Dust particles drifted toward the open windows where sun rays lit them up forming long sheets of imaginary galaxies. La’Rio watched clouds move out of the way as pillars of light rolled back into place reheating the students like crisping tater-tots.
The dominant sound of tapping at the chalkboard filled the classroom. Circles with titles were written inside, but the students were mysteriously drawn to a different shape. Even with the old metal fan blowing, a nearly perfect oval of perspiration had formed in the middle of the teacher’s back. His graveled voice reached her ears with clarity.
“… when this group in society is only referred to as a statistical count by the media, the group becomes devalued in the eyes of those watching. Who can tell me why these publications and news programs would devalue their cause?”
A chorus of silent sighs as if a long repressed secret club had emerged. An open alliance they all shared in their youth but having a clear excuse; The heat, the broken air conditioner. The teacher turned, shaking his head. His shock of black hair had the odd but familiar widows peak that earned him the Mc Vamp nickname that he knew about and was amused by. He looked directly at a boy that was clearly now trying to hide his cellphone in a Pee Chee folder. He leaned against his huge tan desk and nodded with a fake smile of brightened straight teeth without fangs – never being too mean to students but nor being too easy.
“This resistance could be met with additional required assignments.”
His smile faded, his face grew narrow, hungry, scanning across the room.
“Let’s try again… Surely there must be one of you out there that is familiar with the Occupy’s movement? Does anyone remotely understand their plight? What is the core of their movement? A demand? Anybody? Just one demand?”
La’Rio understood but would simply not raise her hand and say. She had read about those protests he described and even dug deeper into the reasons why they protested. They reminded her of events on Daytmoos. A space station seven miles across. A city in a never ending drift through local galaxies. But so was Earth, adrift in it’s local system, a part of the larger whole. Humans had their own problems, their own wars, but actually belonged to this solar system. Daytmoos did not. A wandering derelict. Protests there came from androids, which she was – that needed to be kept secret.
“They want the banking system changed because they have taken houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgages…. they have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, they give their executives exorbitant bonuses…”
“Stop there, I only needed one…Outstanding James, more than enough. Lets talk for a moment about the way…”
La’Rio’s wavy hair hung just to her jawline – long enough to grab with her lips. Her eyes caught a boy staring from two rows across, eyes locked on hers, longer than they should be. His young face slightly feminine. He held her with the look of a cub wanting to play. The littlest smile in his eyes. She looked down then back up to him. She giggled inside, held a straight face, knowing the driving hormones of the male teenage M.O. She wondered what stories, how slanderous would he go? Or was he really falling for her? For real falling. In time anything could come true. Her skillful moves causing his premature euphoria. No, she wouldn’t give herself. She had someone already that she cared for. Someone that held her heart. Someone worth her attention. Though he was her type, she decided, after thinking of his teenage body pounding on her like a sprinting deer. Her fingers reached down and found a small bag of Sittori in her purse. She popped an addictive round into her mouth letting it melt there before crunching slowly. A chocolate rush, she knew, wasn’t an answer to the bigger hunger that warned her of lowering power levels in her frame.
“Mr Tennison it’s really hot in here. It must be ninety or something.”
Caedynce, La’Rio’s lone human friend pleaded with her arm raised. Swinging pinky-sized silver earrings shaped like narrow leafs flashed silver with the tilt of her head. The teacher held her eyes for a moment then glanced away – as if caught. He looked up to the clock. Everyone knew the teacher had a thing for Caedynce. Her Native American, wild-moon-child, called to his middle class mortgaged future. He pulled a square white cloth from his upper shirt pocket dabbling at his forehead, clearing away forbidden visions of her young breasts and inviting doe eyes. Caedynce had told La’Rio once what she wanted him to do to her. Yes, that older man, that teacher that was surely a supernatural creature but wasn’t.
“So it is… An hours enough in this furnace. Break early today then…”
Students jolted up and commented under their breath.
“Ehhh? Unusual powers she has.”
“Shuddup frogger were free aren’t we.”
“Stay out of the halls – this is only today of course. You are required to finish the hand-outs. Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four are due on Thursday.”
“Ugh I’m melting.”
La’Rio smiled, looking back and fourth, from teacher to Caedynce.
“How – no?”
“Liar. Talk of the town then.”
“I’m going home with the A.C. on full blast.”
“I’m going to eat… tomorrow.”
_ _ _
DAYTMOOS CITIZENS MUST LEAVE NALA IMMEDIATELY AND RETURN
Only La’Rio could see the little flashing notification in her vision. She put down the cell she was fiddling with and stared blankly at the super imposed red letters that changed lives.
This can’t be. Leave Nala?
Her eyes darted over the noodle shop as she waited in a booth, wishing and anticipating a second interspace text, an amendment, an exception, something. Maybe it wasn’t meant for her, a coms. error, committed by a low level noob in government.
A girl shrilled out from somewhere a few tables behind. It startled La’Rio and a strangely dressed girl, walking next to her table. The girl had spun, wildly around, her pink clutch on a collision course, impacting the thin, delicate lime colored coffee cup, near the edge of the table. It sent the cup over with a vertical spread of coffee flying toward La’Rio’s white school blouse.
