Saturday, September 16, 2023

Extremus: Year 57

Generated by Google Workspace Labs text-to-image AI software
Everything is back to normal. Tinaya snuck Lataran, Omega, and Valencia back into the Bridger section. She was able to repair and reconfigure the brain sharing machine to put the latter three back to how they were. Tinaya herself, however, did not put on one of the helmets. She left her brain in its new and improved state. Who needs school when all the knowledge you ever need can be downloaded into your memory cortex in a matter of moments? Omega and Valencia were not pleased with her decision, but there was nothing they could do about it. This technology was not legal, so pursuing the matter would necessarily endanger their own freedom and reputations. They decided to just drop it, and leave it be. The two of them went off to live their own immortal lives, and Lataran went back to school. She was behind, but as planned a long time ago, was able to start back up right where she left off. There is no age limit to education, so while the majority of the students were younger than her, she wasn’t the only one who had put it off. Some kids just aren’t ready for college until they’re older.
Tinaya is living her best life, at least for now. After all that time caring for the saplings, she’s taking a year off to focus on her own needs. She’s refusing to deal with Avelino or the Bridgers. She’s not stressing out about her lack of formal education, or her future. Captain, not the captain; whatever. She’s on holiday. There aren’t a lot of vacation spots on this ship, but they do exist. She frequents the Starsight Restaurant. It’s not what it sounds like. There are no real viewports on the ship. Well, there are, but they can’t be used while in transit. Traveling at these high speeds welcomes in a literally blinding light from the outside, which is known as the doppler glow. Instead, the walls, ceiling, and floor of the restaurant serve as giant holographic projection screens, making it feel as though the tables, chairs, and patrons are floating in space. Even the surface gravity is lowered to about 20 percent normal to enhance the immersive experience.
Tinaya also plays mini-golf, and destroys objects at the therapeutic rage room, but she spends most of her time at the spa and hotel. She sits in the hot tub, and swims in the pool. She gets massages, and she relaxes on the beach facsimile, which is very obviously not located by a real ocean, but it’s close enough to get the effect. It’s better, actually, because there aren’t any sand fleas or broken beer bottles to contend with. She’s not been at the spa in nearly two weeks, though, because it’s better to take breaks from her break, or it stops feeling special. She’s having trouble getting back in today. “What do you mean that I’m not currently allowed in?”
“It’s your contribution score, sir,” the desk attendant replies.
“My contribution score?” Tinaya spits. “I never check that thing. It’s always been fine; what’s changed?” Extremus doesn’t have any form of currency. Money need not be exchanged in order to enjoy amenities. But that doesn’t mean everything is completely free to everyone. One must be a productive member of society. A contribution score is a number that places a value on the amount of effort a resident of this ship exerts. It basically calculates how good of a person you are, and how much you deserve whatever you’re asking for. Going to school, getting a job, not committing crimes; these all add to your score, and not doing anything with one’s life can lower it. That appears to be what has happened to Tinaya.
“I’m sorry, sir; I don’t have full access to your background information. All it tells me is that you’re sitting at a score of 83, and that is below our threshold for enjoyment of our facilities. You are not permitted to reenter the premises until you reach a score of at least 140.”
“I don’t understand how it works. I’ve never worried about it. That’s something adults think about. But it’s my birthday, and I want to celebrate it. This used to be my favorite place to go, but that is quickly changing.”
“Oh, it’s your birthday?”
“Yeah, why?”
“I...I’m not so one hundred percent sure about it either. I have a regular job, and that sort of gets me a pretty high score, so I’ve never given it much thought but I do believe there’s an age thing. I can get my supervisor up here to discuss it.”
“Yeah, that would be great. Thanks.”
A couple has been waiting in line behind her. One of them mutters something under his breath.
“Excuse me, what did you just say?”
Neither one responds.
“Don’t be scared. Say it out loud. Say it to my face.”
“I said that you were a Karen.”
Tinaya is rageful for a second, but she quickly slips into embarrassment and shame. She is being a Karen, isn’t she? She still doesn’t know how her score works, but it should be no surprise that it’s gone down. She’s not done anything for the ship. Perhaps a year-long sabbatical wasn’t the best idea in the world.
He senses the transition of emotion in her face, and his own changes. “I’m sorry,” he says. “It’s not my place to judge. I know that I don’t know what you’re going through. I get your score back up.”
