[Original Novel] Metal Fever II: The Erasure of Asherah, Part 1
Metal Fever 1 can be read here
I’ve heard that doing time is like being dead. You’re so isolated from the outside world and thoroughly removed from the lives of your loved ones, you may as well be six feet under. Never more true than it is for me.
Six years gone, in the blink of an eye. I thought I was so clever at the time, inducing that coma. It beat the hell out of actually serving my sentence properly, but the human brain does not cope well with such a drastic violation of continuity.
Prison’s not so bad when you’re fullmetal. Your cellmate can’t add a couple new lanes to your Hershey highway if you haven’t got one, for example. Going fullmetal made me stronger in ways I never anticipated would come in so handy.
It also made me less human though. That’s the classic cliche, what all the pre-metal retro scifi flicks warned us about…but in this case, their prediction was right. When subjected to irresistible force, you must bend or you will break. Which is to say that when life gets too brutal for a human to survive, you either become less human or you perish.
I wasn’t really confronted with the full meaning of this until I walked out the front gates, covered in dents I don’t remember the causes of, belongings in hand…into a world I no longer recognize. It wasn’t raining though. Beautiful sunny day, so I didn’t get to feel like a dramatic badass on my way out.
Six years is a lot longer than it used to be in terms of technological and societal change. To hear Dad tell it, anyway. I don’t recognize any of the brands on these billboards. The autocabs are different, and all the volos have been replaced by these weird teardrop shaped things that don’t look like they should be able to fly.
I ask myself aloud what app I need to get one of those things to land, and fly my ass out of here. It’s downloaded a moment later, and soon one of the baffling streamlined aircraft is setting down before me.
Up close I can see there are air inlets in the top to either side, and I can hear the telltale whine of electric turbofans. Or something similar? Exposed metal channels running from the craft’s nose to its tail suggest some sort of solid state ionic propulsion instead, though I don’t understand how that could even work.
The peppy little mascot confirms my suspicions after I drag the passed out hobo from inside, climb in and consent to the unreadably long EULA for first time riders. He’s this irritating spastic little cartoon caricature of the vehicle I’m in with bulbous eyeballs and arms, telling me all about the features of the cab.
I set my auditory system to filter out his voice. Now all I can hear is the hum of the cryptic propulsion system as the craft takes off. If I still had a stomach, it would be turning over on itself. Instead, I search for anything I can find about Aubrey.
Social media photos pop up depicting her and that fucking douchebag who sold me out to the cops. Married? That’s what her status says. They even popped out a bunch of ugly little blonde children. What a hell of a thing that is.
She’s living in Antarctica now, downtown McMurdo according to her profile. Either way she’s no longer relevant to my housing arrangements. I message the administrative AI of my old apartment building about my bike. Impounded, then sold at auction. I swear so loudly that even the little cartoon mascot looks appalled.
Same with all my shit, sold at auction. They’ve really done it now. Busted me down to nothing. I may as well be tumbling out of the womb! As the skyscrapers pass by below, I feel whatever part of me held so tightly to the life I knew slowly letting go.
This isn’t my city anymore. Not my world, even. Beyond the city, I see the completed cohab gleaming in the afternoon sun. Beyond it, I can faintly make out identical cohabs on the horizon linked to the nearest one by what look like elevated tracks.
I magnify as much as I can, and now spot bulbous little transit pods sliding along those tracks, presumably carrying people between the massive multi-zone living centers. It’s difficult to understand why anybody would go live in one of those things until you endure your first gas storm.
A thin green band of clouds out to sea hint at what I already know is coming. Methane, bubbled up from melting seafloor clathrate deposits and carried to land by the wind. I was never too clear on the specifics, just taught never to stay outside for long unless I carried a scrubber mask with me.
A quick search for weather news reveals it’s worse than I thought. “Atmospheric changes drive demand for implantable lung scrubbers.” Some activist op-ed. “Broken methane cycle impacts world’s poor most severely; subsistence farmers cannot afford the implants they now need simply to breathe.”
It’s a cozy but guilty feeling to read shit like this when you’re a fullmetal. Once you’ve gone this far, most human problems no longer apply to you. It’s so easy to simply decide I’m separate from those people. That it’s their problem to deal with, one which has nothing to do with me.
None of this has anything to do with me, not anymore. This isn’t the world I knew. I have no life here. No business here either, not after getting busted for that heist. Every cop and their extended family will know my face. But then, it’s not the cops I’m most worried about recognizing me.
First stop is Dad’s place. When that clanking pile of parts approached the landing pad, keeping a safe distance until it set down, I didn’t even realize it was him. When he said he had a change of heart about cybernetics, I never thought he’d literally change his heart and every other part of his body he could afford to.
None of the parts even matched. Not that Dad has ever cared to coordinate, aesthetically. The seastead shifted noticeably as a large wave passed under it, but Dad’s an old salt by now, didn’t even miss a step. Either that or he’s got software that handles balancing for him.
“Look at you! Same as the day they locked you up.” He seized me by the shoulders and laughed heartily, insofar as his speech synth could simulate laughter accurately. “And you…?” I replied. “What the hell happened to you?”
He did a goofy little jig, his mismatched parts clinking and clanking against each other in the process. Like a jolly Tin Man from those old story books. He struck a pose. ‘It’s the new me! I told you this old dog could learn some new tricks.”
I stammered that I never thought he’d go so far with it, as the two of us headed from the landing pad towards a neatly landscaped public space in the center of the floating platform. “What, you think your old man can’t beat you at your own game?”
He thumped his chest, making another hollow sounding clang on impact. To his credit, the parts all look very high end, just combined in ways the manufacturers would never recommend. It’s all a bit rusted too, but that’s unavoidable when you live on the sea unless you bolt a zinc bar to your ass or something.
He led me to his own villa, as cozy and luxurious as I remembered from when I bought it for him. Not a moment too soon either, as the waves only seemed to be getting larger. Rich green storm clouds could be seen approaching out the large, round East-facing window.
Dad seemed unbothered, so I didn’t pay it any mind either. “You got some looks when you landed.” I believed him, but hadn’t noticed anybody myself. Since a storm was rolling in, the outdoor areas of the stead were deserted.
I checked my body cameras. The facial recognition turned up four rubber neckers peering at me through portholes in the side of a building, just like the old man said. He’s always been sharp, though he’s such an oddball that it’s easy to forget.
“It’s no good to go tromping around in that body. Everybody remotely connected to anything shady recognizes you at a glance now, on account of how widely reported your little stunt was.”
I assumed he meant the heist, and resulting court case. Sure enough, searching back a few years yielded page after page of articles and videos. I didn’t expect such a media circus, just for little old me.
Stay Tuned for Part 2!