by Christopher Mark Rose
“Here he is,” said Chico, dropping the apparatus on an empty vac-crate. The expression on his face was like a hotwired rocket ship the second before launch. “Let’s do it.”
“…some utter dive, down on Tompkins Square, I can’t remember now…” said the apparatus.
“It’s like he’s having a conversation with himself all the time, or some other imaginary Ramone.” Meatball started adjusting the knobs on the apparatus randomly. “Maybe he’s not getting enough electrolytes or something.”
“Doesn’t look so healthy to me,” said Trini.
“Hey, don’t screw with that!” said Chico. “That’s a person.”
“Computer,” shouted Meatball, “tell us all what the deal is with Joey Ramone’s brain!”
A sensuous female voice purred, “Years after his apparent death, it was revealed that punk rock legend Joey Ramone and Wall Street reporter Maria Bartiromo had made a suicide pact, to have their brains frozen cryogenically and buried together under the sidewalk at the Bowery storefront where the nightclub CBGB’s had been located. As Joey’s cancer death became imminent, the pact was fulfilled.
“In the following century, as Peter Thiel excavated Manhattan to make the first floating autonomous urban micronation, a biohacking collective, C.H.O.M.P., surreptitiously removed the frozen brains and attempted to revive them. It was found that Miss Bartiromo’s temporal lobes had undergone terminal freezer burn. Joey, however, was largely intact, and the procedure was, arguably, the first successful brain reanimation, reviving him to a perpetual semiconscious state.”
“Who keeps making its voice like that?” Trini rolled her eyes. Chico struggled to conceal a smirk.
“Subsequently, a faction of C.H.O.M.P. named L.E.E.P. (Lifespan Exceeding Extreme Predictions) took possession of Joey and transported him to the sacred site of their lunar transhumanist blood-cult. Upon arrival, he was worshipped as the oldest extant human consciousness and was installed in—”
“OK, OK, he is what he is. We don’t have time for this,” said Chico.
“Smelled like piss… two dollar beers…” said the thing in the apparatus.
The four of them stood in an approximate circle around it, just inside the airlock. Through a window, Mare Crisium shined silently, and the lunar highlands brooded beyond.
“This is crazy,” said Sammy. He shook his head. “This is bad.”
“This was our plan,” said Trini. “Remember?”
“I wanted to make a deal with them, but it was some ‘day of holy stillness’, and they were all off meditating somewhere, under Olympus Mons or someplace.” Chico shrugged. “So I just walked in and took him.”
“You said ‘mons’,” sniggered Meatball.
“Olympus Mons is on Mars,” said Trini.
“From here you could almost walk it. Never had cab fare back then…” the brain rattled on.
“Don’t you think they’re going to notice? Don’t you think they’re going to want him back?” asked Sammy, panic rising in his voice.
“Hold it, hold it, he’s not their possession, he’s an autonomous human being, or at least the brain of one. And he agreed to come with me, on our little adventure. Didn’t you, Joey?”
Everybody looked at the apparatus. It had an ungainly arrangement of pipes and flanges below, a clear glass dome above. Through the dome they could see a human brain, pincushioned with electrodes and inductive transducers, floating in a menthol-colored fluid.
“You know,” came Joey’s voice through the box’s speaker, “a wheel is actually an infinitely-long foot. It steps down once, and that step is never finished.”
“See?” said Chico.
They all stared at each other. Trini snorted in disbelief.
“This is nuts,” shouted Sammy. “They’ll be coming right for us. We are SO FUCKED!” Sammy was their lead singer, and he had the pipes for it.
Chico checked his wristphone. “There’s like twelve more hours of holy stillness.”
“Still can’t believe it. You’re going to blast a live concert out on deep-space radio during L.E.E.P.’s day of sacred stillness, using their own stolen godhead as a singer?” said Sammy.
“No. We are.” A wicked grin crept across Chico’s face. “Because we’re the Ramones.”
