Blue skies (atopia chron.., p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Blue Skies (Atopia Chronicles), p.1
Download  in MP3 audio

           Matthew Mather
1 2 3 4
Blue Skies (Atopia Chronicles)


  Blue Skies

  The First Atopia Novella

  by Matthew Mather

  Published by PhutureNews Publishing

  Copyright © 2012 by Matthew Mather

  All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.

  ISBN# 978-0-9916771-0-8

  All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

  Foreword by the author:

  This is the first of six novellas and books in #1 best-selling series the The Atopia Chronicles which can be now bought as one collection.

  FOLLOW ME ON

  www.facebook.com/author.matthew.mather

  www.matthewmather.com

  —Matthew Mather

  ~ Blue Skies ~

  Chapter 1

  Identity: Olympia Onassis

  “NO! NO! YOUR other left!” I yelled, gesturing toward the pack of cigarettes I wanted.

  My anger was still peaking after the screaming fight I’d had with Alex in the street outside. We’d just broken up, and this time for the last time.

  It wasn’t helping that I hadn’t slept properly in weeks.

  The clerk behind the counter stared at me and began speaking in some foreign chatter. How on Earth they let so many people that didn’t speak a word of English through Passport Control stunned me. Even with languages going extinct faster than frogs, I’d read that the City still had over a thousand spoken throughout its many boroughs.

  What a mess.

  Now he shrugged as if to ask what to do next. The impatience of the people in line behind me almost overcame my need for a nicotine fix.

  Almost, but not quite.

  “Wait a minute!” I scowled while I searched around in my purse for my mobile.

  Squeamish of implants, I still used an old-fashioned earbud, but showing people that I had one made me feel self-conscious. Popping it into my ear, I repeated myself.

  “The Camel Lights!” I yelled over the counter, jabbing my finger at the display case.

  Whatever language he was speaking was instantly translated. “Like I said, lady, those aren’t Camels. The package looks the same, but you’ll have to go across the street to find those.”

  He pointed hopefully out the door.

  I was annoyed he couldn’t speak to me in our official language. Why did I have to bow to his deficiencies? Why couldn’t he service me properly? I made a mental note to leave a scathing review of this pharmacy in my social cloud. The store's owners would regret this.

  “Whatever, that’s fine, whatever those are.”

  He shrugged while reaching into the display, then handed them over. I pushed my way back through the crowd toward the entrance.

  Getting cigarettes was a regulated activity that required a pharmacist to personally verify my nano-cleaning certification. This aggravated me. I banged open the door to the street as I stormed out, startling some incoming customers and opening the cigarettes as I went.

  Smoking was a bad habit I’d picked up from my mother. I hadn’t spoken to her in years, but then she’d barely ever shown any interest in me. She was a difficult woman, always judging, and had driven my father away to some Luddite commune back in Montana with the rest of his family. I hadn’t been able to reach him in almost as long as I hadn't spoken to my mother, and it wasn’t something I was going to forgive her for anytime soon.

  I stopped just outside the door of the pharmacy to light up, taking a deep drag and feeling some sense of relaxation seep into my body.

  Midtown blazed away before me in an orgy of advertising. Almost every square inch of space, from lamppost to sidewalk, was full of commercials heralding a new Broadway show or multiverse world. A holographic head danced above me, sparkling and wobbling as the smoke from my cigarette drifted up into it.

  I blew more smoke at it, absently watching it tell me, “Come to Titan, experience the methane rain.” The chaotic glow from the street hardly registered—for me, it was just the frenetically familiar background of New York City.

  Taking another long drag, I glanced back up at the holographic head. There was just no sex appeal in that messaging. They should have been saying something like, “Make love in the hydrocarbon desert.” I laughed silently to myself—make love, now there was something alien, never mind Titan.

  Without warning, a robotic surrogate I’d noticed lining up behind me in the shop came from nowhere and barreled into me, pinning me hard against the wall. It fumbled at my body, grabbing at me.

