“They say don’t go to bed angry, but what if that’s all the mood you have left”
Aragon Clementine – Comedian and Satirist – Refuge No. 7
The lights flashed red and yellow for several seconds, followed by a foghorn alarm that shook the bed. Fitz shifted a little and rolled over, pushing his head under the pillow. The lights flashed again, brighter this time, and the alarm blared even louder, coming out of wall-speakers on all four sides of his tiny room. Fitz rolled over on his back, his eyes still closed, and pushed the pillow up around his ears.
For a few blissful moments, the lights dimmed and the alarm stopped. He counted each second as a victory, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…
Until… bright white light illuminated the room, hurting his eyes, even through his eyelids. He covered his face with one arm, but was already sitting up, shaking his head in defeat. A deafening hum began to reverberate through the room, making his skin tingle and his stomach turn. As he stood up, bare feet touching cold metal floor, the light dimmed and the vibration wound down until it was gone.
The vibration was replaced by an announcement. “Please set your mood appropriately before departing for your assigned job duty. Remember, management of your mood resources is key. Pay date is 23 hours and 57 minutes from now.”
He stood there for a minute, stretching and yawning while his brain tried to wake up. He listened to the announcement, the same announcement he heard every morning, and he tried to get annoyed. It took a few minutes for his thoughts to clear, and a few minutes more for him to realize that despite his desire to be annoyed, he felt nothing. He looked down to the mood dial on his arm and saw it was almost empty. He tapped the screen with his finger and it started to beep, the dial showing he was low on everything. He turned the dial to Annoyed and saw the blinking red bar. He tried to dial up happy, but again saw only the blinking red bar. He started to feel anxious, just a little. He checked and found one yellow bar. Not enough. He had no idea how long it would take to find someone to borrow mood from. He would have to risk going moodless, for a little while, and ration his anxiety. He switch the dial from automatic to manual, and set it to hold. No sense in wasting anxiety accidentally.
Now he had to figure out who could help.
Illa. First he needed to check with Illa. His wife had always been better at managing her mood. If she had enough spare to get him through lunch, maybe he could trade with one of the guys at work. Maybe he could find enough mood resource to last through to night cycle and he could just lock himself away until morning, until pay day tomorrow.
Ten minutes later he stood by the door, dressed and ready to go, with long sleeves to cover his mood dial. The door opened, almost on its own, with a little shove at the end to slide it all the way. The gears kept whirring and winding for a second, and he could smell burning oil or grease, until the whir died away. He stepped outside, peering both ways down the narrow green lit corridor. Empty. He was late, and if he’d had any left in his mood dial, he would have felt grateful for it. He stepped out, checking again that no one was watching his moodlessness, and waited to see if his door would close behind him.
At his feet, a piece of paper sat, folded, trodden and trampled. He crouched down to pick it up and opened it up.
Don’t forget to meet me tonight at 8 at our favorite spot.
Anniversary dinner, so make sure you save some good mood.
Hanna had left for work already and, now he needed to find mood even more desperately than before. He tucked the note into his coveralls and slunk down the corridor, cursing his bad luck, but feeling nothing at all.
The corridor was more like a tunnel, low, dark and lined with pipes. It ran straight, sloping down at a forty five degree angle until it intersected with the main line.
Main line was the lifeblood of the city. It ran north to south, the entire length of the city, thirty levels deep. It was the highway, the railway and the byways all rolled into one.
He stepped out on to the Mainline and immediately regretted it. As one shuttle rushed by, another stopped and the platform was overrun by weary workers coming off 4th shift. He ducked back into an auxillary power recess and fumbled with his toolbelt as if trying to fix something. As the crowd whistled by, and his tools clanked against cogs and gears without doing anything, his mind whirred.
There was only one other person he could trust with this; Galt. His old foreman and his oldest friend. The problem was, Galt moved to the south side a year or so ago, and elevated from l25 up to l20. That would not be an easy trip, or a legal one. He would need to get uptown in a hurry, and five grades above his clearance. Or, wait until Galt got to work next shift and risk getting caught moodless. Neither option was optimal. But one option meant time in the cooler, while the other meant a time out ( Out of town. Out of mind. Out of life.)
He wiped the sweat from his brow, tucked his tools away, and fixed a crooked, empty smile on his face. It was time to head up town. The platform had emptied out by now, and between shifts like this there wouldn’t be a lot of foot traffic. He glanced up and down the platform, noticed just one man quite a way off. The man didn’t look his way, he just stood facing the tube, waiting on the next shuttle.
The shuttle heading south was late. By the time it rolled out, Fitz was having cramps in his face from trying to stop it looking blank. He sat himself in a corner, away from the few lone riders. After glancing around as casually as he could with an over exaggerated grin plastered all over his face, he settled down with his
…… gets followed, chased by mood police. has to hide out in a trash chute.
He knocked on the door furiously, and glowered at it until the pitted, stained steel slid away to reveal a perplexed, red-haired man in a towel.
“Fitz, what are you doing here?”
“Hey, look, I need to come in, I need your help, I need…” Fitz squeezed past the big man, and slumped against the wall, breathing heavily.
Galt closed the door, and moved to the bathroom. In the small space, it was only a few steps past Fitz. He disappeared into the bathroom, the door grinding to a close behind him.
Fitz caught his breath and brushed himself off, staring around the