"Ed stepped out onto the web, naked as pure energy. It's a better way of life."

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When Drori awakened that first morning of the New Age, he found nothing immediately out of the ordinary. He tended to his physical needs, as always, and he dressed, as always. He scanned the net for interesting new stories for several minutes, and then he turned his attention to work, as always.

As soon as he activated his access to the maintenance network to start work, however, an insistent alarm activated in the displays that flashed artificially onto the retinas of his eyes. Sitting at a convenient work station, Drori made himself comfortable before he opened the first trouble ticket of the day with a casual thought.

"Error 13, Sector 213566487-CA," he read aloud to himself. His face screwed into a puzzle of concern. "I already fixed you during yesterday's tour of duty." His first reaction to the error message should be one of confirmation, since it smacked of repetition. When he verified its authenticity, he scanned the data dump beneath its text. The problem seemed simple enough and the solution appeared obvious. He wondered why automated maintenance protocols had not resolved the situation.

With a thought directed through cerebral connections to the omnibus network that powered the entire planet, Drori passed his authorization and credentials to the appropriate remote terminal, and then he effected the solution to the error. At once, the error message confirmed his correction of the aberrant situation that had spawned it, and it deposited itself into an archive somewhere for future reference.

Queued by his correction of the system, one of his peers, a female named Shool, contacted him. "Drori, have you resolved your Error 13 in the CA sectors?"

"Sector," he corrected immediately, replying to her thought with thoughts of his own. "Only one sector failed."

"You had the same error from the same sector yesterday," noted Shool dryly, "and you confirmed its repair yesterday, too."

Drori sighed leadenly, "What do you want, Shool?"

"Sex."

He rolled his eyes. "Again?"

"A thousand times."

"I'm busy, you know. Work awaits."

"You had one error message in your queue," she scoffed with a derisive laugh. "I checked. It's gone, now. Work is finished. Let's have sex."

"I just woke up," he hemmed, though a tingle of desire stirred the nether regions of his loins. "You know I need a few minutes to get going so early in the morning."

"Morning? When did you last look out a window? It's raging midnight outside, and I'm raging horny!"

Manipulating the rubber mask of his face, Drori cast a thought to the omnibus and fetched a timestamp. He groaned. "It happened again."

"That sleeping thing?"

"I guess so."

"Stop taking all those drugs."

"I'm not taking any drugs," he heaved, tossing himself backward into the recline-feature of his chair, "that's the problem."

"So, take more drugs. In fact, take a booster, pop a stiffy, and come over here for sex," she insisted.

"You come over here," he rebutted. "I like it better over here."

"Your furniture is drab," she pouted.

"It's the same furniture that you have," he laughed. "It's the same furniture that everybody has! It's the same apartment!"

"My room is cleaner."

"You just don't like to leave your building," he teased. "And how did you manage to check my professional queue?" At this thought, he felt a sudden, unreasonable anger.

"I have my ways."

"You hacked it?"

"Oh, right," she replied sarcastically, "I've become some kind of protocol-genius overnight! Or I've become omnipotent." Her tone softening, she conceded, "I guessed it using an empathy program I found in a backroom somewhere."

"Empathy programs," spat Drori, changing his credential verification routines with a glance-like consideration. "You whine and wheedle until you get me into a physically compromising situation, and then you deploy an empathy program to pick my brain."

"I like to know what you're thinking."

"What am I thinking now," he demanded woodenly?

She giggled. "Empathy programs don't work remotely, silly."

"Give it your best shot," he insisted, his distracted attention scanning the 'net for interesting stories. "Maybe you've done it enough to achieve some kind of residual benefit."

"Okay, Drori, you're such a sport. Right now, you're thinking that I had better catch a transport across town, if I want sex."

"Bang-O!"

"I can do that, I suppose," she offered reluctantly.

"What about your own work, Shool? Don't they make you do anything, any more?"

"I already finished my quota for the next three cycles. I have nothing but time on my hands. See you in a few!"

Drori cut the connection with a thought and fiddled a small piece of statuary about in his hands. He rolled it from finger to finger idly, and pondered Shool's nature. They attracted one another and the sex was always energetic and rewarding, but lately he felt… bored with her. No, he corrected himself silently, not bored, really… more, he felt disinterested. She had nothing new to offer. Isn't that the essence of boredom, he wondered?

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