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2021 - Sci Fi Fiction

Introduction

This is something I've worked on for the last week or so. It started as a distraction but I like where it's going.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 “Sig Sempur Tirinis” was scrawled on the cardboard sign. This same sign had greeted me, every morning, as I'd made my way to work for the past five years. The message was faded, damaged from time and weather. Though I remembered what the dull, mispelt words had once said.

As I stepped over the squatters I showed them my empty hands and shook my head. It was difficult moving through the free speech zone. It had once been a park. A long time ago, people would take their lunch breaks here. It was nicer then, even the pidgins have abandoned it now. Though I don't listen to music, I'd found a set of headphones and wore them to dissuade the political and religious zealots. Most seemed content to spout distant sermons at those who chose not to pay, or simply could not afford, the expedite tolls that permitted access to the public sidewalks. For the most part, and for this morning, it seemed to work.

Today was a good day. It started with half a cup of GDSC coffee. John, a friend at work, had recently vacationed in Florida and brought the maker code back with him. Sure, it wasn't exactly legal to traffic intellectual property from outside The City, but even if the GDSC signature were to come up on a scan he'd only have to surrender the data. Protocol was less severe if you could prove it was for personal use. And I had proven a year ago, after taking my vacation to Utah, that it was possible to bring back IPs without getting caught. I had brought an arrowhead. It was a souvenir from from a “History of Utah” guided tour. The tour came as part of my vacation package. I wasn't very interested in Utah and had spent most of the trip inside my hotel. I didn't particularly care about the thing, and at the time I had forgotten it was in my CityCloud. In fact I had only taken the vacation to see one of the last remaining bars in the country and didn't even know about it until John mentioned it. He'd found it in my drive while poking around for some code I had wrote. Apparently he was a collector of historical replicas and he had asked for it. So perhaps the coffee was his attempt at trade. Regardless, our friendship seemed founded on a communal felony. For that, I smirked. Or maybe it was just the twitch of synthetic caffeine.

My smirk grew to a smile while turning the corner. It wasn't raining today, either. That meant I wouldn't have to change when I got to work. Not only would the rain stain my clothes but the pollutants weren't allowed inside the building. If it had been I would need to trade them out for a fresh set when I arrive. The old ones would be reduced, salvaging what raw materials the makers could find. The salvage would be used to fit the next person. Then the value of the reclaimed material would be taken off the cost of my new set, minus administration, maintenance and upkeep fees. The AMU fees had only started a few years ago. A conservative Senator from New York tried to use the Unfair Competition Clause of the Freedom to Succeed law to stop a store in California from disclosing its operation costs. Giving the public a view in to the margins of a business was deemed disruptive. The Senator's first attempt had failed but no less than a year later he returned, this time as a hero of the progressive branch and instead of banning the practice he was able to push through a law that required every business follow this practice. At first it seemed to work, costs of certain services had come down. Though after only a few years of fines from regulators and inspectors most of the smaller businesses could not afford the cost. After they closed, prices slowly moved back up. Of course, in addition to the AMU's, all necessary taxes still applied.

I felt all the joy drain out of me when I saw her. When she spotted me she lowered her sign and broke off from marching circles with the picket parade that was chanting demands. It was time for my daily guilt trip. So close. I could see my building.

“Capitalist whore.”

Every day it starts like that.

“Hey, I know you can hear me in there you pig. You greedy child killing pig. Does it make you hard knowing you let little kids die.”

She walked alongside me now.

“I bet it gets you off, doesn't it. All that power - fuck the poor right?”

Every. Day.

I have no idea who she is but somehow she always finds me. She couldn't have been any older than I was but years living in the park had made her age difficult to discern. Her hair could have been red, or auburn, once. Now it was a tangled mess, the color of dirt or garbage. It looked like it had been braided in to dreadlocks at some point but those had obviously grown out long ago. She wore mens' clothing and the fabric had acquired the rust colored hue from when sweat, too much dead skin and gutter filth mixes with the rain water. Even her skin had, as with most of the park dwellers, bore the stains from surviving out of doors without Bacteri-Aid.

