, Cafe on Bethnal Green Road.
opolled off, Cap’n Zee. Microbe-sap is on,” the young waitress, Jen-Jan, said,
nodding a bald head gleaming with glit-tats back at the kitchen. Through the
half-open door, I saw a sweating porter whose aura pulsed in the
bulging white membrane sacs into a gurgling sink.
I rolled my eyes, taking in the last few seconds’
opolls, and saw that 51 said yes to a milk ban due to the sentient-cow fiction
in the Midwest.
“What you got for my coffee?” I asked,
half-interested in the fuzz of white-gold hair beginning sprouting up through
the fading tats on her head. Jen-Jon noted my glance and shrugged, looking
around the diner. “Bald too much in vogue, right? Every runt has skin dome.”
I looked round, as she wasn’t about to get breakfast
until I showed some interest. A half dozen smooth scalps, all with glit-tats.
Now four, then two. All heads save one were growing little buzzcuts, absorbing
the glit-ink. Jen-Jon frowned and looked, too, then cursed. Her aura flared
with irritation and she ported me a pulsing trend that mili-shaved hair was in.
The trend file evolved as Jen-Jon ported it, and a
smooth neuter grinned as it preened a tuft of hair like tallow snow and
declared: “Fop is IN, for the under-one-percenters among you!”
An under-one… I knew it. Jen-Jan was way too froze
to be part of anything in the 99, or even the five. She flushed and some stray
fuzz drifted onto the table, as a patch on top sprouted yellow.
“Sorry,” she said, flapping the hair away. “We got
near-cream, fresh from the vats.”
I opolled near-cream and saw it had a 78. “Fine,” I
grunted, shifting to get comfy on the bench, shoving my kit-case out the way.
“So, pig-like steak, real-egg, toast and
near-creamed coffee, all right, Cap,” Jen-Jon said, blinking the order in. She
patted her inch-high crest and smiled. “Off to the Moon or China?” She nodded
at my case and my onesie, which were phasing from steel-cold-ice pattern to
lush green and black and back. My captain’s rank was too subtle for non-service
folks to see but my name – ZeeZee. R – strobed black and beige as the smart
stitching tried to catch up. “I opolled
Moon when you walked in: teach the dirty Loonies a lesson, right?”
“Moon’s an a-hole assignment: opolling 50 for win,
30 for body-dead, 20 for hot ash.”
“Sorry,” she said, eyes abrim with tears. “Oh, it’s
fine… Moon 10, China 90!”
I shrugged. “73 says cis-women won’t be allowed in
China anyways. As I spoke, the number down-shifted to 55 as a 61 opoll unseated
the regional governor. 10,000 feeds came on inside my head, giving a 360 degree
4D sense of the Chinese regional capital. A flash, 9,009 eye-cams went dead. 98
said separatists with one of the stolen rad-bombs were responsible. That was a
mess, and no mistake: lots of body-rebuilding. Plebes for the contracts started
trending. I voted for one that had some mili contracts that might come my way
Breakfast came, with an unasked-for heap of grits. I
raised my eyebrow and an order unfolded in my head and told me to eat the
rad-resistant dish. China it is, I thought, as the sound of rotors shook the
window and a droner dropped a bag outside, tagging me as recipient.
“Nuke suit,” I said, shoveling food down, watching a
little slice of stats telling me there was a five per cent chance I’d be taken
off this duty, as cis-wom losses were too high for our teetering ruling party.
On a side note, I was a opolling in the top two percent of cis-wom honor-medal winners, and an
unexpected top one in the cute-vets opoll. The latter would work in my favor
for not getting sent to China: rad-burning cute vets opolled hard for the
“Check, please, Jen-Jon,” I said, and she shook her
impressively tonsured head. “Just official, 51 said honor-medal holders eat
free everywhere today.”
I thanked her and checked myself out in the mirror
as I stood. I’d been grown an inch, and my hair was trimming down: usual
As I got to the door, my head-alert told me to wait,
and the five that said I’d be excused hazardous duty went to 10, then 30 and
then a blue 100.
Outside, the droner lifted my package away in a
cloud of dust, and I saw a metal servitor stand up and sock his shouting patron
right in the mouth. 50.00001 had opolled to end machine slavery law, I saw.
My onesie morphed to blue, to match my eyes, that
had been gray a moment ago. New figs came up. 100 said pickup in two to go to
Deecee. 98 said more women should be called into the new gov. I reached 71 per
cent in a vets for gov jobs opoll, surged to 84, then a dump of vid of me in
action in Nepal a week back landed, and I got a 96.
Jen-Jon came running out behind me. “Go,
cis-wom-mili-vets for senate!”
The vert-lifter came down on the road and
secret-service-clones waved me in. 90 said I would get to Deecee intact, 10
said the man-up party would grab power and I’d be thrown out the hatch, 98 said
I’d survive that. One point five said I was headed to the Oval Office.
Behind me, I heard Jen-Jon curse inside the diner:
“Zee for Prez! Gordon-DAMN you, stop copying my hair!”
Inverness Gathering, circa 1900.
David Gray is a Scottish journalist who ended up in NYC. His Brooklyn-born kids do passable impressions of his Groundskeeper Willie accent. His first three novels are in contract to print in 2019 and 2020 and his short stories have appeared in Cosmic Roots, Eldritch Shores, and Metaphorosis.