Okay looking back on how I got here is... a bit of a trek. Emotionally and literally. Well I guess the best place to start would be right around where you wouldn’t expect most fantastical stories to start- at a boring office job.
I guess it was probably better than I gave it credit for. I was employed at Vastechnology, which is probably a name that isn’t as well known now as it was then. A big up and comer, Vastech was all the rage amongst computer techies. They developed and designed software upgrades for most machines. They had subscription packages and apps and all that junk.
But as for me, I wasn’t exactly one of the ones you’d get to see in an interview with Popular Mechanics. No, I was the manager of cybersecurity at Vastech’s Ohio location. Yaaaaaaaaaay. It wasn’t all bad. I was working with computer science at a big tech company. I just wasn’t in exactly the position I was hoping for I suppose.
It was the end of the work day. The looong work day. I was going over some new security reports from one of the software guys. Honestly I had no idea how some of them got that position. They’d file a report to me thinking that every freeze up is a hacker or virus. I sighed and closed the last of the reports, sending out my cut and paste “The issue has been noted” response. My boss passed by my office door on his way out.
“See you on Monday Jay! Don’t overwork yourself!” He called with a wave
“Hah thanks Henry! See you then!”
Prick. He acted all Mr. Nice Boss but then you get to see how he really is when you see yourself on the schedule working 55 hours a week with a joke of an overtime check.
I closed my laptop and put it in my bag. I closed up my office and waved to the doorman on my way out. I was too exhausted to do anything else so I went to the sandwich place across from the office. Wild Friday night I know.
To be fair Petey’s Sandwiches was a lot nicer than some other places I could have gone. But maybe I was delusional from way too many similar evenings of me stumbling into the place after work. The kid at the register rang up my toasted cheesesteak and gave me a smile. I knew him and I had seen him before working the graveyard shift. I was probably the definition of one of the places “regulars” so most of the employees here probably knew me.
I smiled back and asked him how his shift was going as I put my card in the little keypad thing. The kid was a little nervous to talk to me but he did manage to stutter out a “good..”
My stomach yearned for the sandwich that was placed on the counter as my order was called. I picked up my little basket and rounded the corner into the small dining area. I was in such a hurry that I didn’t even register the woman in front of me until I walked right into her.
Bonk. Ow. I fell backwards on my butt. I looked up at the woman to see her gasp since our impact had made her accidentally spill her lemon ice tea all over herself.
Shitshitshitshit “Oh my god I am so sorry!” I said as I jumped back up to my feet. “I- Uh- I shoooould grab some napkins for you!”
The woman stood there eyes wide, looking down at her soaked shirt. She put her free hand to her neck in what I assumed was shock. She stuttered a bit and I apologized again before running to grab a huge fistful of napkins, all whilst praying that this quite frankly beautiful woman wouldn’t start yelling at me.
I returned with the napkins and gave half to her to start cleaning herself off as I worked on wiping up the floor. “I am so so sorry that was all on me I had a long day.”
The woman regained her voice and managed to say “No it’s.. It’s fine don’t worry.”
Thank god. The last thing I needed today was someone chewing me out when I just wanted to enjoy my sandwich. Speaking of, I glanced over at it. I had dropped the basket and the fries had fallen on the floor, but the sandwich was relatively okay. Saved by the paper it was wrapped in.
I finished wiping up the floor to the best of my ability with the napkins I had. “Hey uh you know what I need new fries, let me go ahead and buy you a new drink. Just lemon ice tea yeah?”
“Oh no you don’t need to do that. Really it’s fine.”
I picked up the now mostly empty cup from where she had set it on the floor. “I insist. It’s the least I can do.”
“I uh.. Okay…”
I returned to the counter and ordered fries for myself and a new drink for her. When I returned with the fresh drink, she had sat down at a booth nearby to where the incident happened. She seemed to be more composed than she was before.
“Thank you so much!” She said, cheerier than I would have expected someone that was still damp with tea to be.
“Yeah sorry again. I should have paid more attention..”
“Really it’s fine!” She gave me a very sweet and genuine smile that made my heart rate go up a bit.
I smiled awkwardly. “Well uh you have a good rest of your evening.”
I stopped mid stride as she grabbed my sleeve.
“Do you.. Want to sit with me? I’d hate to sit alone and it doesn’t seem like you’re here with anyone.”
Holy. Shit. Not only was a beautiful woman completely fine with the fact that I made her spill her drink on herself, she actually wanted my company? This had to be too good to be true.
I stuttered out “Y-yeah sure I’ll sit with you.” I set my basket down at her table and sat down. I managed to actually get a good look at her now that I wasn’t wracked with anxiety. She had mid length wavy brown hair and large ice blue eyes. Her skin had a shine to it that I assumed was makeup and her hair looked to have been curled and done up. It seemed like she was going to go out somewhere fancy, but her very casual T-shirt and jeans stated otherwise.
She took a sip of her drink and rested her chin on her fist. “I was stood up at a steakhouse not too far from here. I didn’t want to order and pay for a meal for myself at a place like that so I went home and changed out of my fancy attire and came here. Sooo that’s why my hair and nails are all nice and the rest of me is a wreck. Aaand that’s also why I’m craving company. Sorry if I came off as creepy there just a second ago.” She ran a manicured hand through her perfect hair.