“Thank you.”
She’s about to leave when the desk attendant’s manager comes around. “I understand that you’re having an issue, sir?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Tinaya says. “It’s my fault.”
“I can help you,” he says comfortingly. “Why don’t you come into my office?”
“Okay.” She follows him into the back, and sits across from him.
He pulls her info up on the screen, which Tinaya can only see from a steep angle. “Okay, looks like you have a score of 83.”
“I thought that was all right.”
“It used to be pretty good for someone like you, but two things happened shipwide this year, and one thing happened in my industry. Number one, beginning on January the first, the maximum score was raised. The highest used to be 120, but it is now 216. Now, of course, everyone’s score was lifted to account for that. In fact, I believe there was a short clause in the new bill that gave most citizens the benefit of the doubt. So if you had a score of 108, you would end up with...” He plugs in the math. “...194.4, which they would have just bumped up to 195, because they don’t do fractions.”
“ now 83 is extremely low, but I was here two weeks ago, and there was no problem, so why wasn’t mine raised?”
“Because of the other two things,” he begins. “Last week, our internal policies changed. We now require a minimum contribution score of 140, which under our old policy, accounting for the new maximum possible score that the government came up with, was only 120. For a short window, yours was probably sitting at around 150, but it’s not your only issue. Your score would have been all right yesterday, however, it’s your birthday. It is, in fact, your twenty-third birthday, and on this ship, you no longer enjoy a boost in your contribution score from your parents. You are no longer in school, you do not hold a job, and you have been spending a lot of time at the spa. That has finally caught up to you. You should have been warned of this, and that is something that I could have done for you. I should have probably guessed that you presently do not have anyone else to help you through this. For my part in the lack of communication, and the misunderstanding, I apologize. I can point you to some resources that can help you raise your score. You could find a job, maybe you can go back to school.”
“I can’t go to school. I wasn’t accepted.”
The manager nods slowly. “I understand the awkward position that you’re in, Miss Leithe. Or rather I understand that I don’t understand. Word gets around, even to private citizens, like me. They say that you were gonna be a member of the crew, but something happened. It’s not my place to question it, and I certainly can’t help you get back to a place of honor. I might be able to find you a job, though. It’s not going to be particularly glamorous, but if you work hard, and you keep your head down, you’ll to 140, or at least close.”
“I don’t know...”
“As manager of this spa, I would be capable of making an exception if your score has improved enough, according to my own judgment. As long as you cleared it with your new supervisor, you could come back here, and take a rest. But staying for weeks at a time, several times a year, is probably a practice that is behind you.”
“It was never going to last forever. I’ve just been dealing with a lot, and I wanted to stop going so hard. We’re traveling at the speed of light, and I was trying to...slow down for once in my life.”
He chuckles, and spreads his arms demonstratively. “Look at where I’m workin’, Miss Leithe. Believe me, I understand slowin’ down.”
She nods appreciatively. “What would this job be?”
My sister works in the civilian government. She’s not someone you would have heard of, but her job is secretly important—”
“I don’t want secrets. I’m sick of secrets.”
“I just mean that she’s not famous. She’s not a politician; she’s a civil servant. She does good work, I think you’d like her. She’s too busy, and I can’t get her into this spa to relax, because there’s too much work to do. Though she won’t admit it, she needs an assistant. She’s entitled to one, but she’s never asked for it, and I’ve been pushing for it more than her superiors have because they don’t care about her like I do.”
“If you’ve already been trying to get her to get an assistant, what makes you think she’ll take me?”
“You’re a lost little puppy. She would consider it a favor that she’s giving to someone else, rather than something that she’s taking. I just have to frame the proposal the right way.”
Tinaya thinks about it for a moment. If it’s a low enough office, it won’t disqualify her from being Captain one day, and Second Lieutenant Velitchkov did say that they liked her for her ability to make her own choices. This is probably not written in the stars, which is exactly the kind of decision she ought to be making. Plus, it’s time to stop feeling sorry for herself, and actually do some good for the ship. The contribution is inherently rational, rather than arbitrary. “Okay. Could you set up an interview?”

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