Monkeyman and the Frankies
by Krystyna Smallman
‘I am’t a cat.’
‘You’ve got the genetic implant of a cat,’ said Eliott in a tired voice.
‘You’re still a cat.’
Robbie stalked off, flopped down and licked his paw in injured silence. Eliott sighed. Something was wrong. He could feel it, he could almost smell it...
‘I don’t like my name,’ announced Robbie.
...like a rotting something...
‘Pamby sort of name.’
‘I prefer Alexander.’
...but betrayed by the nasty stench emanating off it.
‘You’re not listening.’
Luc was dead. His brother. Dead.
‘You never listen.’
‘Dead,’ said Eliott.
‘Didn’t they program you to meeow?’
Robbie looked offended. Eliott got up and went to the door.
‘Where you going?’
He stepped out of his unit and ducked as a hoverpod whirled past his head.
‘Lookit, monkeyman,’ floated back to him.
‘Merdy frankies,’ he muttered.
His brother was dead. Heart attack, so they’d said at the hospital, oh dear, sorry and all that. He’d gone in for a routine checkup — a merdy checkup for gosake — and the next minute...
‘I know what you did to him, you wombats.’
So what? So you know? Where’s your proof? And that was a mistake you made, boy, a big woopsie, making all that hassle at the hospital. They’ll be watching you now. Oh who cares, let them.
His anger pumped him full of energy, he had to work it off. At a brisk pace, he crossed the linkway and crunched across the biograss, trees jangling with birdsong. He wondered idly how many were escaped robopets, how many security bugs. Or spybugs, watching him. Maybe some were even plain old birds.
Suddenly, he stopped.
There was Chloe, sitting under a magnolia tree, viewing a j-box she was holding, her poodle, Pompom, slumped beside her like a piece of abandonned knitting. His heart missed a beat, still, after all this time.
She looked up, startled.
‘Howie, Eli,’ she said, and smiled tentatively.
He sat beside her and gazed into her blue eye, then the green one.
‘Like it?’ she said, fluttering her eyelashes.
‘You know how I feel about frankies,’ he said.
‘Nothing wrong with t-plants. You just change bits...’
‘...you don’t like, I know. Like Frankenstein’s monster.’
‘So you keep saying.’
She stroked Pompom, face hard. Tense silence.
‘I’m thinking of taking Robbie in for reprograming,’ he said. ‘The brat drives me crazy.’
She ignored him.
‘What grabs me,’ he said suddenly, ‘is all this superior hassle. The way things are going nobody will even be able to sit on the same bench as a frankie.’
‘Monkeyman pestering you?’ drawled a deep voice behind them.
Prax. Chloe’s brand new boyfriend...no, well yes, well sort of, she’d said. He was smiling oilily down at Eliott, his glossy iridescent plastunic, almost the frankie uniform, stretched across rippling muscle, his golden hair carefully styled to look carelessly tousled.
‘Howsit, Praxie?’ said Eliott. ‘New eyebrows, I see. Very dickie.’
‘Lookit, monkeyman,’ said Prax, eyes narrowing, ‘why don’t you climb back up your tree and evolve quietly?’
‘Oh wrap it, both of you,’ said Chloe.
‘How very amusing, Praxie,’ said Eliott. ‘You—’
‘Chloe said to wrap it,’ said Pompom stiffly.
Both men looked at the poodle in surprise.
‘The function is about to begin,’ said Prax, taking her arm.
Chloe got up uncertainly and allowed herself to be led away, glancing furtively back at Eliott with a mixture of irritation and regret.
Was he just being paranoi?
Okay, two types of t-plants: you have your synthetic job, passable and cheap, and then you have the real thing, perfect and pricey, culled from dead bodies, though you also get the poor sods who sell bits off while still alive. Big business. Big money. And rife with rumour. Like maybe some of these bodies are not very dead? Like maybe you go in for a routine checkup and then happen to have a heart attack. Luc’s funeral, so slimy – who had the casket sealed?
‘I frippin didn’t anyway.’
Eliott returned to his unit. The porter was in his cubbyhole, viewing a pornoplate, sweating heavily. Eliott stared disgustedly at his nose. Luc’s nose, he was sure. The frippin wombat took a fancy to Luc’s nose and contracted for it. Not that he could afford it, so what did he do to get it?
Eliott went into his module to find Robbie sitting bolt upright by the door, waiting for him.
‘Where you been?’ demanded Robbie.
At the centre of everything was Perfit Corporation, the biggest t-plant enterprise, Prax’s own personal ant-heap, festering with corruption.
‘Leaving me like that,’ said Robbie. ‘Alone and bored.’
Can’t prove anything, though. Can’t catch out a frankie, his father had said, too slimy.
‘Want to play cards?’ asked Robbie.
