Em dragged herself out of bed, croaking, “I’m up,” at the ever-present home assistant. “Assistant my ass,” she said to herself as she hit the shower. “Arial, extra-hard on the shower, hundred and seventeen.”
“That’s not your usual setting, Em.” The oh so soft and pleasant voice made Em want to scream.
“Well, it’s what I want today.”
“That temperature is not recommended for optimum skin care.”
Em clenched her teeth. “I don’t care. Just turn on the damn shower.”
“Profanity is a sign of maladjustment and social break-down, Em. Should I call your doctor?”
Em bit back a snarky comment. The damn assistant would report her to the local authorities. She didn’t need that sort of hassle. “No. I’m fine.” She stood outside the shower waiting for it to turn on. “I’m ready, Arial.”
The shower turned on. “Thank you. Please start the coffee.”
Em let the water beat on her back. She shouldn’t have drunk so much last night. The stress was getting to her. Without a job, she had been assigned three extra hours of social media. If she wanted her sub, she had to do it. Wallowing through the kitten pictures and the whining of people she didn’t even know had made her eyes bleed. She needed those drinks. Whose bright idea was it to link subsistence payments with social media? She hoped they choked on it.
Done, she toweled off and dressed. The coffee was ready when she got to the kitchen. “Do I have credits for breakfast, Arial?” Her stomach could use some toast, at least.
“Subsistance allowance provides three hundred calories of food block.”
Em’s stomach rolled. The stuff tasted like paste. “Sure. Food block.” The delivery door opened, and an unappetizing gray block of yeast food awaited her hand. “Yum.” She grabbed it and the cup of coffee and headed to the computer. Might as well start socializing.
With diligence, she stayed at the console all morning, five of her eight hours done. Some of it standing and marching in place, just so she could keep her blood flowing and eyes open. “What’s for lunch, Arial?”
“Spaghetti and meatball yeast bars.”
Em rolled her eyes. “I don’t have any credit left from my last job?”
“It’s slated for your rent payment, Emily. Should I redesignate that credit?”
“No.” She rolled her eyes again. What she did not want to happen was to have to move into subsistence housing. They were eight by ten-meter plas-crete cells. Might as well live in a dog-crate. “Fix the yeast bar.”
Emily took the bar down to the street. She had to get out into the sunshine and away from the console before her brain fried. “Hey, Lucy.”
“Hey, Em. Looking for a job?”
Em hated the way news got around. Came from everyone having to be on social media all the time. “Yeah. You hear about something?”
Lucy shook her head. “Nah. You’re an architect, right?”
“Yeah. Hook me up, when you hear something.”
“Will do.” Lucy gave her a thumbs up and went back inside.
The more money you made above subsistence, the less time you had to spend on social. She was going nuts. She had to get back to work. She tapped the comms contact in her temple. “Jason Bear,” she said.
The call went through. “Hey, Em. What’s up?”
“Jase, I need a job, man. You know I’m good. I won that award last year for best design in Chicago.” She walked along the sidewalk, nodding to people on their stoops or lounging against the building’s walls.
“Company went bust. The partners overextended their loans and the government picked them up for fraud. The rest of us were escorted out of the building and told to find new work.”
“Bummer. I’ll check around.”
“Thanks, Jase, You’re the best.” She hung up. No sense annoying him by hanging on too long. With luck, he’d find something in his company. He did antique designs from the 1960s. Rectangular glass boxes were not her favorite but anything to get off of subsistence. She made several more calls then went back to her apartment. She needed three more hours of social to earn today’s meals.
Months went by. She called everyone she knew. All of her saved credits were just about gone on the rent. The miserable diet had caused her to loose thirty pounds. Twelve hundred calories a day didn’t go far. She’d cut everything else. No need for the gym, that was for sure. Though there had been times she’d changed into workout clothes and hung around the door leading into the gym to button-hole people she knew coming out. She kept it light, but she was desperately looking for work. Any work at this point.
“Jase,” she said when she called him. “You hear about anything?”
“No. Not really. How you doin’?”
“It’s getting down to the wire, Jason. Your company have anything at all. Anything?” She heard him draw a deep breath.”
“Well. The job board has second assistant admin position.”
“I’ll take. Just send me the application.”
“It doesn’t pay much.”
“It pays something, though. Right. Then I can work my way back up to architect. Come on, Jase. I’ll owe you a big one.”
“Fine. Fine. I’m sending now.”
“Thanks, Jase. I’ll have this back ASAP.” She clicked off and pulled up the application on her console. The listed pay made her heart sink. Just barely what her rent was. “Fine,” she said to herself. She filled it out and hit send.
It took three days. Half a day before her last rent payment was due.
“We have received your application,” the communique said. “Welcome to the Payvil Company. You’ve been accepted to the second assistant admin position. Your files have been updated to reflect this employment. You start tomorrow.”
Em wept as relief flowed through her. She’d be the best second assistant admin they’d ever seen. Anything to get off social media.
Thank you for reading.