Life in a Pretty, Shiny Dystopia by Chipka ()
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It was late night, and in a few minutes, another squadron of TSDs would fly low and make their programmed sweep of quiet city streets. They were CONHAL factory output: the finest government contract output any company might dream of making, and CONHAL scored it. Adam didn’t know how he felt about that: he knew a few who lived in constant fear of that reality: fear of CONHAL...fear of Leydon...fear of Swaan Bioteque. The company hives had been a different thing when Adam was a kid, when he was old enough to run the streets with Tang and Topper, and stupid enough to rent brain-space to companies now swallowed by CONHAL Security. He never really knew what those pre-CONHAL companies ran through him, though Tang and Topper (before they disappeared) said that he might have residue. They’d offered to run a bit of their quantum-digital voodoo and sniff it out, to burn it onto disk and drop it right into his sweaty, grubby palm. They were nice in their offer, leaving it up to him to decide what to do with what they found, leaving it up to him to decide if they should get a cut of whatever money he’d scored as a result of their slick and snazzy work. But then...
...like kid-show magic, they disappeared without so much as a by your leave a see you later, or even a casual, final screw it, we’re gone. Nothing. It was like watching vampires before sunrise: one minute they’re promising to pull ghost data from chemo-burned synapses: the next...it’s late-night in the city, and they’re nowhere to be seen.
On nights like tonight, Adam was afraid of what residue he might carry in the meat of his brain. CONHAL’s Tactical Survey Drones were able to read minds as some of the streets’ dumber kids maintained. And he’d heard the stories: about drones no larger than a fly, crawling—like a fly—up the side of a building, just as casual as you please: only it wasn’t a fly. It was a mind reader, a data-sniffer after something that CONHAL wanted, something that CONHAL would get in whatever legal ways their lawyers would undoubtedly invent.
On nights like tonight, Adam was afraid of electromagnetic gnats, moths, and cockroaches. In a city like this, gleaming with neon and halogen and cheap advertising laser, any bug might have been just that: a bug of non-insect pedigree. A mind reader. A brain hacker/propaganda editor. A tentacle of the big corporation hives, digging for data in the most intimate, human spaces, or testing new ideas.
Adam hunched his shoulders against an imagined chill and fished a cigarette from his pocket. He listened to the drone of traffic and waited for the feeling of fear to prickle the hairs on the nape of his neck. That fear-feeling was always proof that TSDs were nearby, needling through the night in modulated electromagnetic cloaks. A guy never really ever saw the drones, but that same guy (with the right kind of knowledge) could feel them...and in sparse, late-night traffic, Adam lit his cigarette and waited for one particular feeling to tell him something he didn’t want to know.
* * *
Once I wrote a series of cyberpink stories involving hackers, culture jammers, and lifestyle architects. Topper and Tang were two such characters. Culture jammers. I wanted to revisit their world. I found myself wondering what happened to them. I suspect that things turned out as only they could when you're a culture hacker butting heads with a neo-capitalist society phase shifting into a quasi-living hive that broadcasts its mental activities through the medium of television: embedding its thoughts in humans who function as individual social synapses. I don't know if I want to return to that world or not, but like Adam (a new character) I do wonder what happened to those two nerd-hackers I was once so fond of.
As always, thank you for viewing, reading, and commenting, and I hope you're all having a great week.
Image Comments (15)
Excellent street scene. It fits the story very well. Fantastic writing. You really know how to set the mood. Technology may be catching up to your fiction. I worked in aerospace for thirty years and, as they say, if I told you everything I saw I'd have to kill you. I can tell you that we already have the miniaturization. The mind reading? I'm sure they are working on it.