We had successfully assisted John in recalling the name of the woman he had met at a private party a week or more ago. He must have fucked a great many people at that all-night orgy, in a state of intense sexual frenzy, no doubt, and so he could not bring to mind the woman that had particularly taken his fancy and wanted to encounter once more. He could, however, remember the positions they had adopted, and so Selene and I had been hired to assist him in re-creating the circumstances. In any case, John seemed pleased with the outcome of the replay and thanked us both warmly, with kisses on the mouth all round - I recognized Selene's most intimate taste on his lips - followed by the transfer of the very modest, I thought, monetary fee for the professional services rendered.

John's re-creation had been held in one of the more intimate suite of rooms at the Chromium Shaft club, a private members' machine sex club in the moderately fashionable suburb where I live. I worked there myself for several years, as an assistant greeter: welcoming the club members and their guests, directing them to the facilities they wished to use, assisting them with the facilities and equipment as necessary and, fairly occasionally, demonstrating the use of the sex toys myself.

It was a fun job, paying only a modest wage for four half-shifts a week, but with considerable additional recompense from the entertainment value of the work itself. During my afternoon session, I usually met all sorts of interesting and sexy people, was able to indulge in erotic encounters with many of them or at least with the - often sophisticated - machinery that the Club maintains for its clientele. I was often able to achieve half-a-dozen orgasms in a single afternoon - nearly enough to keep me satiated for hours afterwards.

Nowadays, I no longer work there, although I have been known to put in an occasional shift as a favor. I parted amicably and remain on good terms with Madame Maxine the proprietor and Kitty, her - well, what is the word? side-kick, perhaps, or even partner, or maybe enforcer? In any case, it has been made quite clear to me that I owe Madame a favor or two, and no doubt they will be called in at some time in the near future. But for now, Maxine and Kitty seem happy enough to treat Selene and I as honorary members - we could not afford the membership fees otherwise - and to tolerate us hanging out at the Club.

The reason I left Madame's employment is that Selene and I set up as Private Investigators. This all sounds very adventurous and romantic, although it was something that we fell into almost by accident. To cut a long story short, a year or two ago, I rescued my sister Selene from what amounted to indentured servitude and a certain death sentence in a small religious community effectively separated from the rest of our society.

The news of her escape, and my part in her adventures, was widely reported in the blogs and chat channels at the time. Much to my surprise, I was subsequently appraoched by various people who had heard about my success in rescuing Selene from the Eden commune, and asked to undertake an astonishing variety of missions, most of which I rejected immediately as completely impossible. Even those I agreed to attempt I was, for the most part, reticent, unsure that I could genuinely help, but the modest fees - and some more generous - persuaded me that at least some - a carefully selected few - of the opportunities offered.

In between my shifts at the Chromium Shaft club, I had been undertaking the occasional delivery job, and I naively thought that this would be something I could fit it as an occasional freelance assignment. I was wrong: it has expanded rapidly to become a near-full-time and actually quite lucrative enterprise for both Selene and myself.

A perceptive person from another age - some primitive time like the twenty-first century - might have wondered why human investigators would be at all useful in today's world. Surely, they might reason, the pervasive automation is, well, pervasive - always everywhere, observing everything and everyone. The PA acts as global health service, social support and police: it provides the necessities of life to everyone: food and drink, warmth and shelter, and health care so perfect that everyone really will live forever, unchanging and un-aging into the future. Furthermore, under the omniscient watchful eye of the automation, it is impossible to kill or even hurt another individual, or to cause them harm in any other way.

So, surely there can be no possibility of a Missing Person, for example - the automation must know where everyone is all the time. And undoubtedly the automation can answer any question put to it, immediately and perfectly accurately; indeed, it is so fast at responding to - and at predicting - one's needs and requirements, it would seem to a person from a bygone era like some kind of magical precognition. Except for those few enclaves where the automation is prohibited - these are No Nanotechnology Zones, in the jargon - no-one can ever be lost or missing, or hurt or dying. So, if the PA always answers any question, asked by anyone, why would any kind of PI be at all useful?

All this is true, of course. But the vital trick is: knowing what questions to ask. Even now, things are lost and forgotten because no-one can ask the right question or remember the circumstances under which the thing - or person - came to be forgotten. Selene, with her experience outside our world - the enclave she was brought up in is one of those NNZ enclaves - means she is particularly adept at asking superficially dumb questions, her continued naivety about our world is charming, even sweet, not to mention incredibly useful at times.

I have another kind of skill - I found to my immense surprise they I was adept at getting people in a particular frame of mind where they can remember what they have forgotten - or at least formulate the question needed to elicit the answer from the PA. I am sure you have experienced the sensation of things on the tip of your tongue or that nagging thought at the back if your mind that you have forgotten something. Under these circumstances, the PA is unable to remember for you - there is simply nothing to go on. And it seems that something said or experienced in the heights of sexual ecstasy, or under the influence of drink or drugs, cannot so easily be recalled, until we re-create that moment and so retrieve the memory.

In the most unlikely of ways, Selene and I have carved out a little niche for ourselves, providing a service that few people realized that they needed until some unusual circumstance or other makes them get in contact with us.

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