What if you could choose your offspring's DNA, buy your dreams in a bar, park your car in the future and be the first person to taste the last bottle of water found on Earth? Earth in 2277. Jodex: A former ball player with imperfect DNA in a world of perfect people must solve a rare missing person's case, uncovering a secret movement with the potential to alter the course technology and forever change the philosophy of money. With the help of his team and one previously unknown sentient being, Jodex gets beyond his own hangups and adventures his way into a new chapter in this Technocratic Earth.
Thank you to Wikipedia and the unknown photographer of the Baobab tree for the generous use of your lovely image.
Digitata • excerpt
Chapter 6 ‘The most fabulous object in the world’, says Helene, showing him an ancient looking, liquid-filled bottle on the table. She has a way of tilting her head down while looking up, so her eyelashes touch her eyebrows. It’s her tell. She has something good. Jodex’s adrenaline spikes and he lets it flow, tingling to his fingertips. ‘Sit please. I’ll prepare the water.’ She says, gesturing towards a minimalist leather daybed. Her hand is pale in contrast to the fitted sleeve of her black thermal knit. Jodex sits, leaving space for her to sit beside him as he watches her open the door to an exquisite ice chest, book-matched Rosewood with tiny chrome pulls. He smells a faint trace of furniture wax when she swings open the doors. Jodex owns nothing made of wood. Dealing in antiques, Helene maintains her business in the former library of a once prestigious private school. She must pay crazy weight overages in order to afford maintaining all this. He’s been wanting to know. ‘You have so much,’ Jodex remarks. She must get that a lot. ‘None of this has ever been to Hive. It’s all real.’ Helene explains, ‘My family bought into one of the oldest cooperatives when it was first forming, over two generations ago when weight came to be traded like any other investment.’ Anyone could buy in and people with nothing had weight to spare, providing available weight to be traded within the cooperative. Unused weight was transferrable from the get go. Prices are variable just as any stock.’ Controls over possessional weight were implemented, in order to staunch appetites for matter retention and excessive consumption. Wealthy families fought fiercely to keep their heirlooms. Only after the invention of suitable storage space did people loosen their grip. Hive Vault and their future storage system solved that problem. For most people. Jodex looks around. The patina on the wooden shelves is rich and deep. They climb a good five meters high, bearing her collection of artifacts; mechanical devices, majestic jewels, Mayan carvings, religious icons, sculptures of stone, cast bronze, and gold. There are books so old the leather bound tomes are protected within glass encasements. Chrome, leather, wood and marble furnishings are kinetic in contrast, Jodex finds it inviting. There are early electronic gadgets, women’s purses made of wildly garish plastic and loudly colored works of art. Overhead, a silent sweeping mobile whirls in lazy motions from the detailed masonry. There is an old cabinet with many tiny drawers. It holds the secrets of thousands of years and possibly one intriguing woman. The feel of being in a library remains, as if hundreds of tokens of human history have manifested in place of books, choosing instead, reality, and forcing onlookers to see them as markers of time. This library is one of the most sensual places Jodex has ever been. And it’s making him thirsty. ‘The water will reach optimal tasting temp in a minute. Palate cleanser first?’ Again with her girlish, smiling eyes, it hadn’t been a question so much as a statement and she takes her time to build the anticipation. Helene brings a tray with two small clear cups and sets it before them on a smooth lacquer table. Using a glove she removes the stopper and pours just enough for a taste into each glass. The surface of the water looks like mercury. Then she slides open the service panel and fills two taller glasses with water from the beverage spout inside. She returns to sit next to Jodex on the daybed and hands him the ordinary glass. He has to resist drinking it down. Jodex has been developing his talent for taste and his knowledge of water since he began working for Baobab. As a hobby. He’s always had excellent flavor memory. Though he isn’t sure how Helene knows any of this, he has only purchased a baseball from her. And that was a ruse he’d used to meet her after she beat him in the auction. He hopes he’s not just a pretty face. Sampling newfound water for Baobab is something Jodex never imagined. Not a single drop was expected to be found in his lifetime. Aside from that, developing new strains of water is restricted to the most educated and genetically advanced personnel. This moment is beyond rare, especially for someone like him. Helene is watching, waiting for him to process. She takes a sip of the water. This is just the palate cleanser. He takes a drink from the glass, holds some in his mouth and takes in some breath, to really taste it before he swallows. Relief begins as soon as he feels it and continues on the way down his throat. He breathes out and tilts the glass so he can see the fluid. ‘It’s not one of ours.’ He takes in more, keeping the liquid in his mouth and breathing with his nose. The he swallows. ‘Definitely volcanic, pumice filter. It’s good, very neutral, soft even.’ ‘Anything else?’ Jodex sees a tiny bubble against the glass, low along the side, a pocket of air held by viscosity. It is a hint. Science pays off. ‘Desalinated.’ Let him not be not wrong, especially in front of her. She’s watching him sidelong with those eyes. ‘Very good.’ She says, accent on very, and faces him directly. She’s maybe early 40’s. ‘It’s a blend I made up for today’s tasting. Man made, of course, but not mass marketed. The original molecules were Atlantic, early Dutch Antilles processing, that mixed with about a third from freshwater sources on Palau. Naturally filtered underground of course.’ Her eyes are deep and alive. Jodex passed her test. ‘Finish.’ She says. He drinks it all at last and she takes the empty glass away. A thermometer pings, the water has reached optimal temp. ‘Now taste the other.’ Jodex carefully brings the fine crystal cup to his nose and smells it. This is real, he knows it already, no question. His mouth craves it. ‘This is… wait,’ he holds it up to his face again and takes a deep inhale, ‘I smell moss… and clay. No, not brick, stone. It’s very rustic.’ Helene nods her head, ‘Amazing, isn’t it? You describe it well.’ ‘Stored in this glass bottle? All along?’ ‘Since 1930 or so.’ ‘The lab guys are going to be crazy for this.’ He holds it up. ‘Okay.’ He whispers, bringing it to his lips and taking the tiniest sip. ‘It’s…’ he keeps his nose in the circle of the rim. In his mind he sees a long, disappearing tunnel and a cobbled arch overhead. Narrow and cold with no relief, just water into darkness. With the next sip he takes about all there is, too good to enjoy without a real swallow. He pauses to breathe before it moves coolly into his body. Ecstasy for a moment. Resisting the small, precious bit remaining he says, ‘Incredible. Tell me.’ ‘From Albion Castle, founded 1870. Built over a natural aquifer by the proprietor of Albion Ale and Porter Brewery Companies, the water was used to brew ale until a brief period of alcohol prohibition put the brewery out of business in the early 20th century. The water was never intended to be bottled or even sold. Wasn’t for another 60 years that water even became a viable product. It’s a miracle this even exists.’ Historically, man’s appreciation for water was shockingly low. Nobody takes water for granted anymore. She says, ‘The bottles were found when part of Albion Castle was restored a few hundred years ago, the architect kept them and they remained with his family’s collection of relics from various breweries. The bottles were marked incorrectly as Ale. They were decoys. His loss, our gain.’ She returns to the beautiful Rosewood chest, retrieves another bottle and presents him with a crude, stoppered glass container, not quite dry inside. ‘There are two bottles. This one is empty now. It’s for you.’ Stunned, he puts out his left hand and as she places it in his grasp, her other hand spoons around his. He allows himself to feel how badly he wants to put his hands on her face and kiss her, to find a new way to taste the moisture between their mouths. She does not remove her hand. Her gaze is strong, urging him to look into her eyes. He is close enough to notice the tiny flecks of hazel and brown in her irises and he searches them for the roots to her refined DNA. Her pupils shift. Appreciation floods in. Jodex tries to will this moment to freeze, with every ounce of desire in his body, he tries to hold this exquisite pause when a new wish forms, something surprisingly more desirable than perfection, acceptance. Afraid to relish the moment into oblivion, Jodex cautiously begins to refocus and let time slowly re-accelerate. Maintaining the stare, his lips part slightly and he takes in a breath. As the moment passes between them, his heartbeat stills, not wanting to interrupt. At last she removes her hand. Pulse re-engages and he lets out the air of her. This kindles awake a dormant childhood memory of being free of mistrust, from before it was ever possible his dreams could betray him. ‘There’s more’, she adds, bringing him back. ‘Something only you would appreciate.’ Lightheaded, Jodex sits back a bit, afraid to fantasize any further. ‘More?’ ‘The reason you’re here.’ With gentle amusement, Helene activates her interactive holo-map and says, ‘This water, and this bottle, come from an essentially unknown and now sadly forgotten place, once part of San Francisco. In fact, before the entire peninsula was ruined, this underground spring,’ and she taps the coordinates to magnify, ‘came to surface on an even tinier peninsula sticking out into the bay, adjacent to this really old baseball field. They used to call it Candlestick.’ She raises her eyebrows and watches his face carefully. Helene has done her homework. Jodex has a deep connection to that place. He lets it show on his face. ‘See here? The old topography of that location…’ With a flat hand over the table, she draws up a topographical map and opens a cross section at sea level. San Francisco back then was small compared to the amount of water that was once around it. No longer in existence of course, the bay long since filled in and the skyline leveled out, now it looks like every other city. They’d had to rebuild after the Presidio Sun launch explosion vaporized the bay and destroyed everything within half a kilometer. Candlestick was long gone by then. ‘The lost stadium was once receiving fresh water from the very same source.’ Helene uses her first finger and thumb to pinch a small spot and open it up, bringing a below ground image into view. Tributaries spider through the earth in a maze of vertical capillaries. Jodex’s DNA comes from ancestors who played there. This water connects him to an ancient time with such lasting force, he’d ingested it, an osmosis never to be undone. The ballpark smell, the fog, the grass, the sounds all flood into him like a vague genetic memory, as if he’d been there. ‘I knew you would like it,’ Helene says, putting her fingertips on the empty bottle, ‘This bottle is for you to take to the lab. The empty one is for your collection. Call it your taster’s fee.’ Seeing the surprised look on his face, she says, ‘I know you’re into protecting unusual baseball relics. You’re able to take it right, you can spare the weight?’ She asks. He assures her he can spare the weight, although he’s not actually sure. He wants it more than anything. Something precious may have to go to future storage at Hive, where he had put the ball he’d bought from Helene a few months ago. He feels badly about that, but his weight was at the limit. Helene gently places the bottle in a foam pack and gives it to Jodex. ‘How did you find this?’ He asks. Helene makes a motion with her hand, as if to say, who knows? But her explanation is, ‘A glut of artifacts have hit the market. Nobody is sure why, but some wealthy family decided to lighten their load. Practically gave it away.’ Jodex can’t exactly relate.