Scan it, Urs
A sentry in a black helmet carried a trash bag in front of him like it stank. It did, but he couldn’t have known because his reflective visor was down; the only air hitting his nostrils was the artificial stuff from his rear pack. He turned the corner, to the Three-Hundreds corridor, and every marching step he took, his bag jostled. With every jostle, gray dust puffed-out from its sides. He passed the window to Three-Twenty-Four and, from inside the cell, her cell, Ursula caught a glimpse of the man’s helmet. She sat up from her bed, and blood rushed to the tip of her gray skull. Asshole, she thought; it’s that asshole—the biggest asshole sentry cyborg in all of Luna Colony.
Light and musty smelliness spilled everywhere when he entered her cell. Ursula brought the covers up to her eyes. She wanted to be calm, but her hands were shaking.
The sentry slammed the trash bag onto the large front workstation. Without looking her way, he turned and walked back to the door, but before he could activate the sensor, Ursula called out, “Hey, wait!”
The sentry stopped and looked in her direction. Her hands stopped shaking despite the fact that she was terrified by his mirror-reflection gaze. The gaze seemed to bore a hole through her chest. She tried to look back behind there, but couldn’t see a thing; all there was to do was wave at the reflection of her long gray palm. This, in combination with the smell, made her feel sick.
“You’re an asshole,” she muttered under her breath.
The sentry stood, poised to exit the room. “Did you say something?” he asked in a dark, digitally-scrambled tone.
“You’re an asshole,” she said in a quieter, barely audible voice. She felt less brave.
“Excuse me…I said did you say something…mutant?”
“No, I didn’t say anything…”
“You didn’t say something?” he asked.
“No, I didn’t say something…”
“Just scan it,” he said. The sentry shot an energy wave in her direction and slammed shut the door.
Ursula felt the wave pass through her and she shook it off—it wasn’t the-end-of-the-world levels.
She walked to the trash bag, emptying its contents onto the workstation table.
Scan it, Urs… just scan it…
Now what do we have here? All novels, she observed; mostly old science fiction by someone named Pamela Sargent.
She walked two of the books to the scanner, blowing dust from their covers.
She set down one of them—it was called Venus of Dreams—on the scan-bed. She looked at the cover. It depicted a female astronaut observing an alien landscape.
Ursula stretched regulation latex finger condoms around her fingers and methodically centered the book, scanned its cover, and accepted it in the confirmation interface. Looks good. Perfect copy. She felt the weight of the book against her finger and thought, you are now digital, Venus of Dreams, no different than the sentry. She scanned the opening pages—the copyright information, title page, and whatnot—and she paused.
Ursula looked around, moved to the window, and peered down both sides of the corridor. No one. She moved back to the scanner and looked around once more. OK. And quietly, with a quick, steady pace, she set her index finger in the middle of a page. With her free hand, she adjusted the finger condom so that it was taut against her skin. And go. She scanned the page with her finger there and, as soon as she could, coiled the finger back so fast it blurred. She glanced for the briefest moment at the confirmation interface—there it was: her index finger, unmistakably human, mutant actually, and vulgarly so—a middle finger like a gray dick with a pink condom slapping the text.
Ursula moved on and scanned another page in the normal manner, without her finger there, and another, and another after that. As if nothing had happened. Derp de derp…After five more, she stopped and looked around again.
The coast was clear, she thought.
But she was wrong. The red light flickered and the door to her cell reopened…