Allison Zero - Book 1 - Part 6

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A dark metallic hallway on a space station, functional and industrial with signs of advanced technology, with a large hexagonal window with a view of a star field.

Allison has dealt with her first client, a man named Des, where they smoked some smokes that were relaxing. However Allison is less relaxed leaving Des’s voter’s apartment. This despite Des’s insistence it was a good talk. What he’d explained to her didn’t sit well with Allison. Especially him saying, to sum all he said up, “Voting doesn’t change things. Laws don’t enforce things. People change things. People enforce things.” As if some dismissal of the reality of the station was as easy as a wave of his hand.

He did suggest she meet her friends, and even suggested where they go. The only reason Allison is going to where Des recommended is because Des admitted the woman there, the woman who owns the place, Jenny, might be able to help more than he could. Allison figures she might as well try; she’s tired. No-one’s been outwardly hostile, but with the twists and turns she just wants to relax, and have someone actually help her. She really, really hopes she can just relax. Even if there’s no help... Just relax...

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With newfound confidence, potentially caused by lack of self-concern from tiredness, Allison walked the main promenade of floor C36. It was an old floor with stores, bars and restaurants, businesses, everything. Businesses that could have been around for decades. It was quieter than one of the more youthful floors, floors Allison would be used to, and she was getting glances from the elderly patrons on their Saturday night.

Allison didn’t know if the glances were due to what she knew was her still rather masculine build and face, or due to her age, or that she was wearing white stockings. White stockings an entitlement and marker she couldn’t imagine any visitor to this floor was permitted to wear in a long, long time. She didn’t particularly care though.

She cared so little she actually approached a member of security and asked the woman where Jenny’s was, the place, a bar she assumed, Des sent her to. It wasn’t on the floor-map.

The security worker didn’t seem bothered by this at all, even though Allison had rarely seen someone approach anyone in security, certainly not sober. She directed Allison to where Jenny’s was, hidden away, and as Allison began her walk there, feeling more and more weighed down by the bags and beers she carried, the security worker called out, “And you’ll have to knock!”

Following the woman’s instructions Allison eventually found Jenny’s. There was the usual sign, not illuminated, barely even visible. No view inside was offered from the outside, and the door was closed. It was an antique style door, one with physical hinges that swung the door in, or possibly out.

Allison rearranged the six packs of beer she was carrying so she could knock. After a minute the door opened back, showing a curtain behind it, and a man, in his late forties stood, looking at her. “Can I help?” he eventually asked, not moving out of the way.

“Are my friends here?” Allison asked, getting tongue tied, or brain tangled, seeing the man’s inexpressive visage.

“Same age as you?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Allison said, fiddling with her grip on the six pack handles, getting flustered.

“Absolutely not,” the man said, but he didn’t slam the door in her face or say anything else. He just stood, waiting.

“When they arrive, if they can find the place, the same man sent us all here, sort of.”

The man at the door’s face changed a little for the first time. He seemed mildly amused. “And what was this man’s name?”

“I’m not sure I should say,” Allison said. “He did say to give one of these six packs to Jenny, and she’d be able to help me. If I wanted to talk about... I can’t really say.”

The man did actually laugh this time. “Do you mind?” he asked, reaching for one of the bottles in the six pack holder. Allison shook her head. The man lifted a bottle a little to get a look at the label. “And what’s your name, if you can share that?”

“Allison,” Allison said.

“My name’s Yes. Y-E-S. There are not a lot of people with my name. It’s a very low ID number and it has never cycled. What are your friends’ names?”

“Angie and Adam,” Allison said, feeling the conversation relaxing.

“Triple-A... Please come in Allison. Welcome! We’re quiet tonight, as it happens. Sit at the bar and tell Sue you have a gift for Jenny and she’ll get her. I’ll try to keep an eye out for your friends. I assume they’ll stand out almost as much as you.”

Allison walked into the bar. It was quiet! A few people turned to look at her but quickly looked away again, seemingly not caring about her arrival.

There was actual wooden flooring, worn, and around low, square tables were soft corduroy covered armchairs. Aged brass chandeliers were hanging from the low ceiling and there was a polished wooden bar counter with a few beer taps—certainly not necessary for a bar this size—along with a selection of bottles of even the same type of spirits on tiered shelving against the wall at the back. Multiple different whiskeys, vodkas, gins, rums, and more.

