Trex World, Part 41
THE HIVES ZOMG THE HIVEz OMG DA HIVES OHM MEH GAWD DAR HIVENS…
Amanda_adnamA's vid feed dropped off an addymap to the fore of his working environment on his trex's screen. Straight into the Local No. 108 Youth Development Complex. Great holy fleist, what was she doing there. Stomping grounds for the young. Get your beat on. Get you shag on. Get your experience on. Start networking NOW, kiddo, or you gonna fall hard on the Floor. You gonna be walkin' the Expanse instead o'tubin under it.
There are hives of different types. For the destitute. The down and out. Vacancy is high because life is short in those areas, the Floors of the Dispossessed. Paul spent a brutal five years at Youth Development Complex No. 128, himself, earning enough raisins to leave early. Most of his time was spent watching alpha-types chase enough buxom butt that by the time they were out, they were already VP of some entrenched firm or the other. Was it wrong that Paul wanted something a little more substantial? Was it stupid of him to assume that Jinee would want the same? Probably.
Hives were located deeper within the Capillaries, farther away from the Expanse than the residential filigree. Paul didn’t know the origin of the name. Something lost to Antiquity. And this was a thought that continued to bother him, up until his mom was in hospital on a more or less permanent basis at any rate, and that was, what are the nature of our words? Why do we know what we know? Where does it all come from anyway? I mean, take “venereal disease”, something every young hiveling gets beaten into their skull that VD is why free prophylactics were available free of charge. Fine. But what is a “venereal”, anyway? He had jokingly referred to it in his hive exit interview with PanPro, who had taken a liking to his testing styles, as, Have I Venereal Experience? It drew a few laughs. Made it as a meme for a few picoseconds, even.
The shenanigan's didn’t stop with chasing a piece of meat, either. Being only restricted by Authority on the grounds of not being able to leave the hive, save on sanctioned tours of the Bizness District, the hive itself was a sort of no-man’s land. Survival of the fittest and all that. Not that there was much in the way of actual violent crime by any means, not when Authority was on call 24/7, and somebody who got the wrong idea in their head about Last Day of the Week fun suddenly had his or her face posted everywhere they didn’t want it to be, despite all that, there was still a certain amount of latitude regarding the setup of the place. Cliques were very strong, especially with kids who came from leading corporate families, but at the same time they didn’t last very long, either.
Cripes. Holy cripes. There was something he was forgetting. He knew there was. Hm. May haps Amanda_adnamA could get him another dose of Taste!’s Memory Manager or whatever it was they called it, maybe she could get him a dose that would let this sinking feeling that he had done something really wrong and unthinking and uncaring would come to light and he could address it. Maybe even correct it. In the meantime, he was going to have to come to grips with hive life once more. Forcing the thoughts of hive life was bringing back some memories. A conversation with Jinee, for instance. He had fallen for the way her light brown hair seemed to effortlessly float just above her shoulders. That, and she actually paid some attention back his way. He was busy asking questions about the World, seeing if anyone would play game:
“Where the wild oats are sewn. What does that mean, exactly?”
“Well,” chimed in Jinee, “My friend's friend of a friend says an 'oats' stands for Optional Adornment Through Sexuality and so 'wild oats' is something were you get to have a lot of sex with who ever wants it, you know?”
“Kinda great, Jinee, that's the best answer I've heard all month.”
“Really? Fancy a shag, then?”
“Of course right now, silly. Little Jinee is hungry.”
Ugh. The most painful thing about the hive experience was usually the memory of it. All those opportunities for biological satisfaction, wasted on weird ideas about what should and shouldn’t happen. Romantic to be sure, but stupidly so, those kind of feelings got clunkier the older Paul got and yet the longing he felt on lonely nights was still there. Not that he was the only one who felt that way, to be sure, but the kids who made it out on top of the hive’s raisin status were usually on top, so to speak, while living in the hive. And underneath. On the left and right sides. And so on.
Attached to the vid feed was a hive invite. You needed one of those to get past the Authority barriers at the main arteries. Once in, good luck, buddy. Don’t call Authority unless you really need help. Prank calls were rewarded with the prankster spending time in hospital for “cramps” and twenty or thirty bystanders tucked away in a timeout somewhere for however long Authority felt was necessary. Noobsters learned pretty quick that there were plenty of people you could prank, just so long as they were members of the hive itself.
Paul hot-footed through the labyrinth of tubes and junctions, letting his omnitrex be his guide, until arriving at the gatehouse to No. 108. Standard Authority checkpoint fare, reading and cataloging his trex, looking for the invite file, verifying that with the issuer’s time stamp. Verification went smooth, the bored gatekeeper dialed his trex and the hive access door, a monstrous amalgam of some sort of mineral deposit, cracked open just a bit. Strobing light and sound boomed out, followed by the acrid stench of ozone traces. The officer had already returned to watching whatever feed he had bought before Paul interrupted him.
