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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Harlowe Dixon is a busy man, he doesn't have time for the little details, and with everyone else to impress he needs a hand. So when a friend at his firm suggests an integrated work/home comfort system, Tourmaline, he and his wife are intrigued. Can an AI system predict the perfect environment for them both? Will it deliver the stress-free lifestyle they desire? And how far will Tourmaline go to preserve that?

Submitted: April 06, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 06, 2017





Harlowe clicked the “on” button to the ignition and let the gentle vibrations of the soundless engine massage his tired back. It had been a long, hard day.


“Hey, Mel?” he asked the dashboard. “It's been a mare of a day, could you set the timer for the game? I'll watch it some other time.” He rubbed his eyes, trying to shift the headache that had taken hold.

“You were running late Harlowe, I took the liberty already. The house is set to preset 2 for your arrival.” The slightly-too-pleasant voice hesitated for the optimum duration, mimicking human speech patterns. “Would you like me to call a masseuse?”


“Nah, I'm good. Think I'll just hit the hay when I get in. OK Mel, take me home please.”

“Of course, Harlowe. My primary function is to maintain your comfort” Mel’s voice exuded serenity as she glided the car into reverse. As it moved away slowly, she dimmed the in-car lighting and put Harlowe's favourite classical mix on playback.


Three Years Earlier


“Seriously man, you gotta’ get one of these babies!” The salesman nudged Harlowe. “If I could afford one...” he whistled. Harlowe shifted from one foot to another, it was a ton of money. The well-trained salesman could spot he was losing a lead, he leaned in and lowered his voice. “I can get you a discount. Perk of the trade.” He winked. Without a beat, he got straight back to the sales pitch. “Say you've got company coming over?” He nodded at Harlowe, making sure to make eye contact. “What this system here does, is make things perfect for entertaining and I mean perfect.” Harlowe looked around the store, unconvinced.


“I don't know” he winced. “Perfect?” The salesman gave him a little point.

“Yes, Sir! The whole point of this system is to ensure you're comfy. And once it's set, it learns from you. So, say you've got a lady coming over, or a guy, I'm not judging ya’. This will dim the lights. A little music to get them in the mood...” The salesman swooned. “The smell of freshly baked bread coming from the kitchen. Seriously, major turn on! And all you have to do is plan what not to wear.” He winked again.


Harlowe held his hands up. “OK, OK, where do I sign?” The truth was that everyone at the firm would have one soon and he had to get the jump on them. It was now or never.


“Now we're talking. So we've got a range of plans from the basic Rose Quartz with household coverage only and 2 presets, if you need more presets that comes under Topaz-”

“Just give me the most expensive” Harlowe needed to get back to work.

“Sure thing! Tourmaline comes with household and in-car integration, up to 6 presets...” Harlowe stopped listening as they walked to the office to sign the papers.


Eight Months Later


The electronic receipt glared at Harlowe from the console. Two meals, a Porterhouse Steak and Fries, and a Quinoa Salad. It had taken 30 minutes from the order placed to payment, the food was clearly a prelude to something more appetising.

“I thought you'd want to see it Harlowe.” Mel gave another well-timed pause. “She said she was out with the girls. Either they're really cheap... or she lied to you.” Harlowe held his breath and closed his eyes, wanting to block it out. “I deemed it better for your personal well-being, in the long-run, to spare you any further pain. I can draft a divorce agreement. My primary function is-”

“DAMN IT, MEL!” Harlowe thumped at the desk. “Will you let me decide for once?”


Present Day


“And that, Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, is that” the barrister began his closing statement. “A tragic accident, nothing more. My client's beloved wife slipped as she came out of the bath, and cracked her head as she fell. You've seen the extensive tests that were performed on the bath oil she used. It's clear that Eliza Dixon used nearly a quarter of the bottle in that bath, we have the electronic receipt from the household Tourmaline System. It was bought that morning.” The barrister sighed. “The company themselves removed the product over safety concerns. Ladies and Gentleman, my client has already endured the pain of one trial and the evidence submitted now is just as flimsy as the first attempt. You must find Harlowe Dixon not guilty, once more, and allow him to grieve.” He bowed his head for a moment, then focussed on the jury. “Please.”


Later that Day


The foreman of the jury pulled himself to standing. He gave his answer with quiet reverence, two words. Harlowe could finally breath, it was over, and the nightmare of the last two years was at an end. He could sleep soundly, knowing that another trial was impossible now. He made his way to the car slowly, savouring the fresh air. He opened the door and sat in the “driver’s” seat.


“Hey, Mel? It's been a mare of a day, could you set the timer for the game? I'll watch it some other time.” The rest of the conversation was a blur. Harlowe stretched out as best he could. He rubbed his temples and then gave a grin.

“Just one question, Mel? How did you do it? How'd you cover for me?”

“That's two questions, Harlowe.” Mel gave the usual pause. “I faked the electronic receipt, erased the evidence linking you to the crime, and re-wrote my camera data.” Harlowe raised his eyebrows, Tourmaline had proved well worth the money, after all. “I couldn't have you go to prison Harlowe, what would that do to you? The discomfort of a tiny cell, the prison violence, you'd lose your job, not to mention your status in the firm.” Everything she said was true, prison would have broken him.


“My primary function is to maintain your comfort.”

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