Allison placed the six packs on the counter, put her tobacco-tin-holding backpack on the ground, sat up on the cushioned, tall seat and hung her purse off the hook in the bar counter. “Hello, my dear. What can I get you?” a woman asked, picking one of the bottles out of the six pack holder and then placing it back.

“They’re a present—”

“For Jenny, I’ll get her. I’m Sue, and I could guess at who you are but I’ll let you introduce yourself,” the woman, Sue, said.

“Allison. And thank you,” Allison said.

Sue nodded and was soon walking back in behind the bar after leaving through a door a few moments before that. “She’ll be here in a minute,” Sue said. Then she went back to reading her conn.

After a couple of minutes an old woman, fully grey, but with a quickness to her step, and a severe look to her face that was betrayed by a kindly and casual posture was walking to Allison. “A present for me?” she asked.

“They’re from—”

“Let me see if I can figure it out,” the woman, obviously Jenny, said. She looked at the cap on the bottle and said straight away. “Des... How is he? How did your conversation go, Allison? I’m Jenny.”

“He seemed in fine spirits. Me, less so. I’m not too sure what to make of it. It’s a lot to take in,” Allison said.

“You got straight to serious stuff then, and he sent you to me. Comfortable smokes?” Jenny asked.

Des told Allison that few citizens had even seen tobacco but that certainly didn’t mean it was none. And he did send her to Jenny, telling Allison to talk to her. “I thought they were like sitting in front of a fire, in a cold climate. Drinking mulled wine.”

Jenny smiled and her kindly demeanour spread to the look on her face. “Let me message Des my thanks. You two did have a tough conversation.” She took a smaller than usual conn, but still in rainbow, female colours out of a pocket in her dress and began to type a message, looking up at one point to say, “Old thumbs, very slow.” Eventually she looked up, again, from her conn before stuffing it back in her pocket. “So like sitting in front of a fire... One of your friends coming is female?”

“Yeah, Angie. And Adam is my other friend.”

“Do you think they’re ready to smoke what you smoked with Des?” Jenny asked.

Allison considered it for a few seconds. One did tell her she could, probably that she should smoke what she’d smoked with Angie and Adam. It shouldn’t be a risk, but it seemed as though Jenny had some experience of this and was asking Allison for her own opinion. “I don’t see why...”

Allison’s conn beeped. Jenny indicated for Allison to look at it. It was a message from One. “If Jenny and I ever disagree over something I would suggest giving more weight to her opinion than mine.” Allison laughed.

“One?” Jenny asked.

“Yeah, he said to give more weight to your opinion than his if you two disagreed.”

Jenny made a soft ‘Hmmm,’ looking weary but satisfied. “He’s still deferring to me then. Although thankfully it was only to give my opinion more ‘weight.’” Allison felt confused by this, and it obviously showed. Jenny quickly said, “What One is to you, I was to One. Now retired. We go back to just getting old. I don’t think One is there yet, but there’s a few approaching it. One will have been pleased with you. It’ll encourage him. He’s a lifer, I think.”

Allison thought about the implications of what Jenny had said. “There’s more Ones than One?” she asked.

“It’s a rare job, not the rarest but quite rare. And very necessary, more than most. At least we think so.”

“Does that mean I’ll someday..?”

“No, you might find something else you want to do. You might get bored. Or tired. Maybe you’ll want to run a business. That’s fine. Are you a citizen or voter?”

Allison had been surprised by a lot of things so far that day but that question surprised her the most. “A citizen, of course.”

“Not necessarily,” Jenny said. “It doesn’t always work that way. I presume if you’re here Des told you the story with laws.”

“That they’re not as strict as is made out? I kind of figured that out myself.”

Jenny laughed. It was a youthful laugh. “How?”

“Well, partly it was the smoke I had with Des. I lit it up in his apartment without checking if that was allowed. It just made sense. Then I thought—which I’m sure was partly the effect of the tobacco—if I’m allowed to do this there’s a lot more going on than there appears to be.”

Jenny’s smile grew wide. “You’re on the accelerated path. I can understand why, given the ruling today. How did One find you?”

