"girl help I already have so much headcanons for this au I'm never gonna write" .... show us the dystopian headcanons, Inny
Okay so this dystopia was percolating in my brain for a day or two before I could get it out. It's inspired by a lot of different sci-fi things, the biggest being Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and that lovely tumblr story about the 100 point children.
It's set on a big-ass space ship colony, and you need credits for everything. Like, your basic needs will technically be met (large dormitories in your assigned work department/orphanage, fabricated Nutritionally Perfect food but not very tasty food, standard issue clothing, etc.) but if you want more, it costs credits. Credits are earned by working and possibly citizenship points, like that creepy Black Mirror episode.
So having your own place costs credits, but so does having kids, like a child tax. Don't think about the horrifying implications of that if you're not able to pay, don't do it, it's a dystopia remember.
Reggie's parents were just barely keeping their head above water, possibly due to spending their credits unwisely, possibly due to it being a fucking dystopia and they need to keep a bunch of people in poverty for the system to run. You know... like capitalism.
It’s not like spaces are officially segregated and all, but if you try to go to a park in a richer area as a kid in the standard issue (free) gray uniform... you’re gonna get picked on. Reggie learns early on where he’s ‘allowed’ to be and where he isn’t. Besides, after he starts going to work with his dad it doesn’t matter much anyway. Sometimes he sneaks out to the parks in the evenings or mornings (when normal kids are at school or in bed and his dad’s shift hasn’t started yet) so he can play on the Good Swings and stuff.
Rose and Ray both have pretty well-paying jobs (Ray watches the radar for asteroids and stuff on the bridge, as well as being a photographer, and Rose reviews and translates station-wide communications as well as being a private music teacher). Their kids want for nothing, they have a nice house, they have enough credits in savings that they’re ready for pretty much anything.
So at the end of the month Rose browses the internal logs, looking for places to donate credits. Regular donations go to the orphaned kids, so they can go to school, and she’s been known to pay off bullshit fines (“a teenager played their music too loud in the park and now the parents are facing downsizing their unit size to pay for it? That’s bullshit!”)
She kind of stumbles on Reggie by accident, thinking someone messed up the age from 31 to 13 on Reassignment Job Board. (She’s a reviewer after all, she can send a quick message through Internal Comms and get it fixed before someone is reprimanded and loses credits for a typo.) Until she reads his profile and his answers and is horrified. She talks to Ray, and then to Julie and Carlos, and oops, guess they have a new son.
Carlos is stoked to have an older brother. Julie is kind of horrified to learn there are kids who don’t get to go to school at all because their parents don’t have the credits for it, so of course she says yes.
-As soon as Rose and Ray have convinced Reggie that no, they did not take him in as some kind of live-in butler or cleaning service, but as a kid, they sit him down with a Pad and get him to pick out some stuff that costs actual credits for the fabricator to make. Reggie is very concerned, so he sorts from lowest-price and works his way up until he balks at the amount of credits. (Which is... pretty much anything that isn’t the standard issue uniform but in like a nice colour.)
When Rose catches on, she tells the Pad to hide the prices, take out the ‘sort by price’ option, and take out anything that doesn’t fit into ‘budget - kids’. Then she hands the Pad back to Reggie and tells him to try again. He can still sort by colour and style and stuff, but he can’t see prices. If he hits his budget, the things that cost too much turn red.
(He only figures that out because he adds something he knows is really expensive, like a hoverboard, to his basket, just to see where the limits of this ‘budget’ lie. And is then very flustered because hoverboards are very very expensive, so he’s allowed to pick out a hoverboard plus like, seven sets of pants worth of stuff?)
In the end, he picks out a lot of black. Because it hides stains, unless you’re cleaning with bleach, and also it’s what the pilots wear as their uniform and pilots are really cool. Black jeans (Ray and Carlos are wearing jeans.) Black shirts. Black shoes. But then he stumbles on a very soft looking red plaid shirt, and there’s an option to have the fabricator make a square inch of test fabric for free. And it’s so very, very soft. He rubs the fabric between his fingers while he selects that shirt, and follows the ‘more like this’ links to several more items. A hoodie. Some pairs of thick socks. A little black leather bracelet, which feels like the height of luxury.
His room already has a non-standard issue bed, desk, and dresser, but Ray reassures him that he can pick something else and they can feed these to the fabricator to get back some of the credits if he doesn’t like them. (He does like them. They look like wood, and the mattress on the bed is so comfortable.) He picks out a thick blanket that’s fuzzy on the inside, and a lamp that looks like a floating moon, and then, because there’s still budget left, a little statue of a horse, just to have something to put on the dresser.
He picks out a nice soft green for his walls, with a picture of rolling plains with long grass and a forest to cover one wall. He and Carlos sit on his bed and watch as the nanobots convert the boring gray walls, and that’s pretty cool too.
-Yes he gets his own stocking and it’s full of fun things (Carlos is mad at his parents they got Reggie socks, but Reggie loves his new socks. They have little pizzas on them!). His favourite is the little cube that projects stars on his ceiling, though.
