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Series are multiple stories that go together; the order they are listed in on the tables of contents and directory pages are their chronological orders within the universe, not the order they were written or posted in. A tilde (~) denotes an original fiction series, while an abbreviation such as HP denotes a fanfiction series.

Dreamer

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series ~Genetic Engineering

TITLE: Dreamer
CHAPTER: 1 – Oneshot
AUTHOR: Lythande ( setosgirl0 / neferseti0 / Ankh Ascendant )
DATE: 5-29-11
COPYRIGHT: I do own Matthias, his parents, and this world. Not to be used without my written consent.
PAIRINGS: —
TYPE: drama
RATING: PG
WARNINGS: —
OC WORLD: Nonnen/Gennen/Mod
BETA: none
WORDS: 2830
SUMMARY: The American Dream.
NOTES: Matthias was more recently named Methos, but I changed it because it’s pretty obvious where I took that name from.

* * *

Dreamer

Matthias stared at the chipped screen before him, turning the pen over and over his long fingers. The words stared back, patient, nonjudgmental persons of his own creation, waiting for his decision.

 

There shouldn’t have had to be a decision. At least, he had never really seen the need to make one before. The world he had written had existed for years, and in all those years he had done nothing more but come back to it privately, again and again, and fall into it. The words were his own private window to a better world… He had never even considered sharing it before.

 

It shouldn’t be crossing his mind now. He turned the pen fluidly over his fingers again and stared at the words with an unconscious frown on his face.

 

He was being stupid – beyond stupid. This was just unrealistic. Why would he think anyone would publish something written by someone like him?

 

If not for that ad campaign…

 

A knock on his door made the pen tumble out of his fingers and skitter on the floor, and he shook his head in annoyance. “Come in,” he said, as he slid down to the floor to retrieve it.

 

“Matti?”

 

“Down here.” He slid back up into his seat and gave his mother a faint smile. Lines of confusion relaxed off her broad face and she smiled back.

 

“Dinner’s ready.” Her heavy-lidded eyes wandered past his face to his screen, where the words still patiently looked out at them. “Is that your story again?”

 

He glanced along her line of sight and pressed the button to turn off the display. “Yes, ma, it’s my story.”

 

“You didn’t have to do that… I’m sure it’s good. I might like to read it some day.”

 

He said nothing as he stood. He honestly doubted she could read it; she was literate enough to understand the commercials and ads around her and not much more. He appreciated her support, but… well, it didn’t really mean much.

 

She reached up and ran her fingers through his hair as he passed her. “You should let your hair grow out, Matti, you’d look so good.”

 

“Ma…” He pulled his head away and stayed out of her reach. “I’m almost thirty, I can decide on my own appearance.”

 

“Twenty-five isn’t almost thirty.”

 

“I’m twenty-six.”

 

She shrugged complacently and shooed him down the short hall. Pre-prepared meals already sat steaming on trays in between the seats in the living room and the Tri-V platform. His father’s silent bulk was already in one seat with his tray pulled close, his eyes on the seven o’clock news just starting on the TV. He didn’t look up as they came in.

 

The couch creaked as she settled in her normal spot beside her husband, and placed a new beer on his tray, displacing the empty can. There was one waiting beside his own food too, but he held back, resisting sitting and joining them.

 

This scene… it was so awfully normal. His parents sitting in front of the TV with their beers and their microwaved food, watching something about political scandals but taking in only the shallowest fraction of it. He could hear another TV through the ceiling, and the nearest wall, muffled testaments to just how normal it was. He could envision every family on the block settling down in their well-worn furniture with the same food and the same beer, watching the same news or one of the over-produced TV dramas or thought-free comedies that all came on at the same time and were fed to them, like a great hive of brainless Nonnen insects…

 

“Are you going to sit down Matti?” His mother looked back over the couch at him. “Your food’s going to get cold.”

 

He took a breath and stepped on the surge of loathing and horror that rose unbidden in his mind. He couldn’t stay here. “I’m going to go to work,” he said, turning toward the door.

 

“Work?”

 

“Yeah.” He couldn’t stand to look at the bland confusion he was sure was on her face. Instead he stepped into his shoes without looking at them at all.

 

“Oh. Can’t you eat first?”

 

“No. Sorry, I gotta… I have to go.”

 

“Oh. Well, have a good night.”

 

He nodded without answering. His hand was on the door when he heard the familiar music and he had to glance back at the commercial on the TV.