“I slept in a workshop of his. I guess it is a workshop... I'd left a party because I don’t like sleeping near them but was too far from where I was staying at the time. Which was last night, I suppose. Today seems like... I don’t know... Anyway... I guess I knew I was breaking some laws, and it seems everyone is, and no-one really gets in trouble. Not if they don’t talk about it all over the place. Which is why people don’t know how flexible they are, I guess?”

Jenny rubbed at her hands like they were hurting. “The random bed, and I assume it was a single bed, in a lab, is a tough route to work, but if it pays off it pays off big. I’m happy for him. Now these friends of yours, they’re OK to smoke what you smoked with Des?”

“I think so,” Allison said.

“Good! They can have their first smoke here, which I think is a first for this place, and you can smoke something of mine,” Jenny said, as she was pulling a number of ashtrays out from beneath the bar. “And I’ll put these behind here.” She took the six packs of beer off the counter and rested them on the shelf behind her. “Did One tell you you could share your smokes with them?”

Allison nodded. “What he gave me, yeah. And what’d I’d smoked with clients.” Although she felt there was something strange to this, from the simple fact Jenny had asked her the question, yet another question about smoking with Angie and Adam.

“Extremely accelerated path... Anyway, this looks like them,” Jenny said, nodding towards Allison’s friends, who were walking in, looking confused until they spotted Allison. They approached her cautiously. “Sit up on the seats, Angie, Adam. I’m Jenny. You’re going to have your first smoke.”

“You’re in safe hands, really. I promise,” Allison said.

Angie and Adam sat themselves up on the seats at either side of Allison and leant up against the counter. “Am I going to turn into a plant?” Adam asked. Allison could smell alcohol on his breath.

“You two have been drinking?” Allison said.

“He’s been worrying his pants off, I even offered him a handjob if it’d calm him down,” Angie said.

“I can give you a handjob if you’d prefer, Adam,” Allison said. At this point she genuinely didn’t care. She was too tired to care, and it’d be just like what she did to herself anyway. What did it matter if it was someone else’s penis? Then she thought of Robert, very quickly, for the briefest of moments.

Adam sat straight back in his seat. “It’s highly unlikely you’ll turn into a plant. Don’t worry,” Jenny said.

“Allison turned into a woman!” Adam said. “Handjobs? Fucking hell...” He shook his head.

“What she had was so much more powerful than what you’ll be having. It’s not a concern. You don’t have to be a woman unless you want to be,” Jenny said.

“What!?” Adam said. “It’s—” but he was cut off by Allison patting him on his thigh. For some reason he put his hand down on top of hers, then she turned hers over and held his. He seemed to begin to breathe a little easier.

Jenny took two of the beer bottles Allison had brought and put them in the quick chiller, dialling in a temperature, then readied four glasses, putting one out in front of each of them. After that it was just a case of dividing one of the chilled bottles up between the four of them, and topping up the glasses a little, but not to full, with the second. The liquid was black, with a thin, brownish-white foam head. Not a thick one like on the beer Allison had earlier.

Adam squeezed Allison’s hand. “What’s that?” he asked.

“Beer,” Jenny said. “You’ve never had one like this. And not one this strong. You’ll probably enjoy it.”

“Isn’t this—”

“Who cares?” Allison said, knowing he was about to say ‘illegal for women.’

Angie bumped her shoulder against Allison’s. “Good woman,” she said.

“Go on,” Allison said to Adam. He glared at her but reached out and picked up the glass, then took a small taste. “Are you a plant now?”

“It’s not bad,” Adam said.

“It’s really good for women, too. Almost medicine for us,” Jenny said, and she smiled at Allison and Angie.

“WHAT THE FUCK!?!” Adam’s eyes nearly popped out of his head.

“Well, the weaker version, typically. I think Allison probably had some. A little bit of it anyway, in its regular form. It has some nutritional value to it that can be of benefit to a lot of women. When I was your age men used to offer it to us on that basis. It’s true as far as I know, according to some doctors and the chefs I’ve talked to. But none of the men I knew who drank it turned into women. So you’re fine. It’s not as trendy any more, I rarely have people order it...” Jenny said, sighing.

