Authors: Joseph Picard
Regan found it impressive but idiotic,
and she wasn’t the only one. Autar had its share of critics. The
cornerstones were compared to towers of babil, and the bridges had
gained the nickname of ‘the square halo’. All of it seemed so
unnecessary with all the open space around Autar. Defenders of the
idea seemed clearly smitten with the difficulty of its
construction, and sheer spectacle.
It was the kind of thing Regan’s
brother Harold loved. Just his luck that his company transferred
him here. It did make it more difficult for Regan to go visit him
though. Why did he have to move clear across Ayguola? And no where
near a beach. An island nation, and Harold had to work in a
Well, to be honest, this was less of a
‘visit’, and more of a
‘unemployed-newly-single-broke-no-other-place-to-go’ thing. It
wasn’t a new occurrence for Regan to go crash with Harold, but
having to bus this far was new.
As the bus passed directly from
wasteland to corporate obscenity, the shadow of the south bridge
swallowed them up. Regan figured it wouldn’t be long before they
got to the bus terminal. She noticed a lack of anything that looked
old. Not just that, but a lack of anything that wasn’t founded by
some huge company. Looking for a Ma & Pa pizzeria? Sorry,
you’ll have to make due with the nearest franchise
The bus pulled into its bay and the
passengers sluggishly collected themselves, then poured out to wait
for their luggage to be unloaded. Regan checked herself before
disembarking. Her wardrobe had a habit of riding up in impolite
ways when she was sleeping in public. A short miniskirt and a short
tanktop made poor pajamas. After getting off, most of the
passengers were still mobbed about the luggage hatch of the bus as
the driver pulled things out and matched them to their
Regan took this time to pull her
portable terminal out of her carry-on duffle bag, and load up the
city map. An ad that knew where she stood and that it was nearing
dinner time, started playing to promote a restaurant half a block
away. She muted it but had to let it finish before she could access
the free map of the city.
You are here’ popped up
with a red dot on the map. Ok, ok, now point to the note she had
entered earlier of Harold’s address. ‘Plot a route?’ Duh. ‘Route
options: Driving, Walking.’ What, the ingenious little handheld
multimedia ad-pumping device didn’t notice she just got off a bus?
Walking. A cute dotted line animated its way from her location over
to the nearest cornerstone building. Harold didn’t mention he lived
in one of those behemoths. ‘Estimated walking time:
She spotted her suitcase being hauled
out of the bottom storage of the bus. She stepped up and gave the
worker her baggage check tag. Yanking out the top handle, she was
again grateful for the little wheels on the bottom. About half an
hour worth of grateful, even if it would be a half hour that she’d
be listening to the little wheels rattle against every little bump
and dip on the sidewalk.
She started walking, terminal in one
hand, luggage dragged with the other. She considered pulling the
ear buds out of the terminal and listening to some music while she
walked, but decided to take in the sights and sounds of
The sights and sounds of Autar were
uninspiring on the whole. The city was populated almost entirely by
nerds and suits. The vehicles on the street ranged in variety from
‘sensible’ to ‘conservative’. Blue car, black car, silver car,
black car, white delivery van, black car, grey car. Oh yeah. This
was a party town to be reckoned with.
Looking at the businesses that lined
the streets, she felt like she had walked into a movie with too
many product placements. Well too bad for them. They’d get none of
Regan’s cash, as she had none! Haha! Outsmarting the big boys yet
Still, it might have been nice to have
a bit of change to throw at one of the city trains that whizzed
around. Look on the bright side. Regan didn’t get her gams by
taking public transit, and flabby thighs just wouldn’t do these
stockings justice. And her boots were made for walking after all.
Walking, or kicking people. Multifunctional.
Darn, these were clean sidewalks. Maybe
nerds and suits don’t believe in chewing gum. Certainly they’d
dispose of it properly if they did. Heaven forbid that the mighty
Autar be defiled. It kind of made her want to spit on the sidewalk
just to see if some tidiness cop would spring out of nowhere and
give her a ticket. Probably not. They hadn’t ticketed her for her
dirty boots yet.
Speaking of tidiness, the tidy nerds
and suits in the streets sure seemed to be checking her out a lot.
Was she that much of a misfit here? Did she stink from being packed
on a bus for so long? Heavens no. Regan looked at it more
realistically. They all wanted to get her in the sack. Too bad
fellas. Ladies? Fill out the application. Done right, the nerd look
and the suit look could be pretty darn hot.
The southwest cornerstone got closer
and closer. For some reason, Regan had expected it to be one huge
three block wide wall with one door in the middle. There were three
significant entries, with pompous staircases, and required ramps,
as well as several smaller doors, and a smattering of storefront
Regan consulted the all-knowing
terminal, and entered the middle staircase. Inside felt a little
like a shopping mall, but with less shops. A cluster of benches
broke the middle of the space, and overhead hung an array of signs
giving directions. ‘Residential elevators: 5, 6’
Over in the back right corner she could
see them. She dragged her suitcase over to number five, and looked
at the directory sign. “Alright, what the hell floor is he
The terminal spoke back in a chipper
female voice. “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. Please restate
the name of your desired destination.” They didn’t miss a beat with
this place, did they?
Harold Grier.” She
considered also mouthing off at the thing, but the sentiment would
apartment five.” The corresponding entry on the directory throbbed
with a soft glow. “Would you like an elevator to the forty seventh
Regan looked at the terminal. 4705. She
knew that. “Yeah, sure.”
I’m sorry, I
Yes!” she spoke as clearly
as she could, then muttered, “you silly bink.”
