A QUIET NIGHT
They certainly had a sense of humour.Christening their product with an acronym which also meant ” Die ” in German.
And here he was,stood next to the STERB ( Self-Termination Booth )the only one still in working order in his neighbourhood,at 4 in the morning.
Good thing was he’d remembered to renew his annual registration only the other day.You don’t access a STERB without all the bureaucratic necessities taken care of.
And despite all the official media denials,there was an uptick recently in the informal practice,which of course was not only frowned upon by society but also crucially denied revenue to VIVAT,the makers and operators of STERB.
For avowed libertarians they sure didn’t mind regulation by the quasi-state when it suited their pockets.
Anyhow, 4 in the morning on the Sunshine Estate and the STERB resplendent in all its diffident,opaque utilitarian glory inviting him to partake of the ultimate eucharist.
Earth,pardon me we’re supposed to spell it Erth to promote the sacred tenet of Inclusion, anyhow this cosmic dirtball we’re all stood on is way past its Happy Hour.
Not that a solid century- and- a half of Degenderisation hadn’t put the brakes on in a way that Malthus wouldn’t have approved of.But 19 Billion? Really?and the off – world colonies were taking fewer every day.
But even just the idea of genomic reconfiguration & physio-reconstruction was simply too big a leap for too many even for those with low socio-economic ratings such as him.
Seriously who’ d want an extended “life”- presence on an alien world as a diamond miner- 5 feet tall weighing 350 pounds in order to adapt and cope to an alien gravity?But hell,apart from that, the job prospects were always good.
The DNA interface clicked and the booth opened its maw.
Soft lighting,ambient music- JS Bach he guessed- welcomed him as he sat on the facsimile classic barbers chair. In that regard,VIVAT the makers and operators of STERB didn’t spare any of the proverbial expense.
The handy data lonzenge swiped over the screen array; a flow of easy-to-comprehend numeric indices glared back at him.
A synth-voice cooing in all 9 official languages, asked whether he wanted to proceed.
He was momentarily distracted from his induced reverie by a violent banging coming from the outside of the booth.
A muffled, distant voice exclaiming ,”Hey you in there,you gonna be much longer,some of us ain’t got all day you know!”
That wasn’t supposed to be part of the advertised “Termination Experience” , but what can you expect with this being the only STERB in working order on the whole damn estate?
He could of course change his mind even now and go back to his apartment on subterranean level Minus372 and prep for Communal productive activity later this morning.But it wouldn’t count diddly squat toward his ratings and that really was the thing.The thing that mattered.
The dormant booth AI voiced a prompt ,could he please choose an option and initiate the connecting nano-probes?
And then there it was.The giant red numerals commencing at Six – Zero.
It was that attention to detail and responsiveness to user demand and preference that led VIVAT marketing to go with the now iconic 60 seconds visual countdown thereby enhancing the Termination Experience.
He didn’t mind one way or the other.
Was that nongender specific citzen outside the booth still exclaiming about having to wait so long to use the booth still there?
He didn’t mind.
Beats being reshaped as a five foot human gorilla to go exist on an alien world even with a guaranteed additional longevity and enhanced ratings.
And as he exuded his last gasp of air he heard the AI synth-voice pronounce the sacramental blessing:
VIVAT thanks you for choosing STERB for your Termination Experience.