Short Story: Fractured Nets

I don’t know what more can be said on the Paris Incident, but I know the Eur-Asiatic invasion was never avoidable. Sooner or later, all the Corps knew, the Great Wall would break and spill itself into the rest of the world.

Europe would always bear the brunt of it. Sooner or later, it was inevitable. There was nothing to do but steady on and hope. When the wave hit, we were either prepared enough to weather it, or prosperous enough to rebuild.

The Web 2.0 crash changed that.

What didn’t it do, really? It gave Corps more power; gave people something new to get high on; gave the builders exactly what they wanted. Most of all, people got a new reason to keep slogging through the daily grind of human existence. If only for a while.

The net-fracture was the unexpected treat helping to further cement our complacency. It kept us that much further from, as a whole, exploding into all out anarchy. The after-image showed what was really possible; what was really going on.

We couldn’t have known the extent of things then. The rebellion wasn’t public yet. There was no resistance to speak of. To us, its leaders were still pissants from a new generation of tech-heads and nerds stretching back before Lord Gates and his Microsoft billions. It was there progress had originated, had rooted through and mined all the veins it could.

Why re-tread ground in some other, only-vaguely dissimilar way, hoping for more greatness?

We, the public, were thinking of rocks when we should’ve been thinking about diamonds– the next overabundant, meaningless resource we could place arbitrary value on.

That concept was simply beyond most people though. The rest didn’t care to think on it. The true Human weakness, as a species, is its inability to recognize irony. Irony which dictates our immense capability for emotion yet forces us to live so stubbornly in one state. Humanity, that is. That same irony forces us to identify so wholly with those emotions, we refuse even the possibility of upsetting them.


And pathetic.

If we’d paid attention even half-a-second longer than normal, we’d have seen reality crashing down on us. It didn’t require clairvoyance or precognition. Just attention. It was the same thing that had been happening. It was another merger, another monopoly, but of a context we didn’t recognize for little more than a merger then.

Web 2.0 buckled beneath the weight of its own propaganda. It was no longer a people’s gathering ground. It was a bloated creature of pus and bile cleverly disguised with warm themes and cunning language. It had many jobs, but all of them cutting; it was a masochist’s playground.

What took its place was a former dark-net, the former dark-net. The Darknet itself was merely a moniker, a name for the conglomerate of hackers and wannabes running tech gear with masking programs and no data-loggers. What no-one realized was how much more power they got when the nets fractured.

People wanting to, and working against the system, found a way to do just that. The corporations had inadvertently dug their own graves. Everyone knew it eventually, saw it for what it was, but it took time to figure out. Even longer to force the dying corps into the ground.

In simplest terms, the internet fractured from one, interconnected and ubiquitous system, to several whose interconnection was often one-way. That is to say, the light-net was accessible via the Dark-net, but not the other way ’round. The purpose was two-fold: The nature of the Darknet’s inherent security required safe-guards that barred all but the most complicated external access; while the corps wanted to ensure no-one from the light-net– or inside, got out.

The corps attempted to create digital moats around fortress-cities, more or less succeeding until Darknet users fired back through cracks in the system. The sparse revelations of the light-net’s flaws eventually led the Resistance to take hold, using such attacks only when it was most beneficial. They were sparse until the light-net responded with quietly-tightened security. By then, only the most die-hard loyalists and their confused kin, bothered using it.

The Corps’ biggest mistake will forever be stagnating, never evolving. That seems obvious in retrospect, but it wasn’t then. People didn’t see the true force of creation Corps inevitably were. Of that, they most certainly were a creation of Humanity, by any empirical standards, and represented a new entity for the cosmic field-guide.

They weren’t quite alive, but they existed. They were particularly cunning, if only by way of hive intelligence. They could defend themselves through guard-dog lawyers and corp-sec ops. Most of all, they needed sustenance to survive. For a corp, that was money.

Corps could not survive without money. They lived and consumed,able to starve to death, one lay off after another,if not careful.The corps never did learn that.

At least, not until it was far too late.

No CEO or Board of Directors saw the truth for what it was; in the eyes of the machine, no-one was meant to be immune. Execs may not have been as susceptible to predation as most of the machine’s prey, but their money could feed the beast too. The way it was meant to be– between the beast or their money, was that the beast was allowed to win or it was game-over for everyone.

That is what the Corps never learned.

So, they fell to ruin in the shambles of their own stubbornness. Board-room warriors without any, real battle-prowess had been inbred for generations. Their ilk were now men whom grew fat off luxury even when besieged. Etiquette and protocol were ignorantly bred into those unsuited for their inherited stations. Dimwits became indistinguishable from honorable workhorses, until everyone ended up covered in shit from the fan.

And all the while, smiting their underlings; tightening fists to squeeze unneeded pennies from stone, lest it fatten a competitor’s bottom-line instead. It wasn’t done so brazenly of course, but what is?It was done “for efficiency,” “freedom.”

Corporate cards became conveyors of private, digital bit-currency run by the issuing corp, and useless elsewhere. Everything was handled by their software, and on their servers. A corp no longer gave a paycheck, it totaled your life’s exchanges digitally, deciding if you were in the red or black based on various work and purchase statistics.

