Yesterday, Sam Flynn hadn't been responsible for much more than a rescue dog. Today (that is, the day after fighting in a war), he was not only on the board of a Fortune 500 company, but in charge of guarding the savior of humanity. But at least Quorra was feeding Marvin. That was a load off.

At least Alan was letting him take things slow. Earning his stripes in PR, which was 90% of business nowadays anyway. It was still pressure, but he'd always been good with that. He just showed up, took notes, and dropped the occasional reminder that people didn't like seeing the same commercial twice in the same ad block. The hardest part was resisting the urge to just cut out and do something stupid. His body felt like it was tamped down, wearing even something as casual as a sports jacket, doing paperwork, crunching numbers. This was stuff his dad was good at. Not him.

Not yet.

So he got home and there was Quorra. Which helped a lot. He could relax around her. It felt like the adrenaline just disappeared instead of piling up, waiting to be burnt. So far, she hadn't left the house much, just walking with him to the corner store and back. She was content to page through his library, get her jollies that way. Really, who could've guessed a bookshelf would be such a chick magnet?

Soon. He'd get Encom sewn up, then he'd find a bigger place, then he'd show Quorra the world. He just hoped she was really as patient as she seemed.

"There's a fair," she said when he came through the door… actually, a little before he came through. "Can we go?"

Sam kicked off his leather shoes and tossed his sports jacket somewhere far away. "Sure, when?"

Quorra looked down at the papers she was going over. She'd turned yet another piece of makeshift furniture into a workspace, covering his card table/dining set with push-pins, Post-It notes, and Legos. She made a ring of text around a weirdly striped Lego sculpture, her hand seeming to work independently of her body, then clicked her mechanical pen and set it in the pocket of her vest. "There. I'm done with social security."

Sam paused with one arm in his aviator jacket. "You fixed social security?"

"It was just a matter of streamlining the process so there's an improved chance of mental correlation between net good over individual cost."

"I'll draft a letter to my Congressman," Sam said, picking up the keys to the Ducati out of the candy dish. He jangled them. "You wanna drive?"

"No, I like it more when you do." Quorra had her helmet waiting on the loveseat. It was bright pink to go with her pastel ensemble. She was crazy about colors that weren't black, white, and blue.

Sam really had to stop thinking about how Quorra wrapped her arms around him and rested her head between his shoulder blades as they rode. She was a program. He was thinking about sex with an exe file. Really, now.

An incredibly cute exe file, but still…

Sam put down the kickstand, looking with Quorra out at the fairgrounds. "Alright. Whaddya wanna do first?"

Quorra just stared at the lit-up Ferris wheel, the big top rippling in the breeze, the million-and-one things to do that she'd never done. "It's so beautiful."

No. He was not going to do that thing when he looked at her face, as incredibly cute as it was, and said 'Yes, it is.' He wasn't Matthew McConaughey.

"Yes, but it smells funny."

She looked at him and laughed. Like he was Matthew McConaughey. She stifled it with a fist over her mouth, since she was still sorting out when was and wasn't an appropriate time to laugh. "Sorry. I would like you to win me a stuffed animal in a game of thrown projectiles first. It should be fluffy."

This was ridiculous. He had won in gladiatorial combat with a light disc, why was he having this much trouble knocking over a bunch of cans with a ball?

"Try to make the ball spin at a rate of at least four revolutions per seconds," Quorra suggested, kneading her hands together as she watched.

He missed again. Slapped another five down on the wooden counter. Eyed the man in the booth. "I am winning a member of the animal kingdom with stuffing inside it."

"I don't believe one of the victory conditions of thrown projectiles is to hit the operator in the crotch, grab an elephant, and run," Quorra said, clutching her elephant, running.

"That game was rigged," Sam replied. "In here."

They ducked into a sideshow. The only light came from a glowing cylinder with an "alien fetus" inside. Sam thought it looked more like the result of a one-night stand between a Cabbage Patch doll and a blowtorch.

"Okay," he said, after they'd switched jackets and security had probably drifted off. "What next?"

Quorra ate her cotton candy with intense concentration, seeming to precisely gauge the size of each bite she took, then hitting it with a set amount of chewing, then swallowing. Sam just had a corn dog.

"I do not understand the designation," she said. "I believe this consists mostly of sugar, food coloring, and air. Neither cotton nor candy is involved."

"It looks like cotton."

"But why's the thought of eating cotton appetizing? And what is the pink color meant to imply? Is it significant that it is a feminine color, like my—"

"Tell you what," Sam interrupted. "It sounded like a good idea at the time. If you're confused by anything here, it's a safe bet that to someone, somewhere, it sounded like a good idea at some time."

"Yes. Your father told me that. He said many of you aren't aware you have a function. I believe your function is to find your function." She took another bite. Rip, chomp, gulp. "Have you found your function, Sam Flynn?"

He looked at her. Damn. He was totally being McConaughey. "Yeah. I think so. I mean, this whole thing, Encom, you, saving the world… it feels right."

"It's a good idea at this time."

"Who knows? Maybe it'll be a good idea forever. Like pizza, or se—Seacrest."

"If you were going to say sex, as your conversational harmonics indicated, you didn't have to change it to an appreciation of Ryan Seacrest. Your father explained User sexuality to me." Quorra winced along with Sam as she realized how that sounded. "He provided several young adult novels that dealt with the topics of menstruation, teen pregnancy, dating, monster slaying—"

"So you know where babies come from. Duly noted."

"Yes." Quorra nodded self-consciously. "Wombs, right?"


Up ahead, the Ferris wheel was chugging along. Quorra grabbed Sam's arm and pulled him onto the end of the line. It was a short wait. Kids these days didn't appreciate a good Ferris wheel.