Impossibly… she moved, dodging the liquid, her body, blurring in that second before all to see
and appeared to the right in the both. The coffee splattered without a target, the cup bounced on the seat then broke on the tile floor under the table,
“You’re fired.” Came from one of the boys nearby. But the girl standing was transfixed, jaw hung open, pointing her index finger at La’Rio, sentencing.
“What? How did you do that? Did anyone see that? Did you guys see that?”
La’Rio remained composed, she shook her head at the mess on the seat then back to the girl.
“You almost ruined my shirt. Can you please call the waiter over here?””
La’Rio started mopping the seat with the single napkin she had. A second student arrived at the table. A boy sporting black hair, covering half of his face, his eyes wide behind the hair. He had seen it, La’Rio knew.
The girl next to the table wore a light blue dress with white frills at the edge exposing her thighs. A sort of cosplay fashion that worked well with her rail thin frame. Her voice raised up in pitch.
“I saw it. That was not real. How did you do that!”
“What, seriously? Your purse did it… I didn’t do anything.”
La’Rio kept her movements slow in full denial. The napkin was soaked.
“Thanks for no help by the way. If you don’t mind moving, I’ll get the waiter for the mess?”
“You moved… it was impossible fast!”
The girl insisted, drawing the attention of another girl approaching.
“She’s that transfer.”
“She’s kinda weird.”
Three against one. She giggled inside, keeping her face blank. All the students here were faces in the halls but no more that that. She could actually talk up a very plausible story, and sell it to those that did not see it happen, but it was all meaningless now, she thought, since theres been a recall from the planet.
La’Rio slid out of the booth. The sole of one foot slipped on the floor, the toe of her black school shoe, scooting on top of an unseen broken piece of shattered cup. Her hand slapped down to the red table saving her from a fall. All of that, orchestrated, as an obvious human-like mistake. But the Kona coffee – her favorite, wasted. And there was the smell of the ramen noodles that she wouldn’t get to eat. La’Rio stood long enough to pull a twenty from her purse and dropped it on the table looking at no one, then walked toward the front door. A voice behind her pleaded.
“Hey don’t go – what’s your name? Wait a second.”
“I’m late, I have to be somewhere.”
“Her name is Witch from this point on, understand… Witch!”
The little bells above rang loudly as it closed behind her. A bursting hot gust of wind blew against her face and legs lifting up her short hair and school skirt, she turned until it passed. Long columns of sunlight passed through city buildings. The obligatory return notification still pulsed red in the corner of her eye. With a thought she discarded it from her vision.
I should’ve let it soak me. I haven’t mastered this yet. I am still inexperienced. After two years. They were right.
Androids shouldn’t get close to humans, even steer clear of Earth. There was darkness to them. A self destructive feeling that was also magnetic, addictive. There was certainly something to be learned but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
Only nights before they lay side by side on an opened sleeping bag in his apartment. He kissed her ear lightly, her neck, and then her lips. His tongue swirled against hers and his hand found the small of her back, tracing lightly up. This was Keane, his touch, she wouldn’t need to see him to know it was him. She spoke softly in the dark.
“Would you look for me if I disappeared, if… something happened to me?”
Keane held her hand gently squeezing.
“Yes… yes I would.”
“Would you look for me… for the rest of your life?”
He whispered back.
“I would search for you… forever.”
His voice burned into her carbon data, encoding itself, words lingering in her mind like a kitten looking for a free meal.
Those teenagers in the restaurant. Their organic human tissue would someday fade to dust but not before eighty years – probably. I will average four hundred years and never show any aging. But without qualified exterior and internal repairs I could be worn down or disabled. Family… can I count the lab that made me? I was made by androids, no family in the way humans have. But different. My family is a Type Three Civilization as described by human scientists. And my most basic functions are well beyond human abilities. But… I love. I love Keane, a human. How far down this path am I going? How can I ever resolve this direction?
Sunlight flashed into her green eyes. Her pace steady, determined. She passed by parked cars. Mind drifting. In the school girl’s bathroom stall, Keane pressed her against the locked door. Signals flooded her liquid Ramtron brain. It took all of her concentration to keep from moaning as she let his hands roam over her… exploring.
I have twice the strength as the strongest humans. I can run twenty three meters per second which is more than double the fastest human, and it’s not likely that any humanoid on this planet could ever beat me in a chess game. I bleed but under the proper microscope my synthetics would be revealed. Would he leave me if he knew? If he discovered that inside my bones there are thousands of ICs?
Keane seemed visibly upset when I told him I was leaving the country – leaving this high school. He placed his hand against the wall as if to steady himself. We agreed to be apart and not break up. I know now that I am coming back to him. He is for real, he is it. As long as Keane is alive I want to be with him but he can never ever know what I really am. I worry when he’s gone, I worry that he will no longer look into my eyes. Have I not learned to have faith? What is happening to me? I can’t stop thinking…
“You moved fast… impossible fast!”
