[Sunday, 12 March 2254 | Day After Retirement]
Until this very moment, I never believed in the afterlife; I always thought it was a superstition, a remnant of a bygone era. A fairytale that people told to distract themselves from the permanence of blackness. Nothing, as a concept, is incomprehensible. Life after death, though, is something you can comprehend.
And yet, here I am, reunited with Rikard. Once again, he is holding me. But this isn’t Heaven. I’m not floating around on clouds, I’m lying on a bed in what looks like a ramshackle home surgery. Instead of ethereal light shining down upon us is the flickering of a halogen light giving me a damn headache.
Besides, if this was heaven, I would be free of Bazz Durkin. Yet he’s here, and he takes a seat next to Rikard.
“Turns out the Animalz could help you out. They injected you with self-cloaking nanoparticles. Completely undetectable under scans for biometric changes and cybernetics. The tech’s only new—word has it YutopiCorp won’t fund research into anything that makes their wares undetectable, funnily enough—and the particles disintegrate within forty-eight hours.”
I nod, but my head hurts.
“As soon as the bullet hit you, the particles got to repairing your brain, and here you are,” he says. “It was surprisingly easy to get hold of your corpse. Turns out the undertakers for these mass graves will happily sell corpses to the nearest necrophiliac.”
Ugh. That’s not a visual image I needed.
“Thanks,” I say. “I owe you.”
Durkin shakes his head. “No, you don’t. I syphoned your savings. It’s enough to get me a new start here.”
I’m somewhat comforted by the fact he hasn’t suddenly grown a conscience. “Here?”
“The Slums, Atto. Home of the forgotten and disenfranchised.”
Before the Retirement Act of 2172, people often described retirement as freedom. And here we are, outside of the purview of the City. Free. Free to live our lives in peace. As long as we stay under the radar and don’t piss the wrong people off, that is.
I can live with that. Shit, I can live.
And even if he’s not technically alive, Rikard can live, too.