They’d been working at becoming Ramones for months now. They’d fabricated period instruments and imitation leather jackets. They’d grown their hair out and dyed it black. They’d each taken a Ramones name—Sammy, Chico, Trini and Meatball—although Trini’s name was just her own, and she wasn’t gonna give it up; she was the drummer and you just didn’t argue with her about shit like that.
“How will we know if the L.E.E.P. are headed this way?” The four of them lived in the rafters of a mothballed lunar smelting operation, getting by on meager public assistance and barter with neighboring colonies.
“‘When’, not ‘if,’” said Chico.
Trini brought Joey into the kitchen and set him down on the table. “Maybe the Joey-napping’ll be in the news already,” said Meatball, turning on a vidscreen.
“… United Nations remains deadlocked on framing a unified response. Russia has threatened to veto any message that could give away humanity’s technological capabilities or limitations.” In the video, dignitaries pounded desks and shouted into microphones. “The alien spaceship remains in a highly elliptical Earth orbit, apparently waiting…”
Chico snapped it off. “Don’t get distracted. Let’s stick to the plan.”
“I feel like the plan should include some lunch,” said Meatball.
“We eat before we play,” Trini said. “You know how Meatball gets.”
“Some meat in the hand is worth… something in the bush. You know what I mean,” said Meatball. He pulled a big carton of vat-grown meat out of the fridge.
“Maybe Joey and I will go compost,” Trini said. “Joey loves to compost.” She scooped up the compost bin in one hand, the brain container, which was surprisingly heavy, in the other, and headed off.
“Are you my mother?” asked Joey in the corridor.
Trini stopped. “No. My name is Trini.”
“Your mother was your first home,” said Joey, “when you think about it.”
“I guess so,” said Trini. “Now punk is my home,” and her hand went reflexively to the drumsticks riding in a long thigh pocket of her jumpsuit.
“Ba-ba-ba-ba, ba ba-ba-ba-ba, I wanna be re-animated!”
“Ba-ba-ba-ba, ba ba-ba-ba-ba, I wanna be re-animated!”
Chico and Sammy leaned in, guitars almost touching, and sang into a single microphone on a stand. Joey sat on a discarded packing crate near a second microphone, but seemed to be humming a different tune entirely.
“Ba-ba-ba-ba, ba ba-ba…” they went.
“It’s not working!” Trini shouted from the drum set. “Wait!”
“Come on, Joey, you know this! We just souped the lyrics up a bit!”
“Perhaps they’ll die, oh yeah…” Joey sang softly.
“Give him a rest!” said Trini. “How would you like being a brain, singing inside a big fishbowl?”
Chico pulled a face, gestured at the burned-out industrial space around them.
“Well he’s singing, it’s just the wrong thing,” said Sammy.
“I really don’t think this is fair to him,” said Trini. “He never asked to do this again. Give him a break.”
“Look. We go on in two hours,” said Chico.
“We gotta hear him sing. Remember the Wet Dog,” said Meatball.
They’d found an outfit down in Austin, Wet Dog Records, that had promised to publish a recording of the broadcast, an actual record—a vinyl disk, in a cardboard sleeve—if they could hear Joey signing. And if the rest of it was any good.
“Trini. Look at me.” Chico slowly approached her in her drum set. “Joey’s stuck in that thing. We’re stuck on this rock. We’re more alike than different.” He looked in her eyes. “This is our big chance, his and ours. This is our only chance. We gotta do it.”
That’s when the lights went out.
“Perhaps they’ll die, oh yeah…” Joey mumbled.
“FUUUUCK!” everyone else shouted.
There was a pop, then a low wobbling hum, then the emergency lighting sputtered on. It wasn’t much.
“Where’d the power go?”
“How we gonna do the show now?”
“How are we gonna not freeze now?”
“Twelve more days to sunlight.”
“We’re so fucked.”