  Blood drained from my face with the incomprehensible and previously unconsidered prospect of being raped by a robot. The vacuum, however, was filled by a bolt of pure fury and I lashed back, yelling and flailing.

  “Get off me!” I screamed.

  It bounced back much more easily than I’d anticipated. We stood staring at each other for a moment, my green and angry eyes meeting its dead, gunmetal-grey orbs.

  With what I could only interpret as a furtive glance, it shrugged an oddly robotic shrug before turning to disappear into the stream of pedestrian traffic. I lurched forward as if to give chase but gave up almost instantly.

  I was shaking.

  Breathing hard and ragged, I wiped spittle from the side of my mouth. Looking down, I noticed that he had stolen my cigarette pack and my trembling hands were somehow matching the wobbly holographic projection still touting Titan above me. In my right hand, the cigarette continued to burn away, completely unconcerned with my threatened violation. I took a drag to calm my nerves.

  Nobody walking by seemed to have noticed anything, or at least, nobody had wanted to see anything. I guess he was just after the cigarettes, although why a robot would want cigarettes was beyond me.

  This goddamn city.

  I had half a mind to call Alex, but after screaming at him that I wanted to be left alone, right now wasn’t the right time. I’d report this when I got home after work, but I was already late for my presentation. Shaking my head, I dropped my smoke and ground it out underfoot and then ventured out from under the awning to merge into the sea of pedestrians flowing down West Fifty-Seventh Street.

  I surged with the crowd, watching for an eddy current that could carry me towards the curb. Up ahead, someone swore out loud and then stopped to stamp his foot. His arrested momentum forced a wave of people to flow outwards and around him.

  This was my chance.

  Sailing up beside him, I ducked smoothly in behind and was caught perfectly in the opposite flow going in the direction I needed. Then I ran straight smack into a ridiculous-looking woman in sparkling red body paint and peacock feathers.

  “Out of my way!” I growled.

  Shoving her aside, I rotated towards the edge of the street. Elbowing my way to the curb, I outstretched my arm to join with the forest of other outstretched arms.

  “Ten! Ten!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, offering ten times the going rate. It was excessive, but I was tired and frightened and wanted to get out of there.

  A cab merged fluidly from the traffic flow to pull up beside me, my generosity earning me dirty looks from the people around me trying to get their own ride. In return, I offered them my finger as the tiny gull wing door of the cab opened.

  I stepped inside and sat down. The relief was immediate. Cool, recycled air swept around me as the door closed to enclose the silence within. I took a moment to collect myself, closing my eyes, exhaling softly, trying to relieve the pressure.

  “Where to, lady?” asked the cab. It was a self-driving electric, one of those Hondasoft ones with the motors in the wheels—barely more than a plastic tub
on roller skates, if you asked me, but a cab nonetheless.

  I took a deep breath.

  Where to? To the office was where to.

  “Ah...”

  What the hell was my office address? I sat bolt upright and rubbed my eyes, blinking hard. Where did I work again? I couldn’t remember where my office was, and I’d worked there for over ten years. Fear gripped the pit of my stomach.

  “Lady, where to?”

  Damn machines. It’s as if they thought they ran the world. Don’t rush me you little bastard.

  “One second,” I shakily snapped at the cab.

  “Kenny, what’s our office address?” I posed the question to my tech assistant through the mobile bud still stuck in my ear.

  “555 Fifth Avenue,” a perplexed Kenny responded almost instantly, which I then relayed to the cabbie.

  My face flushed.

  How could I forget that? I needed a drink. The cab immediately accelerated and merged into traffic. I sat back and took some deep breaths, trying to loosen up the tightness in my chest while we sped off towards my meeting.

  Chapter 2

  CAREFULLY TAKING ONE bright paper napkin from the black conference room table, I wiped off a residue of sweat from the nape of my neck. I was nervous. Patricia Killiam, the famous godmother of synthetic reality, had decided to personally attend the meeting today, or at least her bio-simulation proxxi had.