-Of course Rose and Ray get him a dog for Christmas. It’s been haunting Rose ever since she read his answer on the questionnaire. It’s the last present of the day, and when Reggie opens his eyes, he immediately starts crying.
Carlos is very worried that he picked the wrong puppy, but Reggie assures him these are good tears, even though he can’t stop crying. They end up in a family group hug for like an hour, the puppy crawling from lap to lap.
Reggie names him Cosmo and he’s all ready to get a part-time job to make sure he has enough credits to feed him until Rose says no, the dog is family too, you don’t need to worry about that, Reggie.
-Reggie gets to go to school and it’s kind of terrifying but also really interesting. His reading and writing classes are mostly with adults and older teens who are going through apprenticeships, so thankfully he’s not stuck with the four and five year olds like he was worried he’d be. His math classes are with other freshmen, since he’s needed numbers for his job and he already knows basic math.
He meets Luke and Alex and Bobby in math class, and Luke immediately grabs him to be their fourth on the little pod of tables, because he’s new and thus interesting and otherwise Nick might have asked to join their group.
-Reggie has no idea what’s supposed to be wrong with Nick. He seems nice. Later, Bobby whispers it’s because Luke is jealous of Nick because his crush likes Nick more than she likes Luke. Luke threatens to stab him with a stylus while Alex rolls his eyes and discusses the next question with Reggie.
-Reggie likes his new friends, even if he doesn’t always understand their references.
-Julie introduces Reggie to her friends as well. He and Flynn get along great, since she takes everything he knows and doesn’t know and says in stride. Flynn only sees Cool Opportunities to introduce him to stuff like ‘mixing 4 soda powders together before putting them in the hydrator’ and ‘hiphop’.
Carrie kind of scares him. She’s one of those people who has enough credits to shoot Reggie out of an airlock and still get away scot free, and sometimes she looks like she’s contemplating just that. She sometimes scoffs when he doesn’t know something or says something ignorant (or poor), but usually a glare for Julie or Flynn mellows her out.
But she’s also the first to absolutely destroy some jerk who tries to make fun of Reggie for not knowing how to read. And when she learns that the clothes Reggie is wearing are his first non-free fabricator clothes, she drags him and Julie and Flynn to something called a ‘thrift store’. It has stuff that either wasn’t fabricated at all, but was brought here from colonies or even Earth. It had stuff that was limited edition and thus couldn’t be fed back into the fabricator. And stuff that was donated by people who either didn’t need to feed stuff back into the fabricator, or for some reason didn’t want to. Lots of designers apparently donated their collections to the Thrift Store.
And yeah, Rose and Ray gave Reggie an allowance but it wasn’t like he had a lot saved up. And what he did, some part of him still thought he should hold on to, even though he was pretty convinced Rose and Ray weren’t sending him back.
To which Carrie scoffed and was like ‘please my dad won’t even notice if I buy out this whole store, we are getting you a statement piece and that is final’.
They have a great time trying on all kinds of weird and wonderful and silly clothes, though. Flynn and Julie make him wear a fuzzy neon orange bucket hat and try to convince Carrie that This Is It This Is His Statement Piece, until she threatens to buy it for him and he scrambles to convince her he was just joking. The way she laughs at him doesn’t feel mean, and he lets himself laugh too.
He ends up falling in love with an actual, real, non-fabricator leather jacket that fits him like a glove. He even loves the smell of it, real and earthy. Carrie refuses to let him see the price as she scans the tag and pays for it, and he thanks her over and over. He even, in his best penmanship, writes her a thank you note (which he’s seen Carlos and Julie do to their grandparents on a colony when they sent Christmas presents) and gives it to her at school the next day.
He pretends not to see her tear up, and she pretends not to notice he spelled her name wrong.
-Reggie tries to contact his mom through the messaging system but all his messages get denied. He’s worried she’s maybe in trouble, so one day he puts on his old standard issue uniform and sneaks into the kitchens, only to find that his mom doesn’t work there anymore. She got a better job, one of her old coworkers says, and has a nice unit for herself now. Last time he saw her, she was eating out wearing some nice non-standard issue clothing, having cocktails with her new friends.
He doesn’t try and find her after that. He goes to his room and uses some of his pocket money to make the room soundproof and cries and cries until he can’t cry anymore. And then lies to Rose when she comes home and says he just had a frustrating homework assignment.
Ray sits with him that night and helps him sound out his reading, and doesn’t comment when Reggie maybe leans in a little. He even wraps his arm around him, giving him a little squeeze and a ‘proud of you, mijo’ when he finishes the chapter.
-Rose teaches him piano, and in his music class, he learns guitar. Luke is incredibly excited about that, and will let him practice on Luke’s guitar for hours, helping him adjust his fingers and showing him chords.
-Later he switches to bass, because Luke has talked about wanting to start a band, and they don’t have a bass player yet. He likes the deep tones, and Rose and Ray get him a bass guitar for his birthday.
-Birthdays! Who knew there was more to them than a little free cupcake from the fabricator? Not Reggie!