Chapter 1:

Wednesday, 4/10/2216, Part 1

Help! I'm Addicted to Cyber Drugs in a Dystopian City

“Kriss Blain was not a happy man,” I think, saving that to a text file. I chuckle to myself. That’s how I’d start it if I ever wrote my memoirs. Not that I would. After all, who would want to read about a mech operator?

Not that I’m not grateful. A job is a job, and those are hard to come by these days. Caliber Mechanics wasn’t bad either, as far as jobs go. They used to maintain and repair personal vehicles and the industrial machinery involved in vehicle production (according to ChingWei at least) but that work had dried up as individual disposable incomes had. My department’s labor was currently subcontracted to a defense subcontractor of PLEX Inc, for whom I produced and maintained security drones and light military vehicles and equipment. Not that I was really involved in the process.

I scan the readouts of the machines, fixing such and such a device. They were all running themselves, as machines tend to do. I haven’t even left my desk during work in weeks. When I did, it was only to solicit the assistance of the repair machine to repair one of my manufacturing machines. When’s the last time I did that?

When’s the last time I did anything at all?


I open a book. Main menu, select library, select Hacking a High, a History, select read. “Hack” was such an antiquated term, but it seems the authors had overlooked that in favor of alliteration, and I appreciated that. I briefly consider pulling it up on my vision and reading it for myself (how long has it been since I actually read something?) but I quickly dismiss the idea in favor of my NAC augment feeding carefully measured chunks of information into my conscious mind.

Forward, by Aleksy Skidmore

From 2001 to 2042, narcotic drugs were gradually decriminalized worldwide-

HA! Pre EarthGov. What a wild time to be alive.

-and the world’s obsession with getting high slowly ground to a halt. If this is a problem humanity has already solved, why then, the astute reader may ask, are we in midst of the most serious global drug crisis in the last 200 years? The answer—

Meh, not now,” I think, closing the program. I’ll get to it when I can actually sit down and concentrate. I flip through some streams the net recommends to me.

Real Life on the Red Planet. Ehhhh, Reality TV has never really been my thing.

Live News: 4:10:2216. Ok, that’s fine.

The sleek newscaster pops up on your vision. I hate this guy. His blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin all point to his heritage from one of the few remaining homogeneous populations. Probably Iceland. I know I shouldn’t be prejudiced, but I can’t help but feel like it’s just a little creepy. Some people were really into that though. Weird people.

“… Leaders of EarthGov and Edison MarsCorp gathered today to celebrate the centennial of the advent of the Bio-Mechanical Neural Augmentation Computer, NAC, the device widely attributed with bringing about…”

“Oh yeah. The centennial,” I think, wiping some persistent chunk of crust out of my eye. It was supposedly all a very big deal. Coming together, alleviating some of the tensions between earth and mars, blah blah blah. I switch it off.

I check the machines. Nothing wrong. What a surprise! Nothing was ever wrong with the machines. And when it was, I would consult a machine to find out what was wrong with the machine, which would recommend yet another machine to fix the machine in question. I’m just a third wheel, an extra cog, an unnecessary process, a vestigial line of junk code.

Oh well. It’s a job, and those don’t grow on trees.

A message pops up on my vision.

EarthGov: Thank you for your testimony. We value your assistance.

I got those all the time. Probably something the machines picked up.

I check the time. Not even 11. I still have 6 more hours of this shit. Ugh! What to do, what to do?

I browse my hard drive.

Hey! Still a couple gigs of shock left from when Donnelle came through last week. I probably shouldn’t do it at work though. Maybe at the end of the day, after all this bullshit. Ok. What to do till then?

What to dooooo?

Fuck it.

“Kriss Blain was a shock addict,” I think, chuckling again. I’d never save that to a text file. Some people say they monitor our thoughts now too, but if that were the case I’d already be suspended. “Hey EarthGov, I’m about to do drugs” I think. I snort. A little humor to pass the time.

