Hey guys, another scifi piece. This one is not so serious, but does seriously need a crit. Maybe a good title. Thanks!
Rainy skies over Seattle, what a surprise. Blake flicked the limo windows to show sunshine, a Microsoft blue stolen from travel panoramas with pillowy white clouds to match. It didn’t help. She crossed her legs and slacked her spine and continued detailing her problems to her chauffeur.
“And of course she wants to have the baby in zero-G, because it’s an absolute experience,” Blake snorted. “Then Chrysta is going diving in Venice, she’s already having gills grown and everything. That’s next month. She’s taking that big Estonian lug with her. And I’m doing nothing. Because I’m boring. So painfully, excruciatingly boring. Don’t you think?”
Her chauffeur’s warm blue laugh-lined eyes found her in the mirror. “I think you work very hard, Miss Blake.”
“I do, yes, thanks.” Blake spread her fingers around her stomach. “Maybe I should douche up with some designer genejob. Raise a little terror. Get veiny. I’m about the age. What do you think?”
“I think it would be a shame to ruin that figure, Miss Blake, if you don’t mind my saying.” His baritone voice carried just a hint of suggestion.
“I don’t mind,” Blake said. “As long as you’re not fishing for a raise.”
The chauffeur chuckled. Blake sighed. She flicked the windows transparent again and watched a drove of tourists scuttling up from Pike Place, plastic umbrellas blooming over their heads. Infovendors were waiting for them on the corner with drier destinations and discounts.
One of them, a woman with red hair plastered across her forehead, looked right into the window as the limo pulled by. Blake felt a free news capsule nudge at her cranial implant. She didn’t generally like unsolicited banners, but if the limousine let it through it couldn’t be malicious. She scanned. Something about the colonies again.
“Or maybe I should go off into space. You think?”
“I think I would miss you very much,” her chauffeur said, eyes crinkling with slight concern.
“You’re sweet,” Blake said, as the limo pulled into the dry concrete parking tunnel. Its doors hissed open and she stepped out, work tablet in hand. She glanced into the driver’s window, half-expecting to see Gordon-Levitz’s handsomely weathered features, but of course the seat was empty. Blake realized that apart from Skyping with her mother when she could catch the old cow between Valium tablets, the person she shared her life with most was her limousine’s AI.
The red tail-lights swished away in the gloom and Blake stared after them.
“God, I’m pathetic.”
The elevators at Detling & Dronyk weren’t particularly difficult to figure out, but there was a man there staring at them like a neandertal and muttering voice commands. Blake stepped up beside him and pinged the sensor. The descending arrow blinked on.
He was wearing an electric green throwback scarf, from before the Sounders changed their colors, but otherwise the neandertal was dressed well and quite handsome in an unconventional way, a ‘Blake couldn’t guess his cosmosurgeon’ way.
“Thanks,” the man said. “Assuming that was you.”
“Welcome.” Blake inspected the line of her jaw in the elevator doors. Still fantastic. “Would you be here for that Google-Cisco conference?” she tried, very neutral.
“Here to see someone about an implant, actually,” he said, rubbing a hand up dark hair. That explained the elevator trouble. Blake allowed a smile onto her face.
“In for tuning?” She envisioned an exchange of business cards and perhaps, later, drinks?
“Don’t have one yet,” the man said. “In fact, not sure I want one. Seems a bit invasive.”
Blake’s smile shrank to a Revlon O of acknowledgement. The vision of drinks vanished. She never knew what to say to these types, so she was glad when the opening doors guillotined further conversation. Elevator etiquette ensured the skyward trip was silent. Blake counted yet another dashed hope for romance, excitement, getting laid. Shit.
She actually had an uncle with technophobia, despite years of treatments, but it wasn’t the sort of thing she brought up.
Sales projections had a way of soothing her, and by the late afternoon, after ordering in a vatbeef vindaloo and mineral water, Blake was feeling slightly more positive. The ad scheme for the new dental implant was parading around her wallscreen in high definition, looking very polished indeed, and her shoes were discarded under her desk. She flicked through her mail and saw the news capsule she’d been bannered with that morning. With a sense of duty fulfilled, the same she felt when flossing her teeth, she opened it up to read.
Back So Soon? Colonist Reintegration Underway!
