I heard that story, a month ago, about some radio station in Ohio or somewhere proclaiming they’d banned any further airplay of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” due to its supposedly Neanderthal take on #me-too morays. Don’t really like the song that much, but my gut reaction was to organize a marathon podcast featuring every cover of the song I could find. Then a dream came a few nights later, resolving the matter in a different direction. Adapted below… it takes place probably somewhere in the mid 2030s.
== 1 ==
It was friends who’d dragged him into this. Well, workmates, really. Trev stood on the threshold of the entry carriage, half motivated at best. Left to his druthers he much preferred the underground brokers for setting up potential sex match-ups, even if it did run him sometimes 90 Bezos, as the male candidate. At least then it was guaranteed level-2 anonymous, and the broker always did a meticulous job around cleansing the datesite of any surreptitious IOT1 devices. Plus the bioscan risk analysis was always careful and competent. His broker uploaded bio-virus patch upgrades frequently, sometimes twice a day.
Miguel, acting as his wing-voucher, stood a step above him inside the carriage. Trev was three weeks into a several month contract in the Nova-Mex autonomous region, and having adjusted to the atmosphere impurities was ready for some obligatory off-hour socializing with his host buddies. Their choice of festivities of course. But being both a foreign contractor and a first-timer for the Nova-Mex managed courting protocols, Trev needed some hand-holding and would be subjected to extra scrutiny. He looked on as Miguel negotiated out of earshot on his behalf. Abruptly, the filterer motioned him forward.
“You’ve read and understood the manual?” Trev nodded, careful not to display any hint of taking the protocols frivolously.
“Including all the safe-codes?” He made intent eye contact and affirmed.
The filterer leafed through Trev’s passport a few seconds to deepen the ceremony and then eyed Miguel and his companions once more. Fernando had a an optimistic pleading look on his face while Javier averted his gaze so as not to incite an argument. Effecting his stern functionary voice, the filterer tried one last confirming question on Trev.
“What’s the safe-code for when a lady wants to kiss but stipulates above the neck only, no French?”
“Cranial 2 Si.” Trev nailed it. Fernando widened his grin.
“Welcome, Senor.” He handed back Trev’s passport. “That will be 15 Bezos, please. Should you want to proceed to the third carriage group you will need to pay 30 Bezos extra at their threshold. And you mustn’t wander off from Miguel, your wing-vouch. Recommended you always occupy the same carriage.”
Trev extended his left palm, bent upwards, and the filterer touched the wand to the fleshy part below Trev’s thumb, debiting the entry fee from Trev’s account. Careful to shield his cupped hand from Javier’s unsubtle interest behind him, Trev double-tapped his right palm with his two middle fingers to confirm the transaction and query his balance for the Nova-mex region. It displayed for a quarter second, as he had configured it.
— 6.113K Bezos-coin —
Satisfied, he turned round to socialize. Miguel and Fernando were already high-fiving. They all funneled into the waiting car which was next in line where a continuous loop audio message was playing in alternating Spanish and English over some soothing electronic music. The message was enumerating the ground rules about how the courting train worked. The recording was mandatory for first time visitors. Miguel handed him a headpiece as they sat in comfortable lounge seats. A circulating drone offered breath mints. Holocams and sensitive audio recorders were everywhere. While Fernando and Javier debated tastes in women, Trev closed his eyes and tuned in to the audio message.
The train consisted of three categories of courting carriages, arranged in a sequence of increasing liberties permitted and safe-codes available. The first group carried ladies who were relative newbies to the monitored courting scene for whatever reason. Sometimes recent divorcees. Sometimes academics or techettes who’d started out in life with vows of asexuality or declared lack of interest but were now experimenting with their urges and valued the safety protocols of managed courtship. Miguel mentioned discreetly that this first group were usually older or uglier, but not always. Trev winced internally at the impropriety, spoken aloud. He was in Nova-Mex now.
Each carriage was perhaps 25 meters long and contained five or six ladies, the design idea being that each female could have her own privacy nest area for conversations. The first section was usually the shortest, consisting of only two or three carriages. Then there was a transitional car from which clients could prepare and gain entry into the second section. But things were deliberately setup such that you had to pass through the first section ladies before arriving at the second group’s carriages. Kind of like here’s first base, then second, and so on, Trev considered.