Goodbye school, goodbye Earth. Back to Daytmoos just as the Light Interior wants. She would miss the sunsets, the moonlight and even the heat from the pavement keeping you near a sweat in the evening. But she wouldn’t miss the smell from the school bathroom where the boys twisted idea of a prank, was to pee on the gas heater pipes polluting the entire school on Fridays with the stench of a dozen drunkards.
Space station Daytmoos. Home. Eleven point two kilometers in diameter and always growing – a massive glittering city – an over decorated, flattened christmas tree hovering in deep space. At it’s center a jet black conical shape, the Reticulum, jut upwards into a point, towering above all else and below, like some great double ended spearhead, the axis of the city. Along the station’s outer arms, skeleton framed tubes, weaved and circled throughout the districts, traces of light, passenger trams, sped on like determined fireflies to scattered destinations competing with flares of engine lights, igniting from older ships, accelerating away from the city at it’s outer edges. The station had maneuvered itself fifty thousand light years across the Milky Way galaxy, just a jump away from Nala, Earth as the natives there called it.
The Kaiyuan star strip in Blueshine.
La’Rio walked past an endless sea of androids, eyes upon eyes of attractive faces, newer activations, a homogenized offering from over fifty different manufacturers and dozens of sub-designers. Some, during their pre-awareness years, racked up enormous debt from modifications, some reaching that of supernatural caricature. All had contact requests, floating holograms, five-inch wide translucent screens that would appear only to the eyes of the one being propositioned. The little screen floated gracefully on the shoulder of an interested party. It was proper to touch the scrib at your wrist and accept or deny the invitation. There was a constant flow of media through the scrib to the eyes. Yellow tinted circular windows no larger than a dimes head floated in the lower vision. She kept her filters on max, ignoring advertisers disguising products as news stories that weren’t.
Her fingers slid along a lighted rail that glowed in liquid gold. On the right side of the corridor were empty rows of curved seating for observing a ninety degree view of deep space protected by an invisible shield that was just out of reach. Trillions of magnified glowing galaxies of red-orange lighted the black canvas of space. In her first month of activation she came here, stretching out a leg, touching the shield with the tip of her boot which caused a ten foot circular lattice of criss crossing bright yellow lines to appear backed by annoying blinding white light, a deterrent. It felt alive or something like alive, aware, aware and seeking. In any case she felt safe. It reminded her to dream.
The constant hum of voices, music, and random conversations bombarded her coming from all directions. Her eyes trailed to the store fronts where colors and three dimensional shapes moved fluidly. Seamless liquid displays of eye-candy, iconic floating neon, holographic business signs were layered throughout the corridor. Electronic eyes scanned for those who happened to glance at the display at the right moment. The instant feedback fed-in, and would dress your hologrammed self in the cloths the store offered for sale, making the shoppers little movie stars on the big displays, a sort of hyper-shopping experience but sometimes to an embarrassing effect. Shops kept their animated commercial models scantily dressed and highly seductive. Some were bikini-clad hybrids, glassy, robotic fetish looking, perfected in roundness and liquid fluid in their movement to looped dance tracks. Long tone legs, wet and ready with pink light glowing beneath skin, giving body parts an aura of other-worldliness – risky but inviting.
Carried along in the sea of androids she spotted a face, someone familiar far ahead coming this way, a face that would be blocked by another face and then another. She looked for that face, now, even drawn to it, but it was gone behind the surge of androids. She turned her shoulder and felt the light bumps from strangers body against her back, crowding her in. A clearing gave her breathing room. There were raised voices from an employee across the corridor attempting to draw prospective shoppers to a product, and louder voices that laughed. She could see him in the distance, his arm gesturing to anyone, but he was ignored. She wondered how long he would hold out, how many hours and days before he would try another way to make credits.
There were the well off, playing the role, being above it all, passing by in small numbers, mixing in with the foot traffic along with their employed mecha. Shiny humanoid mecha resembling but obviously not attempting android realism. Their alien-like elongated silvery limbs and well lit heads were curved and glowed in translucent yellow green light. She had heard they were more just credit status symbols, to be paraded than actual practical useful machines.
La’Rio locked eyes with the face. The one she had seen in the crowd only moments ago. It was her own face, her mirror image, her own green eyes, her bushy thick hair. It was another Muroshin model. La’Rio had been told she was one of thirteen made. One of the very rare WJW series. Like two felines in the night they stared, unsure and circling. The girl reached out touching La’Rio’s shoulder. La’Rio smiled and placed her hand on top of hers. The same inquisitive eyes, the same thin build, and then the same voice spoke to her.
“Your the first one I’ve ever seen.”
“A WJW series.”
“And so are you.”
“I guess I never thought about it. I mean, that I would ever be in this moment… but were sisters right? Aren’t we sisters?”
“Yes… all of us, sisters.” La’Rio giggled. The girl smiled.
She moved in hugging La’Rio. She held her, but felt shocked. The other WJW was right. She instinctively realized that this was as close to any family she would ever have. She let go but held onto her hand. The sister tilted her head.
“This may be a little weird… but… I’ve always wanted to do…”
Her own face, held La’Rio’s eyes. Still holding hands, she leaned in slowly, carefully. Lips lightly touching lips. Rose pedals, silky soft. La’Rio closed her eyes, letting her in. Letting her know – herself.
