Maurice simply stared at the man. Then, on a whim, decided to take the day off.
He re-entered Goshen Station, boarded the same mag-lev train, and sat down by a perky blond girl that was evidently enjoying a private rock concert of her very own if her gyrations were any indication. Maurice tried to avoid her and pretended to read a newspaper he’d found in the station lobby. After a minute or so, the perky blond took out her com-tel.
“You don’t look so chipper,” she perked “Take some Lifequil.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“You don’t look so happy,” she sighed. “You should look happy.”
“Are you happy?” he asked.
“What kinda’ question is that? You’re not weird are ya’?”
“No ma’am. I’m a biological researcher at Z-Tech Pharmaceutical, Industrial, and Culinary Consultants. We have a policy against weirdness…it’s in the SOP.”
(ed. note) This is actually true…Weirdness, oddness, introversion, avid book reading, religious activities, woodworking, non-tv watching, and uniqueness-in-general were frowned upon and documented in the official employee handbook under a chapter called ‘Deviant Employee Behavior and what to do about it.’
"Lifequil doesn’t make me happy-it makes me hyper. There’s a difference you know.”
“Oh my Gaia, you ARE weird,” she frowned. “I’ll tell the Controllers about you. HAL will make you happy. HAL makes everybody happy.”
The blond stared at Maurice for a full twenty seconds blankly then re-inserted her com-tel. Somewhere, someplace this conversation was being recorded…if not watched, and the words automatically sent to HAL for a keyword scan. He felt sure the conversation would pass the alerts. Maurice had a knack for carefully monitoring his conversation. Lately, there had been reports of increased crackdowns of possible terrorists and HAL had been busier than usual. He wasn’t sure if there were more terrorists or not. The media said there was, so it must be true, he thought. Or was it? In truth, he wasn’t sure about anything seen on the media anymore. Some of it seemed too far-fetched to be believed. Mediacon said the population of Gaia was holding steady at 6.6 billion, the optimum carrying-capacity of the planet. He figured this was about right. Goshen’s population was 300,000, average for a city-state, and one of 2,200 such places in the merry ole’ Virginia Commonwealth. The population of the Badlanders and Nekton was unknown. Everyone was happy, and healthy, and safe. The pre-ill were carefully monitored and at the first sign of illness, sent to the Hives for treatment. Need a new liver? The Hives could make you one.
The train lurched to a halt. The blond girl put a packet of Lifequil in his hand.
“Take these. Please. They’ll do a body good.”
Maurice nodded, “Thanks…”
“You’ve got to get in the groove, man. Get with it. You gotta’ be running high.” She smiled.
He put the pills in his pocket and walked the half-block back to his apartment under the watchful eyes of countless probes. He felt a twinge of sadness, not a good sign, and blamed it on being pre-ill. Soon, he would hear The Call and make his way to the Hives for medical testing.
"Thank HAL it’s not today,” he thought.
Maurice’s last visit to the Hives was 3-years-ago. He passed the med-alerts with flying colors. Sure, he had a genetic predisposition to melancholia, solitude, and obsessive-compulsive-reading disorder, but Lifequil took care of that. Yet the pangs of it began to hit him more frequently.
“Perhaps, I’m building immunity against Lifequil. They say it happens."
Lifequility-the wonder drug of Goshen and all Gaia. Mental-stimulant, muscle-builder, happiness-maker, sleep-suppressor (in high dosages), and sleep-repressor. Lifequility came in a variety of colors-all pastel, never melted, and lasted indefinately. “How did we ever survive without it,” he thought.
“Ahh…the Dark Ages. It must have been a miserable time. Who knew that changing a few molecules of McDonald’s secret sauce was all it took.”
Z-Tech manufactured Lifequil for the Goshen city-state. It’s production was ceaseless-24 hours a day, six days a week, 360 days a year-including X-mas and Aquarias Day. X-mas was also the date HAL first became functional, yet some people still insisted he was born in the springtide.