Chapter 6:

Friday, 4/12/2216, Part 1

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

You’re nine years old in the office with your dad. His gigantic figure gestures excitedly at different monitors, his mouth flapping quickly as he attempts to explain their functions to you. No language comes out of his lips, just a warm, happy buzzing sound. The sound conveyed no information, but his expressions and demeanor said ‘I love you bud, and I want to share my excitement with you’, and that is enough for now. Words gradually bubble forth from the buzzing and take shape as your brain processes them: “… we can calculate for equitable distribution on a global or even extra global scale!” He pauses for a second before asking you “Why is it better if machines decide how resources, like wheat for example, are distributed?” “Cause they don’t eat?” you respond. He throws his head back and laughs. “That’s certainly one reason why. Very good Kriss, I’m so proud of you.” Suddenly mom is there too. “You still have to watch the people that watch them, that’s why we’ve gotta watch your dad” she said, laying her hand on your head and smiling at your dad. You all sit down on your living room couch and the wall screen switches on. There is a game show being broadcast, its premise being that the contestant who answers the most questions correctly gets assigned a government job. The interviewer turns to K. “What would you do with your life if you win this opportunity for employment?” He asks, pushing his vestigial microphone in her face. She’s wearing a long black ballgown from a period piece with a black mesh veil flipped back over her hair. A huge antique pearl neckless that would’ve made a reasonable downpayment on a house hung from her neck, where it clicked softly as she turned her head to look at you. Eyes locked on yours, she reached out and laid a hand on your head. “You find a way.”

KB:2178:MO;CM:994 AWAKE

I wake up to the news.

“Now, I should be clear, no one’s voted yet,” the high pitched weasely voice of today’s media trained, think tank backed guest analyst explained “but Senator Maeresera is sponsored by Orange, proudly so I might add, and has been for years. So that being said it honestly would be an incredible shock if he voted yes to this proposal.”

I left it on, physically, out loud on my monitor when I decided to load some shock. On a Friday… During work… I really need to stop doing this. Not good.

I check the machines. What a surprise! They’re fine. A large order had come in for security drone chassis without any of the actual machinery inside. It wasn’t the first time. We had gotten several orders like this one in the past month for everything from empty drones, to missile shells, to civilian air car exteriors. PLEX was probably going to ship them off somewhere and fill them with proprietary technology. Totally reasonable and so totally mind numbingly boring.

My eyes flit back to the wall monitor. There was something charming and quaint about watching the news on a screen. It reminded me of streaming television with my parents as a child.

“… isn’t just empty rhetoric either,” The analyst babbled on, “The corporate leadership of Edison Inc is the legal and sovereign government of Mars, in addition to leading a terrestrially incorporated entity. If EarthGov votes in favor of this bill, the quote unquote ‘First Martian War’ could be legally upgraded from a violent corporate action to an intergovernmental conflict, the first officially recognized ‘war’ since unification.”

This guy’s pretty good. My NAC identifies him as AC:2172:MA;HF:16, Aarin Chapeau. His delivery is fast but clear and the amount of information he delivered per sentence really made it seem like he knew what he was talking about. Not that I thought he actually did. I have no doubt that he’s a soulless ghoul too, just like the political pundit who invited him on, but if he had a show I might watch it.

“… seems that, despite strong support from the more hawkish members of the senate, it’s unlikely to pass. Why do you think that is?” The soulless pundit ghoul asked.

“Yeah, great question. The answer, as it usually is, is the economy. It doesn’t matter how many voters support this legislation, if asset seizures were to take place, we’re in for, well, we’re in for a nasty situation, I’ll say it like that. As things currently stand, despite 140 million miles between us on average, our economies are just too closely intertwined for EarthGov to take definitive action beyond saber rattling like…”

Ok, never mind, I got bored.

Main menu, select household, select studio wall monitor 2, select Bosawas Prime streaming app (now playing Live News: 4:12:2216), select off.

I just can’t bring myself to care about political stuff. I got into the habit of checking so I would know what Donnelle was talking about but… I guess I didn’t have to anymore.

I check my inbox for messages from Ontivia or Seitaro, messages I know aren’t there. I would’ve received a notification. Assholes. Both of them. Weren’t they my friends? How hard is it to respond to your friends?

“Ami?” I call out to my empty apartment.

“Hey, what’s up babe?” She asks, suddenly appearing behind my work chair.

“Therapy mode.”

“Sure thing, what’s on your mind?” she says as the AR updates to project her sitting down on the desk across from me. Her legs were crossed casually but her face expressed her undivided attention and concern.

“I think Ontivia is mad at me.” I confess. It felt almost painful to make a big deal about it, but as I said the words I realized I was actually pretty upset about it.

“Why would you think that?”

“The last time we talked was three weeks ago now, and even then she didn’t want to play any games with me.”

“Why do you think that means she’s angry with you?“

“I don’t know… we usually play something after dinner, sometimes,” I explain, feeling a little embarrassed. “We were supposed to play Camp Terror 3 when it came out.”

“She might just not have been in the mood to play that day, it doesn’t necessarily indicate her feelings towards you.”

“I guess,” I whimper, feeling the emotion build up in your throat.

“This isn’t the first time you’ve gone this long without chatting, it is possible that your anxiety could be the result of all the sho—”

“SHE’S BEEN PLAYING!” I yell suddenly “I CHECKED HER ACCOUNT THAT DAY AND SHE WAS ACTIVE RIGHT AFTER!!!” I felt tears streaming down my face, hot and wet, pooling at the base of my cheeks before falling and splattering on my work shirt. I took a deep breath and exhaled in short jagged bursts.

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

Select no.

“You know that,” I whined as I tried to fight down this stupid emotional outburst, “I know you know that.”

She gave me a concerned look.

“Hey, I know you’re frustrated but—“

“Girlfriend mode” I wail, bursting back into tears.

“Oh, honey,” she said quickly standing up and hopping over to me. She crouched down at the base of my chair and looked up at my twisted and scrunched up face, now criss crossed with an intricate network of tear canals. I put my hands over my face but could still see her big caring green eyes through a crack in my fingers. I’m so pathetic.

“Hey, hey, it’s ok” she cooed sweetly “I'll play with you.”

I choke on a sob and start coughing.

“Hey, it’s ok, get it out. I’m here baby, I’m here.”

I love Ami.

I hate me.

“What about Seitaro, huh?” She tried again after a minute “You guys go for months without talking, that doesn’t mean you’re not friends right?”

I laugh. A pained, self pitying laugh that quickly becomes indistinguishable from my sobs.

“Him too, he—“

“Jesus Christ” a voice suddenly groaned in my head. “When will you grow up?”

I immediately stiffened and looked up at the monitor. For ChingWei to check in now of all times was absolutely mortifying luck. Select main menu, select emotions, select stabilize.

I get up, wiping the snot from my face.

“I’m, I’m so sorry sir, I’ll get it- on it- r-r-r-right away.”

I tear up again expecting him to scream but instead his voice softened.

“No Kriss, it’s ok. You need to get out of the house. I’m coming to pick you up.”