Born Under Punches


Mark Aspillera

A man in my pair of shoes was running his miles under my name.

It was just not bloody fair. On the Macro-screens where all our codes and stats are scrolled out in great swathes, I could see my name placed next to a bevy of underwhelming numbers in the dense code of miles per hour, inches per minute, furlongs per fortnight. I frowned at the pathetic heartbeat ratio pounded out by this loafer imposter. Figures like that were sure to draw warnings -- worse, if the worthless sod kept on like that.

The nearest Cornerbot snapped up from where it had been retracted into a metallic squat sipping from a Penzoil carton to wheel over to me and regurgitated a ticket at me. Not wanting to make a scene, I fished the still-warm thermal paper from the bot's caged mouthpiece and nodded acknowledgment. The oblong humanoid rectangle of crimson tin saluted me and reversed back toward its point of rest at the park steps.

Unbecoming Countenance in a Public Rectory(w/ children present)- Seventeen Pounds. Crimeney. A Government spin doc could only take so many citations; even less than a Basic or a Corpite could. The Arcadia party was being nit-picked about the Citizenship grades of its municipal officials by a slick squadron of Elysia party Seditionites on Channel 17 (backed by an armada of interns and research assistants with net connections).

Still, those shoes. They tugged at me in the same way a magnet in my small intestine would drag down the metallic bits in my cardio zone. It ached in the heart and the gut, not to mention the scruttocks. More damaging to my record than Citizenship citations would be the new statistics coming out on my sneaker sensors. What sort of party kept loafs within its ranks?

I should have never attended that sushi joint opening. Phil from Budgeting slipped me an invitation and I didn't want to look like a complete wank by chasing him down half the rotunda floor of the CapBuilding to hand the glowing lozenge back to him and explaining I didn't attend those sort of swank slush conventions.

Whatever. Being in PR everyone already thought I was a wank.

In the blind socialite amoeboid of millers and weavers somewhere along the line we had to take our shoes off. Over titters at the oriental cuteness of it all I struggled with my laces and shoved mine off into one of many cubbyholes by the crystal sliding door. The matrix of foot attire was guarded by a pair of very secure-looking paper-and-balsa sliding walldoors and a very intimidating samurai in full ceremonial black armor complete with three sheathed curved swords of declining length.

Sake doesn't set in until you stand up to take your first leak of the night. Choking on octopus bits in midst of conversation with a hologram projection of Henry Kissinger's fishbowled head. At the end I was the last out, roused to consciousness by a passing sushi master after passing out on the table, head jammed between two uprooted tatamis. He fingered the front tie bandana on his shaved head and told me they were closing in English drilled and practiced with an artificial Japanese accent.

There was only a single pair of shoes left across the entire network of cubbyholes, and they weren't mine.

Well that's not entirely true, there was also a pair of strappy open-toed Gucci's with stiletto heels, but I'd have had to lop off the heels to make it halfway down the block and the samurai didn't look like the lending type.

The shoes I had on had their own pitiful statistics. The man I had switched with sneakers with was definitely a loaf. I had to report this to the Police. That was my only hope besides trying to deal with the androids at Central Fitness Statistics, which was impossible with just the days-long complaint queues alone. But all the tangible Police were bots too and trying to get a hold of a flesh Policeman those days was as myth-worthy a feat as speaking to a human representative of a Political Action Committee.

Off the Underground seven dozen blocks down from Central Fitness Square a Cornerbot whirled on a rusty torso axis and cut me another citation after slashing across my new shoes with a tight beam of infrared.

"Mr. Paunce Hertings, this is a notice against your loafish tendencies as of late. The Arcadian Police Bureau does not suspect your employers -- Reebok-- would appreciate these reports."

Another twenty quid. At least I knew his name now. And it was bloody certain that he couldn't outrun me...


2005 by Mark Aspillera


E-mail: Mark Aspillera

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