The generated voice in his earset bathed him in a clinical calmness of unhurried information feeding, until one jarring segment came along discussing the shock-prod drones operating airborne inside sections two and three of the train…
— …prod drones will deliver a warning sting of 0.04 amperes at 60 volts for any judged deliberate violations of safe-code protocols and second violations will result in direct penalty fee deductions from your registered account… —
The text simul-scrolled monotonously past Trev’s eyeset, as he seriously wondered how Javi and Ferd had survived multiple visits to this place.
The train moved at a pleasantly numbing 40 kilometers per hour around an oval loop track about ten kilometers in diameter. There were ‘love’ tunnels of short length at the far side of the loop to introduce an element of flirtatious danger, despite the fact that everything was precisely monitored and cloud-stored, all actions and communications. Any violations of safe-code protocols, ladies’ prerogative, were immediately reprimanded by drone. Serious code violations resulted in brief imprisonments and/or globalized shaming. Each carriage had a passageway to an exit carriage which rode along side on the outer side of the loop, and clients or women could enter this at will to indicate their wish to depart the courting train. Every two kilometers the train halted at a stop-junct where riders could depart at rapid transit points back to the metropol. The train ran six hours, from 9PM till the wee hours, when people surrendered the authoring of their biographies to external agents like tequila.
Trev relaxed with Miguel for ten minutes or so, slowly finishing their tamarind buzz drinks. The other two had gone on ahead, intent on pushing their way into section three as quickly as was socially acceptable to do so. Then he signaled to Miguel that he was ready to enter the first level carriage, the province of the ladies. Miguel reassured him he would stay close by and look in on him from time to time. They pushed through the entry foyer.
== 2 ==
The ladies’ carriage was pumping out the sort of ambient music one hears during a massage at a high-end spa. Trev fought to remain awake. The room was surprisingly comfortable, suggesting an old world chamber music parlor. He could see areas designated for, or hosted by different ladies, stretching back to the end of the carriage. The women seemed a bit overdressed and perhaps slightly too made up for his tastes. Miguel introduced him to the closest woman to the entrance, a Nicaraguan named Essie. She seemed about late 30s, well-spoken and polite, taller than he expected. Her placement at the front of the car suggested that she held some seniority as well as a bit of a general sizing up function on behalf of the rest of the carriage. Essie knew what her individual cabin mates were looking for and could signal targeted alerts back towards the rest about what’s on tap. Trev quickly noticed that the buzzword ‘Anglo’ began circulating through the cabin’s chat sphere. He also got his first glimpse of a pair of drone globes, transparent grey and 2 centimeters in diameter, sailing about in the space between their heads and the ceiling lights. A pale yellow globe moved more furtively near the ceiling, almost hugging it. This was a private drone. You could purchase them in the men’s room out of vending machines and pre-program them with simple preference or mission settings. Trev wondered whether Ferd had dedicated one to watching him, so he could tell of the Americano’s maiden exploits. These for hire drone globes were advertised as securely anonymous, with only temporary XIP-addresses and data transmitters which wiped and self destructed after two hours. Trev had read an investigative piece on the plane about how some of them had been traced to cartel and corporate sources, eager to harvest, market or leverage the ‘anonymous’ courtship data.
Essie was offering a greeting handshake. She asked about his impressions of Nova-Mex culture. “You’ve been down here what now, three weeks?” Trev complimented the cuisine, and commented how visceral the mural art was. Satisfied with his mix of blandness and generosity, she launched, con permiso, into her spiel concerning the ladies under her auspices. Their names soon blurred in the tamarind. Anastasia. Joleni. Essie had a few under her wing in the following carriage as well. She watched his facial muscles with care, likely with drone support, as she rattled off a few adjectival keywords from each woman’s profile, hunting for a sign of appetite or curiosity. Trev listened deadpan, warmly. Waiting. Nearing completion, she then moistened her lip softly and squeezed his hands in a personal welcome, letting it be conveyed that she was also available for his consideration. Then she invited him to make himself comfortable and circulate. Miguel, he noted, was already near the back of the carriage. This was the last he would see of him for awhile.