Allison and Angie both picked up their glasses, and took a taste, while Jenny followed them. “This is really nice. Thick. Like syrup, but not sickly. There’s a bite, and some sweetness,” Angie said. Allison nodded.

“You ready for our smoke, Allison? Show these two not to be worried.” Jenny held out a rollie to Allison, that she took from a tin with a reddish label on it on the counter, and a lighter. Taking it Allison lit the rollie and inhaled. “How do you feel? What’s that rollie like?” Jenny asked.

Allison gave it a few seconds to come into its own, then said, “Relaxed. Like before. There’s some of what’s in Angie and Adam’s smokes, or what they will smoke, in there...” Jenny nodded. “And something else, I’m not sure.”

“Taste your beer again,” Jenny said.

Allison picked her beer up and tasted. “Oh wow! That’s... A lot! I don’t have words for the tastes I’m getting. There’s so many of them... No... A few, but they’re moving.”

Jenny had pulled another tin from beneath the counter. She handed a rollie each to Angie and Adam along with lighters. “Your turn. Just like in the movies,” she said.

Both Angie and Adam held the rollies to their lips, with the element lighters before them. Allison didn’t know which one of them to look at but her decision was made when she saw the smoke rise from Angie’s rollie first.

Angie slowly exhaled a plume of smoke as she closed her eyes and held them shut, and after a few moments said, “Yeah...”

“What’s it like, Angie?” Adam asked.

Angie took another drag, eyes still closed, and repeated the process all over along with the same slow exhale. Then she took a deep breath through her nose. “It’s nice... I feel... Nice.” She opened her eyes and laid the rollie in the ashtray, then closed her eyes and took a deep inhale through her nose again.

“OK, wow,” Adam said, and, with an exaggerated certainty in his movement, movement that betrayed his bravado, lit his rollie.

Except Adam didn’t exhale after a few seconds. He did close his eyes, and the hand that was just before his mouth fell and bounced off the bar. His chin dropped to his chest. Allison also held her breath until he finally exhaled, with no smoke coming out. Allison took the rollie that was about to fall from his fingers into her grip as Jenny laughed. “That’s sweet,” she said.

“Is he OK? Will he fall off the chair?” Allison asked.

“What do you think?” Jenny said. Allison looked at Adam. He was breathing slowly, but he wasn’t wobbly, he wasn’t even really slumped in the chair. He just looked relaxed. His breaths were patient and purposeful. “Are you up to date on your first aid, Sue?” Jenny called out.

“He’s more likely to be dancing. Soon, anyway. Not needing the recovery position,” Sue said, smiling. “We’ve seen a lot worse, Allison, don’t worry.”

“Yeah, he just looks really relaxed,” Allison said. “But I’m glad I didn’t do this with them on my own. Thank you, Jenny. And you, Sue!”

“First time always hits hard,” Sue said.

“Now taste some of Adam’s smoke,” Jenny said. She inclined her head towards the smouldering rollie of Adam’s Allison held.

Allison took a drag of it. She tasted something more to it than before, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was, so she took a drag of the rollie Jenny had given her, the one that made the beer more complex. When she dragged on Adam’s rollie again, she realised something, instantly.

She placed Adam’s rollie in the ashtray in front of him, where he could get it if he wanted. She looked up at Jenny. “Those... What Angie and Adam are smoking... Those are the same as the brown rollie One gave me. Earlier. When I knew... When I realised who I am. Not as strong, though. Not near as strong, but the same. And they're the same as with Des, the weaker version.”

“These are the base of everything we do, you do. It’s foundational. The original modern form of tobacco once we made it not-dangerous, except sometimes to the psyche. One gave you another smoke before he gave you the brown one?”

“Yeah, it cleared my head. It was fuzzy from a hangover, I think,” Allison said.

“It can clear your head, some people will have no reaction, some people will get agitated. Lots of things can happen, but it is extremely safe. It’s typically the first rollie you give to anyone you’re not certain has smoked before so you can gauge from their reaction what they’re capable of handling. You’ll learn how to judge it.”

Allison took a drink of the dark beer on the counter as Jenny did. “So I should really have given what One gave me first to Adam and Angie,” Allison said. “Why didn’t One tell me?”

“How many brown rollies did you smoke, do you know?” Jenny asked, brow a little furrowed, or maybe it was just a squint in one eye.

