Cull reached out to Cheza. She fell into the man’s arms and hugged the sensor tightly. “There there now, that’s not how the heart works, girl.” He exchanged a somber glance with the other sensor. “I’m afraid that’s not how Fairchild works either.”
Cull released her from his grasp and, without warning, pushed her into the pool. Her body sank underneath the mirror of dark liquid and I could feel my insides go jelly. I tried to wriggle free from my mags, but it was useless. Frantic, I scanned the cavernous room with my new eyes. Signage with letters of a size that would’ve only been a blur to me before now jumped out: the shock reds, yellows, the iridescent oranges, and a large outline in the shape of a fish. A fish? Yes, it was a fish—a fish curled into a circle with the words “BioFresh Systems” printed inside it. There were other words, other signs. So many. Cheza was still in the pool, flailing and gurgling black water. I kept searching for something in the messages on the wall. The Age Treatment. What does it mean? Where are the words?
There they are!
Age Treatment Facility.
No, no, there’s more:
SEWAGE TREATMENT FACILITY
Cull saw me drop to my knees. “There are drawbacks to being fully-sensed, Mr. Fynch,” Cull said. “Not all the tastes life has to offer you are pleasurable ones.”
Cheza’s fingers groped for a hard surface to cling to. She reached her hand slowly out of the filth and clung to the concrete just outside the pool. Cull calmly stepped to the edge and eased the girl’s fingers back into the murk with the toe of his boot, leaving only the residue of keratin dust from her nails written on the concrete. “Last night with your new senses you stole some pleasurable experiences. Today, you will suffer an ill one.”
Gasps. Open mouths. Swapped expressions of terror. The table is silent.
“You studs wanted the know,” I say. “That’s all the know I got.”
Alfa exhales a long breath and leans back in his chair. “Did you—“
“No, they never gave me the age treatment, just Cheza.”
“Jesus in January, Tig, what happened to her?”
“They scooped her out of the pool eventually, but only after they were sure her senses were overloaded with shit. Then they brought us back to Fairchild. She didn’t say a word the whole trip. They dropped her off at the east arm of the school. I can still see her walking away, that blank look in her eyes. No, not blank . . . broken. Headwoman Toi met them at the doors with a buzz wand and took Cheza down. The instant the wand touched the back of her neck she went limp and folded to the pavement. The sensors lifted her back up and dragged her inside. I don’t have the know on what else they did to her and I don’t think I want it anyway. I never saw Cheza again.” I clear my throat. “Then Toi came over to the tranny and buzzed me, too. I don’t remember much afterwards. I got dumped into sensory confines and shipped here.”
One after another, the studs come over to pay their respects. Some just offer a strong look, a chin nod, or an awkward grin. Others place their hand on my arm or shoulder and give a tight squeeze to be certain I feel it. It’s what I imagine a funeral must be like.
“That’s a true-on wicked tale,” Alfa says, wiping his eyes.
“I’m afraid to say it’s still being spun. I’m seeing the Council of Sensors after this to beg for mercy. They’re waiting outside to take me.”
“Femmys, man,” he says, shaking his head. “They can talk you into the worst sitches. Will we see you again, bestbro?”
I force a smile. “Tell Pooch I’m sorry for hitting him so hard.” I walk out of the nosh house and into a set of waiting magbonds.