Tag Archives: SciFi Short Story

Health SCare

A syringe? They are proposing to use this big fat monster of a syringe, on him? Adam is upset.

It says 5 ml on the ampoule, but this is one big blob of yellow stuff. Big and yuck. The whitecoat is pulling it into the syringe, slowly, slowly, as if to emphasize the danger. He proceeds by means of a needle big enough to moonlight as plumbing.

Never is this a mere 5 ml. 50 ml, it should definitely say 50 ml on this ampoule. Typos everywhere, ever since the invention of the autocorrect. Bloody so called fucking progress…

Adams injured left foot suddenly aches less. It’s sure to recover just fine on its own.

No need to punch a hole into the poor body part, and certainly not by means if this enormous needle. Pumping in this big blob would make the foot hurt more. There must be another way.

Waking up from anesthesia only to endure agony, Adam has been there, two years ago. 

It took the stupid autonomous coffin of an ambubot eight minutes to find Adam, two to diagnose his ankle as sufficiently damaged to require medical attention and fit him with a self adjusting mold, and another fifty to trundle across the city. The dumb device refused to roll at more than the legal twenty kilometers per hour, for supposed bloody lack of a fucking emergency.

When they finally reached the medpoint, a white coat confirmed ankle damage. Adam was told to breath from a mask, and went blank. He woke up with a headache to get told his ankle had been fixed. Except it wasn’t, hurting in totally new ways instead. For two more hours. And no running, for two days. He was barely able to walk home at his usual pace.

Health care, they call this mess. Well chosen term. Works fine for the healthy.

Adam wonders where they‘re hiding the mask, and the tank with the anaesthetic.

With all the greens growing all over the place, fighting for the dim light from one solar paneled window and  four blue bulbs, it‘s hard to tell where the storage cabinets are.

Nice hydroponics, though. Latest fashion, well implemented, makes for growth at jungle speed. 

Some of the protomatoes should have been harvested two days ago. Judging by the sweetness of their smell, they‘ll have to go ketchup. The neoplantain and ultrachilli are overdue, too. Never would they reach that advanced stage of ripeness in Adams more humble office.

Whitecoats, such a spoilt profession. Paid a fortune to hurt people, the lucky bloody bastards. And first in every queue, be it for potable water, energy or food and supplements. ‘They exercise a vital profession’, goes the legend. As if there was magic in handling a yellow blob.

Funny, how the three cocannabis bushes are picked clean, just like everywhere else. There’s a human inside the white coat after all, and it shares some cravings with proper folks.

Thinking about longing switches Adams mind back to his quest to locate the drawer with the mask. The question is gaining in urgency, fast.

The ampoule is empty, except for some yellow smears hinting at a sticky consistency of its former content. The syringe is full. Adam has to steady himself to face its approach, about as nice an experience as looking down the barrel of a pump gun.

Having him see the syringe that close up is causing unnecessary trauma. They could and should already have put him under at this stage, to spare him additional harm.

Adam doesn’t get so say as much. The whitecoat grabs his damaged foot and goes:

„Come on, citizen Adam, no need to panic. Just take a deep breath, look at my wonderful vitacranberry bush, hold on tight, and I’ll be done in a second. It‘s actually more like thirty seconds, to stick to therapeutical transparency rules, but you‘ll live and walk.“

Adam is lost for words. This is supposed to be a civilized era, the age of bio and balance, in all realms of life. And this whitecoat is threatening to subject him to a massive intervention, without anaesthesia? Seriously? And if yes, what next? Driving around in cars belching toxic fumes? Smattering the world with radioactive particles? Handing every citizen a mocom, to make sure even the last bleeding idiot finds a riot to join? Back to Barbaria, anyone?

Adam would love to argue his case, but his tongue got stuck to his palate.

There‘s nothing he can do, about the assailant now taking aim with his lance of a needle. Adam should kick, jump and run, before it’s too late. But he stays put instead. He even stares down a particularly fat purple vitacranberry, just as he was told to.

When the needle pierces skin and tendon in one go, right at the most tender spot, Adams heel explodes in the sharpest of pangs. And this is just the beginning.

