The bus was five minutes late. When Melky Sanchez he noticed the driver was new, a fat sallow eyed women with dyed red hair and oversized ivory cheeks.
"Wheres Ed?",Melky asked.
"Ed? I've been running this route for years." big cheeked bus driver drawled, she spit brown saliva into a plastic water bottle.
Confused, Melky took his seat at the back, what the fuck he thought. Maybe this is the wrong route, no it's route 691, but what happened to Big Red Ed? The bus took off, the air brakes hissing. Melky studied the faces around him, they seemed rude and unfamiliar.
The sun was beginning its rise for the day, transforming the streets from dark shades of blue and shadows into subdued oranges and pink. Sunrise, my favorite part of the day, Melky took a sip of his coffee, through the bus windows he saw a Bum riding a bike piled with huge bags of plastic bottles and cans.
When he got to work he yelled thanks to the bus driver as he stepped out the back door of the bus. She mustered a tobacco choked your welcome. The day already felt strange, his friend Jackson who usually got on at the sixty second street terminal didn't show. Jackson watched baseball too. Together they rooted for the home team, it was the worst in the league year after year. They would spend their bus ride together commiserating on the general shitty-ness of the team, the blown opportunities, and bash the ownership for trading away the good players for unproven prospects from the minors; often none of them could hit. The one continual bright spot in their conversations was the teams pitching, which was the best in their division.
When he entered the factory his boss was standing outside.
"Melky." He put a firm hand on his shoulder, "We have to talk"
"Well Melky to put it bluntly you've been on a steady decline with the quality of your work these past couple of months, and if we don't see marked improvement, well I don't know how to say this, but we'll be forced to let you go"
"What do you mean Mister Grundy?" Melky was genuinely surprised. Just last month he earned a most creative of the year award for his utopian alchemical holographs, he had been top employe at Simularc Systems three years running, this was all out of left field. He thought about Ricky Flukes, the Home Teams top pitcher, he imagined him winding up one of his searing fast balls.
"Well its your constructs Melky. Look, some of the clones have been waking up, and going through trans-temporal shock. We've lost three clones already. Just the other day Mr. Hillsworth's adult clone woke up and then died of sudden cardiac arrest, at first we thought the problem was in genetics but we narrowed it down to the algorithms in some of your new holos. It seems the clones are waking up, we further narrowed the problems to the Utopia Construct, the world of magic, ahem, as you call it"
Melky was shocked, he had worked on that particular construct for three years, it was the perfect hologram, one free of pain and suffering and need, one where anything was possible, they had found that the less stress a clone encounters in a construct the better health the organs are in. Construct a holographic world of 1920's Chicago or New York and the clone's liver will show signs of scarring, its lungs damaged from smoking cigarettes made out of ones and zero's. It was an odd phenomenon, one that hadn't been fully explained yet. The industry standard had been a town in the middle of the us during the 1950's, the percentage of temporal shocks from awakenings was low, sometimes a corpse would die in a car crash, or incur light organ damage but the losses were slight.
But all that had changed when Nelson Hooley, the famous Federation writer had been poisoned by some black market neural steroids. The press blamed his Ex-Wife and suspected Collective spy Shirley Hooley.
Nelson needed a whole brain and spine transplant, something that had never been done before. The Vids flashed twenty four hour coverage of him being spoon fed synthetic apple sauce by a buxom nurse. The headlines read, "Moral Compass of The Federation on Death Bed" . When all the best doctors from the Fed were assembled, and Nelson's 25 years aged clone was plucked from the translucent blue slime they began the transplant. And to no ones surprise it was successful. Nelson woke up. But the transplant left him a changed man, it seemed the construct had curdled him, his next book was a collective -leaning political manifesto, it ended with the three Federation Super-Metros being bombed to bits by Collective gamma missiles. Of course it was never published, Melky only knew about it because he was in the Industry. Last rumor he heard was the Feds dragged him to the outskirts of Ocean City and shot him, blowing out his thirty five million FedCred brain. The other rumor was that the Fed shipped him out to the Collies, since their great writer Sergay died of liver failure, they probably traded for a few literary prospect that couldn't write a decent piece of uplifting patriotism, and probably sulked on such primitive ideas as mortality, and the morality of corporate rule. They always traded away the good ones Melky thought.