The one that I wanted wore blue in my view.

I gave her a blue halo that flickered with electric sparks due to her energy radiating from the Creator. I know that my superstition is thinner even than the layer of internet that I superimpose in my solipsistic daydreams, but my camera is open for anyone to look through. That night at the business gala that I had sneaked into, I kept praying to my Creator that this was the night that I would change my life. I did not know what I was going to find at the gala. My name is Struck Verdos. I am largely unenhanced, possessing only a postnatal internet access module that was already of considerable vintage before I was conceived. My mother obtained it from welfare, and she was not able to afford formal training for me to learn its use as a child. Therefore, I had gone through every well-trodden path of childhood foolery with internet use. I still kept an imagination view camera open, which was generally something that most people gave up in early adolescence out of the desire to be perceived as a mature adult. Being poorly schooled and late-trained, my adultness-desire was overshadowed by my pride at the meticulousness with which I painted the world for my personal internet stream. I had a few followers who I never met, but they left nice letters about how prettily I could make up the world around me. I work in a hostel, and tonight I was committing fraud. I was impersonating a businessman named Ademmsi Lutaka. The reason for this night was the fact that a drunken businessman had come to my counter the night before. He had physical credit in a leather satchel, and he had poured the chips out onto the counter. He was likely a gambler. Mixed into the chips, there was a security override card with a hologram of him. He had no idea that I took it, slipping it into my pocket as I sealed a bag of the chips with the invoice. I took it because he looked nearly identical to me. He did notice that we were incredibly close in appearance. He was enhanced and had lived in high habitats for most of his life, and thus lacked my physical imperfections, scars, pimples, unevenly trimmed and misplaced hairs, faint wrinkles on my face and hands, tan lines, and any other features gained by outdoor environments, natural sunlight, varying temperatures, and hard environmental features. Still, we were close to twins. In his drunkenness, he had blurted, "You know, we look like clones. Maybe the Mafia is making copies of me? I wonder if they think I'll sell well as a businessman. Are you Mafia-born?" If he wasn't drunk, I would have been offended, but I knew he wouldn't remember a thing. "Oh no, I'm not even really enhanced." "Oh yeah, basic, of course. Sorry for the stupid question. Why else would you be the night clerk at a hostel?" "Say, maybe my parents thought that there was more to life than sucking the giant threaded dick of a mining corporation." "Hey now, if it wasn't so late I might beat your pissy ass, but I'm too drunk to fight. Sleepy. Just take me to a bed, eh?" "Sure thing, boss. Carry your bag?" "No, don't touch my leather." His bag matched his pouch. He did not need help carrying his bag, as it was no more than a small purse. He was addled and did not see that I was sarcastic. It didn't matter, because I had his manual override card, a pass saying that I was a rich businessman. I just had to use it quickly, before he missed it. So, I went to the closest business gala as soon as I got off of work. That was where I saw the woman named Katarina, and decided that I had to make an inroad into her life. Meeting a woman was what I had in mind, my reason for going to the gala in the first place. When I saw this woman, she glowed. She had white lace wings, and a fiery tail, and an electric mandala of the thirteen aspects of my Creator (my private cosmology) blazed over her head, bobbing through space as she sipped champagne and chatted and laughed. She was gorgeous, possessed of the exact perfection of the businessman that I was impersonating. I loathed his perfection, hating him for his easy life and undeserved riches. I longed for her perfection so much that I shed a tear when I first watched her talking to a group of three men. I watched eyes at this gala with fierce intent. I needed to see if anyone recognized me. If they did, I might have needed to leave, very fast. The fine-tuned memories of these men and women would instantly detect all the nuances of my character that distinguished me from Ademmsi Lutaka, not just my tiny imperfections, which I hoped would not be noticed by strangers, or at least passed for remark out of politeness; I suspected the latter was more common. So I talked to her. I introduced myself as Ademmsi, and told her that I was in the colony

for a visit to a cousin with whom I had a shared interest in sacred labyrinths of certain ancient mystical orders. This is a true interest of mine, and in fact I keep a library of hand-made models spanning the Earthbound and Interstellar Ages. This seemed to pique her interest. I suspected that it would because she was wearing a bracelet of the Gnosisines, which told me that she had an interest in post-scientific mysticism. I asked her if she trained in higher-circuit focusendurance, and she nodded, but I felt that I was boring her. It's not possible for a basic human to understand the nuances of these business meetings. There is simply too much going on, and the details are all toned down to the point of near-invisibility. The Gnosisine bracelet was such a clear-conversation starter that it was like a flag, whereas the symbol on her cheek, a red circle enclosing five glittering dots, told me nothing. It could have been the mark of a social faction, or a metaphysical concept, or merely for beauty. I had to wonder, because asking her risked outing myself as an ignoramus. The same could be said for the outfits of every person around me. Some were undoubtedly elaborate visual puns, or nods to bygone eras of culture, or popular culture references hinged on events only hours passed. Almost nothing about the dozens of business associates present (it was a very small gala, likely to be concluded by the hour) was garish or attention grabbing. The costumes were subdued and sexy. The light came from tanks of phosphorescent fish. The music was a chorus of whisperers, a flautist, and a harpsichord player. The catering was conducted by crippled elevated monkeys, as a charity drive for research animals discarded by the Mafia. I sipped thimbleberry wine and passed on hors-d'oeuvres as casually as I could manage while trying to focus on the dizzyingly attractive business professional who I was boring. I changed the topic. "What do you think of class warfare?" "People like you and I get to party and be beautiful. I'm saddened by the fact that others envy this." "Some people believe that everyone ought to be equally blessed by birth." She lowered her gaze. "Are you against the trans-human streaming?" "My mother escaped from an Indigenous Land Trust." "You're not enhanced." "That's true." Now I had no idea what would happen. I knew that she would not call security. It was rare, but possible, that a basic human could handle business. But she smiled, and I knew that she was intrigued and didn't care if he had an ulterior motive. My heart started racing. I was so elated that I dropped my drink. It just slipped from my fingers. She reached out and caught it without spilling a drop, and handed it back to me. "Had enough to drink?" "Absolutely not." "How did you get in? I'm supposed to be discussing potential accounts right now." "Isn't it awful that you have to spend enormous amounts of time just looking for good fortune, finding ways of saving investors piddling costs and resources by filtering out hundreds of potential associates as fast as you can understand their weaknesses? It seems depressing." "It is work. I have to remember every detail of the lives of thousands of people and project reports every day. That's why I make more money than you. You work at night, don't you?" "How can you tell?" "Your physiological signs aren't flagging at the rate of someone who worked eight hours ago, but by the way you've been shifting your stance, I know that you've been on your feet for at least a few hours today. I'm sorry that your job must be physically taxing." "It doesn't seem so." "It is. You'll know better about that in a few years." "Would you look at my stream?" "What's your number?" I told her, and she shut her lovely eyes for a moment. "That's very pretty. You must draw a lot of your sacred geometric patterns. I don't have time for creative pursuits, except just enough for creative exercise, fifteen minutes a day." "What can you do in fifteen minutes?" She handed me her internet stream, employing a connector that was far beyond the means of my parents to ever dream of having supplied me in my early life. Her hand brushed my chin as her hand connected the stream into my eyes, and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck from the thrill. She had sewn hundreds of tiny stuffed dolls, with button eyes, and stitches for mouths.