I wander to my bedroom and grab the plug-in from the bottom drawer of the bedside table. It looked externally like any other sleep aid plug-in. I had one of those too, just in case anyone came asking, but I usually just left it out on the recharge unit. I walk back to my desk and plug it in to my shoulder port. I usually plug plug-ins in my neck port but I had to be careful with this one. “Lord… I mean… Sci… I know I couldn’t afford another,” I think to myself.

I feel it pop up on my hard drive. Select sleep aid plug-in. Run program?

I check the machines. Working on security ground car number 8 today. At this rate, they’ll hit quota perfectly. All thanks to me and my indispensable work at Caliber Mechanics!

Select yes.

KB:2178:MO;CM:994 SLEEP

I open my eyes; I know the drill by now. If my boss checks in this will be a problem, but he rarely does. And I’d rather him think he caught me sleeping than know the truth.

I open the cleverly disguised folder titled ENGLISH BREAKFAST. Select Volume 4. Run program? Select yes.

I see readouts about the history of tea open and play before my eyes, but I’m already gone.

You’re 4. You climb into bed with your parents. Your mother wakes up and wraps her strong safe arms around you. “Oh honey, what’s wrong?” she asks, beginning with a croak but gaining in strength and sympathy towards the end. You press your head against her shoulder, and feel her dark silky hair envelope you. You try and remember why you’re here, but she’s already watching the playback on her tablet. “I had a bad dream,” you whisper in your high-pitched pre-adolescent voice. She finishes the playback and then checks some other readings, all the while stroking your hair. “Its ok sweetheart, don’t be scared,” she says, and kisses you on your forehead. “God isn’t real. And if he were he certainly wouldn’t be an old man who wanted to punish you for your programming grades. Shhhh, shhhh, it’s ok, everything’s ok.” And everything is ok. “Can I sleep with you guys tonight?” you ask, already drifting back into darkness. “Of course honey, of course.” She lays you down next to your father and pulls the blankets up to your neck-port. You feel the strength of your fathers back, you feel the affection of your mothers embrace, you feel the warmth emanating from both of them, and everything is ok. Everything is ok.

“You worthless piece of shit!!!”

What? Huh?

… Suggest its origins are Scottish and the drink was popularized in the early global period by Queen Victoria…

“Hey, shithead!!”

Select end program. Select Plug-in, eject.

KB:2178:MO;CM:994 AWAKE

My eyes snap open and frantically search the room. My physical screen on the desk has the image of a little bald man, his shiny brown dome reflecting an unseen florescent light, his slanted eyes squinting menacingly, and his pouty lips stretched into a menacing smile. I know this man. Who is he? The shock always overloaded a couple circuits and neurons. Fuck, fuck, come on. Readouts come up in my vision.

CA:2153:MGMT;CM:4, ChingWei Audetat

Oh fuck. Of course he would choose now, today of all days, to check in. Mr. King Caliber himself.

“Hey, enjoy your nap?”

“I’m s-sorry sir. Is there a problem?”

“With the machines? No. With my hiring standards, perhaps.”

“I’m sorry sir, it won’t happen again sir.”

“It better not, Blain.”

“It won’t.”

He almost closed the transmission. He had his hand on the dial. But then he thought better of it.

“You could lose your job for this Blain. I could fire you right now.”

“It won’t happen again sir. I promise.”

“Do you understand how fortunate you are to work for a company like this?”

“Incredibly f-fortunate sir.”

“This is your last chance Blain.”

“Thank you sir.”

He put his hand on the dial again, but didn’t end the call. Old fashioned piece of shit.

“People would kill to have your job Blain.”

He shook his head.

“And don’t stammer, you sound like a damn shock junkie.”

The screen went black. I have a lump in my throat. I bite down on the inside of my cheek. My vision blurs.

Internal Notice: Heart rate unusually elevated. Do you require assistance?

Select no.

Select main menu, select emotions, select stabilize. I take a deep breath. I’m fine, I’m fine. Damn what a shitty day though. And there are still 2 hours left on my shift. At least it’s only two. Thank goodness I still have a job to work 2 hours at. But, 2 hours… Donnelle could be here in 2 hours…

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