"Pin Up - Roller Waitress" by Nathan Lorenza.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.
THE PAST, OF COURSE
by Nikki Vogel
The news on the TeleHolo screams World War IV, and all because the patent on time travel technology is about to expire. No doubt world leaders are sitting around in plush goddamned chairs getting foot massages by naked genCro-M girls (everyone knows they give the best foot massages, even though it’s not PC to say so out loud) all the while trying to figure out how to screw everyone else big time with the technology. And I have to listen to this doom and gloom while getting ready for work, while putting on my uniform, a dress so short my ass cheeks hang out an inch, forcing me to buy overpriced underwear from the company store so that it will match the salmon pink color of the dress perfectly, so that I can serve waffles and eyefuls to the breakfast crowd at Whores and Waffles® properly attired. Who actually knows what color a salmon is? There hasn’t been enough water for people, let alone for pink fish, since WWIII. And what kind of adaptation is pink anyway? Those fuckers were doomed from the start.
With commercial time travel right around the corner, the President announces that he has appointed a governing body to oversee it and make up the rules about who gets to go when, etc. A bunch of ass-kissers and psycho-phants (genetic cross between an elephant and a cock-sucker – just kidding), greedy pricks who will make sure their bank accounts are nicely shored up, while for the rest of us, it’s the same old, same old. We already know we won’t be able to do anything great like write a note to ourselves saying, Yo, Dar-lene buy so and so stock on such and such date and oh, honey, you will be rolling in mad bank. Still, I can’t help but think about what advice I might send my previous self, what I could say that would open my dumbass eyes a little sooner to the ways of the world.
On the way to work there is a stupid suicide bomber on my mRail car, and I don’t mean stupid like annoying, I mean stupid like stupid. Like cousins marrying cousins while living in a hot zone and having babies stupid. She, apparently, does not know the first thing about hooking up a detonation switch so the thing didn’t blow us all to whatever comes next. Instead, she shits and pisses herself, stinking up the mRail car to high HevN®, and then we have to wait for the genPo-P who, at that hour, are at Dinks and Donuts® getting their breakfast and their start-the-day tug or poke, depending on their preference. So I am late to work. Again. Merl, my boss, comes right up to me to give me grief. His beady little pig eyes are joyful.
“Dar,” he grabs my right tit as he pronounces the letters written there and then squeezes the left tit, “lene, you’re late again.”
Fuck sakes. Of all the Whores working at Whores and Waffles why does Merl have to have a bone for me? Rather than argue with him, wasting more time that could be spent working and making some bank, I take him into the freezer, suck him off, and hurry out to my section.
“Dar – lene, that’s an old-fashioned name,” says customer #1, a chick with blue hair and a third eye in the middle of her forehead. It is hard to tell, but I think it might be the real deal, a birth thing vs. a lab thing. She also squeezes each tit as she speaks the syllables of my name. They are big and they are real – in other words, irresistible.
“Parents.” I shrug. What can you do?
She nods knowingly and smirks at the two people at the table with her.
“I’ll have the plankton cakes with at least three different Flay-vas™ of syrup,” third eye says.
“We’ll share the Plate-o-Meat,” the father says. “And we’ll each have a glass of Coffree®.”
I am about to go wait on another table before one of the other Whores gets there, when third-eye ahems me. She holds up two fingers. “Drop your stylus, maybe, or tie your shoe.”
Two credits. Okee dokee. I show them my backside, wiggle it a little, bend nimbly from the waist and give them an eyeful. Five credits and I would have “accidentally” pulled my underwear down as I bent over. Next thing I know third eye strokes my woo-woo a couple of times. Strictly speaking she has stepped over the boundaries of what two credits will buy, but it’s up to a Whores’s discretion to allow things that might grease the wheel for more generous spending later. When I turn around to give her a look, to make sure she knows she has transgressed, her parents are all over each another. Sheesh. Even for this place it’s kind of creepy. I hold out my SmrtCrd so that the transfer of credits can take place.
Near the end of my shift the public announcement holos bleep and the screens project floor to ceiling images of the President. Z-Akron, one of my friends, has told me that the President is actually some twenty-five year old nerd from Poughkeepsie, a genius with numbers, but he’s had a butt-load of mods done to make his face look fatherly, all silvery hair and strong jaw. I told Z-Akron that I thought he was full of it, but he’d said, “The public are comforted by images of wise patriarchy.” Z-Akron attends university and is always coming up with stuff like that. In some ways it is believable though. No old guy could survive the job. The stress. The constant chaos. One environmental and social disaster after another. Suicide bombers every day of the week, twice on Sunday. Looking at the faces of the patrons of Whores and Waffles I can see that mods are working. Everyone looks like they would drink the purple Kool-Aid®, which I only know about because it is the 200th anniversary of that psycho who poisoned a bunch of people. I can’t remember his name, or even the name of the tragedy. Something with ‘town on the end. It doesn’t pay to remember such things. I could just as well have been part of the #24 mRail Tragedy that morning if stupid suicide bomber had gotten her way.
Blah. Blah. Blah. “And we know — I know,” and the President points at himself in case we don’t know who he means by “I,” “that we’re all disappointed that the military is going to retain control over time travel for now because the risks are simply too high. I know many of you were looking forward to Disney’s Adventures in the Late Twentieth Century, especially the 1980s theme park. I understand that padded shoulders and teased hair are back in vogue.” He gives a shining-white-perfectly-spaced-teeth smile.
I don’t know what “vogue” means, but when I look around I see a lot of genCro-M sized shoulders. It gives the patrons the appearance of necklessness, like they are going for some weird genTurtle in the shell look. I miss the last bit of the President’s spiel, but zone back in in time to hear, “The Republic of these thirty-five United States of America appreciates your loyalty, your willingness to do without during these difficult times. But I don’t always deliver bad news,” and he winks because we all know that bad news is exactly what he delivers most of the time along with heaping platefuls of heinous news, so-so news, and same-old, same-old. “I want to finish by telling you that the five Canadian provinces south of the 60th parallel are joining us, and will be divided up so that we can once again be 50 states.” Two maps are projected showing the old outlines and the new. The Prez signs off like he always does – by making the “live long and prosper” sign with his hand. The crowd in Whores and Waffles goes crazy, applauding and making out.
Back to business. At first I wish he would have made his announcement a little earlier so I could have capitalized on the way everyone got fired up over the whole 50 states thing, but even though the crowd has turned randy as genGoats and the bank begins to flow, there is a nasty violent edge to it that makes me glad my shift is almost over. There had been a lot of excitement to go back and see the planet before WWIII did its number, or to see California and Hollywood, before the whole western seaboard – kaput since 2101 – was, well, kaput. They take out their joy and frustration on us Whores. People get tired of suffering disappointment.
And sure enough, right before my shift ends I have to off one of the customers because he is trying to kill Can-dee. Fucking guys. Luckily a genPo-P happens to be in the restaurant and when Am-byr finishes his blowjob he steps right in and rules it a righteous kill. No fuss, no muss.
Suz-zie, my replacement, arrives and I tap my end-of-shift code into the tablet, watch the credits add up and then transfer them to my account. There’s a nice little bonus for reacting quickly to the gone-bad customer. If Can-dee had been harmed, or killed, it would cost the company in lost earnings. I hand Suz-zie the order tablet and stylus saying, “It’s a jungle out there, girl, be careful.”
“I had a feeling it would be.” She opens her mouth, which is stained purple inside. She’s spent some bank on PainBGone. I kiss her using lots of tongue, hoping to pick up some residue. I’m already into my dealer for fifty credits and there is no way he is going to front me any more. When I pull away I look her up and down, take the inserts from my bra and put them in hers so that her boobs practically spill out the top of her dress. “That’s better. I have an extra pair so you can give those back to me tomorrow.”
She kisses me and lets me suck her tongue hard.
I’m a little worried about the mood on the street and wonder if I should spring for a SecurITBot. I hate to spend the credits so I decide to see how the trip home goes. I can always stop and order one along the way. Outside Whores and Waffles I turn left to head to my mRail stop and discover that third-eye is waiting for me.
I stand up straighter and stare her in the eyes, though I’m kind of torn as to which ones I should look into to send the message I’m no pussy, don’t fuck with me.
She takes a step back, gives me a little space. “Sorry, I don’t mean to stalk you, but with my parents there this morning, well, I, like, you know —”
Poor thing is more normal, third eye and all, than her freak parents getting it on in a restaurant in front of their own kid.
I tip my head to the side and put on my Coy Seductress look, poke my tongue out the corner of my mouth a little bit. “What are you thinking?” I grab the lapels of her jacket, pull her in and kiss her. We wrestle our way into the nearby alley. I move to start doing my thing with her but she wants to do all the work – and pay me! Crazy. Then, when she is done, I find out what she really wants.
“I’m, like, hoping for an introduction. You know, to the manager,” She gives me one more shiverlicious lick.
“Oh, honey.” I pull her head to rest between my breasts.
How to tell her? Positions like mine are highly coveted. Those of us who work at Whores and Waffles or Dinks and Donuts, for instance, wear the only true GCC (Government Certified Clean) blue-screened implant. Any other certification is suspect, and the government one costs a fortune because of the cutting edge nanotech they use. When you get hired by a place like Whores and Waffles, they get you certified and in return you sign a contract that binds you into their employment for ten, sometimes fifteen years. It is a big investment for a company to make, but they make mad bank out of the deal because it is the only guaranteed clean sex to be had. We certified are allowed to make extra bank on the side so long as we continue to show up for work.
“Sweetheart,” I say, stroking her blue hair. “Merl won’t hire mutants at Whores and Waffles. Company directive from higher up the food chain. Have you thought of going to Mutants and Muffins®, or a place where mutants are already working?”
“Oh, I didn’t think.”
I’m pissed off at her parents. Stupid freaks. Haven’t even bothered to teach third eye the ins and outs of mutanthood.
“You did a good job with me. I’m sure if they give you an interview, you’ll impress. You just have to find the right kind of place. Are you sixteen?”
I stare at her.
“You need to wait till you’re sixteen. You can’t fool those guys and if you make it past the first screening and they trip you up later – hasta la vista – and for good.”
Broan is sprawled out on the bed wearing sweat pants and a sweatshirt. Because Dongs® require their employees to work all day in the nude he’ll only have sex with me with his clothes on. It’s kind of too bad because he has a really awesome bod, and because it reminds me of work where I have sex with people who mostly have their clothes on. But I’m okay with it, or more okay with it than he is about sex in the nude. I can already tell he is not in the mood anyway, which is fine by me. Our relationship is more about liking the same TH shows, the same food, music, etc. We both have so much sex at work, and on the side to supplement our income, that it is nice just to have someone to hang with, snuggle without grappling.
“You’re late.” He’s not mad. His tone says I’m not angry, just making conversation.
“One of my patrons was waiting after work. She wanted a private session. It was actually kind of sweet. You know, old fashioned.”
“Yah, I’ve heard that’s, like, a new fad.” He flips stations on the TH. “I forgot to tell you, Zzizzik came by. He wants his bank. He looked gnarly, you know, like everyone did today after the President made his announcement. So I paid him for you.”
“Oh, jesus, thanks. I am not up for his antics today, and anyway it was a good day.” I pull out my SmrtCrd and transfer 50 credits to Broan. “Are you hungry?”
“Man, how could I forget?” Broan claps his hand to his forehead. “Dude came in today, paid for the works.” Broan shivers. “Then he gave me two steaks as a tip. Real fucking cow, too, not the genmod plankton shit they sell in the stores.”
“You stay there baby and relax. I’ll shower and then cook them up for us.”
He smiles gratefully at me.
Poor Broan. He is not cut out for this world. His parents were jesus-freak holdouts and raised him with “morals.” Most of the religious true believers committed suicide after the WCME (World Cooperative Military Expedition) traveled back in time to find out, once and for all, whether god exists. But not all. Some of them formed cults and persisted in Believing. Broan’s parents were Believers. Nutjobs to the core. All it got them was a life sentence in a psychiatric facility. Of course, they lost custody of their children, but not before they twisted Broan’s psyche with weird religious notions like no sex with adults, and no murdering.
After showering I open up a screen and try to find out how to cook a real steak. It’s remarkably similar to how the fake crap that is passed off as meat is cooked; only it takes a little longer.
We are speechless after the first bite. I finally manage to ask, “Is he fat?”
“The dude who gave you these.”
“If I could buy real meat like this I’d eat so much I’d get fat. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.” I imagine that if Whores and Waffles Plate-O-Meat actually possessed one molecule of real meat third eye’s parents would have been too busy eating to embarrass their kid at the breakfast table.
We each still have a bite or two on our plates when someone hammers at the door. Both of us drop our knives and forks in unison, as though it has been rehearsed, and give a little jump out of our seats.
“That scared the shit out of me.” I remind myself to tell Broan about the stupid suicide bomber.
More hammering. “GenPo-P. Open up.”
Broan and I look at each other. He tugs the sleeves of his sweatshirt down to his wrists, which he’d pushed up when we started eating.
“I’m coming.” I hurry over to the door and let the SecurITScanner prove to me that they are actual genPo-P and not assholes wanting to rob us. I open the door.
“Officers. Is there a problem?”
“Several of your neighbors reported a suspicious odor coming from your apartment,” says Officer #1.
This kind of thing has started happening all the time. The President has a new campaign called We are All Responsible. If anyone sees someone doing something suspicious it has to be reported. You can actually get in just as much trouble for living in the same building as a suicide bomber, as the suicide bombers will if they survive getting blown up. In fact, the friends and neighbors of the suicide bomber from this morning are probably right this minute wishing they’d never come within one hundred miles of that stupid bitch, and curse very her existence while suffering all sorts of painful questions.
I slump with relief. “Oh, jesus. A patron gave my BF a couple of real steaks today. The neighbors have probably never smelled real meat. I know we hadn’t.”
I want to make it super clear that we are not hiding riches. The genPo-P are not above improving their own lives at the cost of a citizen’s. Who isn’t, really?
“Come in. Come in. There are a couple of bites left. Why don’t you and Officer #2 eat them?”
The officers approach the table with their hands resting on their guns like the steaks might reanimate, become cows and charge at them. Broan gets up slowly from his chair with his palms displayed and moves to stand beside me. The officers’ eyes move around the apartment. Their faces say Confirmed. There is nothing here worth stealing. They each pick up a piece of meat from our plates and eat it. The same bliss we felt is all over their faces. Broan and I give each other a look that says I am damned sorry that it’s not me eating those last couple of bites, but what can you do?
When the meat is gone, the officers swipe their fingers across the plates to get the juice. Officer #1 tips his head. “We were put to an awful lot of trouble to come over here. What say you make it up to us?” He stares at our GCC bands.
Broan goes tense.
“Sure,” I say. “Why not? My BF had a bad day though. Would it be okay if I served your needs?” I kiss Officer #2 on the mouth.
He pushes me away. “No, sorry, that won’t do.”
I look at Broan. I expect to see him working his expression into I’m a little sexpot just for you but instead, there it is – hopelessness. I walk over to him fast and slap him across the face. He shakes himself and begins to peel off his clothes.
I let Broan shower first, after the officers are gone. When I come out, he has on all three pairs of sweats that he owns, layered one over the other.
“Poor baby.” I stroke his forehead, humming a song so that he will fall asleep. I’m glad tomorrow is his day off.
Unfortunately I’m wide-awake so I put in mic-buds to watch a movie on the TH without waking Broan.
News is on every station. The presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens and all the military leaders in the world have disappeared along with all the blueprints, patents, and machines used for time travel. One of the talking heads says that they’ve done a runner. Where to, the other one asks. The past, of course, says the first one.
I turn it off, roll over and sleep. In the morning when my alarm wakes me I’m surprised that Broan is already up. I find him in the bathtub floating in pink water. He’s still dressed.
The past, of course. If those selfish bastards hadn’t taken time travel with them and I could send myself that note here’s what I’d write: Dear Dar-lene, No matter how stupid school seems, stick it out. Try to get a job in the military, or at least become the girlfriend of some military mucky-muck. If you can’t do that, whatever you do, don’t date anyone whose parents were jesus-freak holdouts. They’re not cut out for this world.
Of course, I’m late for work. Again.
Nikki Vogel lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She has an MFA Creative Writing from UBC, and has had several short stories and poems published in online and print journals. When her muse allows her to step away from the computer she plays tennis, cycles and reads voraciously from all genres.