After forty-five minutes of polite but bloodless conversation with several women, Trev had worked his way to the transitional carriage between the first and second classes. He bid his final interlocutor a pleasant evening, thanked her for the chat, and waved adieu to the carriage. The waiting area had some vending machines, an auto-bar, a barely functional lounge area designed to dissuade lingering, and optionally, an exit doorway to the stop-junct outer loop. There was also, of course, a passageway leading to the second carriage group. A display panel indicated there were five carriages in the next group, housing a total of 29 ladies. Trev sat a moment and thought seriously about calling it a night. He found the courtship-centric tete-a-tetes exhausting, even when a woman was mildly appealing. The most that could happen in the first carriage section was some sort of formalized agreement to a date, registered and architected by drone AIs. Even well into the second section this was a likely outcome. He thought about reviewing the safe-code protocols for level 2 but then rejected this as too studious. No mail from Miguel or Javi. A few exclamation marks from Ferd, tagged as coming from a carriage in the third section. He washed up and then pushed open the portal to the next carriage.
== 3 ==
This space was more fun. Also more dicey. The music was modern string quartet stuff, mostly 20th century. Occasionally he’d hear some flamenco guitar. The women were more lively and varied in their dress, perhaps a bit less serious, at least on the surface. There was more interaction between areas than before, less one-on-one conversation. Also, he observed, no greeting hostess. Each did her own thing here. And the drone count roughly doubled; it seemed there was more action to monitor and police. There was Ava, the transplanted blonde from Arkansas, who offered demos and tutorials on dance styles. And Maria and her cousin Lucy from Michoacan in the south, both friendly and smart as whips. They had each other’s backs, a kind of second moat of defense. Lucy told him about a medicine man she once witnessed casting a demon out of an old horse. She was sweet with a beautiful mouth, but an older man was forever lingering nearby her, and Trev couldn’t tell if he was a potential client or something else. Or, he didn’t want to know.
Trev spent a little over an hour moving back and forth between the first three cars of this section, enjoying the party and telling tales of the northeast, when he spotted an unused comfortable looking loveseat a little more than halfway back in a carriage. Wanting a short rest he headed for it. Just before sitting he spied a young woman in a long sitting kiss with a guy wearing a cowboy hat right at the back of the car. Three drones circling about over their heads.
Wow, plush! He sank right back. The owner of this space had some cultivation. Towards the window on his left were some delicate spotted orchids casting their organs in his direction beseechingly. A pile of small hardcover books. He strained to catch their titles without getting up. Early Neruda. Alpaca weaving patterns guide. ‘Mythology of the Cocoa Bean’. Another he couldn’t make out. He shifted his gaze towards the table immediately nearby to peruse it’s objects, holding his nearly empty lime Pellegrino in his lap.
“Who’s been sitting in my chair, hmmm?”
Trev looked up from his relaxation to find the face behind the voice. Two women were confidently strolling down the aisle towards him, the first clad in a distractingly short white skirt. Voluminous curly brown hair, teasing Peruvian eyes. She gave a quick nod to her companion, and then continued past him with a sly grin. The speaker appeared behind her, dark straight hair, bangs — which disoriented him — and a comfortably ethnic looking patterned dress. Except she was wearing sneakers. Her eyes were lively but a little stern, he thought. Gave him a twinge of a turn-off sensation.
“Does it speak?”, she pressed her advantage, amused. Trev was formulating a reply, but apparently with insufficient velocity, so she continued.
“What are you thinking about my books?”
With that she turned herself round and plopped herself down in his seat as though it were still vacant. Last thing he caught was the shape of her buttocks clinging to the dress fabric, in a swirl of movement. Suddenly she was against him, pressing into his groin. He blandly placed his hands over her thighs to cushion her. Some hair in his face. Patchouli fragrance. Maybe on her shoulders, maybe in the shampoo, maybe her neck. He took a nanosecond to speculate about whether the drones would misinterpret anything, when he saw a yellowish one moving laterally above the rest.
Palm twitching, Trev knew a text had come, and he peeked downward deftly to eyeball the message. It was from Javi, the goofball.
— Careful amigo, she’s Mestiza! Word is they got peyote in their vaginas. —
Trev dismissed Javi’s comm-link, swiping left, his arms still on her legs. Then she crashed through all this by inquiring after his bulge.