They parted. Eyes stared into eyes. Their fingers parted, she stepped back.
“A little sugar. And now… the spice.”
“So that you understand.”
A surprise spinning back-fist caught the side of La’Rio’s face snapping her head sideways knocking her to the ground.
“What the fuck?”
She quickly stood rubbing her jaw. Passerbys cleared a circular space. She lowered herself, bending her knees like her sister that challenged her. They took small steps. Hands and legs flowing. The girl edged in, attacking La’Rio again but La’Rio blocking, redirecting the flurry of moves and counter moves. Twenty then thirty parries passed at close range distance. La’Rio turned, flipping backwards, just out maneuvering her sister. For the moment there was distance between them. The crowd had given them space to fight, ruling the venue, yells, urging them on.
A stranger darted into the battle running full speed at La’Rio’s sister. The sister took one glance, stepped toward him, cut the distance and jumped up in a twist, hooking her back leg across his neck. His body flipped backward in the air, his feet over his head, and he landed ugly, upside down at the feet of the crowd on his neck. An eruption of laughter. He rolled into a ball on his side.
Her eye’s locked back onto La’Rio’s. She moved in. The girl’s hands and feet blurred with new punches and sweeps. La’Rio bobbed, weaved – the air swooshed by like a plane’s propeller as a series of fast spinning leg kicks grew closer to her face.
Retreating as far as possible, La’Rio was pushed forward by someone in crowd from behind her. She managed to parry, turn, and spin away from dodged kick. She hooked her arm around her sister’s neck. La’Rio’s momentum carried her around the girl’s body, bringing the girl down, onto her back like a wrestler, pinning her to the floor in a reversal. Sister kicked her knee up, countering the move, rolling on top of her, and landing three solid punches into La’Rio’s face, with a fierceness in the sister’s eyes. This was how she looked, she knew. She hooked an ankle under her sister’s neck, bending her backwards, forcing sister let go, then rolled out of the reverse.
They stood simultaneously, breathing heavy, still only feet apart, eye to eye. Sister became relaxed, cocky even, letting out a casual sigh, then giggled and paced with swagger, her hip out, arms crossed. She wiped her forehead with her sleeve. La’Rio stood with her brows furrowed, body in combative pose, waiting for the next strike, but none came. She watched her.
“Your art is good… but not great. You must master all three hundred seventy nine moves.”
“What are you talking about? This wasn’t called for!”
“Please forgive me sister. I am you… you are me. That’s all I can say.”
The sister held up her hand waving, while walking backwards, smiling.
“Your a good kisser – I’m a good kisser!”
The crowd dispersed. The show now over.
La’Rio watched her walk away. She took a breath, relaxed, placing her hands on her hips then up to her face feeling the sting. The sister disappeared back into the crowd but turned once more, her eyes back to La’Rio, her lips moving. She spoke to someone – a private call on her comlink. La’Rio turned away and walked on in the other direction. She stopped, and turned back around looking once more for her sister.
She said she was family. Bullshit.
She adjusted her clothing, composed herself and walked on. Deep into the corridor the shops layered three high. The newest of the new parts were found here. Replace your eyes, arms, face and skin. Change your voice, gender, height, and body type. The corridor was filled with excited new androids. Most – plain off the assembly line, looking imperceptibly human. Many were modified with extra fingers or glowing eyes and strange skin tones getting the most attention. Anything was possible, anything if you had the credits.
The Blueshine district, the view, the shielded side, would soon become entrances to so many more new import shops and another ring would be built further out – and another corridor – layer upon layer. The city’s growth limited only by it’s resources. Everyone’s new once, or if you’ve been wiped… twice. It’s not that you grow older, its that you grow bored, and experienced, and tire of the clubs, of the narcissism tied to your appearance. That crust no longer holds your fascination and you look for a deeper mystery of existence. Some will challenge the system in place for all, some will simply leave Daytmoos forever. Bumping and lightly pushing, the traffic became thick. La’Rio’s path was suddenly blocked and she looked into a man’s modified deep ruby eyes. His mature bass voice easily cut through the chatter.
“Yeah you’re her.”
“What do you want?”
Wearing a white flight jacket and white muti-pocketed cargos with white boots he smiled broadly in front of her. His hologram invitation floated at her shoulder, she touched deny on her scrib. His smile faded with raised brows. A jack hammer of a man, a persistent cold northern wind that would not be denied. Viks had once said there would be an uncensored exploration of your wet chips. The white attire and updated look they wear was part of their deception. Many never recover from the initiation, instead they became one with the group or cult… for good. La’Rio looked away avoiding those eyes. She secretly wondered what it was that they did to you. His hand darted, grabbing her wrist in a vice-lock, she pulled back but the bear trap held fast, she readied herself to fight again, she felt something tiny pushed into her balled fist and was released in that second.
His index finger was up to his lips gesturing a shush and he winked.
“Fuck off.” she replied.