I laughed and dipped a fry in my ketchup. “No don’t worry at all. Honestly it’d probably be healthy for me to talk to another human once in a while.” She laughed at that. “But hey,” I said as I pointed my fry at her. “The guy that stood you up is a dick. I’m sorry you had to experience that. Plus it’s pretty much on him for skipping out on a date with such a beautiful girl-” I caught myself, realizing what I had just said. Embarrassed, I ate the fry.
She blushed and scratched her arm. “Well thank you..”
I suddenly realized I was calling her pretty and I hadn’t even said my damn name. “I’m James by the way. Well, I usually go by Jay.” I held out a hand for her.
She took my hand and shook it while giving me that same warm smile. “Evelyn.” She took another sip of her drink and glanced out the window we were sitting by. I gazed on at her and admired her beauty. While I was doing so, she had an odd cough. I could have sworn that in the middle of her cough there was a sound like crackling or sparking electricity.
Evelyn’s eyes widened afterwards. “Excuse me sorry about that. I’m ah, recovering from a cold.” I shrugged it off and took a bite of my sandwich. She cleared her throat and asked “So Jay, where do you work? Based on your business clothes it can’t be far I’m assuming?”
I jabbed a thumb out the window at my office across the street. “Right in that lovely little building over there.”
“Oh the tech company? What do you do there? Make the software they sell?”
“Hah I wish. I’m just manager of our cybersecurity. You know keeping important documents safe from hackers who want our programming secrets and all that.”
Her eyes seemed to light up at this. “Interesting…”
“It’s… not as glorious as it sounds. For the most part I just handle incoming reports and look into possible intel security threats, which usually end up being nothing at all.” I waved a hand. “But I just got out of a loooong ass day there. Tell me, Evelyn where do you work?”
“I handle finances at the Royal River Hotel across town. Not super interesting either,” she said with a small laugh.”
“Well that depends on who you talk to. I for one find finances… very interesting…”
“Ah well I tried.”
We both laughed. We must have sat at that booth for an hour and a half that night, long after my food basket had come to hold only small fry bits and crumbs, and her drink had become some small melting lemon flavored ice cubes. We really hit it off, talking about small things here and there but she was such a good conversationalist that it was like the topics didn’t even matter. Evelyn was just amazing in every way. But eventually she realized the time.
“Well Jay this has been the most fun I’ve ever had at a sandwich joint at 11pm, but I really should be getting home. Hey you know… do you want to go on an actual date? Like one we plan out and stuff and we don’t start it by spilling drink all over me.”
Could this night possibly get any better “Yeah that sounds like a good time!”
“Great! I thiiink the best time I’m available is actually next friday?”
“Yeah that sounds- wait.. Shit I think my boss has me on report watch that night. Uhhhhh would any other day work…?”
“No I think the only time I’m free after that is like a week and a half later.. Finances can get busy.”
Think Jay think damnit “Well uh.. I don’t want this to get in the way of our date but I could ask my boss if I could work from home that day and I can bring my work computer along possibly?”
“Hmmm I think that should work. You know.. To make that easier I could always ask my boss if we can borrow a room at the hotel? You can store your work stuff there while we go see a movie and then maybe we can return to the hotel and… see where the night takes us.”
At that moment Symphony No. 9 by Ludwig van Beethoven, more commonly known as Ode to Joy, began playing in my mind at full blast. “U-uh yeah that sounds good.”
“Perfect! I’ll see you Friday at 7 at the Royal River then.”
She wrote out a slip of paper with her number on it before gathering up her things. She gave me a peck on the cheek as she walked out of the restaurant.
I slumped down in my seat with a stupid happy look on my face. I could have stayed there all night if it wasn’t for the employee who nudged me and said they were closing soon. I grabbed my bag and walked home, riding the happiest feeling I had felt in a long time.
So as planned, I asked Henry if I could work from home on Friday. He took some convincing but eventually he agreed. However, the folks at corporate decided to release a new software app that week. So that meant more files for me to keep my eyes on. There was so much shit for me to organize and so many files to compartmentalize that I barely even noticed when it became 6:45 on Friday.
I did a double take at the clock and realized I may be late. I threw my laptop in my bag and gathered up some other papers. I had never been to the Royal River before so finding it wasn’t exactly the easiest operation I had ever taken part of. Plus with the robot in my phones map app telling me to turn at the last possible second led to me having to partake in various U-turns and backstreet routes. When all was said and done, I walked through the lobby doors at 7:15.
A large fancy chandelier hung over the circular room that was the lobby. I took a second to take in the place, as it was much better than any hotel I had ever stayed at. I glanced behind the desk and saw a door with a frosted glass window. I assumed this led to the offices and where Evelyn worked.
A manager seemed to notice me, without a suitcase and staring at the decor, and assumed I was not their usual demographic. He approached me with a friendly gesture. “Hello there sir are you James? Eve’s friend?”4
“Oh yes hi sorry,” I said as I realized I had been standing in his lobby awkwardly.
