Stan’s in the Possibilibots cafeteria with the guys from his team—his new team, the team he’s just been inserted into. He’s having a beer, that weak pissy beer they’re brewing in Consilience now; plus a side of onion rings and some fries to share, and a platter of BBQ wings. Sucking the fat off a wing, he reflects that he himself might have tended the owner of this wing when it had been covered with feathers and attached to a chicken. A Positron chicken, in the Positron Prison chicken facility he’d once supervised on alternate months, when his life had passed for ordinary.
It seems a century away now, that stretch of time when he’d lived with Charmaine in their bland but well-tended Consilience home. She’d done a lot of laundry and ironing and worn an apron, as in some re-creation of a fifties sitcom, and he’d kept the lawn mowed neatly and the hedges trimmed, and they’d made sedate domestic love under a floral-patterned sheet with ribbon bows and bluebirds on it. Yes, he’d been bored, he’d had the urge to wander, though doesn’t every husband? And yes, he’d been obsessive about a woman who turned out not to exist, but even that was well within the range of normal, most guys did it at least once in their lives. It was a hormone thing, the illusion, the disillusion. Par for the course. And yes, he’d discovered that Charmaine had been cheating on him; that was par for the course too, and in time he could have handled it.
But that was before the ground had been whipped out f...