Northampton England, Wednesday August 6th 2262
The traversoll doors opened. “Port floor”, came the cheerful, yet somewhat annoying, female voice that seemed to be part of the programming for every piece of technology in the building.
Simon sighed heavily as he exited onto the floor, still incensed at how Anna Chillipoc had treated him. She had spoilt the end of what had been a superb first day at work.
His port slot was booked into a teleporter on row X. Great, a long walk now when his port time was only a few minutes away. He quickened his pace, not wanting to miss the slot.
He was only running late because of her. He’d spent the best part of ten minutes trying to dilute the lime tea the venomous dwarf had tried to poison Mavis with. After the seventh cup of water drizzled over and around the ‘attack area’, he felt that the potential damage she’d done had probably been minimised. If only Anna had sat on the damp part of his desk and had been struck down with haemorrhoids, he fantasised.
The port floor was less busy than earlier, it hadn’t stopped three different colleagues trying to stop him for a chat though. He’d apologised each time without actually stopping; explaining that he was ‘running late’. One of the three had been an attractive Finnish girl; she’d been the best looking woman he’d seen all day. If he hadn’t been so troubled, and had been in a better mood he would have missed his port and stopped for a chat; she was definitely a colleague he would like to get to know a bit better.
He passed by row R and his mind went back to Anna. He was worried about her parting comment about ‘what he’d got away with in Bristol’. Surely she couldn’t know what had happened there? There was nothing on his record; he had been cleared of everything. Had she been prying into his past in Bristol and heard about those shocking lies? Why would she go to that trouble though? Surely she wouldn’t single him out for a random spot check without a reason. What his mum had said at lunchtime about mud sticking drifted in from the back of his mind. She wouldn’t have to ask many people about him before the allegations would surface. His heart sank. He didn’t want Anna Chillipoc dragging his past into the present to affect his future.
Row X at last. Simon sprinted down it to teleporter sixty-one. He was a little breathless as he put his thumb on the panel. His dat-com strap pulsed rapidly warning him that his heartbeat had increased significantly. He had about a minute before the port slot would expire unused.
The teleporter recognised Simon’s thumb print and the panel’s display switched from the time to a blank screen as the door opened.
Simon read the teleporter’s location number aloud as it appeared, etched into the red bodywork above the panel. “52 13 30 56 20 3.”
It came up number by number on the display as he recited it. He then gave the number of his destination teleporter. “52 14 58 05 53 1.” This was his home teleportation number and was the only one that he had made a point of remembering. Both were accepted which meant he hadn’t missed his slot. He breathed a deep sigh of relief as he stepped inside. Within seconds the door folded round over the opening with the usual hiss.
A low whirr started up that emanated from everywhere. Simon waited as the sound increased in pitch to a whine. The inside of the teleporter started to lose all cohesion and appeared to fragment around him and then disintegrate before his eyes. The floor beneath his feet had given way and Simon was now floating in a cloud of particles; it wasn’t the teleporter though that was scattering into billions of molecules by the second... and then there was darkness… silence and nothingness; as if death had come upon him.
Five seconds later, but what could have been a millennium, consciousness and awareness returned. The interior started to re-materialise and Simon’s feet found the floor again. The whine returned to a whir and then stopped completely. Exactly eleven seconds from when the teleport had started it was complete. The door opened and Simon stepped down into the port room in his apartment. A port cupboard more like, he’d thought the first time he had port in two weeks ago. The teleporter was so close to the room’s door that as he stepped down, the door slid aside into the wall revealing his long hallway. He shouldn’t complain though, this was the first time he had been able to afford an apartment with a personal teleporter.
Simon crossed the threshold and trudged up the hall. The sensors picked up his presence and the lighting and climate control set themselves to his preferred settings. His homecoming track automatically started to play, he’d selected I’m Home! by Chiffon and Elastic to play on his arrival, it was a silly cheesy song but it always made him smile… even today.
Like his office his home was still quite bare. His place in Bristol had been far smaller so the items he had brought with him, following a major clear out for his new start, seemed a bit lost in the larger rooms.
The building was new and he was the first occupant of the apartment. He had played around with the decor and design settings on the first day, but couldn’t decide on a combination that he liked for most of the rooms. He had re-set those back to the default factory settings of beige sheen walls and black marbled floors. They had stayed that way since.
Off the hallway to the right were the two guest bedrooms, at the far end on the same side was the entrance door. He had opened it once on the day he moved in; just out of curiosity and to test the thumb-print recognition security - he hadn’t opened it since. It would probably only get used now every time there was an emergency evacuation test.
