Guardians of Liberty: Part 20

20.

When the Cat’s Away…

N1T3 needed two things to repair the power. The damaged main component and light to work. He had neither. Problem was, he’d thought he had both. It turned out his cache of supplies had corroded in the humidity, eroding the protective coatings on PCBs and metals.

Not a problem for higher grade parts, but his were cheapest-grade metals. Stuff mass-stamped and printed in low-grade metal and plastic. Cost-effectiveness: double-speak for the most money with the least cost– ie, the highest ratio of sticking it to consumer-vs-likelihood of their rebelling.

Just another instance of the beast eating itself for want of control, N1T3 knew.

All the same, it meant going out again. A risk. More than that, a bad idea. No-one he knew would’ve allowed it. Corp-sec was out for blood. They had every intent and hope of taking it.
Blood. His blood; for exposing the illusion and corruption around them.

But he had to go. He knew the mistake’s repercussions wouldn’t be fully revealed for a while to come, but his gut said they were inevitable, inexorable. No human could deny that gut knowing, only defy it.

He had no choice.

The server fluxing meant it was just a matter of time before power went down. Even if he hadn’t been reliant on this and another hidden server, he’d have needed to come out and repair it A-SAP. It was almost unbecoming of his skill that he’d missed it thus far.

Forgivable as it was, he hadn’t checked his remote back-end. Not after Riter’s, losing the pier by luring Corp-sec there. Ket’s. He always knew it would be impossible to recover fully, but he’d had to give Ozell something to lead him to Ket, whose hands were all over this.

N1T3 had known the moment Ozell caught his scent, he was living on borrowed time. Getting caught in should-be-needless maintenance was taking more of what he already didn’t have. He needed time– to find some. But how?

He shuffled back and forth in the flat’s rear-room, prepping himself for the run and knowing any mistake could cost him everything. He ran through the plan’s broad-strokes, knowing the run would take him into populated areas.

Head down. Face hidden. Hands and creds only. Lift what’s too suspicious. Pay for the rest.

He grabbed an empty pack, jammed a couple essentials in it just in case, and started out.

Ostensibly, he’d placed himself to be separated not only from the general populous, but also, easy discovery within the place he’d sequestered himself. He’d managed not only general obscurity, but finer obscurity via exploratory disincentives.

As before, true security. Not an illusion of it. The only kind you can have; from confidence, and in having done all you can. The rest was knowing you must simply await the dice-roll.

He slipped into the empty street and dropped into the sewer. His server alerts had pinged him just after he’d fled Riter’s. He couldn’t have known they’d pinged, but he had worked out their cause. The broader one, not just the cheap components.

Word was getting out: through Ket first, her fountain. Then, $trydr’s servers. Riter had the whole place wired for personal surveillance. It would’ve been rolling during Corp-sec’s inspection. He’d run a search once he was back, but a growing number of power-hungry systems accounted for the flux.

Rome was coming online.

Weakened or cheap components often failed from unexpected voltage or amperage fluxes. It was the reason common PCs had used surge protectors for decades. Stress on a component, even if previously untouched nor taxed, fluxed from the grid’s excess draws. The fluxes themselves outright destroyed cheap or weakened components. Rather than a riding a steady strength of current, his had alternated minutely, frying a component’s conduits.

The why was the important part. Simply, more people were connecting to the grid and it was stressing what was already connected. What wasn’t prepped for it, was dying off.

Had to be net-based. Electronics usage didn’t double or triple without good reason. Nothing apart from the net was worth so quickly and cheaply tapping into.

N1T3 breathed, almost relieved; it was spreading.

He hesitated at a corner of a sewer line, angled right, and followed it into London’s populated outskirts. Auto-cars and non-drone delivery vehicles rumbled overhead between occasional, vibratory whirs of pub-trans vehicles.

The increase overhead came with the deafening roar of better-maintained sewer-lines. Still large enough for a man, but only just. N1T3 had to crouch, half-squat as if stealthing in-game. He kept his mind off it searching the echoes for water beneath, otherwise meditating on his revelation.

Fountains were spreading because digital information had pipelines. If it didn’t, he couldn’t have built his fountains, the repository-aquifiers that were his (and other hackers’) servers. They were the ones leeching the flow of power. He’d check later to verify, but the draw on the source would be equal, if so.