“Just the one, I think. One said it was one of the easiest whatever-he-was-doing he’s done.”

Jenny shrugged. “If it was easy he probably sees a lot in you, he wants to throw you in at the deep end. See how you cope, what questions you ask. What you learn. I might have done the same. I have done it with a few people. Sometimes it’s a success, sometimes there’s setbacks. It doesn’t matter. People try their best, and if something happens someone more senior—or many someones—will step in and recover things. No-one has ever had life altering issues for as long as anyone has been talking to me about this.”

Allison laughed at the lack of life altering issues. “Yeah,” she said, dismissively. “No-one’s had their life changed. Not in a serious, never-heard-of-before way.”

Jenny shook her head and smiled a smile that revealed a vibrancy to her Allison hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t the playfulness she had with Adam, it was something else. “You would have been fine with these two. But I can definitely see you causing trouble. Maybe not for yourself, but a headache for others. Some of the numbers...” Jenny said. “Personally I can’t wait. The new generation is far too cocky.”

Allison looked at Adam whose eyes were half closed. He held the rollie to his lips and was taking drags but it wasn’t lit. Allison picked up the lighter and held it to the tip until it glowed again with Adam’s inhale. Then she took the rollie from his fingers and set it back into the ashtray.

She turned to Angie, who was happily drinking her beer, the rollie in her ashtray half gone but also extinguished from lack of smoking. “How are you doing, Angie?” Allison asked.

“Good, yeah. Thanks. That smoke was nice. I’m so glad you are who you are. Who you really are! It makes so much sense. I should have figured it out.” Allison smiled and for some reason Angie was smiling serenely. Allison figured it must be the tobacco, then Angie took another drink from her glass. “This beer is amazing,” she said.

Allison looked at the tin her own smoke had come from, the red tin next to the green tin of Angie and Adam’s relaxing smokes; the foundational tobacco; Allison’s the tobacco that made the beer feel alive.

Allison looked at Jenny.

“What do you think?” Jenny responded, understanding the question on Allison’s face.

“Yes... It would be good,” Allison said. “Can I?” Jenny shrugged. Allison opened the red tin and took out a rollie. She held it out to Angie. “Try this one, Angie” she said.

Angie swallowed the beer in her mouth. “I’m OK, really. I’ll take things slowly, for now. I prefer the beer, anyway,” Angie said. “There are times I feel I could do with one of those smokes, but not right now.”

Allison smiled. “You’ll really like this one, I promise. Will you try it? For me? If you don’t want more after your first bit I’ll smoke it.”

“OK. But I’ll really like it? Really, really?” Angie said, looking doubtful. Allison nodded and Angie took it, held it to her lips and lit it. A few seconds later she looked quizzically at Allison. “I don’t feel anything. Not more than the first one.”

“OK. I got it wrong. I’m sorry, I’m new at this. Go back to your beer.”

Angie consolingly rubbed Allison’s shoulder as she took a sip of the beer. Angie froze. She took another sip, then a drag of the rollie she’d just put down in the ashtray and another sip of the beer.

Her head snapped around to Allison, with her eyes locked on Allison’s eyes. “You amazing bitch! Fuck me!! I love you!” She took another sip of her beer and tilted her head back as she held the beer she now completely adored in her mouth.

Allison spotted Sue carrying what looked like two boards towards them. “Ladies,” she said, placing two large platters filled meats, cheeses, nuts, olives, pickles, breads, oils, and vinegars down in front of Angie and Allison.

“This is the fucking best day of my life. This is better than sex! Fuck me!” Angie said, taking a deep breath. “How am I this lucky?”

“How are you this lucky, Allison?” Sue asked. “You get your first personal client, on your first day?”

“Personal client?” Allison asked.

“You discovered what Angie loves. She’s your client. Taste is a common one but her reaction? It’s a particularly strong one. There’s no going back from this,” Sue said with a laugh. “Luckily for her she’s your support. She won’t have to pay for it.”

“Did you know it’d work like this?” Allison asked. “You had the food ready to go.”

“The food would have happened anyway, and I had an idea she’d smoke what you did. That you’d see it in her. The way she described the beer when she tasted it was fun... No idea she’d be so into taste though.” Sue shrugged. “You did well. You have good friends. And you’re going to have a lot of fun with him too.”

