It's weird when you realize that you hate everything. I'm not talking in the abstract, I mean it literally. You hate everything. You want to smash and destroy every single damned thing that you can think of and would just as soon puke as to have to deal with any of it again, ever. I hated it all – the job, the apartment, the team, the company and even the planet itself. I just wanted to strike out at something, someone. Everything and everyone. Just attack and destroy and kill until the violence forced everything to be sane again.
But of course, I couldn't do that. So I went on vacation.
Since the leave had come unexpectedly, Marce didn't have the chance to arrange any down‑time for herself. I spent the first two days just kicking around the apartment with that ball of hate spinning around inside of me. Marce would come home to me doing push‑ups or practicing my hand‑to‑hand routines. She pretty much had the bed to herself those nights, because I couldn't sleep either. I would sit there in the dark, staring at the walls or the cracked paint on the ceiling. Hating.
My leave started on a Tuesday, and by the time Marce left for work Thursday morning, I was twitching like a junkie. What was happening to me? Admittedly, my job was violent, but I couldn't remember ever wanting the violence so much. I mean, yeah, I was an adrenaline junkie and usually got a kick out of pulling a sweet op, but I’d never felt this dark roil of emotion. I felt like an angry, wounded animal wanting nothing more than to lash out and share my pain. And I hated that too.
By 09:30 I just couldn't stick around any more. I wanted to let Marce know what was up, but I didn't bother calling on her personal line. Her current project had her swapping out the big magnets on the rail launchers at the space port. Because of that, she didn’t have her mini‑comp with her. The magnets would have wrecked it. Even if that hadn’t been the case, the noise level at that work site would’ve kept her from hearing it anyway.
The vid‑com in the on‑site office was a little grainy, and Marce's supervisor already looked like the bad end of a hard road.
God , I thought, they must be breaking their backs out there.
It took a while to get Marce on the line and I caught myself tapping my knuckles against my leg and made myself stop. Keep it cool, bud, I thought to myself. This doesn’t do you any good. Keep it cool. When Marce did finally get to the on-site office and on the line, she looked worse than her boss. For a moment or two all I could do was stare at her on the screen.
“Marce,” I finally said, “I'm buggin' out for a couple of days. I've been a little restless lately, and I thought I'd get out for a bit. Spend a few days at the Plaza, get my mind right.”
She didn't look surprised. She didn’t look much of anything. “Sure, Alec. Thanks for filling me in.”
There was an uncomfortable pause after that. I hadn’t calmed down and wanted off the line so that I could go. But I felt like I needed to say something else. Something more. Maybe I thought that I had to justify my trip to her. “Look, Marce, I just think...”
“Are you coming back?”
Her question stunned me. I stared at her stupidly for a few seconds and said the most intelligent thing that came to mind.
“Alec,” she started, looking even more tired than before. “Look, I know that we've never had much of a, well, you know. But I would like to know now whether or not you're coming back.”
“Well,” I started, trying to pick my jaw back up. It hadn't even occurred to me that I might be running out on her. “I just, well...”
“You're a good guy, Alec, but I think you're getting strung out. Lately you're acting like you're about to flip out or something.” She glanced at something off‑screen, looking like she might feel guilty. I started getting that feeling again. The one where I felt like I'd been caught doing something dirty.
“Marce,” I sighed. “I just thought I'd go out to the Sol Plaza and lay on the beach for a while.” I hadn't put much thought into just what I’d be doing, but it sounded like a good idea.
Marce gave me a thoughtful look. “Okay, Alec. Yeah, I guess that'd be good for you. Get out of the apartment for awhile. Get some space.”
“Thanks, Marce.” I stared her in the eye, trying to figure out what was bouncing around in her head. Then there was another one of those silences.
“Alec, I ...” She glanced off screen again. “I...uh, I gotta go.” Then she killed the link. I had the odd thought that she had been about to cry. Weird. Marce was like me, she didn't do the vulnerable emotions much. At least not out where you could see them.
I grabbed my long coat and started to head out. I stopped myself two steps from the door. Normally I didn't worry about grabbing a weapon. From the moment I woke up until the moment I crashed, Thumper was never far from my side. Like the cops, I was licensed to carry a gun. Every Contract Specialist above level 7 was. Sometimes the Demos got their mitts on personnel rosters. When that happened, they tended to go after us “corporate stormtroopers.” Hence my license.
It wasn’t Thumper I was thinking about as I stood there, two steps from my con-apt door. I was thinking of contraband runners. Of the few times that Demos had gotten ahold of body armor. Of Su-Finites. Of the fact that in spite of Syrch feeding everyone bullshit about how peaceful a place Roach is, the security reports told a different story. That in spite of being “a shining example of yet another peaceful and law‑abiding Corporate colony,” Roach turned up a lot of clubbed, stabbed and mashed bodies.
