Business Trip 22

Invalid access request. Would you please get lost now, oh dearest of most incompetent middle distance mobility customer? Ha, ha, ha.

Folami gives the offending barrier a good kick, as practiced in her weekly self-defense and empowerment workshop. Her air train leaves in seven minutes. She can’t miss that meeting at HQ. Her brain is in calamity mode and she’s ready to destroy. 

The barrier ignores the kick. The obstacle to Folami’s career fulfillment looks deceptively like the wood it is actually made of, but there’s truth in that particular sales pitch. The laminated version of this ancient material really is as robust as steel.

Invalid access request. Would you like me to send you packing in a different language, my very dear and slow grasping low performer? Ha, ha, ha.

Setting the interface to ‘funny retort’ was supposed to enliven Folami’s days. The bloody marketroid of an implant maintenance agent was full of praise, for non-standard settings. 

“Best way to bring some sparkle into our lives,” she said. “Nothing noteworthy ever happening to wage slaves like you and me, right? Won’t pretend non-standard interface settings will change that. You’re as stuck as I am, if you don’t mind me mentioning. But you’ll get some fun. Whereas poor me is left to interact with real people who don’t even do diabolical laughs.”

Folami is no fan this particular feature right now. It’s anything but funny, expect perhaps for the folks queuing behind her. She can see how they try not to grin.

Invalid access request. Time to move on, major moron of the day. Blocking the barrier for customers with a more adequate CN account won’t get you anywhere. Ha, ha, ha.

Folami tries to melt into the spotless grey floor. Each of her brain molecules would prefer to join the great recycling effort, very materially and at once.

The two people next in line must have heard what went wrong. The ultimate dishonor.

Nothing is more shameful than an empty Carbon Neutrality account.

This just doesn’t happen. You don’t leave your habitacle without legwear. You don’t eat fellow mammals, or birds. You don’t try to engage in mobility, consumption or production without the necessary Carbon Neutrality balance.

Folami mumbles a must-be-a-mistake apology at the queue and hurries away. She hasn’t got any destination in mind yet, beyond getting round a corner and out of sight.

She feels the queue’s glances hitting her back. In her head, she hears what they will have started muttering to each other by now.

“Did you hear that? No mistake to make, wasn’t there?”

“Definitely not. Holy mighty moly sounded like a CN overdraft to me.”

“I’d say, that happening to me, I’d ask the waiter for the firing squad.”

“And kicking the barrier, did you see her? So much for the less aggressive gender talk.”

“Yeah. I liked them better in their good old days of victimhood.”

Normally, Folami looks down on the moaners who clamor for safe self-resourcing rooms all over public spaces. “Driving up infrastructure costs no end, and our taxes,” she used to say, “What’s wrong with just taking a deep breath and moving on, why dedicated rooms?”

Today, she’s really glad to see the caleidoscope logo. And the door opens without checking her CN status, tax records or whatever else could have been defined as a prerequisite.

The caleidoscope room is as immediately available as forced upon Folami’s reluctant community by helicopter politicians never short of novel ways to spend heaps of money.

It’s less big and comfy than suggested by the detractors of the scheme. They must have taken their pictures from a trick angle. Like estate agents making tiny flats look vast.

The interior of the safe space is spartan. A light green easy chair with a footrest takes up most of the space. It’s surrounded on all sides by the projection of a beach scene, with the waves gently lapping at the shore. Not realistic enough to fool the senses, but pleasant.

Pity the designers made do without the olfactory stimulation unit.

The room smells of plastic, sweat and detergent. It will do for Folami’s current emergency purposes, but she makes a mental note to ask her community relations contact for an upgrade. Olfactory stimulation units, that’s no expense, easily affordable for the common good.

Having settled down into the chair, Folami listens to the waves for a couple of breaths. The world is about to end whichever her next action, she might as well take her time.

Once her physical status monitoring unit declares her fine, quite an exaggeration, in her own opinion, she checks her CN status. This sends her physical right into the red.

Twenty three units. A mere twenty lousy three units. Not even a pittance.

Folami had steadied herself for catastrophe, because the network doesn’t err, but a mere twenty three, that’s patently impossible. She was in the high four digits yesterday, easily enough for an eight hundred odd trip to that vital meeting. Something must have gone full wrong.

Not hiding her irritation, she asks the interface for an explanation.

Cheeky, are we now? Pretending surprise, perhaps even trying to put blame on poor artificial intelligences stuck in boring accounting roles? Know what, oh most irresponsible of a wannabe free rider, why not kiss me at the string end? Ha, ha, ha.

Folami makes a second mental note to have her interface settings reconfigured to standard first thing next off day. Unless she’s in for a prolonged period of sequential off days and can no longer afford the services of implant maintenance agents.

Failure at Carbon Neutrality thrift can get you sacked in no time. Reputational risks too big, you can’t even blame a company to react forceful to any hint of such misdemeanor.

Lorenzo? His bloody wedding? She was made to pay for her brother’s romantic extravaganza? Discovering what happened to her CN account leaves Folami breathless with anger.

Her brother splashed out on a big fat traditional party she wasn’t even able to attend because of urgent project work, and their mom dared charge her account? The bloody housewife probably isn’t even aware, how professionals need their CN accounts for important tasks.

A wedding party. Not the kind of excuse Folami is going to try on Doyin.

Ever since her third divorce, her boss is allergic to anything related to marriage. Her last former husband costs her a fortune, sends her fuming every payday. 

Recalling her high marks in mental resilience, as documented on her diploma, Folami sets up a virtual meeting room. Her invitation reads:

“Dear all, a deplorable accident keeps me from attending in person today. No need to worry, no bodily injuries, only made me miss my air train. Thanks for your understanding & looking forward to talking to you later on. Kind regards, Folami.”

First you waste a fortune on outmoded celebrations? Only to lie to your superiors for cover-up next? Why should I even keep interacting with you deceitful nuisance of a cheat? Ha, ha, ha.

Folami no longer cares. She has a project approval to win, remotely.

And a brother to beat up. And she’ll come up with something for mom, too.