Hang a left at Alpha Centauri, he thought. Save some time. Take the wormhole back. But traffic at the exit was backed up for several galaxies and they’d gone and raised the toll. So, he tuned in some quasar static on the easy listening station, locked it in hyper-drive, and took the scenic route home. Docking his whizzer in the usual spot, he took the tube up to their pod.
“Greetings.” Britney 9000, his spousal unit, said.
“Greetings.” Zorlock tugged his wife’s multi-frequency listening aperture. She returned the gesture, but he could tell her heart really wasn’t in it. Why bother, he thought, remembering how it had been during their initial mating phase. It seemed like eons since he’d had a decent tug.
Zorlock and Britney were cyborgs. Ten billion years ago, mankind had been wiped out by a terrible natural cataclysm, giving rise to a new race of beings who were half human, half machine. The couple had been married for almost two thousand years now; had one offspring – Klorg, a male unit – and resided in a “pod” (what humans once referred to as a condo) orbiting the charred cinder that was once the late, great planet Earth.
Britney hated the neighborhood and was always after Zorlock to move out of the Solar System – like so many of their friends had. Truth be told, the present digs were all he could afford on a blue collar salary. Zorlock worked in a black hole a dozen light years away, forging the anti-gravity rods that powered the Whizzers – the cyborgs’ standard mode of transportation. The commute was murder, but he belonged to the union and the benefits were good.
“What’s for dinner?” Zorlocked asked.
“I’m making dilithium crystals and magnesium casing with a side of plutonium.”
“Aren’t you going to say hello to your son?”
The boy, seated in a high chair, regarded his parental unit blankly.
“Greetings, Klorg, offspring of Zorlock!”
The boy belched; stuck out his bionic tongue and gave his father the raspberries.
“Say, when’s he gonna stop making those awful noises and learn to speak properly?”
“Did you forget?” Britney said, pouring her husband a glass of sulfuric acid, “We haven’t had him programmed yet.”
Zorlock took a seat and helped himself to the magnesium casings, then passed them to Britney.
“I’ve really gotta lay off the magnesium. I can barely fit into my new Dolce & Gamma neutron suit.”
“You look so handsome in neutrons.”
Just then, Klorg’s head popped off. It landed with a thud in the center of the table, jangling the titanium silverware; bounced, then rolled underneath the infrared thermal convector.
“I thought you were gonna take him in and have that fixed?” Zorlock said, chewing a mouthful of magnesium casings.
“I’ve been busy. Yesterday I used him to vacuum the carpet, and today I had my nail appointment and G-4 rewiring inspection.”
“Make sure they oil and lube him … my policy covers that.”
Britney fetched Klorg’s head from where it had rolled under the thermal convector and screwed it back on. She gave her son his favorite treat – a fluorescent glow tube – to suck on, while her husband finished his dinner.
“How about some dessert?” Britney asked, as she cleared the table.
“No thanks. I could really go for a cup of liquid hydrogen tho.”
“Gimme a sec and I’ll brew some fresh.”
While his wife finished clearing the table, Zorlock scratched his light-emitting diodes and yawned.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that at the table … it’s not polite.”
Zorlock grunted, “They issued me a new cobalt exo-sheath at work today and I think it’s giving me a rash.”
“I’ll rub some petroleum based bi-products on it before we go to bed tonight.”
“I’d like that.”
It was a beautiful night. Well – not really. Night hadn’t fallen in nearly five billion years. The Sun, now a red giant, had already swallowed up Mercury and Venus. Zorlock watched it through the kitchen portal: a churning, angry red mass that engulfed the sky. Like it or not, they were going to have to move. Probably in the next fifteen or twenty million years. It was always something.
Britney fixed two cups of liquid hydrogen and joined her husband at the table.
“Know what I was listening to during the trip home tonight?” Zorlock asked, gazing wistfully at his spousal unit.
“I’m sure I couldn’t guess.”
Britney smiled, “Remember the first time we heard electromagnetic quasar static?”
“How could I forget? Spring break by the magma spouts of Triton. Voltan introduced us. You were wearing a two-piece.”
“I had to. I wasn’t assembled yet.”
“Those were the days.”
“Speaking of Voltan, I ran into his spousal unit, Paris 5000, the other day.”
“No kidding?” Zorlock said, “I haven’t seen Paris or Voltan in a solar-age – how are they?”
“Quite well. Voltan just made a killing on the quark exchange and he’s taking Paris and their offspring to the Crab Nebula.”
Zorlock made a face, “Quarks are so risky in this economy. And the Crab Nebula … too crowded this time of year.”
“It would be nice if we could take a vacation.”
“You know what the orthodontist said. Klorg’s getting his fourth set of teeth and he’s going to need braces – again. We just can’t afford it right now.”
“I know. I know … it’s just that Voltan and Paris have been together for over a dozen millennia and they still behave like newlyweds. We’ve only been married two thousand years and we’re like a couple of old zorts.”
“That’s not true. Didn’t I take you to Mars just this past century?”
“Mars! … There’s a big deal!”
Klorg’s head popped off again. It went sailing out the open kitchen portal.
“That’s so annoying.” Zorlock said.
“Finish your liquid hydrogen. I’ll retrieve it.”
“Why bother? Just buy him a new one.”
“Why don’t kids today listen to quasar static?” Britney wondered.
Zorlock shrugged, “That stuff they listen to nowadays is just awful … you can’t even dance to it.”
“Love songs … what happened to all the love songs?”
A solar flare suddenly erupted, turning the sky a molten, phosphorescent orange. Yeah. They were definitely gonna have to move. It was always something.