I crossed the street to my building, leaving her shouting behind. The chip in my badge opened the first set of doors. Even thought the technology for a full body scanned has existed and been in use for some time the buildings in this part of town still required a physical pat down to gain entry. I waited in line for my turn. When the time came I approached the yellow lines painted on the floor and waited again. It always feels like a trip to the doctor.

“Have you been touched by any strangers since you last left the building?”

“No”

“Do you have anything on your person that could do harm to yourself, others or my person?”

“No”

“Please remove your shoes, step forward on to the green footprints and stretch your arms out to the side.”

The repeated clench and pull of the pat downs are something I've never gotten used to. The inspector circled widely around me. From behind, they pushed my head forward, running fingers through my hair and around my ears. Then down, over my neck and shoulers. The hands ran over my arms, patted my sides then a finger was slipped in to my belt line and ran around my waist. The hands moved to the front, groped between my legs and a finger was run from front to back to ensure nothing being smuggled had become dislodged. The hands felt down each leg in tandem, nothing was hidden in my clothing. Nothing ever was.

Satisfied I had no explosives, homemade firearms or sharp objects I was cleared to proceed.

At the third check I was unable to go on. Normally, the light flickered while the health scanner was working. Once it stopped the green light would come on and the doors open. A safety officer with a handheld scanner entered through a door made to resemble the wall.

“Don't move please. This will only take a second.”

I waited while the officer passed the scanner over my body. It made sounds much like the metal detectors used by the airlines and maglevs. The officer grunted as he took one knee to scan the lower parts of my body. The scanner's screeched a high pitched whine as it passed over my shoes.

“Went through the park didn't yah? It rained last night. You're going to have to change out your shoes before coming in.”

Sighing, I took them off again and placed them in the dissambler. A few seconds later a new pair materialized in the maker chamber. I flashed my Digichit across the reader and the maker door opened with my new shoes. Finally cleared, I proceeded to the elevator.

I knew John would be in long before I arrived. I wonder if he sleeps at work. It had been a long standing practice for some companies to sublet space from their floor to other companies who used it to build sleep capsules. Employees could rent them at a discounted price and even be provided with basic amenities to use in the restrooms in the morning. I seldom worked longer than was required and never had any need of them.

But John wasn't at his console this morning. “Good for him”, I thought. I could barely put up with standing at my console for longer than a few hours, much less than what John was accustomed. I dropped my bag and approached the keyboard. The monitor had turned on when my badge came within the vicinity of the computer. The OCMC login screen was waiting for my login credentials. The animation looped over and over, multi colored balls each symbollizing a pillar of service to community, equality and sharing orbited the silver OCMC logo. I typed my username and password.

“lgorale:sigsempurtirinis”

For a second, something felt odd. Then the screen locked. This isn't normally what happens…

“Good Morning!”, said the woman's face that came on the screen.

“You've just participated in an internal security audit and have fallen victim to a controled phishing attempt. No cause for alarm, you haven't brought any harm to valuable customer or company data. However, this infraction has been logged and added as a topic for your quartlerly review. Please stand by for a mandatory phishing attack training program.”

I parroted the final few words, nothing I haven't heard before. Employees were supposed to check for the OCMC lock confirmation in the bottom left hand of the login screen before entering their information. The symbol meant the terminal was secure. I stood and let my mind drift off while the video played. There would be a quiz at the end. I had to pass it or try again. Three failures and you are sent to training. Fortunately, depending on your perspective, I already knew all the answers.

I decided to spend this time thinking about the park. Maybe it was because the day had started out so pleasently or maybe it was some other reason unknown to me but I couldn't get the thought from my mind. It wasn't exactly those people's fault they were there. All of them were refugees of some sort with no where else to go. The EV3 in the atmosphere certainly wasn't. Sure, we're told its harmless but it's not allowed to be brought in to any public buildings. Maybe it was the old man who held the sign. Strange how after so many years you forget about the person holding it and only see the sign. I can't remember when I stopped seeing the man and started only seeing the sign


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