“Quite alright sir. I believe Eve said you’d be storing some work things in a room here?”
“Uh yeah just this,” I said nodding to my bag.
“Alright. Eve requested to use room 814 for the night. Here is a key to get in as she is currently not here.” He smiled and gave me a plastic key card. He had a very friendly, almost devious, light in his eyes.
“Thank you, Marcus,” I said, reading his name tag. He nodded and returned to the front desk where he had been previously.
I took the elevator up to the eighth floor and opened up the room. Sure enough, Evelyn wasn’t there yet. I shrugged and decided to take the time to work a little more on my computer. As boring as it was, it calmed my nerves a bit. I had been anxious about how this date would go. Evelyn was an amazing woman and I didn’t want to blow it on our first actual date
At 7:30, I heard the door lock click. I closed my laptop as Evelyn entered.
Damn. Her hair was done up, her nails were manicured and she had that same makeup shine as when I met her. But wow. I thought she was pretty in casual attire but now she had a form fitting one piece crimson dress with a very low neckline. She also had on shiny black high heels. I tried to say words but I couldn’t form any.
Evelyn noticed my struggle and gave an understanding laugh. “Hey you.”
I managed to find my voice “Hi uh, you look… wow… I uh,” I glanced down at my comparatively vastly underdressed blue sweater and khakis. “I thought we were just seeing a movie…?”
She laughed again. “Yeah sorry if I’m a little overdressed. But I bought this outfit for the date I was stood up on and I wanted to actually use it on a date. I’m glad you actually showed up, Jay.”
I tossed my laptop on the bed and stood up to meet her at the doorway. “Of course, Evelyn. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
She blushed and stuttered “W-well we should, ah get going! Don’t want to miss that movie, now!” She turned and quickly led me out the doorway, the scent of her perfume trailing behind.
Just as she had said, the theater was just around the block. It was one of those small non chain theaters that try to keep their seating and concessions area all classic. With only two screens though they sort of shot themselves in the foot as the place was pretty empty. But hey that meant it was all the more personal for us.
After I bought our tickets, we moved through to the concessions area when Evelyn turned to me. “Hey do you want- want- want- want- want-” she kept repeating the word ‘want’ and her eyebrows furrowed. “want- want me to buy the snacks?” She cleared her throat and looked embarrassed.
“Uhhhhh sure…? What was that if I may ask?”
“It was nothing,” she said quickly. “I just think I’m hungry and light headed. All the more reason to buy snacks haha!” She darted over to the snack counter without asking me what I wanted to eat. I walked up behind her and heard her talking to the girl at the counter.
“-and a small coke. And as for my date…” She trailed off as she too realized she hadn’t asked me what I wanted. She turned around and jumped when she saw me right behind her.
“Ah! Jay! Hi! Uh…”
“Pack of junior mints,” I said with a laugh. She fidgeted with her purse strap, still embarrassed. “Hey it’s okay, Evelyn. To be honest I’m nervous for this date too. I want this to go well. Don’t think I’ll be upset with you if you forget a word in the middle of a sentence and start stuttering because I’ll probably do it at some point too.”
Evelyn nodded. “Yes thats… thats what happened. Thank you for understanding, Jay.”
I gave her a smile and grabbed the popcorn, drink, and mints as Evelyn paid. We made our way into theater 2. The movie was a comedy action film. Nothing to write home about. But it gave us a laugh here and there and there were some solid car chases. The important part was that I was enjoying her company. Plus because there was no one else there, we got to make all the snarky comments we wanted. It was all fine and dandy until odd experience of the night number two.
About halfway through the movie, Evelyn turned and gave a small gesture to the popcorn that was on the seat next to me. “Hey can you pass the popcoooorrrrrn pleeeeeeeeee-” Her voice seemed to slow down and become quieter until finally stopping altogether. Her eyes widened in what looked like fright as her mouth stayed open, yet refusing to make sounds. There was a few seconds of silence before she went and slapped herself in the side of the head.
I gasped and said “Woah hey-” but her voice resumed
She coughed. “I think my blood sugar is low or something. All the more reason to get the popcorn over there if you could please.” She gave a nervous smile.
I glanced at the very sugary coke she had already finished, but didn’t question her. She knows her body better than I do I supposed.
The tension of the moment was cut by the fact that after she got her popcorn, Evelyn leaned over in her seat and rested her head on my shoulder. I could forget another odd vocal tic if it meant more moments like this. I rested my head atop hers and reached over and held her hand.
The rest of the movie played out with no more odd events. It was a relatively predictable ending but at this point I didn’t even care about the movie. She gave me another kiss on the cheek as we got up from our seats. Her lips were oddly cold but we were in a cold theater so I shrugged that off.
We returned to room 814 and to my general annoyance I saw that I had notifications waiting on my laptop. Ugh
I sighed and said “I’m so sorry but I think I may have to take care of some work stuff. Like I mentioned, I’m on report watch tonight and Henry was probably expecting me to have answered these by now.”
Evelyn smiled understandingly. “Hey that’s alright. That’s why you brought it, after all.”
