Written for Wednesday Write-in #44. The prompt I used is “Sunshine”. Struggled with it and went all SF, a genre I don’t do well. But playing with the language is fun. Here it is then:

“Open the iBag.”

Larry spat out a mouthful of blood and felt for loose or broken teeth with his tongue. His two interrogators were standard issue StateCop thugs in their everyday uniform of bowler hat, pin-stripe trousers and neatly furled umbrellas. But standard issue or not, he knew that quite soon he would let them have the combination.

He blamed himself. It was always the same. A pretty face, the flash of an ankle, and he was lost. Usually it ended with a damaged heart or an iKnife duel in a murky downtown alley. But this time it was worse. He had gone too far, been too overwhelmed by her beauty, been too determined to give her the earth and the moon and the stars.

She had willingly gifted herself to him even though she was still Beta, even though she was licensed elsewhere; indeed she pirated herself with a passion he had not experienced up until then. He was irrevocably smitten even before their breathing had settled down to normal. And then she had started singing. He hadn’t heard the song before; hadn’t ever heard anything like it. It was something from an earlier time. Lilting, gentle, celebratory. “Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, and bring me love.”

He should have known she would be trouble. After all, they had first met at the natural foods counter on the TriPixFoods u-site and anyone who shops for natural foods is slightly off-space and can be expected to be alt-functional. At first he thought her tribal IDs were the real thing but later on he realized that some of the marks were tattoos and not GM-generated; she was OldEarth! He should have scanned her in but he knew that barcodes were often inaccurate and he didn’t usually bother until he felt ready to breed.

And the song! Oh, the song. Had he researched it he would have learnt that it had been adopted by the dissFolk some two hundred years ago as a secret anthem. Red warning pixels would have flashed and he would have backed off. Probably.

But Larry was a romantic and he wanted to make her happy. He would bring her fun, he would bring her love. And most of all he would bring her sunshine. He was one of a small handful of citiZens who knew where to find it. He would bring her sunshine.

And so, in the museum where he interned as a FileMaster, he used one of his master codes to open up the graphene case bearing the sealed flask marked “Sunrise”, secreted it in his personal iBag, and walked out the front portal whistling happily to himself.

Of course he hadn’t gone more than a few paces before the paraTazer froze him in mid step and he slumped gently to the floor. The Bowlerhat voiced his Wrist-iCom and within less than a minute a GuestCopter dropped out of the sky to take a limp Larry to the SpamHouse.

He should have expected this. Not only was the flask part of the valuable OldEarth collection, but even he was aware that it was the only example of Sunrise known to be in a public collection. It was bound to be fully firewalled.

It wasn’t long before he gave up the code. After all, interrogation methods had been vastly refined since this area of StateFix had been outsourced to the private sector where instant results were needed to maximize profits, and the mere threat of some of the genetic persuasion techniques was enough to convince even the most reluctant Guest that supplying all requested information was the most sensible thing to do.

So the Bowlerhats got the code and within seconds had opened the bag to find its precious cargo.

Now it’s true to say that Larry had been behaving a bit naively in this whole affair. But at least he had some education and he wasn’t stupid. Unlike the two Bowlerhats. They looked at the label on the flask, shrugged their shoulders and twisted off the lid.

Suddenly strange things happened in the immediate area: babies in the feeding-factories stopped crying, men turned and touched their housewives gently on the arm, a tall person tossed a bowler hat and an umbrella into the rubbish tube, harried citiZens in the AirMarkets paused and smiled at each other. But it was all over in a nanoFlash. Things went back to normal. The two Bowlerhats looked at Larry, shrugged their shoulders again and lazered him.

Some weeks later at an off-the-record internal enquiry, the SenIntern at the museum briefed one of his staff, “Don’t worry about it. Just relabel one of the Sunset flasks. Nobody will ever know”.

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12 Responses to Sunshine

  1. Sarah Ann says:

    Very late reading this. Just to say I loved your use of language and the ideas. Wish it could have gone on longer – would love to know more about the OldEarthers and why they are bad news. Really enjoyable read.

  2. I feel like there’s an awful lot of mileage here. Perhaps the piece feels a bit rushed, cramming in a lot of story, but I think maybe that’s the contrast between the slow beginning and the quick ending. Aside from the pace I think it works brilliantly. You said you don’t write SF well, but your SF always looks pretty good from where I’m standing! I’d love to see you revisit this world, there’s so much hinted at without you giving away too much – good short story technique there!

  3. Elaine Peters says:

    I’ve only just seen this and really really liked it, except for the mouthful of blood, a bit too last century violence. Very amusing and clever use of language. I don’t normally like sci-fi but this was great fun.

  4. Elaine McKay says:

    It is obvious you enjoyed the language of this piece. It is crammed full of interesting words and ideas. I really liked it.

  5. SJ O'Hart says:

    SF is one of my favourite genres – I think you did very well with this one, Patrick. Entertaining, pacy, convincing and sweet, it’s a great story. 🙂

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