He smiled and walking backwards pointed to his closed fist, like some cheap sideshow magician directing her eyes. He slowly opened his hand. At his palm glowed bluish oval light, in the center was an M joined at the bottom with another M inverted, looking like an insect she had seen before, beautiful shimmering wings, their structure elusive, morphing from solid to liquid. She stared, transfixed, an unformed thought wanted to jump from her lips.
He closed his fingers over the image and nodded to her. He turned his back and walked away lost to the stream of people. La’Rio shook her head and looked down, frowning into her hand at the little data chip. Tiny, green-lit pinpoints blinked on and off at one corner of the wafer. She closed her fingers around it and shoved it into her thigh pocket. She turned an angry shoulder and barged back into the crowd.
Behind the Light Interior officers played three dimensional holographic images. Battle technology, rows of individuals sitting inside egg shaped terminals, each surrounded by dozens of holographic screens, retrieval cores. The loop flashed to mecha tanks now hovering feet above the ground, their triple barrels rotating at unseen targets. La’Rio’s gaze behind the crowd went back to the discussion at the recruiting table where the woman continued.
“You’re very unclear at the moment in describing whom your adversaries are… you’re selling to us that the universe is our playground – there!”
She pointed at the hologram which held those exact words in slick, blocky, shiny gold lettering – then were replaced by smiling officers arm in arm.
“…are we to just join your Light Interior and forget about all of our friends? Our friends that joined and have never come back? Where are they? Where did they go? We do have a list here – I have a copy, right here, does anyone else?”
There was a random grumble of voices popping up in the crowd, behind them the ever flowing, moving mass of shoppers, a river of androids unconcerned, red and blue blood cells on there way, not to be bothered with politics.
“Do you realize the ramifications that the Light Interior is causing? We are peaceful explorers, why has that changed?
La’Rio peeked over a shoulder waiting to hear the officer reply. He stood up from the C-shaped silver table.
“It’s not for everyone. What we do, we do for the good of Daytmoos. We are all on the same team here. We are all on this station for…”
“No, no were not. The last director of the Light Interior committed perjury on live broadcast, for all to see. How is it your memory is so short? Does anyone have a copy of that?”
Three individuals stepped up, plants, data sticks raised for all to see.
“Evidence of that event. As far as we know, you’re here looking to recruit individuals into the Light Interior under false pretenses.”
Never spoken of in the media. La’Rio walked on, back into the flowing mass. She checked the dozen feeds to her vision. Networks ran the same urgents, news of possible wars, alien attacks, on the main exploration ships; the Bogata, the Caspian, the Valiant Light Expedition. None had any concrete evidence. Space, time, distance kept any real proof from manifesting. What was actually happening in the the city’s corridors was kept quiet. Our existence here, known things questioned, then avoided, then allowed to be, as if an inevitable accepting crust of distrust were natural. A cancer to grow old with. A glitch as part of our original functioning. No, she thought. That wouldn’t do. If there was anything left in the fabric of her being she would strive to change things. What was on the chip? What would she experience from the chip? Like a curious cat she needed to go into the black box. She spied what she had been looking for.
_ _ _
The little chip blinked on a scarred jet black counter. La’Rio slid it back between her fingers.
“Whatcha got there?”
The operator half smiled, tipping his chin up as he spoke, dressed in a dark blue maintenance jumpsuit with a black stripe that ran down from the collar of his left sleeve. He was breaking etiquette she knew. It was rude to ask what you were about to experience.
“Just my friend’s party… that I missed – just trying to keep up.”
“Normally I don’t get newbies in here…”
“I’m not a newbie.”
“Oh no? You look like one, I should say you look inexperienced and when…”
“I paid for the time can I use it or what?”
“Of course you can… what I was about to say is that sometimes someone with only a little history written behind them make a tiny little mistake which can muck this up… up here – then they wind up needing to get their entire CPU replaced.”
“I didn’t make any mistakes, I just want to…”
He held up his hand and shook his head.
“Lets keep this real? That chip you want to use… that’s not consumer, that’s a military grade chip. I don’t know how you got it and I don’t care, but there is something you should know…”
He leaned in toward her.
“Those military chips have a unique, thirty six thousand hexadecimal beacon ident-code.”
“So. Is… is that bad?”
Her finger tapped, he crossed his arms leaning back.
“Get rid of that chip – I’ll forget I ever saw you – go now.”
“I’m sorry… your right, I am new. Is there a way around this ident code thing? If you know a way, please, I will pay, I have credits for that.”
He stared past her at the clear oval door, his volume lowered, his voice sullen.
“Your have no idea what trouble that could bring… It might be nothing, but if its not…”
She waited, but he said nothing more. He stared at her without expression. She turned and walked broken toward the corridor that still seethed with the passing stream of people. Steps away the oval entrance rolled, its curved cams readying to open. Behind her she heard his voice once more.
“Actually… there might be a way… ”
_ _ _
“Pods delivered.” One might hear another say. She sat up in the pod that was roughly two point seven meters long. It was a new design, glassy, smooth, sleek, and dark grayish black and round at both ends. She slid the little black chip into a slot mounted on a control board on the inside shell. A millimeter thin, deep green embedded line, circled the shell exterior and lit up – slow pulsing from bright to dark. On the inside control board, tiny orange and green lights glowed on the control panel. An audio signal, a warning, indicated that she should lie down and she lay back. The lid inched up from below her vision covering her in darkness and a tiny whoosh of air was squeezed between rubber seals. The sounds of the outside world were gone beyond the vibratinal muffled ghosts. She could hear only the faint draw of her own plastic lungs.