Next, he’s hit by a crescendo of ever stronger pain. It‘s no longer sharp, more a fast increasing pressure, as if someone was trying to pump up his heel way beyond its intended size. Every single yellow molecule adds to Adams anguish. His heel is going to explode, any second now, in one huge blast that will rip off his leg and tear apart his groin.

Clutching to the last remnants of sanity in a mind overwhelmed by physical distress, Adam promises himself never to run a marathon again. If ever he survives. He‘s barely conscious by now. With all his energy going into suffering there‘s none left for breathing.

„… and here you are, well done. Just stay like this for ten more minutes, to let the tendon repair agents do their fabulous biotherapeutical job, and you’ll walk and jog like new. Better luck for your next marathon, citizen Adam, and have a nice day.”

Adam missed whatever first part of the message over the ringing in his ears. He is far from convinced of his survival, but there is improvement.

His left heel is no longer getting bigger. It has switched to a new type of more pulsating but overall lesser ache. The strained muscles in his legs and groin that had been contracting in one big effort to brace themselves for the impending explosion dare start to relax.

It’s all still very tentative, but there is progress. Adam will be sore for days, below navel level, but his survival becomes more probable by the second.

And no headache. No post anesthesia dizziness. That’s nice.

Adam would have granted himself half an hour of legs up, one shouldn’t rush recovery from major surgery, but the junior whitecoat with the thick beard, braided in red, and the thin hair, braided in blue, compliments him out after exactly ten minutes.

The first steps come surprisingly easy. Adam crosses the reception in a proud swing, walking so fast he fails to overhear what his syringe wielder is telling the man at the desk:

“One more wannabe runner sissy, and I’m done with this, Egon. One more of these whining pains in the posterior, I quit this job, I swear I will. I’ve had it with this lot.

Healthy to cry for in the first place, running long distance without proper preparation, relying on us to repair any damage they do to themselves, that’s bad enough as such. But if they go crybaby on top, not even appreciating the marvels we perform, with zero understanding of what an incredible feat it is, to be able to cure a ruptured tendon in minutes, by means of one injection, with minimal discomfort… One of these days, I’m going to crack, Egon, I swear I will.

Can I get one of the hip oldies next, please, please, please? The more ancient, the better.

They recall how they saw people limping on crutches, for weeks, back in their childhood days. Scroll back fifty years, any failing joint was a big deal. They had some primitive devices, but you don’t want to look at the details, or the odds to reach full functionality. IoN wasn’t even invented back then, no one was dreaming to go one up and Improve on Nature.

Tell an oldie that hip replacement will take two hours, including recovery, and he’ll cry, with joy. Tell him that he’ll walk and dance better than ever, after years of slow decay, and you risk getting yourself kissed. That’s a bit gross, OK, I do prefer my lovers on the fresher side of ripe. But it’s still a nice positive feedback, and that’s what keeps us going, right?”

Bad Timing

„Phase two, step one, engage.”

Olu wouldn’t mind Samaria’s voice to be a tad softer.

He’s all in favour of lady bosses, because diligence, resilience, morale, and whatever else got praised in last years stupid gender awareness training session.

In Olu’s school days, gender blindness was all the rage. Only as far as curriculumdom was concerned, obviously. Being past reproductive age, the teachers had little trouble pretending to believe there was no difference between the Adams and the Eves. Their charges, Olu’s teenage self included, begged to disagree, always fervently and sometimes physically. Olu knew exactly whom he wanted to get laid with, and gender blindness made about as little sense to him as wasting valuable games time on homework

A little more than a decade on, science has caught up with Olu’s intuition. Unfortunately, it has also declared the ladies especially apt at management. Studies have been conducted. The gender awareness instructor, a lady, of course, had them track through a landscape of 3D graphs. On talent after talent, the guys were hills next to the ladies mountains. The ratio was only reverted for physical strength, and the ability to tolerate blood alcohol levels. Very important features, but unfortunately not from a business perspective. 

