Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chapter 05 - Morning Dance.

The imperative to pee is too much for me, so I abandon the cosy warmth of my bed early. Zero six hundred hours UCT, or company standard time. Adopted to ensure all accounts are filed at the same time, where ever you are in the solar system. I still use it from years of familiarity, even though I no longer work in the Mars conglomerates. The alarm chimes shrilly in the bedroom. Shame I've been up for ten minutes already. I glance left to a set of icons on my HUD, computer augmented reality, I reach up into thin air to grip an icon in my thumb and fore finger. “Pinch!” I mutter, squeezing lightly on thin air.
The “Tooth Hygiene” nano buzz with activity in my mouth. I feel the ozone of the converted plaque grow and open my lips to release the gas build up with a small hiss. Just clearing up the ravages of the night before. Halfway through activating my teeth nano, I berate myself for not scheduling the job on automatic again, and not having the luxury of not having to think about it every morning. I smile subversively to myself. “Some day, some day I'll remember to sit down and sched a whole raft of little jobs like that!”
I tap the mirror wall in front of me and transparent images of solar weather radar, news feeds, and transit routes are super imposed over my image. Hotspots for the next few months are predicted against schematics of my mornings up and coming journey. Sling potentials, gravity corridors, space lanes to avoid and those to traverse.
The speakers in the walls (the walls are the speakers actually) begin to pipe a mixture of “cool classical” from my antique music database, randomly sorted, to try and listen to some of the rarer tracks I’ve collected. Hendrix begins to play 'little wing'. Again I smile wryly to myself. “Silly old bugger. Still using a bathroom after all these years. Nano covers all aspects of hygiene, but you still can't get out of the habit of standing in the bathroom each morning to clean your teeth and have a bath!”
As I say the words “bath” the taps activate and begin filling the antique bathtub, chiming stats on perfect temperature mix and volumes, beginning to calculate water usage, costs and add them to my budget to be deducted from my monthly credit, off setting the bath against drinking water and updating stats on recalculated re-syc thresholds. “Not this morning stupid twat!” I chuckle to myself.
The water stops flowing, the music stops playing and the lights go out in the sealed windowless bathroom. For a moment I am standing alone in the dark, with only the familiar hum of the engines vibrating through the floor.
“Bath that is. Lights on. Music proceed! Bath empty!”
The lights flicker and return, the way only neon does. The music quietly ramps back to the pre-set volume, and the bath develops a plughole, empties, and auto cleans itself.
Shaking my head and laughing quietly to myself, I turn round, I touch the icon on the wall, which appears by the door. The door slides open.
As an after thought I flick my eyes to another icon on my HUD, it becomes central and I pinch it between my finger and thumb.
Again the fizz of ozone as body nano cleans and repairs ever inch of my skin. “Not that I wouldn't prefer a bath to that!” I shudder involuntary as the sensation tickles on the edge of abrasion all over my body.
Stepping back into the bathroom and briefly splashing some water on my face and head at the sink, then towelling off the excess nano, hair, and any remaining residue from the “bath”. My hair constantly trimmed to a close shave and my goatee neatly barbered by eN-tech.
The piped music follows me through into the kitchen area. Lights flicker into life as I move through the small utility room. Stopping briefly to remove two slices of bread from the freezer I place them in the toaster and activate it. My cup foams and fills with hot tea at my touch. Again a slight shudder. “I will get used to that at some point I'm sure.”
I sip at it tentatively as I pass back through the utility room to my lounge.
All the doors purposely left set open so I can walk easily between rooms. An attempt to remind myself how much room I have. There are families of ten or more living, in the pre-habs planet side, in less than half the space than I've managed to secure with the Lady Jane Grey. The down turn in the off world hauling market about fifty years ago meant I was able to purchase two reasonably large units and tether them together as one ship.
My mind wanders back to the days on Mars, living in the pre-habs. Huge organically grown skeletons of plexi-steel. The nano build all the utilities into the infrastructure and add standard utility couplings. Massive shells to house thousands of units can be grown in weeks. Then housing units are flown in and slotted into the spaces, attached to the utility feeds, as tenants (usually corporate landlords) rent space in the framework. Large container boxes of housing units are slotted in then occupied once activated.
The Martian archaeologies are something to be seen. Huge magnificent monoliths towering up into the sky further than the eye can see. Magnificent only if seen from above. View them from the perspective of most of the tenants, from below, and hope leaches away. Without hope there is no reason to continue to live. Hope drives wishes and gives reason to continue. If it wasn't for the constant rain. It is dark at the bottom of the stacks. The towers so high that they tear the sky itself, and she can do nothing but weep all day and all of the night long. Constant rain, day and night. It gets in everywhere. Constant rain, constant damp, everything.
The understacks at this time in the morning are less dangerous than at most times of day. Too late in the morning for the rape gangs to be around, too early in the morning for the murder gangs to be up. I smile, it wasn't actually that bad. I was stopped once by a group of would be muggers, but the piezo charge set in my coat stopped most of the would be assailants dead in their tracks. One buzz of that and they began to think twice about trying anything again. If needs be I was licensed to carry the two military grade tasers, I used to wear tucked warmly under my jacket as well. Again waste disposal accountancy had its perks when you contracted to the military.
