by O. Hybridity
"I'm telling you, you should get in on the rental business," says Noel. "It's like being paid to sleep."
Diamanta fills a syringe with selective paralytics. She is trying not to look Noel in the eye.
"And wake up in unfamiliar places?" she says.
"Not as common as you'd think!" says Noel. She is used to Diamanta's needling and refuses to abridge her enthusiasm. "Besides, don't people already pay money to do that?"
Diamanta looks at Noel through the amber serum. She is going to be eighteen in a few months and will, Diamanta estimates, continue to look that way for as long as she can afford to. Rendered in the colors of the syringe she looks like an artifact, like a person in a photograph from the days when pictures that got old turned an afflicted sort of yellow. The comparison, she concludes, doesn't really hold up; she has never seen any of that sort of picture where somebody smiles, especially in the earnest alive way that Noel does.
"Unreasonable people, yes," she says. "Unreasonable amounts."
"But it's fun, right?" says Noel.
Diamanta marks out her target in marker on the bare skin at the nape of Noel's neck.
"I think you're overestimating how much cool adult fun I have in my life," she says, leveling the syringe. It's a weighty model, almost industrial. "Anyway, brace yourself."
She makes the injection. Noel's body jolts in place and then deadens, temporarily quadriplegic.
"Is it fun being on rental?" asks Diamanta, beginning to unzip Noel's spinal column. She can already see that the transmitters are falling out of alignment.
"Oh, I'm gone at jack-in," says Noel. "I hear other renters, folks with shoddy implant jobs I'd bet, sometimes they flicker a little. But I'm just not anywhere for a couple hours, which I guess is pretty cool. Like, my sister has a job, private hazmat stuff, and she says half the work is just sitting in a room staring at a bunch of little lights and hoping none of them turn on until you can go home. I figure renting beats that 'cause with a regular job you're still there if you're not doing anything. Either way you lose some hours, so why be conscious for 'em?"