The Plague Carriers

When Danaë was very young, she tried to play with the doorman’s son.

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The doorman was helping Danaë’s father with their heavy luggage. His son, perhaps a few years older than her, sat on a chair near the door, dressed in a smart brown suit. Danaë animated an image of her teddy bear, and mentally flipped it over to the boy, who didn’t respond at all.

She realized that he had no brain-ware, and therefore no way to see the bear, so she forwarded the image to the local environment instead. A ghostly, translucent bear danced its way across the sidewalk, drawn on the air by a trillion fluorescing nanites. The boy smiled at her. Then Danaë’s father grabbed her by the arm and pulled her indoors.

“You can’t play with him,” her father said. He looked at her and saw confusion in her eyes. “They’re Normals,” he said. “They don’t have the medical nanites and genetic enhancements that we do. You might make him sick.”

“Have you ever even spoken to a Normal?” asked Pharaoë. They stood on the front steps of the Victory Arch school, watching electric limousines glide into the circle to pick up students.

“No,” said Danaë. “Its too risky. I don’t want to make anyone ill.”

“That’s just propaganda,” said her friend.

“They don’t have medical nano,” said Danaë. “That’s not propaganda.”

“People have immune systems. That’s a billion years of evolution at work. Medical nano has been around for, what, decades?”

“But look at what happened to the Native Americans when the Europeans first came. We’re carrying all kinds of diseases that we’re immune to, and they aren’t.”

“I’m not saying it can’t happen that somebody becomes sick from exposure to us,” Pharaoë said. “But they’re not living in the Dark Ages. They still get immunization shots. They just can’t afford to have their children upgraded in-vitro, or to have expensive nano installed. Have you ever even gone outside the fence?”

“Of course not,” Danaë said. “My dad would kill me.”

“You should. Normals and Metas are all just people.”

Danaë spotted William across the crowd. It wasn’t hard, as he was a full head taller than anyone else. He was entertaining a group of kids with an animated story.

The potluck was in what once was a multistory parking lot. The open sides were covered over with tarpaulins, but even with all of the cooking fires, a cold breeze occasionally crept in. Danaë noticed wide cracks in the concrete in places. A few more years and the structure would be coming down, with help or otherwise.

“You’re the Meta,” said a tiny lady, her hair tightly bound in dreadlocks.

Danaë winced.

“I’m sorry,” the lady said. “As usual I speak first and think after. I’m Sharon.”

“Danaë,” she responded, holding out her hand, which the other lady took.

“Do you know how to cook?” Sharon asked.

Danaë shook her head, suddenly shy.

“Come on, we’ll find something for you to do”.

“The potlucks are our way of building community,” Sharon explained, some time later. They were unpacking boxes of cutlery and piling the contents onto make-shift trestle tables. “I don’t think they’ll scale up, because people would freeload, but they’re what we’ve got right now.”

“What do you think the next step is?” Danaë asked.

“We’ve got free franchise,” Sharon said.

“In theory,” Danaë added.

“In theory, yes. We need to organize. We need to push for medical reform.”

“That could take decades though.” Danaë said. “Generations.”

Sharon shrugged. “We have time. People live longer than they used to. Even us Normals. And public opinion can change.”

“You haven’t met my father,” Danaë said.

“We’re doing other things too,” Sharon said. “We have our own medical laboratories now. The universities are helping, a bit.”

“The cutting edge is all private though.”

“Yes,” said Sharon. She smiled thinly. “Yes, it is.”