Leather and Abs

We were in the middle of Andrea and Sheila's loosely-organized fashion show, when there was a tone from the motion sensor. Right after that, the sound of revving motorcycle engines. Were we about to be invaded?

"I hear motorcycles," Z said, annoyance in her voice. "Do we have to call Abs again?"

Abs? I asked myself silently. Do these folks have some kind of enforcer to deal with undesirables? But then I realized that in this facility, with all of these trucks and car parts and whatever other equipment that was around, if the staff knew how to manipulate any of it there really wouldn't be any need to call in hired "muscle."

"No need," Andrea replied. "She's already here."

The revving engine noises got louder until it sounded like the source of the noise was inside the building.

The engine noise stopped, and a few moments later a biker entered. That is, a biker outfit entered -- a helmeted white leather suit with red and black accents, filed out to feminine curves, but a bit taller and bulkier than the other clothes around me.

"Hey, Abs," a chorus of voices called out, some of which I hadn't heard before. One of the voices was Sheila, who was moving toward the newcomer. Andrea for her part, had put down her tablet and was practically sprinting toward Abs.

"Hello, everyone," answered a voice from the suit, which had pulled off its helmet. Then it turned toward Andrea just as she leaped into the air and into Abs’ waiting sleeves and gloves.

Lip-smacking sounds were plainly heard as the two outfits amorously greeted one another. Sheila had actually been moving toward Abs also, but walking rather than running. She stopped where she was when Andrea leaped onto the biker suit.

“I knew you were running this show, but I didn’t expect to find you here today,” Abs’ voice said, as the two outfits continued kissing.

“The only reason I’m here now is because I knew you’d be here,” Andrea’s voice replied. “No offense, Sheila.”

“None taken,” Sheila replied with a chuckle. 

“We’d better cut this short, hon,” Abs’ voice said, “since I also have business with our visitor here.”

“Yes, of course,” Andrea said, as Abs placed Andrea back on her shoes. Then, turning to me, Andrea continued. “Sorry about that, Bry. Abs and I go way back. She helped me figure out how to be more than just fabric wrapped around a body.”

“How’s our cute newbie doing today?” Abs said, approaching Sheila. “You’re on your own only a few days and I see you’ve already snagged yourself a cute solid guy, the beginnings of a nice wardrobe, and who knows what else.”

“I’m doing great,” Sheila said. “Bry here is even more open-minded about girls like me than I could have guessed.”

“And that brings me to our cute visitor,” Abs said, approaching me. “What did you do to get pulled over to our side of things, and catch the eye of a sweetheart like Ms. Sheila here?”

“I honestly don’t have a clue, Abs,” I said, trying to keep my eyes focused on the empty collar without stopping at the large breast-shapes pushing out this motorcycle jacket. “She belonged to someone I kinda liked, who kinda liked me, but nothing ever came out of it. Between me and the coworker, that is.”

“Hmm,” Abs said. “I don’t mean to bust y’all’s bubble, ‘cause that’s a nice fairytale kinda story, but I think there might be another element to it. Something y’all are not aware of, maybe?”

“What do you mean?” Sheila said.

“I’ll tell you in private later,” Abs said, “but I suspect you might be a little more like me.”

I did a double take. “You mean, you’re not a shapely biker suit?”

“Ha-ha!” Abs’ loud bark of a laugh took me by surprise. I think I backed up a couple steps. 

“I’m not the suit at all,” she said, “or the helmet or even the motorcycle. I don’t even know how you would describe me but I started out as an AI. I suppose I still am. A friend likes to call me a ‘digital ghost.’ But, really, we can talk about that later. RIght now, you, Mr. Solid, are going for a ride.”

Another ride?” I blurted out. “No one wants to let me drive today.”

Everyone laughed. “This ride won’t be like the one that brought you here,” Abs said, “because this time you’ll be on a motorcycle.”

I did a double take. “You’re serious?” I’ve been leery of those things for a long time.

Abs said, “I take it you’ve never been on a bike before.”

“A bicycle, sure, but never a motorcycle, not even as a passenger,” I said. “Once upon a time I really wanted a smaller one but lately I’ve… steered clear of them.”

“Well,” Abs said, not addressing the pun, “there’s nothing to worry about. You will be the one with hands on the handlebars and pedals, but I’ll be in charge of the bike. If you’ve ridden a bicycle before you should know how to handle balance.”

I looked at Abs, accepting she must have some idea of what she’s talking about if she’s been riding, but not so confident about her controlling a bike with me on it.

“I see that look,” she said. “I anticipated it. In fact, I prepare for that with each new human rider I train. I find clothes are less worried about getting hurt.”

“Well, of course,” I said. “They don’t have to worry about broken bones and whatnot. But what do you mean, you prepare for that?”

“Well, that’s what I do -- well, one of the things I do. I’m a motorcycle riding instructor. I teach people and anyone else interested in learning how to handle a motorcycle. I find that for humans I have to include a little trust exercise before we even touch the bike.”

“What kind of trust exercise?” I said, picturing the falling-backwards thing that can go so badly…

“Exactly the kind you’re thinking of,” Abs said. “First with your girl here, and then with me.”

