Praxit survives to the end of the school day. His weekend begins with an intense session of veering, warming up for tomorrow’s Tower Battle elimination.
Listen to it on your favourite podcast player.
Become a Future Is Mecha patron and hear episodes days before the rest of the world, get free Future Is Mecha ebooks and audiobooks and more. It’s your support that makes new episodes possible.Become a Patron!
Episode 8 begins:
The afternoon technical stream started off in a blur and a daze as I waited for the drone squad to return and collect me. The guide, Tabitha, was nice enough even though she dressed like a popper – all in black with long hair dyed ultra black and her face whiter than white with makeup, except for her mouth and around her eyes, which were black. The kids at the table were fine. They recognised me and asked about the stupid baby, but nothing mean.
In the first veer session I had to keep stepping back because I was so distracted listening out for drones. It was actually more interesting than this morning’s media stream. It was a simple sim where you could drop and throw balls and bricks and balloons, and it showed how you could use simple math to predict where the objects would land, how fast they could move – things like that. I was surprised when the end of stream bell rang. It had really sucked me in and I had forgotten about the drones and everything until I took off my veer set. Then it all settled back down on me like a stinking blanket.
I took my time packing up so I didn’t have to deal with a hall full of kids shouting at me. It was the last stream of the week so everyone was trying to get out of there as fast as they could. Tabitha had disappeared before I pulled my set up, so even the guides were keen for the three days off. I trailed the crowd down the stairs and through the halls until it was just me and a few other stragglers passing through the main doors and onto the steps. The landing was mostly clear. There were little groups of two and three learners sitting on the steps talking. Mechas were flashing through the air. The roar of take-offs from the transit pads was continuous. The line of waiting mechas shuffled from the stands and out the gate, where it branched like a vine with a tendril leading to each transit pad.
“There you are. Did you get your nice little certificate?” said Coda as he came up to me.
“It was just the stream advisor,” I said.
“Ah, old Coop. He is a helpful fellow, isn’t he? He really cares about the learners,” said Coda. Was he talking about the same person?
“Not as much as he cares about boats,” I said and Coda laughed.
I wished I had told him about Enu, and the cheating, so now I could tell him what Cooper had done. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell anyone now. It was probably all going to be over on Monday, anyway.
The three black DarkStrutters passed by the stairs in the transit line. Their cockpits were all tinted so I couldn’t see Davor, Nobu and Klaus inside, but they saw me. Davor pointed at me and Nobu and Klaus did the same. They didn’t broadcast anything. They didn’t make any gestures. They just kept their fingers pointed at me the whole time they shuffled by. This made everyone turn and look at who they were pointing at. Just what I needed. I guess he was making a joke, but Coda stood there waving at them and giving them thumbs up as if the performance was friendly instead of threatening.
When they turned the corner out the gate and dropped their arms Coda turned to me.
“I would wait until they are entirely out of sight. Just to be sure.” he said.
I was relieved when they took off and their three black mechas headed towards the city. They stood out in the flight lane, making it easy to watch them until they were shunted up into the high-speed lane and zipped away into the distance.
There were still quite a few mechas standing around in front of the steps and they all seemed to be looking at me. Were they waiting for me to get into the baby and stumble home?
“Want to come and watch the weave I’m directing? It’s just on the playing field,” said Coda. “As you can see it will be quite impressive.”
He swept his hand in front of the waiting mechas. That was kind of a relief, that they were waiting for someone else. It would be cool to watch the weave and Coda in action, but I said no.
“I want to get home while I know Davor is nowhere nearby,” I said.
“Very wise,” said Coda and we headed down the steps together and into the stand, followed by the mechas waiting to join the weave.
At the feet of his NovaLeet we said good-bye. Again Coda put his hand up for a fist bump. Wary, I brought my fist in slow. Just when I thought it was going to be an actual fist bump he grabbed my hand and twisted it so I had to turn around and my arm ended up behind my back. He gave me a gentle shove away as he laughed.
“Two in row, twice too slow,” he said and still laughing began the climb up the leg of his mecha to the cockpit. The hand- and foot-holds had spring-loaded covers on them that fit perfectly into the surface. You wouldn’t even know they were there. It was features like that that made the NovaLeet so sleek and expensive.
I followed the pedestrian path through the empty stand, checking over my shoulder for black mechas until I was into the trees. The baby was still there, undiscovered and untouched. I knocked and rode the hand up.
“Hello, Pilot Praxist,” it said.
I just ignored it and slumped in the seat and stared out through the trees at the narrow strip of daylight showing the last of the mechas jetting into the sky. I’m not sure how long I sat there, kind of thinking, kind of stunned by fear of what was going to happen to me. On a normal Thursday I’d be all excited to get home and start simming. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to sim. It was like everything bad had already happened and I was the homeless boy in a veerie, abandoned in the rehab belt, separated from his family, with only his mecha to help him survive. Except I didn’t have a pretend veerie mecha that could talk. Mine could barely walk.
My sad daydreaming was interrupted by my minitab buzzing with a message from Dad. A grocery drone was delivering this afternoon and he wanted me to get the old pod out to be collected.