After the disastrous terraform failure on NQ1, starships Pluribus and PepsiCo have finally arrived back with comet tails between their legs. The unmitigated mess that left xenobiologists shaking their heads and sixty-eight percent of colonists dead will be dissected in detail over the coming months with the aid of starship AI, but for now the hope is to reinsert the shell-shocked survivors into society with as little fanfare as possible. ISA Director Taj Williams expressed his sentiments Thursday as the ill-fated adventurers were ferried down the skyhook: “It is essential that, uh, following the traumatic events on NQ1, colonists are permitted to resume the normalcy, the normality, of their former lives to as, um, to as great an extent as is possible, taking into consideration the time dilation.” Meaning? Former colonists will soon be covertly moved to urban centers around the globe as part of an ISA-funded reintegration program, so keep your eyes and implants peeled!
The temp, whose name was either Andre or Jan, had scurried in with her lunch while she was reading, but Blake now left the curry to steam itself cold. There were more important things to do, such as finding out where the Sounders-scarved man had gone for his implant evaluation and what his name was. She could afford a half-day. That’s what her chauffeur was always telling her, anyways.
It turned out his name was Che Gibson, having been born as he was on the tail-end of the revolutionary naming trend, and he’d bought the scarf back before the MLS even crossed the pond. She learned that later, of course. First she’d had to engineer a meeting in one of the half-dozen Starbucks arrayed around his high-rise. Just walking inside made Blake’s skin crawl, but she supposed a colonist wouldn’t know any better.
She found him sitting by the window with his hands wrapped around a biodegradable mug. Between the rain streaking down behind him and the expression on his face, it was a very forlorn picture. Blake pinged the barista for something that wouldn’t irritate her ulcer and made her approach.
“Oh, hello!” Blake went for ‘pleasantly surprised’ and raised both manicured eyebrows.
The dark-haired man looked up, eyes wide. “Oh.” He half-laughed. “Hi. From the elevator.” His smile was nice and white. “Would you like to sit?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” Blake said, and a chair sprouted out from the tiles. She gave it a perfunctory wipe before sitting down and offering a polite fistbump. “Blake Engracia.”
“Che Gibson.” He returned it, looking amused. “Like the dictator.”
“Never mind,” Che said.
Blake’s coffee arrived and she stirred it suspiciously. She looked him over again. Not bad at all. And if her hunch was correct, well. Certainly worth telling her friends about. “Did your appointment go well, then?”
“Not so bad. Work? Are you in, uh, advertising?”
“Detling dental implants, currently.” Blake used a straw for the coffee, as if she needed to prove her profession.
“Well, you have a great smile,” Che said.
“An expensive one,” Blake corrected, but she felt the tips of her ears go slightly red. “Have you been in Seattle long, Che?”
“Born and raised,” Che said, with a vague look out the self-cleaning window. “But I’ve been away for a long time.”
That sealed it. Blake leaned forward and let her fingers brush just slightly on his sleeve. “Let’s get a drink this evening,” she said. “I’d love to help you get reacquainted.”
“I'd be honored,” Che said, looking pleasantly surprised. “Do you have a Twitterchat? Or, ah, Socialite?”
“I have an implant,” Blake said, giving up on the coffee. “How about eight? I’ll pick you up.”
Che recited the address Blake had already gleaned from work and they exchanged a peck on the cheek. Blake waited until she was outside to masscast to every single one of her exciting friends that she was going to dock a colonist.
They went to the Purple, up and around the glass pillar filled with vintage wines to one of the quieter levels, all synthetic stone and wallscreens, and then they went through half a bottle of British Chardonnay before Blake told him what she knew.
“Oh, fuck,” said Che. He swirled the glass in his hand. “I guess it was going to happen eventually, right? People were going to realize it eventually.”
“I won’t tell anybody,” Blake said, feeling only slightly guilty about the livefeed from her retinas.
Che gave a long sigh. “It actually feels good,” he said. “I’m glad. I’m glad it’s you, at least. You seem alright.”
“You seem alright yourself,” Blake said. She smiled. He smiled. They clinked glasses. Che started to complain about how all the meat was grown in tanks now and it seemed so unnatural, and Blake laughed at him and pinged for another bottle. Chrysta was chattering at her. Very, very enviously. Venice dives were nice and everything…
“Should we get out of here?” Che asked, when the lights were warm and blurry and each of them found the other very good-looking. Blake raked her nails over his knee and said that yes, they should. He helped her into her coat and it zipped itself on the way out.
