Boston Theoretical didn't reach out to Kai.
Kai reached out to Boston Theoretical.
It all started when... actually, Kai is not sure when it all started. But it definitely became noticeable when Kai began suffering from mild anxiety at first, then depression, then severe burnout at Kai's previous job in social services. During the ordained therapy sessions, Kai kept saying that it was all too much - the misery, the hopelessness, the pain and despair and anger and...
"Take deep breaths, Kai. Let's go through the compartmentalizing and distancing exercises again."
Kai shakes Kai's head. "How do you do it, doctor? How do you sit here day after day and just... deal with all these feelings that other people bring to you?"
The therapist blinks in surprise. "Well, for one, I was trained to not take these things personally. But, Kai, those are their feelings, not mine. I have learned to drawn boundaries and not let other people's emotions affect me, that's all."
That's all, they say, like it was a simple thing. As if Kai could just draw a line in the imaginary sand and say "here, these are my feelings and those are everyone else's". As if.
"Look, you are a very empathetic person, which probably drew you to this line of work, and empathy is a great quality to have. But sometimes it can also become a vulnerability. We just need to give you the tools to protect yourself." The therapist smiles encouragingly as they glance at their smartwatch, which tells them that this session is at an end. "I'll see you next month, alright? Don't forget to read up on the materials I sent you, and to do the exercises. Call me if... if there's any emergency."
That was their last session together. It wasn't just that Kai was empathetic. Kai was, simply-put, an empath. And it was driving Kai insane.
Always a little reserved, Kai turned into a veritable hermit in order to avoid all human contact. Moving out of a comfy apartment near the zoo to a tiny cabin in Blue Hills. Drone-delivered meal services taking care of subsistence. And for everything else... well, there was the internet, and there were countless smart devices that Kai kept customizing and tinkering with.
Kai was never one for being idle, so more out of boredom than anything else Kai started to learn programming and mechanics, at first at a pretty basic level, then diving deeper and deeper as Kai's childhood fascination with robots, AI, aliens, alternate realities and, well, the nature of reality resurfaced in force. And after a few years on disability benefits, Kai was itching for something more, something significant, something that said that Kai still mattered. Kai's absolute requirement that Kai's work must be done entirely remotely, and Kai's refusal to participate to in-person interviews were a little problematic at first, but Kai did have talent for engineering and computer science, and after a few months was hired as a junior engineer at an augmented reality firm that was making, among other things, training applications for the military.
Humans had been building remote friendships and relationships basically since post was invented, so the lack of in-person contact didn't deter Kai that much from making friends at the new workplace. One of those was Ada Sif, a half-Icelandic, half-British senior engineer mostly working on simulation equipment. Their virtual lunch and coffee chats turned into brainstorming sessions, then into the beginnings of the conceptual theory of a prototype for a wearable device that might function effectively as a white noise generator, but for emotions. Ada Sif was talented, extremely smart - and ambitious. After half a decade in her current position, she abruptly announced that she was leaving the company for a better offer, but remained strangely secretive about the where. She wouldn't even tell Kai, although they kept in touch and her newfound excitement was almost infectious. Ada Sif was very careful about whatever NDAs she had signed, but she kept dropping hints about the amazing work she was involved in, and how the people at her new job might be able to help Kai actually build the device, so one late night over virtual boardgames Kai twisted her arm into revealing the name of the company.