"Look what just arrived in the mail!" Junji Takeda grinned with delight, as he showed off the check to his dorm mate Hitomi. Even though she was his age, the black-haired girl was often mistaken for a teenager. Her propensity for wearing t-shirts with bright, sparkling company mottos and logos on them didn't help in that regard. Still, she was a surprisingly mature and collected woman, if you got past her appearance.
"Wow, that's a lot of money," she said, impressed. "What's the occasion?"
"It's for a persocom!" Junji responded, beaming. "I finally wore down my parents - convinced them that college students nowadays simply can't get by without one."
"But half the students in our dorm don't have-"
"Sssh!" Junji interrupted her. "Don't spread it around, will you?"
She giggled, amused at her fellow student's antics.
"So are you going to purchase online?" Hitomi asked.
"Nah, it will take too long to arrive. I'm going to the mall right now."
"But you first felt the need to come by my room and brag, right?" Hitomi asked sarcastically.
"Pretty much," Junji replied. His dorm mate laughed again. The man was simply incorrigible.
"Make sure to introduce me to her when you come back," she said. Hitomi, never having owned a persocom herself, was always interested in meeting them.
"What makes you so sure it will be a her?" Junji asked slyly. Hitomi blushed.
"Well - it's just that... uh, straight guys usually..."
"Just kidding!" Junji cut her off, laughing again. This time Hitomi looked a little peeved, but got over it quickly as she bid Junji goodbye.
As she walked over to the window and watched him drive off, she sighed. Junji was so lucky to have a rich family. Well, maybe not rich, exactly, but brushing the very top of upper middle-class. Hitomi's parents had barely managed to raise enough funds for her tuition, and they certainly wouldn't spring to buy her a persocom, even a laptop. Her part - time job as a waitress also didn't pay nearly enough - she had long resigned herself to the fact that she would have to wait until she graduated to even think about getting her own 'com. Which was a shame, really, because ever since persocoms had first become widespread a few years ago, she had been fascinated with them. She smiled slightly, thinking that at least her list of 'com - owning friends was about to increase by one.
Junji walked through the mall, making a beeline towards the largest persocom shop after cashing his check. As he passed the rows of stores and kiosks, he noticed a lot of people with their 'coms. One couple, in particular, were even holding hands.
'That's kind of creepy,' Junji thought to himself as he passed them. 'I mean, it's just a machine...'
As he finally reached his destination, he paused a minute to admire the display in the front window. There were dozens of persocoms, both male and female, with a veritable rainbow of hair and eye colors, their statures ranging from child-sized to over 2 meters tall. They all looked so immaculate, standing in their display cases like incredibly realistic mannequins.
Walking inside, he was immediately greeted by a young woman wearing a company nametag.
"Hello sir, are you looking to make a purchase today?" She asked, the beginning of what was obviously a rehearsed speech.
"As a matter of fact, I am," Junji replied, still overcome with excitement.
"Excellent. Is there any specific model you're looking for?"
"Nah, I just need something to help me clean my dorm room, do some shopping and cooking, keep track of my finances, help me organize my assignments, stuff like that."
"So I take it you're looking for a full - size model instead of a laptop," the saleswoman concluded. "Follow me, I'll show you some options and you can pick the one you like."
Junji did as she said, as they walked towards the back of the store. He headed over to inspect a white-haired 'com that had caught his eye. She was almost a full head shorter than him, but clearly had an adult figure, and ears that reminded him of feathery wings. He moved to inspect the technical data on the display beside her.
Truth be told, Junji Takeda was not a computer expert. He wasn't clueless or anything, and knew most the basics, but he had never owned a persocom before and wanted to make sure he bought a good one.
The saleswoman came up behind him, noticing his fixation.
"This is the PCN model NQ17 'Aurora'," she explained. "An excellent choice, if I do say so myself."
"Heh, so her name is Aurora-chan?" Junji asked, turning around to face the employee.
"Not necessarily, you can give her any name you want if you purchase her. Is this your first time buying a persocom?" The woman asked.
"Yeah," Junji responded, a bit annoyed he had blundered into revealing that information. If she knew that he was inexperienced she might try to scam him. He quickly tried to change the subject. "Anyway, what does this stat here mean-"
He was interrupted by the sound of several heavy carts being wheeled out of a back room in the store.
"Oh, looks like they're unpacking our latest shipment," the saleswoman said, as the workers began moving the large, transparent persocom boxes off the carts and stacking them on the shelves. "We were due to get a few new models in today."
"Nice," Junji commented, walking closer to the carts to get a better look. Suddenly his eyes were ensnared by a particular 'com in the new shipment, with long green hair and pointed, elf-like ears.
"What's this one?" He asked with interest, approaching the shelf that the persocom had just been unloaded onto.
"It's the newest Reishinka Industries model," one of the workers answered. "Her system specs are top-notch, and she comes with a lot of useful software pre-installed. It'll cost you an arm and a leg, though."
"How much for her?" Junji immediately asked.
The saleswoman, who had been observing the conversation, took out a digital scanner and read the barcode on the persocom's box. As she told Junji the price, his face paled.
