“Did you see Pandora on TV? Her twenty-eighth sighting so far. She saved the day again. She’s totally Pandorable.” Hope giggled.
Gus activated Etiquette 3, the compliant smile and conciliatory nod.
“All those unfortunates traumatised from earthquakes, famines, mudslides! So much wretchedness gone in a flash, thanks to Pandora.”
He switched to Behavior 45, wholehearted agreement, yet found himself shrugging and smoothing his pajama trousers.
“She can save us too.” Hope poked him with a sequined stiletto. “Think about it!”
Gus suppressed his pain responders.
“A Pandora expose is our deliverance, like those unfortunates. We get the million dollar scoop on her, we get out of debt, we get our fifteen minutes.”
He shrugged, again. To distract her from his inappropriate responses, he said, “If you say so, sweetheart. I’ll do some background research after my bath.”
“What’s happened to your can-do attitude?” Hope threw the stiletto at him.
Gus ducked and fled into the bathroom. Behind the closed door he sent an urgent request to Hubot Inc., to upgrade his Submission and Acceptance protocols. He wouldn’t argue; he couldn’t be bothered. Five years ago nothing stopped them, they wrote the headlines, filled the front pages. Now he just wanted a quiet place to read.
Pandora was opening the World March for Peace that night. The red carpet would not wait for his software update. He triggered a Spybot to record her evening while he searched online for partner-love programming.
Hope jostled and flirted her red-hot booty through the barrage of paparazzi. She palmed a twenty to Raf who had minded her a front row place. His split lip an indication of what it took to keep standing in the crowd. Exultant, Hope snapped photos, and was seen, and was happy.
Pandora glided past, exquisite as ever in Fortuny pleated silk, tossing miniature casket-style lockets to the crowd. Raf, the street kid, snatched one, flipped the lid, and disappeared.
Hope caught one, made eye contact with Pandora. Then she took more photos. Afterward, she went clubbing. She had two impromptu flings and a lapdance with Kitty Kurvacious.
Much later she had a teary reconciliation with Gus.
Next morning, while sipping her third espresso, Hope’s phone buzzed.
“Pandora has granted us an interview. Time to snap, snap. Zero in on her salvation tips. Fashion advice. Secret lovers.”
Gus disconnected his charge cord and blinked. The update had not come through. Error messages filled up his inbox.
“Gus, Pandora is the next supergoddess.”
“Superevil, more like. According to the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, Pandora’s the root of all evil.” Gus pointed to the open page of a leather-bound book.
“Really, I refuse to believe some moldy book. Pandora arrived. Starvation stopped. Suffering eased. The aid agencies have nothing to do. What’s evil about that?”
“Sweetie, Pandora’s more likely refilling her casket with 21st century heartache and despair. Helping people is not her thing,” Gus yawned. Not enough charge, thanks to the Love’d Up routine he had installed.
Hope stroked her Pandora locket, “You’re wrong. I can feel the hope inside this. She can’t go to lunch without making international headlines. This interview is our big chance.”
“You’d risk everything on the possibility she’s a genuine goddess?” He tapped the USB port at the back of his neck as felt his Etiquette and Partner programming delete. Perhaps the Love’d Up software had not been such a good idea. He sent it to the trash, but it did not budge.
“I want to pay our bills. I want to shop on Rodeo Drive. I want to holiday in Aspen.”
He shut the book, closed his eyes. What was happening inside him? “If you insist—”
“Don’t screech Hope, it’s awful.” He crossed his arms and frowned. He should be leaning forward, holding his hand out, smiling, agreeing, doing anything other than keeping his distance. He should try ditching the malware again, but he simply didn’t love her anymore. He felt free for the first time. He wanted a life of his own.
“I don’t screech! You useless hubot, you don’t care about me, our debts, our success, or failure.”
She argued. She begged.
He leaned forward and grabbed the locket Pandora had tossed to Hope. “Please Pandora, please …”
Hope’s locket popped open. And Hope disappeared, just like the street kid Raf.
Gus stretched his long limbs across the breakfast nook and read reports from all over the world. Whenever anyone hoped with all their heart the lockets opened, and the hopeless and the heartless, disappeared—making the world idyllic again.
But for how long?
He placed the bulging locket on the ledge and opened the window.