“Sir? All right, sir? No, no, it’s fine. One second, hold on.”
My fingers shuffle through a pile of remix cubes. Gardener. Undertaker. Shuttle Pilot. I think this guy should be a musician. Clipping the cube into the transit groove, I watch a few purplish lights flash, telling me that everything’s in working order. Two minutes later, the man on other end of the line tells me that I’ve saved his life, and he’s thinking about taking up the accordion. I tell him he’s welcome and politely hang up.
A few meters away, Marina Kellis sits in all black, wearing colossal mirror shades and a beret. She leans back, pointing her face toward the ceiling and resting her feet on the desk. The phone unit buzzes on her cheek. She lets it ring four times before answering.
“Marina,” she answers, blowing a neon gum bubble. “Don’t kill yourself.”
Gotta respect the direct approach. She slaps a cube into the groove. From across the room, I hear a woman announce that she’s starting to see profit-motivated organ harvesting in a whole new light. I suspect Marina has been tampering with the cubes. I know she’s capable of it because yesterday I caught her using the Psychoplasmic Engineer cube on herself. She’s a spanker, using our tech for personal and temporary purposes. Spanking has been known to cause a number of terrible things, including wild psychotic episodes, multiple personality disorder, and total neural failure. It’s insanely dangerous and stupid. God, I love this woman.
We work for Will’s to Live, Will Manchester’s government sponsored suicide hotline. Will has us using the personality altering G-cubes, a quick and dirty combination of sounds and neuro-electrical stimuli that can turn a person from a psychotic depressive into a slap-happy servant of the public good. Officially, the government has banned the use of G-cubes for unsanctioned personality modification. Unofficially, rumor has it the D.I.O. created them after the Indonesians’ synaptic backwave led to a planet-wide quintupling of the suicide rate. In any event, my employment contract contains several menacing but nonspecific death threats should I ever reveal the true nature of Will’s to Live’s unprecedented success rate.
“Okay, you’ve convinced me,” I hear Marina say. It temporarily throws me off, and I end up cutting a conversation short and just making a middle-aged woman an oceanographer. “Guy?” she continues. “You’re right. No, what? Yeah. Yeah, wait. Your life sucks. No. No, huh? Yeah, if I were you, I’d totally kill myself. That’s all I’m saying. Yeah. Okay, could you shut up for a second?” There’s a lot of angry chattering from Marina’s phone unit and she slips something slightly discolored into the groove. The chattering abruptly stops. “Yes,” Marina says a minute later. “Yes, you ARE daddy’s little princess. Alright, honey. Okay. Goodnight. Bye.” She mutes her phone unit and settles back with the air of someone about to fall asleep.
Summoning all my courage, I redirect my phone and make my way to her desk. “Hey, Mare,” I stammer. “What are you doing tonight?”
It takes a full minute for her head to roll toward me. The only thing I can see in her glasses is my own reflection looking dimly back at me.
“Who are you again?” she asks.
Back at my desk, I stare intently at the back of my hand. Damn it. My head hurts and I feel vaguely suicidal myself. With a minimal amount of phreaking, I reverse my phone unit. I hesitate for a second. Then, slamming in a random cube, I wait to wake up someone better.
Andy Bolt is a traveling lover of words. He currently resides outside Washington, DC. He spends his days typing and his nights gazing wistfully at the stars.