“Have a slice, will you?” I asked him about the whole calorie thing. “It’s pizza, though” he protested. “It’s designed to be shared. You gotta take a slice, it’s the law.” I knew of no such law but didn’t need to be invited to dig in more than once.
In the end I ate three, but in my defense the entire pie was maybe eighteen inches across. Calling that tiny little thing a pizza is what ought to be against the law. The sultry she-plane voice returned. “If you look out the left side, you’ll see Sky Disney, the most recently opened property of the Disney resort franchise.”
It lives up to the name. Resembled some photos I’ve seen, closeups of an insect’s compound eye. Just a fuckoff massive floating sphere made out of countless little geometric facets. All of them transparent plastic, like a ball shaped flying greenhouse.
I don’t fully understand how they fly. Something about sunlight heating the air inside, and the interior volume of a sphere increasing non-linearly relative to the surface area. Bits and pieces I remember from school, not especially important to know.
I could see little specks zipping around the levitating sphere, which cast an immense round shadow on the cloud layer below it. Drones or something. What did it feel like to have the kind of money one needs to visit a place like that? I hardly remember now.
Remble asked what I was contemplating so intently. I didn’t realize it was outwardly apparent, but gave him an honest answer. “I was…in a coma for six years.” Not a lie, really. “When I woke up, everything was so different. Everything changed so much more drastically than I expected it to.
Everything’s strange and vaguely threatening now compared to how I remember it. My Dad would probably gloat about how I’m having the same feelings he did as he got older. That’s how it works for fins too, I bet? You turn into your fathers. Or…?”
He nodded, the carrier swaying gently beneath him as a result of the motion. “It’s mostly the same. I mean the whole pod plays a part in raising children, but I do find myself reacting to things the way my elders did while they were alive.”
That last part was an unexpected punch in the gut. I didn’t know what to say. I never do. It’s the one thing my Dad never prepared me for. He had to watch his own father grow old and weak, then die. Maybe that’s just something you can’t prepare somebody for.
It’s also something that, based on Dad’s near-fullmetal makeover, I might never have to deal with. Fingers crossed. It brought to mind what Remble said about the fact that most of the world can’t afford to go fullmetal. I’ve escaped a horror which remains unavoidable for almost everybody else on the planet.
Only by crime, as well. I’d like to say I only went down that path because all others were closed to me, but that would be a half-truth. The fact of the matter is that I have a talent for it. For subterfuge, manipulation, the Machiavellian arts.
How else do you monetize such a talent? It’s not as if I was ever likely to become a creative or something. If I hadn’t recognized my own aptitude for jacking other people’s shit, who knows where I’d be right now? Probably on the bottom level of an airliner, making pizza for dolphins.
Speaking of which, I suddenly heard the motor whine and revolting gurgle of a stomach pump. I had one myself before the fullmetal surgery, as I had my lower intestine removed years prior to make room for more implants.
“That’s not bothering you, is it?” Remble asked. “I’m a carnivore. I can’t actually digest most of the pizza, I just like how it tastes.” It at least saved me from asking what happens to his pee. I’d been trying to work out if it mixes in with the water and gets sprayed onto him over and over by the misters, or what.
I figure that if I opened the side panel on that scooter of his, I’d find both solid and liquid waste storage tanks, as well as a variety of other disturbing necessities for a cetacean to comfortably spend long periods of time on land. One of those matters that’s best left alone.
An irritating chime I soon realized was audible only to me sounded. I closed my eyes to find my interface GUI dominated by a flashing notification that I had an incoming call from my Dad. To save some D-coin I routed it through the in-plane wifi, which was free for the first hour to new users.
“Oh, you’re on the plane.” How could he tell? I could see him, but knew of no way for him to see my surroundings unless there’s a camera on me I don’t know about. I asked, and he clarified that he could hear the ambient chatter and propulsion hum.
“There are fullmetals here looking for you. Expensive, top shelf ones. I don’t know who they’re with but I’m equally sure I don’t want to find out.” I was ready to turn around and board the next flight back the moment this one landed, but he assured me they didn’t seem to realize his relation to me.
“The previous owner of this body is dead. His public profile came with it as part of the package. I’ve also customized it extensively since then, so even if he had enemies I don’t know about, they’d have nearly as hard a time recognizing me as the fullmetals who arrived today.”
Enforcers. But whose? I could’ve been more discreet. Could’ve bounced around a little, swapped bodies on the mainland before visiting Dad. I like to think I’m slick, but this isn’t my first sloppy mistake. The last one, leaving those prosthetics behind when I jacked that volo, landed me in prison.
I made so many enemies with that stunt, it’s impossible to guess who sent them. I doubt they’ll be satisfied to ask around the stead, then leave empty handed. They don’t know about Dad, but what about Alejandro?
I double checked that the call was encrypted. Dad’s not the savviest guy when it comes to information security, but he also didn’t just fall off the turnip truck either. “Cooperate with them” I instructed. “Do whatever they want. Don’t sweat it if they trash the place, I’m working on something new that will pay for it many times over.”
He seemed less than comforted. “Come on now, none of that nonsense. I thought you were going to stay out of trouble. At least, the really high stakes stuff. Why don’t you get back into racing? You know I love to hear about your races. Back in my day, I used to hoon around the back streets at night, and drag race against gas bikes on the local strip. People called me the Electric Demon!”
“Which people, Dad?” He fidgeted. “Oh, you know. People.” I sighed. “It was just you, wasn’t it Dad. You called yourself the Electric Demon.” Exasperated, he put one hand on his hip and turned the camera towards the window with the other.
“ANYways, I dunno if you can see them from here, but this is what happens when you get in too deep. I hate sounding like a broken record, but I don’t want to see your mugshot on the news ever again. Don’t think I don’t appreciate everything you did for me, but I’m also not blind to what it cost you, and I never asked you to throw yourself on the gears for my sake.”
Behind him I could just make out some sort of large electric VTOL. The side panel was folded down revealing an interior similar to what I’ve seen in various military troop transports. The fullmetals standing guard were indeed worryingly current, sporting designs unlike anything I’ve seen before.
“I can still come back. Should I come back?” He shook his head vigorously, a loose bolt coming off in the process. “That would only make things worse. If they think we were hiding you, it’s not just you they would punish.”
He said that as if helping me hide wasn’t exactly what he’d done. I teared up, this time thankful for the ability to. He’s always stuck his neck out for me, though I never asked. I inherited all of his bad habits growing up, I must’ve picked up a few of the good ones in the process.
Stay Tuned for Part 12!