“Excuse my inquisitiveness, but do you greet all your new acquaintances in this manner, or just the ones you’re attracted to?” Trev couldn’t believe it. He was thickening. Involuntarily. Was it his fantasy or had she just subtly explored the region with a circling of her derriere to size up the complexion of the situation? Finally, pink-faced, he managed to spew out some verbiage.
“Um, no, in all honesty. It’s quite a rare occurrence for me. I’m at a loss. Uh… trusting you’ll excuse…”
“Well. There is a medical office in the sidecar. We could get you checked, if you like.” Her eyes were resplendent with laughter. Mercifully, she popped back up and turned to face him.
“Are you the nurse, then?”
She weighed this a bit, a little dubious about its humor quotient, but decided to forgive it. “I’m Alejandra.” Inexplicably, but charmingly, she curtsied. “Bet I’m your first Alejandra at that, gringo.”
He nodded in agreement, approvingly. The bulge was dissipating, thankfully. If he needed to, he could maybe stand now without embarrassment. “Trevor. From the North country. I like your orchids.” A genuine northern smile.
She eyed him a moment longer, and then stretched her arms out to the side, fingers locked, as if to display her limbs. “And what is it that brings you to my Nova-Mex courting chamber, Mr. North Country boy? What, no suitable girlfriends up in Connect-icut for you?”
He had to give it to her; she was funny. “Well no one serious to speak of. Umm, co-workers brought me here.” A pause. “At the risk of over-sharing, perhaps no one quite as interesting either.” He checked her lips, neck, shoulders. She was considerably more attractive than he’d originally picked up on. Drone activity buzzing.
Alejandra let her smile widen and soften, involving her cheek muscles. In one fluid movement, she touched her palm and then held it open towards him.
— Comm-si? 🙂 —
Trev read his hand, nodded and right-swiped, opening a pinktooth immediate proximity channel. He liked the way her finger moved across her palm. Almost as natural as a grin. Then he lifted his fleshpad towards her and she did likewise, touching palms softly, to privatize their link. Maybe she adorned this gesture with the slightest lingering push of pressure. They could one finger text now until the link dissolved, usually about one hour. As well, their social databases would be granted mutual access. Still, she opted for speaking. “What refreshment is right for you, Mr. Norte”? Her voice laughed, without pretense. But it was a rhetorical question all the way. She reflected and computed: “Ahhh, I know. Nopalitos nectar would be purrfect for you.” Trev thought that was a kind of cactus drink. Whatever it was, he wanted it to be purrfect for him. She turned away, effecting a fetching hair splash and hip sashay, leaving him to hold the fort while grabbing their drinks.
— Hold the fort, Norte. BRB! —
She could do it without looking. No-look palm texting. Love it. Trev, recovering from a mild swoon, took further stock of her ‘chamber’. Among some antique teacups and an espresso decanter he spotted what for all the world looked like a silver handgun. Shiny, quite small, with a thicker than ordinary barrel section. Twitch of surprised alarm. That culture shock confusion the orientation seminar had warned about. Was it a live weapon she’d just left lying there? He wondered whether it was an IOT-aware device. Moving closer, giving the appearance of checking the decanter for coffee, he passed his wrist over the gun — it looked more handsome and high-tech from up close — and straightened his knuckles out quickly to summon up an id request. Sure enough, it IOT-registered. He sat back unobtrusively and touched both thumb tips to preserve the readout for ten seconds, then glanced casually at his right palm.
— IOT:XID JO07bbC-nt35PY:20118K —
— Alejandra N. Soyitos, 26 F, 902281-57061G —
— Virtual Reality 4-D Illustrator, indep —
— IOTobj: TASER 39Q reg 2034 Nova_Mex —
Holy Shit! She had a custom taser. A 39Q, locked in to her handgrip. And into VR. This chic slams.
— Hungry? —
And there she was again, plopping down his Nopalitos. A refreshing looking frothy green drink. Besides which she’d procured a pair of mini aubergine-avocado tacos in an elegant looking oval fluted Mexican bowl. She picked one up unceremoniously and began eating it. Trev liked watching her chewing muscles in action. They settled into a brief discussion about each other’s work, after which he brought up the subject of not really feeling too familiar with how things went on managed courting meetups. Alejandra relieved his anxiety. “Well, to be up front about my personal policy, rubbing my hiney against a trousered erection is about as far as this girl goes on first dates in the hormone train.” He laughed uninhibitedly.
