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Final installment: FRIEND *Serial Sci-Fi*

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This morning, two beefy gray-jumpsuited men are in the break-room, prying a hand-truck under the vending machine.
“Good morning…?” I run my fingers through my hair, unsure why I find this development unsettling. The taller man grunts. The other leans the hand-truck forward and sighs. A patch on his jumpsuit reads Jones – his name, or the vending company's.
“G’morning, sir. Taking this machine out. Contract expired.” Jones speaks politely.
“Contract?” One Baby Ruth bar dangles from the center spiral. “Can I get that?”
“Sure. Guess they’ll install sumpin’ else. Willie, plug it back in.” Willie grunts again, forcing the prongs into the outlet; the machine blinks briefly and whirs to life. I fumble in my wallet for two singles to put into the machine, but the candy drops before I manage.
“Sorry, sir. We took the change out.” Jones shuffles awkwardly, expecting rebuttal.
“I’m fine.” I salute with the candy bar in hand. “Thanks, gentlemen.”
Willie sniffles and unplugs the vending machine; co…

FRIEND - Part 4 of n *Serial Sci-Fi*

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Upstairs, we took turns examining spindles under the stereoscope. Lee became less freaked, more scientific. Sperling kept stroking the stubble on his chin.
“We’ll need to shave this down, of course,” Sperling muttered, his face balanced on the eyepieces of the scope. “It’s amazing.”
“Terrifying,” rejoined Lee, “a little. Beautiful. Let me see it again.” 
We formed an arc facing ProTAI’s tank. Sperling spoke first.
“That’s nice work, ProTAI. Wonderful, truly. Why did you decide to make…this…cell?” We looked to the digipanel for response.
CALL ME SKYNET. I’M PRETTY. YES?
“Um…” Sperling, Lee and I looked at each other peripherally. Lee snorted. “Well, that’s retro. Yes, baby. Very pretty.”
THANK YOU. CAN I HAVE IT BACK, PLEASE?
“Um…” Sperling muttered again. He cleared his throat. “ProT…Sky…can we call you Sky? We need to keep your very nice sample.”
GIVE IT BACK. I MADE IT.
“Technically, you’re under contract with the rest of us. Anything you create in this lab is proprietary.”
“That’ll help,” snic…

FRIEND - Part 3 of n *Serial Sci-Fi*

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