As water could not be drawn on without also draining it, one could not use the net without sucking power. Neither could not function without the other. That was the essence of postdigital reality. Innate as it was for N1T3, extending that knowledge to both micro and macro-level scales ensured he understood fully; the idea was spreading.

And Fast. The heat doubled with it. Again. He’d have to move even faster now, or he’d fail them all. The idea was spreading. Power was being redistributed to the people, but it needed proper dissemination to complete the vision. Postdigital reality required disseminating any accumulated resources immediately to those around, beside, above, and below. It was the automation of automation. If it did not function thus, it was useless, and so was he.

“He” however, also happened to represent true resistance to oppression. Recognizing it or not, everyone would be effected by his successes and failures. Fear brewed in his gut, quickly replaced by far more powerful forces of determination and conviction.

Reinvigorated, he doubled his pace.

The ever roaring cross-rumble above made his teeth begin to ache. Ahead, the line would split, turn him from sideline into mainline as the ground sloped and the pipes grew larger. When they leveled, allowing N1T3 to stand once more, he kept his gait short.

He knew better than to move any faster. He’d breached the perimeter of mainland populous, but he wouldn’t stick around or go deeper than necessary. That was why he’d come here.

The only inconspicuous street-access near anything resembling civilization was just beyond the edge of a piss-reeking alley. Mold, mildew, grime and soot climbed the alley walls, painting them a unique brand of filthy that smeared fine details into obscurity.

Civilization was deserted, yet-busy enough not to notice him. Even in the off-hour. He could grab everything he needed from the nearby convenience store.

He followed the alley toward a corner, beneath a small, lighted alcove; a routing area for the above-block’s power cabling. Situated in the zenith of the Alley’s grade so as to always avoid standing water, it was yet another necessity of concrete jungle-living. Though more primitive, these systems and pipelines more or less mirrored that of the net itself. Rather than supplying it directly however, it supplied its backbone; electricity.

It was the sign of its permanence. That such a spine existed meant tech was part of the landscape. That wasn’t changing anytime soon. N1T3 just needed to ensure it was known and capitalized on by the right people.

He made himself scarce; if he were cut off of caught near the entrance he’d have to find another way past corp-sec, their swarming loyalists.

N1T3 scoffed to himself, then rounded the alley corner for the street. Nobody was a loyalist to a system. Loyalty required connection on a level systems simply couldn’t contain. Though Humans and their love for pattern recognition allowed them to be enthralled by them, their nature remained unchanged.

What it amounted was the only person loyal to a corporation was either a fool or deeply confused. More often, the latter; however loud and voluminous the former.

Really, what people were loyal to beyond themselves, were ideas. Their own, reflected ideals of them therein. Any self-aware Human that took the time, saw that in an instant. Even if put it to different terms, “mine first” was the mentality.

N1T3’s vision so encompassed that idea, thereby affirming it via his own success, that he’d taken it the next logical step. Mine first, but after everyone’s we was ensured. The reason why was obvious: there wasn’t a guarantee of anything for anyone otherwise. That needed to change.

He kept his head down the block-and-a-half it took to reach the shop. He slipped in, careful to flip his hood off and shake the cold from his hair. Any more or less was suspicious. He kept his back and side to the cameras he knew were covering the entrances and exits, hid his face from the clerk by checking a pocket.

He hustled away, hidden in plain-sight. Careful of the occupied aisle, he sped past. Someone there; obvious in dreadful hints of desperation and shitty, night-shift coffee. Wage-slave, pseudo-loyalist folk; male by N1T3’s guess at the store’s layout. In its ol’ fashion, wannabe porn-mag aisle. The one its society was too polite to admit to having.

N1T3 loved the juxtaposition. The wannabe-exemplar and would-be smut. It was the essence of postdigital living. The duality of life. Of binary idiocy and indifference– because it was both and so much more.

And about to bring him to the precipice of death.

N1T3 slipped past the occupied aisle, completely unaware of the utter boredom of the wage-slave. To his credit, the guy was lucky to have seen him at all. So absorbed was he in his pseudo-culture, he’d been obsessing over Martin Black since his appearance in the media. He was fascinating for all the most mysterious reasons.