 

The five second spot was already half over. He got to see the important part, though; the words floated in the air, unaccompanied by any dialogue, framed by his parents’ heads as they watched it. ‘What is your American dream?’ it asked.

 

Not this.

 

He shook his head again as the music faded and pulled the door open, stepping out into the hallway, letting it close between him and them.

 

He could hears other apartments’ TVs on through their walls as he followed the yellow overhead lights toward the stairs, and he resolutely ignored them. Just above the top of the stairs the light was busted, and didn’t come on as he approached, but it had been busted for three months now and they were all used to groping in the dimness for the handrail. Maybe it would be fixed the first time someone fell; maybe not.

 

Was this really the dream of the hundreds of people who lived here? Governments checks and cheap beer and free TV? Were they content?

 

Of course not, at least not all of them. There were others like him, mostly the younger generation; he nodded to a small gang of teenagers smoking on the steps as he passed outside. Most of them looked young enough that they should have still been in high school, maybe middle school – they weren’t, of course. Oh, they were that young, but they weren’t in school. As a high school graduate he was a rare creature around these parts.

 

Not that it had gotten him anywhere, really.

 

His parents were out of touch if they thought there was actually a job out here for him. The only occupation he had was the same as those kids back there… occasional breaking and entering and pawning other people’s property. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t glamorous, but it supplemented those government checks and kept his parents in their microwave dinners and cold beer. More importantly, it occasionally got him out of the slums, gave him a glimpse and a taste of real life. He never really could pretend it was his, but at least he could see it from a little closer…

 

His hands in his pockets, he wandered away from his featureless apartment building and past several more, identical but for the differing graffiti. Someone had either vandalized the controls for the streetlights or they had been shut off to save money for the city; it was dark out except for the light that fell through curtained windows that stretched hundreds of feet over his head. So many people behind those windows, living so few lives…

 

Once upon a time, his great dream had been to go to college and have a normal job, and just be a normal person. That wasn’t going to happen. There were basically no college courses for Nonnen, and what there were no one could realistically afford, especially since the government wasn’t going to waste any money helping people like him get an education when they weren’t going to use it for anything anyway. There were precious few jobs that still could or would be given to those who were so inconsiderate to society to be laboring on with their natural, unmodified genetics, and those that existed were already taken, either by the few very fortunate and determined, or lucky, Nonnen who actually had jobs, or by the extremely unambitious or unlucky Gennen who settled for them. The only career path really open to him was as either a petty criminal, leeching off of his privileged genetically engineered betters, or a layabout like his parents, taking the bare minimum survival checks the government had for him…

 

His American dream… Once it had been to be normal, but he actually had lost that one somewhere. He had such a deep and shameful loathing for his people that he couldn’t express it and couldn’t even bear to look at them sometimes… but they were his, and he would always be one of them. Even if he went and somehow scrounged up the thousands of dollars to get his DNA tinkered with he would still be Nonnen, in his own eyes and heart even if society didn’t see it. He hated it, but he could never be anything else… and if given the chance he didn’t think he would try. Better to actually be who he was than fight himself forever.

 

The ads made him think, though… or maybe it wasn’t really thought. They made him feel. They made him yearn. That was probably the point of them… “What is your American dream” was the catchphrase of the newest generation of inspirational public service announcements, designed to create unity among the public; “and what are you doing to get it?” was the second half of the question, at least in the original versions, although it was getting left out more and more often now that people were familiar with the campaign. It was supposed to rouse people from apathy and get them moving to improve the country, get the densely packed population to work for their own betterment…

 

He understood the point of it, though he couldn’t see any real success of it around him; maybe it had more of a foothold in places where people actually had futures. Still, he felt the effects on a deeper level than he would have thought possible for such a transparent tactic; he knew it was manipulating him, and yet he still felt the pull every time he saw an ad. They made him feel, for just a moment, that maybe he could accomplish something…

 

He shook his head to try and dislodge the sentiment. It was idiotic. And he had never wanted to publish a book before, anyway; he had been writing since he was a teenager and he had always been content just to write and lose himself in his alternate reality. It had never even crossed his mind to expose his private world to outside scrutiny, not so much as another pair of eyes. Yet now this one set of ads made him want to open himself up to ridicule and failure like that…

 

It was what he wanted, though, he had realized. Maybe what he had wanted for a long time, since he had stopped wanting to be normal. If he couldn’t be normal, he wanted to make a mark, to leave any indication of his existence on the world. He wanted to do something, anything, worthwhile. He wanted to matter. Was that too much to dream of?

