The Fall of Terra #8: Open All Hours


December 29th, 3899ad.

The sun was shining, and the birds were actually tweeting.

Everywhere Milton looked the preparations for New Year’s Eve were taking place.  Banners were already erected weeks before, but now they were joined by bunting and posters.  The city centre was hosting a massive party, where all were welcome, free of charge.  It would be the best party ever, according to the posters.

As he raised the awning above the door and front window, he heard a whine.

He jumped out of the way of the little machine that sped past, hissing and brushing as it went.

“Damn sweepers,” he grumbled.

The street sweeper drones were out in force, cleaning the roads, sidewalks, balconies, gangways, all of it.  The little robots were doing an excellent job, as they always did, but they were a pain, not caring for pedestrians in their way.  One had a dent in it, where it had more than evidently annoyed somebody previously and been attacked in response.

Milton watched them work as they all moved down the street in a line, each taking a different section of the road.

He knew that it was the 39th Century, but it was still odd to see them.

He shook his head.

“They still a pain in the rear-end?”  It was Ma’lain, one of his regulars, on his way to work at the 24-hour café down the road.  The strange mauve-skinned alien wobbled his dangling jowls in frustration.  “They already clipped me earlier on another street.”

“Something’s got to be done about their programming.”

“Yeah, but the government have got bigger things to worry about.”

“Or so they claim.  Usual?”

“Yes please, Milton.”

Milton waved him inside where his wife and daughter were putting out the fruits and vegetables, arranging them by type, and then by colour.  Although it wasn’t his idea, he did find it attractive, and several customers had made pleasant comments.

“Hi, Ma’lain,” they all greeted with smiles, the daughter even waving.

“Hello everybody.”

“Usual?” asked Milton’s wife.

“Yes, please,” he smiled in return.

Milton grabbed a paper bag, and dumped the banana, orange, and tessfruit that he always asked for.

“Are you attending the city party New Year’s?” asked Ma’lain.

Milton chuckled.  “Hopefully.”

“Well I’ll see you there then.”

He paid, and then waved goodbye.

“Is he always that cheery?” asked Milton’s wife.

“Seems to be,” he shrugged.  “Still no word from your cousin on Titan Colony?”

“No, there’s still some sort of interference.  I don’t think it’s us, I think it’s widespread.  Well, that’s what they say on the news, anyway.”

Milton looked over his shoulder at her.  “Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’s done a runner?”

She glared at him, although it was only half-hearted.

“She’s my closest relative, Milton.  Be nice.”

He held his hands up in mock surrender, a grin on his cheery face.  He wasn’t a man who dwelled much about pain or suffering, keeping a happy demeanour as long as he could.  It made life so much happier.

“This week’s going to be a good one,” he decided.

Another customer arrived, and he busied himself with attending to them.

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