“SHUUUUT UUUP!” yelled Trini, and slammed her drum set’s high cymbals. As the sound dissolved in their ears, they could all hear, somewhere down the corridor, a sound like metal being banged and clawed, of cables snapping and sheet-metal shrieking as if being torn apart.
“What is that?”
“Shh!” Chico picked up a long metal bar that he thought of as scrap (actually a thermometer for the smelting operation) and crept down the corridor towards the noise. Sammy unplugged his bass, and held it by the neck, like on the cover of London Calling. The others followed, Meatball bringing Joey along.
At the end of the corridor, past the pantry, the tool shop, and the scrap room, lurked the power room—a long, low, dusty cavern excavated into lunar rock, full of batteries for the solar array, a transformer grid, and the strange hulk of some apparently out-of-commission reactor. Up on the transformers, something, two somethings were moving.
Chico leaned in and squinted. He was aware of Trini, her body near his, pressing up against him as they strained to see in the dim.
He could hear them biting and clawing at the cables. He could make out their long scaly bodies. LEEPers.
They were part velociraptor and part tardigrade, part gila monster, part sea slug. There might have been more gator in some, more shark in others. They’d been engineered, not bred, and each one was a little different.
When they ate an organism, or drank its blood, some part of the victim’s DNA was incorporated into their living cells, and this accounted for their seeming immortality and their appalling, incessant thirst. The thing they looked least like was what they had started from: the human billionaires who’d had their the contents of their brain cavities transferred into them.
“Where does all the silence come from, anyway?” said Joey loudly. “Who makes it?”
There was an explosion of noise as the LEEPers leapt down off the transformer, loped straight at the Ramones. Sammy turned around and ran headlong into Meatball, sending Meatball and Joey sprawling. Chico bashed a desk chair demonstratively with his thermometer.
“Humansssss” one of the LEEPers hissed in the dark.
“How’d you get in here?” Chico shouted. The vacuum of space was no threat to LEEPers. They shrugged off temperature swings, pressure differentials, radiation, anything short of a meteor strike.
“Ssssure you’d like to know,” said the LEEPer, halting just out of Chico’s reach. It was almost twice as long as Chico was tall, with a pointed tail that seemed in constant motion.
“How many of you are here?” said Chico.
“Well, what do you want?” said Trini, as if mildly annoyed that a LEEPer showed up while she was having tea.
“We sssseek the Joey…” said the LEEPer, then prostrated itself, splaying its claws flat on the floor.
“What makes you think he’s here?” said Trini.
“What do you need him for?” said Chico, more casually. “He’s busy.”
“We musssst worsssship the Joey,” the creature hissed.
Meatball tiptoed backwards, hoping he and what he was carrying would go unnoticed.
“We would trade the Joey for thessssssse,” said the LEEPer, and threw something at Chico. It hit him in the shoulder, and then he found it on the floor with his toe.
He brought it up to his nose and inhaled deeply. The scent was amazing, a gift out of his Earthbound childhood. “It’s a lemon!” said Chico in the dark.
The LEEPer lifted a large mesh bag from his belt. “Many, many lemonssss for just one Joey,” it said. “How could you resssssisssst?”
The second LEEPer leapt from the shadows. “No!” shouted the first.
Chico slammed it mid-leap with the thermometer. Its tail came around and hit Chico in the face. Trini thwocked it with a drumstick. It clawed her shoulder, drawing blood. Sammy swung at it with his bass, and it leapt back.
But at the scent of blood, the first LEEPer groaned and lunged.
“Back off!” shouted Trini, poking it right in a nostril. It made a pained mewling noise, then a low percussive growl.
“Uhhhr, fresh DNA. Excssssellent telomeresssss.” The second LEEPer made a big show of licking the blood from its claws. “Enough with thisssss bartering,” it said. “We–”
Sammy jumped forward, smashed the LEEPer in the maw with his bass, which broke with a crack. “Fucking blood-stealers!” he shouted.
“Are you nuts?” said Chico. He dragged Sammy back through the door, Trini right behind them. She punched the panic button, and an airlock slammed down, dividing them from the intruders.
