Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mandatory Vacations

The thing about being a mechanic is that you fix things. It gives you a certain respect, because you held hold the world together and make sure it doesn’t fall apart as best you can. The thing about working in psych is that you hold people together, and nothing destroys the world faster than people breaking down. Which is why Jaci gives me no choice when they show up at my quarters on the McLan, point out in certain terms that I have spent four years without a vacation and even sneak in work on the rest days I take each monthly cycle. I would protest at the invasion of privacy, but Jaci has been a friend for over three year cycles and I have no doubt they are prepared with an even longer mandatory vacation if I try and get out of this one.

Which is why I end up bound for Garnet IV with Orien. Medics are bad at taking vacations as well, though they generally have better reasons than a mechanic does. Mine is mostly that I’m not human in the technical sense: when you’ve had your mind transferred into another body, you can only think of yourself as still human for so long. I haven’t in quite a few years, though I mostly keep that to myself. Most of the first-generation transfers have killed themselves long before now, and the second-gen use of the technology was largely creative assassination. It’s possibly to temporarily copy of someone’s mind into a Construct for messages, but those degrade quickly. Transfers are permanent, reserved for accidents and injuries that can’t be solved any other way.

There aren’t many of us anymore. A lot of people simple decide they’d rather die than become one. I wasn’t given a choice, being eight when the accident happened. I’ve known people who have made the choices, and those who have refused it. I don’t think any side is braver than the other. I know I’m an anomaly for surviving as long as I have, but I don’t know why that is so. I need to keep my systems charged, but I don’t eat. I don’t sleep. I pointed that out to Jaci, who cheerfully said that they didn’t care, the flight had been booked and if I wanted to consider it a journey rather than vacation, it was entirely fine by them.

I’m a little worried at how well Jaci knows me, even if Adjudicators are trained psychs.

Orien and I are the only people on the small transit craft leading down to Garnet IV. He used to be a battlefield medic until a bomb removed his arms, legs and some of the rest of his body. Synthlimbs had replaced it all, synthskin hiding the damage entirely, but he was discharged anyway and ended up as a medic on the McLan. I helped fix some of his systems once, he insisted on checking me over in turn. We’ve been good friends ever since.

Enough that I’m not even having my projection up, just pacing the small craft up and down on my treads. The projection is a human-seeming over me, semi-solid illusion that people prefer to interact with over a cylindrical shape on treads with over a dozen arms inside a chassis and a viewscreen with a projection-face. The projection looks like me, if I was in my twenties, and is quite well-made. I upgrade and fix my body as the closest thing I have to a hobby.

“Are you finished being grumpy?” Orien says dryly.

“I’m not grumpy.” I turn my projection on and cross my arms and glower at him. “I’m miffed.”

“I don’t like vacations anymore than you do, but it’s not as if we have a choice. Medics are medics wherever we go, but Garnet IV is different. We’re talking high-class vacation – the whole local system, not just the one planet – and staff who won’t bat an eye at you. If you stop being miffed.”

I flick the projection off and let out a huge sigh, moving over to wait beside him as the docking process begins. My vocal interface is very good, sometimes better than I like it to be. “You’ve seen the specs too.”

“No infoweb access at all. A whole week of updates and data we’ll both need to catch up on.” Orien gives me a gentle poke in the side. “You can’t tell me you don’t look forward to that.”

I grin despite myself; the viewscreen face-projection gives away too much as well, sometimes, and my grin definitely looks as wicked as it feels.

“If we play our cards right Jaci won’t send us on another vacation for a long time, at least not to a system without the infoweb. But it does mean we have a whole week to ourselves with no one bothering us. The staff won’t care that you’re a transfer – or even that I am on this vacation with you – but I doubt the other guests will want to get to know you.”

I flick my projection on long enough to shrug, shut it off again. “I’m used to that.”

He lets out a sigh of his own, but doesn’t push the issue. “What was your last vacation like? You must have had at least one before now.”

“I had a lot of downtime before I left Earth, when business was slow –.”

“Dar.” He says nothing else. Waits.

“The journey to the first world off-Earth I worked at was relaxing,” I say finally. “I had no idea what to expect from them, and Max had given me his security clearances so I had more access to the infoweb than I ever had before. I was drunk on information the entire journey. It was nice.”

“Being drunk?”

“Being free. For a little while. Setting up my shop again and getting custom was just too much work, so I sold it all off and ended up on Docking Stations, and then worked my way out to McLan.”

Orien studies me in silence. I don’t turn on my projection, or turn off the viewscreen, even though I feel nervous under his gaze as the shuttle finishes docking. “You’re telling me you’ve never had a real vacation,” he says finally.

“I guess not, at least not in the sense you mean?”

“I see.” He pauses a moment, then follows me as we leave the landing craft. The sky is a hundred fresh colours, the world full of the hum of life so different than the sounds of Docking Stations and machines. And the Infoweb is gone entire, closed off, a void left for the world to fill. I move out beside Orien, taking it all in slowly.

“Nice, isn’t it?” Orien says.

I pause. “Am I allowed to say no?”

He kicks me in the side; I yelp, as much from how casual it is as the fact that he does it. “I extended the vacation just before we docked. Two weeks, the second week is going to be a journey through the hundred islands along the north coast.”

“But –.”

“When is the last time you went camping?”

“Never,” I mumble.

“Exactly. Life is a journey, and if you don’t make journeys during it then you’re doing something wrong.” He grins. “We can depart early if you really want to, okay?”

And he is serious about that, too. “Okay.” I continue forward, extending a limb to rub my chassis where he kicked me. I don’t have limbs designed that are suitable for kicking anyone; I make a note to change that once we’re back on McLan.

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