Author : Joshua Ginsberg
Jeff sat at a circular table in the cafeteria, going through some of his data captures and interviews. It was an annual assignment – covering the oldest high school tactical combat drone rivalry in the country. Both schools had fallen to a Tier II ranking over the past decades, which meant carving some activities and programs out of the curriculum, but the drone teams were a major alumni draw and kept the corporate sponsorships coming in, which meant that Jeff could count on at least one story each year for a long time to come.
He saw the drone Capitan, Kit and his second come out of the lipid line with the left sleeves of their white shirts rolled up to expose the holotats on their biceps – streaming alphanumeric text alternating between forming the shape of a missile and the shape of the school’s initials.
Kit and his second stopped beside another, much smaller student and looked down at his open-toed shoes. Kit suddenly recoiled in disgust, pushed the smaller student’s tray down with a clatter, spat at his feet and then glared down into his gray eyes.
“Get outta here, you quad freak.” He hissed.
The other student stopped, contemplated collecting his lunch before decided better of it and headed towards the bathroom to wash his light grey shirt which had become stained with some sort of juice plasma.
Jeff tried to keep writing but he suddenly became aware of a burning itch on the toes of both feet that he couldn’t ignore. He put away his notes and followed the student into the rest room. Through the sliding doors, he heard muffled sobs coming from one of the stalls and gave it a quick rap. The sniffles subsided.”
“Hey, you ok in there?”
Jeff, pushed the door open a crack.
“It’s not my fault,” a pathetically small voice said.
“I know. And I’m going to tell you something. I do a lot of research and it turns out that for the past ten years more than 50% of new births are quadriphilanges.”
“So you’re not the freak. The quints are. They’re the evolutionary knuckle-dragging anomalies and you’re the future, kid.”
“Great, so maybe in another generation the odds will even out…” He stopped to blow his nose.
“It won’t take that long… But in the meantime…” Jeff took off his shoes and bent down, clasping each of his pinkie toes for a five count until the adaptive cybernetics detached from his feet leaving just the small lump where a fifth toe never grew. “…you’ve got these.” He put the false toes in his palm and extended it through the slight opening in the stall. The detached digits continued to flex and writhe in his hand like fleshy caterpillars.
The kid opened the door all the way, his green eyes wide in disbelief. “No way! But, wait. I thought they were banned?”
“Yeah, well sometimes we even the odds ahead of evolution. Here, I’ll show you how to put them on.”