"Do you think there will be heating inside?" Quorra asked. "It's cold."

Sam looked at her. Between the yellow sleeves of her blouse and her blue gloves (as soon as the world was saved, he was getting her on What Not To Wear), her skin was goosepimpled. He took off her jacket and added it to his.

"Oh!" She colored. "You gave me your jacket to keep me warm. I didn't have to tell you to do that. But it's my jacket, since we switched jackets to fool the guards. What does that mean? It means I'm babbling."

"Just so long as you're not cold anymore."

"No! Not at all!" She worked her lip under her teeth. "I might be warmer if your arm were around me."

He put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to his side. "That better?"

"Yes… can I babble?"


"The Grid is cool, not cold. I think the biggest difference is the wind, since we don't have it there. It makes things colder than they are, or hotter, but what I like how warm this place is. Next time someone asks about the sun, you should tell them it's warm. Like you're warm. Core body temperature is thirty-seven degrees Celsius, but oral measurement is less, thirty-six-point-eight Celsius, higher than skin temperature, and anal measurement is slightly higher than that, sometimes as high as thirty-seven-point-eight Celsius. And there's fever, hypothermia, hyperthermia, and even the time of day can affect the degree of body heat."

"What about eating red peppers?" Sam asked.

"I think your body temperature is completely precise. I don't believe I'd like to feel anyone else's body heat. That's without even taking into account complexion, clothing choices, and saliency. All of which are ideal, in you."

God. Not only was he McConaughey, but she was Sandra Bullock.

"Right, Quorra, I'm not upset, and this may just be because you've been talking about how hot I am, but is this a date?"

"No. Men have to ask women out on a date. Unless you're the woman and I'm…"

"Quorra, you wanna go out on a date?"

"A nonlinear request to go on the date we're already on? We're being subversive."

"Yes. It's very subversive for two heterosexual white people to ride a Ferris wheel."

"I had a lovely evening," Quorra said when they got home. "The dusk was also very nice, but the twilight was marred by evading that security guard."

"I don't know how he recognized us. We switched jackets." Sam got the door for Quorra, who beamed in appreciation as she stepped through.

He followed her through, grinning despite himself. He hadn't enjoyed a computer program this much since Oregon Trail.

Inside, Quorra turned around and slapped him.

He blinked. "Can you read minds?"

"Slap me back!" she said enthusiastically, offering up her chin like a prize-fighter.

"Uh, no. I'm not slapping you."

She slapped him again. It stung even more this time.

"Stop that!"

"Then slap me already."

"Quorra, I don't know what books you've been reading or what chat rooms you've been visiting, but you've gotten the wrong idea—"

She slapped him. He groaned and gave her kind of a love tap on the cheek, which was immediately followed by her putting her hands to his face, putting her lips to his, and getting all USB drive with her tongue.

"Did I do that okay?" she asked.

"That was… I'd say that was okay, yeah." He nodded a few times.

"I was very anxious to be successful at your mating rituals. Did I forget anything? You won me a stuffed animal, we ate cotton candy, then we slapped each other a few times… I missed something, didn't I?"

He kissed her again. Matthew McConaughey would be proud.

"No, no," she said, pulling away. "Kiss duration was not optimal and tongue placement was decidedly inexact, that was not the perfect kiss, why was it so… nice? Did I miscalculate?"

"Quorra, you can't calculate love… I said as I realized I was in an 80s movie about robots. Just trust me. This stuff isn't an exact science. You wanna sit down on the couch and watch an old movie with popcorn? That's gotta be part of the mating ritual."

"No. I believe we should move on to sex." Quorra started to undress.


"Intercourse," Quorra elaborated. "Specifically, coitus, although my research has familiarized me with the sexual styles of missionaries, dogs, and pegs."

"Quorra, you're acting like Seven of Nine in a bad fanfic. Could you slow down a minute and stop taking off your clothes?"

Quorra stopped to look down at her bra. "Yes, my research indicated that many couples have relations while attired in underthings, although I was unclear of how they managed to penetrate in such a state. You should be naked though." She reached for his fly.

"Let me guess. Your research consisted of the TV and Netflix Instant View?"

"I have also downloaded erotic videos from the internet." She shoved him down onto the couch. "Get ready to take every inch of my vagina, little slut."

"Oh boy… listen, Quorra, this is a bad idea. Just trust me on this. Anyone who calls it a vagina in the middle of foreplay isn't ready to have sex."

Quorra smiled. "We're having foreplay?"

"No, I mean—" Sam paused. Quorra had started moaning, and she was eerily convincing. "Please stop that."

"We should play jazz music."


"And light candles!"


"I already tailored the bedsheets into an L shape so they'll cover my torso, but only your lower body."

"Quorra! One, you should've asked before you did that. Second, sex is… well, it's special, for girls anyway. You shouldn't do it just because… why are you doing this again?"

"Because I like you."

Sam felt a wave of guilt passing through him. Feeling guilty for not having sex with a girl. Quorra was already changing the world. "Okay, that's a good reason, I am very likable, but you should be absolutely sure that you really like me and you really want to have sex before you give me one inch of your vagina." Oh God, mental image… "That's what my dad did. Before I was born, Kevin Flynn and my mom went on a lot of dates, they found out lots of things they had in common, they learned they really liked each other, and then they talked to a stork and he brought me to them."

Quorra laughed loudly before clapping a hand over her mouth. "Was that an appropriate occasion for laughter?"

"Possibly. It was a pretty lame joke."

Quorra settled on a smile. "Very well. We shall have sex at a later date when I like you more."

"In the real world, we just say 'Not tonight, I have a headache.'"