  This was much the same thing to Atopians.

  I’d had to rush to get there, sprinting the last yards from the elevators, but I’d made it just in time. They’d immediately jumped me into my presentation to the Cognix people. The incident with the robot had really thrown me, and my pitch timing was off. I was still shaking, resenting how it made me look like an amateur.

  The new Cognix account was the biggest to ever come through our office, and I’d been named as the lead for closing the deal. Other people were always taking credit for my work. Winning this would enable me to finally take center stage. The pressure was intense.

  With my part done, I sat back and watched my colleague Bertram finish the presentation. I was thinking of my fight with Alex. He’d wanted to move in with me, but I needed my space.

  With him, it was always about spending time with his family, his brothers and sisters, but they were always judging me. It was a constant source of friction between us, made worse when he kept insisting that it was just my own insecurities. The nerve. He also wanted kids, telling me how I was too focused on my career, but I had no idea how anyone could want to bring a child into this world. It was falling apart.

  I couldn’t believe my boss had almost given Bertram the lead on closing the account. Look at him, I thought. Floppy mop of brown hair, weak chin, pantomiming away in that ridiculous multi-phasic suit and laughing at his own jokes. Judging from the way everyone was reacting to his pitch, however, whatever he was doing seemed to be working.

  I needed a smoke.

  Maybe I was getting too old for this. Kids nowadays had AIs running around doing most of their jobs for them. I had a hard time keeping up with it all. Thinking about kids made me think about Alex again. Had I made a terrible mistake? My stomach lurched.

  “Cognix, making tomorrow your today!” gushed Bertram as he finished up, sweeping his hand into the distance with a flourish.

  There was a smattering of applause.

  Wait a minute. That's my tagline. What the hell was he doing presenting that today? I was supposed to be using it tomorrow. I thought we’d agreed on that.

  “Something wrong, Olympia?” asked my boss, Roger. The epitome of middle-management, he always had a coffee cup in hand and a seemingly unending supply of ill-fitting suits and cheap ties.

  Was he in on it, too?

  “Olympia, do you have anything to add?” Roger asked again, lifting his coffee to take a sip. Everyone turned to look at me.

  My God, it’s stuffy in here. With a short intake of breath I thought of what I could say to make Bertram look like the fool he was. I tried to shake off sudden vertigo.

  “I, uh, I...” I stammered, but I couldn’t get anything out.

  It seemed as if all the air in the room evacuated, and I felt a crushing pain in my chest. Panic flowed hotly into my veins. Gripping my chest, I wrenched myself up from the table and fled through the door in search of air.

  “Someone call a doctor!” I heard my boss yelling behind me. My vision faded and blackness descended.

  Chapter 3

  “NOTHING MORE THAN a simple panic attack,” said the doctor.

  That was a relief. I guess I knew I wasn’t really having a heart attack, but it was good to hear anyway. The terror had been real enough at the time.

  The doctor’s bald pate reflected the overhead panel lighting like a shimmering, sweaty halo above his radiantly clean lab coat. A stethoscope hung uselessly around his neck. He leaned forward over his veneer-mahogany desk and clasped his hands, bringing them up to support his chin in what I assumed was his thoughtful pose.

  “Are you still smoking?” he asked.

  Stupid question. Of course he knew I was still smoking. This was some kind of tactic to convince me to quit. I hated it when people were manipulative.

  “Yes, I’m still smoking, but I stay fit.”

  He nodded slowly and looked at his notes, sensing this was a fight he didn’t want to get into. “This could be fixable via medication—”

  “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m on a strict, organic farmaceutical diet,” I hotly interrupted. “I need to limit the medications.”

  Something about him reminded me of the endless string of men my mother had dated after she’d driven my father off. My parents’ relationship had been doomed from the start. Trying to mix a Russian and a Scot was a surefire recipe for disaster.