To the left of the hallway, as he headed up it, was the master bedroom, the entertainment room, a small cloakroom and then, opposite the entrance door, the main living area. Simon entered the living area as he undid his tie. To his right there were three low black fleece sofas that formed a C shape at one end, with a square glass coffee table amid them.
In the middle of the living area there was a glass hexagon shaped dining table with six matching chairs. Beyond the table and chairs were the French doors which led out onto the veranda and ran the full length of the apartment.
Simon dropped his tie onto the dining table which activated the shade-change program, changing the colour of the glass to blue. The slender framed chairs remained translucent.
He headed into the kitchen unbuttoning his shirt as he went. The kitchen was entirely blue; every surface, cupboard and appliance was the same high gloss cobalt blue. He went straight over to the tall chiller-port unit that was integrated into the end of a row of wall cupboards. Simon opened the unit with the press of his index finger. The door concertinaed to the left revealing a lot of empty space, the food dotted about on the various shelves looked very lonely.
“Large lager,” he commanded. A click could be heard as the unit processed his order. A glass glided smoothly onto the beverage shelf from within the adjacent cupboard. After a three second wait the glass slowly filled from the spout at the back of the unit. Simon reached in and pulled out the ice cold lager. He took a long swig and then exhaled loudly, it tasted great.
“There are four large measures of lager left, would you like to teleport some more into stock?” The unit asked.
Simon thought for a second. “Port twelve measures into stock and authorise payment from my account.”
The unit took a second to confirm Simon’s voice print. “Order confirmed and being processed. Please wait...”
Simon wandered out of the kitchen to the dining table where he put his lager down next to his tie. He unfastened the remaining buttons on his shirt and took it off. It was wet under the arms from sweat. It hadn’t been the heat of the day that had caused it; more the boiling rage and worry caused by her.
He draped the shirt on the back of one of the chairs which promptly turned blue.
“Stocks replenished,” the chiller unit announced from the kitchen. Good, thought Simon, it wouldn’t do to have your chiller run out of the bare essentials. He kicked off his shoes and bent down to pull off his socks. Leaving his clothing where it had come off, he picked up his lager and headed to the French doors. They slid apart and into the wall on his approach. He stepped out onto the veranda and into the sun. The Cool-Board® wooden decking felt great on his hot feet. He padded over to the bronzed railings and leant on them.
Simon’s apartment, like his office, was high up in the block. The view here though was far better than the one from his office. From here he could see the other side of The Northampton Lift Tower. What was it about that tower that kept drawing him to it? He had a slight sense of déjà vu about it and a peculiar, irrational nervousness. He was distracted from the tower as a Green Sandpiper suddenly emerged from one of the many surrounding populus trees, startling him a little. He checked his strap; he still had plenty of time, he wasn’t meeting up with the boys until 20.14 hours. He took a long gulp of lager, and tried to put Anna and The Tower from his mind as he wandered back inside and into the cooler temperature.
Simon drained the remainder of his lager and left the empty glass on the breakfast bar that separated the kitchen from the dining area. He unfastened his trousers and took them off along with his new baggy red boxer-briefs. Naked as the day he was born, he picked up all his clothing and took it into the kitchen. He opened the laundry unit and placed it inside the drum.
He considered the state of his sweaty shirt as he shut the door. “Long soil wash and press cycle,” he ordered.
The laundry unit assessed the clothes, “Cycle complete in seven minutes forty-two seconds,” it confirmed and then started.
Simon headed to his bedroom. The room was again large with very little furniture in it yet.
The Monarch bed had been one of the few things he had treated himself to so far. He’d left the comparatively small super-king behind; it would have looked ridiculous in his new immense bedroom. It was the focal point; it’s mauve tartan Climate-Duvet really stood out against the beige walls. The bed was positioned in the very centre of the rear wall opposite the door; sadly he had been the only one to use it as yet.
Either size of the bed chunky glass shelves floated at the same height as the bed. At night they would light up to whatever colour and brightness he wanted.
A bank of high gloss floor to ceiling mauve cupboards ran the length of the far right hand wall. These housed all his clothes, shoes, spare bedding and those personal effects he hadn’t had time to sort through yet - the cupboards were still only half full.
A matching set of drawers under a chunky glass top that coordinated with the bedside shelves, sat against the wall opposite the bed. He had several bottles of man scent on it, some man-make-up in a silver dish, and a recent photogram of his mum on a silver pedestal. The three dimensional holographic image gave a three hundred and sixty degree view of his mum in a tulip garden at a friend’s wedding.