The bigger LEEPer pressed its baleful eye right up to the viewport. “Let ussss free,” it hissed. “In four hoursssss, all the LEEPerssss will desssscend on thisss pathetic sssssstation.” Trini and Chico eyed each other apprehensively. “You will wisssh that you acsssssepted our offer of lemonsssss.”
Chico drew the band away, far enough down the corridor to be out of earshot. With the power off, it felt like the foundry was getting colder already.
“What are we going to do?” Sammy asked in a hushed voice.
“We’re not giving up Joey, that’s for sure,” whispered Chico.
“The LEEPers are stuck in there, for now,” said Meatball.
“We need to get the power back on, or we’re going to have bigger problems than Joey,” said Sammy.
“I know who might know what to do,” said Trini.
“Then go ask him,” said Chico. “We’ll try to repair this,” and pointed to Sammy’s bass.
“We need help. The LEEPers are coming, some of them got into the power room and tore up the connections to the solar farm.”
“LEEPers?” The eyes that squinted back at Trini through the narrow opening were a cool blue, expressionless, and wreathed with age.
“Yeah, LEEPers.” She showed her shoulder, where the claw marks were.
“Why would they do that? We made a pact with them, long ago.”
“Because of him,” and she lifted up Joey, so he could see.
“All my teeth are wisdom teeth,” said Joey.
“You’d better come in,” said Timon, and opened the blast door.
“I wished I’d charged you up last night, before all this happened.”
Sammy had traded everything of value he’d owned for an actual bass guitar, with a neck made from the wood of an actual maple tree. Brought all the way up the gravity well, it was almost worth its weight in gold, and he’d never thought he’d ever need to repair it.
But that was going to be the easy part. Two of the strings (the lower two) were bent beyond being usable, and a third had snapped.
Sammy knelt in the darkness, threading wires into a lathe he’d jury-rigged to wind the guitar strings. He just wasn’t going to have time to do it by hand.
LDP0’s smooth, mantis-like form knelt at the other end of the lathe. “Will it hurt?” the gynobot asked.
“Not really,” said Sammy.
“I’ve never run completely out of power before. What if I forget who I am? Who you are? What we did together?” Her celadon-colored face glowed faintly in the dark.
“You wont. Your memories are non-volatile,” said Sammy. “It will all be there when I power you up again. It might feel like they’re going away, but they’ll still be there, waiting to be energized again. It’ll be like sleeping is, for humans.”
LDP0 took her right arm apart, set the hand aside, and connected the wrist to the socket at the end of the lathe, where the motor used to be.
“Start slow,” said Sammy.
The tool crib filled with a slowly ascending whirr.
Timon and Trini kneeled in the closest facsimile to a Japanese teahouse that existed on the moon. Timon lived deep in the Japanese part of the mine, and acquired his Japanophilia by osmosis.
Finally Trini had gotten to the end of her story, just as Timon had finished futzing around with powders and bamboo whisks.
“So, can you help us?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Timon said, hands frozen mid-pour, and sighed.
Trini put the lemon in the center of the table. Timon licked his lips. Everyone on the moon is perpetually on the verge of scurvy, and real citrus is absurdly hard to come by.
“The whole thing is nuclear,” said Timon, and then sipped from a tiny porcelain cup. Trini cupped her teacup to her cheek grateful of the warmth. “Just need to put the pile together again.”
“The nuclear pile. You think that dinky solar farm could smelt lunar metals?”
For a second, the only thing to hear was Trini’s long shaking breath. Beyond the teahouse window Timon’s apartment spread out, hung with kimonos, banners with Kanji, a grubby Pikachu statue brandishing a pickax.
“You mean to tell me, we’ve been living in this cold, deprived of power, all this time, and it’s just because no one turned the reactor on?”
