The Choose a Home Request Form
A cough sprang outta me.
The white glow from the sol-funder illuminated my face. One hand was cold against its metallic screen. Dark, pooling puddles layered over my feet. My other hand clutched my side. A hover-bus whizzed up the street behind me, disturbing the puddles, rippling their reflections against my ankles.
Meanwhile, the sol-funder loomed over me like a bank tower leaking its funds. A jackpot-like chime nudging my ears as icons of starz kept pouring into the digital happy-face of me. The chimes were never ending.
I tried clearing my throat. It was sore from all the yelling.
In the distance, I heard an upstreamer. Its engine sounded lazy. Cranky even. It moaned out its warning. The star-fundz finally stopped. I realized late. The screen timed out and dimmed, leaving behind a murky reflection. The outline of a hand much bigger than mine was drawn there. A swollen eye stared at it. A smudge of blood smeared along the corner of his mouth—my mouth.
I peeled off my hand, smeared the smudge some more with the hem of my sleeve. Then flipped my palm and stared hard and long at it, or rather, the disk set to its center. I tore my other hand from my side, ignoring the loud throb it left behind, and pressed the disk with one shaky finger. The star clicked once in, and then jutted out. I extracted it.
I'd never used a star-deposit before. I'd never even held a star to deposit before. I thought I never would. I thought the depositor embedded into my hand had been a waste of good surgery. But here it was now, coming in handy, imbuing me with an impossible amount of money.
A slip of water ran up my cheek to my eyelash. I winced away from it.
I tilted my head upwards to where the upstreamer lurked; a giant plate in the sky, eyepatching my favourite moon out of sight, collecting its pools and puddles to deposit somewhere else. Who knew where else.
Dirt water stung against my bruises, shot daggers into my cuts, but it was pretty to look at. Rain pouring towards the sky—or its eyepatch anyway...
. . .
I didn't feel like a trillionaire—or a miniature happy-face. I was just barely a teenager, and small for my age. And I didn't really want the money my mother died for.
If she lived for it, then maybe.
My clothes were soaked.
~ ~ ~
I waited in line at the nearest medi-center.
People with proper clothes and upstanding homes stood in front of me, awaiting service. Treatment. Free pills? Whatever the patient-type came here for.
It was finally my turn.
"Medi-center services, how can I help you?"
A woman with blue-silver waves of hair spoke to me. There was a stylus in her mouth and her chin was on her palm. I couldn't tell if she was amused or bored.
"Um... yeah...how—" I cleared my throat. My voice was still hoarse. "How much does it cost to revive a corpse?"
"Depends..." She removed the stylus from her mouth like it were a smoker, then dabbed its tip into a holo-blotter. When her stylus swiped back up through the air it was scrolling through holographic panels of its own creation. She twisted its mid-section, refining her search. Then ruthlessly, she didn't answer my question:
"Do you have access to your cadaver of choice?"
I thought of the penthouse hotel suite I ran from.
"Is its memory faucet undamaged?"
I thought of how drunk she was.
"Is the body in good condition?"
I thought of the open window.
"And finally...do you have ID?"
I didn't have ID. So I guess that was that. I nodded at nothing she said and walked away without a sound.
~ ~ ~
There was someone sobbing on my hover-bus. I wish they'd shut up. My head was hurting enough as is.
Their audible tears were resurfacing unwanted thoughts. Thoughts I'd worked hard to drown:
'This'll be the last job, I promise," said my mother, who was not dead in my head.
She was mapping out her face for the night, scrolling through mascara masks and lip paints to project onto it. "Once we rob this client, we'll be set for life. We'll leave this stupid planet once and for all. Deal?" She held up her pinky with a sheepish smile. I did not want to, but I held up mine, she clapped it with hers, like a little high five minus the four.
In the hotel suite, she was entertaining her client. A CEO of something. They were in the lounge room. I was uninvited, but I was there too. Not in the lounge, but in the office connected to the bedroom. Based on my mother's usual strategy, I had a good ten minutes before they'd make it to the bed, so I took my time with my quantum-capture, pressing the sphere to anything that looked even remotely valuable.