The photogram of his dad he kept in the top drawer; it stayed there most of the time and was the only image he had of his father. The holographic technology that held the image was one of the earliest forms of it, and had never been that reliable; even at the time of release. He had been left with a two dimensional flickering image of his dad standing in front of the old family home in Bristol. He could have had the photogram upgraded, but hadn’t ever felt the need to spend the time or the V-credits on it...or him.
The bedroom had another two sets of French doors that led onto the same veranda as the living area. They were positioned approximately two metres from the ends of each of the bed side shelves. Everything looked very symmetrical; he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
His bedroom was one of the few rooms that he had selected a type of flooring. He had set it to display retro-carpeting which was supposed to look and feel as genuine as the real thing. The short pile cream carpet felt warm and plush to Simon’s feet as he padded over it to the ensuite.
As he entered it the lighting faded up to the levels he had set; revealing a room that was almost entirely white. The floor, walls, ceiling and sanitary ware were all formed from the same matt-white Plastiglax®. This versatile material could be moulded to any shape and came in a variety of colours. It was a hybrid of plastic, aluminium and glass and was very popular in wet areas as it didn’t show water marks, discolour or stain. The fact that it was also mould and rot-proof was a huge selling point and justified its high price.
The shower area filled nearly half the room and was situated to the left of the doorway. The basin was moulded into the wall to the right and featured a large recessed mirror above it. The light emanating from inside the glass provided ample faux daylight for the windowless room. The square toilet was mounted to the wall and was positioned halfway between the two. It also emerged from the white Plastiglax® wall seamlessly, appearing to hover above the floor.
He slipped through the shower’s floor-to-ceiling invisible water displacement barrier. This reminded him of the weather barrier over the M1; in here though it kept the water in rather than out.
Simon stood there for a moment pondering which setting to request. “Regular massage, four minutes,” he decided.
Hot water jets sprayed out from the walls at every conceivable angle; none though hit his face until he was ready to stoop down slightly and clean it.
“Wash cycle,” the shower announced, distributing Simon’s favourite shower gel equally among the jets of water. Simon started to wash.
“Rolling BBC News, audio only,” he requested. Within seconds the BBC news was being broadcast into the ensuite.
’Good evening I’m Hoagy Benedict and this is the rolling news broadcast for the BBC on Wednesday August 6th 2262…
A peace treaty with Russia is today one step closer following their second visit to England this year. Unlike the first meeting held on neutral ground on February 5th where talks failed, a short statement issued to the BBC this afternoon, following a leak to the press on the talks, revealed that ‘progress had been made.’
A group of Russian diplomats arrived this morning in New Downing Street and a two and a half hour meeting commenced soon after with the English War Assembly led by Government Minister, Hillary Jane Bartlett.
Today’s significant talks will also be remembered for the fact that it was the first time any Russian officials have been to New Downing Street since the start of the war one hundred and twenty-two years ago when Downing Street was obliterated by the first Russian traitor-suicide bomb on what turned out to be day one of World War Three.
The bomb killed the Prime Minister and most of the government, who were in talks with several other heads of state inside Number Ten at the time of the blast.
Today’s meeting is rumoured to be as monumental as the mutually agreed ceasefire, sixty-seven years ago, that is said to have stopped the death toll rising from millions to billions around the world but sadly still failed to settle any of the issues related to the onset of the war.
The highest security surrounded the events of today following angry protests earlier in the year from the ‘Russian Resistance Alliance’. What had appeared to be a teleportation malfunction, which halted all teleporting throughout London for nearly four hours, turned out to be an unprecedented restriction imposed by Government Security Officials for the duration of the Russian visit. They were said to be ‘furious’ about the leak to the press and that the entire meeting could have been jeopardised because of it. A full enquiry into the source of it is said to be underway already..’
The broadcast paused momentarily as the shower cut in with “Rinse and massage cycle.” The wash mode finished and switched to the rinse and massage setting. The jets of steaming hot water increased in pressure and size and started to rinse the soapy suds from Simon’s body; massaging it in the process. Simon swiftly placed his hands over his genitals as the pummelling of his body commenced from every direction. The feeling was invigorating; just what he needed after a long stressful day. The news broadcast continued…
‘It is thought that after the progress, and some may say success of the meeting, that similar events are likely with the Governments of Wales, Scotland, France, Germany and Mexamerica very soon...’
’Twisted and Pink were in trouble again today with more controversial lyrics and shocking language from their latest track release. Thousands of fans, who had received the track on their dat-com strap during the night, were shocked at the offensive language that hasn’t been seen in music since the late twenty second century. Due to the content of the lyrics the BBC are unable to report further on the nature of the offense caused.
