A twenty-something year old woman with auburn hair and dimples sat alone at an imitation fifties-era table in a hidden diner nestled underneath a grimy, defunct bridge. A grubby thirty-something year old man in wrinkled clothes bumped through the swinging entry door and took a seat across from the beauty, causing more than one other patron to question his intention.
“Sorry, I know I’m late,” he said, like sandpaper with a hangover.
“Don’t mention it, buddy. I didn’t realize how much I missed the kinds of stares I get on this side of town. So, about this party we’re throwing…”
“Traffic in this quadrant — it’s insane. There really ought to be some kind of law against the skyline tubes.”
“You could just flap your wings and hope.”
“Or, yeah, I could fly. If only.”
An unsmiling waiter pulled out a tablet and stared at the center of their table. The woman sent a polished look towards the server. “We’re going to start with two coffees…”
“No! God, you know I don’t do that,” her companion interrupted.
“You need it. You look tired as fuck. Sick, even.”
“Coffee makes me…”
“What? Awake? Energetic? For once in your life…”
“Poop. Coffee makes me poop. Did you get that down on your little notepad? Did everyone else get to hear that, too?”
“Poop? Alright then, sir, a coffee and a…” The waiter shifted his gaze to the napkin dispenser without a blink.
“Tea. Not cold tea. Hot tea. I don’t want any ice in it. My teeth are sensitive. Tell you what, can you also give me a cup of ice? That way I can cool it down if it’s too hot.”
The waiter turned his back and walked away. The woman sent her friend a slight quiver of her bottom left eyelid.
“What? Don’t look at me that way, please. I spent three hours on the can yesterday. A poop right now would kill me. It would just kill me. I just, I don’t want to be sitting anymore.”
“We’re sitting right now.”
“On a goddamn toilet. I mean I don’t want my legs to be falling asleep on the rim of a toilet, ok. Something you wouldn’t understand, Ms. Long-leggylegs. Geez.”
“Well, you look tired, anyway.”
“I slept all weekend.”
“Yeah, I guess. But it just takes up the whole weekend. Wish I didn’t have to take so much time to recharge like that.”
“But at least you’re rested.”
“Yeah, but when do I get to live, you know?”
“You’re living now. Come on, look outside. It’s a nice day. You know, I got this window table just for you.”
“Don’t remind me. And the sunlight, eesh. I have this dot on my arm, too. Look. What if it’s cancer? And people are out there walking their damn dogs. Don’t remind me about all the dogs pulling at their owners in the street.”
“What’s wrong with dogs?”
“Of course. And they’re always so happy, am I right?”
Cups of coffee and tea dropped flatly on the table from the waiter’s hands— an inch or two of freefall. “Out of ice.” The waiter cracked a smile on the left corner of his mouth. The man took a sip.
“Ow… my tongue!”
“What are you, dying of thirst? The tea is steaming. Your cup is hot. I could’ve told you that without even holding it. Why’d you go and do that to yourself?”
“Yeah, but how could I be sure it was hot? I can’t sense the exact degrees in Celsius just by feeling the cup.”
“If you could, you wouldn’t even know what temperature is too hot, anyway.”
“Ok, fine. You’re right.” He reached for a complimentary flask on the table.
“What are you doing?”
“Cooling down my coffee with some water.”
“Oh fuck. I forgot the bots drink here, too. Ruined. Geez.” He gestured to the waiter for some attention and was deftly ignored with a smile.
“Honestly, why don’t you just put in a request?”
“A request! Jesus, are you out of your mind?!”
“I don’t know. I mean, you want perfect, quick bowel movements and super-teeth. You’re sick of wasting time on sleeping… and you can’t stand your susceptibility to the dangers of pet dander and the Sun. And, and, you want to know the ‘exact temperature in Celsius’ of stuff while flying through the air all around town. I saw one dude doing that the other day, actually.”
He whispered, intently, “And don’t talk about… modifications… out loud, there’s a family right next to us.”
“Sorry, I’ve tried and I can’t communicate telepathically. At least not with you.”
“And a cop just walked in, for chrissake’s. Yeah, I know you can’t. I wish I didn’t have to speak either. We could be linked up through WiFi or whatever. But have you met one of those people that do it?”
“Can’t say I have, detective.”
“Anyone who gets upgrades is instantly — and I mean instantly — an asshole. They never need to sleep, they’re never tired… super fucking strong, hitting on all the regular girls. You know what I’d get tired of?”
“Having to listen to yourself without a nightly eight hour unconscious break?”
“Oh, shut up. But really, the answer is no, I’m not interested. The glowing orb takes good care of me, okay. THE GLOWING ORB TAKES GOOD CARE OF US.”
She appeared exhaustively skeptical. No hidden spy orbs were listening to their conversation. Not in this dump and not to whatever they were saying.
“Plus, in a few months I’ll be getting a quarter more rations,” he said, pleading with eyes shadowed by the rims of his glasses and brightened in two spots by the lenses.
“Really. I’m happy, man.”
“You’re dreamin’. Enhancements, heh… goddamn are you dreamin’.”
“So, about this party on Friday…”