Chapter One: Kamui Awakens
"I'm leaving now!"
"Good work today!"
Monou Fuuma closed the door to the restaurant, checking to make sure it locked behind him. Shouldering his backpack, he loosened his tie and headed for the train station. "Got a lot done today," he said to himself, stretching his arms up above his head, not noticing the appreciative stares he was generating. "Work was so slow tonight, but at least I made some good money." Fuuma continued walking, heedless of the now odd looks he received as he continued to talk to himself at normal volume.
Rounding the corner to the train station, he passed an extremely familiar window containing a row of what looked like mannequins with funny ears. Of course, they appeared that way to the untrained or uneducated eye, and Fuuma was certainly neither of those. He knew what they were, and -really- wanted one. He stopped and gazed into the window, eyes gaining a glassed-over look. "Man, if I had a persocon, life would be so much easier..." His lament fell upon the deaf ears of the robots in the window, their empty eyes stared at him without pity. Dejected, he turned from the storefront and continued on to the station. "Mine'd do all the housework, and it'd cook..." he sighed loudly, punching a fist into his other hand. "Dammit!! Someday, I'll get one! JUST WATCH ME!"
A silence fell around him and Fuuma finally noticed just how many people were staring at him. Laughing weakly, he darted out onto the platform and squeezed into the first train that arrived. //Damn, I really need to stop doing that. People are going to think I'm weird.// After the brief admonishment, he went back to thinking about the persocons in the window. And the one sitting next to him on the train, as well as the one sitting across the aisle, and the one standing over there...
He had to be the only person alive who didn't own one of the human-shaped computers. At school, all of his friends had palm-sized mobile units at the very least. They took notes, kept track of schedules and homework; he even knew a few people who'd programmed their persocons to play video games when the teacher wasn't looking. The possibilities were endless; the only problem was they were so expensive that Fuuma probably wouldn't own one until he was out of college.
An overhead speaker announced the arrival at his stop, and Fuuma filed out of the train car with the dozen or so others who got off, still lost in thought. He was halfway home when he remembered that his sister had asked him to pick up some groceries. "This sucks." He turned on his heel and walked back the way he'd come, stopping at the first convenience store he happened upon, which was three streets over and about seven or eight blocks down.
As the cashier rang up his purchase and heated the meager instant dinner he'd grabbed for himself, Fuuma flipped through one of the magazines by the register, careful to hold the telephone book-sized issue just so, so people wouldn't be able to see the pages of barely clothed girls that had captured his attention.
"Thank you for waiting!"
Startled, Fuuma fumbled with the magazine, shoving it back in its place in the rack and took the plastic bags from the girl behind the counter. He mumbled a "thank you" and hustled out of the store. Once outside, he smacked his palm against his forehead and groaned. "Good one, Fuuma. Now she probably thinks you're some kind of pervert." He stuffed the bag of groceries into his backpack and headed home, taking a shortcut through an unfamiliar neighborhood. "Too bad, she was cute."
A streetlamp flickered as he walked under it, going dark just long enough for Fuuma to trip over something in his path. Once the light came back on, he yelped and stumbled backward.
A person lay in the pile of trash bags stacked underneath the streetlight. Upon slightly closer examination, Fuuma determined it was a boy, loosely wrapped in strips of cloth, and that he didn't seem to be breathing. "Hey," Fuuma called, poking the boy with a stick. He received no response. Moving closer, he poked the boy again. "Hey!" He repeated, louder this time. "Are you all right?" When the boy didn't answer again, Fuuma felt a panic begin to rise. He'd found a dead body in the street! The killer could still be around, oh god, -this- was why he never took the shortcut home. "Kotori, I'm sorry I couldn't bring home the groceries!" He moaned. "But it's kind of hard when you're dead--" He broke off his own eulogy when he caught sight of something he hadn't noticed before.
Poking out of the boy's raven black hair were a pair of funny looking, white ears. Fuuma blinked, then took a step closer and prodded at them. They seemed to be made of a hard plastic, seamlessly connected to the boy's pale skin where normal ears would be on a human being. "A persocon?" He mused, instantly relieved. No thugs here, his life was safe for the time being. A slow elation began to build as he considered his find. The persocon was in the trash, meaning someone had thrown it out. Which technically meant that it was free for the taking...
Grinning from ear to ear, Fuuma slipped his arms under the still body -- it felt so lifelike! -- and picked it up, immediately stumbling under the weight. "For such a small thing, you weigh a ton, you know." He said to it, taking one labored step after another. "But that means you've gotta be worth it." He would not be dissuaded, simply because of a little problem of not being able to carry the persocon. This was a dream come true. He -finally- had a persocon of his very own!
About a half hour later, after a hasty greeting to his sister and father, who were watching television in the main room and still safely out of sight, Fuuma set the still-inert persocon on the floor of his room and then collapsed onto his bed, lungs burning as he tried to catch his breath. Physically weakened as he was, his enthusiasm failed to be dampened. Sitting up, he looked over his new acquisition. The gender design was obviously male, and its frame was -small-. Standing, the persocon would probably only reach his chest, if that. Fuuma briefly wondered why the thing didn't have any clothing on besides several cloth strips wrapped tightly around it, but shrugged it off as he searched for a way to turn it on.