The re-working of the late twentieth century track ‘I Want To Be Free’ by Dame Toyah Wilcox is said to have cost the record company millions of V-credits as the government stepped in this afternoon and blocked the further release of the track and banned play of it on any music channel. A signal has been sent to the dat-com straps of the 68,902 recipients of the song which will auto-delete it from the memory. Those affected will be entitled to a full refund from the record company. Anyone that hasn’t copied it to another device will lose it forever…’
The broadcast paused again as the shower announced the switch to the drying mode. The water stopped in an instant and jets of warm air buffeted Simon’s body.
‘…The group are said to be infuriated by the Government’s decision. Garbage Dog, the hot headed young male lead singer, caused a commotion in the hotel the group were set to perform at this evening in Sheffield. He…’
“Stop broadcast,” Simon said abruptly as he stepped through the water displacement barrier. The slight drop in temperature was noticeable on the other side of it. He was slightly miffed that he hadn’t got round to listening to the track before it had been wiped from his strap’s memory. The chances are now that he never would hear it, if anyone he knew had copied it, the sending or receiving of a banned track was an offence and came with a heavy fine.
He sighed as he wandered over to the basin. He touched a part of the wall to the left of the basin; a square piece of the panelling popped out and swung round one hundred and eighty degrees on its concealed hinges. As it stopped, flat against the remainder of the panel, a Plastiglax® long narrow shelf glided silently out of the hidden recess with a selection of his toiletries on it. He picked up a glass jar labelled Beard-stopper and took out one of the black capsules. He placed it on his tongue and closed his eyes. The capsule increased in size and temperature for twenty seconds and then exploded silently in his mouth, releasing an icy coolness and restricting beard growth for another twenty-four hours. He picked up the next bottle in line and poured a measure of Colgate Brush ‘n’ Fresh into the long glass top. He emptied the entire contents into his mouth. The fluid reacted with his saliva and within seconds started to bubble and fizz with increasing intensity; meticulously cleaning his teeth, gums and tongue in the process. After fifteen seconds the fluid stopped effervescing as quickly as it had started. Simon swallowed it; guaranteeing fresh breath regardless of what he ate or drank for the next twelve hours. The next item was a can of hair styling spray. He pumped the trigger three times, to build up the pressure in the can, and then sprayed his hair until the pressure had elapsed. He swiftly styled his hair with his fingers before the strong spray took its hold.
He twisted to the left and then to the right, checking his hair was just so. Satisfied that it was one hundred and ten percent perfect he went back to the bedroom. The shelf slid back into the wall and the door swung shut, concealing the toiletries once more.
The second drawer down held all of Simon’s underwear; the drawer’s inbuilt light flickered on as the drawer smoothly slid open. Simon pulled out a purple pair of boxer-briefs and stepped into them.
‘Wash and press cycle complete,’ the laundry unit declared. The apartment’s sensors had detected Simon’s presence in the bedroom and had broadcast the laundry unit’s message on the entertainment channel.
Simon returned to the kitchen to retrieve his clean laundry. He unloaded the unit carefully; so as not to crease the freshly pressed clothes.
He had just put the last of them away in his wardrobe when the entertainment channel alerted him that his mum was calling. His strap had automatically linked itself to the apartment on his arrival home.
“Only me Sweetie!” his mum’s voice repeated on loop while he considered what to do.
“Only me Sweetie!” She had a knack of calling at just the wrong time.
“Only me Sweetie!”
“Answer call, audio only,” he decided.
“Simon, are you there?”
“Yes Mum; I’m here.”
“I can’t see you darling, are you okay?”
“I’ve just got out the shower Mum,” Simon admitted. “I don’t think you need to see me in my undies.”
Bridget laughed heartily and loudly. “Oh darling, you’re so bashful! I’ve seen it all before.”
“Yes, but not for some years,” he said with a slight frown.
“Very true love,” she laughed. “It’s been a few years since I wiped that little botty of yours.”
“Jeez Mum, do you have to?” He flushed as she squealed with laughter. “Have you been drinking with the girls at the tennis club again by any chance?” he added.
“I may have had the odd tot of rum after our afternoon tea,” she confessed.
“Can’t we tell,” Simon said with wry smile. “A good job the alcohol laws are a little more relaxed in France.”
“I’ve only had enough to be a little giddy,” she giggled. “Anyway, the reason I called is I hadn’t heard from you about your afternoon… I thought you may have forgotten to call me,” she insisted, trying to subtly change the subject.
“I’ve not been home that long.” Simon replied, rolling his eyes.
“Oh, I thought you had an easy afternoon ahead of you, and would be home early?”
“Well I did do; until Anna Chillipoc turned up as I was about to leave, I came close to missing my port slot.”
“Oh no, what happened?” Bridget’s mood changed in an instant.
