How was it Malka's life had kept growing after Uni, while Nera's stayed like a potted plant? At sixteen, they had both driven party shuttles, done megaphone duty, matchmaker, and groupie work with union shop stewards and farmhands, in the Work For Love campaign to keep German agribusiness from collapsing. Now, at 42, Malka was an industrial facilitator with an 803 on hUBBUB. When she posted about shortages, Frankfurt's entire ratings landscape shifted.
Why had Malka brought up Sven? Was it some kind of warning, about the limits of old loyalties? An uncomfortably high proportion of Nera's ratings hinged on Malka's yes-votes. That had gotten her accepted into Cambergerstrasse project. And if that would only go well, it ought to break her into the mid-500s, maybe beyond.
"Yeah," Malka said. "It's a mess. I was commenting for a while, rooting for him, asking him to shape up, but he's so bitter -- now I'm really just watching for the trainwreck value. It's sad."
Through the kitchen: Schwarzwälders at the bar, Bavarians around the fridge, and Finns and Peruvians cooking something loudly at the grill. There was a purple flash at the corner of Nera's vision. Did she want to contribute some of her energy ration to the barbecue? No. She did not.
"Yeah, that Sven," Malka said. "He's fallen apart since then. He gets in fights, drinks, won't work, takes things uninvited -- he's in the red, nobody will feed him but the kitchens, and the Security Committee is talking about calling a vote for deportation, gang work, or dosing him on moodies..."
"Oh shit," Nera said.
"Are you following Sven?" Malka asked, as Nera caught up.
"Sven from the old days? Sven who was in the Pie Squad?" The Pie Squad happyslapped statist politicians with cream pies, assassination-style, in '33-'36. Sven was a beauty, and Malka had been sleeping with him in Berlin, when her tribe unfirewalled the national surveillance network.
When Nera and Malka were teenagers, back in the tumult of '33, they'd helped remake the world, cheering each other on long before they ever met in person. They were commenters on each other's video streams, that year when everyone was phoning in earring footage of eviction standoffs, food riots, praise-ins, convoys, patentbreaking spontos. Later, when they'd finally met in person at Uni, they'd charged across the mensa to fall into each other's arms.
They paused as a flock of nine- and ten-year-old kids pushed past them, chattering in Chinese, none of them Chinese: tongue-slaved to some server. There never used to be kids at these parties. But who knew where kids went or why, nowadays? When Nera was a kid, you knew where kids were during the day. They were in school. Or with their parents. Torsten Hughes's parents were probably across town at some other party.
Malka set off towards the library, and Nera followed. At the base of a deep purple column, a little blond boy stuffed strips of fungus into his mouth. He examined his hands while he chewed. For him, Clamor played turn-of-the-century pop: sweet and bouncy U.S.-Anglo music from Nera's parents' childhood. As her eyes lingered on him, her infospace started whispering: Torsten Hughes, 6 years old, born in Edinburgh, Scotland --
"I know, weird." Malka smiled. "Come on, let's go meet him." She winked, and her fingers flickered in the air. The green of an incoming flashed in the lower right corner of Nera's vision, and with a flick of her tongue she pulled Malka's message open: Come on, princess, let's get this over with. Malka meant seeing Jörg again.
"Hey babe," Nera said, maybe a little too cheerful. She wondered, for the nth time, what Malka's services played in Malka's ears for Nera's theme song.
A woman in a sparkly blue chador pushed between them, followed by an old white guy in a top hat. They were arguing in Bäyerish. When Nera focused on them, Clamor played something dark, ominous, and classical: they were trouble. They threaded through the fungus columns.
She heard Malka's theme song before she saw her. Nera had Moody's Clamor service on audio, and its theme song for Malka was a peppy, sizzling cryohaka beat -- up-to-the-minute, fun, powerful, a little out of Nera's league. Moody's had their relationship pretty well down, in other words. Nera closed her in-eye windows.
"Hey," Malka said. She was in a short-sleeved ocean t-shirt (rolling waves, blues and greens) and matte black slacks. It suited her.
It was insane, in Nera's opinion, to be doing 1990s-style artisanal re-creationist construction -- steel frame and drywall -- three kilometers above ground. If they just printed bamboo and carbon thread out of compost like everyone else, the rest of the project might still get slagged for showboating, but at least their energy use wouldn't be over the top. But it wasn't Nera's decision. Nera was lucky to be involved at all.
Sabine needs a breakdown on what the historical construction style is really going to mean for energy impact. It needs to be better than canned agent estimates, because Slow Growth and Big Frankfurt are trying to pull us into their bullshit ideological fight. Sabine has friends at the AutieGirls collective who can get us some custom-evolved estimates, but you know what they're like -- they're going to have a million super-literal questions. Can you figure it out?
He was 45, three years older than Nera, rated in the 500s at Moody's and Snopes and in the 700s at hUBBUB. Nera only had a 453 at hUBBUB.
Anyway, she'd gestured that window closed. She didn't want to stand around in the middle of the party with a glazed expression, watching an ex-boyfriend in another room over in-eye. Instead she was standing around with a glazed expression trying to catch up on work. Colette had messaged her:
Jörg was in the library -- she'd checked, scanning the party before she arrived. He was talking to some guy named Sergei Balduri. Nera's services weren't offering many predictions about whether she'd like this Sergei. No weightings available for intellectual stimulation, stabilized admiration, social usefulness, practical alliance -- nothing, except that they'd be good in bed together (with 89% compatibility -- as hUBBUB summarized, "Run That Bunny Down!").
She used to sleep in this room. Then it was spare, full of light from the big window, vintage Ikea daybeds and electric lamps and side tables. Jörg used to scavenge them, fill cracks in the pasteboard and pine with archaic wood-goo. Now a forest of columns of fungus blocked the light. They were as wide as trees, crimson and magenta and burnt-sienna. They smelled like sausage. Tomas must be growing them, beta-testing gene splices. It was the kind of thing he'd do.
Legislation, family counseling, robot repair and asteroid prospecting.
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