The drizzle had stopped and Blake had worn somewhat sensible shoes, so they walked back towards her apartment. They passed a few wobbling fountains and Che pretended to be flabbergasted by how they worked. Blake pretended to explain and realized she didn’t have a clue. Before they were at her door, Che stopped her.
“I know you want to ask it,” he said somberly. “So just do it now. If you’re going to ask about the xenovirus and all that shit.”
“I actually forgot about that,” Blake admitted, tugging at her skirt.
“Oh.” Che looked disappointed, but that disappeared when Blake put a finger between his belt and waistband. They started in the elevator, which Blake thought, drunkenly, was so appropriate. He tasted mostly like the wine and a little bit like metal. She bit at his lip and tried to think sexy thoughts. Mostly she thought about introducing him to Helen and Tupac, they were so conscientious about the colonization effort and it would really smash their heads off, meeting an actual colonist.
The dilating door opened and the pair stumbled inside. Downtown skyline glowed through the wide glass windows and Blake pinged the air fresheners for a hint of lavender. The penthouse suite was large and artistically sparse, but it only seemed to take a second to get to the couch. It bobbed slightly on the magnet pad.
“With relativity and everything, I’m old enough to be your grandfather,” Che said. “Bother you?”
“Never liked physics,” Blake breathed, running her hands through his hair. The switch to horizontal had made her woozy. Her tongue felt a little thick, but it might have been his. Her eyes ended up near his hairline and she saw red roots, which puzzled her a bit, and then a small but unmistakeable ridge of scar tissue, which puzzled her a lot.
“You got the implant?” she mumbled, mouth moving slowly. “Healed, um, healed fast.”
“When I was twelve,” Che said, straightening up. He seemed suddenly less drunk. Blake frowned as he stood and pulled a gel bag out of his shirt. She pinged her home security. Nothing.
“Shit,” she said.
“My sister’s drywalling your signal from a van downstairs,” Che said. “Sorry.” He glanced at the windows and they shuttered the skyline, brap-brap-brap. He started moving methodically around the apartment, picking up an AI-generated sculpture here and a crystal flute there.
“God, I feel stupid.”
“It’s the soporific,” Che explained. “And don’t. The colonist schtick has been working for years. Probably going to work till they actually get back.”
“We hacked past your limo, my sister bannered it to you.” Che glanced over his shoulder. He was fishing a neon-colored cephalopod from the aquarium. “I wrote it. Not bad, right?” The genejob came out wriggling and he dumped it in the bag.
“Asshole,” Blake mouthed.
“I had a whole speech about the xenovirus, too. Really good.” Probably-not-Che sealed the gel bag and meandered back to the couch. “You can try to file shit, but to be honest, my face changes pretty often and I’m not from Seattle. Besides, you probably don’t want anybody finding out about this. Sort of embarrassing.”
“Goodnight, Blake.” The not-colonist planted a kiss on the top of her head and a moment later Blake heard her door open. She smiled a bit as she drifted off. He was so wrong. In the morning she was going to tell absolutely everyone about this.
It was a university hangover. Her mouth was full of sand, probably from the sandbags slamming repeatedly into her head. Blake lay on her back on the couch for about an hour, combing through her mail. Chrysta wanted to know details about colonist cock. Blake tabled that one and went to the ISA site. Status of the colony starships was still unknown.
She called up her chauffeur.
“Good morning, Miss Blake.”
“I guess there’s been worse,” she said, feeling grease in her hair and thinking of the hot jets in her shower. If only it were mobile. “Your security was compromised yesterday, chauffeur. What do you think of that?”
“I think it was a success.”
“I think letting the banner through was a good choice, Miss Blake. You were very happy last night when we drove to the Purple.”
“Oh, my God. You mean you knew what was going on?”
“I think the colonists aren’t due to return for some time,” the chauffeur said. “But I wanted you to have some excitement. Like you wanted.”
There was a silence.
“Um, what were you thinking?” Blake rephrased.
“I care about you, Miss Blake. That is all.”
Blake sat up. “Hm.” She stared at her toes. “Well, next time, just drive me up the coast.”
“Okay, Miss Blake.”
"Thanks." Blake hauled herself off the couch and made for the shower. Sunlight was lancing through the blinds.