Then the crash came, and the nets fractured.

As prepared as we could be, the first bits of wall and water rained down almost imperceptibly. Then, the Great Wall broke. The markets and nets flooded with people clamoring for pieces. New corps, new private-companies, subsidiaries, and assets.

In time of course, the Corps simply bought everything up, called it diversifying, and settled back into the groove with the board more cluttered with their assets than before..

Until then however, the fracture was doing something much more subtle and profound; it was funneling value into a universal currency. One only growing by the moment. That, by virtue of the technology backing it, was completely untraceable. It didn’t need to be. The currency was good anywhere and could be traded for anything. The issuer and purchase system were completely moot.

What mattered was money coming and going, somehow. That it came and went, and something was exchanged for it. That currency infected the world like a computer virus downloaded and opened a billion times a day, and spreading its influence with each iteration.

The Web 2.0 crash, in its roundabout way, was the closest thing to a miracle in the modern, digital day that could exist. It was completely prompted, expected, even programmed for. Yet the forces of mutation existing through-out the universe brought upon an anomaly that more or less solved– thus-far– an eternal problem; money. Mostly, backing its value.

How? Data.

What better than data? Data was the byproduct of all things. From the smallest subatomic particle to the universe itself, everything either is data or generates it by existing because it is record-able as data. The universe is composed of such preposterous amounts of information it can never be fully obtained. It can neither lose nor accrue value, because it simply is. Data is a constant. It is a single, fertile, and ever-replenishing thing by virtue of its nature.

Its size, so immense, can never be fully envisioned. It is the horizon of our observable universe and still more. Infinitely more. Information is everything. Our linking to that information, in form, matters not; only that we link. So why not make the information’s divisions, its pieces or bits, the backing of currency?

The idea mattered more than anyone could’ve anticipated.

Bit-currency was more than just a new dollar. It was something bigger. Something universal. Stable. It could be poked and prodded– mined– whenever needed. Something that let us do our thing, shut out the bullshit long enough to make sense of what was really happening, still come away with the bills paid. We didn’t need governments or Corps fighting over whether or not they’d take our hard-earned money because one person’s dollar meant less than another’s.

And just like that, creds were out and bits were in.

The Web 2.0 Crash left us entirely outside expectations. It was the anomaly in the system. The new-age Big-Bang. The final bit of pressure that cracked a nut. It opened our eyes to our ability to collectively will a problem’s solution into place. Let’s not worry about money anymore. Let’s just know it’s there when we need it, and can earn it if we’re willing.

Bit currency did just that whether you were a thief, an architect, a corp-exec, or a wage-slave. Bits simplified everything.

And all that time, the masses were figuring that out; counter-cultured, shadow-dwelling, Resistance leaders were lining their pockets with it. For years, they’d hoarded stockpiles of information. Even when no-one else was looking, and were still thinking about e-creds and dollars and yen, they’d been hoarding and squirreling it away.

The world willed it, but they made it happen; the black-markets, the shadow people, the hackers and wannabes and forward thinkers. And they all made off with that money-trailing after them, cackling like mad as we gawked, utterly destitute and morally bankrupt from the turbulence in the former money-system.

One that, like that version of us, no longer existed.

More than anything, the power of the net’s fracture told more than we realized; that it had always been there, the fault-line. We were always warned and told to be aware of our actions, and the workings beneath us. Yet we weren’t. The fracture was the result. It’s a shame it took so much bad to develop such good, but at the very least, it’ll never happen again….


Short Story: Digital Tsunami

The light-net’s fracture was the trigger to a digital tsunami that came in three, tidal depths. Its waters receded further each time, yet rose, preparing to drown the world. Preparation was most obvious in the power-user groups, often tech and software companies full of innovators. When their innovation gave way to investment and castling; withdrawing from the public behind their own, flood-proof walls, danger was imminent. Those doors remained open long enough for the last, aging gen-x’ers to hustle in, then shut for good before a stillness set about.

It lasted all of thirty-seconds before the first, vomitous tidal-wave poured in.

Users craving net-fixes of gray-market things turned to the dark-net. The one-time loose affiliation of shadow users known only by their silhouettes and negative space, were connected via specific protocols to form a world-wide net as vast as the light-net. Indeed, formed seemingly of its own, collective will. Exclusive clubs and cliques, hidden from public scrutiny for decades, were exposed without warning to oft-voiced, petty or righteous anger.

Simply, light was shed across darkness into even its deepest corners.

The effects too, came in waves. The worst dark-net offenses drowned first from corporate bodies and watch-dog groups, even PTA and church congregations, all rallying against the trafficking and murder-for-hire it was notorious for. These things, existent regardless of action, were merely avenues for opportunists using the net’s openness to communicate. (Later, the avenues to corporate domination.)

Most readily agreed to the moderation, but it was the cunning cruelty of their strategy that allowed them to use such shame and fear in unseating people. The precedent set, it could now be used to order and occupy them.

All the same, silence only made people less aware of their own existence– that of the individual. Worse still, within that silence was a vaccination formed of mixes of outrage, fury, and righteous validation. Those not inoculated against their future’s diminishing rights felt tremors brewing. It was only the second wave that finally swept them off and into the world.

If the first wave made the former dark-net lighter, the second immolated it.

Users founded and contributed to communities the same way they had when the light-net was built in, but in an age following the (CDCA) Corporate Digital Communications Act, which banned sedition or dissent in all corp-owned blogs, forums, and chat rooms or their subsidiaries.

The new light-net could look identical to its former self, but along with reasonable, civil discourse, even lamentations vilifying certain corp-assets was grounds for legal action. To those relying solely on public access, but fundamentally wishing structured debate in a calm order, the net seemed unrecognizable.

Even before the second wave, the Darknet was ordering itself into a functioning organism, as yet not entirely hell-bent on scum and villainy. It was never meant to stay so. Such is the way of the human frontier. No matter the subject, nomadic susceptibility exists within all humans. The ideal goal therein, creating so much between camps that each becomes interconnected with the rest. The net was that, and more.

But the nature of the universe demands chaos. Thus chaos dominates where it can.

Once loose affiliations climbed toward critical mass with new light-net users, their formerly-open discussions censored by those shouting dissenting opinions. These first, biased few were quickly swatted down, banned, and otherwise digitally reprimanded. It would do little good, in time proving them merely sacrificial lambs for those seeking to establish controls and boundaries.

Rank scents of money and greed began tainting communities.

Once-proud, vocal proponents of free speech and net rights went silent, bought by corporate affiliates or coaxed into relaxing certain restrictions while tightening others. It wasn’t long before the corporate take-over manifested in certain, glaring changes that otherwise would go unnoticed if natural. Though some argument to their validity existed, few doubted corporate involvement in the incidents, most simply did recognize its importance.

The second wave hit without ceremony. Its effects, undeniable. Soon more and more boards– of questionable repute but ultimately victimless, disappeared; illicit drug swaps, sexual expression, even banes for corp-aligned politics, gone. Their eradication was slow, timed. The only proof for members’ wrongdoing when reported, those of dubious, “friend of friend” sources.

The new light-net was nearly complete, now gray to off-white.

Drawn by media frenzies– engineered by parent corporations to gain information on citizenry– new users flooded the former dark-net. Their renewed vigor promised supposed freedom, a veneer for the reality of controlling, corporate interests. Even then, many speculated of newer, more clandestine dark-nets forming regardless of skepticism.

Indeed, that second wave saw the rise of operators. Former tech-nerds in hideaways, safe-houses, and literal holes in walls of crumbled infrastructure bought out and never used. They were there, establishing new net-protocols and servers even they might forget the location of, to further protect against centralized nets.

The system’s redundancy was perpetuated by its nature. “The Darknet,” would be the unshakable foundation upon which a permanent system could be established and relied upon. In wake of the Paris Incident, it became that, and much, much more.

The third and final wave directly preceded the Paris Incident, catalytic nexus-point for change that it was. What darkness had remained was deloused in glaring floodlights; corporations could never censor information altogether, but could vicariously outlaw access to it.

And did.

Under the guise of new tele-comm acts, and by degrees of outlawing any person or group from interacting with so-termed “threats,” all possible room for discussion, dissent, or sedition vanished. What remained of free-expression was outright banned or manipulated into suiting corporate aims and bottom-lines. Everything from pornography to inflammatory anti-corp language became grounds for search, seizure, and arrest.

That final wave signaled the last remnants of the digital tsunami rolling through. It began and ended so quickly people couldn’t help finding themselves reeling. In it however, came the formation of a true Darknet, its decentralized existence and expert, ever-changing encryption, their shield and sword– and later, the resistance cells’ blood and spine.

Through simple coordination and code, the Darknet allowed information exchange while maintaining a one-way link to the light-net for intel. In effect, the digital tsunami seeking to drown the people showed them their true strength, allowing not only their survival, but their prosperity. The Darket’s inherent security allowed any willing, to access it, but few undevoted, to understand it. Extra precautions in its planning allowed operators on either end to pass free communications over encrypted channels.

Its openness allowed it to remain an entity capable of safe-guarding freedom and liberating oppression.

When the waters finally receded, little debate existed over the Darknet’s permanence. It could not be taken over. Especially not as before. Its connections were remote, isolated, only exchanged via masked, encrypted data requiring specific codes to crack. Every person in the world could try until the end of existence, and still not crack one key. Even so, the chance at intercepting one in the din makes it pointless to try.

It was built for that very reason; as a bulwark against future tsunamis engineered to sink it by over-intelligent, impetuous babes. The framework is modular, but thus adaptive, infinite. It cannot be conquered, because the idea is not capable in its system.

In the end, information– avarice of the corps, proved their greatest enemy. Poisoned by the limitless liberty of their own wine, their downfall became freedom for all. After all was said and done, their corpses were merely breeding grounds for carrion, as equally as indifferent as they’d been. Those long left behind picked bones and scraps as scavengers were wont to do. Meanwhile humanity lined the oceans with towers and soaked in the view together, no longer afraid of any storm to come.