Z-Girl versus the Quantum Shampoo

Just another glorious day in the fortress. Calling your house a fortress promotes the right attitude towards laying in supplies, expeditions into the outside world, and dealing with unwanted invaders at the door. Dropping pots of boiling oil causes more interruptions than it solves, we’ve found, but an attitude brimming with bubbling pitch is much less actionable than a cauldron. And almost as effective.

G-girl and I were feeling pretty chill, so coddled by technology I could take the time to worry about using “I” instead of “me” back there instead of worrying about food or shelter, when the newshriek destroyed all feelings of security. That’s the newshriek’s job. Writing your fears on an infographic blackboard and dragging its manicured fingernails down them with a smile. And now the weather.

Weather: climate change flooding and drought we can’t even average out our environmental disasters no no we get both extremes and we’re all going to die, but you first.

Now messages from our sponsors.

The airbrushed holo stalks around the house looking for something to advertise. But since Tau-girl screwed its sensors all the shriek sees is the inside of a Sealand sex derrick, so the ‘rithm goes into that blank face they have instead of negative emotions. If you exist outside the target markets, you don’t exist at all. And people say advertising isn’t honest.

Pupillary wobble as it resynchs with the real newscaster, loading the shell with soul for the scariest item: the funny final story. The fastest way to the heart is through the stomach (though you need a sharp knife and better hope blood literally works as elbow grease), but the short-circuit to sickness in the soul is along the funnybone. Laughter confesses everything. No-one’s sense of smell has revealed how they think sexual assault is hilarious. Their sense of hearing doesn’t chuckle at racism. Nope, it’s the sense of humor that betrays the bad things.

The latest light-hearted abuse? A marketing lab has cracked emotional entanglement. Here’s how it works: you’re made of bits. Stop me if I’m getting too technical. Your brain is electrons and protons and neutrons and all the squiggly little lines bouncing between them and that really is it. Emotions are atomic processes. Quantum entanglement can tie atoms together over any distance. Therefore this company has worked out how to access the soul through quantum mechanics, and since academics don’t pay much they’re announcing it through a four-minute shampoo ad.

The same soapy softcore, boosted by a professional bodyhaver rubbing themselves all over the same channel that apologises for even mentioning sex before midnight. No nipples. Yes to everything up to the atomic edge of the areolae. Every movie is allowed forty violent demolishments of the human body but can’t show anyone doing anything consensual to one.

This is off-pissing.

This is a call to arms and legs and cruelly censored genitals.

H-girl’s out (she takes a lot of energy to find at the best of times), so it’s up to me and G. I grab my titanium board and boost out the window. Sun’s just gone down so I’m flying almost horizontally. I love the low-level speed but if you go too far the Earth’s curve can make things a little high-flying.

G-girl just flies because she can do that. Also useful for heavy luggage, grocery runs, and saving crashing aeroplanes, which is good part-time work if you can get it. Although the hours are a bit sudden. And people do look a little upset when you stand by the emergency exit with a donation bucket, but they tend to realize it ‘s a good deal pretty quickly.

Blasting past flocks of honking commuters. After all that hassle the flying cars didn’t make anybody happy. At least now when there’s an accident it immediately drops out of everyone else’s way.

No problems getting to the studio. I think the police have an app for avoiding us now, but Omnedia brand managers surround the transmission vaults. You don’t need much hardware to transmit across the planet, but the vaults containing the encryption codes for brand-name receivers can’t be moved by anything smaller than a nuclear forklift. Or a tectonic plate.

Luckily brand managers are much more malleable. After all, they changed their names when they found “troops” didn’t test well.

A while back brands realized that paying politicians to push corporate defense as anti-terrorism still meant they were paying police to protect their property. But police have to pretend to care about other things. And “paying” full wages really wasn’t the corporate ideal. So the brands lobbied to let police forces outsource anti-protest services. And the businesses can lease the right to use force from the police paying them to patrol themselves. Think credit swap with blunt trauma. I think there’s even a tax break for the bone breaks. Somewhere an accountant is still grinning about the contract while Satan stares jealously and wishes he’d thought of that.

Short form: you can get paid to beat people up and wear a uniform saying you like to do that.
Shorter form: guilt-free bad guys.
Shortest form: boom.

Of course there were legal implications: any weapon which could extend beyond the range of the wielder was a legal minefield. Though only came up after legal departments forbade brand managers from laying actual minefields in what they called “potential terroristic assembly zones”, but what everyone else called “the street”.

