Reference 48804/529-037-9 preferred to think of herself as 'Niney', a pet name derived from her final digit. She was taking a break from inserting simulated tulips in her allocated square of the roof garden. Her hip, her third, was fizzing and the small of her original back was aching. She had remembered that she should bend her knees and crouch rather then lean over from a standing position, but she resisted the instructions. At least the twinges were hers, hers alone; and she was jiggered if anyone was going to tell her what to do, especially not some patronizing hologram installed by the authorities, however regularly it was up-dated.

Niney ignored the prurience of the heli-pilots hovering around her and took pleasure in lying back, elbows on the astroturf, her knees up and apart to enjoy the breeze that played around her private replacement parts. She knew it shocked and entertained Two-Two, her companion, Reference 51007, et cetera, 502-2.

"Goodness knows," Niney declared airily, signalling that she was about to say something she knew Two-Two would find delightfully outrageous, "they charge more than enough for my air inhalation ration." Niney looked up at Two-Two seated on her heli-zimmer, laughed raucously and indulged in three expensive deep breaths. Two-Two looked around them, worried that a Community Monitor might be within earshot.

"Two-Two, my sweet, I shall miss you, if. . . when. . ." She sighed. "Look, we're the last of the old school, aren't we? Surely we can do something about your summons."

Two-Two shrugged, turned down her mouth and slowly moved her head from side to side. Her voice box, her second, was worn out.

Niney continued, "They'll be after me as well soon, the buggers. Have to make the best of it while I can. Seize the day, eh? Live, breathe and be merry, for tomorrow we. . . we take their Journey of a Lifetime." She grimaced. "Oh, Two-Two, there must be some way out. For me, for you."

Her mind felt its way to the last decamonth and the untimely loss of her designated post-meno paramour, sweet, witless Sixie, 036. The bereavement acceleration drops and memory eraser had helped her get through much of her loss; but the scent of his maleness lingered still. They had summoned him for his JOLI, his Journey of a Lifetime Itinerary, earlier than his estimated time of departure. For soon after Wintafest®, he had exceeded his methane release quota. There were rumours that the introduction of methane meters was a ploy to reduce numbers by the Population Unit, now popularly known as Pu.

Niney did not intend to follow Sixie or Two-Two just yet. She had recently gained a little respite. Her MO, male offspring 230, or 'Noughtie' as she called him, was a N.A.G., Neighbourhood Assessment Grass, and he had shown her the latest index. Both The Southern Confederacy and Bangladesh were now completely submerged and, consequently, her own estimated time of departure was adjusted proportionately. Her summons was deferred, but loomed nevertheless. If Niney were to insert her simulated rose blooms again, she would need to resist, drawing on what Noughtie referred to as her 'cussedness'.

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