20 July 2012

"Back to School"

By Curtis C. Chen

Daniel picked up the shrink-wrapped, flourescent-green cylinder—which looked like it had come out of a set of Lincoln Logs—and said, "What the hell is this?"

"Food stick!" Jos said, sweeping a handful of them off the kitchen counter and into his open backpack. "Compact, shelf-stable, and the nutrients aren't digestible until they combine with the enzymes in the matching drink." He held up a bottle of unnaturally blue liquid. "It's like edible epoxy!"

"Sounds delicious," Daniel said. He turned to Michael, who stood on the other side of the counter, typing into a computer. "Do public high schools not serve hot lunches any more?"

Michael's forty-year-old face looked even older as he frowned at the two teenage boys. "You're in the system, Danny. All the pubschool vendors have thumbscan paypoints. If you want to buy a lunch instead of sharing Josiah's 'science diet' concoction, go ahead—"

"You made this stuff?" Daniel said to Jos.

"Won first place at the science fair." Jos shrugged. "I've been trying to start it up as a side business: Bachelor Chow! Don't know why it hasn't taken off yet."

"I can't imagine."

"As I was saying," Michael said, "you're going to have bigger problems than that today."

"Tell me about it," Daniel muttered.

"Don't worry, Uncle Dan," Jos said. "I'll help you find your way around."

"I think I'll be okay, Jos," Daniel said. "I was attending Weitzel High before you were even born, remember?"

"A lot has changed in the last twenty years," Michael said.

"Thanks for the news flash, Senator." Daniel picked up his backpack, using too much force again—he still expected it to be full of books, instead of just a single slim tablet.

"There'll be reporters outside the school," Michael said. "They can't actually go past the front gate, but they'll get as close as they're legally allowed to. Just be careful what you say to them."

"Yeah, I know. Stick to the prepared statements. 'I'm happy to be here. My brother and I hope all the other recovering stasis virus patients are also getting back to their normal lives.'" Daniel shook his head. "Your speechwriters couldn't come up with anything more creative?"

"Bland is safe," Michael said. "We don't want to give them anything they can make a story out of. Now, what you'll really need to watch out for is the drones."

Daniel blinked. "The what?"

"Unmanned flying camera 'bots," Jos said. "I built one last year for—"

"Shut up," Daniel said. "I'm going to be followed by flying robots?"

"The airspace above the school is technically public property," Michael said. "It is restricted—FAA regs mean the drones can't descend below five hundred feet when school's in session—but the cameras can zoom in, and the microphones are very sensitive, so whenever you're outdoors—"

"You gotta be kidding me!" Daniel said. "Tell me again why I'm not being home-schooled?"

Michael leaned forward across the counter. "Because your little brother is running for re-election, and he needs your help."


Image: Lockers by SickestFame, February, 2012