Saturday, August 7, 2010

Waits for No One

He is sitting in the waiting room. He feels like he has been sitting there forever. It is strange that there is no one else there. He looks around at the almost bare, deliberately neutral walls, the plain colors as though picked to be unobtrusive and unmemorable.
"Why is this taking so long," he wonders.
He goes over to the "receptionist" again. "Funny," he thinks, "how this pattern of having a "receptionist" is maintained. Even though it has long been just an AI system. He is surprised to realize that the "receptionist area" is not even the usual counter with a very shallow space behind and a holograph of a young woman to serve as the face for the AI. There is no area at all. It is just a blank wall with the receptionist area projected on it. "Funny that I didn't notice that." It makes him uneasy that they put one over on him.
He goes back to his seat. Wonders why they are taking so long to get back to him with the report.
He thinks back. He can remember arriving at the building, reaching the door into the Verichamber. He remembers being escorted to the check-chair, the electrodes and catheters attached. There was the slight whirring noise as some blood was withdrawn. Everyone knows what happens.
They check the blood and all his body patterns. They use various scanning systems built unobtrusively, undetectably actually, into the walls and floor and ceiling, the chair too. Any genetic mutations are noted and fixed. Any normal breakdown from aging is reversed. Any upgrades or repairs - repairs to damage incurred before the invention of iGene of course, nothing left to repair since then - are verified. Any unverified upgrades or repairs are automatically charged against his OneAccount. If his balance were to go below zero. No, there is neither any reason nor need to think about that. Of course, everyone knows that happens if you go below zero. But they say it is very merciful. Especially since gene culling was replaced with a reputation downgrade for all genetic relates.
What is taking so long?
Finally, he gives up. Gets up, walks out the door. Doesn't really need the report after all. Can look it up later.
Out on the street, decides to justwalk a little ways. It is a busy time of day and the bubbles swirl all around him. None come too close of course, so why should he feel a little claustrophobic, even threatened. He closes down that line of inquiry. But not until he has made a mental note using his special mnemonic. A note to follow that line of inquiry the next time he is out of range.
As always, he is amused by those who exercise while they ride in their bubbles. What not justwalk? Too boring probably.
Looks up from his thoughts to see a bubble coming straight at him. Can't help himself from being scared. Reflexes built for the African savanna. Can't help himself from being surprised as the bubble rushes straight at him. Or being stunned when it moves straight through him. Or being relieved that it did him no harm. Had no noticeable affect on him at all.
He is shaking a bit now. Not like them not to announce a new technology like that. At least put it in the morning auto feed, the broadwave stuff that doesn't even need you to touch in.

It has been days now. No one answers his calls. No one responds to his psychpings. He sits at restaurants. Food he does not remember ordering appears. After a while he leaves. No sense of having eaten but not getting hungry either.
He goes down to the lake shore to watch the sunset. It is a spectacular display of colors, as always. He wonders how much is real and how much is projected, but the function for turning off the overlay doesn't seem to work anymore.
Another thing he would have expected a notice about. He feels the weight of all these odd things piling up, growing heavier. Hemming him in. He feels at times as though he can not breath. As though the desire to breath is leaking out somewhere. He looks up and sees the evening sky brighten red, almost maroon, then fade into darkness. Then too quickly start to lighten again. Becoming very bright.
And understands where he is.

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