In the year 2060, sex is a game of extremes. No desire is unexplored and even the unimaginable is possible.
Alexa Mathis, head of the monolithic O Corporation, has found a prodigy she believes will drive her sex empire to rapturous new limits: Chloe Shaw, a common girl with uncanny gifts that make her a powerful escort.
Chloe doesn’t believe in love. She believes in ecstasy, and her employer’s newest tool to usher “the future of sex”: an intelligent network known as The Beam.
The Future of Sex is a 12-part romance/sci-fi series exploring the line between today’s conception of love and the sensations that await us in the future.
Chloe dressed down the next day, doing her best to appear average and unappealing. It was easiest on Sunday to take a break from being sexy. She loved her job and found sex empowering, but sometimes didn’t want the option. Every once in a while it felt nicer to sit at a table outside one of District Zero’s cafes, alone, sipping mimosas.
And so she went out on her Sunday errand wearing simple tan shorts, baggy and not at all hip-hugging, a plain blue tee, and sandals. She had her dark-brown hair back in a ponytail, utilitarian and not artificially demure, loose hairs sticking out from the sides in what felt like a disheveled mess. She wore no makeup and plain, not-especially-sexy undergarments.
But there was no fooling pheromones, it seemed. Eyes still followed Chloe as she walked down the street, and a man who’d turned to watch her pass actually walked face-first into an antique lamppost.
She finally made herself comfortable in a corner of a cafe’s patio, away from foot traffic. She ordered her mimosa and sat back to peruse Crossbrace magazines on her tablet.
When she looked up, she saw a man eyeing her from a nearby table.
For some reason she didn’t feel compelled to look away — until she realized that staring was rude.
She lowered her head, then looked up again a moment later. The man who’d been watching her had ordered coffee. He looked about 25, and something in his body language said that was a natural 25, not an older man stuffed with age-defying nanos.
He wore a black shirt and long pants. His arms were thin in a way that Chloe, who’d grown up geeky and liked guys with less classical beauty, found adorable. His face was lean and friendly, with dark eyes and darker eyebrows. He had puffy, unkempt brown hair.
Everything in his manner said he didn’t give a shit, that he’d ride a skateboard one day and work in an office the next —not that he looked like an office guy. Most office workers were Directorate, and this guy definitely looked Enterprise.
Chloe found herself appreciating his somehow rogue look. Her job with O technically placed her in the Directorate party (she got her fixed salary and wasn’t required to scrape for a living) but had always been Enterprise at heart. Her mom had been a free agent before joining O, and had always valued freedom over security, despite being willing to accept the latter to work for O. Chloe felt the same.
And this guy? He was clearly a free spirit. Just look at those tan forearms. That fearless white smile. The carefree hair.
She was staring again. She looked down, feeling herself blush.
When she looked back up, it was to see the chair opposite her being pulled out. The guy from across the cafe was sitting at her table.
“Excuse me?” she said.
The guy was cute, but he hadn’t been invited. Her knee-jerk reaction, as a woman who was approached often by men, was defense. There was a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
“Hi,” he said. “I’m Andrew.”
Chloe stared. The guy’s dark eyes turned out to be brown, and she didn’t see a speck of arrogance in them.
“This is the part where you tell me your name.”
“Nice to meet you, Chloe.” He leaned back in his co-opted chair.
“Can I help you, Andrew?”
“Actually, you can. I was curious about that.” He pointed into her day bag, at a tattered paper volume peeking out from the top.
“It’s a book.” The words sounded stupid the minute she’d said them, and she found herself wanting to cringe.
Andrew nodded as if this were a great revelation. “As I suspected,” he said, faux-serious.
Chloe regarded the book, wondering where this conversation was headed. Over Brad’s objections, she’d tried to find some of Georgia Bernard’s works to further her investigation of the Six and their buried history. She’d managed to find most of the volumes still online as ebooks — but this one, a more obscure title, had been unavailable. She had, however, found battered copies still circulating in print (Georgia Bernard was strangely popular in print, like late Alexa Mathis titles) and had picked it up at the DZ archive on her walk to the cafe.
“I’m reading it for …” Chloe started, unsure how to finish.
He reached toward the book, then paused with his hand extended and looked up at her. “Do you mind?”
Andrew pulled the book from her bag. She felt a strange thrill as her casual possessions — not her accoutrements as “Chloe the O Girl” — shifted under his hand. He looked briefly at the cover, then rifled pages.
“So few people read,” he said, still flipping.
“A lot of people read.”
“I read an article on Crossbrace about how one day they’re going to figure out brain-computer stuff enough that they’ll just kind of be able to zap books into our brains. It’d be like reading the book, except that you’d never actually read it. So, I guess it’d be more like having read the book. But I don’t know that I’d like that. It’d kind of be like having a vacation memory zapped into your head so that you will have been on vacation in your memories. But where’s the actual being on vacation?”
Andrew was still looking at the book. Chloe found herself amused by his attention to the pages — this relic from an earlier age, presented in a medium that few used. His eyebrows were slightly furrowed, as if he were working a puzzle.
Chloe decided she was probably supposed to respond. “Well, when you’re done with the vacation, isn’t it all the same?”
He looked at Chloe, then set the book on the table, face up. Behind him, his table was empty except for a handheld. A waiter arrived with a plate, looked at the handheld, seemed to determine the table’s occupant was still around, and set the food down.
“I guess, in a way. But don’t you feel like the vacation memories after a real vacation would have a different feel from fake ones? Like, you’d have actually done those things, so when you looked back at the implanted memories you’d see the real ones differently, remembering when you were doing them?”
Chloe shrugged. “I guess it depends on how they do it. I imagine any good fake vacation would include the feeling of actually having done things, so memories would be the same.”
Andrew flipped the book closed and set it on the table. He saw Chloe glance behind him, turned, and saw his food. Without a word, he stood, went to his plate, and brought both the food and his handheld back to Chloe’s table.
Apparently they were having brunch together.