Then a tele-talker rang from the desk beside me. I'd thought it was just decoration (because who even used tele-talkers anymore?) but there it was, chiming, and his footsteps started coming.
Immediately, I turned on my invisi-cap, but his office had a security detail that made it malfunction. So I was visible.
His kicks were hard.
He threw me in front of my mother, pridefully showing off his prey. She was very drunk, but very worried. Then very angry. There was a brawl. Glass from a bottle. A star thrown into my hand. A shout:
A bad time to find out I wasn't the fight or flight type.
I froze. He approached. We were near a window. My mother, drenched in wine, wobbled to a stand after being knocked down. She took out a knife concealed in her dress and jammed it into him. Near the window. He toppled. Grabbed her wrist—
"Are you okay?"
The sobbing stopped. A handkerchief was thrust in front of me. The various eyes of the hover-bus were on me. Confused, I received it, but didn't answer the question. I left the hover-bus two stops too soon. Someone followed.
The owner of the handkerchief; a nice person, I realized. She was very nosy, but looked very worried. I let her follow me, checking to see if my invisi-cap was still on my head.
~ ~ ~
When I reached my destination, I switched on my invisi-cap and walked in. The nice person was left disoriented outside, but didn't leave. I think she already called authorities so I guess she had to stay. Otherwise there was a fee.
I stood inside one of those planetary transferal pods—a cheap one. This was a port planet—where people were deposited and withdrawn on constant—so these pods were everywhere. No one liked this method of leaving a planet so it was cheaper but still cost a fortune. I wasn't sure what that word meant anymore.
Both my hands were placed on the metallic screen this time. I was shivering.
'Choose a Home Request Form' glowed boldly across the screen.
'Explore an ecosystem right for you!'
'Sort by: Most popular | Land formations | Oxygen levels | Plant life | Ocean life | Lava life | Technological advancement | Population'
I skipped this step and went to: 'Pick a Planet!' I selected one without thinking about it. My thoughts couldn't be trusted.
'Choose a Home!'
'Options: Work your way up | Life of luxury | Middle class | Happy home | Pet owners | Miscellaneous | Other'
I didn't want a home, but didn't have a choice so I clicked 'Other'. A pop-up appeared:
'Warning: Housing shelter is not guaranteed with this birthing service. Is this okay?'
'Species-change request form: N/A
Would you like to retain your memory faucet?'
I paused, but soon decided I didn't want someone else for a mother.
A pop-up: 'Warning: with memory faucet intact, there is a high chance of PTSD due to birthing process. Would you like to sign up to receive your memory faucet at an age of your choosing?'
Oh, that’s smart.
'Age of choice:'
'Terms and condit—'
'Reincarnation fee: 4 777 849 201 stz. Confirm?'
'Please insert ID'
I stared at the screen.
. . .
I was back in front of the screen. The nice person's wallet was in my hand, as I ruffled through for her ID.
'Thank you for your purchase, Averana Kacings! Particle translation and transferal process should begin shortly. | Approximate wait time: 10— 8— 9 mins."
A code-like tattoo crept up my arm. I removed my palms and the codes kept crawling.
I left the pod. Averana shrieked as I took off my invisi-cap in front of her. I handed her back her handkerchief and her wallet. "Thank you for helping me." I told her. Then I clicked the star in my palm. It jutted out, and I handed her a trillion-or-so solz.
Because what would all the money in this world mean in another?
My body felt fuzzy and I realized it was glowing like the things I stuffed in my quantum-capture. I sat down next to her, suddenly feeling light-headed. In the distance, I could see the blurring image of a cop-cruiser—the one Averana must have called—racing around a corner towards us.
For a while, I just sat and watched it approach in silence. I'd be phasing away soon anyway.
Averana knelt by my side to join me. One careful hand of hers rested on my shoulder. Its warmth felt better than a trillion-plus solz ever could.
My head fell against her.
To be honest... even just the pinky would've been enough.