"Will Butler Awakens" Excerpt from Exiles' Escape
Will Butler Awakes
Searcy, AR, Restructured States of America
Dawn, July 2, 2128 (AU77)
On the morning of his last day at home, William Yates Butler woke early. The summer sun, just clearing the copse of hickory on the ridge, shone in through the dormer window of his bedroom to carom off a fragment of mirror and into his eyes. Over-warm and claustrophobic with its slanting ceiling, the room seemed smaller than he had ever remembered in his twenty-two years. Even after he and his mother had packed all the trophies of childhood, science fair projects, and holographs into two cardboard boxes “for when I can send for them,” the room still seemed filled with the commerce of childhood.
He had been a long time gone, before this last homecoming. Commuting from college had not been in the budget for his farmer-preacher father: four times in five years and today would end the fourth. He would not share with his family the likelihood of a fifth.
Before he started training, the “color guard” had given him two weeks at home. He was not supposed to tell his family much and it made the goodbyes, in a way, easier. After being gone years at college, he felt like a stranger.
Tim, his next younger brother, had, without his permission, become a man, with a conceit of a beard to show for it. Tim was talking about becoming a preacher like their father. He would be good at it, Will thought. His younger siblings stared at him like some strange lost uncle. His mother, way before he left for school, had slipped into that ageless vigor of early middle-age that Ageplay pressed on most everyone now. She did not look as if she had changed.
When he had arrived home, she smiled and laughed and kissed him, before she started crying.
All his old classmates were gone or married with worries and children of their own. His dog, Lamont, was still there but his muzzle was now white and he no longer belled when he chased the squirrels around the two old oaks in the back yard. The squirrels still won.
Hearing the mockingbirds and robins dueling melodically through the screen of the narrow window, Will got up quietly. With the bed too small now for his entire length,he slept on the floor, dragging the mattress onto it after his parents went to bed and replacing it before he heard his father stir in the morning.
His father seemed to have become an old man in his absence. He had gotten his Ageplay when Will had gotten his own treatments. They did not work as well, of course, on someone his dad’s age, especially after an early life as hard as his father’s had been: raised on a hardscrabble farm, orphaned early and joining the frontier militia during the “Devastations,” when the Unity raided with impunity, closing the Mississippi for weeks on end. After his dad got out, he had gone to seminary and come back to Searcy as a preacher, came back to Will’s grandparents’ farm, this farm.
Sliding the mattress into the alcove his bed occupied, Will twitched the blankets to look presentable. Aftrer dressing, he waited unmoving until he heard his father’s step on the stair. Chores came early and his father could use the help. Tim had gotten in late and would sleep late.
Environs of Nyork, The Unity
23.03.02.local_30_05_AU 78 (2129 AD)
Hecate’s awoke in an empty, dusty apartment somewhere in the slums outside Nyork, she thought. To her surprise, the apartment had food for four days and even more surprising, a working toilet. She read the post-operative instructions taped to her leg. The cutter and her assistant had been nameless, had never spoken and wore surgical masks. Tiffany, her life-long friend, had not been there.
Hecate remembered their last face-to-face meeting, weeks before.
“We can make it look like a suicide, but you need to be careful, Heccy. Do you know about the implants?” Tiffany asked, looking around casually but thoroughly in the sterile lobby of the Euthanatorium. Tiffany worked in this all-purpose “health care facility” with its stark gray benches and lively posters hawking the self-actualizing benefits of suicide.
“Of course, I use my O‑A every day, just like you do.”
“No, what I mean is your basic implant, we got when we were E1s. It allows the Unity to track us.”
“Then just take out the basic implant,” Hecate asked.
“They can track you with the O‑A, too. The range is much shorter; most of the time that doesn’t much matter. I know someone who can remove the Basic and the O‑A for you.”
“I want to get rid of them both, then. Your friends can have them, for all I care.”
Since that one meeting, she had not spoken to Tiffany again.
Her quarters had become an echoing hollow, after selling her things, hers and Victor’s, to the phantom shops. She slept on the floor.
Late one night, she got the call. A strange voice, recited to her a time and an address, made her repeat them back, and told her not to write anything down. Hecate had collected her money and a few other things and shown up. The windows of the skimmer were blacked out.
She found the little cream and blue book, among her clothes when she felt well enough to dress. She had forgotten she had brought it. In the early days of her grief after Victor’s suicide last fall, she had found the book and the poem. It had spoken to her and she re-read it enough to memorize it. Now she kept the book as some indefinable bright thread linking her to Victor; it was silly, she knew. Victor had never seen the book, or the poem. She kept it anyway.
 Treatment prolonging vigorous life to about 170 years developed by Alyssa Browne in 2051