CH. 51 «Are You Patched In?»

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Classical music filled Shayne Lynoir’s room. The app left open on her desktop that it was playing from dimmed in its intensity slowly as a strange polyphonic tone began to pulse steadily.


An alert popped up displaying this along with his avatar; a nail-sized still image of his Ionian face, undoubtedly snapped recently when he set up his brand new porti. The window vibrated with each tone pulse every other second. It almost matched the tempo of the classical song still playing at low volume.

I stared at the animated icon bouncing for just a moment before shouting “You’ve got an incoming on screen, Shayne!” I hoped she could hear me in the kitchen where she was making herself a dinner of nearly-instant rice.

“Answer it!” She yelled back over the noise of the gammawave oven.

I got up from my beat-up, old computer and clicked the option to accept the call as I sat down at her desk. The window expanded to fill Shayne’s main screen, and in a nano the blank default was replaced by a young earthling with a mess of long, dark curls drapped over his head. The familiar jovial countenance of Rip Gozo.

“Helllooo!!” he said looming in to the screen and back, waiting a second for a response to come in before saying anything again.

“Hey, what’s up!” I said, waving directly into the camera lens.
“How are you doing?”

“Uhh..I’m well..But who’s there with you?…Can you guys see me?” He asked as he peered deeply into the screen, as if he was trying to make my face out of the black.

“Yeah, you’re coming in 5-by-5 on my end..” I paused when I realized that isn’t something you’d use to describe a laggy feed from a couple hundred-thousand miles away. “Well..not perfect, but you know what I mean.”

“I can’t see you, though. Did you forget to turn your imager on?” He asked, waving his finger at his.

I looked around for telltales or a switch of some sort. “Oh…I don’t think…uh..hold on for a nano,” I turned away from the screen. “Hey, Shayne? Is there a button to turn this thing on?”

“There should be a toggle for it somewhere over here,” Rip suggested from his end, pointing to the left side of his screen.

“I’ll get it.” Rip sighed, probably tapping his feet though another awkward moment of waiting for the conversation to start, knowing he was being watched but couldn’t see by whom. I found what I was looking for without a whole lot of unnecessary clicking. A smaller image of myself expanded from the lower corner of his screen to let me know the feed was going through, and I watched myself sigh in relief “There we go.”

“Oh, Klay! It’s you!?! Well that took you long enough. Noob,” Rip said with a sassy head bob and snap.

“Hey, I’ve never used Patch on an AM before, gimmie a break, everything’s backwards from how you have it,” I protested with a shrug.

“Wow, this is so strange talking to you–You!” he realized, leaning closer into the screen.

“Heh…I think I know what you mean,” I nervously scratched the back of my head. We caught up about the past few months and about our holidays while the scientist finished her culinary experiment in the kitchen. I’m glad she took her time, because it took a while for the embarassment to evaporate.

Maybe I don’t get a chance to use video chatting often enough, but I always find the first few minutes are a bit weird for me, adjusting to looking at the lens when you’re sending, and back at the screen while receiving. I can’t really say I used this capability too often, even when I had the ability to at any time. You probably get used to it.

It would seem face-to-face visual communication became too awkward for many people. What if you were with a friend your caller didn’t approve of? What if you didn’t put your makeup on this morning? What if you don’t want your mom to see you smoking a cigi. What if you were obviously faded? The act of dialing up and communicating with voice only became more commonplace because of it’s convenience. A very weak gesture in comparison to the option for a more life-like interaction no farther than a thumbs reach for anybody, and almost surely a little insulting to the other party involved.

Especially if everyone knows there are better ways to convey everything you mean than through a series of words.

I can’t help but notice everywhere I’m looking. Perhaps the loss of identity and personality is due to this general acceptance of living with the lack of the full spectrum available to us. We’ve been seeking refuge in a world of voice and text and in the anonymity this simulacrum of healthy interaction provides us with. Maybe I’m thinking too deeply into justifications for this, or ways I could not be a terrible person for doing the same. It’s true though, as I am unquestionably guilty of thinking that my words would convey my message enough when my expression could say volumes more.

Shayne returned, joining us with a bowl of her newest creation in hand. “Hey, Rip!” she shouted excitedly.

“What’s up, girl?” he replied with a funky hand gesture.

“Oh not much,” she shrugged. “Same old, you know. Lane here just killed the navi for my crawler.”

I nodded in agreement. “Yep, it’s true. I’m a murderer.” I hadn’t meant to, but I guess I put too much weight on the console when I climbed into the back of her vehicle a half hour ago. I was trying to quickly make room for the classmate she was picking up from the spaceport, and the poor touch screen gizmo never saw it coming.

“Aww, that’s some serious sad sauce there. I’m sorry that happened,” he said with sympathy.

“So am I,” I leaned in to say.

“So am I.” She added with no particular bitterness “Now he needs to replace it by being my GPS.