That was - he quickly did the math in his head - over 15% more than the amount of cash he had received from his parents! And he had been expecting to walk away with a good amount of leftover money too after he made his purchase.
Well he shouldn't have been surprised, after all - it was Reishinka. They were known as a competitor to PCN, although whereas PCN focused more on making average, affordable 'coms, Reishinka was known to build expensive, high - end models. Their primary clientele was those who wanted high-performance machines but lacked the knowhow and experience to build their own custom jobs. Junji looked at the beautiful green-haired 'com again. He realized he likely wouldn't need most of the extra features she undoubtedly had, but there was just something about her that convinced him she was the one he wanted.
'Oh well, I guess I'll just have to work overtime and cut down on expenses for the next several months,' he thought, as he finally made his purchase.
When he arrived back at the dorm, he left the 'com in the car and quickly scouted out the hallways. Luckily, Hitomi was nowhere in sight - he knew that if she spotted him carrying the 2 - meter - plus box down the hall she would hold him up for at least half an hour, asking questions and making a fuss over the persocom.
He ran back to the car and did his best to pull the heavy container to his door as quickly as possible. He managed to do it in only about 5 minutes, at the expense of his aching muscles.
After resting for a few minutes, he finally decided to open it. Inside, he found several cables, adapters, and a thick manual along with the 'com itself. With significant effort, he slung her over his shoulder and managed to carry her over to his bed, where he dropped her on the covers.
"I'm still amazed at how realistic these things are," he said to himself, looking at his new purchase. "If it wasn't for those ears, I'd think she was a real girl, just sleeping."
Junji continued to look at her, again reflecting on her beauty. Her long, light-green hair draped gracefully down past her shoulders, and the elegant dress she wore made her look like some kind of elven princess from a fantasy kingdom. He also began to notice how well-sculpted certain parts of her body were... for a brief moment he half-entertained the thought of feeling her up while she lay there deactivated.
'Wait, what the hell am I thinking?' He quickly changed his mind. 'I'm not some kind of pervert - besides, it's just a freaking computer!'
Instead, Junji reached down and flipped her over so her face was pointing upward, and started feeling around behind her right ear for her activation switch.
"Let's wake you up, shall we?"
Eventually, he found it, and heard a distinct click as the button was depressed. For a few seconds, all that happened was a growing whirring sound, which abated as she opened her eyes and sat up facing him.
"Greetings. Are you my master?" She asked, in a light, inquisitive tone of voice.
"Um, yes," he said, slightly surprised by her quick response but soon adjusting. "I just bought you. My name is Junji Takeda."
"Pleased to meet you, Junji-sama" she said, standing up and bowing. "Please recite confirmation code."
"Huh?" He said, confused by this request.
"A persocom confirmation code is a sequence of alphanumeric characters used to confirm registration of a new persocom, in order to prevent theft and illegal duplication," the 'com replied, as if reading out of a dictionary. "Assuming you purchased me legally, my confirmation code should be listed on the last page of my owner's manual."
"Oh! Hold on a second," Junji said, as he went back to the couch where he had left the book. Walking back over to the humanoid computer, who was watching him with patience, he opened the book to the last page and began reading.
"Confirmation code... A A two four seven nine nine five five five six nine S three five nine O L eight eight", he finished. The girl closed her eyes for a second, as if in thought, and then spoke.
"Confirmation code accepted. You are now registered as my owner, Master Junji."
"Excellent," the young man said, putting down the manual. He then stared at the persocom for a few seconds, squinting a bit.
"Is there something wrong?" She asked.
"It's just that - well, you need a name, don't you?" He replied. Junji had never really anthropomorphized persocoms the way Hitomi and some others did, but he still recognized the necessity of a name, as it would make identification and communication much easier.
"Yes. Would you like to name me, Master Junji?" She said.
"Hmm..." he thought, looking at her. At first he considered exotic names befitting her elven appearance, like Nellethiel. He quickly dismissed that line of thought, however, feeling it would seem too pretentious. Besides, even though Junji was a student of languages, all of those "L"s would be hard for most of his Japanese countrymen to pronounce.
"Master Junji?" The 'com asked. If he didn't know any better he would think he heard a hint of impatience in her voice.
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking, give me a minute here!" He said, continuing to rack his brain for a good name.
"Of course, Master Junji," she responded, sitting back down on the bed.
He looked at her again, but was drawing a blank. Then, finally, it hit him. The name of a girl he had had a slight fancy for back in primary school seemed to fit.
"Your name is... Minako," he said.
She stood up and looked him in the eyes. "Minako..." her face suddenly burst into a huge smile. "I like it! Thank you, Master Junji!"
Author's Note: Here it is, the first chapter. Yes, this is a prequel to Rebellion, but you don't need to read that first to understand this. For those of you familiar with Junji and Minako from that story, however, you've probably noticed that they're a lot different here. Well, that's only to be expected, as this story takes place some 12 years before Rebellion. As it continues, hopefully I'll be able to convey how the characters transformed into the versions you know. Please review and tell me what you think of the first chapter!