Part II: Deconstructing Industrial Waste - Chapters 24 - 27

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Chapter Twenty Four

Old and sold, sold for a pound of gold.

Calm before the storm. My limbs ached like they had been folded up inside of me; my stomach growled twice, long running on empty, who knows when my last dosage of Gummy Tummies had been administered. Blackness when I opened my eyes, blackness inside the pink shimmering reflection of my eyelids when they were closed. Not a sound except my own shallow breaths and the hum of engines, indiscernible from one another.

G.P.B. had packed me up and shipped me off, doc said. Something about being a Model Citizen. Something about retrofitting me for my new assignment—no more desk jockeying. I ran my palm across the tank at my side—it did feel smaller and sleeker than ever before.

We were descending. I felt the weight of gravity in my temples and bowels—magnetic implants in both areas designed for hypersensitivity to any change in motion. The mechanical humming increased in volume—a vacuum of dull sound that overtook my alert senses and tuned them all to focus on my throbbing head, pounding a mile a minute like African war drums. Maybe I'd been shot up with too many UpMeds before the trip.

The raindance inside my skull took me back to the NightChapel and had me wondering. There weren't enough men and women in the world, certainly not inside Generik. If the faces inside the chapel weren't constantly changing due to upgrades, I'd have gotten long bored of their bland stories, their limited intellects and imperfect bodies. But we all worked hard to keep it interesting, and what man and technology couldn't manufacture, pharmaceuticals and vapors could. The imagination provides all that is lacking in any given social setting, until that, too, inevitably runs dry.

We'd landed—I could smell the change in the air. Removed from my storage compartment and glammed up like a centralized console at headquarters—mics, cams, wifi, storage drives and memory—not for my use but for theirs. My past recollections would continue to run on limited supply.

A real sunset on the horizon reflected off icy landscapes, more magnificent than anything simulated on even the most expensive 4.4 trillion-color redscreens. Voices off in the distance and the smell of something cooking, something with smoke and fat, the likes of which I'd never tasted save for their mass-manufactured counterparts.

Natural light. It wasn't just a legend.

My body took photos, downloaded sound bites, recorded it all for posterity. Transmitted it back home through beeps and clicks. With each breath of authentic chill air, I felt a little lighter.

Chapter Twenty Five

Science says that I can only move forward in time. Why then, is the frequency of times when there is a pacifier in my mouth growing at an ever increasing rate?

"It's time to rest," my tank said in a voice that sounded like Lauren Bacall, an old-time queen of the cinema whose BW-era films had almost been lost during the atmospheric catastrophe.

"Here. You can nap underneath this rocky overhang. This is called: Shade."

"I know what shade is," I told Ms. Bacall irritably.

The ground underneath the cliff was soft and cool to the touch, short brown grass temporarily free of ice. The sun was shining directly on me for the first time and I couldn't get enough. I sprawled on grass right out in the open where the sun was brightest. I took off my maximum agility, ergonomic sporting shoes, and dug my toes into the dirt.

"Too much sun exposure leads to increased risk of cancer and premature aging," Lauren said. "Recommend installation of SunShield skin implant, and a pair of photosensitive design eyewear from JuicEE, the latest in the Summer collection."

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