I plopped into the plush chair positioned diagonally in front of her desk. An invisible gust of stench rose from the chair. It reeked of the behemoth’s sweat. Despite that, her office felt better than home. More fabric than office, the space was swathed in navy blue and hunter green velvets. It was both cozy and bright, glowing from some unseen source.
What rare inch wasn’t covered in fabric was made of a rich, chocolatey red wood. The space infused my every pore, pushing and relaxing and calming. It felt like a world had passed before I noticed Mrs. Bordelon watching me, waiting for me to rise from the depths of solitude imposed by her office.
A slow smile crossed her face as she perched on the edge of her desk. Her dressing robe pooled behind her sleek crossed legs, her top leg bouncing sporadically. Suddenly, she leaned forward, lifting her palms off the desk, her fingers trailing the rich wood. She placed her hands on either side of my face, her thumbs brushing my flushing red cheeks before trailing down to my shoulders.
“Now. Do you think you’re up to telling me what pushed you here?” Her face settled, only the hint of a smile lingering at the edges of her features. Her eyes delved mine, darting back and forth to find her answer. She stood abruptly, pushing her hands into her robe’s pockets. “I’m planning on closing early tomorrow for dinner with a friend. Why don’t you, and Quinn and Minnie, join us?”
I rose less gracefully and caught myself against the back of the chair. “I…I don’t mean to, to, um, to be rude, Mrs. Bordelon, it’s just, um, this is a very very serious matter and I uh…” I tried to look anywhere but at her searing eyes.
I chanced a glance to if she was still watching me. She gazed unflinchingly into my eyes and through my words. My blood pulsed in my ears in a tempo matching the clock’s ticks. Finally, time relaxed and her face warmed with another broad smile. “It’s Maridel. Or Ms. Bordelon if you insist. A family name.” She clapped her hands together and held them clasped in front of herself. “I’ll see you, Quinn, and Minnie tomorrow. If you find you can trust me by then, please have a file with as much info gathered as possible for my investigation. I have a feeling this is a time sensitive issue, no?” She raised her eyebrows and held her hands palms up in front of her. Her smile reached for her ears.
When I stepped onto the street outside Bordelon’s Detective Agency, the noise slammed into me like an antique tram. The noise consumed endlessly, swaddling me. Everything was everywhere, colors and shapes twirled across pathways and buildings and the grey-green clouds that blew across the sky every day, only to reverse each night. The clouds were shapeless, but bubbling and frothing. Perfectly designed, no one ever detected shapes in the cloudy sky and nothing disturbed it.
The Tube queue across the street sprinted restlessly, traveller after traveller hurtling in entry points and out exit gates. “Back in a flash” FlashTubes lived up to their jingle. That jingle rotated in and out of my ears as I crossed over the Consuwares in the street. A little more tweaking and my Wristmate would be able to drown out all the adverts with…something. I should decide soon, so there won’t be any gaps or silence. The only issue was that no unnecessary implants or other devices were allowed to operate within a Tube. I stepped into the thin white box and closed my eyes.
I crossed my arms tight across my breasts trying to distract from the uneasy unfeel of the Flashtubes. I knew I wasn’t really doing anything but I don’t know how I can still feel when I cease to exist in a Flashtube.
When I re-entered, my fingers were tapping out the Melody. The Melody is supposedly the same for everyone during Transit–it helps molecules reassemble or something–but I knew it had another purpose. It was slightly different each Transit and the current Melody was most definitely different than the first time I stepped into a Tube. I no longer told people about my theory. At best, they’d suggest I get my memory touched up. At worst…I shuddered from spine to shoulders and down. Finally, the Tube chimed and I stepped out quickly, all of my atoms apparently in place.
I forced my hands by my hips, hoping my shoulders would follow and relax. Roughly flexing and unflexing my hands, I attempted even breaths until my ears were swarmed by the muttering of the pressing flow of commuters.
I tapped twice, slowly, on the silver medallion tucked on the inside of my left wrist. Soothing artificial sounds of nature overtook the vibrant sounds of humanity. As I listened to the noise from my Wristmate, I wondered if that’s what nature actually sounded like, or if it was just more fabricated nonsense? Were birds and bugs really that noticeable? And the massive rustling of thousands and thousands of leaves against each other sounded so artificial, like the cheapest of the Dimedoze movies. Even the music’s rain sounded different, dull plunks and rooshes, so unlike the normal plinks and kreddds of the Ecoast rain.
My Wristmate only drowned out everything for a few feet before the artificial reporters drowned it out, too. “Mrs. Landon! Mrs. Landon! Inquiring minds must know! Why are you home so late and all by yourself? Where’s Mr. Landon? What…” The mass of Holorbs flashed as they streamed my image while taking thousands of stills every thirty seconds.
“Step aside, step aside. Stay clear. Get out of the way. Move! Move aside, I said!” The Securidrones tased any reporters who floated too close.
I have to stop taking the public Tubes. Or at least make sure my back door Holo is initiated first. I stumbled through the clamor, thankful for the security barrier but deeply regreted that it was necessary. “It’s Miss Ridley,” I muttered, trusting their roaring voices to swallow mine completely. “It won’t be Mrs. Landon for another four months. Four dreadful months…” The sound vacuumed into silence as the exterior doors slipped shut. The silence was fast enough and complete enough that it was easy to forget that other, nosy world was out there.
“Why Miss Ridley! Where have you been! Step away, step away, step away from those nasty hounds out there! Even mosquitos don’t bite them,” Jameson chirped, breaking the silence immediately.
“If we even had mosquitos,” I muttered, hoping I could evade his top of the line sensory orbits. Everything about Jameson was top of the line. The orb floating in the entryway and concealed intermittently by a hologram of an aged white man was the seventh incarnation I’d seen since I’d moved in eleven long months ago. Based off his sputtering image, there would be an eighth version before too long, with a purported identical personality.
Jameson floated in the middle of the hall, gesticulating wildly like an over enthusiastic professor. “Well of course there are no longer any mosquitos, not since the Flushing of ‘89 when all pests were successfully eradicated…”
I pushed through his holograph, ducked under his orb, and jogged towards the PersoTube before he could really get going.
The Tube’s Melody dissolved the sound of his lecture, which I knew would end with him saying that it’s just too good of a statement to retire and it conjures such wonderful, old fashioned ideas and values. I frowned and crossed my arms, my hands rubbing warmth into my upper arms. If only he was programmed to learn, then what? Another Reprogramate? There’s only been one in all the centuries Artificial Intelligence has existed. But since the destruction of most plant and animal life is due entirely to AI running amok and going against the wishes of those Natural Intelligences in power at the time, then AI must remain inferior to NI, with Human Intelligence at the very top of the ladder, and AI shall remain inferior by requiring the assistance of an NI to grow or change…the catalog they used back in school flashed through my head.
I brushed uselessly at my bangs and focused my eyes on the lofty living space that I had materialized into several minutes ago.