“No one asked.” Timon had been there to let them in when they crossed the Mare and banged on the door, two years ago. But then Meatball had stolen a smoked fish that Timon had been saving for New Year’s that first week they were there, and after that Timon had retreated to the north mine, hiding behind blast doors most of time. It was a long trudge out to trade with him.
“Besides,” he said, “there’s no market for regolith steel after plexicarbon came along. I didn’t want to have to deal with the spent fuel rods. And I like the quiet.”
“Tell me how to turn it on,” Trini said.
Two newly-wound guitar strings, an E and an A, were stretched out alongside LFP0’s supine form. A third, a G-string, was still strung on the lathe, almost finished.
“El Dee? El Dee, can you hear me?” Sammy saw the last of LDP0’s indicator lights die out. Some tiny whisper escaped the gynodroid’s lips, and he leaned in close to hear it.
“Sammy. Play the best concert ever,” she said.
“I will,” said Sammy. “And I’ll recharge you as soon as I can, I promise.”
LDP0 said nothing more. Sammy waited a long time in case she did. Finally he reconnected her hand, kissed her, then drew a dark canvas over her head.
The tea was gone. Timon leaned back and looked as if he was seeing a different space, a different time. Maybe a dark, loud, sweaty, underlit warehouse. “My grandad saw the Ramones up at Hammerjack’s in Baltimore, must have been mid-eighties. They were tight and raw, he said. Never took a break between songs. His favorite show ever. Said some guy jumped from the upper balcony into the mosh pit, just disappeared into the crowd.”
“Wow,” said Trini.
He looked straight at her. “He said to me ‘That jump was the punkest thing I ever saw.’”
“He’s out of his mind,” Joey said. “Punk doesn’t mean hurting yourself, or anyone else. Punk has nothing to do with that.
“Punk means rejecting the status quo, refusing to be trapped by it. Punk means doing something new with whatever you’ve got, and not being fussy about it. Ignoring expectations, not waiting for permission. Punk means doing something you believe in, before you figure out how it’s ‘supposed’ to be done.” This was the most Joey had said at one go in over a hundred years.
Trini blinked. She might have blinked back a tear.
“Well, you’re the man,” said Timon. “or the brain, at least.” He turned his eyes back to Trini. “Do you want to borrow the express cart?”
“I’ll take what I can get,” said Trini.
“Who would’ve guessed they’d turn punk into some kind of off-the-wall church for literal dinosaurs?” asked Joey.
“They’re not dinosaurs, and for sure they’re not punk,” said Trini.
Trini sat in the cart, Joey on her lap, as it whirred through a tunnel on its way back to the foundry. It was a lot faster than the trip out on foot.
“You know, if he hadn’t slept with that girl, Johnny and I would still be friends,” said Joey, “and punk would have never died.”
“Well,” said Trini. “I don’t think it ever really died. But it’s really long past time you forgave Johnny. For your own mental health, anyway,” she said.
“My mental health. I guess so,” Joey said, and laughed.
Trini punched the controls, located thoughtfully outside the power cavern in a little glassed-in control booth.
“Give ussss the Joey, or you will all freezzzssss,” hissed one of the LEEPers from behind the airlock.
“That’s not happening,” said Trini confidently, then whispered “Here goes nothing!”
She hit the final key, and there was a low grinding noise. She looked through the airlock’s viewport. Mostly darkness, but she could see the LEEPers’ heads swivel around, something moving back there, behind them, in the gloom.
There was a long moment where no one in the band breathed. Then the grinding noise halted, and they all stared at one another.
“This shit is so old. Who knows if any of it could ever work anymore.”
“Probably all gone to rust,” said Sammy.
“The principles it was built on still apply. They always apply,” said Chico, who had taken a couple years of engineering school before he’d bailed.
“We need it now, even more than they needed it then,” said Joey.
Suddenly, the console came to life.
Reactor 1: Efficiency : 21% Control loop : confirmed. Temperature : 249 C (rising.) Generators : online.
