The Dance – 01

Quiet and melodious tones infiltrate your existence.

Gently, slowly, you awake. It is the type of drifting into wakefulness that can only be achieved with modern technology and advanced chemistry, but you can afford it. It was part of the contract.

Your eyes open, and you stretch. You know the cameras are watching. They always are, for security purposes of course. The contract explicitly states that only limited AI may view the stream from the bedroom and that you have final approval on whether to keep of dump any footage.

Responding to your movement, the glass of your bedroom windows slowly shifts its polarization, letting in more and more of the morning light. Outside is the city.

Brilliant cerulean sky dotted with wispy clouds fills your vision. The thin contrails of aerodynes and airplanes are visible, and there, off in the extreme distance, is the faint vertical contrail of a delta slipping the gross bonds of earthly constraint. You try to trace the contrail and your eyes comply with your desire to see more clearly. Your vision zooms in, smoothly, as you search for the plane itself.

There! That brilliant flash of light, a speck really. Do you see it? Yes, there. You can just make out the triangular shape of the spaceplane. That’s from the Company’s spaceport. The people on board could be goin anywhere, but you know where they’re going, don’t you.

The Crystal Palace.

You sigh. You’ve always wanted to go there, but like every other earthbound schlep you can’t afford it. Even with all this luxury around you, you still can’t afford even a round trip ticket. Maybe a suborbital hop so you could see it with your company eyes…

You sigh and stretch again. Time to get real. Work will start in… query… one-point-seven-two-five hours.


You experience a mild annoyance as you become aware of your system’s subtle offer of a mood enhancer to go with your thoughts, waving it away with a pass of your hand. Time to get up.

You get out of the comfortable bed and pad across the apartment toward the bathroom, glancing outside one more time. From your upright position you can see more of the City.  You aren’t in the tallest building, and you’re nowhere near the penthouse, but you’ve got one hell of a view. So many rooftops beneath you, with their green spaces and gardens, and a few even have recreational areas on the rooftop.

There are people there, you can see them from here, with the same clarity of vision that you picked out the delta with. Plebs. Going about their lives, living for now in their immediate pleasures. Some are beautiful, you think idly. Of course, anyone who can afford to play on a rooftop garden can afford to be beautiful.

Your eye catches on one lithe form, moving through the water of a rooftop pool. They are in excellent shape, almost sculpted. Probably are.

You divorce yourself from the view and move back to your preparations for the day. A shower first, after the morning necessities.

While you take care of business the smell of coffee begins to fill the apartment. You’re not sure really if it’s your bio monitor “helping” you out or if it’s really coffee in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter. It’s a better alert than having a flashing neon sign in your vision that says “Coffee’s Ready! (r)”, like one of the plebs.

You step into the shower and luxuriate in it. The water perfectly warmed to your preferences, the nine automated shower heads aiming the streams exactly where you need them, when you need them. You scrub your scalp the old fashioned way, with hands. You’ve read about AI manipulators that can do that, but that’s for the best of the best. The Old Lady on top of the company probably has that. No, strike that. She’s powerful enough she probably has a pair of full body conversions to do the job for her.

Everyone talks about freedom in America like it means something, but you work for the company, you know better. Power breeds privilege.

Enough idle thoughts. The shower is done and you exit the booth. You’d love to have a tub, to soak in, but the shower is more water efficient. It’s easier to recycle the water in the shower too, thus cheaper. With all the luxury around you sometimes its easy to forget how much efficiency rules the day.

Your absorbent bathrobe is already at the perfect temperature, a hot, warm embrace that enfolds you as you shrug it on after your brief towel dry.

Into the kitchen then, for a seat at the bar on the kitchen island. To your left is another view of the City. More distant though. You could go out onto the balcony, but then you’d have all the noise too. You don’t want that. Morning workout is coming, followed by a quick cleanse. But right now, coffee.

You cradle the steaming mug in your hands, smelling the steam, then take your first sip. The bitter and the sweet, the thrill of it. The warmth, just right. Just hot enough to be uncomfortable so you have to blow it it a little bit.

The AI chef has prepared it just right, exactly to your preferences, with just that little bit of randomness thrown in to give you the hint of human imperfection. If it were the same, exactly the same, every day, day in and day out, that would become mechanical. But it isn’t, it’s just a little different every time. Perfect. Isn’t technology is wonderful?

It better be. The amount of time you spent on getting a “perfect” chaotic principle to work with AI food prep is what landed you this job and this contract in the first place. You’d better enjoy the perks!

You savor the coffee and as you glance at the wall. The apartment’s computers read your interface and know you want the news, so there it is. Or what passes for news these days. The newsfeed doomscrolls as you browse headlines all while Net72–“The Last Real News Channel (r)”– plays in a feed to the right, your interface reading your response from the minute cues you give it subconsciously. 

Ah, there’s something interesting. Amidst all the glitz and glamour and sex and depravity and hate and murder (with occasional cute local ragamuffin stories at a 0.27% ratio) there’s another hint of poaching in your field.