I looked back and forth between Abs and Sheila. “Why am I doing a trust exercise if I’m being taken on a motorcycle ride?”

“The look on your face says you don’t feel comfortable with bikes,” Abs said. “I want you to enjoy the ride, and that won’t happen if you’re scared for your life.”

“To be honest, I’d be more comfortable as a passenger than as a… OK, I guess I’d still be a passenger,” I said, “if you’re controlling the bike.”

“That sounds fair, I guess,” Abs said. “But most guys don’t want to be the passenger with a girl in front. Do you want that?”

I thought about it, but before I could answer, Abs said, “Tell you what, let’s just do the exercise, and if you still think you’d rather be in back I’ll work something out. How does that sound?”

“I guess that’s OK,” I said, thinking that if she trains people she must know what she was doing. I was just unsure, never having ridden before. “What do you want me to do?”

“Stand about an arms-length in front of your girl, and fall back into her arms,” Abs said.

“You OK with that?” I asked Sheila, as I got into position.

“Fine by me,” Sheila said. “I’m comfortable on a bike, and I want you to be, too.”

“You rode before?” I ask in disbelief, wondering how she could have in the brief time she’s been free.

“Well,” she started, “I’ve been on bikes many times, in front and in back, but always with Shannon wearing me. This will be my first time in charge, but I know what to do.”

“Anytime you’re ready,” Abs said.

Throwing yourself off-balance is a hard thing to do. I kept backpedaling and running backwards into Sheila. I felt sheepish the first couple of times, but Abs assured me that’s perfectly normal for a first-timer.

Finally I spread my arms and fell back, feeling relief when I saw the ends of Sheila’s sleeves just a moment before crashing backward into her.

Sheila stood me back up, with her sleeves wrapped around me. “How come we’ve never done anything like this at home?” her voice whispered.

“Probably because we’ve never done anything where I felt the need to test my trust?”

Abs clapped. “That’s a big first step,” she said. “I knew you weren’t gonna do it those first few times because you didn’t spread your arms enough.”

“What if I did something stupid like falling without spreading my arms enough?”

“With a human behind you, probably a broken tailbone,” Abs said. “But with girls like us, it’s no issue getting between your sides and your arms and catching you, as long as you’re not actually holding your arms rigid, which some scared people do. OK, try it again.”

We did it a few more times, with no issue. Then Abs said, “OK, now Bry, close your eyes and try it.”

“Close my eyes? Really?!” 

“Yes, really,” Abs said. “If you’d rather, I could blindfold you, but you’d have to start out facing Sheila.”

“Uh, OK,” I answered, feeling a little bit more comfortable with the idea of being able to put my arms out in front of me if I had to. Though I guess that doesn’t matter if you can’t see…

“Mm-hmm,” Sheila replied. I could hear the smirk in her voice. Probably thinking I’d be focused on something other than trying not to fall on my face. But before I could address it, two rather small black circles of cloth floated up from somewhere in the office.

I looked at them a little sideways. “Don’t you need something big enough to wrap around my head?”

“Nope,” Abs said. “They only need to block your vision.” They pressed themselves gently against my closed eyelids. “See?”

No, actually, and I guess that’s the point,” I replied. “OK, here I go,” I said, then fell forward. Sheila caught me, but as my arms wrapped around her back, her empty hood wrapped snugly around my face.

“Wow,” I said, my voice vibrating through her hood. “I didn’t expect that.”

“Yeah, I know what you did expect,” Sheila said, her voice coming from outside the hood that was still snugly against my face. “I deflated myself.”

I pulled my head out of her hood and looked down, to see her normally inflated chest. “And reinflated just before you looked,” she continued.

“OK, I guess I can turn around and do this the usual way, if you’re gonna play games,” I said. I stepped away, closed my eyes, and fell backward into her sleeves. Something felt different, but I did it again anyway, and again, and again.

Finally the “blind spots” floated away as Abs told me to fall back again, but this time keep my eyes open, and look down when I feel myself being caught. I started to look back to see what she and Sheila were up to, but Abs said, “If you look back, we start over.”

So I got into position, fell backwards, and as soon as I felt sleeves under my arms I looked down. There was nothing there. Something was supporting my weight, but there was nothing there to see.

I moved my right arm to the invisible support under my left arm and felt something definitely armlike but not quite like Sheila’s outfit. I turned, only to see that apparently Abs and Sheila had left the room. 

I moved my hand to the arm-sleeve and moved to the end -- a hand! I felt the fingers wiggle, then both unseen hands clasped together against my chest. But it didn't feel like there was a body behind me -- it felt like there was just these arms holding me up.  

“I’m guessing this is Sheila,” I said softly. 

“Mm-hmm,” was the whispered reply.

I didn’t say any more about it aloud right then, but in my mind this kind of confirmed Abs’ comment from earlier, that Sheila was really something other than clothing. Which meant that maybe she and Abs were having that private conversation while we were doing this trust test. So… she was obviously more than “just clothes.” What was she, anyway?