A response to Deb Markanton's "Saturday Challenge" in Flashy Fiction.
I slipped into the CollabNet suit and its teeth sank into my carotid artery releasing the psycho-electrical drugs that would catalyze my VR connection. The colors of my corner office on the 80th floor of Shanghai's CollabNet building swam together in a slurry mix of gold, silver, and maroon; they faded and my viewpoint resolved within the three-dimensional confines of my clone forest. I reveled in it, no one had more lives. No one had done more. Each one of the green branches of life, twenty-seven of them currently active, stretched and twisted around me including seventeen artists.
I manipulated the display and panned through my active lives checking on them. I looked at the paused branches; where life had been snuffed out. Business was brutal. About to get more brutal. I needed more lives. And there was only one way to accomplish that, more money.
Xinjiang Inc. was weak, ripe for takeover. I switched the display to looking at Xinjiang's employees. They had fewer total lives than Meifeng and myself. I wondered if they were worth it. Xinjiang waited on CollabNet's RFP. I could easily squash their chances with a short call. To kill, or not to kill. That is the question. I would give myself ten minutes to decide.
I switched back to viewing my clone forest and found one of my pleasure clones. I merged my consciousness with him as he/I lay back in a Zongshan hot spring. Water from the pool above him/me washed over our shoulders. The bartender, blood red bikini damp from the humidity, brought a drink. He/I closed our eyes as the jasmine plants growing among the black rocks released their perfume.
Yes, it was worth it. Xinjiang Inc.'s days were numbered.