“Well, that’s reassuring. But we can organize a less regimented assignation, I hope?”
“Si, claro. To formalize it, without penalties, the best way is to have the AI propose our next meet. Just to be clear, you are the one inviting me?”, she beamed.
“Yes Alejandra. On me, with pleasure. Looking forward.” He keyed in the proposal codes. Ethnic resto, consult preferences history for suitable venue. Now the system would register everything in his social reputation account. Including whatever transpired next. And setup the date. And notify their calendars.
“Thank you, Trevor. And thanks for your forthrightness. It’s stimulating and quite unusual… for a male.” She giggled at this. And now I will take my leave with the night still not too late. Mission accomplished, Senor.” She grabbed a satchel, proffered a French-style cheek/air kiss, first left then right, took her taser and said goodbye.
At the exit, she flashed him a look — something which passes for a like-smile, Trev gathered, in 2035 Nova-Mex courting protocol. And then she stepped out into the exit corridor, with a beguiling economy of movement, to await the next stop-junct. Trev watched and wanted. A moment later she secure-texted him:
— And don’t sit your boner behind any other girl’s ass in the meanwhile! I’ll know. -Ale 🙂 —
== 4 ==
The cheekiness amused Trev, borderline enticed him. Was she a pro at gaming the watch drones AI, or risking sanctions herself? He couldn’t resist a quick morality code query. Shielding his palm, feigning glancing down at his drink, he pressed his middle finger over her text and push-rubbed it in a quick counter-clockwise arc.
— Ethical Valuation: 3.76 Acceptably Flirtatious (CIS-female ==> CIS-male) —
— Confidence Range: 3.82 medium-high —
God, she was intriguing! He felt out of his depth for responding within the local protocols. He felt a subtle throb again, his pulse quickening, and the redblood flushing to his neck and face, and throughout his torso. He took a swift peripheral glance in the direction of the hovering drone globe he believed assigned to his present encounter. About three meters away, a meter above his head. No processing indicator light that he could detect at the moment. His throb thickened. Heck with it. He curled both middle fingers quickly at the flesh pads where they met his palm, requesting a keyboard display. Then he eye-typed ctrl-S to display his current biostat signifier readout.
— Pulse Increment: +21% Moisture Increment: +27% —
Bezos! Shit. Flippantly, he framed it, then he curled his thumb to send it to her.
— Are you sure? —
He thumb-curled again to assent, breathing faster.
He belonged to her now. At her disposal. Mystery Mestiza woman of Nova-Mex.
[ image – I googled ‘sex on trains’ and then selected basically the least lewd image available. I believe it’s a still from a porno video. ]
1) IOT – the fiendishly envisioned ‘Internet of Things’, being feverishly devised and fought over in terms of protocol standards turf wars as we speak. Highly coveted by one million Silicon Valley tech nerds with the combined sociological insight of an inchworm. If you don’t know about this, go read about it, and then rent out some time with a punching bag. Just imagine it: your toothbrush talking to your house plants and refrigerator and vacuum cleaner and employer, for YOUR convenience, about YOU. It is difficult for me to think of a more stupid, certain to lead to human catastrophe, and blatantly sociopathic idea than the Internet of Things. Which is saying something in 2019. And of course, nobody is doing anything about it except lusting after it’s inception.
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this is a great read!
I’m happy to hear this 🙂 Thanks.
I is a winter Sunday so I made time for reading it. I have to mull this over now, heh!
Grateful to you for that, ST, it being nearly 4000 words. Thanks! And what a bonus: mulling it over, to boot. Hard to think of a thing more rewarding for a writer than to have what’S written mulled over. 🙂
My idea of “mulling” was to completely re-read it tonight, to get the mind-images flowing better. Yes, an intriguing lady for Mr. Trev is your Alejandra and if the “process” seems a bit clinical, your description is not so different from the one I wrote about regarding a “provider girl” circa the year 3000. It’s monitored, it’s clean, it’s safe and it’s pleasant for both. This is a great little story.
Choo … Choo … Like Casey Jones 😎