himself had been in charge of the program, with occasional help from the others--Meiran included--and he had decided that the best way to go about the "learning" program problem would be to create a human--or at least the VR equivalent of such.

So Heero coded a near-perfect human and a sizeable environment into his program, and finally he was going to be able to lay eyes on what his months of work had created. Throughout the duration of his labor, he had not once been able to test his program. Though he knew what he had programmed in--he had memorized the floor plan of the house and even knew exactly what was in the kitchen cabinets--it would be a totally different experience to actually see it all.

As was told to him in the message, the VR system had been completed.

* * *

Heero quickly rounded the corner and came to the familiar yellow-and-black "caution" tape decorated hallway. Quatre and Trowa, in a fit of boredom, had decided to fix it up and had carefully planned out the intricate spider web-like creation; while it looked impossible to get through, there was actually a clear--but winding--path through it.

Leaving what self-control he had behind him, he ran through the network of tape and came out into the open workroom. Tables laden with scrap parts, tools, and half-finished projects sat in odd places around the large room, crammed into every available spot. In some places, one had to crawl under or jump over the tables to get through, and it was from one such spot that Quatre came wriggling through.

"Heero! Did you get Trowa's message?" Quatre asked excitedly, walking over to the other. The rest of the ETechs were at least as eager as Heero was to test the project--after all, there was a lot of curiosity about what Heero had programmed and how well the VR system would work. While there were other VR systems out there in the market already, they wanted to be the ones to develop a system with more that just optical illusion--they were trying for other senses too; touch, for example.

"Hai, I got the message. Where's the system?" Heero replied, walking past Quatre to get to his personal office, which was little more than a coat closet with several milk crates arranged to resemble a table and stool, but were really little more than what they really were--milk crates. He shook his head at the pathetic office, but slightly grinned when he thought about being able to sample the fruits of his labor--he just hoped the fruits weren't grapes; they gave him stomachaches.

His suit jacket found a home under the "stool" crate, and his work shirt on top of it. He pulled a green tank top out from under on of his "desk" crates, and took off his shoes. He put on the tank top and changed into a loose-fitting pair of black nylon pants. While he was forced to wear the business suits into work, his real work clothes were those that he changed into when he got there.

When he emerged from his closet-office, his laptop and a MegaZip disk--which Wufei had developed--were in his hands. With almost perfect timing, Trowa and Wufei appeared out of a little-used storage closet, which was really bigger than any of the personal offices the ETechs had for themselves.

Trowa waved and grinned slightly, a sure sign that the VR system had been a success thus far.

/Now it's my turn./ Heero thought, walking over to them with Quatre following behind.

Wufei eyed the computer disk approvingly, pleased that his inventiveness had been put to good use, and pushed Heero into the room. "Who wants to go first?" he asked, obviously wanting the honor for himself if possible.

Heero glared at him, then answered. "If it weren't my program, I'd have no objection to you going first, but since it is, I think I should get to go."

Wufei grudgingly agreed and began setting up the program with Quatre while Trowa got Heero set up in the VR helmet and chair. Since their system used brand new technology and also transmitted touch, the helmet was much slimmer than the 20th century ones had been. It essentially sent electric impulses directly to the brain, which eliminated the need for actual movement and visual imaging screens in the helmet.

"Ready," Trowa said, and the others soon echoed the statement.

A soft `click' was all the warning Heero had before bright white light flooded his vision, but it soon receded, leaving behind a simply decorated light-blue walled room. He looked around, movements jerky as he got used to just thinking about making a movement, not actually trying to do the movement.

There was a startling sense of familiarity as his gaze swept around the room, and a smile spread across his face in both the VR and Real Life environments as he was suddenly overcome in the fact that this was his work, his designs, his!

He took in everything, from the grey-blue couch to the dark green and blue rug to the merrily crackling fire in the marble fireplace. Only one thing was missing in this scene... His smile left his face and a look of confusion took its place. Quatre noticed and he scrambled to get the communication unit on the nearby shelf.

{Heero, can you hear me? If yes, just say so.} The words seemed to Heero to have bypassed his ears and gone directly to his brain--but, working with the other ETechs, he had gotten used to such occurrences.

"Quatre, I can hear you. What is it?"

{You look confused. What's going on?}

"...Give me five minutes then ask me again."

Quatre chuckled as he set down the comm unit. "Well, that's Heero for you."

Heero knew the layout of the house he had designed be heart, and as a result he knew that it would take all of the five minutes to search the whole house for the missing part of the program. He sighed and started, heading first for the kitchen. /And things had been going so well.../

Finding nothing out of the ordinary in the kitchen, he went upstairs. The first door on the right was a closet--nothing of simulated biological composition in there--and the second, a bathroom. He looked in and immediately commented. "Trowa, please note that there is a bug in the upstairs bathroom; I need to program in a can of Raid or similar to take care of it. Also note that if it appears I am talking to myself, I am either talking to the programmed being, or truly to myself. That's all." /Or at least I won't be talking to myself after I find.../

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he realized he might not have much more time to complete his search in. He hurriedly left the bathroom and moved on to the next room. He opened the door cautiously, as this was the bedroom. No one said anything to him, so he figured it was safe to go in. His eyes darted around the room, taking in all the details he already knew were there.

What he hadn't programmed in, though, was the lump in the middle of the bed.