  He stared at me for a moment, considering what to say next. “Stress and anxiety are the big killers these days. You really need to take care of this.”

  They’d had me as an excuse to try and justify their relationship, an excuse that hadn’t worked despite their best attempts to argue and fight their way through it. And with a name like Olympia McIntyre, I’d never felt like I fit in anywhere growing up, least of all at home. I’d taken my mother’s name, Onassis, as an adult. It was the only thing I wanted from her anymore.

  “Olympia, are you all right?” asked the doctor. He’d noticed my attention wandering.

  “Yes, yes.” I just wanted to get out of there. “But there must be something else. What about some more nanobots?”

  “Those still use medications,” he explained. “Mostly they’re just delivery systems.”

  “So I have to figure this out myself,” I declared, rolling my eyes and shrugging theatrically. “Meditation, relaxation...” What a load of bullshit, I didn’t need to add.

  “That would probably work best in the long term, but I’m not so sure in your case.”

  Now it was his turn to shrug—hopelessly, of course. The sheer magnitude of his uselessness almost overpowered me. I sat speechless for a moment while we stared at each other.

  “So what are you suggesting then?” I asked, trying to keep whatever process this was moving along. My impatience grew. Why couldn't he just fix me the way I wanted so I could get on with my life? It was always up to me to fix everything, to come up with all the solutions.

  He took a deep breath. “I think we have something perfect for you, but I was weighing the options.”

  “So?”

  I shook my head and waited for his inspiration. He struck another irritatingly thoughtful pose.

  “Stress and anxiety are deeply rooted problems in society,” he replied calmly. “While they respond to drugs, these don’t correct the underlying issues. Medical science has found ways to fix most major diseases, but the mind is a tricky thing.”

  “I agree, so what are you saying?”

  I was about to lose it. I just wanted to get on with my day, and he was launching into some discussion on metaphysics! He adjusted hi
mself in his seat, clearly miffed I hadn’t let him dive off on his tangent.

  “There’s a new synthetic reality system that we’ve been testing with select clients,” he began, raising his hands to fend off my objections. “Before you say anything, there are no implants, not really anyway. You’ve already used the delivery nanobots, and this is just one step further.”

  I wagged my head slightly. “Okay...”

  “All you do is swallow a pill with a glass of water. Nanoscale devices in the pill called ‘smarticles’ diffuse through your body and attach themselves to your neural system. They’re able to modify signals flowing through your neurons—”

  “Look, I don’t need the details,” I interrupted, shaking my head again. I hated technical mumbo-jumbo.

  He stopped and looked at me before continuing, “Okay, but if you ever decide you don’t like or want it anymore, a simple verbal command deactivates the whole thing and it washes back out of your system and is excreted. It’s as simple as that.”

  Excrement. Several ideas linking the good doctor to excrement sprang immediately to mind. He smiled, but now I smiled back. I was excited. I suddenly realized what it was he was describing.

  “And this has been tested?” I asked.

  This must be the new Atopian Cognix system we were pitching at the office. It wasn’t on the market yet, but I knew they were doing highly restricted trials. I brightened up. It looked like someone on top had given me the nod. Maybe I would win the account after all.

  “The system has been in clinical trials for years now and is fairly well understood. I can’t give you the brand name, but that shouldn’t make any difference. Does it?”

  I was sure he knew I knew what he was talking about, but he had to go through the motions anyway. I played along, knowing that all this would be reviewed by someone at Cognix as soon as I gave my consent.

  “No, not really, but if you say it’ll help,” I replied, trying to conceal my glee. I wondered if he would be feeding me any of my own marketing spiel.

  “One of the major causes of stress and anxiety is advertising.” He paused, knowing I was an advertising executive. “My recommendation is that you should use this system to remove advertising from your environment for a time; see how you feel.”

  “Sure, that sounds like a good idea.”

 
1 2 3 4
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment