At noon Aggi closed up shop. She had sold out of all her butchered meatsac product. And she had a new task to perform for the Familia.
She did not think of herself as having a problem with Hypium. The drug kept her from losing her mind in Nightland. It wasn’t as if anyone really wanted to have a relationship with the blue daughter of ascendists anyway.
Now sex, yes, she’d had plenty. Everyone single in Jefferson, boy or girl, liked to try and experiment with the blue girl. After all, made a great story. They never wanted to go past the first date, never ever. Never.
She grew tired of that.
Aggi had stopped trying to go out two years before. Besides, it felt like the Hypium was better when she was alone. The Hypium gave her such magnificent dreams. She’d hook up her dream rift and let chemicals and electrical impulses take her to beautiful places. Sometimes she even connected her metaputer and recorded a dream or two. She would try and revisit the very erotic ones from time to time, but they never felt the same without some Hypium to help her… visualize.
Aggi walked back home, her Stall-Bot following her obediently. She carried two paper bags of vegetables, water and potatoes. It was a long walk up the ramps and bridges. She wandered along the edge of a canal, the water flowing from one artificial lake to another through it.
Light throughout Jefferson varied. Maybe at one point all the fixtures and holograms had been idealized, identical light sources. Years of wear and tear had left some with flickers. One or two were too dim to be seen. Some had gone feral in their light, taking on colors not intended when they had been first installed. They also changed to match the false sense of time, the pretend afternoon Aggi knew to be a shared lie amongst all the Jeffersonians.
“Surprise, surprise. Enjoy another day bugging Earth-men?”
Aggi lept up in surprise. She managed to catch one of the bags. She looked over one of her shoulders.
A large cat, its fur thick and long looked up at her. His fur was a dark green, and his voice had a Martian drawl to it. Both of his eyes were a electric, glowing blue- artificial enough to look nothing at all natural.
“Verde. Don’t fekking scare me like that!”
“Watch yer mouth, young lass. Cursing like that ain’t polite for a young person like yerself.” Verde walked around her legs in front of her. The artificial cat gave her a quizzical look. “So, like I asked. You get enough fun bugging the Earth-men, eh?”
“What does a little Shell like you care, Verde? Just another market day. Nothing new.”
“Nothing new, lass? Ah and no, don’t you think?”
“Just another Market Day, Verde. Why do you bug me so much anyway?”
The green cat shrugged. “I’m mostly Bot, lass. A shell in a genehacked cat. Your father made me this body and I owe his girl with my second chance.”
Aggi had heard this story plenty of times. She thought the green feline just liked to bug her. “I’ve still got my mother, you don’t need to bug me to feel nice about yourself.”
Verde sniffed. “The religious nut? Riiight, lass. She be just the one you should take after.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you have a point with that.” Aggi frowned. “I sold out of my latest Meatsac crop. Its been a good sell today.”
“You didn’t get more of the White did you?” Verde asked. His tone sounded apprehensive.
“That’s none of your-”
“Aggi, you need to quit. You think no one can notice the girl with shaking hands wearing sunglasses? Or that you sometimes walk hours and hours, bleeding because you can’t feel any pain?”
“I need it.”
“No, you don’t-”
“Oh you don’t understand it. You don’t have to deal with all of this fek.” Aggi waved a hand around herself. She clambered up a set of dark, black metallic steps. Each step was covered in bluish kudzu. “I have to take the Hypium. I can’t dream without it.”
“You would have dreams again, you just need to take a long enough break from it, lass!” Verde followed her up, leaping up atop Aggi’s Stall-Bot. He looked at her, their eye levels about even. “Everybody has problems. Try an actual fix. See a Doc, get a script for something that fits your brain. Or get a hack or something. Hypium can’t keep those feelings away forever, lass.”
“Funny, because some nights I stare at the tube of the White and try to decide what to do with it, Verde.
“Do I take more or do I just finally end it all? I shouldn’t feel that, but the thoughts always come and come and come…” Tears filled her eyes. “Sometimes getting the next genehack done makes it go away. But the Hypium and my dream rift give me something I can’t ever have.”
The green cat paused. He seemed to think about his next words, mulled them over, then spoke them slowly.
“Lass, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but something else happened today, when you were gone.”
Aggi wiped her tears and tried to look less emotional. “What?”
“I… I will tell you, now, but you can’t go taking the White as soon as you get to your house, follow me? Don’t do something stupid and make Old Verde feel dumb telling you, understand?”
“Verde, spill it.”
The green cat sighed. “I can try, I suppose. I’ll tell you anyway. You ever hear of a Splicer Rose?”
Aggi’s heart thudded in her chest. That was the name of her father’s mother. Her grandmother. Splicer Rose had been one of the greatest genehackers in the entire Wahlerian Regime. During the Unification War, Splicer Rose had crafted many of the genehacked wonders that fought for the Ascendist side. She’d been old when she’d had given birth to Aggi’s father. But genehacks and other technology had rendered Splicer Rose practically ageless by that point.
Aggi had spent much of her life wishing to be like her grandmother. To learn the most complex of the genehacks. To transcend her tiny life on Jefferson to become the heir to Splicer Rose’s title. To become the best genehacker in the System. To help win back the war for humanity the ascendists had lost before Aggi had been born.
All Aggi could respond with was: “Yea.”
“They came by earlier for you. I recognized them. They didn’t think much of a green cat.”
Aggi paused. She wondered who ‘they’ were. Her first worry pertained to theft. Aggi had all of her metaputers and passkeys hidden there. Her meatsacs seeds and all of her pet projects. None of it was as complicated as Verde’s bio-cybernetic Shell, but they were hers.
“Who is ‘they’?” Aggi asked, glancing around. A fresh pint of paranoia suddenly kicked her blood into a new quantum state.
“They were EL black coats, lass. They left you a holo on your metanet node. Looked like it ‘twere a bit about your grandmother.”
“Why were you looking at my-”
“Bah, lass.” Verde started to scratch himself behind one green-and-white ear. “You shouldn’t do what they want.”
Aggi Rose finished climbing the stairs up to her tiny nook in Jefferson Pod. Another acreage, sitting on the ground of Jefferson Pod but the acreage belonged to her alone. She’d earned it and taken it for her burgeoning Meatsac grove. That had been when she first moved out of her mother’s apartment, which sat close to the air docks. Aggi disliked the traffic that called into the port, but her mother went out every day to try and convert another to her own particular Trinity Cult.
Aggi’s stall-bot moved into its resting juncture. It settled down, cables extending and it hooked up its power, resting. The small lean-to of corrugated yellow metal was located next to where the stall-bot had sat down. A hammock hung under that small roof of yellow metal. With the stall-bot resting, it turned the small pieces of bolted metal into a reasonable home-looking shape.
Putting up the roof had been for purely privacy concerns. It hid her metanet node, Aggi’s main link to the greater Jefferson Pod Metanet. She put the bags down beside her hammock.