A little less volume, and a little more melody, that’s nice to have, in a voice.

Olu selects the phase two icon on his screen.

He’s left handed and of course wears his control glove on that hand, anything else would feel weird. He fondly recalls how his late boss Kevin, who was right handed, switched glove sides when he arrived, to make sure his instruction would proceed as smoothly as it did. A nice gesture, from a superior, to welcome a new teammate.

Having completed the demanded action, Olu confirms:

“Phase two, step one, engaged.”

And Samaria to snap back, much faster and more robustly than necessary:

“Phase two, step two, engage!”

Olu resents. This is not the fire brigade, they’re not about to perform news type heroics. There’s no life-or-death countdown, no nuke ticking in the basement.

They’re on board an Arctic surfer, harvesting vintage ice, one thousand cubic meters at a time. If they drop one of these gigantic ice cubes, and go on to miss their quota, nothing happens. If they vanished now, some filthy rich snobs would have to make do with good old desal for drinking and oral hygiene, like everybody else. Olu is no union man, but a catastrophe this isn’t, that much he knows.

Olu would love to tell Samaria to stop fuzzing.

He won’t, because in this shithole of a workplace every single word uttered is being recorded. Someone might listen in right now, ‘for quality purposes’, as in surveillance. Quality of workforce life is not the target management is going for, obviously.

Samaria would resent being criticized in public, and take revenge. By means of the shift schedule, obviously. Tougher blokes than Olu have been turned into weeping wrecks by one harvesting season of split standby shifts. You have to keep yourself available 20/7 to take over in a maximum of five minutes, and get paid a third of a minumum wage for a maximum of ten hours per day for the standby time. Stress plus financial ruin. Terrifying.

The higher ups can watch, too.

Most of the time, it’s an artificial intelligence scanning the video feed for early signs of upcoming trouble. It’s sure to have noticed how hard Olu has been staring at this screen, for the last two days. Never would an AI miss signs of anger. Unlike Samaria.

If only the bitch was a little more like Kevin. He would have noticed at once, when Olu stopped smiling. Never would Kevin have dared not to ask, about issues. And he was always ready to remedy, never hesitating to choose his own discomfort.

With Samaria, Olu is exhausting his grump muscles to no effect.

Poor Kevin. He was so stressed by his minority status, always on the lookout for any signs of anyone resenting his presence, always ready to apologize. A bit tedious, his very Caucasian servility, but still nice to have around.

Mostly nice. There can be too much of a good thing.

Olu recalls how Kevin’s apologies for fetching the wrong protein bar from the canteen culminated in a mea culpa for colonial crimes. Yes, there’s a lot of history, behind something as simple as a coconut flavor, and it’s full of white-on-black crimes. But you don’t want to hear about the more gory aspects of slavery while eating. 

Kevin never tired of telling anyone he met, about how sorry he felt, for all the misdeeds Caucasians committed, until well into the 21st century. He was most upset about them having enjoyed centuries of undeserved privileges, and forever grateful for his fine job.

“Being allowed to harvest ice, instead of slaving away in often deadly flood or fire combat, such luck, no idea how I got here,” Kevin used to say, slipping on his own slime.

Kevin’s presumed luck turned out the be deadly after all.

Olu was glad never to have added to Kevin’s pressure, unlike some of the colleagues. Otherwise, that fatal heart attack could have felt like his fault. A full Karoshi death, right here, on the chair bloody Samaria is squatting now. Less gruesome than a fire fighter death, but still pretty bad, as far as the result concerned. Death by apology. Unlike some people.

Olu hopes the monitoring AI can’t read his mind too well. He’s thinking a combination of Samaria and a fire fighter accident he saw on TV, and he’s well aware that’s not the kind of thought one is supposed to harbor, in a team context.

“Phase two, step two, engage, now!”

Samaria’s voice is so over the top, painful to listen to. Despite the discomfort, Olu struggles to refrain from grinning. Adding even one word, that’s against protocol. The bitch is at fault now. No need to look up from his screen to know her head will be in process of going steam cooker. When she’s angry, her eyes bulge forward, like ready to plop out.