The pod lowered into the floor and into a parked spot next to another pod. A long line of pods circled up into the clear overhead ceiling like a ferris wheel. A dozen rows of pods filled the dark shop, the array of slowing moving lights made a cone of green, a tunnel of disorientation. A clear plate in the floor slid across and the shop attendant walked back over to the service counter. He activated a hologram that sprang up, it curved across the counter. Near a small section on the display a type of pulse, a scope, swept over the structure of the shop, circling and searching for signals.
Inside, the pod trodes extended out from pinpoint holes in the shell. Blue lit, thin filaments, lightly touched every inch of her body. A billion stiff hairs pricking her all at once. The chip activated and a dizzy feeling came. Falling backwards, a bliss, a sinking darkness overtaking her senses – falling off of a hundred-story building into darkness, falling… dizzy… falling… three… two… one.
She felt incredible heat in her legs as if she had been lying in the sun on some distant beach all day or even running for miles. She opened her eyes to a digitized screen. She could feel a foam cushion surrounding her head. A combat helmet then she thought. She heard distant staccato cracks that were muffled, the discharge of plasma weapons. In the left top corner a screen flickered a name in green;
An alien world. Other numbers scrolled at the right corner and below counting up and down but for what purpose? She had felt herself running, the atmosphere seemed thick like a dense gas or was it wind? Incredible heat came from the stiff shell of the mechanized space suit. A strange but genuine fear overcame her. Something large and dangerous was hovering somewhere behind her. It seemed to escalate a feeling of depression. Besides the obvious cannon fire there was an odd pulsing. A sub-bass sound constantly filling her ears.
The rocky and hazy purple mountain top plateau was full of tiny hills, like sand dunes on Earth making her simple walk laborious and a run nearly impossible. She carried a type of multi-functional military weapon, weighty and thick. Her eyes noticing a small red insignia in the barrel. The brand was from a leading weapons division from New Phaeton. She carried it in both arms but only repeated the thought of dropping it to be able to run faster.
Zooming in and superimposed on the helmet visors curve she viewed a valley below. Near the horizon, roughly seven kilometers away, a war was waging, and had been, judging by the amount of smoke plumes from burned out machines or former structures of whomever or whatever had been there. The atmosphere glowed a muted dark red orange from a distant star that was in contrast to the dark purple rock and hazy ground light. Lasers and distant blasts from launched weapons forced in massive flashes of blue light for seconds at a time in random plumes.
Over her helmet com., she could make out through bursts of static;
“Stand by for…”
Announcements, but were from alien voices – messages. Translated by the suits onboard communication but were only partially decoded. Commanders, giving safety warnings to their own alien forces. Warnings of launches, of heavy ordinance, that were about to detonate.
She zoomed in the view finder. Blinding white lights flashed but faded quickly. The helmets automated polarizers kicking in. Mushroomed clouds from chorused nuclear sized detonations followed. Then ground felt aftershocks, echoed. Their sub-bass vibrations came in waves of certain death. In the distance, figures near the blasts, glowed in a negative x-ray moments, then vanished. Her helmet screen zoomed back out – the mushroom clouds rolled across the far landscape like a super slow motion ripple in a pond. Small warships zipped across the sky firing down upon the remaining running figures. These were featureless soldiers, stickmen, androids she knew. Deployed to this battle, this foreign planet, by the Light Interior. They had no chance at all.
She felt the touch of something on her shoulder, she turned.
Behind her stood a being. Only it’s shape resembled something human. It’s eyes large, similar to a frogs, and a bluish light seemed to glow somewhere deep inside. She felt it’s stare. She felt it looking through her helmet and into her mind where she heard a voice. it’s forehead low, it’s body was slight. Arms and legs elongated. It wore tight fitting black and purple clothing, similar to a flight suit. The creature wore boots. They were curved, made by some advanced process, a technology that New Phaeton, likely had never seen. There were small curved devices, tech, around the clear belt. She could see tiny red and green lights embedded and flush with the curves. It held no weapons that she could see. Possibly it had something that would not be visible.
Through the explosions and through the lasers cracks from the battle beyond the hill she learned what it needed. It’s large eyes held the expression. The emotion of the thought was sincere – ringing true in her mind.
It reached over and gently grasped her hand. They walked away from the ridge. The walk sped up to a jog. Over several hills they went. In the distance, on either side of them the war machines spewed out death to figures that fired blasts from below ground bunkers. A curved, flattened, silver green saucer flew overhead, challenging the ground machines, deflecting off the blasts and returning fire in a massive standoff of booms piercing her helmet’s sound dampeners.