Remember when they used to call it headhunting? Yeah, back then, when your grandma was worrying about the 2020s, that was headhunting. It was clean and legal and all (mostly) within bounds. But this one, oh that’s dark. Professional hit team. Well that’s a breath of fresh air, real professional. They only used bullets against the robots. Huh. Professional hitters with ethics? Weird.

With the last sip you finish off your coffee and put it in the boundary area for the kitchen AI to take care of. One more cup for afternoon break. That sounds like a reasonable bit of excess, doesn’t it? Yeah, it does.

You stand and move across the living space to the small home gym that’s included in this apartment package. This is the best part. It’s almost like a vacation before work. All the research these days says that creatives and code warriors work best when they are healthy and fit, and that chaos principle was a nice bit of work, so you get 30 minutes of workout a day on this baby. Lots of chrome on this model, makes it flashier. The seat is properly cushioned in the right spots, no hard spots for your workout. The resistance gear, the supports. No weights these days. Free weights are for people without money.

You change into your workout clothes. It’s a bit unnecessary, you think. No one can see you work out, not anyone except the AI and maybe your psychologist, but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s not a workout without the shorts and tank top. Who could handle bits of themselves flopping around without proper containment during a workout? That’s just uncouth.

Clothes–the right clothes–adorning your body, you move into the small gym and sit down. You pick up the little silver box on the side and open it, almost reverently. You can’t escape the anticipation of what awaits. Inside the box are the little chrome-covered bits and pieces. They’re beautiful work. Two ear buds, two nose filters, and four studs.

You slot the studs in your wrists, see the lights. Connection good.

You plug in the nose filters, always a little funny at first, but then the slightly oily scent of the machinery is replaced with a soft floral vanilla. Good.

Now the earbuds. They fit well, firm but not hard, their sili-gel ™ molding to fit your ear canals. The white noise starts and then you can’t hear much of anything. Also good, though a little disorienting.

Lastly the plug for your neck and the base of your skull. With the ease of long practice you slot the plug beneath your left ear, right behind the lobe. It settles in with a comforting click. Then the last one, the base of the skull in back. You move your hair to the side, feeling for the biogel cover. The nanotech moves out of the way and you slot the last stud, right into your central nervous system.

Now, where to go today?

You’ve been thinking about it since before coffee. When you saw the delta taking off for space.

Yeah, that’s it. The Crystal Palace. Patric-A just did a tour of the Palace for Skydance Virtual, and you haven’t been on this one yet. They always do such a good job with their VR sims, let you feel all the senses. Heck, they even work in enough sim so that when you want some direct motor control you can do that. That sounds about right.

Hovering in your field of view are all the choices of where you could go for this workout. A quick 30 minutes in the Palace would do wonders for your, wouldn’t it? Of course it would! You select the sim, roll your head left and right, and reach up to grab the gym’s handlebars.

The move is very assertive, direct, and you don’t really feel yourself doing it as the sim starts to take over. Maybe some bench presses today? Who knows. Your legs were sore after the last one so maybe today is arm day. Your vision begins to fade as the mechanical arm starts to push down and your begin your bench press. It feels so weird, this moment of disorientation as your arms and body do what the machine wants them to do, what your workout needs them to do, but you don’t.

Wait, are we going to question who you are?

What is you?

Nah. Too existential for your jaunt to the Palace. You fade to black quickly, and the next thing you know you’re in.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Looking out the window like this? It costs so much money to have a window seat in space. Most folks hitting the orbitals are stuck in steerage, but not you. You’re special. You can afford the window seat. And there it is, floating in space, a great spinning jewel with multiple bands of color, a wheel. No, really it’s more of a cylinder.

Oh, you’re in for a treat today, you’re coming in during the morning! The three giant panels that make up the radiators and solar cells are opening up, reflecting the sunlight down into the rotating cylinder, creating what you only hope to witness tomorrow morning, Sunrise on the Crystal Palace ™.

You come to consciousness sometime later. You are in your bed. Your arms hurt a little. So does your back. The lights are off, the room is dark. Your arms itch.

The lights aren’t coming on at your desire. They should, but they aren’t. You sit up in the darkness. Did the windows polarize? Why are you here? You should be on the bench. That’s where you wind up after every other virtual.

What’s that smell? You realize your nose filters are gone. You can smell… something… coppery? You reach up to rub your nose and realize that the smell intensifies.

“Lights,” you croak out. Nothing.

“Shades?” you try. Still nothing. Is the power out in the apartment? How is that possible? The building has its own reactor.

The windows rattle. Not just the windows, the entire room rattles, and you sense motion outside.


Sudden! Intense light! As if God Himself spoke the words of creation in your ear, light!

The bright, actinic white is accompanied by the low buzzing orange/red/blue of the cops.

You look around the room, in shock.

This can’t be.

Why are your hands covered in drying blood?

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