Taking care to add a little pause after every word, Olu goes:

“Phase two, step two, engaged.”

He’s sticking to protocol, come what may. Takes more than a nuisance of a shrill boss to impress him. Samaria dared not grant him a switch of shifts. He won’t be watching the Dota 5 Champions League final this year. A never no way. Ever since he played his first game, he never missed any major encounter, never mind a Champions League final. 

A crime to beat all crimes has been committed, and Samaria will pay for it.

Tag Trauma

“And that’s you, SP all topped up, sir. And to the very top. Big Small Puchases for you, if you don’t mind me commenting. What a jolly number. Don’t get to see that every day…”

Giving the fin operator his kiss-my-ass look, through sunglasses worthy of a much more fancy occasion, Joha urges to get his device back, and out of this smelly place. This fucking so called age of e-money is one big fat e-drag. And currently not e- at all.

Joha is forced to waste time in a queue, in person. Just because one bloody idiot e-robbed a central bank to oblivion, forcing the people to sell their country, thereby prompting a second idiot to e-impersonate a commander in chief, to invade the neighbors.

Yes, losing your country is bad. Yes, having it go to war is worse. But it was just two small armies, with old fashioned weapons. Not even sat strike capability. For a mere two days. A three digit number of victims. A year’s worth of worldwide roadkill. So what?

Fucking clean cash craze, no one needs this. Certainly not Joha.

Waiting for some matron to get done arguing about what would not even qualify as a proper tip at last night’s venue, that’s no job for a guy. His friends wait outside, in his car. They can observe him standing here, like some erectily dysfunctional grandpa. Shame.

Why can’t this bloody bullet proof glass at least be tinted? Age of transparency Joha’s ass!

What is that waffling slime of a fin operator looking at now? Something is happening, on his screen. He should be handing back Joha’s device, they were as good as done.

Dull discomfort of drag morphs into piercing snafu pain. ‘No e-fuckup now, not on a weekend!’ is all Joha manages to think before the fin operator goes:

“Congratulations, sir, you’ve been tagged! You get a say, on education. Oh, and look at this, a one billion dollar budget. You’re so lucky, sir. Don’t get to see that kind of number every day…”

Stunned, Joha barely dares look out once again. His car is shaking with his so-called friends rocking their swivel seats laughing. They’re filming each other chanting. So easy to read their lips:

“Joha has been ta-hagged, Joha has been ta-hagged” goes their chorus. In his own car. His bad luck is already doing the rounds online. News of misfortune travel porn fast.

Joha pretends to listen to the fin operator while weighing his options. There aren’t many.

Attending one of these online jamborees demotes an influencer to laughing stock in no time.

Stupid Dafe of last year’s fame got himself tagged, to weigh in on the worldwide alignment of firearms regulation. Misconsidering the gun topic as cool, Dafe went public pride. In return, what used to be his crowd asked:

“Proud to  spend a full day with mostly old people? Some of them old and female? Not to mention a sprinkling of white snobs? And doing what, in this most disgusting of companies? Oh, you’ll be reading and writing, school-type stuff, and talking about it? You’re so braaave…”

Joha also recalls his own cool contribution to the online lynch mob.

He came up with the slogan ‘Rock the rest home?’ under a picture of an artificially aged Dafe, and he’s no Morgan Freeman, kissing an even uglier white nonagenarian. Most of the 2.2K commenters were less polite. Today, barely anyone recalls there used to be a Dafe.

If he had a choice, Joha would rather come out as gay than attend a bloody citizens-of- everywhere-united-for-the-global-bloody-good-fucking-forum. 

Joha might actually come out as gay, once he will have made it to London and built himself a cool British star DJ life, but this is not the moment for this intricate kind of considerations.

Tagged to attend a fucking forum. On education, of all topics. Shame to the power of shame.

Unfortunately, disgracefully, there is no choice.

Poor Omo2go tried to opt out.