They past through dense blue smoke. The terrain sloped downward lower and lower. And the being slowed to a walk then stopped. It raised an elongated gloved hand. In the blue mist a curved structure appeared magically. The structure had been cloaked. A light blue lattice of symbols glowed over the archway. The entrance seemed to be a shield that shimmered in a watery reflection of light blue. It vanished, and the being gestured to La’Rio to remove her helmet.
She fumbled with the mechanism. The screen dimmed in her display. She managed to twist and heard a hissing. She held it in her gloved hand. The being brought her inside through the archway.
Seconds later, through a short polished corridor of bright blue light they reached a large, wide, open space. A gathering of smaller beings like the one next to her had gathered.
The sounds of the war outside frightened them. They huddled together and stared at her.
She turned to the being but a massive blinding flash lit the curved space. A blast and boom knocked all sideways toward the opposite wall with debris cutting several of the little ones in half.
She saw the mega-sized ground mecha roll in on tracks. The machine spewed blasts firing rapid bursts. She saw the designated lab symbol in dark blue, etched into it’s armor plating. The being next to her had already been hit. It’s legs were gone. It’s eyes blank. Dead.
With tears in her eyes La’Rio twisted her helmet on. The barrel from the mecha had pointed at her, but never fired. She had been I.D’d as one of it’s own forces. Several children were still alive. Cornered, they held each other, and stayed low against the curved structure.
The machine rolled in. It’s quad barrels swiveled across searching through the plumes of smoke.
La’Rio dropped her weapon. She ran toward the machine and the children. The smoke rose, the barrels pointing at her. She raised her arms waving off the machine. She looked behind her, the children held each other, arms across shoulders.
The machine tracked sideways, La’Rio kept herself in-between.
“Stop, no more!”
She shouted. The machine fired in bright bursts with the noise of a dozen screeching tires, a white hot sear, a forced ray beam severed her at the thighs of both legs clean. The polished alien floor rushed up at her helmet. The scream she heard was her own. She rolled slightly, a beeping alert tone of a breached spacesuit blared.
The machine had severed her in half, and rolled past her. She didn’t look up, but she felt it’s power, it’s weight, it’s humming energy. A second bust of lasers filled her ears. There was the scream of alien voices cutting short. Like high pitched violin strings, then were silenced. She felt her own tears streaming down. She cried deeply, freely, surrendering to the pain.
She laid there while her internal fluids sipped out onto the floor. She suddenly noticed it, of all the things here… sustaining musical chords. Notes that floated along, just audible, within the noise of invasion. A type of lulling rhythm that somehow induced the feeling of dread, an addictive and accepted sorrow, the emotion of a final inevitability.
The breeched walls let in the poisonous atmosphere, and filled her suit, eating into her exposed android synthetics. She only wanted the experience to end but there was no emergency exit from a pod experience, no way out, like a locked door on a coin washing machine it would have to end it’s cycle.
She felt herself slipping, the deep sadness magnified and perfectly induced by the alien symphony. She attempted to roll with her arm but only managed to end up on her back. Her vision washed out in blinding white and searing hot pain.
The pod opened up.
The top slid across with a hiss. The pain at her face, hands, and thighs, faded away. The service owner stood there with a frown on his face. La’Rio brought her hands up to wipe her tears. She mumbled to herself, gathering her thoughts and emotions.
“Fuck this shit – what the fuck is going on?”
“Helluva party huh… you alright?”
“No… I’m not.”
He helped her out of the pod. She pinched the chip out of the console. The lid slid back into place locking flush. She looked up at him.
“Did you copy it?”
“I did, and there was an activated beacon, I blocked it, but it transmitted for at least a few seconds.”
“What does that mean?
“It means they will know the chips activated. By now they’ve triangulated this position. It’s likely someone’s on the way.”
She held up a small credit stick, he waved it off with a small smile.
“The copy’s enough – theres a buyer out there.”
“Four hundred years later she’ll still be this young.”
Viks pulled the super beauty closer. Her curves were wrapped in shiny carbon black strap, revealing but not obscene. A one piece bandage like bathing suit of wide strips shimmered at different depths. She giggled, and kissed him on the neck. Her eyes were slightly modified in a pink glow under straight bangs with impossibly thick black hair reaching her darrièr.
La’Rio could only watch him with the newbie. Viks was her only connection to the sub-society, the mixture of untouchables, the hyper-modded mecca-androids. The bar was small and the crowd was thick. Viks had a connection, but it wasn’t the eye candy in his arms now. She looked up toward the curved bulkhead, where green and blue baseball sized lights floated weightless, meters apart, along an invisible path like little lost ghosts following each other in some ancient dance.
Her thoughts peeked out from the stimulant. She wanted a future, any transcendence beyond this would do. The Dreamtrain creeped back in like a blanket, she had a taste for it she found help to control it but had turned into one of those theme park rides you couldn’t resist going back to, a friend bringing bad decisions over like a personal escape party from the larger party.
At activation La’Rio had fourteen aware years to look back upon. Fourteen years worth of memories from other androids that the lab started you with. They were young years the playful ones designed to soften the impact of obligations ahead that would be learned on your own. Once a year you were required to plug-in and download your experiences into the Reticulum – all the events happening in your life. La’Rio turned nineteen yesterday but didn’t celebrate. For the last year her liquid ramtron mind had been pre-occupied. She had to get back to the person in the universe that she loved, only he – was fifty thousand light years away across a vast ocean of space.