I was going out into the open for a few days and would be out of touch of Ahni and the team. Feeling closed in, angry and oh so hateful, I turned to my stash closet to grab some more toys.
Because it was only about three hours into the day‑shift, the streets were almost empty. The folks who worked on the night‑shift were all asleep, the kids were all in school and there were very few people who made enough money to be able to support their significant others.
I kicked off towards the sub‑tram with my head all wrapped up in itself. What the hell was wrong with me? I couldn't remember a single time in my adult life that I had felt this intensely about anything. The problem was, I couldn't really pin down what it was that I was feeling so intensely about.
In the time that it took me to reach the entrance to the sub‑tram I had managed to get myself worked up even worse than I'd been when I called Marce. Damnit! I just had to get out of this place. The problem was, there was no where I could think of that I really wanted to be. Even though I could take the sub‑tram to any part of the colony, there was no place I could go to hide from myself.
I walked up to the bank of toll‑machines in the terminal, my footsteps echoing in the nearly deserted tunnels along with the whooshing of the trams passing through. After pulling up the left sleeve on my jacket, I put my hand on the scan‑plate. The computer compared the pattern of blood vessels in my hand to those on file with my identity. Whoever had booked passage before me had been holding onto something sticky and ripe. The scanner of course read right through the residue.
“Good morning, Mr. Vonner.” The machine said in its pleasantly modulated, and utterly soulless tones. “How may I assist you?”
“I'm going to Sol Plaza. One way trip.”
“Very well, Mr. Vonner. You will need to take sub‑tram Twelve‑Alpha to Marketts Run, and then sub‑tram One‑Eleven to Sol Plaza. Have a nice day.”
I started to stomp away when the machine called my name, and politely (oh, so politely) reminded me that I had forgotten to pay for my passage. Damn, Marce was right. If I wasn't capable of remembering to pay for the Tram, I must really have been close to the edge. I fed the machine my credit authorization and started to walk off when the damned thing called to me again.
“Mr. Vonner?” the machine said, its pleasantly modulated tones digging into my ears like jagged flint.
“I apologize for the inconvenience, Mr. Vonner, but I've noticed that you do not have a hotel reservation at Sol Plaza. Will you be needing one?”
Damn. I hadn't thought that far ahead. “Yes,” I said, irritated that the machine had had to remind me. “Thanks. How much?”
The machine computed for a nano-second. “That would be one hundred and twenty credits per night.”
I computed for about six seconds. “Have the hotel put five nights on my account.” What the hell, I thought. I probably won't live long enough to see retirement anyway. Fuck it. “Make it a suite.”
There was another micro-pause while the gratingly polite machine made the arrangements. “Very well, Mr. Vonner,” it said almost immediately. “Your reservations have been made. And Mr. Vonner, thank you for using Syrch Systems to make your life better.”
All the hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up while my peripheral vision shut off. “What did you just say?” I growled.
The machine repeated it's last statement for me. “Very well, Mr. Vonner. Your reservations have been made. And Mr. Vonner, thank you for using Syrch Systems to make your life better.”
I started seeing red. “Just who the fuck's system did you think I was going to use?”
There was a moment or two of silence before it answered me. “I'm sorry, Mr. Vonner. I don't understand. Could you rephrase the question please?”
A surge of angry joy pulsed through my head. “Yeah, I'd be fuckin’ glad to!” My voice sounded like grinding gears as I plunged on. “Tell me something, fucker,” I shouted, my stiffened finger stabbing through the air at the machine. “Tell me where the nearest non‑Syrch terminal is! Ya see, I don't think that Syrch is making my life better. I think that Syrch sucks! I think that the best fucking thing that could happen to this planet, would be for it to be hit by a mile‑wide asteroid!” I was in full mindless bellow by this point. “Yeah, fuck Syrch, and fuck you! You tell them that I quit! You tell those ass‑sucking bastards that I'm gonna go work for...”
And at that moment I realized that I couldn't consciously recall the name of a single other corporation. I started to stammer, “I’m going to work for...” I thought furiously and finally gave in, kicking the front of the machine as hard as I could. “You tell those bastards that I'm going into business for my own goddamned self!”
And as quickly as it had hit, the fit passed. I guess I had just needed to let out some of the aggression I’d had building up in my gut. To be honest, lashing out had felt good. I was a little calmer and as far as I could tell the machine was none the worse from having been kicked and screamed at. It may have decided to alert customer service, but by the time a face would have appeared on the tiny vid‑screen, I was off looking for sub‑tram Twelve‑Alpha.
Fuck it. I was on vacation.