Beeps stop. Throw off the sheets. Hands over head, legs over left of the bed. Get up.
Fifteen steps to the washroom. Brush, clean, freshen up. Bit of makeup, nothing too striking, sensible highlights. The wardrobe has a choice of six different suits, and a dress. Quick decisions, quickly decide...
Her heart rate speeds up. Not good. Gotta keep vital signs undercontrol. Already toeing the line, what with the increasing bills and lousy pay. One more deficiency and that'll be it. But today she has a chance. Clinch this deal, and a promotion along the way. She'd be able to wear that dress this Sunday, entertainment night. Like everyone else, have a good time...
The walkway teams with people. Tiles glow occasionally with arrows or directions, pointing the way. Phones with built in maps, easy to follow, managing human traffic for maximum efficiency and a minimum of clogging. She steps into her own walkway of arrowed tiles. Five hundred and thirty-six steps to the workplace..
Her shoes clip off the chrome floors. The sound is echoed all around, by hundreds of other identical units. Punctuating this, a series of scutters. Tiny claws, pattering over metal sheets, hidden in the shadows between the smooth layered buildings and walls.
Her breath grows heavy. Irrational fear. They can't touch you, not yet. Just need this contract-
Paranoia builds. The scuttering seems louder. She increases her pace for about sixty-two steps, then forces herself to slow down. No, they might intepret that as a sign of distress. True as it was, she couldn't show it.
Calm nerves. Calm breathing. The scuttering grows louder. No, softer. Softer the scuttering, louder the clip of her shoes. Focus on that, focus on the contract. Dress on Sunday. Rooms with drips and green glowing lights. Focus.
One hundred and twenty-four steps to go.
Pain. Pain explodes around her eyes. It hurts. Twisted ankle. Teeth clenched. She cannot scream. Not even a whimper. She can't, she mustn't, she-
A slight sound is all it takes. Then they were here, here with their scuttering. Profile pictures scanning through their tiny processors, high-tech vision cams examining the injury, evaluating the pain.
Doesn't hurt. Doesn't hurt. There is no pain. Stand up. Stand up! She was too close, too close to either side. Dress on Sunday...
A red light blinks. The evaluation was done. Subject found struggling to support herself. Signs indicate mental and physical distress. No next-of-kin. No husband. Previous evaluations have indicated possibly need for Relief. Weighing current input...
Panic flood. Muscles tensed, seized. Crawling, crawl...
Stress levels exceeding safety boundaries...
Too late, too late. Failure, guilty, condemned. So close, and yet...
Additional factors considered. Subject cleared for relief.
Red light...red light...green. Green. Oh God. Oh Go-
A single claw pierces her skin. And then...nothing. Whiteness. Peace.
Subject is at rest. Proceeding with cleanup. HRM (Human Relief Maintenence) report #213-413A complete.
Dress on Sunday...