Hard Plastic Candy
Science fiction, Automatons Books I and II Omnibus Edition
She hoped, uncharitably, that it was killing Disher. Hoped that he woke trembling even on such nights as saw Mary's warm curls cast across the pillow. Hoped that he had to lock himself into the bathroom each dawn to gaze despairingly into the bathroom mirror, reconstructing his personality piece by piece ...
Perhaps the world ended and we brought it on ourselves; but only Joyce noticed the whimper. While a Surgeon must not be touched, John craves it more than anything.
Spanning hundreds of years, books one and two of Automatons are a stripping bare of the ways people stumble blindly down the same old paths, and how we find it so much easier to be humane to our technology than each other.
Or enjoy a free sneak preview from Chapter 7: And We Can All Look Like Asshats Together
Lars shook his great head solemnly, draperies waving. 'John, I'm sorry but there isn't a damn thing to do about it.'
John glanced up, startled. They had been standing in tense silence for half an hour. By secret macho pact, neither was about to admit to jigging right on the verge of sprinkling in his shorts.
'Huh? What are you on about?'
'You. You look a right asshat in that getup, John. You see, I've been mulling it over the whole time we've been standing here. For the good of everyone I reckon it's time I spoke up.'
'Hey.' You could cut their unease into jellied chunks with a dull spoon. The relief of bickering, normality almost sent his wobbly knees through the floor. 'No more than you do.'
'Yes, but keep in mind your dear mother also looked like an asshat, so you're obviously starting from way further back than me.'
'That she did, rest her heart. Of course, most folk are too polite to mention ...'
Two Surgeons facing off like riled cats. The vestibule wasn't roomy enough for two egos. They fidgeted beneath dark veils worn to shield their valuable eyes, fiddling to get the hang right before the door to Outside slid open and all hell broke out. Assuming it ever would.
The heavy fabric puddled about the shoulders. Comforting to John, at least, his neck muscles missed the grand heft of dreadlocks. His pale denuded head rattled about uncontrollably, like a ping pong ball, probably scrambling what brains he had left and he needed those. Feared he would very much need them.
The veils were silver on the reverse, rather frustratingly like trying to peer through thick steam. They were supposed to adjust dynamically, but also hadn't seen the outside of a storage tub in an age. With the how-to faded, nobody could say whether they were meant to be so annoying or if the decrepit tech was finally packing it in.
Standing face on gave them both front row seats to how it would be for the farmers, peering in through the veil. The wearer's features became opaque and untrustworthy, swimming as though in fast running water. Excellent.
Just the impression John was hoping for to charm secrets out of the dour residents of Judgment.
To heavily ice their rural fun-time cake their scant exposed skin was slathered with sunscreen, leaving greasy smears across everything. Being the same brand used in the sunlight suburbs, he already knew the goop gave him hives. They both looked like asshats.
The vestibule they stood waiting in was A New Life's official airlock to Outside. Never mind the other dusty entrances and exits that perforated her concrete hide, this one was sanctioned. A deliberately small space to slow entry, allow her to turn her nose up at certain callers. And fancy in a "ooh, look at me" way, although everything downshifted to gloomily mysterious when viewed through veils. Freshly inlaid gold was meant to wow Flagship dignitaries come a'knocking, because nobody suspected yet that the other city wasn't coming.
Once news got out, there would be horror ... unless the Captain managed to scratch together a better headline before it broke. So rather than gowned officials and ceremonial flutes of champagne, the grande vestibule got John and Lars. Stamping their feet in clumsy boots to vent nerves while they waited. And waited. Hell would be standing about like this. Staring aimlessly at the other's shifting face, and waiting for the door to open.
The hold up being that blocks and blocks away, right down the other end at the city's ingloriously named "backside" exit, the decoy was being busily prepped for release. Surgeons being sticklers for tradition both John and Lars had taken part in strapping the honoured cadaver into the complex architecture of the wheeled decoy rig. Serious faces the whole way, studious not to let slip a grimace at the gagging smell, the squish of it.
The effort was almost the death of Lars when he tightened a strap too briskly and the decaying bowel let loose with a long flabbery squeal. Due respect was decency, irrespective of where this poor sod had transgressed in life or how ripely he oozed through the crossbracing now. After all, it was their valuable backsides the corpse was being offered up to save. Didn't happen too often.
HARD PLASTIC CANDY
AND WE CAN ALL LOOK LIKE ASSHATS TOGETHER