I sat in the chair at the room’s desk while Evelyn sat on the edge of the bed. As I looked over the security reports, we talked more. It was just as nice as when we were at the sandwich place. We talked about the movie, about job bs that was annoying us, about anything we could think of.
After a while, Evelyn started to inch closer to me, moving further off the edge of the bed. She placed a hand on my arm and I looked over to her and saw her face was inches from mine.
“I uh…” My heart started beating out of my chest.
“Shh” she put a finger to my lips. “Your boss won’t mind if you take just a few moments away from your work, would he?”
“......Well if it’s just for a few moments..” I set my work computer on the desk and stood up out of my chair. Our fingers interlaced and she placed a kiss on my lips as she pressed her body against mine. Her lips were still oddly cold but her body was warm. The scent of her perfume was beautiful and spurred me on to kiss her back. We started to move towards the bed and she started to say in a breathy voice “Jay…” With her body against mine I could feel both our hearts pounding. Evelyn continued. “I want you- you- you- you- yooooou…….”
In an odd combination of both her odd vocal things from before, she repeated the word you before finally her voice slowed down and stopped. Her mouth was still open and she tried to form words. Then, suddenly, she started to spew random words. “Hello- Yes- How- You- Hi- Evelyn- Nice- Royal River- Finances-” her eyes widened in shock as she pushed me away from her. She grabbed her chest and put her other hand over her mouth. Finally she regained her composure. Her eyes still wide, she held up a finger. “I… will be right back. Stay here.” and with that she darted out of the room.
“Evelyn wait I…” I trailed off as I realized I didn’t know what to say. I ran after her and opened the door to our room just in time to see the room across from me slam shut. She had seemed pretty upset before and I didn’t want to make this any worse, so I left her be. I decided I may as well finish up work while I was waiting for her, but it was hard to focus. I wanted to know what was going on but at the same time I really wanted to not mess up this first date with her.
After about a half hour of distracted report filing, I started to get worried. I closed my laptop and went across the hall to the room where I saw Evelyn enter. But I hesitated. It’d be better to bring her something. As an apology gift for not doing what she said and staying put.
Really the most efficient gift I could get her was a coffee from the lobby cafe but it would have to do. When I entered the lobby, the manager, Marcus, looked at me with slight shock.
“Oh, Jay! Where’s… Where’s Eve?”
“She’s in 815 across from the room we reserved. I’m not really sure what happened but I’m a little worried. I thought I might get her a coffee from the cafe to cheer her up.”
“I see…” Marcus went over to the cafe with me and personally rang up Evelyn’s drink, which I found to be very nice of him.
“Make sure she’s alright,” Marcus said as he handed me the coffee.
“Will do,” I said with a nod.
I hurried back up the elevator, a pit in my stomach. I really hoped she was alright, but that was such an odd outburst she had there. I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was, I felt like I could spend a long time with this girl and I didn’t want our relationship to end here.
I got to room 815 where she had gone and hid herself. I knocked gently on the door. “Evelyn…?” I asked quietly. No response. I opened the door slowly.
I was presented with a scene that I will never forget. In front of me, standing at the foot of the bed was Evelyn… well… most of her. Midway up her neck her skin just sort of stopped like a neck hole of a shirt. And the head that was on top of Evelyn’s body was well… not Evelyn’s. A young woman with much shorter, blonde hair and much rounder features was the face that had replaced it. As for Evelyn’s original head, the girl held it in her hands. She seemed to be studying the back of it and she hadn’t noticed me yet. On Evelyn’s head was a blank expression and the other half of her neck hung below it. On the bed behind this girl was an open tool kit of wires, electrical tape, screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, and various other electrical tools. On the side of the kit were the words “DISGUISE REPAIR KIT” and next to it was Evelyn’s empty purse.
The girl was in the middle of talking to herself about something. “-gotta be some kind of error or malfunction in here- AH FUCK! JAY!” She jumped as she noticed me.
In my shock I had barely even registered that the coffee had fallen out of my hand and spilled on the floor.
The girl stood there, her eyes locked with mine. “I- I… Jay…” Her mouth tried to form words but she could only sputter out a few. “Jay I…” tears started to well up in her eyes. “God… Damnit.” She threw the head of Evelyn, which I had now surmised was some kind of mask, onto the bed. She covered her face with her hands as she slid to the floor.
I was still so absolutely dumbfounded and trying to connect what the fuck was going on that it took me a few minutes to even realize that this girl was crying and talking to herself.
“And.. and.. and they’re going to fire me and.. I just messed up so bad I…. I knew that this was such a delicate mission and I just fucked it all up I… GOD I’m such an IDIOT!”
It was her yelling this about herself that I snapped out of my stupor. I didn’t know who this girl was or anything else that was going on but I just felt such empathy for her. I stepped over the spilled coffee and gently walked towards her and knelt down. She didn’t seem to respond to me. I placed a hand on the shoulder that until a few minutes ago belonged to Evelyn. “Hey uh.. I… Hi…” it was at this moment that I realized I had nothing to say. How the hell would I even begin to try and cheer this girl up? I didn’t even know who she was let along what was making her cry like this. Nevertheless I tried to venture more. “I’m sure that whatever it is.. It’ll all work out…”
She shook her head from behind her hands. “Nooooo…” she said and transitioned into a choked sob.
