Okay, so I haven’t posted in a while. Alright – over two months – but I’ve been sick – very sick. My property taxes went up – way up – and it was either find a way to cover the difference or move. Since I was one of the lucky few in the condo-forest to find something that only took up 60 percent of my income during the brief real-estate downturn a couple years back, I decided to hang onto it – but the only way I could come up with that much cash that quickly was to bio-pimp myself.Big mistake – or not – it’s all a question of perspective I guess. I was able to pony up my tax because of it – but the good feeling I got after I hit “submit” on the payment only lasted for two days – then the vomiting started. I still don’t get it. The stuff I test-subjected for was supposed to have been thoroughly vetted – with the high-risk phase of the testing already having gone down in Iraq on refugees who had a lot fewer options than I did. The feels-like-death scenario I went through was never supposed to happen – but it did.
The worst was I even saw it coming. The liability waivers they gave me were a lot more extensive than what you usually get in the low-risk phase of any human subjects test. But the alternative was no money – the loss of my home and Ichi status – and a no-expenses-paid slide into the Zero. So I ignored the sinking feeling in my gut and signed. I secured my future as much as anyone can these days – but it cost me nearly two months of symptoms that presented like a hybrid of heroin withdrawl and the most extreme side-effects of oldschool chemotherapy.
The purging turned out to be just a tease – when everything went full-blown my whole body hurt – my bones – my joints – my skin. I sweated buckets – veryodd considering how cold I felt the whole time. I couldn’t stop shivering. I shivered so much my muscles started cramping from it. I’ll spare you full disclosure on what was coming out when I shit, but it made me seriously wonder if they hadn’t given me some kind of parasite that was eating its way to daylight through my intestines.
If you fast-forward through the agony-blur you come to where eventually I got better. The doctors/hospital staff were all apologies once I was coherent enough to understand them – so were the reps for the pharma-company who’d sponsored the trials. I can remember wondering at the time if they’d made the same apologies with the same well-practiced-conviction to the Iraqis?
It didn’t matter. I nodded and played the game – signed some more liability waivers and a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for a little more money – and checked out two days ago. I don’t know if I’m violating that agreement rightnow by posting this, but I’ve skirted enough of the details that I think I’m probably cool. One thing though – don’t even try to squeeze me for any additional backstory on the incident – that’s not going to happen. I may be stupid enough to post this because I have to tell someone so I can purge the memories before they eat me alive – but I’m not stupid enough to fuck seriously with a gigacorporation’s lawyers.
I’ll return to the clone-perfect thread next time. Until then, here’s more Kiku. Hope you can still remember…
It went badly from the beginning – her father started the conversation by asking her how much money she needed – she never fully recovered from that. She tried her best to keep the pretense going – but she was too distracted. All the time she was trying to talk to him she kept wondering about how he’d known. Her father pressed his advantage – questioned her extensively about the course she was supposed to be taking. She’d worked out some of the details he’d asked her for from conversations she’d had with Yoshi – but he wanted more information than she could provide. Then he’d asked for a financial breakdown of what the course cost and contact names of the people running it – then things fell apart completely. The exchange got jagged and verybrutal after that.
“Alright! You win. I need the money for a makeover. Nothing’s happening for me right now and I need to change my image.”
“As I suspected… My little chrysanthemum never could lie to me. Some things about you at least have not changed. Am I also right in assuming that part of this ‘makeover’ involves a trip to the surgeon?… Don’t bother to manufacture an answer. I already know, and I’m disgusted that you’d even think to ask for my help in that way ever again… Goodbye Kiku.”
He started getting up to leave – then Kiku said the thing she found it difficult to believe she was saying even while the words were leaving her mouth.
“You’ll give me the money daddy. You’ll do it or I’ll make sure everybody knows how I got so thin. Your colleagues on .MED – anyone who’s willing to listen on D3 – everybody. I may never get to model afterwards – but you’ll never get to do the only thing you’ve ever really cared about ever again.”
There was a pause of perhaps thirty seconds – her father’s face went blank. Then he spoke – his words coming out like sharp sound bytes from an otherwise impassive mask.
“You really would do that wouldn’t you?”
Her father smiled for the first time since they sat down.
“You’ve grown up a lot in the last six months… Very well… You know…somehow I’d hoped I could escape the Karma of my actions… Perhaps this serves me right for being weak enough to compromise my ethics in the first place – and naive enough to think I could get away with it… You’ll be able to access the money from your bank Monday morning. Since you are no longer my daughter, you are never to speak to me or contact me again… Since I won’t be seeing you anymore, allow me to leave you with one piece of advice. While you’re busy having everything cut away and ‘made over’ at least try to keep a small piece of the little chrysanthemum I used to love. Maybe wear it as a keepsake around your neck – so the manufactured entity can remember – if only vaguely – what it was like to be a real human being.”
Kiku got up in a hurry and left – there was no way she was going to let her father know he’d gotten in. At first there was only anger. She hated him – hated his self-righteousness – the melodramatic tone he took when he lectured her. His attitude was so oldschool N1PP0N – full of the smugness of someone who’d managed to make a life for himself before the economy declined – who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand why she was having so much trouble trying to do the same. Later the anger gave way – she cried – but not as much as she thought she was going to – not until she was alone in her room that night. She was surprised by that. Kiku knew that if she was going to be successful she’d have to make them – cruel choices – the kind that cut you – that hurt in ways far different from the beautiful pain. She wasn’t sure she had what it took to deal with it – not until the conversation with her father. She logged into her bank from .COM the following Monday and found the deposit there – then she contacted Yoshi to tell him the makeover could go ahead. She told him she’d persuaded her father to give her the CREDITCHIP – she didn’t tell him how she’d done it – she’d have to make sure he never found out. Yoshi was the closest thing she had to family now – but there were some things even he wouldn’t understand. The new Kiku took things like that into consideration – everything had to be planned – she’d even budgeted the clothes she’d need to complete the makeover into the money she asked her father for. Planning like that was part of the new mask – the mask the new Kiku had already started working on because she knew she’d need it. This one went much deeper than your face or body – it was like a tactical implant – the kind they used to talk about in Amerika-jin cyberpunk novels. The new mask controlled what you said – how you moved – everything. It constantly monitored the reactions of others – constantly modified Kiku’s responses for max effect. The mask was what would really make the difference. The surgery she had three weeks later seemed almost like an afterthought – the clothes she and Yoshi spent weeks working with – a final punctuation. There were some new holocomps after that – then Kiku turned the image she was on the world.
Things happened veryquickly after that – so quickly Kiku found it difficult to keep her sense of continuity. Life became a temporal blur. She could remember distinctly what happened – but if you’d asked her to tell you exactly when individual events took place she’d have been at a total loss to explain. All she’d be able to tell you was that she went from flotsam-and-jetsam thing to .FASHION icon in eighteen months.