Here, now, at Anomalies bar in front of her, was Viks. He threw back a small shot of the red liquid, his voice changed, lowering to a bass grinding level. Viks turned to her showing a pair of glowing red eyes and green skin, all novelties of the drink, a temporary mod at the atomic level.
“Not sure what they’ll do – if anything… maybe they will come for you.”
The effect faded away, his eyes changed back to his black Desisties. Aftermarket eyes, upgrades. His hybrid skin returned to it’s pale white. He wore a fabricated dark green flight suit, multi-pocketed with low key padding accented in a dirty silvery black color. Viks spanked the carbon strapped newbie on her rear sending her away, she waved her middle finger at him walking backwards.
Finally she thought. She inched up to the bar, her pitch wavering.
“I’m asking for a favor Viks… you know… I need a ship.”
Her fingers, out of sight, nervously pulled on her thigh pocket zip.
“I know someone who knows someone… but your on your own sweetie, I don’t need any Knights crashing my party.”
An intoxicated yell from across the bar grew louder than the bubblegum music that was ignored. In the corner someone held a kiss with a young woman, pinning her against a red bulkhead.
“Did you ever feel that way about me?” he asked, watching the two.
“I did… yes, you know that already.”
If you had to guess La’Rio looked half n’ half, a vanilla-chai, with bushy, short dark hair ending at her straight jaw line looking very pixie with an Amerasian face but like the ninety nine percent on Daytmoos, she was one hundred percent android. She held her black zippered forearm relaxed at her waist. A white pearl, gel molded watch, a scrib, flashed a set of tiny red digital numbers at her wrist. She wore a gray and black zippered jumpsuit that was custom fitting all of her tight curves but allowing her speed over sex appeal. Just below her knees began the carbon buckles on the black boots.
“I’m good for it Viks, right? We were friends once…”
“I hear you Lala.” He droopy eye’d the bubbles. He was on Crillec again she thought. A nano-designer drug that took the edge off, made in the city. Viks mixed up his highs. An expert that could always maintain a cool demeanor. She had fallen for him once when she was sixteen but she tried to put that behind her now.
She placed her hand on top of his. She watched him and waited. He finally turned to her, his voice carried a downward sigh.
“You got way more guts than me kid… I hope you’re careful about it all.”
His hand reached over to hers, his fingers spread.
“Lemme see your scrib.”
She unhooked the white, inch-wide band. On the screen moved a liquid blue plasma against a white gel that seemed organic and alive. With her disconnect, It changed to blank white with black characters and oddly shaped numerals. She passed it to Viks. He began tapping an address on it’s screen.
“Never commit this location and contact, delete it after you use it, and nuthins’ for free you’ll have to…” his eyes glanced up.
Behind the bar stood a woman. She had drifted up without notice. Her shrill voice rang out, proud and loud.
“What’s this all about? You two getting back together?”
Tallulah’s enhanced body was modified for pleasure with breasts that strained against her orange plastic flight top. Her deep red hair and cream albino skin looked foreign. Her sickly sweet perfume flooded into La’Rio’s head. Tallulah had spent plenty of time working the fire bars, sex clubs, but she wanted out. Unfortunately she brought the old attitude to work and came off more as a buffoon. She was hired help so Viks gave her tone.
“A little break bump-junkie? We’re crypto-graming here.”
She sneered, turned, and walked south.
He looked back to La’Rio, she waved her hand in front of her face.
“I hope you find him then… a human is it?”
She noticed the slyness in his voice. He passed the scrib back to her.
“If you go unannounced it will be trouble, understand? Gimmie thirty minutes.”
Vik’s head lowered giving her that sideways glance, the one when he’s serious. She nodded and casually pulled the chip from her pocket. She placed the chip in-between the layers of a round white napkin and slid the napkin over to him. He wiped the bottom of his glass, pinched the chip, and left the napkin on the counter. He turned and sipped his drink. He looked out into the crowd for a wrong pair of eyes.
“Alright, I’ll pass it around. Avoid the Knights.”
“Don’t use it yourself, it’s a nightmare, a war zone, and it’s tapped when it’s activated. Believe me when I say I wish I hadn’t done it… There was something else, in his hand, he showed me a symbol, somewhere I’ve seen it before, it was like a butterfly.”
She looked down, thinking for a moment, then looked into his eyes. She reached up holding his head and kissed him deeply, holding him there. His hand came up to her neck, his fingers past her ear and then up to her hair. He had always done that, she noticed those little things. They parted. Viks wore a tiny smile, she hadn’t seen one on him forever. He nodded.
“If what you say is on here then big things are going to happen.”
She smiled and stood, then squeezed through the bar crowd. Halfway across she paused and looked back… she saw the old Viks now, the one that cared from so many years ago when they were together. He stood up and looked across the small crowd. He held a deep concern on his face. That face, in her head – she couldn’t lose the thought, but knew In fact that the thought was to be shared, with the Reticulum, as all thoughts would be.
John R. Petros