I sighed a little, still not sure how to react to all this. I happened to glance at the Evelyn head… helmet… mask thing on the bed. From how the girl had thrown it, I could see that a panel was opened on the back of the head, pushing the wavy brown hair to the side. Under the thin covering, I could see wires and electronics. Upon the bed was various wires and tools the girl had been trying to use to I guess fix this electronic panel.
Remembering a mandatory electronics course I had to take in college, I leaned towards the mask thing. From what I could tell, the panel was open to some sort of voice processing unit. There was what looked like an input leading from a microphone, a processing unit, and a storage unit that I guess had all the voice memory in it. From what I could gather based on how odd Evelyn’s voice was acting, there was a short in the wiring from the memory to the processor. I grabbed a small surge tester from the toolbox to ensure I wouldn’t be fried, and set about fiddling with some wires. Once I thought I had found the problem, I replaced the wire and sealed it down with electric tape. I tapped a “REBOOT” button that was on the underside of the panel and in a very freakish manner, Evelyn’s disembodied head said “Restart initiated. Voice module online.”
I grimaced at the sickly and odd sight of a head speaking on its own and turned back to the blonde girl.
“I uh… I’m not sure if this helps but I think I managed to fix it…”
The girl had stopped crying now but was still curled up at the foot of the bed. She looked at me in surprise. “You… you fixed it??”
I nodded and handed her the mask. “I think so. I might have misinterpreted some of the circuitry but I tried my best.” She glanced it over and hurriedly slipped it over her head. For a moment, Evelyn returned.
“Testing testing A B C D E F G one two three four five Do re me fa so la ti- wow holy shit you really did fix it.” Evelyn looked at me and smiled happily. For a moment I could have almost believed that nothing had happened if there still wasn’t a panel open on the back of her head. Her smile faded and she sighed. She placed her hands on her temples and pulled the head up and off like a helmet, which was another odd sight. The blonde girl closed up the back panel and slumped to the ground again, cradling the mask.
“Doesn’t change that I’m going to get fired though.”
I knelt down beside her. “Yeah uh… so about that…” The girl glanced over at me and then quickly averted her eyes, seeming to just then realize I had heard her talking to herself.
“I… well… it’s nothing. It doesn’t matter now anyway.”
“I mean…” I glanced at her and the mask she was holding. “I feel like I deserve some sort of explanation…”
She shook her head. “No I- I don’t think I can say.. even now…”
I cleared my throat and stood back up. “Well… from what I can gather… you were posing as Evelyn in some way with this… thing. And that skin… stuff you’re wearing. Your odd vocal tics were the voice processor malfunctioning caused by a short in the wiring that occured when you spilled your tea on yourself.”
The girl said nothing. She just held the mask closer to her chest and curled up more.
“But that’s about all I can gather,” I continued. “I’m still not sure on the reasoning for why you posed as Evelyn or how you got access to this high tech… disguise…”
To be completely honest I was trying to act cool and calm to try and get a bit more of an explanation from her, but internally I was still reeling and still mixed with so many emotions. A feeling of shock, obviously, a heavy feeling of being betrayed by… I guess Evelyn, a faint sadness that I wouldn’t have the amazing relationship with Evelyn I had been imagining, and a morbid curiosity towards what was really going on here.
The girl remained silent.
“Could I at least get a name…?” I pressed.
She paused and eventually muttered “Maddy…”
“Okay, Maddy. So… why? And how for that matter?”
Again, Maddy didn’t answer, and elected to turn away from me and fidget with Evelyn’s hair. I sat down on the end of the bed and sighed. But I thought of something.
“So… I guess if you’re not going to tell me about what’s going on here I suppose I’m free to go ahead and tweet all about this experience, huh? ‘OMG my date just turned out to be some other girl in disguise!!! #WTF’”
“N- No!” Maddy yelped as she whipped around to face me as I was pulling out my phone. I was bluffing, of course. I wasn’t going to be that much of a dick to a girl who still had drying tears on her face. But I wanted answers. “Please.. Don’t I…” Maddy started stuttering. She trembled as she mustered up the courage to say “I’ll.. I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
Bingo. I put my phone away and smiled to her, trying to ease some of the tension of my empty threat.
“It has nothing really to do with you specifically. It’s because of Vastech.” She said. Immediately my mind started to form connections, but I let her continue. “Vastech is on the rise, and some competitors feel that that rise is too steep. I work for a… bit of a freelance operative company. We do whatever jobs give us the best payout. And this week that payout was supplied by a trust of Vastech’s competitors. They wanted some of their security information so that they could replicate some of your company’s software designs and sell the same products for cheaper. But-”
“But in order to get that security intel they needed to go through the head of cyber security.” I completed. Maddy nodded.
“You were our best bet. New location still working out the kinks with an intel security manager fresh out of his first IT job.”
