Zyme checked the plasmeter as he steered his autoflage churning slowly through the main arterial byway of Meat City. The tail of the flage wriggled behind. To get faster down the flow, he pushed the throttle a little past what was legal in this neck of the blood. He scooted past bright red, oxygen-rich packets of the vital stuff floating through the serum. The scoop on the front of the flage caught those in his path funneling them into the 800cc Krebs biolectric motor. Lines split off to each subsystem of the flage including one that fit snugly into his chestpore past the anisotropic membrane of his jumper.
Suspended in the albumin of the cockpit, Zyme appeared to be semi-translucent, and within this shroud of skin and protective membrane, the shadow of a skeleton of pliant yet sturdy cartilage. Through eyes as scopious Zyme's own, the faint, but expressive heat signature of his face could be detected in the infrared spectrum. To those eyes, the heat of an object appeared to as a ghost hovering upon the form. Zyme's external quality was a ponderous, slow-moving shape, betraying very little of the stress he thrived on as a 'dorph courier.
At his instrument console, the multistate display cube showed a blockage in the flow ahead. The eddies of plasma whirled around the flage. "Fung. Not again. Phlegmtown is falling apart fast."
He slammed on the brake which squirted fluid back out the scoop to slow the flage. The flage narrowly missed slamming into a mass of coagulating platelets. Zyme knew obstructions like these could become traps if the flage got recognized as foreign tissue by the Phages who would soon show up and attack just about anything in the area.
He pushed the steering lever forward, bringing the flailing tail around. Sticky globs flew around the craft. He yanked the control back, whipping the tail behind and spinning the vessel around. He began to move back slowly against the current, fighting against the whirlpools propagated by the clogged artery.
Zyme dodged some of the worsening traffic by deftly negotiating an arterial labyrinthe that did not terminate in capillaries but joined several of the major arteries. "Fungin vessicles. I'm better off than before."
The infrared display on his console alerted him to the fact that his drop was approaching. Zyme looked for a place to park among the other cars that clinged to the artery wall, like blobs of cholesterol. "Fark. It's Spleensday. Everyone will be home watching the Cube."
He finally found a space near an epithelial outcropping perhaps 30 degrees around the wall from the location. "Not bad," he mused. His face began to cool, his morphing features calmed.
Zyme grabbed the soft sac filled with the prescription 'dorphs and pressed a button like a red blob of jelly on the armrest. The membrane of his vehicle began to thin in one area. Zyme pushed his head through and began to emerge.
As he got closer to the drop, he could see the dorphheads pacing within their cell. He pressed the doorjell which caused palpable vibrations in the cell to announce his arrival.
The doorbrane thinned. A face peered through the window. Then the head poked through. The dorphhead's voice drawled dully resonating through through the medium of the plasmosphere. "Dorfman, what the fack took you so long?" His faceheat flared into an expression of impatience and fury like the mask of a Tibetan demon.
Zyme shrugged. "There was a jam. One of the main arteries. There were whole blocks hemorrhaged."
The man's hand reached out the thin membrane and grabbed the sac of dorfs. "Well, thanks anyways, guy."
Zyme stood there considering his reaction. Was it worth it to hit the jell again? "No fartucking tip. You eat from my dorsal ridge!" There was rarely any tipping in Phlegmtown. And they had an equally low expectation for fast service.
Delivering 'dorphs, it was an unwritten company policy to always be late. "Making the customer wait improves the customer's experience by making the delivered pharms all the more precious" is what his supervisor told him. And every courier practiced this.
Before he returned to his flage, he stopped off at a local hub where a few businesses hung on to the artery wall. He found the nearest dendrite complex with a squat communications kiosk. He inserted his wrist key. The terminal connected to HQ. His next job popped up in the thermal display of the jellycube. At the same time, job description and map loaded into temporary storage on his key. They wanted him to return to HQ to pick up cytotoxin to deliver to a demolition site.
Before signing out, he checked on his cofactor. She was neither at home nor at work. He left her a message. "Baby, I'm driving like a lung fluke out here. You'd be proud of me. Ok. Well, I'll see you at home. I might be late for gastro-ration." They had only been bonded for a couple of cycles. They still liked to keep in touch in case he was in the area, they could squeeze in some spontaneous coitus.
He schlumped back to the flage along the curving arterial wall. The pressure of the flow was just enough to push him outward but not over on to his ass. The friction of the soles of his jumper kept him from slipping on the smooth material of the arterial wall. At the front of his flage where it contacted the wall, he found a gummy mass clinging to the side. Usually these growths started when a flage had been illegally parked for some time. Any vehicle parked outside its zone ran the risk of becoming absorbed into the local tissues.
Though the whole system of Meatspace was connected by the Great Vascular Byways, the local metabolic economy was responsible for aerating the platelets and disposing of waste. Just up the block was the local cardial pumping station. He could feel its throb through his brane jumper. The plasmospheric pressure was strongest here. Local leukocytes took care of all the policing for the area, identifying foreign bodies and taking them out.
He reached down and freed his flage from the growth. The texture was surprisingly fibrous and the extends of the strands terminated in tiny suckers. As he pulled them off, they left marks on the side of his flage, bruises in its thick, pliant hull.
"Fibroid freaken hell. The shit is tearing up my new flage." What was he going to tell his cofactor?
End of Part One