This whole social revolution had been compounded fifty years later by the incredible discovery of ‘Semi organic unguent plasma’, affectionately or hatefully referred to as ‘Soup’.  This breakthrough had increased crop production, tissue healing, reduced ageing, and eventually twisted society out of any recognizable form.  In time it was tweaked, improved and attached to complex computer feedback systems.  It became such that an individual could essentially live, suspended in it whilst being provided with all the body’s needs.  It also seemed so convivial to mental well-being that some rich citizens simply set up a safe haven, hired servants and transcended the real world for the rest of their vastly extended lifetimes.
This was exactly what the huge self-contained factory units like the ‘energy composite’ attempted to do for the common man.  Only in order to do so, those common men and women had to separate themselves from the masses and hence became fairly uncommon.  The aim, the challenge, the issue of pride for of any of the huge ‘factory composite groups’ as they became known was to achieve as high a level of transcendence time as possible for the workers they housed.  The energy composite, this factory was rated at 1 in 24, which essentially meant that any worker could if they chose spend only 1 hour in 24 working, and therefore the other 23 being incredibly happy and healthy floating in a gentle, slightly sticky plasma goo.  As a doctor, Charles Joplin was therefore normally no more than an intelligent, often challenging but kind man that people went to see every so often.
Cecile put both hands on the doctors’ desk and leant towards him.  “Even the ‘uncovered’ out there” she pointed in a random direction, “can get treated.  Can’t we just buy the drugs!”
“Firstly, yes, the uncovered communities do have treatment facilities but clinics like the one in the town beneath our factory are expensive and over-stretched.  How would you pay for it? Individually we have no money.  The freedom clinics, run by sun-worshippers only treat their own for free, and even then the patient is often desperate enough to resort to helping out with some piece of terrorist activity in lieu of payment.  If you were unlucky they may just kill you out of jealousy just because they despise us.  As it is outsiders pay over the odds for cheap materials and according to estimates they have 20 percent of their population in need of treatment.  They were never quite as committed to the ideal and now they are paying the cost, it’s that simple.  This is exactly why our system runs as it does.   There are consequences for breaking the ‘norm of risk’.  Regular outsiders can only afford to transcend a few hours a day in a pay pool, then they have to sleep in beds for god sake, they get not much better than the 8 hours sleep that the 20th century could offer, they have a tough life and work hard.  I hear the Market composite out by the lake, if they can claim to be a composite at all, claim they have a 1 in 6 rating but they have no defences and could be overrun at anytime,“ He laughed.  ”and 1 in 6 is hardly civilised, admittedly good in comparison to the normal 6 hour work days that some of the less advanced groups have to put up with, but not to our standard.  We are nearly the highest rated across the entire covered composite society, and it’s all due to our belief in the individual putting the minimum strain on the composite whole.”
Now he leant forward and a more serious look crossed his features.
“As for the composite itself funding your treatment, yes we could pay for the drugs with energy supplies but the whole point of our existence is that people like us stopped covering each others backs when one person chooses to be different.  The composite will not change that for you Cecile.  As I said, it’s why we have a 1 in 24 rating”
Cecile sat down.  She lifted one leg onto the edge of the doctors desk, noticed him glance at it, a fleeting frown played across his features.  She could have had this argument with herself just as well.  She knew everything the doctor was saying to her.
Doctor Joplin himself worked 3 hours a day, a grossly uncivilized amount of productive activity in many people’s minds.  However he considered it more an interesting hobby, time used in the way many others used time for artistic or sporting pursuits, although so few people did either these days.  Transcendence had taken over as the overriding leisure activity.  Few people suffered any real ailments anymore.  He sighed heavily.  Maybe he’d knock off early, get some well-earned time in the soup.  He was missing its warm, silent embrace more than usual today.  Just 200 yards down warm temperature regulated corridors and 30 seconds to fit his gel-harness and he’d be back in its safety again, shoulder to shoulder with his composite family.  The regenerative nutrient plasma would ease the tension he was getting in his neck, and the gentle sharing of near thoughtless existence with his friends would wash away the emotions that this encounter had stimulated.  This session with Cecile was upsetting him for certain.  He rarely craved its embrace this strongly.



“Cecile please, you know as well as anyone that if you stick to your recommended transcendence time the soup will more than likely suppress the cancerous growths that are forming.  If it doesn’t than it will slow them down so effectively that you’re unlikely to suffer any problems for 50 years or more.”
“Yes Doctor, and you know that a growing group of people here in the ‘Energy Composite‘, are not finding the ‘oneness’ of the soup very appealing.  We’re craving something more individual and expressive.  You know we’ve upped our active labour hours to 3 per day.  We accept the extra burden that our movement, use of facilities, the wear and tear exerts on the composite structure, and that it needs to be balanced.  We don’t mind.  Only yesterday I accessed the ALDS just to learn automotive robotics so I could overhaul some of the automated systems.  I’m going to scrub it tomorrow, it’s not my thing but you know, ‘We’ like doing things.
“The accelerated learning data system shouldn’t be abused young lady, especially if you’re going to scrub your memory too often.  It’s not fool proof, it has been known to scrub a little too hard.  Without the balancing effect of the transcendent state within the soup your mind can rebel if you pipe too much information into it.  I don’t want to have to go relearning psycho-neural biology again when your memory centres start fusing.”
“soup soup soup….it bores me.  Do you know how good it feels to go out and get some sun on your skin doctor?, see the world outside lit by that beautiful glowing ball we all owe our life too?”
“That sun you talk about is what we are having this entirely academic conversation for in the first place” the doctor stood, the girls recklessness was beginning to rile him.  ”It is what has irreparably damaged your skin cells, and given you that tasteless tan.  As it is you have a malignant melanoma and secondary cancers which we have no resources to treat.  You step out of sanctioned cover within daylight hours you forfeit your right to sanctioned cancer treatment, just as you would have been refused some treatments as a smoker back in the 21st century.  Now as your doctor I am offering you the only treatment that won’t get me kicked out.  I will write out a note to register you for unlimited Soup immersion for a month period.  You could, if you wish stay fully immersed.  For that period you have the right to a zero productivity rating.  The longer you stay there the more likely you may suppress the cancers in your body.” He grabbed a pad from within his desk draw and wrote, scowling harder.  Even this small gesture went against the society belief that she should get nothing from the population in way of help.
”That’s it, as your medical officer I have provided you with the way that you can best help yourself, I can do no more.  Talk to your parents, they worry.”
He opened the door to his office and handed the girl the prescription sheet.  “I know you’re not going to take my advice Cecile.  Honestly if you spent 20 or more hours a day immersed for life, still less than most people crave on a daily basis, you may well get no worse.  Bye for now”
Cecile walked out looking at the prescription.  She turned and managed a fleeting smile at the doctor.  Since reducing her Soup time she had found her baser urges were becoming more apparent.  Her smile broadened, as she looked him up and down.  “You should come and spend some time with my friends and me.  She winked.  There are other ways of relaxing you know.”



*      *      *

The metal door slid open.  The Composite computer, ‘Genna’ chirped a warning in a scolding tone.  “Leaving the compound without authorisation and fully sanctioned protective clothing will invalidate any claim to treatment for ailments directly induced through the risk you are now taking.  You have been warned and by stepping through this doorway you fully consent to the conditions laid out within the norm of risk, amended 2287.  You have been warned.  Please report to your doctor immediately on your return”
“Tell me something I don’t know computer” Cecile retorted.  She then chuckled, thinking about the futility of reporting to her doctor.
“I may not come back this time” she said quietly as she looked out onto the causeway that stretched out in front of her.