The compromise was the Baton Bill. Managers can legally serve anyone an immediate cease-and-desist, which must be delivered in person. Said cease-and-desists being printed in thousand point type on hundreds of meters of polypolymer payer, wrapped for “ease of delivery” and only coincidentally resembling a superhard rod. The most advanced nations on Earth have created the most lethal cavepeople in existence. More materials science went into those legal batons than the first twenty thousand years of human progress, with the opposite effect on the survival probability of individuals.

Did I mention the guilt-free thing?

I upped the interaction factor across the street, elastically blasting air molecules which really weren’t expecting to have to deal with solar neutrino flux right now or ever. Sheets of accelerated atoms burst into flame across the avenue, maybe not-accidentally setting fire to a few of the troops more obviously stroking their batons. Hey, if flame won’t shoot straight up, I have to make it impressive somehow.

The smarter brand managers decided to seek more competitive long-term career options. A few of the more ambitious had to be launched over the horizon. Ballistic brand managers soaring in random directions told me that G-girl was getting her work done, and a couple of squidgy sonic booms told me that a few had chosen deeply inappropriate last words.

We blasted past the stragglers, shattering through the armored glass. (It takes a lot more effort to shatter it just before you fly through than neutrino-punching it safely from miles away, but it is so worth it.) Just after dusk so the flux is punting mooks off at about five degrees above horizontal. Had to wait to fire a few to make sure they didn’t hit anyone else, but I scored a couple of combo bonuses to make up for it.

Funny things, neutrinos: billions of them everywhere, everything in life is always full of them, but they never step in to do anything. It’s a minor miracle when even one hits on the idea of actually impacting anything and that’s treated as a huge deal. Sleeting through existence, not bothering or being bothered by anything else, they just want to keep going in the way they’re going until the end of existence. Too many to count but they just don’t want to. But if someone can get them interested, if they all suddenly start hitting the world in one place then nothing can stand against them.

Woo, analogy.

G just yanks things together, so she tears through barriers leaving little nuggets of “this didn’t work” in her wake like an anti-Pac-Man. Non-lethal attacks include increased weight, which is more of a psychological attack for TV staff than anything. The crushing universal force of gravitation is nothing on their pre-installed fear of ever gaining mass. We finally build enough technology to avoid starvation, then reverse the polarity of our most basic survival instincts about eating.

We punch through to the empathic chamber, and there they are: the most beautiful bodyhavers I’ve ever seen. Surrounded by makeup (making everything look its best) and lawyers (making sure the best bits can’t be seen). We escort them out — makeup and body through the doors, lawyers through the walls — maybe carving a contact name into a couple of hastily-grabbed clothes on the way out.

(Blaming bodyhavers for their job is like blaming bullets for their job. They’re perfectly built, customized for their job, not responsible for the screwed up system which spits them out by the hundred, and a lot more fun to have on your side. But the lawyers? Everyone makes the world better or worse. Doing it for money doesn’t make it better. They were only obeying paychecks.)

The empathic transmission chamber is wired into the walls and waterproof. You know, not enough epoch-shattering inventions are fitted with Jacuzzis. Looks like they were going for the full soapy sensorium. Those bodyhavers must have been choreographed harder than an Olympic ice-skating team. And even more carefully coached on not showing nipples.

G-girl had the transmission staff by the short and curlies (nothing quite as unsettling as feeling your gonads floating, whether internal or external), so the transmission was all set to go. Lots of tired and vulnerable consumer s eager to try out the new feature on the new television which had made the last new television old (but it had so recently been new (this is the new television now (we have always been at war with Eastasia, but it’s economic and they’re winning))).

Only four minutes. They say good sex has to be long. They say a lot about something they’d rather shoot forty terrorists than show you. Sex can be short, funny, sweaty, slippery, hunched, jumping, spinning, floating, bananaed, whatever you like, and it was all of those things in about two hundred and forty seconds. (You may need gravitational assistance with the floating one). (The banana is slang, not a prop, but whatever you’re into).

Then we floated home. G-girl did that (it was late and I didn’t feel like lifting and gliding). A lot of people were actually entertained by their new TVs, which was nice. The corp even span it as an advertising success, changing their watershed policy on actually mentioning what people’s bodies were built to do millions of years before the invention of the transistor, which was nice. If only because it was cheaper than lawsuits.

There was even a spike in banana sales.


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