“So you wanted to get the security intel… from my… work computer…” I finished connecting the dots as Maddy pursed her lips and flitted her eyes down at the Evelyn mask. “So was any of it real then? Did ‘Evelyn’ really like me or were you being fed talking points from your operative headquarters?” I got mad. Maybe a little more than I should have as I started to raise my voice. Maddy started to curl up again.
“No I.. well yes but… I… Jay…” Maddy looked up at me and my head cleared from the sudden burst of rage. “It started like a lot of these missions yes but… when I asked you out at the sandwich shop I legitimately forgot I was on a mission, Jay. I liked you. Not just because we share a lot of similar interests- believe me HQ only had to help me out for the first five minutes of our conversation- but because you’re so much nicer and, and… more respectful than the dudes I normally have as targets. I was expecting another old and gross pervert businessman that I would have to swallow my pride and let do what he would to me in order to get the intel I needed. When we went to the movies I… I wanted that to just be a normal date with no… mission bullshit in the way. I felt awful getting back to the apartment knowing I would be taking advantage of you for your work computer. I- Jay I’m sorry for deceiving you like I did… I’m sorry that I tried to… take advantage of you.”
I laughed, which seemed to surprise her. “Honestly it’s fine. I don’t really care what happens to the stuck ups at corporate, first of all, and secondly believe it or not, I’ve had worse first dates.”
Maddy actually managed to laugh at that as well. “I mean I highly doubt that but I guess I’ll take your word. You know…” She glanced at the mask in her hands. “We could use more techie types at my place of work. Believe me the guys we got now make these things a logistic nightmare.”
I snorted. “Tell me about it. I had to work with that spaghetti wiring to fix the damn thing.”
“Well that's exactly what I mean. They’d probably jump at the opportunity to hire you if you could make the hardware work better… and it would be nice to… work with you.. but I guess now it doesn’t even fucking matter because I’m going to be fired for dicking it all up and not even getting the intel.”
I thought for a moment, pondering this. I came to a conclusion but... I wasn’t really about to do this was I? I wordlessly stood up and left the room.
“Jay? Wait what-”
Before Maddy could finish I was out the door. I strolled across the hall and went back into room 814. I hesitated for a moment, thinking again if this is really the best idea but I shrugged it off and grabbed what I was looking for. I returned to Maddy in room 815. She looked up at me as I entered, a look of surprise on her face, as if she hadn’t expected me to return. The surprised look grew as she saw what I was holding.
“You mean this intel?” I said as I brandished my laptop.
Maddy gasped, seeing what I was offering her. “I- I.. wh- but…” I saw her almost start crying again at the prospect of this. “Thank you…” she said, stupefied, but when she reached for it, I pulled it back.
“Wait just a minute, missy. I’m here to help you complete your mission but you’re going to have to actually, well.. Complete the mission,” I said with a mischievous little smile. “What exactly was your operation task before our little mishap happened?”
Maddy started to pick up on what I was saying. “Well… as a deception operative we typically seduce targets and gain their trust using false identities. It was exactly what I was supposed to do in your case as well. But, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that when you already know who I am. I mean, what am I going to do, slide on my mask and pretend nothing happened?”
“Why not?” I asked, which caused Maddy to blink with surprise.
“I mean, I guess I kind of assumed you’d be turned off by knowing I was, you know… fake.”
“Oh - I wouldn’t be worried about that. At first I was freaked out by the whole thing, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like it’s actually kind of… kinky.”
“I guess you could say that,” Maddy chuckled. “You kind of have to like it to some degree to be willing to withstand this kind of heat.” As if for effect, she wiped some beads of sweat that were building on her brow.
“How hot is it in there, exactly?”
“Geez, you don’t want to know. You sort of get used to it after a while, but never really get used to it, if you know what I mean.”
“Not to mention, I’m curious about what you typically do to seduce people. You must be very good at it with that much experience.”
Maddy squirmed nervously. “So, uhm, about that… I’m actually pretty terrible at it unless my mission handlers are telling me what to do. I usually rely on my suit to distract from the fact that I’m really… awkward. But, I can definitely give it a shot if you don’t mind…”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Anyone who can get me wrapped around their finger like that is a great actress in my book.” Maddy smiled slightly, her cheeks blushing red.
“T-Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.”
“So it’s a deal then. I’ll act like I never found you with your mask off. Just don’t expect me to play dumb about your little malfunction.”
“Well if that’s how you’re going to play it,” said Maddy with a smirk. “I may have to show you exactly why they chose me for this job.”
“It’s definitely not your skill at remembering to lock doors,” I teased as Maddy brought the mask back up to her head. She slid it on with the sound of squeaking, rubbery material, her cute face quickly being replaced by Evelyn’s bombshell looks. She adjusted her neck and cleared her throat before she spoke.
“You don’t have to rub it in.” came Evelyn’s voice. It was sort of hollow and staticy at first, and for a moment I was worried I may not have fixed it properly. But with each word, Evelyn’s voice cleared. “Testing, testing, is this thing still working? Good… you should go back to your room now and I’ll be there in a second.”
After waiting for a short time, Evelyn walked in the door with seemingly newfound confidence.
“Are you all right?” I asked Evelyn, feigning concern. “From the way you were talking back there, it sounded like you had a nervous breakdown.”