Trex yourself out a piece of French bread. Now look really close at it. Closer. So you can see all the little cells of emptiness between the bits of bread itself. Note the roundness of some of those cells. How there’s a lot of floor and then suddenly a swoop up and around and back to flatness. The cells are more or less connected by curvilinear spires that undulate between fat and thin. Now, increase the scale of that piece of bread. Make the cells twenty meters tall, the curving and expansive walls all made with plastiform. Fill the walls with hexagons. The hexagons pack close with one another in clusters and then groups of clusters. Vertex to vertex they’re two meters wide. There are doors in the faces of the hexagons that lead into simple rooms that supply basic needs. That’s your basic hive room right there. Capable of squeezing in four, maybe five folk if you’re feeling adventurous.
That’s the basic structure. Then you fill it with people. People between the ages of 12 and 18, who are free to do just about anything they wish, under the constraints that anybody can call the heavy hand of Authority at any time they wish. What you have then is a mass of Loud. Loud sights. Loud sounds. Loud smells. Oh Gawd, the smell. Paul had forgotten the funk that would waft through a hive on it’s way to be digested by the ceiling, the Flooring here sublimating fresher air, having no direct access to the Expanse. The younger kids running every which way in packs and singly, playing trextag or whatever, the older bunches grouping together and moping, trying their best to look bored and conspicuous at the same time, blaring the latest bass meme at gut-rumbling levels. Suspicious glances were tossed his way. He was not to be trusted. He was an oldy. Probably a parent of some wank that couldn’t cut it on his own. Paul got the uneasy feeling that he was being followed. And that was only natural; he did the same thing himself at that age.
You’d follow the adult and see where the kid was that was having the mental episode. Get a lock on his position. Then, unless the loser was so freaked out he had to go to hospital, you reported back on his position and once the parental unit had left the hive, blammo, his number was up. The hazing rarely got to the point that the kid would call Authority..they were too embarrassed to do so most of the time. But it did get pretty bad. Paul had been tempted in his youth to almost call home at least a couple of times a week, but after seeing what happened to the kids that did so, he always opted out at the last moment.
Following the map on his trex, avoiding the run-ins with whatever gangs were running around, off to entice or learn the ropes of young and dangerous love...SO much heart break, SO much drama, ugh. It was awful. At least you didn’t run the chance of becoming a dad. Authority mandated sterile blocks. Shuddering, Paul put aside the past and buzzed the door. Amanda_adnamA answered, radiant as ever, leaping out and hugging him and laughing, a playful set of kisses darting his face.
“I knew you’d make it,” she said.
“Well, I gotta admit I'm a bit surprised by the whole thing, yes. I mean, what are you doing here?”
“Come on in and I’ll show you.”
Paul was surprised to see another girl, much younger than Amanda_adnamA, maybe fifteen. She looked up, wide-eyed and fearful at Paul. Paul’s eyes went wider than hers; the girl’s belly was proclaiming she was pregnant.
“Paul, this is Annie. Annie, Paul’s a great guy. He’s on our side.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Thought you were Authority for a moment. Or my parents. Nice to meet you, Paul.”
“Uh, nice to meet you too, Annie. Say, um, if you don’t mind, how old are you?”
“Old enough for a kid, I guess.”
“Yeah…jeebus, Manda, this is crazy. Does anybody else know she’s here?”
“Just us Tasters. We’re recruiting Annie for our youth brigade. Fun, huh?”
“Yeah, I guess. What’s the story, Annie?”
“I dunno Paul,” slightly defensive at his oldy tone. “Woke up a couple months ago and started throwing up all over my dwell space. It was awful. Holed myself up, cried myself to sleep every night for a week didn’t know what was going on. It finally subsided and then I went about my biz, I was supposed to start junior training memes in the PanPro core group here but I just felt distracted all the time. Didn’t do so hot. Then my belly started getting big. That’s when I knew. Holed myself up again. Thought I was going to swell up forever. Did a lot of feed research, Figgered out that I was on my own. Crazy, right? I was about to give up and call the parentals in when Manda and a couple others showed up at my door, like...like a dream. They were so nice. So kind. You don’t understand what it was like, Paul. I had to cut myself off from everyone. It was terrible.”
Paul considered this for a moment. “I bet. You’re amazingly forthright, Annie. Way braver than me, that’s for sure. If I was in the hive and it was happening to me, I’d be bargfark-nutz right now.”
“Ha--What’s a bargfark?”
“I dunno. It’s ugly whatever it is,” he said, sitting beside her. “Annie, you don’t have nay idea who the father is, do you?”
“No, not really. It’s always busy here, you know, boyz always want to get in your biz and you have to fend em off as best you can if they’re stupid or ugly.”