I find myself, now, sitting amongst the debris of my life, vids and memory units piled on every surface I can find, bits of hardware, retained to fix others, at some indefinite point in the future, circuit boards from previous upgrades not yet recycled. Stims in racks at one end of the room. Ornaments, careful selected, then almost randomly abandoned on shelves around the room. There is actual order to the place. You just have to know what the order is.
Listening to the pod DJ and her “crew” mutter banally about today’s dockside traffic, politics, sports headlines. “A hope to the under educated, a promise to the ungifted!” I mutter.
“If it wasn't for the need for the human touch, a basic need for interaction, DJ's would have finally run their natural course and become extinct years ago.” I think to myself.
“If only!” I add.
Picking up my shirt off one of the ample chairs I slip it over my tee shirt and it zips itself to a comfortable neck line. Digging around under various sized sheets of clear plastic, I retrieve my regulation black dungarees, and put them on. Finding my boots in the hall by the door I slip them on and run my finger up the seal to seamlessly complete them. They fluctuate for a moment adjusting themselves to my feet then meld with the ankles of my dungarees to complete one unit.
The belt from the banister at the end of the stairs is an affectation but it makes the placement of my utility pouches more convenient. The antique glasses just make me look more intelligent. So I keep telling myself. They are, of course, next to completely pointless with modern corrective surgery, performed non-invasively, just by taking a mixture of retro engineered viruses and nano pills.
I carefully pick up two or three memory blocks from the pile on the floor, units I've spent most of the evening before preparing. As I touch each one its icon appears on my HUD, more, an icon lights up “vids” for the first, the second “pod”, the third “tools of the trade”, software hacks (some my own), tools , and my favourite AI interface. Locking them into my belt they interface with my personal net. A couple of piezo units I had fitted into my hip joints years back provide more than enough power for all the hardware and bits and pieces I run most trips.
A military style jacket hangs on the banister end where the belt was. I slip another pod unit into an inside pocket whilst throwing the jacket around my shoulders. An id badge materializes on my breast pocket declaring name rank and bar code, with the obligatory unflattering picture.
With a reluctant sigh I pick up my attaché bag. A nebulous black hole as far as I am concerned. I fold an item and place it on top of the thing and it just sinks in. No opening. No organisation. The whole thing is an extra light alloy mixed with nano. Place a memory unit on it and it will hold it securely and properly organised until you request it again. Personally assigned to me, no-one else can access anything I put in it. There are probably high level police and military overrides but apart from that my ident chip is the only one that can retrieve from it. Bonded for life with a brief case. One of the vague advantages of some lower grade military crap that I ship each trip, does mean I have access to some pretty cutting edge toys.
Picking up a couple of the plastic sheets, one A3, one A4, I fold them, they bond on themselves, sealed, and I lay them on top of the bag. They sink like a woolly mammoth into the black of the tar pit. Leaving no discernible trace of any intrusion.
On top of a book case at the end of the room six jack plugs wait. Intentionally selected the night before. I pull a clip out of a jacket pocket and clip each into place. Lifting each reveals their names in close proximity. Lifting the last I pause, “The City” flashes next to the jack. I smile and almost reverently place it into the clip. Slipping the clip into an inside pocket in the jacket. “Six should be enough for the trip I think.” I grin.
Placing my hands together, palm on palm, I bow to the symbol of two swords crossed on the east wall. I turn and bow to the symbol of the sun on the south wall. I bow towards a large chalice on a shelf on the west wall. Then bow to a sphere on the north wall. Smiling I step into the lounge again and face the huge head of a leaf encrusted man, the head of a man whose rosy cheeked cherubic face is framed by grapes, and the face of a beautiful woman. I bow again. “Thank you and bless you. Please look after the house for me and keep a watchful eye on me whilst I am away.” The three heads bow back, all smiling.
I place the cup in the kitchen. It empties and cleans itself.
I retrieve a greatcoat from the end of the banister and drape that around my shoulders, over my jacket. Again insignia and rank badges, ID and a certain amount of intricate embroidery, in red, resolve themselves and settle in the structure of the coat.
Facing the door I sigh. “Enough pissing around. Time to get on with it.”
Placing one finger of my left hand on the door to the air lock I drag two from the other hand down and open them. A screen appears on the door between them, growing with the gesture I am tracing. “Corridor monitor”
An image of the corridor outside flashes onto the screen. Sweeping from left to right then back again. No one is about. A small voice chimes “Corridor clear for two hours”
“Thank you!” The screen disappears.
Not that I don't like my neighbours. I get on fine with the ones each side. It's just some of the ones further down the corridor, itinerant traders and their children, I don’t trust as much.
I tap the release code into the door lock icon. The door dissolves. Stepping out I reach up to pinch the locking icon. The door seals itself back into the framework. The windows around the outside of the units disappear. The main quarters of the ship hermetically seal. The entire house unit is pumped with inert gas. “See you in about six hours” I kiss my fingers and touch where the door was. A trace of my fingerprints remains glowing on the door, and then dissipate like electricity running across circuits through the face of the door.
Inside four rooms, four clicks, in each room a tennis ball sized piece of metal falls from its socket in the roof with a satisfied plop. Each one acquires six legs, scanning and monitoring clusters sprout as the head of each grows from the body. Cameras adjust round the heads, six forward, two back, like metallic insect heads, each scampers, not unlike land locked crabs, to their allotted position and log into the ship net. “Security activated!” The smooth voice of my mesh mutters. 

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