Written to @lilfluff’s prompt
Leaving home for a weekend and returning to find your home and entire neighborhood has been replaced.
“My house is gone!”
Ed Lawton was furious. He slammed his fist down on the counter, leaned forward, and got as close to the clerk as he could.
The New Lease on Life clerk seemed entirely unbothered by this. While Ed wasn’t going to give an inch, he found himself wondering if the woman was one of the new android models he’d been hearing about.
Or maybe she just heard this a lot. “The brochure said ‘Get away from it all.’ sir. And you have, indeed, gotten away from it all.”
“My house! My Jag! I worked for twenty years for that! My Mother in Law.”
His wife and kids were waiting in the lobby. Dana didn’t like it when he got shouty, and the kids — he wasn’t sure what was up with the kids, honestly. Teenagers. Still, Ed had to resist the urge to look over his shoulder guiltily. Dana’s mother Tiffany, in her little cottage in their backyard, should not have come after the Jag.
Neither should have Astro. “And my dog! My neighbors! The entire block is gone! Where are there?”
“Your mother-in-law, you said? Mm, probably Mars. Mars needs mothers.” The clerk swiped her finger over the air. Ed could just barely see the flicker of a display between them. “Ah, yes. And Astro, it seemed, wanted to go with her — or the neighbor’s boy. The whole block is moved as a piece, you see, for continuity.”
“Continuity! You moved my entire neighborhood while I was on vacation! There’s nothing but a barn and two little houses left in the whole block! And some sort of really tall grass.”
“Mr. Lawton, tell me, how do you feel?”
“Feel? I feel furious!” This was so absurd that he was having some trouble holding on to that fury, but he wasn’t going to tell her that.
“No, physically. Do you feel like a man that worked twenty years for your Jaguar?”
“What?” Ed considered the situation. “No, ever since we landed on that island…”
“Indeed. And your wife?”
Ed flushed. He was not about to admit to this stranger what he had noticed about his wife when they had been getting dressed this morning. “She seems… healthier.”
“Energetic? They seem excited.”
“We do, indeed, give you a new lease on life. And since you are the only one — you and Joe Bangs are the only ones – in your block to take our trip, you have a choice. Your family and Mr. Bangs’ family have a choice, I should say.”
“You took my block. My dog. My mother in law!.”
“And in return, you have three choices. One. You can live in the house that we have provided and ride the very nice autoconvey that will pick you up at your choice of time every morning. One-A. You can continue to work as a-” She raised her eyebrows.
There had been a credit check. She probably knew.
“Vice President of Product.” It suddenly seemed less important than it had a month ago.
“-as a Vice President of Product. Your wife can continue in her job and your children in their schools. Everything will be the same, except that your home will be different and your neighbors-”
“And my dog!”
“-and your dog will be gone.”
“One B?” He bit the words out through gritted teeth.
“One B. Live in the house, farm the land. We will provide tools, seeds, and education. Your children will be home-educated and will learn to farm the same land.
“Farm? I have an MBA and a doctorate in programming!”
“I understand. We’re willing to work around those handicaps. Farm your half of the land – or, if Joe Banks’ family says no, the whole block. And when you have gained comfort with it, sell your product. Your needs will be taken care of whether or not you reach a profit, but I cannot imagine a man like you cannot make money, even in an unfamiliar trade.”
“You said there were three choices.” Farming!
“Yes. Two: Move to Mars. Your dog, your mother-in-law, your Jag, your house, they are all waiting for you. Live as a colonist there. Find a company that needs a software programmer; I am certain there will be many. Again, we will support you until you get on your feet.”
“On Mars. In a dome.”
“The terraforming machines are doing quite well. At this point, the domes are merely a back-up measure.”
“Or stay here, feeling young again, and work for another Jaguar, or for whatever you wish. The choice is up to you and your family.”
Ed glowered at her. He glanced over at his family, waiting behind glass. He looked back at the woman.
“There’s no getting my house back other than going to Mars, is there?”
“There is not. It was very fine print, but it was, indeed, in the contract.”
Such a contract seemed impossible. Then again, the vacation they’d just had – the way he felt – the way Dana acted – it all seemed impossible.
Beaten, and yet surprisingly upbeat, Ed went out to his family. “So. We have some decisions to make.”