Clay by Tony Bertauski Page A

Book: Clay by Tony Bertauski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tony Bertauski
them to look inside a person’s mind.
    Impossible when you’re clay.
    “This place runs itself, Powell. I need to run the program. No one needs to see me.”
    “Except for the counsellor. Right?”
    It takes several moments for Marcus to agree. He hates lying.
    “Good. The inspection will take a few more days. In the meantime, your service technicians will report for health screenings. You, too.”
    Powell pulls a slim black box from his pocket. He holds the cell phone-sized object up. Marcus lifts his chin, proudly. Powell slides it under Marcus’s collar, presses it against his skin. An electric web of tendrils vibrates throughout his body.
    The instrument reads 0%.
    “You’re a disciplined man, Marcus. Wish I could say the same for the rest of us.”
    “We all sin.”
    “Some more than others.”
    “God forgives.”
    “I’ll remember that.” Powell nods at the view. “I don’t know how you do it. This place depresses the shit out of me. Promise to start with the counsellor. We’ll be monitoring reports.”
    “Of course.” The lie slides from his mouth like a serpent’s tongue. It disturbs him, but still he smiles. M0ther holds so many secrets.
    She reveals them to the chosen.

Part Two

    The horizon is never reached.

    The Strain of Biomites
    Steven picked a week-old scab.
    “Stop,” his mom said.
    Instead he slouched in the chair, stared at the color print on the wall. The sling made it hard to cross his arms. Besides, his forearm hurt too much. But once her eyes dulled, she was back to internal chatting and he went back to picking. 
    The door opened.
    “Good morning,” Dr. Vinja said.
    It took a moment for Mom to pull out of her chat. “Hi, Doctor.”
    “You’re here early.”
    “Steven has a tournament tomorrow. This morning he wrecked his bike.”
    “Boys will be boys.” Dr. Vinja washed her hands, asked about Steven’s dad and his brother and sister. They had seen the doctor at the pool last week.
    “Hop up.” She patted the paper-covered table.
    Steven climbed on. She used a light on his eyes, listened to his breathing, and felt the glands beneath his chin.
    “So how are you feeling?”
    “He hurt his wrist,” Mom said. “That’s the sling we used last time. Third broken bone in a year.”
    “We don’t know it’s broken,” the doctor said.
    “Trust me, I know. His brother and sister were the same way, their bones as weak as crackers.”
    The doctor asked him to move his hand. It hurt in every direction. He didn’t think it was broken.
    “It’s best if we get an x-ray,” the doctor said. “Biofeedback probably won’t be necessary. If anything, it’s a hairline fracture.”
    He was relieved to hear that. Biofeedback made him nauseous. They did that last time, when he broke his femur. His biomites chattered with a medical scanner, giving detailed reports of his internal injury. It felt like he swallowed a dental drill.
    “Honestly,” Mom said, “he needs a biomite boost.”
    The doctor took a slim box from her white coat, placed it against his chest. The surface was slick and cold, but quickly heated up. For a moment, he was filled with marching ants.
    She pulled the box away. It said 9.9%.
    “There is a new strain of biomites that improve bone density,” the doctor said. “They’re registered with M0ther, non-replicating, and fully compliant with the transparency laws. Right now, they’re using them to offset osteoporosis.”
    “I can prescribe a 0.1% boost this afternoon.”
    “That’s not enough.”
    The doctor washed her hands again. Drying them with a paper towel, she said, “Liz, it’s all we can do. He’s ten years old. Ten percent is the legal limit. We need to let his body grow through puberty; otherwise, the results could be unstable. I think his bones are trying to catch up to the increased strength and agility he’s received from previous biomite seedings.”
    “He was

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