“…Until I actually afford to replace it,” I finished for her, turning away from the screens to seek a signal of approval on her face.

She chuckled. “Yeah, maybe. But what if I like you telling me where to go better than that robotic, Uranian bitch?”

I straightened my arms like a robot and did my best to imitate the broken cadence of robo-talk. “Booop–Turn left. Then, shut your mouthport, meatbag.”

“You guys are funny,” Rip said while giggling. “You should have seen where I logged some time earlier. It was this channel where anyone could come in and join the conversation, just to watch and text in.”

“Oh yeah? That sounds kinda neat,” I said, scratching my chin ponderously suddenly began entertaining the idea of adding video to my tlog, and thinking it may be nice practicing proper video etiquette.

“It is, but people aren’t easy.” He tugged at his long curls as he continued, “I had a bunch of people petitioned to watch, but most of them immediately wrote ‘Haircut.’ and then closed off their feed.”

“Well that‘s kinda weak,” I rested my hands on my hips. “I guess you should get one if you want more viewers.”

“Hey,” Shayne spoke up in his defense, “I like it.”

“I do too, but its a little bit like…oooh! I know! You should just put it into dreads,” I offered excitedly. Shayne seemed to like the idea, as she began to bring up search results for dreadlocks on the adjacent screen.

“Heh, I was actually thinking about doing it…that, or just shaving it all off,” it didn’t seem he’d made a decision yet from his tone.

“Oh yeah,” I crossed my arms, “Pull a Zech, sure, it worked for him. Worked for me, come to think of it–look at my hair.” I leaned in once again for his appraisal of my neatly trimmed ‘do.

“Yeah, it looks good, I can see your face,” he said only partially interested. “Hey, Ms. Lynoir! Look over here, I want to show you something,” he dipped out of sight for a nano, presumably to retrieve something.

“What’s that?” he had her attention quickly.

A large piece of dense herb occluded him from view. “TA-DA!!” he exclaimed, hidden behind it.

“Oooh, that’s nice,” the chemist uttered almost by rote.

Mimicking a voice from a cartoon we used to watch, I asked, “Is it…kush?”

“Pfft! Is it kush?” he repeated dismissively while his attention was turned to breaking it up, then paused to actually consider the question. “..Well, I don’t know…anyway, Shayne, take a hit with me!”

“Uhh.…” she paused to consider how high she already was, but shrugged it off. “Well ok…but out of what?”

“I’m hitting my new steamroller, Atlas,” he announced with authority as he displayed the large, metallic cylinder. “What is your newest gadget?”

She glanced around a nano. “Well, it would probably be…this GB I made! Conveniently right here,” she lifted the makeshift contraption from under her desk into range of the imager. “Wait for me to get ready, we’ll take it together!”

It certainly made it exciting to be getting high with someone over a hundred-million miles away. I’m unsure if it was actually done simultaneously, due to the noticeable lag one gets from sending information from planet to planet, but whatevs. Even with all the difference in time and space, I’m sure everyone was buzzing together.

It could always get better though. We still haven’t perfected a means of far distance communication. I could be wrong though, there may not be anything just so immaculate available to the general public as of yet, but I’m sure with enough money or military connections, one could get a direct satellite-to-satellite wideband. It would feel more instantaneous, with out so much jerkiness and latency. It would be even more like having the person you want to see in the room with you.

“I wish you could be here for the party I’m having in a week, Rip!” The blonde grad student said with palpable sadness.

“It’s gonna be astro!”

“Oh, it would be astro if you could come to,” I added, stooping far enough that the top of my head wasn’t cut off.

“I know!” he squealed, crestfallen. “Too bad I’ll never have enough time away from school and work…or enough for spacefare in any foreseeable future.”

“But you need to be here on Mars, Rip. You belong here,” she continued to plea. “You could live on my couch, like Lane is right now!”

By his reaction didn’t seem too enthusiastic about sofa surfing. “Thanks for the offer, but I’ve got stuff going on here. I can’t leave yet,” he knew one day he’d have to come, it was just a matter of time.

“The offer stands. You’re welcome here and you’ll always have a place to crash on Mars,” she said with a smile.

“You’re too sweet. But that reminds me, I’m tired as void,” he yawned. “I’m going to bed, it’s past four o’clock on Earth. You Martians have a pleasant evening. It was good seeing you, Klay,” he waved bye.

“Bye, Rip!!” Shayne yelled.

“You too, man. Nice seeing your face,” I waved back as he blinked out.

The vidcall ended. The chat window shrunk in size and disappeared. It was eerily quiet for a moment afterward, but the music soon swelled to its original volume.

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PREV: CH. 50 «When You’re Twenty-Two»

PREV: CH. 50 «When You’re Twenty-Two»

NEXT: CH. 52 «Jobhunt»

NEXT: CH. 52 «Jobhunt»


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