According to rumors, he invested a considerable sum, to get his tag declared a technical glitch and voided. ‘Global food security equality’, that mouthful made him reach for his e-wallet. Under the 2045 zero corruption tolerance policy, Omo2go was sentenced to keep rotting in jail until 2068, and to share a cell with his targets. Who’d want to be in his boxers?

Finally getting his device back, Joha doesn’t return the fin operator’s smile. He’s suppressing a shiver. Not the fault of the air conditioning. Envisaging Omo2go type risk made his ass freeze in shock. Joha has to attend that fucking forum. There’s no escaping the tag.

Takes Joha seconds to prepare the needful on his device. Next, he walks back to his car, his head high, to get rid of the jeering traitors. He flashes the screen at them, casually. Seeing their profiles ready to be denounced as carjackers sends them running, as expected. Joha might have particular reasons to fear prison, but the basic sentiment is widely shared.

Next, Joha tells the car to head for the university.

His mind is all made up. With his street creds ruined, he might as well do the nagging granddad of a high potential grant manager who calls him every other week the favor to resume his physics.

Bye, bye cool life. Hello career. Degree, PhD, CSD.

And if he can keep the flame of his current anger burning, he’ll come up with a big fucking e-blast show stopper. They dared terminate his DJ career. Their fault.

Jerks and Perks

“Now this is rich. Is this still 2119, or what? Ever heard of the age of respect? Feels rather like the new waste age to me. Yesterday, it was stuff that got discarded. Now it’s mind output we’re throwing away. Full speed backwards, futility power to max, is that the idea?

If that is what you’re aiming for, you’re in for a surprise, buddy. Any idea what me getting distracted from making code happen costs, in terms of wellbeing? The future of peoplekind is at stake here. Me having to point my outstanding cognitive abilities at your joke of an occupation, for even one second, guess what that is.

Oh sorry, no guessing, sure. Let me explain: Waste to the power of waste, you misfunctioning nuisance of a you-call-this-a-service? provider. Still too complex? Oh so sorry, let me rephrase: Big-big waste. You’re doing this so to the wrong guy, buddy…”

Stakhay is shaking so bad the gravity mitigation function of his seat struggles to keep up with his momentum. His back goes ouch. This workplace is so tediously unlike the upstairs he longs to visit. Double ouch. The combination of back and wallet pain boosts Stakhay’s anger.

He raises his voice some more to go:

“And now I pulled a back muscle, because of you imbecile. This job is getting more dangerous by the day. No wonder folks barely manage to clobber together their quarterly one hundred hours of desk time, in this savage environment. It’s wasteful, and a health hazard.

Is that what I deserve, to keep things rolling for the average blokes and blokettes? Without me, buddy, no food on the table, no game in the box, no water in the tank. We call that one hydrogen, but never you mind. Unless you want to go about explaining the difference? ”

Stakhay pauses for effect. Just as practiced in that funny interactive skills workshop. The lead coach made him attend, to groom him for even more senior roles that will bring him within striking distance of space flight kind of cash. Stakhay is ready for the apology he’s due.

He gets a bland stare instead. Combined with a hint of a smile. This face adds up to an insult.

Stakhay doesn’t tolerate aggression. Pointing his elbow at the exit, he shouts at the offender:

“Out, at once. Oh yes, buddy, this is an elbow I’m showing you. Oh yes indeed, this is exactly what needs to be done. You asked for it, here it comes. And now you get your lower limbs into motion. Those feet are made for walking, buddy. No idea what the squishy bit in the upper cavity does for a living, but your feet seem to be up to a job.”

The massage therapist seems on the brink of disobedience. It‘s a long blink, even for his kind. In the end, he does leave. As soon as he crosses the threshold to the corridor, the walls starts chiming his personal menial-worker-alert, to spare complextaskers one more encounteremma.

Stakhay is proud of this innovation. With all the support staff cruising the building, it was getting ever more stressful for the top cast to move around.

You want your feeder to deliver your custom grown and cooked artificial protein mix. You want your earplug support to bring and insert what fits todays body mood. You don’t want to meet someone else’s physical needs minder in the corridor.

