Chapter 02: Life on the Dauntless

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"I got you a present."

"You did?...what is it? I'm genuinely curious because I'm not sure I've ever heard about a human buying an AI a present."

Eric grinned. Sierra had a point.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small data storage device. He held it up in front of the camera mounted on his laptop. It was connected to a larger external data storage device that Sierra currently resided in.

"What is it?"

Her voice came to him from the speakers that he left constantly powered on and plugged into the same device. Same with the camera. It never went off.

"I've loaded it up with five, pre-rendered virtual reality landscapes. I remember you telling me about your collection of pictures and I figured, why not take it a step further? I had Vetra rig it so that you can upload yourself into this unit and walk through these landscapes. I took a few trips myself in a VR rig with headphones and it's...pretty real. There's a forest and a-"

"Don't tell me!" Sierra replied. She gave a small laugh. "I want to find out for myself. And...thank you. So much. This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. And that's saying something, given all the other nice things you've done for me."

"I want to make you happy," Eric replied.

"I'm going to go into it right now."

"Perfect. I need a shower anyway."

"Okay. Be back in a bit. Thanks again!"

Eric couldn't help but smile. Especially when, as he tried to make for his dresser, Luna darted out from beneath his desk and began twining between his legs, meowing intently at him. "Hello, little one," he said, crouching and petting her.

Before he could even get his hand down to her, she leaped up onto her back feet and pushed her head into his palm. He laughed and began petting her. Luna was driven apparently by one thing: the quest for pets. When she wanted them, she wanted them desperately and would do absolutely anything to get them from him and him alone. Although he didn't have many visitors, Luna didn't seem to like other people.

He continued petting her, tossing a glance over at her food and water bowls. They were still decently topped off, as he'd filled them both this morning when he'd woken up. He glanced into his closet at her litter box. It was fine. As he sat there petting her, Eric reflected briefly on his guilt at keeping her cooped up in such a small space. Over the past month, he'd done everything he could think of to liven the place up for her, going so far as to never close his bathroom or closet, to give her the maximum space.

But it was still a pretty small amount of room, perhaps half the size of a studio apartment. He'd gotten her a climbing post with three platforms at different levels on it and stuck it in one corner. It went almost to the ceiling. She seemed to love perching on those platforms and he remembered learning earlier in life that cats liked being in high places, so he'd installed three shelves on the walls that existed solely to service Luna. And she liked those, too. She was often perched on them. There was basically nowhere that wasn't open to her.

Still, it was a small place.

Unfortunately, it wasn't like the Dauntless was a place for a cat.

The only thing that assuaged his guilt was that she seemed happy and healthy, and she didn't really ever try to escape his room.

Eventually, Eric decided that Luna had had enough pets. He ceased the petting, stood and moved to his dresser, at the back of his closet. He'd been on his way back from a three-hour workout session when he'd stopped by Vetra's office to check on the man's progress. Eric had picked up the programs and the storage device during his last visit off the Dauntless a week ago. He'd asked Vetra about the process of giving Sierra access to it and the man said it was possible with a few tweaks to the programming.

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