Ancient fluorescents down the hallway blinked awake. The air handlers thrummed to life. Machines hummed and buzzed everywhere. No one in the band had ever heard the station so active before.
There was a ‘whoosh’ and the airlock door rose, revealing the two LEEPers, claws poised at the internal control panel.
“Run!” shouted Sammy, and scooped up Joey.
They ran, ran in that loose, bouncy way people run on the moon. Every section of corridor they came through, Trini slammed the airlock as they passed, hoping to slow the LEEPers down.
They got to the kitchen, and as they careened through it, the head of a LEEPer popped up from behind the island. “Unk! Sssssstop!” it yelled, but they kept right on running.
At the intersection with the corridor to the algae farm, two more LEEPers came loping towards them. “Whooooooaaaaooo!” Meatball went, and kept right on running.
Finally they hit the smelter itself, and stopped dead. All around them, clanking mechanical carts came and went, as loads of regolith clicked by on long-inactive conveyor belts. Droplets of red-hot metal showered down from giant, automated ladles pouring into a refractory-lined tundish. It was noisy, smelly, loud, and totally unexpected.
As they stood gaping, a ring of LEEPers slowly closed in around them. How had so many of them gotten in?
“Isn’t this still your day of holy stillness?” Chico asked.
“Thissss isss our mossssst holy relic,” said a somewhat larger, more whale-like LEEPer. “Without him, there can be no ssssssstillnessssss.”
“He’s not some damn religious artifact, he’s a person!” snarled Trini.
“How’d you get into here, anyway?” shouted Sammy, over the clank of the smelters. “This is our place!”
“Sssssomeone likes lemonsss more than you do. And cabbage, tobacco, ssssssmoked fissssh…”
“Timon sold us out?” Trini’s mouth hung open.
“I never trusted him,” said Meatball. “Anybody who wouldn’t share a fish—”
“He must have given you the code to the emergency exits,” said Chico.
“Give ussss the Joey, and we promissssse to kill you humanely,” said the head LEEPer.
“Humanely. What a joke,” said Trini, shaking her head. “You live for hundreds of years by drinking the blood of humans, endangered species, baby birds and animals. Sucking the life out of eggs. Shit, you’re made from the blood of extinct creatures! There’s not a shred of humanity left in you!”
“True wealth can do wonderful thingssss” hissed one LEEPer.
“Jussssst wait,” said the head one, “until we drink the blood of thosssse ssssspace aliensssss.”
“That’s not happening,” said Sammy. “No way humanity’s gonna let you anywhere near our first contact with an actual alien race.”
“They’re closssser to the moon than to Earth—”
“Enough with thissss! We will take the Joey now,” said the head LEEPer. They closed in, baring long claws.
“Wait!” shouted Chico. He grabbed Joey, and hoisted him high above his head. “Come any closer and I’ll smash the Joey.”
“You’re jussst sssssaying that.”
“I mean it,” said Chico, and he shook the glass dome violently, like a giant, science-fiction snowglobe.
“Some dive… Thompkins Square… two dollar beers” wobbled Joey, as if he were drunk-riding a Tilt-a-whirl.
“Ssssstop. OK. What do you want?”
“Joey’s gonna do a concert with us. Just a forty-minute show, no encores. Then you can take him, and never come back here.” said Sammy.
“WHAT?!” said the other band members in unison.
“Deal!” said the head LEEPer, and offered his clawed forelimb for a businesslike handshake.
The drums thundered, the guitars slashed, the feedback rang so hard it shook teeth loose. For exactly two minutes and twenty seven seconds, everything was right. Everything roared. No worries, no doubts, just a primal snarl, and they were the ones delivering it unto the world.
The LEEPers sat quietly at first, but eventually couldn’t help themselves, getting up, spinning, lunging around, doing some approximation of clapping along. Probably the best live music they’d heard in a lifetime or more.
As the last squeal of feedback faded, Chico spat at his scaly audience, then leaned back into the microphone. “That’s a sound check. We’re going to take a short break, then we’re going live,” and the band stepped offstage.
