A smooth, mellifluous voice drifted out over the cubicles.
"Units 4463 through 4493, you must now check out." I groaned inwardly, blinking my eyes in the sudden halogen light from above. I was unit 4466, so I had to check out. I looked around at my peers,(more) each taking their sweet time down from their Designated Ether-Supplement Kiosks (D.E.S.Ks). Most were still checked in, stretching their limbs and wiggling their fingers--anything that looked like they weren't stalling. The phosphorescent tubes still wound their way up their chairs and burrowed into the backs of their heads.
No one who worked for Ether-Supplement Inc liked to check out. After being hooked up to the Ether-Supplement for weeks at a time, it was hard to feel any desire to return to the hard knock lives we were all living. After all, donating Ether-Supplement was a poor man's job.
In 2042 when Bain paid for the discovery of Ether extractors, the divide between the rich and poor was solidified once and for all. The technology for keeping a body alive and young had long since been perfected, but science ran into a barrier they never expected. Rich people were still dying. They would reach a certain point--well past a normal life span but still not eternam--and just sort of fade away. Soon Ether was discovered.
Religious fanatics and various humanitarian groups hated it from the start and rallied against it saying that the human soul was not for sale and trade. The human soul was renamed Ether for publicity reasons. They created vast labs with DESKs that provided ultimate comfort as we slept. We were put into sleep states where we dreamed of all the luxuries we'd never have. Now, once their souls begin to die, they buy another.
I sighed and checked out.(less)