They used to just be there, when you walked round a corner. Even strong guys like Stakhay got torn. Walk on and risk small talk? Or retreat to safety in loneliness? More fragile complextaskers went off the rail on such occasions, a terrible loss.

One was injured so badly he never recovered. That was a peculiar case. It involved a re-enactment of what last centuries barbarians refered to as ‚kissing‘, with the personal dress manager throwing himself at the victim. A massacre.

Most of the encounters are comparatively benign, but still. Stakhay is proud to have reduced this office‘s hazard score by means of simple implants and an array of loudspeakers.

That‘s creativity, not to call himself a genius outright. Take what‘s there, reassemble, and whoosh, the world becomes a better place. The corridors are safe, thanks to him.

Next, he will come up with a prevention strategy for in-office incidents.

A body kneader addressing a complextasker verbally, instead of just stretching his earlobes for better focus, as ordered, that’s so off. It might have been nothing but a “hi”, but to minds like Stakhay’s, that’s the butterfly triggering the tsunami. He was on the point of…

There. He doesn’t even recall the breakthrough he was making. Gone.

Even one spark of his brilliance getting lost is a tragedy. Mindless destruction, just like in the waste age. And look what they did to the planet? Even space is starting to look positively habitable compared to that hot smelly mess. And Stakhay’s beautiful mind is next.

Stakhay urgently needs his shrink.

If only this particular staff wasn’t so talkative. There’s no way yet to make these work on mute. 

Stakhay shivers under the next wave of envy.

Bloody lucky future folks: Holidays in space and silent shrinks.

Anecdotal Value Day

Ring. Ring. Ring. No answer? Ring. Ring. Something must be wrong. Ring. Ring. Sheila never takes that long. Ring. Ring. She usually answers before Aslan even has a chance… Ring … to think about how she manages to be on the line so fast.

Ring. Ring. Ring. Time to give up and activate the please-get-in-touch.

Staring at the rolling waves, Aslan feels the adrenaline tide. He can‘t help but assume it’s one of those days. Entertaining to narrate, if and once all ended well. Dreadful to live.

First thing in the morning, the elevator from habitat shaft three breaks down and half the early shift of algae harvesters fails to show up. No way up, staff not in. Shit happens.

Next, delayed harvesting clogs the pipes of tank F. The few staff are not to blame. They did their best. But with the current weather, perfect growing conditions, for once, today, of all days, they stood zero chance to keep up. Lots in, little out. Can‘t work.

Next, Horatio, a most diligent operator, dives into tank F, to rid it of the mess. He succeeds too fast too well. Horatio’s arm gets sucked into the harvester pipe. Wrist most probably broken, according to the on-site medic. A month of sick leave, at least.

Once things have started going wrong, there‘s no stopping.

Up to that moment, Aslan had taken the glitches with barely a crumple of his on-duty smile. 

His job is as good as work gets. His pay is solid. Not disproportionate, considering all the efforts and risks involved. To spend five hours up here, outside, five days a week, that’s tough.

The floating platforms are safe enough, but the constant rolling sucks. The protective gear will keep the operators fine in ninety-nine point seven percent of weather conditions, and for the rest there‘s health care, but the coverall is so heavy even an athlete like Aslan struggles.

Lots of effort, and some risk, but the reward is solid. The good, steady kind of solid.

They’ve got so many energy credits to spare Sheila is envisaging a trip to one of the shaded islands. Just to have gone and stayed someplace else. Like the holidays Aslan‘s late grandad used to recall, from his early years. Back in those dark ages, even kids far too young to appreciate got flown around. Weird. Must have been religious. The dark ages were awash.

A trip would be nice. If ever Aslan manages to free himself for long enough, they’ll do it. 

They won’t have to rely on their savings alone. Sheila can keep working throughout their minimum six months stay. That‘s the advantage, of her two-a-penny profession. Content supervisors don‘t make much, but they can work from anywhere. Without protective gear.

The waves keep rolling, at a leisurely six meter amplitude, and Aslan keeps staring. Nothing else for him to do, nowhere useful for his adrenaline to go.

He resumes recalling what is nice, about this job.

