Neon green burns martian skies with coral hues and static electricity. Seventeen barges hover across the urban wasteland under protocol of the supreme machine consciousness. The city sounds like a whisper, amplified to a cacophonous roar. White noise embraces Venerate Father Gara, walking slowly down the burnt concrete.
Mars, the sought celestial body. Prized jewel of the heavens. Contested article. Spurned of worlds. Earth was gone, but Mars remains, warrior brother over ravaged sister. Father Gara sees the martian homeless, alienated from society. He wishes they would die, disappear, before anyone noticed they were there. His generosity they tax from his well of patience and proximity.
"I got'ta get off this rock," he says. A shiver riffles through him.
Danny's Breakfast Beats was his favorite diner in the sprawl. Nothing came close to the original thing. Synthetic eggs only came so far. Chickens, now on the verge of extinction, were gods, worshiped and coaxed to bless those that prayed to them. Father Gara knew Danny himself, a repugnant, fat haired, little man with a uni-brow and an apron. Danny's scowl had worn a path above his forehead over his lifetime. But the chickens, Lucy and Henrietta, saved Danny from misery.
Ding, Ding. Service! Fork and knife. No spoons, yet. Coffee; it's shit. Got'ta get off this rock.
Father Gara looks up at the nondescript man that enters. He rises and smiles, and extends his hand. Cold. The hand is cold, and lifeless. Tiny motors and gears twist underneath the synthetic skin. Pneumatic fluid turns rotors, animates gears. Judah smiles back. It's his understanding of a smile; what he believes a smile to be.
"Gee-zus, Frank," Judah says taking a seat. "I can't get you to ever come to one of my places? You know I can't eat this shit."
"Language, Judah," Father Gara replies, crossing himself. "I don't eat synthetic. Order something please, for pete sake. I'll take it home."
"All for Danny. Yeah I get it," Judah replies absently.
A prim waitress arrives. Fully cyborg, no soul; just a smile, a perfect smile.
"Welcome to Breakfast Beats," she says musically. "What will you two be having today?"
Judah tosses the menu across the table, eyeing Father Gara.
"Onomatopoeia for me, or... whatever."
"He'll have the Breakfast Combo," Father Gara inserts politely. He passes his menu forward. "Give me the Potato Danson."
The waitress bows politely, and returns to the kitchen. Gara hears the osculating electric dial tone fade and die away as the doors close. The machines communicating in their native protocol.
"How ya doin' Frank?"
"Father Gara. Show some respect my son or I'll break your neck."
Judah nods absently. His eyes rove the room preemptively. Father Gara watches the figures being crunched and calculated. Split variables. Contingencies. Military grade cyborgs never sleep. They plan.
"So what's this all about," Judah asks. He tips over the creamer tins and begins to stack the little containers into a tower. "Come on," he teases. "I'm listening."
The ambient sound surrounds him. Father Gara hears the world. Four conversations about life. Two about death. No forgeries, no spies. Father Gara leans forward and lowers his voice.
"I want to quit."
Judah raises his eyes in surprise.
"Quit? What's this? You want to quit? Why? And even if you could... Seriously?"
The plush, ridged, polyurethane seat covers embrace him as Father Gara leans back, feeling the weight being lifted off his shoulders.
"I don't believe in it any more," he admits humbly. "The lies... The espionage... you know, the freaky crap? Can't do it any more... God I'm so tired of it."
Judah shakes his head. He looks disappointed.
"I've given 100 years, Judah," continues Father Gara, gesticulating firmly. He places his hands on the table, rapping his knuckles along the synthetic wood. "I'm due for a retirement."
Judah taps impatiently, his fingers succinct and metered, balanced and coordinated. Then he exhales oxygen.
"Whatever you want Frank," Judah replies. "I got your back. The Commission won't like this."
"The Commission doesn't have to know," Father Gara says, stressing his words firmly.
The server comes. It distributes their meals respectively. Judah pushes his plate across the table.
"We have a lot to talk about," Judah says in a low voice. Looking up at the server he grabs it's attention politely. "Box, please."