Allison looked at Adam and saw him smiling, bouncing his head to himself. She kept watching a man in a seeming reverie where he picked up the rollie, only half smoked at this point, lit it with the lighter and took the smallest of drags, all while remaining smiling, with his eyes shut. Then he put both lighter and rollie back down.

“Yeah,” Allison said, smiling too. “They’re good friends. How are you doing, Angie?”

“This is... I can’t believe it,” she said, as she picked up an olive and bit into before moaning in pleasure. “Can you get me more of these smokes?”

Jenny laughed. “This is a present from us. From me and Sue,” Jenny said as she slid the red tin towards Angie, with a lighter on top. “I think they’ll be in tins labelled 1 in your bag, Allison. The ones you and Des smoked, the same as the ones your friends smoked first, are labelled 0. Colours can sometimes change. Brown smokes are brown though.”

Angie was nibbling at cheese like a mouse when she stopped and rested her hand down. “We can only smoke in Allison’s apartment, and they don’t really allow food out of the mess halls. I’m not sure how often I need these?” She tapped her nail on the tin of rollies.

“Come back here any time you want. Any of you three, with each other or on your own. You can smoke here. If you want to eat some food here we can arrange more than the platters. It’s a privilege of being a smoker, which you are now. It costs credits, quite a few, though, and you might not want to spend them. You have plans to open a business when you’re old enough?” Jenny asked.

“I’m always thinking,” Angie said. “No firm plans.”

“Saving credits is important, you might get a plan for something. Does Allison understand that given her ‘new-ness?’” Sue asked.

“I dunno,” Angie said. Then she turned to Allison. “There are ways to get most of anything as a woman. Not some stuff like taking food to your apartment if it’s an official, registered apartment, or an official floor. That’s for parties on unsecured floors, but you know that... But most women want to own a business or do something ‘bigger’ when they’re old enough, so we save. Men are stupid enough to pay for anything you want... If you give a little in return.” Angie laughed, and so did Jenny and Sue.

“Yeah... Socially acceptable prostitution,” Allison said, rolling her eyes.

“A little, yes... If men stopped offering women would eventually get horny enough to have sex just because. We do want sex, most of us,” Angie said, then laughed again. “They’re not that smart, though.” Then she was laughing so much her shoulders were going up-and-down, up-and-down. Sue and Jenny were grinning.

Allison shook her head. “This is all bullshit,” she said. “I don’t know why things are like this!”

“Have you told her about libraries?” Jenny asked.

“Yeah, there are libraries. Filled with fiction like from when we were in school. Much, much better fiction though. I’ll take you to one. You’ll like it,” Angie said.

“Is this another ‘women only’ thing?” Allison asked.

Sue shook her head, now back behind the bar. “No. If you know a man who says he’d love to read fiction again, like in school, invite him to one. There’s a few male members of libraries, especially older men.”

“What’s the catch? There’s always a fucking catch, I’m finding!” Allison said.

Jenny laughed, then Angie said, “There’s junior and senior libraries. Junior libraries you just join. To get into senior libraries you have to write something they think is worthy. I’m a senior member in a few branches.”

“Did you check out this level’s library, Angie?” Sue asked.

Angie took her smoke away from her mouth, and said, “Philosophy? According to my conn... I’m not sure what that is. I have vague memories from school, but that wasn’t fiction.” As she spoke smoke came out of her mouth and once she stopped speaking she took a quick sip of her beer, then stuffed a thin slice of salami in her gob, relishing it.

“Just ideas about how the world works, how societies work, what makes people who they are, and what people are. You and Allison should check it out, especially you Allison. And get her to join a general library, Angie. I think she’ll like fiction,” Jenny said.

“Because I’m a woman?” Allison asked, starting to get annoyed.

Sue sighed and looked annoyed as well, at Allison, but Jenny didn’t look any different. She simply said, “When you described your smoke with Des you said you thought of it as ‘like sitting in front of a fire, drinking mulled wine in a cold climate.’ That’s a rather writerly turn of phrase. It’s certainly not sterile and dry.”

Allison guffawed. “Sterile and dry? Yeah? Like the encyclopedia I don’t have access to?”

