By Rich Larsen (excerpt)
What do you mean he’s hot getting meshed? My boss pings me, plus a not unusual torrent of anger/confusion emotes that makes my teeth ache.
“I mean he doesn’t want it,” I say, sticking my hands under the tap. “He says he won’t get the mesh, period.”
I’m in the bathroom, because I couldn’t think up a better excuse. The mirror is scrolling me and advertisement for skin rejuvenation, dicing up my face and projecting a version sans stress lines. The water gushes out hot.
Do they even know what it is? Did you explain?
“They know what a nerve mesh is,” I say indignantly. “They’re from Senegal, not the moon.” I slap some water on my cheeks, because that always help in the movies, then muss and unmuss my hair. The mirror suggests I try a new Lock’n’Load Old Spice sculpting gel. “But year,” I mutter. “I, uh, I did explain.”
Once Oxford’s pa got back to the bleachers, I gave both of them the whole wiki, you know, subcutaneaous nodes designed to capture and transmit biofeedback, used to monitor injuries and fatigue, and muscle movement, and also nervecast physical sensation and first-person visual to spectators. If we get our way, with a little swoosh in the bottom left corner.
It’s not something I usually have to sell people on. Most kids, even ones from the most urban of situations, have saved up enough for at least one classic nervecast of Maker sinking the game-winner for Seattle in the ’33 Finals, or Dray Cardeno dunking all over three defenders back when he was still with the Phoenix Phantoms. Most kids dream about getting their mesh how they dream about getting their face on billboards and releasing their own signature shoes.
The Diallos listened real intent, real polite, and when I was finished Oxford just shook his head, and his pa put a hand of his shoulder and told me that his son’s decision was final, and if Nike wasn’t willing to flex on the nerve mesh, another sponsor would. Atwhich point I spilled some damage control, got both of them to agree to dinner, and bailed to the bathroom for a check-in with by boss.
It’s a zero-risk procedure now, for … sakes. You can do it with an autosurgeon. Change his mind. A procession of eye-rolling and then glaring emotes, all puffing and red-cheeked.
“What if we just put a pin in the mesh thing and sign him anyways?” I say. “We can’t let this one get away. You saw the workout feed. We sign him unmeshed, let things simmer, work it into the contract later on as an amendment.”
If he’s playing at HoopSumm, he needs a mesh. That’s the coming-out party. How the fuck are we sipposed to market him without a mesh? Skeptical emote, one eyebrow sky-high. I thought you could handle this one solo, Vic. Thought you wanted that recommendation for promo. Am I wrong?
“No,” I say quick. “I mean, you’re not wrong.” I yank a paper towel off the dispenser and work it into a big wad with my wet hands. I never effect biofeedback when chatting someone with the power to get me fired; I I did there would be some serious middle-finger emotes mobbing his way.
Figure out if it’s him or the dad who’s the problem. Then use the one to get to the other. It’s not brain surgery. There’s a chortling emote for the pun, then he axes the chat.
I’m left there shredding the damp paper towel into little bits, thinking about the promotion that I do want, that I absolutely do want. I’d finally be making more than my old man, and Wendee would be happy for me for at least a week, and maybe during that blessed out week I would get up the balls to ask her to move in.
But first, I have to get the Diallos t sign off on a nerve mesh. I’m not exactly bursting with ideas. That is, not until I go to toss the towel in the recycler and see a rumpled napkin inked with bright red blood sitting on top. Then I remember Oxford’s pa and his little plastic case. I shove it all down and head back to the gym, only pausing to order a tube of that new hair gel.