Simon spent the next twenty minutes sat on his bed filling his mum in on the afternoon and then his debacle with Anna.
Bridget was appalled and barely said a word while her son relayed the encounter with his new boss.
“I don’t like the sound of her one bit,” she said when he had finished. “What is Anna Chillipoc an anagram of, devil incarnate?”
Simon smiled. “Don’t worry Mum; she’s just trying to throw her weight around and mark her territory; she’s been the same with everyone from what I’ve heard. I do take back what I said at lunch time though.”
“What was that Son?”
“I said I would have her eating out the palm of my hand by Friday evening; it may be next Wednesday now,” he said with a chuckle.
“I just don’t see the need to be so ghastly to people like that,” Bridget worried.
“Not everyone is as kind and caring as you are Mum.”
“Thank you son, fewer and fewer people are these days from my experience,” Bridget sighed.
“Well, she must think something of me as I’m on the list for the open evenings.”
“Hmmm, I suppose so,” Bridget replied. “A shame it’s on your weekly night out with Spencer and Larry; they aren’t going to like that when you tell them.”
“I know, it’s going to go down like a French kiss at a family reunion.”
They both laughed.
“Oh what am I like?” Bridget said suddenly. “I nearly forgot the other reason I called you.”
“What are your plans for dinner tonight love?”
“Well; I haven’t really thought that far just yet. Simon admitted.
“I thought as much,” she replied. “I’ve prepared you a meal that I’m going to port over again to that new food transporter of yours.”
“Mum you shouldn’t have; I can look after myself you know.”
He was quite touched and also happy that he didn’t have to sort out anything himself.
“I know that; I don’t want you going off out this evening on just a snack; I know you too well Simon Kingsley.”
He smiled. “Thanks Mum, send it over when you’re ready then.”
“It’s in my suspension unit at the moment; I will pop it down to the merry-go-round teleporter when we’re through and send it over.”
Simon could just picture his mum traipsing down the apartment stairs with a tray of hot food and wandering up Place du General De Gaulle to the public teleporter. She would no doubt have a clean outfit on and fresh make up for the task.
“Its lasagne and salad with sherry trifle for dessert,” she said proudly.
“Fab!” Simon said enthusiastically.
“I made too much of it so I called Spencer up to tell him I was sending him some too; that boy needs some meat on his bones - I’m sure he doesn’t eat properly living by himself.”
“I bet he appreciated that,” Simon said. “He loves it that you think about him and take care of him since his mum died last year.”
“Well his mum and I went back years; it’s the least I could do. I’ve always been very fond of the boy, it’s a real shame he’s had so much bad luck in his life. Is he still single? I didn’t like to ask.”
“Yeah, afraid so, the latest man in his life disappeared two weeks ago; never to be seen again. Spencer convinced me two weeks earlier, at the start of the relationship, that this time it was for real. I actually believed it was too. The sad thing is I think he believed it himself also.”
“The poor thing,” Bridget sympathised. “I lose track of his complex love life at times.”
“Me too Mum,” Simon agreed. “I had better finish getting dressed or I shall be late meeting up with him and Larry.”
“Okay Son, enjoy your night and your meal; I’m going to take it down now.”
“Thanks Mum, speak to you tomorrow.”
“Bye love!” She ended the call.
Simon went to the wardrobe and selected a pair of thigh length baggy khaki shorts, a white short-sleeve linen shirt with thin red tartan vertical stripes, and a pair of red leatherette slip-on sandals. He deftly applied some blue colour-matched Masculara™ to his eye lashes, emphasising his sapphire blue eyes, and then liberally sprayed himself with his favourite man-fragrance, Bitterness. Lock up your mothers and daughters, he thought as he stood in front of the en suite mirror. He smiled. He was going to have a great night; he would forget about Anna for now.
“Incoming food teleport,” came the announcement over the entertainment channel.
Simon dashed to the kitchen and opened up his food teleporter, a very basic bulky square looking appliance but a priceless addition to any bachelor’s kitchen. In the two weeks he had lived at the apartment he had yet to prepare an evening meal. He had either had restaurants port him meals or his mum had kindly sent them. How had he coped in his Bristol flat without one? He’d asked himself this every time a meal had arrived. Simon lifted the large pink floral dinner tray out and placed it on the work surface next to it. As well as a large steaming portion of lasagne there was a chilled mixed salad, a huge portion of trifle and a leftover scone from lunchtime. He smiled; she had even put a dollop of raspberry jam and a splodge of clotted cream on the side of the scone’s plate.
He checked his strap for the time; he had plenty before he met up with the guys. He took the tray to the dining table and sat down to enjoy his feast.