“That was tight, you guys!”
“Did you see the look on those reptile’s faces?”
“That felt good,” said Joey.
“Glad to hear you say that,” said Meatball.
“I’m going to take Joey to the bathroom with me. He loves to watch me pee.”
“I bet,” said Chico. Over her shoulder, Trini gave Chico a look, then carried Joey away.
“Whoa,” said Meatball.
“What is all that shit, the pedestal underneath his brain?” asked Sammy.
“There’s a pellet of some superheavy synthetic element in there, always radiating heat,” said Chico. “Expensive to produce. Then there’s a Sterling engine, steam and a piston converting heat to power.
“NASA produced very few, and only four are still working. One’s swimming around under the ice of Europa, and one’s on the surface of Planet Nine.” Chico couldn’t bring himself to utter the name of the American president that planet had been named after.
“Maybe we could sell it, buy our way off of here!” Meatball mused, around chews of a sandwich.
Chico made a fist, then squeezed it tight, right under Meatball’s chin. “Nobody sells Joey,” he said. “We’re all Ramones. We’re family.” Everything was still for a hot moment.
“What is she doing, meditating in there?” said Sammy.
“Fucking dandelions going to win out in the end,” said Joey.
“That’s probably true,” said Trini. Scattered around her were open panels, optic couplers, ribbon cables, laser diodes, and a logic probe connected up to hotwire a vehicle.
Trini keyed a sloppy guess into the nav panel, then kissed the glass dome containing Joey’s brain. She punched LAUNCH, backed out of the cockpit, slammed the hatch shut, and ran out of the docking bay.
The freighter had sat there for years, inert, but now, with the reactor back on, it suddenly seemed eager to get to business. The countdown hit zero, then the backwash slammed the blast wall, felt like a missile strike: a wall of roaring, a wave of heat, everything shaking. It was even louder than the band. But it was over in the next instant.
“What was that?” Chico and the rest dashed onto the observation deck.
“Freighter,” Trini said. “I launched it.”
“You launched it?”
“Wait. Who was in it?” Sammy said.
“Joey,” Trini said. “I sent him to the space aliens.”
“What!? What?!!” Chico was shocked, outraged.
“I don’t believe it,” said Meatball.
“Why’d you have to go and give Joey away to the aliens?” said Sammy.
“Why’d you have to go and give Joey away to the transhumans?” said Meatball.
“I was scared. I was scared, alright?” said Sammy.
“Maybe the aliens can fix Joey,” said Trini. “He’s not right, being cooped up in there for so long. How would you feel, stuck in your own brain for all that time.”
“I am stuck in my own brain!” said Chico.
“No doubt. But was the right thing to do, and you know it. He doesn’t belong with those LEEPers, anyway. And it wasn’t fair for us to try to exploit him. You said we’re family. So shut up.”
“Yeah, I did say that, but—”
“If there’s one thing I want the alien race to know about humans, it’s punk, and Joey Ramone is punk!” Trini said. After a moment, Chico reached out and took Trini’s hand.
Trini pressed her face to the window, trying to trace the path of the spacecraft. “What will the aliens think of Joey? Is he really any different than the rest of us? What will he say to them? Will they understand punk?” She stared, and they all stared.
“Are those rich ass-bastard blood-stealing transhumans going to eat us all?” added Meatball.
“If I were an alien, what would I think of my life, Trini’s life? Of humans in general? Why are people the way that they are? Why do we need to make music, and what does it really say?”
She shook her head. “Where does all the silence come from, anyway?”
Christopher Mark Rose writes and designs NASA avionics in Baltimore. His work has appeared in Asimov’s, Interzone, and UNCANNY, and is forthcoming in F&SF. He attended the most recent Viable Paradise writer’s workshop, and a recent story was a finalist for the Kurt Vonnegut Prize. He can be found online @CChrisrose on Twitter, and occasionally blogging at curiousful.wordpress.com.