They eat well. „Just like the elites of old“, as Sheila puts it.

That’s one more blatant exaggeration. Same as when she calls their 1K cubic meters of private space down shaft two a castle. But they’re certainly neither starving nor lacking food variety. You can’t beat access to quality control samples, for a rich and diverse diet.

Taking home what is left after testing is no longer stealing. No company caring for its brand will risk being caught at wasting edibles. That‘s a universally despised crime, punishable by banishment to the tankers. Practically a death sentence. 

Nowadays, staff are encouraged to take home leftovers.

They have come a long way. Aslan smiles a gloat at the memory of his first manager.

The old boy was very 21st century, always rambling on about company property. Even licking sugars from a plate before putting it into the dishwasher would get you scolded. Dare taste one of the translucent slices of protein instead of binning it after testing, and off you walked, never to work as a bioengineer again.

Aslan argued with his nemesis, only to get his due promotion refused in return. He felt dead end, started looking for alternatives. Until it was suddenly the old boy who had to go. Early retirement, they called it. As sack as it gets, in a sophisticated job environment. 

Ever since, Aslan has been doing well. 

Sheila‘s chime interrupts his attempt to cheer himself up.

She‘s her usual hot-tempered talkative, showering him with the kind of news not worth telling. How there was a power spike. Couple of those per day, no big deal, even for Sheila. But this one coincided with her plugging in the charger. Her device, cleverly designed to shut itself down before frying, took a while to reboot. She missed his call, and is sorry. But even more angry. Why can’t they have proper engineers, like her darling Aslan, in charge of power?…

Aslan listens. It‘s important not to interrupt Sheila. Interfering will only prolong the update.

His wife is like his fully automated polymer analyzer. Let it run it’s course, and it will reliably deliver one hundred results in less than three minutes. Try to go for a selection of five especially toxic compounds, and three runs, two aborted, one completed, will take half an hour. Aslan spends his days telling his team not to do this. He won’t fail his own rule with his wife.

Sheila is done accusing the power provider of corruption, incompetence and lack of manners. Aslan’s moment has come, and he takes the plunge:

“Darling, we’ve got the police here. All over the platform. Something about tax records not matching the actual output. Whole operation shut down, can’t even access my own computer. Won’t be leaving any time soon, all managers are under kind of arrest. No need to worry, not the serious kind of arrest, like for criminals. Just need to stay available, for questions. With a little luck, they’ll soon decide to transfer this whole circus to someplace more steady, where you don’t need to wear coveralls. But this feels like it’ll take a while. Please don’t count on me for lunch.”

Sheila takes the news without panicking. She wishes him luck and hangs up. She’s used to him doing overtime, has stopped arguing against years ago.

Aslan wonders if this was the last time he got to hear his wife’s voice.

And how long he will last, on a tanker, amidst the antisocial elements fighting their ferocious gang wars, over the little food, drinking water and protective gear they are assigned. Average life expectancy of thirty seven, they say. He turned forty two last month.

Aslan never did no wrong. Not he himself as such. He’s clean.

But there’s this nagging feeling, that others might see things differently.

He should have alerted upper management, concerning the speedboat he occasionally gets to see with his eyes, suspiciously close to the platform. It never shows up on his screen. Switching off the transponder is a serious offense, even before committing any other crimes.

Such sightings had become more frequent, recently. Someone must have been getting greedy. 

Henry, the other senior manager on the early shift, he lives in habitat shaft three. He’s missing the action. What a coincidence.

Aslan would love to be able to kick his own ass. What he had been aware of as lazy loyalty until 10:23, the time still displayed on his frozen computer screen, might be about to ruin his life.