“I just got a little caught up in the moment, that’s all,” Evelyn countered with a slight smile. “It’s really nothing to worry about.”
“I don’t know, usually even when women are excited they don’t just start blurting out random words or repeating them over and over.”
“As I said before, I was hungry, and then had low blood sugar. There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Really? Because your voice sounded awfully robotic. Like you’re wearing a robotic… mask or something.”
“Mask? I don’t know what you mean. I’m just a normal woman, as you can see. Now let’s stop talking about this and get back to what we were doing.” For such a ‘highly trained agent’, her explanations were a little unbelievable, but I guess if I had no idea about what was happening I would have rolled with it.
“I guess, but it will be kind of hard to recapture the moment after what happened.”
“Nonsense.” Evelyn grabbed my hands, looking at me with her beautiful, but strangely glassy eyes. “Jay I want this. I want… you..”
She sort of seemed to stumble over her words a little but her face remained calm and collected. Highly trained agent in acting sure, but she was still an awkward smooth talker without her home base connection.
“I want you too, Evelyn.” I pulled her close to me and looked deep into those glassy eyes. If I looked really really hard, I could just make out Maddy’s eyes underneath Evelyn’s. They darted around here and there, presumably looking at some HUD unseen to me. It was intriguing, but I got caught up in the fascination with the prospect.
“Jay uh… you’re staring. Kiiiind of creeping me out here…”
“Oh right sorry. Here let me make it up to you.” Without warning her, I pulled Evelyn in for a kiss. She was surprised at first and I could feel her heart racing as she pushed up against me, but she didn’t resist. She put a hand to the back of my head and kissed me back. Her lips were cold initially, but my own lips quickly warmed hers.
“Jay…” she said breathily as we moved towards the bed.
Just as we were about to lay down, she stopped. “I... well uh…”
“Yes…?” I asked.
“Well I uh… yeesh okay uh pause for a moment.” Evelyn’s voice cut out and I could hear Maddy’s muffled under the mask, but I got a feeling this was on purpose. “I usually uh… don’t… like the guys I do this to and I always have a crew of like five people watching me do it. It’s been quite a while before I’ve… done it with someone I liked and it was this… intimate. Ugh I’m sorry just… yeah like I said I uh… awkward…”
“Do you want to stop…?” I asked, not wanting to push her emotionally.
“No! I… just uh… don’t expect me to be able to stay in character all that well. I just may need a few… ‘real’ moments like this. I’m sure you’ll know what I mean when those happen.”
“That’s alright by me. Shall we continue then, Maddy?”
Evelyn’s voice returned. “Who?”
“Nevermind.” I said as I pulled her onto the bed.
After that, well… I don’t want to go into too much detail. I’m sure you can fill in a lot of what happened. The latex bodysuit, as Maddy had called it, was very realistic in… every detail. Despite a few muted rubber squeaks, I would have never known the thing was artificial. Clearly it was designed as a facade for long sex filled nights.
As for Maddy herself, she managed to stay in character surprisingly well. There were definitely a few times where she turned off the Evelyn voice for a ‘real’ moment as she had called it. They were usually short and mostly about how she felt in the disguise at the moment. Just a comment here and there. Things like “Fuck its stifling in this thing” or “God some of the lights in here are giving me a headache sorry.”
After our… intimate time, we were both lying together on the bed, enjoying the afterglow. She was on her side, facing towards me, but her eyes were closed. She was presumably dozing, but I couldn’t tell with the mask. Speaking of… I reached towards her face and felt around the base of her neck. She stirred, but didn’t stop me. I found edge of the mask and fumbled my hand under. Evelyn’s eyes fluttered open and she said “Hey what are you-” but I quickly pulled the mask off of her. “-doing…” Maddy finished in her own voice.
“I wanted to see the real you,” I said with a shrug. Maddy blushed at that. She was very well… sweaty. Evelyn and I both had been, but with the combined effort of the physicality of our intimacy as well as having to wear a hot and stifling latex suit well… let’s just say Maddy had a bit more perspiration than I did. As if reading my mind about this, Maddy started to fan herself with her hand.
“That was a lot of fun but god this thing needs some kind of cooling system.”
I smiled. “Maybe something I could help your company with?”
“Maybe,” Maddy said as she cutely tapped a finger to my nose. She grabbed the Evelyn mask and started to sit up. “Honestly I should get the intel back to the supervisors. I cut off coms with them when I started repairs so they’ve probably been flipping their shit for hours.”
Maddy got up off the bed and gathered up her things as she got dressed. As she did so, she tried to inconspicuously slip my laptop into her purse.
“Hey,” I said as I saw her do that. She froze. “Leave my steam library alone, you hear?”
She turned to me and smiled. “No promises~” she said as she pulled the Evelyn mask back on, that rubber squeaking starting to sound familiar.
And with that, she was gone. I laid in bed, my head still swimming with the nights events. Somehow, amidst all my scrambled thoughts, I eventually drifted off to sleep.
