by Paul Evans
“Did you leave something nasty in the toilet Matthew?”
“Only leave it if it’s wee.”
“In the toilet.”
“The printers won’t work unless we put material back into the system.”
“Flush it …”
“… unless it’s a wee. We’re nearing our grey water ration limit.”
Eighty-four year old Claire Baxter cast her iBall at the crapper: her retina display registered an eight per cent remainder for the next two days. It didn’t really matter. She allowed a smile of affection at the thought that, despite his mental decline, her husband still dropped the toilet seat after use. Although the peripheral splash marks made her suspect that he no longer lifted it.
There was a time when they had the credit and energy allowance to instruct the printer to reconstruct dirty items (filth was cumulative material profit), but she would have to clean it the old fashioned way.
With a barely audible whine of servomotors, Claire’s exoskeleton assisted her back to the living room with ease. Hers was a basic domestic download, the template was free and she had received state aid for its construction.
Whilst a construction supervisor Matthew wore a high spec’ exoskeleton, with colostomy recycler, boiled sweet holder and grandchild hair-ruffler. Grandchildren were back in fashion. Now all British women wore the veil and were expunged from positions of responsibility, there were more mothers again. Arguably too little too late: the average age in the UK had recently hit seventy-five.
“I’m just going out love.”
“I’m just going out. Xiri will look after you.”
“I’ll be back later.” She put her head around the living room door. Matthew’s iBalls were opaque, resembling cataracts, as he sat submerged in a private online adventure.
“I won’t flush the toilet.”
Matthew had been retired since becoming a construction liability. In his confusion he had approved a prank design for a five hundred foot penis to be constructed in central Reading. With his endorsement, the industrial printers had worked tirelessly throughout the night, building the phallus with layer-upon-layer of raw material. The following day dawned on its bulbous tip, and Matthew was relieved of duty … and his mechanical aid. There were too many media scares of rampaging mechanically enhanced bewildered.
Through the iBall the universal Brintranet interface avatar, Xiri, was made to look as if it were a companion.
“Peace be upon you,” spoke Xiri through her e-Rwax “Can I help you reach your destination Claire?”
“And also with you. I need to see Sue; I know the way. Make sure Matthew eats.”
A hydrocell autocar transported her over the many bridges of the south eastern archipelago. Her iBall discretely fed updates on the ISEW conflict with Scotland. The black flag of Islam had flown over Buckingham Palace for nearly eighteen years, and the Islamic State of England and Wales were exerting kinetic influence in Scotland. Worryingly, Scotland seemed to have acquired export-variant combat drones of US design.
Sue’s flat: Burqa to burqa, the woman who opened the door simply shook her head, wept an apology and forced the door closed.
This was a setback. Claire’s self doubt amplified.
Xiri reappeared in her vision. “Peace be upon you. You are registering signs of acute anxiety. Do you require me to contact a Doctor … or a Saracen?”
“No! No. I’m fine thank you Xiri.”
* * * *
Passing under the Richard Branson power line, she searched progress on the Hawking reconstruction. Mid-century, a cultural initiative had resulted in the obsolete mundane electricity pylons replaced by ‘Great Britons’ holding aloft the country’s power. The Stephen Hawking statue had been initially ridiculed, but – at the point of semi-dismantlement – public nostalgia had won through, and the giant slew-faced genius was reinstated. Such force of public opinion charged her resolve to continue.
Claire passed through the ornately decorated entrance of Camden Souq. Crowds were building for the day’s beheading: a woman who had openly vilified Elder endorsement of the Sunni-Shia divide.
An eight foot Saracen blocked her path. The armoured police robot was a sub-riot model. The bearded face displayed on its cranial screen imbued wisdom and strength. The protective mesh covering the image juxtaposed its benign expression.
“Peace be upon you …” it paused while cross-referencing the personalised iBall visible through the burqa “… Claire Baxter. The ground floor is currently out of bounds to women. Xiri recently registered high levels of anxiety. You will be X-rayed.”
Claire closed her eyes and held her breath as the Saracen emitted a low hum.
“You are cleared to proceed to permitted areas.”
“Thank you Saracen.”
Claire ascended to the upper levels.
A lingerie outlet was her destination. On entering she was relieved to see so many black-clad clones: a Company of elderly ninjas. It was nearly time.
* * * *
In the plaza below, a woman was pushed through a crowd made angry by propaganda and fear. Despite her resolute posture, the hallmarks of mistreatment adorned her body, and fear shone in her wide eyes.
Captured on camera for consumption of the absent.
A block. A blade. Words of condemnation. Sentence.
A crash of cascading glass announced the freefall descent of the Sisters of Elizabeth. More than forty elderly women relied on the auto-righting function of their exoskeletons to land in the plaza. iBalls discarded in anonymity, a ragged rescue ensued. Each bore the printed image of the last English Queen.
Unlikely heroines of change were born.