Thank you!” The elevator
Regan stepped in and the door closed
behind her. Another directory was waiting inside for her. “Next
Super.” Regan replied,
ignored. “So, you come here often? Wanna go grab a few drinks?
Maybe a movie?”
I’m sorry, I didn’t
Shut up.” It did. The nerd
responsible for this thing at least predicted the need for it to
understand that phrase. A steady feeling of acceleration pushed
down on Regan gently for twenty-three floors before changing to
deceleration. The doors opened, and Regan stepped out.
Harold Grier’s apartment is
five doors to your-“
Shut up.” Regan guessed to
her left, as going right would have involved a wall. 4705, there it
was. She pressed the intercom button.
A moment later, Harold’s voice came.
Regan replied. “Little pig little pig,
let me in!” There was a slight delay, during which time she could
almost hear Harold roll his eyes. Then the door clicked to unlock,
and Harold’s voice came though again. “Come on in.”
Entering Harold’s apartment, she found
it to be exactly what she expected. Clean, organized, dull as heck.
Harold came around the corner, and they had a hug. “Hey dork!”
Regan said. She noticed that he still wore the cheap silver ring
that she had given him years ago.
Hey dorkette. The spare
room has a small bed set up in it already. It’s cluttered though.
Come check it out.” Harold was Regan’s only living relative worth
mentioning, and by far the more responsible and successful of the
two, the ant to Regan’s grasshopper. Among the populace of Autar,
Harold was among the nerds. Generally quiet and professional, Regan
is one of the people who enable his sense of humor to emerge. He
has always been unquestioningly supportive of his little
I didn’t know you had an
apartment in one of these huge towers, Harold. You’re moving up in
the world, huh?”
Hah. The cornerstones are
Autar’s slums. These things are more than half vacant. Money lives
out where you can be visible and stand out.”
The spare room was cluttered only by
Harold’s definition of the word. Yes, there were a lot of things in
the room, but they were all neatly stacked, mostly in boxes, all
against one wall. Regan wagered with herself that she could point
to any box, and Harold would be able to list its contents from
memory… but something else caught her eye first. She dropped her
luggage to the floor, and floated over to her electric guitar. She
picked it up and strummed a bit. It wasn’t plugged in or anything,
and all one heard was the tinny plucks, but it felt reassuring in
her hands again.
Help yourself to my guitar,
Regan!” Harold teased.
OH, pff. I’m gonna buy it
back as soon as I have the cash, don’t you worry! I’m gonna pay
rent here too!”
Besides, I bet you haven’t
played it more than once since you bought it off me.” Regan
Well, if I had an amp to go
with it, I may have. You may as well stick to acoustic if you’re
going to keep selling your amp anyway.”
Regan’s only reply was to make a rock
star sneer at him, while playing more tinny plucks. Harold raised
an eyebrow. “I’ll leave you two alone for a bit. Dinner’s in an
hour and a half.” As he left, Regan was still playing a song in her
head, performing for an imaginary audience, singing under her
No sooner had she put the guitar down,
than her little terminal beeped for an incoming call. The display
read “Kris Taylor”. Bleh. She was just beginning to enjoy herself.
She ignored it for a bit, but it kept ringing. She stared at it for
a second, and she could feel Kris staring dispassionately at her.
She grabbed it up with aggravation, and answered.
Kris’s face popped up, with just the
expression Regan had expected. “Yeah,” she said flatly, “I figured
you were gonna take off with my jacket..”
Regan rolled her eyes. “For the last
time, it’s mine.”
Mm. Whatever. It suits your
whole ‘street urchin’ look better than anything I go out in
anyway.” Kris’ comments often mixed insult with compliment. She was
good at that.
Look, you didn’t call about
the jacket. What the fuck do you want?”
Kris huffed a little. “Well. It doesn’t
look like you’re on the road, or some cheap motel… I suppose you
went to your brother’s?”
Regan snapped. “What the hell did you
Please. The theatrics
Did you think I was just
gonna hang out around town waiting for you to call so I could come
crawling back?! God, your ego must blot out the sun. You’re a
fucking chronic slut, Kris, I woke up to it, and I’m sick of it. If
I had half a brain when I met you, I would have seen
Oh, calm down, I heard this
rant when you left. Really. Don’t-“
Regan hung up on her, and threw the
terminal at the wall. It made a loud bonk, and bounced to the
floor. She sat on the bed, staring at the terminal through closed
Ah.” Harold’s voice came.
“And I thought you were just here because you missed
Regan lifted her head a bit, face
hidden by her hair. “Why didn’t you warn me she was an evil slut
when I moved in with her?” she said sulkily.
Because I never met
Bleh. You have an excuse
for everything.” Her voice was weak, and on the verge of crying.
Harold sat beside her, and put an arm around her. “I guess you’re
all I’ve got now, dork.” she whimpered.
Ah, don’t fret,” he said,
running a finger along a fret of the guitar, “Before you know it,
you’ll find some pretty thing that catches your attention, and
you’ll forget all about Kris, the evil slut.”
Not a blonde this time.”
Regan’s expression softened a bit. “Maybe with less ego? And
Harold smiled warmly.
They sat quietly for a bit before Regan
spoke up again. “Got anyone like that at your work?”
Yes, but they’re straight
and I’m sleeping with all of them.”
Regan laughed and pushed her brother
off the bed. “DORK!”
Chapter 3: AutarLabs
Regan awoke and gazed up at the ceiling
while her mind caught up with itself. She was on the bed sideways
and her feet touched the floor. She considered that to be a head
start on the day and blissfully ignored the time.