As if arranged for our arrival, a plane eased into a soft landing at the far end of the platform. It abruptly slowed, presumably by the same type of capture harness I knew were used aboard aircraft carriers.
I heard nothing like the cacophony of jet engines. Nor had I seen the usual drum shaped protuberances slung beneath its wings. Thinking back to the electrically levitated air taxi, I realized yet again the extent of what can happen in six years and set about ordering a ticket through my ocular interface.
It spewed ads at me for all manner of foul, skinner box style freemium games in the process. My ad blocker killed most of them but I had to manually shut down the rest, including an obnoxious flashy pop-under for something called Speed Foam.
“Speed Foam! Yeah! It’s like Velocity Valerie, classic Speed Foam Mascot always says: “I’m Velocity Valerie, the classic Speed Foam Mascot”. YEAH! SPEEDFOAM!”
I was curious enough about what “speed foam” could possibly be for that I nearly ordered some just to find out. Does it make whatever you put it on faster, foamier, or both? But as yet, I had no permanent address and distressingly little coin to my name.
Under that was a tiresome wizard porn ad. Like these aren’t a dime a dozen. Like anybody pays for porn either. But they must, surely? Otherwise how would sites like this turn a profit?
The looping 3D video showed two lean, muscular old men dressed in elaborate wizard costumes rubbing their bushy white beards against one another. Underneath in blinking text it said “Beard-on-beard closeups! You can see every individual hair! Authentic wizard clothing!”
Authentic? Do they think wizards really existed at some point? Even I know better, and I slept through most of my education. Cheating my way past tests, “smart not hard” yada yada. As soon as I began running into professional barriers because of it, I just got a brain implant that fetched whatever I wanted to know from a whitelist of sites I trust.
Whenever I’ve asked Dad what the point of traditional education is when such implants exist, he can never seem to give a satisfactory answer. Something about blood, sweat, tears, elbow grease and various other fluids.
When he told me that he had to memorize the multiplication table even though calculators existed back then, I was like “Why though?” and just got more of that “satisfaction of learning” crap from him.
“Wizard Fantasy HDX is the premiere adult entertainment platform! Literally!” Sure enough, actual floating platforms appeared, on which various sex acts were being performed by wizards upon other wizards…or in some cases mythical beasts like manticores and gryffons.
That’s when I realized the audio was playing externally. I frantically closed the window and peered around to find the nearest passengers once again staring at me, if anything more intently than before. Except for one of them, who nodded slowly and smiled knowingly at me.
I angrily searched my body for any sort of speaker, unclear on why the asshole whose body I’m driving around now would even want such a feature installed. Maybe the type that imagines his taste in music is so sublime, it demands to be shared with everybody around him.
As unbelievably huge as the structure had appeared on the horizon, it just continued growing on approach, defying my understanding of what’s even possible to build on the sea with every passing minute.
We did not dock to the side as I’d assumed when studying the structure from a distance, but instead pulled in underneath it. There was a modest breakwater around the spars which provided reliably calm surface conditions for boarding and unboarding, a detail I appreciated as I followed the rest of the passengers off the boat and into the first stage of airport security.
“Hello sir” a laughably fake looking injection molded gynoid dressed as a stewardess said, in a voice sounding something like a drive-thru intercom. These things were more convincing six years ago. How could they have gotten worse in that time?
Then again most of the conshelf territories are considered one big backwater. Dad’s stead was one of the nicer ones, and even there the tech was a decade or more out of date. They just don’t care about staying current, and don’t throw anything away.
“Please disrobe for stage one weapons check.” Come again? I was directed to enter a cramped privacy booth nearby and take my clothes off. Well, whatever. It’s not even my junk, I don’t care who sees it.
Once the door shut, the booth immediately began to fill with some sort of thin, cold vapor. In a panic I pounded on the door, and was reprimanded by the indifferent scratchy voice of the gynoid not to damage airport property.
“You are simply being disinfected so that you do not transport on your body any of the known species of parasite unique to offshore populations.” Oh, well. If that’s all.
She then asked me if I am now or ever have been affiliated with any cetacean separatist groups. I laughed. “Dolphins? Really? Dolphins are blowing up planes now?”
I was urged to answer seriously, so I gave my honest opinion of dolphins and was then issued a .009 fedcoin citation for hate speech. I tucked it between my butt cheeks for lack of any pockets to put it in.
A quick and honestly somewhat refreshing anal cavity search later, I was dressed and set loose into the terminal. I’ve always liked airports. They remind me of cohab interiors with all the little shops, capsule hotels and restaurants.
Shame I couldn’t afford to eat here. After the cost of the plane ticket I’ll be lucky not to sleep on the streets my first night in Shenzen. If I begged Dad for some money I’m sure he’d come through.
He’d lecture me first about the satisfaction of spending your own hard earned money, personal responsibility, financial planning and whatever else he felt I ought to hear, but then he’d open up his wallet. That’s just kinda how he rolls, like a grouchy Santa. He always helps, but also makes it such a headache that I’ll only ask again when I really need to.
That’s such a stereotypically Dadly thing to do as well. I’d probably have morphed into him completely by now if I’d ever made the mistake of knocking anybody up. What is that shit about, anyway? The man who thought bringing a child into this world was a good idea, lecturing me about fiscal responsibility?
I took my seat among the throngs of weary, disinterested travelers. Mostly conshelfers judging by their clothes but also a few that looked to be here on business, and some wealthy tourists.
Then there was a dolphin. The security gynoid’s question suddenly made a good deal more sense. It was strapped to some sort of motorized gurney with misters periodically spraying little puffs of water vapor onto its body at various points.
A little tongue operated joystick just beneath its beak made sense of how it could move about. What didn’t make sense is why a dolphin would need to fly anywhere when swimming is free.
Everybody was zoned out, staring into space. Playing games or watching films on their interfaces, like I did on the way here. It made for a comical scene I imagined Dad would make some snarky, disparaging “Back in my day” comment about.
Nothing wrong with escapism in a place like this. I followed their lead, leaned back and engaged my own interface. First order of business was to update my ad blocker. The next level of service required a subscription fee though, so I put that on the back burner for the time being.
This body turned out to already have recurring subscriptions to a bunch of Chinese services unfamiliar to me, so I laboriously went through them one by one to cancel. They don’t make it easy.
Stay Tuned for Part 8!