Eliott sat at the comsystem and stared unseeingly at the screen. After the funeral he had gone straight home, all set to smash into Perfit Corporation’s datafiles. He knew the penalty but he didn’t care.
‘He was my brother for crysake.’
However, despite his expertise he didn’t get anywhere, there was no getting past the firewalls. And he didn’t know the frippin password, did he?
‘How about chess?’
‘Somewhere in the databank labyrinth molders the reeking turd that will jam those frankies.’
A flicker behind the comsystem. Eliott plucked out a mouse and peered at it suspiciously.
‘Who sent you?’ he said.
The mouse squirmed, legs flayling. He went to the kitchen and dropped it in the disposo-vent. A tiny scream — ‘Help!’ — then a crunch. Ha, knew it. A bug. The slimy wombats planted a bug.
He returned to the living-area.
‘Hey you robotic fleabag, howsit you didn’t get the bug?’ he said.
‘Hate mice,’ said Robbie and shuddered.
Eliott had an idea. He punched out a code on the Virola and Chloe’s face appeared on the screen. She looked so beautiful, she always had, even before her t-plants.
‘Come and see me. Please. It’s urgent. Please,’ he said, then, before she could answer, flicked a button and she disappeared.
‘I hope she won’t bring that pamby dog,’ said Robbie and sniffed.
‘Well?’ said Chloe when she arrived with Pompom under her arm.
‘I’ve been bugged.’
She rolled her eyes.
‘Hard truth. Tell her, Robbie.’
‘I’m just a cat. What do I know?’
‘Look, I need the password for Perfit.’
‘You just want to get Prax. You’re jealous.’
‘If he is innocent I won’t dredge anything up, so what’s the hassle?’
She considered this.
‘I think I’ve heard him use Superman,’ she said grudgingly.
‘Right. System on,’ said Eliott.
A dot streaked across the screen trailing fluorescent green letters: FUNCTION BREAK.
‘They’re trying to jam me.’
‘Oh Eli, don’t be so paranoid. Luc did have a heart attack, nobody’s trying to do anything to you.’
Maybe she was right. Not all frankies were slimy — she certainly wasn’t. He was too influenced by his father’s moldy opinions, an old hom scared of new ideas.
‘Trivial Pursuit anyone?’ said Robbie.
Slowly, Eliott turned to Robbie with a sly grin.
‘Great potential, eh?’ he said, yanking a lead out of the comsystem and advancing on him.
Robbie eyed the tip warily.
‘You’re not sticking that thing into me.’
‘A comsystem in a fur coat, in fact.’
‘I’m a cat, remember? MiKrystyna SmallmanKrystyna Smallmanu.’
‘Ha, so you can do it.’
He grabbed Robbie and rammed the lead under his tail.
Robbie gazed up piteously as Eliott snapped another lead in place between his ears.
‘No!’ squeaked Robbie.
Eliott popped out an eye and it rolled across the floor, watched anxiously by Robbie’s other eye. He then connected the screen lead to the empty socket and set to work.
‘Well?’ said Chloe, after a while.
She sighed and rolled her eyes.
Then he leant forward, staring at the screen.
‘Aha, the turd,’ he said.
‘They culled Luc’s nose, like I said. But you know something even more interesting? They selected it before. While he was still alive.’
She gave a little gasp, and peered at the screen.
‘See? The dates? There’s my proof. I’ll load it on a microdot and we’re outta here. They’ve probably detected me fingering their files.’
Quietly, they left the module and tiptoed downstairs.
‘My eye’s back-to-front,’ said Robbie.
The porter was talking earnestly to a frankie. They sneaked to the back exit. A spider scuttled away importantly. The linkway was deserted, banana leaves flapping lazily in the breeze like frayed elephant ears.
They froze. And stared at the stunrod in the frankie’s hand. Two dobermen strained against another frankie, jaws gaping metal teeth.
‘What is this?’ said Chloe. ‘I’ll tell Prax...’
The men sniggered.
The dobermen heaved closer, jagged metal drooling saliva. Robbie cringed, loose eye rattling.
‘Merdy dumdogs,’ squeaked Pompom.
‘Shut ya yap,’ growled a doberman.
Pompom lunged at them and the dobermen swooped into attack, their leads criss-crossing, meshing dogs and men into a struggling bundle. Eliott and Chloe fled, as did Robbie.
* * *
Eliott came upon Chloe sitting under the magnolia tree. He flopped down beside her and glanced at the j-box she was holding, in time to see Prax being handcuffed.
‘Don’t ask for my hand in marriage. It cost a fortune.’
‘My eye’s still back-to-front,’ wailed Robbie.
‘Oh wrap it,’ said Pompom.
‘Pompom,’ said Chloe fondly, ‘My brave little dog.’
‘I am’t a dog,’ he said haughtily. ‘And Conan’s the name.’
Copyright © 2009 by Krystyna Smallman