Lysergic Adam: Better Living Through Chemistry
Syrge is ten. He keeps his dark hair neatly trimmed and dresses in a small old fashioned suit with shorts when doing business. In the two weeks after Vince’s score, he spent most of his time preparing for or carrying out three laborious missions crawling through the science wheel waste tubes to collect raw materials for his lab. On these excursions, he would strip off his fine short pants suit and put on a yellow Cerefex Unitard with a small compressed oxygen tank. His collector was designed by him and built from scavenged parts with the help of Scroot and Skum Bunny. It utilizes electron scanners and nano seekers to find the necessary components for his concoctions and separate them from the deadly toxic soup that he has to swim through.
Syrge almost always had money squirreled away, and he could easily have paid nearly anyone to do this dangerous job, but it was tricky work, and he did not like asking people to take risks. His brain was young and not like other peoples. He knew he was different, and he had suspicions as to why, but no solid proof, and no real idea of what he would become as he matured.
The tube he moved slowly through in a long limbed turtle crawl was three meters across. The thick sludge that filled it was dark yellow with greenish brown streaks and swirls. It was translucent, but his head lamp beam only penetrated about 30cm. He navigated by feel and with a SPS and map on his hud.
The device in his hand had a taped wrapped grip that he held. Two prongs extended and held an octagonal sieve with a trailing bag that extended several meters behind Syrge as he swam/crawled, waving the sieve back and forth. The rim of the octagon was covered in lights and chips. Several EM and nano filtration systems interacted to keep out most of the matter he swam through. Allowing through only the chemicals he needed. It looked like an 8-bit butterfly net.
It was mostly human excrement, this medium he pulled himself through. Mostly. This particular mix of feces and et cetera came primarily from the Science Wheel with all of their physics warping chemical adventures and dangerous nano swarms. The readout on his hud informed him that he had filled his requirements for the day.
Once he exited the toxic sludge, he would carefully strip off his protective garment and get dressed. He would then bring the basic elements to his squad of cooks that worked under cramped corrugated tin shelters to create his medicines and drugs. Most of these went to Black Elvis, who was the center of a web of shady connections and partnerships. However, Syrge had created three brand new drugs that he made in small supply. He supplied a tiny group of addicts with each drug so he could study the effects. His methods were less than scientific, but, “Gather ye data where ye may,” and all that. He did not charge for these micro-brew-chemicals. The results were promising so far, time dilation, extra sensory awareness, and VR hacking were not only getting his subjects really high, but also revealing to Syrge many insights into the nature of reality. More research was necessary.
On Satyrday, which thankfully came rarely these days, and while Black Elvis and Skum Bunny were out hunting fiends, Syrge and Vince were standing guard over Zombie Lisa, who sulked mightily in her tent. They were not so much guarding her from the Satyrs as they were protecting her from the regret she would feel should she meet one of them and rip him apart.
Syrge hacked a scrambled news siteand showed Vince a synopsis of the articles that had appeared about him. It was in the form of a reading lesson. Vince did not take well to reading, but Syrge insisted they all learn to read. The programs that aired in the slum sphere did not contain written words. Written language had become integrated with a sophisticated system of symbols and icons so that actual reading was not necessary for the day to day. The wheel people all knew phonetic words and how to use them; literacy was still necessary in the professions. All the broadcasts containing written words were blocked from the lower classes, which made readers rare amongst the slums.
People from the slums were allowed in the axel, and there were an abundance of printed words there, but since each profession had it’s own written language and the signs in the common area were a strange mix of the nine systems, it was not easy to find the pattern. It was possible for slum rats to educate themselves, and some did, but it was rare.
Syrge was a capable hacker, not on Scroot’s savant level, but he could get the wheel broadcasts, and he insisted on teaching his kras to read. The only one worse at reading than Vince was Skum Bunny, but his near-eidetic memory for sounds often allowed him to fake it very convincingly.
Vince was putting much effort into reading the article that Syrge had pulled up because it was all about him. He was making an effort to read silently, though he could not stop his mouth from moving. He stopped, and backed up. He started again.
“Wait… Laser Boy? They’re calling me Laser boy?’ he sputtered.
“I thought you’d like that.”
Syrge lit a superfood cigarette and took a long lazy drag on it. It tasted of vanilla, strawberries, and sage. He closed his eyes and allowed his brain to luxuriate in the presence of essential nutrients.
Vince slumped heavily to the ground, sending dust out and up.
“It could have been so perfect though. I’m already wanted… Alias Ghost… They put it on the notices and everything… Alias: Ghost. They could have called me Laser Ghost. That would have vented the venting bishop out the bug.”
Syrge handed him the joint.
“Well, you got the word laser in there. That’s not bad for someone who has never fired any sort of weapon in his entire life. They know it too, or at least suspect. Check out paragraph six.”
Vince jumped up and leaned in close to the screen, which was as large as a billiards table.
“What’s this word Syrge?”
Syrge sighed. “Analysis. It says, ‘Analysis of the weapon in video stills reveals that the battery unit is absent and the handle appears to be held together with vent tape.”
“Hamleting leper pecker,” sighed Vince, “that’s the end of that scam.”
“Too bad you’re so photogenic. My analysis of all the feeds reveals that you are pretty popular with the richies. They think you’re pretty. You can read the fashion news if you want. They’ll be selling big numbers of rough cut tan shorts and frayed used wing shirts for the next cycle. Not a good time to invest in barbers. Your hair in zero g is a thing to behold my friend. Do you have stakes to invest? I’m already in.”
Syrge looked back into the tent behind them. Zombie Lisa was staring up at the back of Vince’s head. There were screams in the distance. Syrge, with all of his skills and plans and brilliance shuddered at the dangerous reality of all the goings on around them.