A few good months had gone by. Vastech had fallen behind their competitors by a huge margin and was two hairs breadths away from going under. I still hope they don’t ever put two and two together about how their Ohio head of cyber security had put in his two weeks notice just before their biggest competitors started selling very similar software for much cheaper.
No, for me I was working as a desk manager for the Royal River Hotel. A job that on the surface probably would have disappointed my parents who helped me pay for the Computer Science degree I had gotten. But like I said, that was only on the surface.
It’s when the Royal River Hotel slows down at the end of the day that things get more interesting.
I waited for about twenty minutes and with no guests coming from the room halls, or entering the doors for a last minute check in, I nodded to Marcus, indicating that front desk would be under his sole supervision for the next few hours. He nodded back and smirked, knowing exactly where I was going.
The back offices contained one unlabeled door. One seemingly inconspicuous door that I opened and took the metal staircase leading down. Past the pipe room and the electricity breakers, past the employee lounge and uniform laundry room, to another inconspicuous door at the end of the basement. And another metal staircase down to the Royal River’s secondary basement. Which was, among other things, the main HeadQuarters for Royal Veil- Secret Agents for Hire. Though most clients refer to us as simply “The Veil.”
I brushed past various ramshackle work tables with electronic components and parts of masks to the center of HQ. Maddy was in the briefing area, suiting up in a latex suit with an ebony complexion as a control operative read off her objectives for her next mission. I stood off to the side and leaned against a support pillar while I waited for them to finish.
A few of the other mechanics team operatives waved to me from the worktables I had passed earlier, and I returned the gesture. The control op finished her briefing and nodded to Maddy before she turned and headed to the mission control panel.
“So… who’s getting got by Secret Agent Maddy, hm?” I said.
“Some slimy strip club owner. He cheats on his wife a lot but the woman can’t get evidence for the life of her. She needs some solid ground to stand on so she can have some legal advantage when she divorces his ass. She contacted us hoping to get that evidence.”
“Huh. Well don’t have too much fun with him. I like being your ‘special case,’” I said as I picked up the mask from the table nearby. I pushed aside the mass of black curls to find the newly designed hidden control panel. Under it was not a mess of wires, but an interactive screen using a new operating system I had devised.
“Alright and systems software check is… in the green. If there’s any other issues with it, call my desk coms immediately so I can remotely repair it. This is the first field test with the new model and there’s still a few small kinks we’re ironing out. But it is waterproof. So there's that.”
“I’m sure that whatever happens will still be much better than the mess that the last model was. You do have such a knack for high tech masks, babe,” Maddy said as she sashayed over to me in her almost complete disguise. She gently took the mask from my hands and went to put it over the top of her head but before she completed the disguise, I quickly leaned over and planted a kiss on her real lips.
“Just wanted to make sure I got that in before the real thing is hidden for the next few hours.” She smiled at that and blushed just a small bit. She pulled the mask down and straightened the edge near her collar bone. After a few seconds, the mask’s eyes fluttered open and before me was Maddy’s current alter ego. A curvy and tall African American dancer.
Maddy looked at me inquisitively and held out her hands palms up. “Good?” she said in a voice much different than her own.
“Perfect disguise, agent Maddy,” I said.
“God yeah wow the HUD in this thing is much more intuitive. And it has much more subtle lights that don’t give me a migraine- thank you for that attention to detail.”
I watched as Maddy ran through a functions check. It was a bit of an odd sight seeing what seemed to be a normal woman stand in place as she very rapidly blinked, looked around, moved her jaw about, vocalized some odd sounds, say random words with different inflections and emotion, have tears leak down from her eyes, sneeze, and at one point emit the smell of perfume. I wouldn’t have even known that was part of the masks functions if I hadn’t wired in the olfactory tech in the base of the neckline myself.
I also at one point didn’t hear or see anything aside from maddy sigh in relief. I glanced at my remote operating system tablet and noted that Maddy had just turned on the cooling system. It was one of the first things I set to incorporate into the new model and Maddy had overseen my process of doing so.
After the disguise hardware functions check was completed, the disguised Maddy turned towards me.
“This is leagues better than the previous versions. This mission is going to go smoother than any before it.”
“Well at the same time, what’s good tech without a talented and highly trained agent behind it?” The masked face smiled to me before Maddy pulled me in for a hug.
Our moment was interrupted by one of the head mission command operatives. “Alright move along, agents. Just because you’re a special case doesn’t mean you get special treatment, James. Agent Maddy has a mission she needs to get to.”
I squeezed Maddy’s latex gloved hand before she was ushered away by mission control to head out on her assignment.
I gave my disguised secret agent girlfriend a wave as she went to go have espionage sex with a strip club owner as one of his dancers in order to help get legal evidence for his wife while I stayed behind to work on new software systems for the next version of the operating system of her high tech robotic mask. It’s a bit weird when I think of it like that but like I said at the beginning, this was sort of a fantastical journey.
I sat down at my work table and powered on my computer, getting ready to glance at the programming for the current operation version of the disguises. I glanced at The Royal Veil’s e-announcements and saw a reminder that has been at the beginning of all weekly announcements for the last few months- “Important bulletin to all operatives- never leave the door unlocked when attempting to repair your disguise!”