I wasn't worried about Kelly getting some nasty bacterial infection. I was worried about him coming down with something worse.
Ash's grandmother, Junie, used to joke about how, when she was my age, having unprotected sex could kill you. She passed away last year, quite unexpectedly. She could remember a time before the implants, before zombies. Back when diseases like AIDS and diabetes and cancer worried people. She'd laugh her bitter laugh because she knew things are a lot worse now, when there are diseases that don't just kill you, but raise you back up again.
"I hope they put me into The Game," she started saying to us, shortly before she died.
"Don't joke about it," Ashley told her.
"I'm serious, girl." Of course, we all knew it was highly unlikely she'd get her wish. Only the freshest and fittest of the recently deceased ever get recruited to be Players. "And think of the money it would bring the family."
"We don't need the money," Ash told her. But even I knew that wasn't true.
"But that's not why."
"Then why, G-ma? You know the lifespan of a game zombie is only a few weeks. Months at best, depending on your Operator." She shuddered; I knew she was remembering some of the scenes we'd watched on Survivalist.
"What they're made to do in The Game can be pretty brutal."
"I've seen that program, dear. I know. That's why I think it would be better. I'd rather spend my Life Service commitment doing that." G-ma Junie closed her eyes then and sighed, nodding. "A few brutal weeks. Who cares? I won't even know because I'll be dead. And if I'm dead, I want to be dead dead, not standing in some remote border outpost as a deterrent to trespassers or strapped to a bomb in Mexico. I just want to be laid to rest."
Of course, nobody gets 'laid to rest' anymore. They don't do burials. Everyone gets incinerated. After their LSC is completed.
Since her G-ma's death, Ashley has been talking more and more like that, too. "I'd rather just go quickly in The Game, even if it's to act out some sick fantasy of some sick rich fuck. Better that than be put to work cleaning sewers for three years or pulling guard duty. Although getting blown up would be a quick way to go, don't you think? I could be an Omega."
I remember once how Eric told me we probably won't have to worry about reaching our LSC age.
I knew he wasn't talking about a cure, or a change in the laws. He was talking about another outbreak happening, a real bad one. Global in reach, total in nature. An outbreak that wouldn't be quelled like the others.
There wouldn't be anyone left to quell it.
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