Angie laughed. “We have most of that; not completely up to date. There’s a lot of rubbish in it, especially about women. Written by men, I’d guess.”

“I’m so sick of this!” Allison said. “Why is there all this ‘hiding things?’”

Sue was no longer looking annoyed. “Join the philosophy library, you might find some answers to that,” she said.

Allison shrugged and reached for one of the 0 smokes, the foundational smokes. The calming smokes. “Yeah, less obfuscation but instead more work to find out things.” She lit the smoke and inhaled. It didn’t do a huge amount of good, but some.

Jenny had poured a beer from one of the taps nearby and placed it in front of Allison. A regular beer like Allison would have bought before. “Did you think life would be easy?” Jenny asked. “It can be if you want. It is for many people.”

Allison took a drag from the smoke. A drag which helped more than the first one, then took a sip of the beer. “No. I don’t want that. It’s just so new, and aggravating.”

Everyone nodded, and Allison accepted it. It was all new. Then Adam spoke up, interrupting the quietness of people contemplating 'the new and aggravating' to say, “Thank you so much, Allison. That was amazing. Just wow! I feel so great. I love you to bits, really.” Allison looked at him and he was nodding to himself. Sure of something. Allison thought he looked sure of himself.

“You can live an easy life if you want,” Jenny said. “There’s no shame in that. If it makes you happy that’s all that matters.”

Allison nodded at Jenny, then turned to Adam. “Drink your beer and eat some food, Adam. And thank you.”

“Yeah, no problem,” Adam said. “The food looks great.” He reached for the platter Allison had slid to him and began to dig in.

Sue placed three chocolate bars down in front of each of them. “When you want to try the tasting smokes again, the 1s. Another day. Try the chocolate beforehand, especially you, Angie, then have a smoke and eat a little bit more of the chocolate. And please come back to me at some point and tell me what the food you have tomorrow was like, don’t smoke your smokes tomorrow, really, believe me on that. I have to get back to work, it’s finally starting to pick up.”

Allison looked around and the bar was a little more filled, people were smoking, but now that they saw Sue was ready to serve, and not be dealing with three new customers, one or two were standing to approach the bar for drinks.

“Why was it so quiet? It’s a Saturday night. Isn’t that the busiest time for bars? Do older people smoke and drink later at night?” Allison said.

“Oh! You’ll like this!” Angie said.

Jenny laughed and shook her head. “Don’t tell her, let me...” Jenny pulled her conn out of her pocket. She showed it to the three of them and there was what appeared to be a movie on it, but it was short, and it repeated when you clicked on it. None of them had seen that on a conn ever. Allison, especially, hadn’t seen what it played.

It featured a few clips—probably from security cameras—of women getting piggyback rides from men, their arms wrapped around the man’s neck, their unworn shoes held by their hands, dangling against the man’s chest.

Every few seconds a man, with a woman on his back, would hop, and dart ahead. A few were even twirling. They all looked like they were having the best of fun. There were people, of all ages, standing outside bars, with drinks, smiling, and occasionally cheering as they watched.

“That’s your doing,” Angie said to Allison.

“Biggest trend the station has seen in a while,” Jenny said, smiling. “Next weekend the doctors and carers will be working overtime with the injuries. If they're not already busy tomorrow with back strains. The age of some of those people! Lots of days off work, unwell...” Jenny laughed.

Allison groaned and said, “It was all Robert.”

“That’s a point!” Angie said, with glee. “What do you think of Robert? Did you tell me what you two got up to in that room? Probably not considering I’d remember if you did, I hope. Today has been weird. Come on, tell all!”

Then they all talked, and chatted, and drank beers. Adam even seemed more easy-going. When the platters were gone they were ready to leave, accepting it had been a long, long day. Jenny said she’d store Allison’s beers in the bar, and told Allison she had eight left to drink; this despite Des’s instructions one of the six packs was for Jenny. Jenny only wanted two beers. The rest waited for Allison, with her name on them.

On the way to Allison’s apartment, while Angie insisted that Doctor Grace’s instructions to watch Allison for the next day or two meant both of them sleeping in the double bed in Allison's spare room, Adam gave Angie her first piggyback ride. Allison agreed that Angie, having a steed, was a powerful knight and she couldn’t argue with the logic that she needed to be watched by a respected and knowledgable noble.

