After listening to this week’s Writing Excuses podcast (last week?), I was prompted to follow up the podcast with a vignette illustrating the things in the episode:
Rindahl smiled when he saw Loris and Joise waiting for him at the cafe.
“Hey there,” he said, pulling one of the ornate plastic chairs around to sit on it backwards and face them. The cafe had gone through a virtual reskin again, going for Middle Parisian. Rin debated telling the manager that their research was faulty, and the bright, citrus-candy color scheme should have been muted earth tones. He decided against it, and made a note to recode his ocular feed to overlay a reskin on the feed coming from the cafe’s servers.
“Oh my god, what happened to your arm?” Loris touched him just below the red lines that Kate had scratched into him last night.
“Kate and I dueled.” he tried to look casual “I won.”
“You didn’t use the chamber?” Joise was wearing her head scarf so tightly wrapped that no strands of her raven hair escaped.
“You animal!” Loris slapped his hand. “Like a dirty beast you came right here. You _want_ to have scars, don’t you?” Loris’ scarf, by comparison, was so loosely knotted it was a wonder it didn’t fall off with every bounce of her blonde curls.
“A duellist should have scars,” Rindahl protested.
“You need to get to your chamber. Those could get infected.” Joise insisted.
“I have class in twenty minutes,” Rindahl grinned. “I’ll chamber this afternoon, after practice.” He held up three fingers in a mock salute. “I swear I will not let my arm get untreated.”
“Joise is just practicing being stuffy,” Loris rolled her eyes.
“What’s going on?’ Rin asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Joise tried to stare him down, and failed.
“Take a look,” Loris’s left hand shot out and pulled at Joise’s scarf. she didn’t pull it off, but she pulled hard enough for her bangs to escape. One of her bangs was Elder grey.
“Joise! Congratulations!” Rin smiled. It was inevitable that the Elders would have recruited Joise. Her chamber had downloaded the changes, and the hair was her signal to start her preparations. He rubbed a hand over his own closely cropped hair. “I don’t know what I would do if my chamber gave me the grey.”
“It’s too soon.” Joise said. “I’m not done with my research.”
“What are you working on now?” Rin asked. He had spent the last two decades of university on applications: learning to pilot, comparative media studies, and most recently: historical and modern duelling codes.
“It’s a research analysis project,” Loris said, “Very boring and dry.”
“You’d like it, Rin.” Joise’s eyes lit up as she began to think about her projects. “It’s a bribery and corruption index.”
“What?” Rin leaned forward. “You’re analyzing bribery?”
“Rin, can you order us another round? I’m thirsty.” Loris tried to interrupt.
“Yes, across cultures. Even in our own.”
“You can’t bribe an Elder,” Joise said. “The whole university system was designed around it. That way, everyone trusts the Elders because they know it’s fair.”
“Every system has corruption,’ Joise insisted. “You just have to look at what the Elders want.”
Rin leaned in. “What do the Elders want?”
Joise paused, and took a deep breath. “I’m not ready to release my results. That’s why I need more time.”
“Make sure you leave good notes,’ Loris said. “I tried to take up a leftover project in biochem last year, and the notes were terrible. My team eventually petitioned to restart, and we had to scrap all the old research.”
“Maybe I’ll take it on,” Rin mused. “I haven’t registered anything for next semester yet.”
“Next semester is in three weeks, Rin.” Joise scolded. “If you want to get on a team doing any meaningful research, you’re too late.
“You, take over her research?” Loris was amused, “Rin, you just finished your third physical training project in a row. You’re not an academic,”
“I was, once. A long time ago,” Rin thought back to the shy, naive boy he had been before coming to the University. “Then I met you, and you corrupted me.”
“I didn’t bribe you,” Loris protested. “You fell into my decadant orbit willingly.”
Joise redid her head scarf, the conversation stayed light, and all too soon Rin’s schedule beeped and sent the warning message to his eyes.
“I would love to stay, but I need to get to class.” Rin stood, and replaced the chair from where he took it. In a moment of whimsy, he ordered his tablet to create a better list of links and images for the cafe’s server illustrating what “Middle Parisian” actually looked like.
“I do too,’ Loris stood. “Walk with us, Joise?”
“You go on. I’ll see you at brunch this weekend, right?” Joise, Loris, and a few other women in their social club met for brunch at the top of every week.
“If I’m not too exhausted. You girls need to make it more like lunch. Getting up before noon is not my style.” Loris took Rin’s arm. “Let’s go, Rin.”
They left Joise there, sipping her tea. When Rin looked back, one hand patted her headscarf, as if to reassure herself that the grey was out of sight for now.
It was the last time either of them would see Joise alive.
I decided to start from a chamber, which they treat like a shower or something, is more like those healing beds from Elysium. They also apparently keep you young forever. Age appears to be triggered according to cultural triggers, as well as everyone’s chamber hooked up to a central server? A University planet, with undergrads and grads studying forever? We also have Rin living sort of a Google Glass life, with some tech extending his knowledge base and providing visual overlays to “reskin” the world instead of repainting.
So here, in the call to adventure, I tried to hide cool bits of technology that isn’t related to the central plot which looks like it would be Rin uncovering the corruption that Joise discovered, possibly with Loris in a supporting or antagonistic role.