Author : Rick Tobin
“You, Mister…” The pause came as the micro servers moved quietly in the administrator, shiny and stoic, with a mere chest and head. Minute flashes drifted over hardened aluminum oxide in ever flitting artificial eyes. Arms were unnecessary. Improved perforated urethane from the ancient artists of Kao Corporation provided just enough false humanity on its face to reduce interface stress—still a common condition for those remaining on Earth.
“That’s Kelso, with a K, not a C.” His overbite impeded his diction, but there was no distinct accent. Speech patterns were awash with sand from world travels.
“Yes, well, you are what we call in this bureau an accidental.” Mouth elements moved the straight, strict lips under a static set of nostrils.
“A what?” Grizzled, worn and filthy from the abandoned streets, John Kelso leaned forward toward his caseworker. His right hand wore the scars of loose ropes let wild on the last tuna boat to sail from Tuvalu in the Pacific. The left hand was short a pinky finger from his act of attrition for sleeping with a Yakuza’s wife.
“An unregistered birth that was probably unplanned and therefore unreported.”
“Meaning you are privy to no rights for support from the Society.”
“That makes no sense. My parents were both full citizens. You have their registration in front of you, on screen.” He leaned back, fuming, against his long coat made from a water buffalo hide prepared after a hunt in Thailand.
“I have the records of a couple from Indiana who had three registered children who are now meaningful and productive full citizens. Their records show no familiarity or acknowledgement of your existence.”
“Why should they? I was the oldest when my parents died. None of them were older than three. At twelve I was abandoned by my blood relatives and left to wander and survive in Indianapolis on my own.”
“Unlikely. No child could survive that.” The worker remained motionless.
“False, again. I found many like myself. I’ve since traveled much of this planet and made, I believe, a better place of it, which is more than I can say for many of your registered patrons.”
“Rumor, innuendo and slander—all useless attempts at your concept of validation. They have no effect on me.” Its face turned away from the applicant, fulfilling an algorithm to reduce conflict.
“I tell you I have a right to basic life support until I can get financially stable. My parents left a large estate behind. I’ve checked.” Kelso rubbed his arm where splintered bone ached during the changing weather. A fall in the Andes left a reminder of soroche and failed climbing ropes.
“Only for registered citizens. The Society only sets aside support for those registered. It has been that way since 2130. You are an accidental. There is no further action to take, but you have an alternative.”
“Off world transport from Earth to one of the newer colonies on the created moons in the Kuiper Belt. There you would be assigned appropriate labor, food and housing.”
“You mean a prison sentence for simply existing. No thanks to that. I like sunlight and air that doesn’t come out of a recycle cartridge. I’d starve first.”
“There are hospice beds available down the street.”
“Does this mean nothing to you? Do you even care?”
“I am not programmed to care. I simply state facts based on evidence.”
“Oh, and how did you get your cushy assignment, sitting here all day, throwing those with real skin out the door?”
“Well, Mr. Kelso, it was not by accident.”