 

When a light came on ahead of him he glanced up, and realized he had wandered out of the boundaries of his neighborhood. The buildings around him were less bland and vandalized, and seemed to actually be cared for rather than subsidized by an overstretched government. Streetlights were slowly lighting and fading ahead of him as people passed into and out of their range of perception, and brightly lit store windows beckoned to people with actual income.

 

He was in Gennen territory. For a moment, he wavered and considered turning back, but decided against it. The streets weren’t very busy, and this area was so close to his neighborhood that they had to be used to Nonnen wandering around occasionally, even if they didn’t really appreciate it. And his only other option, after all, was to turn back and go home… He walked forward into the streetlight’s gentle sphere of influence and went on, though he instinctively ducked his head to avoid drawing attention and seeing anyone’s reaction to his face.

 

He felt strangely isolated as he walked down the sidewalk, with the lights methodically coming to life and spotlighting him as he came near them. No one passed him; oddly enough, no one seemed that inclined to travel into the Nonnen neighborhood in the dark of night. On the one hand, it was a relief not to have any eyes on him, but on the other… he didn’t like feeling like a pariah.

 

“What’s your American dream?”

 

He looked up quickly at the smooth female voice, foolishly expecting for a split second to see a person. It was the window of the nearest shop that had spoken to him, though; the omnipresent ad was playing on the inside of the glass, glowing patiently at him like it was waiting for a response.

 

He hurried past it, but kept his head up to look at the stores this time so that none of them could spring it upon him unawares again. He passed a clothing store where beautiful, normal people were modeling affordably-priced normal fashions at him on the glass, then an electronics store where similar beautiful people were enjoying the finest in in-home entertainment. The advertisements were depressing, but at least they didn’t actually speak to him…

 

After a few stores, his mood seemed to have been irrevocably broken; it was hard to think with such shallow trappings of normal life around him, and he had made up his mind to go back. Maybe after he went to the cafe ahead, though… The sign reminded him that he had skipped dinner, and made his stomach growl the way the thought of the microwave food waiting on him at home did not. He should have enough cash for a decent meal, for once…

 

For a long moment he wavered outside, deciding. He couldn’t see past the holograms in the windows to see what kind of clientele it had inside, but it was open and he was hungry; he went inside after a minute and slipped into the nearest empty table against the wall. As he had expected, the diners were all Gennen, but there were only a few of them; a lovely couple who seemed to have designed themselves to compliment each other sharing a dessert, a woman with piercing blue eyes who gave him a glare and then turned her back, and and man who was thoroughly absorbed in whatever he was reading or watching on the screen in his table. No one spared any more attention for him, and he relaxed slightly.

 

With a final glance around, he tapped the tabletop and glanced over the menu it presented, then ordered a cheap sandwich. That should suit his budget and his stomach, although it might be a little too much for the first. He envied the other diners, with the money they made, who could buy a sandwich without worry about what they’d eat at the end of the month…

 

His order came faster than he’d expected, and the waitress surprised him. He saw in an embarrassed glance that she was a cute Gennen girl, and as he looked down to dig in his pockets he covered up a quick surge of resentment at her, for taking a job he actually could have done… But she needed to eat too. By the time he’d found his crumpled bills it was gone almost as though it had never been, and he was able to hand over the money without a glare.

 

“Don’t need this,” she said just as he picked up the sandwich, and he blinked at her. She shoved her hand into his face, holding his pen. It must have wound up in his pocket instead of on his desk after he picked it up.

 

“Oh… thanks…” He took it back with a quick embarrassed motion, and she walked away without another word. He didn’t pick up his food again, though; he held the pen between his middle fingers and rotated it slowly, watching it.

 

It might as well have had “What is your American dream?” written on the side.

 

Could he? Should he?

 

He glanced over it at the people in the shop, all ignoring him. No one was judging him. No one seemed to see he was here at all. He preferred it that way, and yet…

 

Slowly, he lowered the pen and pressed his thumb to the corner of the table, half hoping the cafe had public internet access, half hoping it didn’t. It did. His thumbprint called up his own directory on the area’s private servers – Nonnen housing did not have private storage, and he regretted that at the moment. He couldn’t find an excuse to delay.

 

His heart was beating hard as he copied the painstakingly written and summarily buried cover letter into a message, and attached the first chapter of a novel that had never seen the light of day… His fingers hesitated, but he held his breath and made himself stab the ‘send’ button.

 

~end~

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