Outside the prep pod, her cohort Delu kicked at invisible dust bunnies on the rubber floor. It was an act born, perhaps, from the collective unconscious; Delu had never seen dust. His comm buzzed deep, long, and loud. He jerked his head instinctually, like always. He had been an Officer of the Crop for 12 years, he should have promoted at least twice. Every performance review, though, there was that note: “Cannot remain still while receiving instruction.” It was a little thing perhaps, but big enough to keep him in the jumpsuit and out of the towers.
Delu banged on the Alee’s gate, annoyed and antsy. He did not understand her faith, the mantra, the relics…it bothered him in a way he struggled to define. In some ways, he preferred the roaming vicars with their pea soup colored robes, looping head shaves, and inevitable hypocrisy. Her earnestness and lack of evangelizing was disquieting.
“Job?” she asked quietly paying his typical taciturn attitude no mind.
“Word from the towers. Going to the Crop.”
Delu shook his head and gripped his static stick hard, “WUB. Those shifties from Another Way repeating.”
“Word from the towers,” he replied with a nod. If it came from towers, it was right. It really was this simple.
Alee shook her head. She simply could not understand Another Way. Why the WUBs, why their obsession with derailing the Crop? She knew Another Way was short for another way to power our lives, but she had not heard them actually propose anything, only seek to disrupt what already worked.
“The Crop” was where the Reverii were. The Reverii gave five years of their lives to the towers, slept for some 80 percent of those five years and dreamt. Through the science of the tower, the dreams and Siliciahomo, the medication that kept them sleeping for so long, produced energy. Every major city in the world had a Crop, every country had not had energy problems for decades upon decades.
The Reverii were treated like Kings and Queens after their service, from what Alee had been told. Beautiful homes, unlimited flesh-based pleasures, education credits, whatever they desired. There were rumors, of course, that the dreams were the most intense kind of nightmares, of entire Crops of Reverii going mad, of severely shortened lives, but they were only rumors. There was no proof and, as an Officer of the Crop, Alee would know if there was proof.
Another Way’s approach was simple. Ideally, drop a WUB into the middle of The Crop without being detected. When it was engaged, it caused a chemical reaction that rendered Siliciahomo inert and all the Reverii would be roused. It took hours to reinduce slumber and thus hours of energy that went unrealized. The extra doses of Siliciahomo were expensive and several Reverii had died because it was hard to estimate how much was still present in their systems following a WUB attack.
This was Alee’s first trip to The Crop to investigate a WUB. She admitted she was nearly giddy. She gritted her teeth to suppress the adrenaline and kept herself stoic.
"Engaged?” she grunted at Delu.
“Neg. Shifties dropped transmission. The cardinals caught them no problem. But…they’re roos,” he paused to roll his eyes despite them being nearly impossible to see through the thick white shielding of his helmet, “Not to be trusted with the scene-making. The towers have demanded only Officers deal with WUBs. So we have to take it off line before activation. Crossed.”
For Delu, this was old hat, although it had been years. He had worked WUBs a lot early on and then they seemed to go away. The past month had seen a steep resurgence. Unlike Alee, he had a certain amount of belief in the rumors. Some Reverii thrived and got every possible desire realized, he knew this for sure. But he had also seen many of them post WUB. Hollow looks. Panicked sounds more like dogs than people. He had no use for Another Way and their silly “the globe can provide us all the energy we need” philosophizing, but he also thought anyone who bought the towers line on the Reverii energy just wasn’t paying attention. He just didn’t care. If dumb kids wanted to volunteer for hazard duty so he could run his loom overnight, so be it.
“You ever,” Alee paused, throat suddenly tight with rising panic, “ever…not take one off line in time?”
Delu shrugged, “Pos. Chokes. Those Silic-Skulls come out, the towers gasket.”
“I wish you wouldn’t call them that.”
Delu offered the same non-committal shrug.
Alee let it drop, she had more pressing concerns. “But…does it hurt?”
“Us? Neg. Feels like the desaturater. Tastes funny though. Like licking a static stick. Don’t worry. We’ll scud in, show them the scene, scud out.”
They mounted the rapid transport and arced out toward The Crop. Alee was back to being only excited again, Delu was just hoping to get out there in time so he did not have to see or worse, hear, the Reverii re-meet the world of the awake and busy.
Both would find themselves sorely disappointed by the end of their shift. Another Way was not behind this attack and this was not your typical WUB. But that was in the future. For now, there was only the thin wispy sound of the rapid transport and the comm hum.
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