Class Reunion

„… and what happens next? Believe it or not, the value of the lot tripled. Not increased some. Not doubled. Value of the lot full effing tripled. And me of course to sell, sell, sell. Faster than noon lightning strikes. And the wife to complain, the way effing wives do. Went on moaning about how we need a better house, easier to chill down. Little does she know…“

„Yeah, nothing but trouble with the ladies. Mine, I get her a new kitchen, best of the best appliances, no twenty years ago. And what happens when I finally reward myself with new wheels? I see it on your face, you’ve been there. That’s exactly what happened…“

„Wheels and wives, say no more! The speed of my SolV, honestly, it’s a shame. That’s the downside, with early adopting. You set the trend, the crowd follows where you lead. So far, so feelgood factor. But practically speaking, you end up with a beta version. A business district evac in my first gen SolV, that’s not for the faint hearted. No feelgood factor when you’re the one still trundling along the bridge amidst the monster waves while people with better powered cars sit smug in the storm bunker. But trust the effing wife to scream if I even so much as watch an advert. Totally doesn’t get the importance…“

They‘ve been at this for the first four dishes of a seven course meal. They sound like they‘ll keep it up until well after their second dessert.

A polite observer would describe them as black gentlemen of advanced age and corpulency. To Adebran, they’re Bragging Bruce and Toothy Todnam.

These two stayed true to their high school selves. Thirty years ago, they cast a slimmer shadow and looked less worn. But the current soundtrack is a pitch perfect replay of their youthful ways. 

Volume a notch above the polite, they’re banging on about their same old topics.

An improbable series of supposedly smashing conquests became a wife and wink-wink-hints at a mistress. The scooters were scaled up into SUVs. And there’s still an evil presence clutching the purse strings, unfairly denying the boys their toys.

Both used to mince their words more, when they were mad at dad, for going tight on the pocket money. The big parental commanded some respect, even at a distance. Whereas effing is as polite as it gets, around their wives and mistresses.

Adebran is shocked to feel his own brain coming up with an Aglaia-type thought. This corporate nuisance is haunting him even in this most private moment.

Big companies like the solar panel manufacturer where Adebran has spent his whole working life are forced to hire so called fairness advocates. Officially, this is to make sure there’s no discrimination of the more lightly skinned members of the workforce. In practice, fairness is perfectly established and the law only provides well connected kids like Aglaia with nice jobs.

In these enlightened times, even the whitest of white people have access to all careers. Provided they come with proper qualifications and up-to date reparations paperwork. And know how to behave in a corporate setting. And feel civil. You can’t have brutes around.

Adebran’s dad would have scoffed at the idea of hiring a white engineer. Anything above minimum wage service jobs for whites was anathema to him. Lack of trust.

Adebran’s granddad would have rolled his eyes in horror, mumbling his usual about kids having no idea of the efforts and hardship that got proper people in charge of global affairs.

But nowadays, white people are well integrated.

Adebran likes it that way.

Even a white president is no longer considered impossible. They’d have to change the law first, because none of them can prove none of their forebears was involved with colonial exploitation. But in a democracy, even such a change is within reach. In principle.

Not having much to do, in a phase of low hiring that hopefully won’t turn into a recession, the Aglaia person spends her days posting memos on the company website. Out of resentment against this waste of HR budget, and because he never gets much done in the hour after lunch anyway, Adebran has taken to read her stuff.

It’s even weirder than he had assumed. Aglaia is working herself into a state over something she calls patricorate. Or male dominance in corporate settings. Or business world sexism. According to her, ladies are the real victims of discrimination, more strongly affected than even the proverbial white boys with generations of exploitative ancestors to atone for.

Aglaia even pretends to prove her fantasies. As if the absence of female engineers on the payroll, as opposed to the presence of one Asio-Caucasian, was meaningful.

Girls don’t like maths and physics, they don’t do engineering degrees. How the hell would they qualify for such jobs?!

Not even Adebran’s oddity of a daughter would dream of a career in engineering.

Her aiming to go football pro isn’t much better, but as a progressive he won’t interfere. Not worth the trouble. The money offered by the Lions is surprisingly good, too.

The wife will make  a couple more scenes, but Adebran will grant the daughter permission.

Satisfied to have reached a decision that had been in the making for days, Adebran switches his attention back to Bragging Bruce and Toothy Todnam.

They’re still talking wheels, now discussing the latest in all-senses full body virtual racing equipment.

Finally a topic worthy of Adebran’s input!