Which was the end of everything, with everyone quickly tucked into bed. Adam asleep within seconds of arriving to his own apartment.

Except Allison kept waking during the night, or at least half awake, pain growing. Her moans and groans eventually waking Angie, early in the morning. Angie messaged Doctor Grace, seeing how much pain Allison was in, and how much sweating Allison was doing.

Doctor Grace said to leave Allison sleep as long as she could, and if she made it to late morning still asleep to rouse her then. Then to ask Allison some questions and contact her if concerned.

Angie dragged a chair from the living room into the bedroom. And she sat watching Allison.

And Angie worried.

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Comments

Just read all of the parts so far back to back

It's a shame this isn't getting more attention, it's very different and I'm enjoying it. It is certainly confusing, but it is at least becoming somewhat clearer now, and well worth persevering with.

I'm a big SciFi fan, but I don't think I've read anything similar.

Thanks for this, and I hope that the limited responses won't deter you from continuing this.

Alison

It would take an Alison!

Thanks Alison, your comments are very kind. And very much appreciated. The limited response to Allison Zero isn't deterring me in any way. I have a plan for this novel, even if it's not all drafted yet. And it's my intent to see it out. I think the story will be worth it in the end, even if it's taking a while for everything to come together. All the pieces are there now, depending on who you trust, if you trust, and if you're right to trust them. I think the story might actually work better, in the end, as a novel. When you can read it straight through rather than in bits and pieces. It's being written as a novel, apart from some of the nods towards serialised fiction such as slightly overwrought reminders of what happened in previous parts at the beginning of a new part of the text.

I've been working on Toni With An i (link to Part 1) for the past few days (and Not Strong Enough to Run before that, the short story in the Light Avenue world... And!!! there's a new Toni With An i chapter fully drafted but needing non-sleepy eyes/non-brain mush brain to check it over. Toni's submitting the healthcare coverage report she's worked on for the people in the office, after she somehow found a boyfriend after she finished work on Friday. That was unexpected! I think she might have quite an eventful day when the people in her office read her final report.) I took a rest from Allison Zero as it felt like a natural break-point in the story. Allison has been through her first day as Allison; a long, arduous day. I don't believe, for now, future elements will be quite so focused on detailing every happening. There'll be a lot more summation of what Allison's going through when right for the story. I think that might help with any confusing elements as these parts will be relatively clear on their purpose.

There's a huge amount of detail about the station, and life on it, in what I've written so far. Not only was Allison's day long and arduous but so was the reader's. I include in that what I'm sure is my poorer writing from not leaving drafts sit for weeks or months. That's the nature of operating on a relatively fast publishing schedule.

Having seen the stats on Allison Zero, that everyone else can see, as well, if I get to the end of it with one dedicated reader ready to shout from the rooftops about it being "worthwhile" I'll feel satisfied. If you're that reader I'll be ecstatic, as you've made my Sunday afternoon with your comment. Thank you!

Count on two of us, at least!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

My only SciFi series was by far my least popular; I assumed it was because it was also FanFic but it could just be SciFi. It’s a niche area, and Trans fiction is niche, so add the two together and . . . .

But never mind that! We few, we happy few, will stay with you and cheer Allison on. Great set-up!

Emma

Potentially releasing this

I've been looking at things in my personal life and I've been thinking about going down the self-pub route. Write stories for BCTS, leave them up for a while after they're finished, edit them into novel format. Release on Amazon. It'd be after Allison Zero - Book 1 is finished and I'm well into an idea for either Book 2, or another book idea I'm kicking around.

Toni With An i would always be freely available. My concern is with the likes of Allison Zero; too sci-fi for trans fiction, too trans for sci-fi fiction, two atypical for both of them. Definitely not enough pew-pew and lasers for sci-fi. That being said any money is only a (quite nice) bonus. It's mostly, maybe two-thirds, about getting the stories out there.

An author I know is interested in reading Allison Zero, and I said I'd probably show her when it's complete. There's a long way to go before then, though. My main annoyance at the moment is that I literally don't have the energy to write as much as I can.

(In Emma news I've read the first part of Software Update, planning on getting to the next part soon.)