Her mother, seeing through her daughter eyes, asks, “What do you like about them so much, Anna?”
“It’s not them I like. It’s the air, how fresh it tastes after they clean it.” Anna changes her vision to her mother’s view, sees dinner being made. One kitchen-bot chops onions, another stirs a steaming pot. “What is that?” she asks.
“Oh.” Anna switches back to her own feed. Swings her feet, pulls on the cords, sways back and forth. The fleet of air-fleas hums as they move through this sector. They pass through once a week to scrub the air.
“Before you were born, people said your generation would never reach five. They thought we’d be dead by now. Said the air was so bad our lungs would calcify or liquefy. Maybe turn to ash or tear open and we’d drown to death in blood.”
“All at the same time,” Anna chuckles.
“Probably someone thought that too. Funny how it’s the naysayers, the doom-criers, that sound the loudest. You rarely hear the optimists. I wonder why that is,” says mom.
Anna feels a slight tingle climb the back of her neck—her dad joining the conversation.
“Easier to cry about a wolf than it is to kill it,” Anna’s dad says. He’s a day’s travel away. Half a mile up in a control tower, overseeing a fleet of air-fleas cleaning another sector.
“Mom’s making spaghetti,” says Anna.
“Again?” dad asks and chuckles. “Better than what we get here. You can only mix and match and find new ways to eat these MREs so many times before you just want anything else. Something that didn’t come out of a bag. The tuna casserole makes a real fun wet-plop when you dump it onto a plate.”
Anna laughs. “Can I see?” she asks, swaps her view to her father’s eyes. Sees a bank of computer displays, her father’s hands holding a tablet, he’s tapping, swiping.
“Sorry, love, already ate a couple hours ago. Gotta get back to work here, but I wanted to add my two cents to your conversation. People are negative because it’s easier. That’s what I meant about crying wolf. I’ve told you the one about—”
“Yes, you have. The boy that…He pretends there’s a wolf, but…Yeah, you have.”
“Okay, okay. I thought so. Easier to be a little snot than to learn the skills and be brave enough to actually face a wolf. Same thing happens again and again. I once read something that said “It’s best to slay dragons before they hatch” and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. Trouble is you don’t always know what you’re looking at before it hatches. An egg looks nothing like a full grown dragon. Only a dragon expert would know what they were looking at.”
“Thanks for that, dear,” mom says.
“Is that sarcasm, mm?” dad asks.
“No, no, well…Maybe a little.”
“Mm-hm,” dad laughs. “I’ll see you in a couple days, be good—Love you.”
Anna feels the tingle at the back of her neck fade.
“Dinner will be done in about ten minutes, Anna. Don’t stay out too much longer.”
“Okay, I’ll be in soon.”