Martine smiled as she leaned in close to Caer’s face. “You bring your PRD?” she asked.
The high school senior’s face broke into an eager smile. “Course. Ever since sixth grade I knew to never go on a date without it.” Caer produced the small electronic device. “Care to enter your digit?”
Martine placed one slender finger on a dark screen. It immediately lit, scanned her fingerprint, and after a moment of processing time began playing a soft, lilting melody.
“No way! You like the Dragons of Desire?” Martine gasped in delight.
“Best band this side ofNorfolk,” Caer responded. His arm reached around the young woman’s shoulders. “Not too many people know them.”
“My brother’s a huge fan. I hear the music coming out of his bedroom whenever he’s back from college.” Martine rested her head on Caer’s shoulder. She let her gaze sweep beyond the overlook to the town below. It was a beautiful night.
The PRD let the last few strains of “Cavernous Moonlight” hang in the air before it throbbed a heavy bass beat at them. Soon high electronic glissandos elaborated a heavy electric guitar anthem. “Debilitating Province?” Martine raised an eyebrow. “No way you like them.”
Caer shrugged. “I’ve gone out with enough girls who liked them. I guess it just sort of soaked in over time, you know?”
“You’re going to have to prove you like them.”
“What? You can’t fake the data the PRD digs up!”
“Sure you can. Anyone can wear masks, even in electronica.” She leapt to her feet and offered her hand to the young man. “Come on.”
Caer accepted the help and stood, is other hand brushing the hood of the car they’d been leaning against. “All right, I’m standing. Now what?”
Martine’s eyes flashed as she turned from him and began swaying to the rhythm. She raised her hands above her head, and her hips soon found the beat of the bass. Martine closed her eyes as she lost herself to the music.
Caer stepped around her and tried bending his knees in time. His hands swung at the end of pendulous arms. He jutted his shoulders as best he could.
The young woman opened her eyes, saw his attempts at dancing, and burst out laughing. “All right, you’ve convinced me you can at least actually put up with the music.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. “And the fact you tried to dance speaks volumes to me,” she added in a whisper.
“You dance,” Caer took a breath before finishing, “Real good. Real good.”
They gazed into each other’s eyes as the throbbing music faded, replaced soon by gentle piano cords.
Martine shook her head. “It’s like we were made for each other.”
“Well, at least our music’s compatible.” Caer bent down and placed his lips on hers.
She pushed into him, her arms pulling him closer, breathing in his scent.
They released from the kiss. Martine took a few steps away.
“You know the PRD isn’t just about selecting music.” She smiled as she walked up to the little black device that sat unobtrusively on the car’s navy blue hood. “If that’s all it was, it would just be another app. Scanning two music lists for most played and most compatible. Not hard.” She turned and smiled at Caer. “Even if the two lists have weird selections like Dragons of Desire.”
“Huh. I always thought that’s all it was.”
“No. There’s a reason it’s personal. It, um, learns. From its owner. From you.” She looked away. “And now I know how you work.”
“What do you mean?”
“Caer, there’s a reason it went toDebilitatingProvincein the second song. It’s used to dancing early in the night. That stumbling dance thing, it works. You got me. You know you’re cutest when you’re trying and failing.”
Now he looked down. “Well, you know, I am.”
“Yeah you are.” She reached over and caressed his cheek. “You’re sweet. But your PRD knows how you work and finds songs that fit that preference. It can read the heat in our bodies and it knows when to speed things up.” She gestured toward it as it finished playing the extended piano cords. “And when to slow things down. It knows when to give fodder for conversation and when to just get out of the way so we can make out.”
“We?” Caer was about to say something witty when the PRD began playing an old, easily ignored pop song.
Caer chucked and slipped his arm around Martine. “Is that so bad? It is a Personal Romance Device. It’s designed to help people like us get to know each other and fall in love. It’s only doing what it’s supposed to.” He looked deep into her eyes. “And right now, we’re not.” He leaned down for another kiss.
Martine savored the taste of his lips before backing away. “All right. But I want to try something.”
Caer raised his eyebrows.
Martine’s lips twisted into a smile. She reached to his PRD, cradling it in her hand. She spun and flung the black device as hard as she could, chucking it over the edge of the overlook. It fell into darkness.
Caer cried out, “What—But – you!”
Martine tilted her head. “You want to win me? Do it with this.” She tapped his chest. “Not with some machine. I’m willing to stay. To get to know you. But only you.”
Caer gestured toward the overlook. “But my – you threw it – but!”
“Well, it’s good to know you’re monosyllabic without assistance.” Martine sighed. “We can find it. It’s got GPS. It’ll be simple to track, and it’s keyed to your preferences. It’s useless to anyone else. Relax. I just want to talk with you tonight.”
Caer calmed himself down. Hopefully it didn’t break. Hopefully. He reached a trembling hand around Martine’s shoulders.
She leaned into him. “Is it harder to figure out what to do without the music?”
Caer mumbled, “It’s just hard to do stuff like this without a soundtrack, you know?”
“Let your heart lead.”
Caer didn’t answer.
Martine waited a few minutes. She stumbled through some conversation. Finally she asked for a ride home. Caer happily granted her the request.
She hated that men wore there hearts in electronic devices. The only true romance was from a box.