An hour later, he sagged against the wall, grinding his teeth in frustration. "How the hell do you make it work?!" He'd checked everywhere; on the ears, all over its face, under the arms, behind the knees, on the toes and fingers, and he'd come up with absolutely no success. He scanned the persocon's body, grumbling about it being defective…
… until his eyes came to rest on a place he hadn't tried. "You have GOT to be kidding me!" Fuuma half-shouted, face already turning a bright red at the mere possibility of the switch being somewhere under the cloth covering the persocon's groin. "This is sick, I mean really! What kind of person comes up with this stuff?" He sat against the wall for another few minutes, attempting to come to terms with what was quickly becoming the only answer.
Swallowing audibly, he knelt beside the still body and set one hand on the persocon's stomach. "Come on, Fuuma." He began the pep talk in a shaky voice. "You want a persocon, right? This is just part of the package… I mean, it's not that hard right? You've seen other guys in the locker room, this isn't any different… well, it is, but don't think about it that way…"
His hand moved lower, trembling noticeably. Clenching it into a fist, Fuuma took a deep breath. "Just pretend it's a girl… wait, that's stupid. Girls definitely don't have -that.-"
Berating himself for being so squeamish, he looked at the persocon's emotionless face. He wondered what color eyes it had, as he ran the back of his other hand down its cheek. It looked so real, it was faintly disturbing, especially in light of what he had to do to activate it. Biting his lip, he leaned close to the still face. "I'm not trying to be weird or anything." He said softly, closing his eyes. "So, ah… sorry."
Before he could think better of it, he slipped his hand under the cloth, wrapped his fingers around what he was looking for and quickly pulled.
The result was instantaneous, the persocon's eyes opened, revealing pupiless violet irises. Lifted by an unseen hand, the persocon floated off the ground, the cloth falling away, releasing its arms and legs. Fuuma watched, mouth open in awe, as it settled back down on the floor; he wondered if his friends' persocons had done the same when they'd been activated.
The persocon raised its head and stared at him. Fuuma coughed, trying to figure out what was appropriate to say. "Ah, hi." Wide violet eyes merely blinked once in response. Frowning, Fuuma tried again. "Can you talk? What's your name?"
The persocon touched a finger to slightly parted lips, expression pensive. It tilted its head, looking at him curiously. Fuuma raked a hand through his hair, trying to figure out what to do. Maybe there was something he was forgetting; after all, he'd never owned a persocon before. The persocon sat motionless while Fuuma poked around it, fingering the plastic ears. He grinned with delight when one of them opened to reveal a handful of cords, one of which he recognized as having an audio/visual jack on the end. //Finally, something I recognize.//
He pulled the cord out and hooked it up to his much-neglected television. He'd never been a TV person, but between his job, soccer practice and school, it was a wonder he remembered how to turn it on. Instantly, the screen lit up, and a cursor appeared, blinking expectantly. "Great!" Fuuma cheered, rubbing his hands together as he turned to the persocon. "Okay, so… boot up. Or whatever it is you do."
A flicker passed through the violet eyes, and the persocon's face slackened. Fuuma looked at the screen as a word appeared, blinking quickly. "Kamui?" Fuuma read aloud, puzzled. What on earth did that mean? "What's 'Kamui'?"
Fuuma peered at the persocon's blank expression critically. "Hey, you can talk!" He smiled. "Is that your name?" He pointed at it, as if to illustrate his point.
A semblance of cognizance returned to its eyes and face. It raised a hand and placed it on its chest. "Kamui."
Fuuma beamed. "Nice to meet you, Kamui!" He looked back at the still-blinking name on the screen. "Wow, this is neat---okay, let's see what you can do. Bring up your program list, okay?"
Another flicker passed through the eyes and the screen changed. Fuuma frowned as the words 'NO DATA' appeared in bright red text. "I don't get it. What does that mean, 'no data'?" A flash of horror coursed through him. "Does that mean I have to -buy- software for you?! Man, and I thought I'd gotten off easy." He unplugged the cord and replaced it inside Kamui's ear. Upon being disconnected from the television, Kamui watched Fuuma with an expectant, curious gaze.
"Maybe you're broken." Fuuma said with a sigh, patting him on the head. "That's why you were in the trash."
Kamui's reaction to his offhand comment was instant and unexpected. A small hand shot out and gripped his sleeve tightly, face pinched with fear. Taken aback, Fuuma waved his hands, shaking his head quickly. "Don't worry! I'm not going to get rid of you." He ruffled Kamui's hair and smiled. "I've always wanted a persocon; we'll figure out how to make you work, okay?"
Fuuma felt his chest tighten ever so slightly as Kamui beamed at him. //He's really cute… maybe this won't be so bad.// A second later, he was flat on his back, Kamui sprawled out on top of him and hugging him tightly. Fuuma became quickly aware of the fact that his new persocon was not wearing anything. Blushing furiously, he covered his eyes with one hand. "Before we do anything, Kamui, we need to get you some clothes."