Chapter 9, part 3

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A/N: The heat rises in the last third or so of this update. Enjoy!

Of course, Proto-UMA had to be stored in a walk-in closet, access to which necessitated she pass through Ryker's very inviting bedroom

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Of course, Proto-UMA had to be stored in a walk-in closet, access to which necessitated she pass through Ryker's very inviting bedroom. He'd gone with the same clean lines as the rest of his house, but, also like the rest, his space was far from sterile. It was lived in and had a vibrancy that reminded Emmie of the family Ryker was a part of. A rainbow-colored patchwork quilt graced his bed. After the sheets he'd given her, she'd expected it to be fitted with neutral toned Italian linens costing more than what she made in a month. When Emmie noted her surprise at his bedding choice, Ryker told her that his aunt Marilyn had made the quilt for him. He'd been using it for over ten years.

Thankfully, there wasn't a lot of time to dwell on Ryker's handmade quilt or what they could do under it. He took her hand and brought her to meet... OMA.

"Why OMA?" The robot was not what she'd imagined. Just a bunch of wires and circuits in the vague shape of a human being. It did have what resembled a face, with blinking eyes and a jaw that moved up and down as it "spoke."

"Well..." Ryker pressed on a button and OMA's eyes flashed open. "UMA stands for Ultimate Machine Assistant and was built upon what we learned from this model. I named it after the fact. It used to be nicknamed C3PO, but Dan and I decided it wasn't worthy of that moniker. So now we call it OMA: Okay Machine Assistant."

"Just okay, huh? Poor thing. You're going to give it self-esteem issues." She reached her hand out and touched the side of OMA's face. "And it's an it, not a she, this one?"

"You know, for obvious reasons, they're all 'its.' We just call UMA a she because, as I explained before, it's what people want from an assistant. A female presence makes people feel comforted." He bit his lip and Emmie noted something in his expression she never had before: uncertainty. He turned away from her and began punching something in to the robot's control module. "Do you want to ask OMA a question?"

She peered at the small touch screen attached to a panel on OMA's torso – the one Ryker had just been using. "What do I enter?"

"Oh, no... I've set it for voice activation. Go on, ask it something."

"Okay. What's three times five?"

"Three times five is fifteen." OMA's robotic voice spouted out the answer as its jaw attempted to work in coordination with its words. It wasn't entirely unsuccessful.

"Oh come on, you have to make it more challenging than that. Ask it something else."

She thought for a moment. "What's the meaning of life?"

OMA's eyes blinked. Its jaw opened and stayed open.

Ryker chuckled. "Yeah, that's what it does when someone decides to become philosophical. The meaning of life – really?"

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