They were all the same. They looked like her as a child. They looked passive and perfect. They wore very plain yellow dresses and blue boots and they had every finger and toe in miniature, and they all had the same number of stitches in every feature. All of their mouths were stitched into little screams, and their hands were held flat to the sides of their faces, and their eyes looked up. So far, in the seventeen years of her life, she had made three hundred and forty-four of them. "You should get out of business." "Next year, I'm going to be a prime investor in a new corporation." "A new facade for the mining cartel." "A task that was allotted to me by my parents before birth. It will multiply my family's wealth by ten. Then after that, I will likely be awarded a post as a liaison for trade relations with the Last Colonies." "Also corrupt and lucrative." "I can't get out of business. My parents would have me assassinated if I just quit." "Why? Do you have habitat requirements?" In truth, I barely knew anything about this topic. I had merely heard of it. "No, that wouldn't be an issue. It might seem like a lot of money to you, but with my salary and my brother's salary, that would not be of any importance. It's because of what I know. They told me what my corporation would be named when I was five. It is highly predicted that I would defect from my family's business interests if I had enough free time to think about all of the corruption. So, if I quit being busy, I disappear." "Is that common?" "I would say that it isn't, but I'm not sure. It's largely based on my profile." "Did they tell you that?" "Yes. Only recently." I talked to Katarina for a while longer, about art and labyrinths and the Gnosisines. The other attendees started to leave. I took her outside and sang her a chant that I composed about the radiating patterns of the Creator extending from perfect geometry at infinity to organic patterns that we perceived, and how stronger minds could see closer to the Creator by seeing simpler pictures. She gave me her hand, and I walked with her to a hotel. This was nothing like my hostel. We plucked alcoholic fruit from a living chandelier. We walked in the garden, which was filled with exotic plants that exhaled warm sweet fumes on us as we passed them. We played, grappling in a pool of viscous gray sticky fluid that hardened when struck, and sopped our clothes. We washed them without undressing (although I wanted to do so very badly). She produced a lute and played me a song about an ancient country on Earth where they grew huge landscapes of grass seeds to eat. The sufferance of such a waste of labor for the sake of millions of little plants and their miniscule calorie output overwhelmed me. Her voice was soft and deep. I kissed her, and she laid back. She held my hand and we watched images of flowers blooming in high speed, playing across the ceiling of her suite in depth-paintings. The lavishness of her life was a thing arisen from my dreams. I knew that she didn't care if anyone was with her or not. Her feelings were burned out by early emotion-suppression therapy. I saw that she was lying about having parents, because she couldn't explain what they were like. She had no proper conception of what a family was, or a friend or lover, or anything else besides a superior and a subordinate. I might as well have been a pet, or her father, or a robot. Fucking her would have been akin to fucking a robot. She was Mafia-born. Her mind was screaming every minute of every day, and she was almost deaf to it. I kissed her again. By being with her, I could assume the exact same role that the Mafia had assumed by bringing her into existence in the first place. Somewhere, I had a false sibling akin to her. My mother had taken a payment to carry an implanted fetus, and the fetus was itself implanted with various cybernetic gears while still developing in the womb. In the most common scenario, the child is the highly-enhanced property of the Mafia, taken at birth and raised by them to sell to business, and the mother gets enough money to escape the Indigenous Land Trust that she usually comes from. I explained to Katarina, how I could help her. Lying beside her, I whispered, "You are burning with pain inside, and you are trained not to feel it." "That's true." "I am not going to sleep with you."

"Okay." "I just want to hold you, and I want you to feel good." "Okay." Maybe I would have tried to kill her, if I thought that I could. If I had, she would have automatically broken me, her reflexes acting faster than her thoughts. There was nothing that I could do for her that would make her life any better. I told her that I loved her, and I apologized for wishing that she did not exist. By this point, early in the morning, she had become almost catatonic. But in my internet dreams she flourished and smiled and glowed. The next day she gave me one doll, and she left the colony, and I've never seen her again. I took Ademmsi out for a drink the next night, and slipped the security override card into his pouch in his bag when he wasn't looking. With him, I tried to let my anger go and be a pal. We could be brothers, after all.

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