A sign made of particle wood, softly swinging above a garbage can fire read “UNITS AVAILABLE” in spray paint, and a smaller “ENGLISH Y ESPANOL” in black and white address stickers was chained to it beneath.
Even the outskirts of Distrito Loteria chilled Matteo down to his bone marrow, no matter how seemingly undisturbed. The edge of the dark Estuary of Texas loomed in the distance.
The mobile homes were partially hidden from each other by fences made of piles upon piles of trash. Each trailer was arranged in a partial circle, their back ends facing the center. Some units had green or orange light escaping from within. Others had every window boarded as though they’d been abandoned and swayed under their occupant’s movements.
He approached a small vending teller box in the center of the first circle and punched a debt button. A week’s charge plus 25% interest to rent a medium-sized unit. A USB stick plopped out, a key that could be expired remotely by management. He stuck it into his console and his new home’s location was revealed on an ASCII map .txt.
He walked his bike down two semicircle aggregates of homes and saw his new base, green paint over white, coastal slatted windows open just enough to push around thin curtains inside. He pushed in the door. Thankfully, it came with a freezer and oven and thin foam mattress. Inside the small fridge was an old bag of a half-eaten Whataburger. Last person must’ve left in a rush.
He fell into the dusty bed, and for the first time since childhood, cried himself to sleep.
The soft sound of gasoline generators in the morning stirred him right before daybreak, robbing him of rest.
::Cochino! Cochino! his AI chimed.
“What now? God, god, god…” he said.
::Tienes un package, mi amor.
“No, can’t be. Nobody delivers on this part of town at this time. Can you run a diagnostic on your OS for bugs? I don’t have time for another screwy AI. Don’t care how hot you sound,” he said.
::Como tu quieres… un momento. Ok, I require no further action and I have cared for you with efficiency tan brillosa. You have a package located at the front entrance.
He opened the door to find a cardboard box of Topo Chico. He flipped down the kitchen table and rested it on top.
Inside was a small briefcase. He flipped the secures loose and peeked inside. It was a miniaturized bench top lab. Small pipettes and tubes rested into moulded foam, along with a small gel rig and a small tube filled with a clear viscous liquid on dry ice. Wow, the LFUFAW betrayers must of splurged some Byte to give this setup away. What was the catch?
Hidden away in a side pocket was a small plastic zip bag, with a lock of rose gold blonde hair. Well, that was romantic.
And there was another surprise, Kaylee’s VR headset was at the bottom of the box. Her favorite item. Traitor. Or betrayer, more like.
::I know what you are needing to do, mijo — what can help maximize your happiness.
“Oh? Do you, now?”
::Tu seras un cientifico.
And why wouldn’t he? Time was ticking.
He shuttered the blinds. If LUFAW wanted him dead, they would’ve blown up the bike while he was on it.
Kaylee’s VR visor fit snugly around his head and the faint smell of her shampoo lingered. The intro screen to Ocarina of Time loaded with its sweet lullaby jingle. His spine shivered. Matteo woke as Link in Kokiri Forest. Inside of his hut, a Zelda sprite materialized. A glitch.
Absorbed, he didn’t hear himself say, “Yup.”
Text scrolled from bottom to top:
Listen! You will only see this message once.
First, we kind of lied about not tracking your bike (obviously since you received this care package). But I PROMISE the location was kept encrypted from Jorge and I. We won’t come looking for you. PROMISE.
It’s not your fault you’re a dud. It’s not your fault you will die… and you will die probably very soon.
But I’m leaving you with everything you need to save yourself. If you choose to, that is.
The process involves injecting yourself with what was once a deadly parasite, what has infected humans causing the deadly sickness of malaria over hundreds of thousands of years of coevolution.
First, I’ve given you parasite-infected red blood cells. The malaria is synthetic, a designer bug used in the old days to deliver medicine throughout the body. Most people had to inject new parasites every month or so, since the spleen will eventually destroy the infection. So remember to keep a culture going on outside your body at all times!
Second, you have a mini-Church. It’s pretty much plug and play. Throw in your components and it does most of the grunt work. It can read sequences of virtually any cell and add new sequences into a draft genome so that you can print custom cells.
And third, you have about 10 microliters of purified crisper at a concentration of 5 ng per microliter. Once you’ve analyzed the synthetic malaria by the Church, input the DNA sequences for immortality and add 3 microliters of crisper. Boom. Immortality-boosting malaria ready to get injected into your bloodstream. The catch is, of course, there’s not much of this enzyme to go around.
It should go without saying that you should always have a backup culture for when they inevitably die out inside of you. You won’t be able to print new cells with the amount of crisper provided more than twice. I hope you’re writing this down.
As you can tell I’ve skipped over the most important part. What you’re missing is the fourth piece. What it is that actually confers immortality. Nobody knows. That’s what my hair is for. I’m immortal.
You will need to extract the compound from the ends of the hair. I don’t know what it is, but word on the street is it is RNA. Simply obtain the RNA from my hair and put it into the machine for sequencing. Pick which RNAs I have that don’t match up in the rest of the population. Convert that sequence back into DNA and use that as the immortality sequence in your new malaria.
Cross your fingers. Or don’t. It’s up to you what to do. But remember, you need to act fast if you want to live!
Now, stop looking at my triangular tits.
Deduce the instructions for construction of malaria parasites by reading the parasite infected red blood cells.
Deduce the immortality RNA from my hair.
Insert the immortality RNA into the synthetic malaria genome.
Print the cells, inject! And take this headset off ASAP!
Por vida! (That means “for life” I know you are not good at Spanish)
The VR headset warmed until it was scalding hot. He threw it into the corner and it began to smolder. He ran to the kitchen and dumped a half-full pitcher of water on it. All that remained was a melted hunk of metal and plastic.
“Fuck Kaylee. Fuck Jorge. Fuck…” said Matteo. He started breathing deeply, heavily.
::She is too manipulative. You don’t want a girl like that in tu vida.
As though he had anything to learn from Kaylee. They’d gone after him for his expertise. A long life wasn’t guaranteed, but at a minimum he had to live long enough to see Concha again.
::Yo pienso que si. You will see her again.
“Well, thank you, computer. Forgot you can hear everything, haha. Must’ve been talking aloud.”
::Todo el dia I listen. Y me encanta.
It wasn’t only about finding his girl again for his sake. The Rangers were willing to kill anyone that associated with him. They’d be after Concha. She was good at hiding, but he could protect her better. Together, they might even take revenge on LUFAW.
::She would love to be saved by you. I know I would.