"Sue, come on! Please!"
Kain pleaded with his girlfriend, who was storming all over their apartment, gathering what she could find of her belongings and throwing them hastily into some bags on the living room sofa. She pushed her purple bangs out of her face and reached down to grab another pair of shoes by the front door. She turned around with them and walked right by Kain without looking at him. As she shoved the sneakers into one of the bags, Kain reached for her arm, gently holding her near the wrist. Sue stopped what she was doing and sighed heavily.
"I can't, Josh. I can't do this," she told him as she stared at her bags. "I knew this was a mistake. I just…" She looked up at him, her brow furrowed. "I was too impulsive. We should have waited longer before moving in together. I just wanted to be with you so badly!" A few tears fell down her cheeks. She lowered her head. "Part of me still does."
"Well, dammit, Sue. If ya wanna stay with me, then stay!" Kain begged Sue as she pulled away from him. She grabbed a bag and headed into the bathroom. Kain followed behind her; he listened to her sniffling while he wondered how all of this happened.
He had come home from his first day on the job at the Roron scrap and waste facility to find Sue inexplicably preparing to move out. Kain's whole life had been one constant storm of activity, of people coming and going, but this time it was different. He had been with Sue since they were 18 years old. Two years had gone by since then, and though they were young, it never struck Kain as too young. Motavia was a world on the go, one that rushed everyone into adulthood for reasons Kain didn't understand.
"It's not working. Don't you get it? I mean, I know you've always been the optimist, but look at what's going on here. I can't find a job, you're working all the way in Roron, we hardly see each other, and we have no money!" Sue exclaimed, sweeping her arm across the bathroom counter and knocking her toiletries into the bag hooked under her other arm.
"Then we'll both move," Kain said as he tried to put his arms around her. She dodged his hold and snaked around him, going back into the living room. "Aw, come on! Jim done told me there's a Motavian village up the road a piece from Roron that-"
"Jim? Your boozer uncle who can't even walk straight, let alone run that junkyard? And I'm not living in some Motavian camp out in the wilderness! You've lost your mind!"
"Uncle Jim ain't… well, if that's the way ya feel 'bout my family then maybe this ain't gonna work after all!"
Sue turned around and looked Kain in the eyes. "Exactly, but the real reason it's not going to work is because we can't live in Paseo while you're making, what, twelve meseta an hour halfway across the globe? The teleport tolls alone are outrageous, plus, I'm going to lose my government allowance now that you have a job. No one is on our side anymore."
"Well, then, we'll move to-"
"Stop it, Joshua. Just stop." Sue picked up her bags and headed toward the door. "We're priced out of every city on Motavia. I have to go back to Lume. I have a cousin there…" Her voice broke off as she started crying. She suddenly dropped her bags and ran towards Kain, throwing her arms around him and kissing him full on the lips. As she pulled away she said, "I'm sorry. Let's not leave arguing. I love you, but we're not meant to be together."
Kain mumbled through a shaky voice, "that ain't true."
She put a finger to his lips. "Shh. Please, let me go." She ran her fingers gently across his face one last time before turning around. Kain couldn't move. Confused and hurt, he watched the one stable person in his life leave. She picked up her bags, opened the door and stepped into the hallway.
Kain's gaze didn't move from the door as it slid shut. He let a full minute go by before he snapped out of his stupor and darted out the door to catch up with Sue. She was already downstairs and outside, getting into one of the city's transports, headed for the nearest teleport station.
"Wait!" Kain shouted, but it was too late. The transport's doors closed, and he couldn't see Sue behind its tinted windows. "I ain't got nothin' left!"
He sat down hard on the ground and watched the transport disappear down the road. He put his head between his legs and ran his fingers through his lavender hair and tried not to cry. He reminded himself that before he met Sue he was a loner; he could be one again. The reminder gave him no peace. Sue brought meaning to his life, and now she was gone.
Perhaps he had been too optimistic about their relationship, just like Sue said. They had no plans, no real way of making money, and no idea how to get by when they first moved in together. Over the more than two years of their cohabitation, there had been too many days and nights of fighting over finances, unemployment and the future. Kain wasn't the kind of person who was ever good at making goals and even worse at achieving even the easiest of them. Kain knew deep down that it would take more than ideals to build a family with Sue, but they had both procrastinated for too long.
He pulled out a cigarette from the front pocket of his coveralls and let it dangle from his mouth as he lit it with a small amount of foi from the palm of his hand. A few long, satisfying drags later, a whistle patrol robot whizzed toward Kain and stopped about a foot away from him. Kain wondered how anyone could take these patrolling robots seriously. They looked like white waste bins on wheels. The robot issued an order to Kain in a loud monotone.
"CITY POLLUTION ORDINANCE 12B-A62 BANS SMOKING IN ALL PUBLIC SPACES. YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE TO EXTINGUISH OFFENDING PRODUCT BEFORE CITATION ISSUANCE."
Kain took another drag and blew the smoke right into the front of the whistle. It did nothing to the robot, but it made Kain feel better. The red sensor on the front of the whistle continued to blink as Kain continued to smoke, undaunted by the robot's orders.
"YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO-"
The squat robot suddenly short-circuited. Kain watched as the whistle's exterior began discharging sweeping currents. Smoke rose out of its top until finally the entire lid of the robot popped off and shot up a few stories into the air. The rest of its body convulsed and twitched until it had no energy left, falling onto its front on the ground. The lid bounced off the pavement several times before it lodged into a well-manicured bush by the apartment building's entrance.
Kain stood up and looked down at the fried, topless robot and smirked. He waited for the white glow of his right hand to dissipate before taking the cigarette out of his mouth and flicking it in the direction of the whistle.
"Oops," Kain said as he turned around to the building's entryway. As he palmed the security pad of the front door, he could hear the siren of a polezi enforcement robot-a much larger mechanism of humanoid appearance and responsible for more serious matters than whistles-grow nearer. Kain glanced behind him before entering the building and watched the polezi use its single giant optic to perform a laser scan of the incapacitated robot. The polezi demanded to a nonexistent crowd that they stand back at least five meters as it doused the whistle with a foamy substance.
It was a good thing for Kain that he was living in a world where laws were enforced by robots. It was easy to assume robots malfunctioned on their own, rather than being busted up "real good" by a simple country boy originally from the farming domes outside Kueri.
The next morning Kain found himself staring long and hard into his coffee mug. One more sip and he would be done with not only his drink, but also his apartment and Paseo. He took a moment to contemplate where he thought he would be going next in life while swishing around the last drop of coffee in his mug. For now, it seemed he would continue to work at his uncle's facility and camp out at night with the Motavians and the few Palmans brave enough to exist outside the protective walls of Palman cities. He swigged the last of his coffee and got up from the table, mug still in hand.
It was easy enough for him to pack; all the furniture had come with his rent-controlled apartment. He only had a duffel bag of belongings to take with him. The rest of his projects, all manner of mechanisms and their parts he planned on reconstructing and reselling for money, he left for the building's management to toss.
He stuffed the mug into the top of his bag and left for his new life as an assistant at his uncle's junkyard. Sue was right. He was an optimist, and he had a good feeling about Roron. After all, one man's trash was another's treasure, and Kain was swimming in it.