“Jeebus, though, wait. You say this was only a couple months?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“You're flippin' huge for a couple of months, Annie. Have you seen a doc?”
The girl said nothing. Amanda_adnamA piped up, “She’s been too scared to, Captain Obvious; that’s why we’re here. And why she’s going to become a Taster.”
“I see,” Paul said, taken aback a bit. “Hm. Do your remember where you were a couple months ago?”
“All sorts of places. It’s all fuzzy in my head and I can’t really remember.”
Paul gave a knowing glance to Amanda and she nodded back. Memory Manager might be just the thing that was required.
“So, when do we get you to Taste!?”
“Well, sweet biscuits, then. She’s not legal. Any ideas of getting her past the entry point? I don’t think even the local bored Authority doods at the gate would be stupid enough not to notice something was awry with mizz Annie here.”
Amanda_adnamA started checking her trex. “We’ll take care of that in a minute. First, let’s eat, ‘k?”
“Oh. Yeah. Um, I’m still low on cred…”
“Fuhgeddabout it. I’ve got some scripts that are simply to die for. Something Trent and Laura whipped up just the other day. I’ve been dying to try some but you keep getting in my way.”
“Trent and Laura?”
He slapped his head. “Holy crap! I forgot all about work! I mean, I ddidn’t ask where and when to clock in and--”
“Hold it, sugar, hold it,” Amanda_adnamA said, belly laughing. “You’re at work right now, k? You’re with me. So settle down and dig on that jam Trent and Laura just came up with.” She dialed up a table cloth and dinnerware and soon piping hot biscuits and an intricately cut glass jar filled with red shiny goodness bubbled into existence. Oh to have a working extrusion account again, thought Paul. Something beyond protein cakes and simple di-hydrogen oxide.
Di-hydrogen oxide. How had he remembered that lame old joke just now? Maybe it was Manda’s scent. Yes, he thought, it’s highly probably that Amanda_adnamA carries that scent of Memory Manager around with here wherever she goes. The memory that surfaced was something he had seen sprayed on a wall by a terrorist. “BEWARE HYDROGEN HYDROXIDE” the hasty scrawl proclaimed. He had been walking with his mother when she read the graffiti and bent double laughing.
“What’s so funny?” he enquired.
She responded, “Do you not know what that is, Paul?”
“No, it sounds scary, though.”
“Let me show you just how scary it is,” and she pointed her omnitrex at him and squirted a great stream of water, soaking him thoroughly. They then ran back and forth through the Expanse, having water fight fun between treetek and bushtek, pausing only for their trex’s to take on feed.
[[[NB: trex’s feed by hooking a tube to any bit of flooring material and waiting a bit. say. hm. 30 seconds. this would make great anxious fun, then. i'll revise that point L8r, thanx.]]]
“Care to join us, Annie?” asked Amanda_adnamA, snapping Paul out of his reverie.
“That’d be great, I’m freakin starved.”
They dove into the jam and biscuits.
“What do you call this marvelous stuff?”
“I dunno, you’ll have to ask Laura or Trent. They just call it number twelve-b.”
“Nice name. So. Back to idears for getting her outta here.”
“No problemo there, bucko. We’ve got a method. Thanks, in part, to you.”
'Yuppers. Itty pulled some rather nifty data on your pad in the wee hours of your clock cycle.”
“After we’re done. More jam, Annie?”
“Oh yes, please.”
Finishing the deliciousness, they stood, Amanda_adnamA helping Annie out of her seat and moved close to the closed end of the tight space, opposite the door. Glancing at her trex, the she said “Looks like it’s here.”
“What’s here?” asked Paul.
“Our ride. Let’s hold hands now. Paul, you and me at the wall here and we’ll both have a grip on Annie that way. Now other hands on the wall, that’s it. Keep your legs rigid, like we’re sliding down something. This is going to be a little scary, Annie, but don’t worry, it’ll be great.”
Annie nodded her head and Paul tried to say “Wha…” but felt an extremely strong suction and was startled to find his hand was being pulled into the wall. It’s consistency was like goo and it was pulling him in, the floor was losing friction. Amanda squealed in gleeful play and Annie was chanting “omigawd omigawd” over and over again and then there was a swift pop! and they were in blackness and then they were in the light again. A bubble of plastiform, slightly larger then the hive space they were just in, light permeating through the wall all around them. Soon there was that feeling in his stomach of changing accelerations.
“Holy mollies,” breathed Annie, wide eyed but grinning.
“So, what now, you’ve figgered all this out without a tube?” Paul exclaimed.
“That’s right. We’ve got the protocols under control. This is about as large as we can pull off, though, to avoid other traffic. Now we can go anywhere.”
“So long as it’s in the World, yes.”
Annie groaned and gripped her stomach. “Oh,” she said.
“What’s wrong?” asked Amanda_adnamA
“I think the baby just kicked me.”
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