Crache > Excerpt

Fola :: BURDEN OF FAITH

The cross weighs on Fola. Even in the micro-g of the asteroid it seems to exert a downward pull. The sensation is more mental than physical. She knows that. The slave-pherions that bound her to the Jesuettes have been cut out with chemical scalpels. But her mind still registers the weight of the cross the way it would the phantom pain of a severed limb.

Scar tissue.

A good thing. That's why she wears the cross, to remember. What she was back on earth. Who she is now.

The cross is a mystery in other ways. Lately, the stone it was cut from has grown heavier, the need to remember more insistent. She finds herself fingering the glass-smooth surface and cracked fragments of embedded bone, absently polishing them in response to some vague, nameless anxiety.

Ephraim. It has to be. Her tuplet buddy's dour moods are seeping into her, a slow capillary trickle through the biodigital wires that connect them. It isn't just concern for his sister. That worry was there from the beginning. This is different. Something else is going on. Another wound has opened up, spilling fresh blood.

Rexx :: WHITE RAIN

White Rain. Adipose Rexx can feel the need for a quick dose rising like brackish water in the back of his throat.

A modified black-market biodigital, the drug is designed for direct softwire delivery to the neo-cortex. It's cleaner that way – no messy pills, liquids, or combustible materials – the equivalent of chemical acupuncture. The delivery system is a type of wireless RNA activated by a molectronic switch. Under normal conditions the riboswitch is inactive. Under the influence of the right narrow-band signal, the protein changes shape for the duration of the squirt. This new shape tells ribosomes to start producing the drug, which is synapse-specific and gengineered to nuke certain neurotransmitters. The resulting fallout induces a pleasant state of zazen. His mind fills with a mushroom cloud of well-being.

L. Mariachi :: GUEST WORKER

The old Boeing 9x9 shudders as it descends, buffeted by turbulence over the Rocky Mountains. Joints groan, rivets creak. L. Mariachi can feel the palsied vibration deep in his bones, the metal fatigue that mirrors his own weariness. The plane, a pre-ecocaust relic that's been resurrected for nonessential cargo duty, is fast approaching the end of its usefulness. Like him, the years have worn it down. If it crashes and burns, no big loss. The three hundred migrant workers onboard can be easily replaced. There are plenty of other braceros in the world, ready to take their place.

He presses his face to the scratched, pitted window. One thousand meters below, Front Range City sprawls next to a barren hogback of shale-toothed foothills. FRC stretches for several hundred kilometers to the north and south, a thin ribbon of buildings shaded by UV-reflective umbrella palms and powered by circuitrees or rooftop arrays of solar panels where the concrete buildings poke above the leaves.

To the west, canyons dotted with drought-resistant aquaferns pipe condensation into underground storage tanks. To the east, a dust storm roils along the far edge of Colorado's eastern plains, kicked up by a low-pressure system over the Kansas dust flats.

The plane trembles as it banks into its final approach to the airport, still known as DIA, Denver International. At the southern tip of the termina a single monorail track gleams in the harsh morning sunlight. The silver thread cuts through barran scab land to the vat pharm sixty kilometers away. The pharm's rash of bubble domes remind him of heat blisters, raise goose bumps on his arms.

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Copyright © 2004 Mark Budz. All rights reserved.