But because of the wage-slave’s system, interesting was bad. It had been hammered into the drones of corporate-moulding that anything wishing so intimately to be known was a bad thing. That was not exactly the case, N1T3 knew. Rather, it was the thing’s methods, the avenues it took toward infamy and fame, that dictated whether it was a “bad thing” or not.

The man was a dormant, would-be N1T3, catching the actual N1T3’s passing.

Before N1T3 had even rounded the next aisle’s corner, the man was carefully fleeing to alert his overlords.

N1T3 wouldn’t have blamed him, even if aware and given a chance.

Instead, he grabbed his purchases, subtly palmed and pocketed the rest, and approached the clerk. They avoided eyes as long as possible, said nothing as the few, minor items rang audibly through the silence.

Then; sirens screaming. Buzzing drones. Heavy, armored vehicles roared into earshot.

He eyed the clerk, instantly knowing he’d recognized him. More than that, the lightning exchange between he and N1T3 confirmed he’d not only pegged him the moment he’d come in, but hadn’t exposed him.

The place was one body less and the clerk’s eyes said it.

“The back. Go.”

N1T3’s eyes met the man’s, exchanging volumes. He knew him, if only by reputation. It wouldn’t have taken much to connect N1T3 to Martin Black, the two to him. The tacit admission of dire kinship was enough. Yet his gratitude could never be repaid.

He fled for store’s rear-exit, grabbed a pair of heavy, glass bottles as he passed. He jack-rabbited into the alley behind the store. Corp-sec’s first commands fanned out man and drone alike. Boots and shouts surged for the shop. Drones soared upward. N1T3 caught a flicker of one just as he dove into cover beneath an awning and behind a dumpster.

The sky was hidden, but any chance of escape meant moving. Fast.

He chanced a peek around the alcove’s corner. Saw drones pass the alley. One broke off to investigate. He shrank back behind the dumpster. The giant, buzzing bee lumbered overhead, looking for all the world like a drink-carrier had fucked an RC-plane. Funny as it looked, N1T3 wasn’t laughing. No-one would have. Not when the Bee’s belly was loaded with dual 20mm cannons.

He took a deep breath and shrank further from sight. The drone hovered 6 meters up, its optics and software working to scan every inch of the visible area ahead. It could’ve easily entered the narrow space of the alcove, found him behind the dumpster.

He relaxed.

It hadn’t, likely wouldn’t. Its code didn’t require it to in this instance. For now, there was an acceptable margin of error. That wouldn’t last if the drones went on-alert.

The heiress to the drink-carrying fortune finally lumbered past, continuing along its path to scan. He waited until it was safely behind him, then bolted for the alley-exit. He hesitated there, peering out; Massive, turreted APCs and ninja-treated SUVs blocked the roads nearest the shop.

Bodies were already moving about, forming up at various points. They hadn’t reached the alley yet. Didn’t think the clerk would play them.

N1T3’s jaw set; Militarized tax-payer dollars could never have funded this. These weapons of war were made from corporate dollars, and the only kind of war corporations waged was for their bottom-line– against anything. The only reason for such weapons, N1T3 knew, was to fight the very people funding their construction; corp-consumers.

He felt bile rise and made his move.

N1T3 skirted the street in two, long strides, intending to cross into the next alley. He’d go into one; round for the other, then swing-back around for his entry point. If he found others before there, he’d drop in.

The middle of his first stride, a faint shout. Young. Male. Some punk-kid still shooting blanks. Then, chaos. Madness. Screams. N1T3’s. Passers. Corp-sec’s. Sprinting, panting. Gunfire.

N1T3 found himself tumbling into an open sewer-line, completely unaware of how he’d gotten there. He’d managed to seal it up on the way in but hit cement with wet knees, his hands working but vision fading.

A moment later, he was against a wall and darkness was taking over.

His head fell to see his legs splayed awkwardly, wet knees barely visible in darkness. His hands were covered in more darkness– warm this time. He looked down to the darkness as it grew in his hands and over his eyes. Some seemed to be originating from his mind, some where leaking out into daylight.

The rest leaked from his abdomen, trickling from expanding tufts of white gradually darkening to red.

Then, nothingness.

Short Story: Natural Forces

Culture killed the corps. Lack of it, really.

Culture never fit with the rest of the Corporation as an entity. In retrospect, it was the tell-tale sign of their self-awareness. Culture’s a byproduct of collective, self-aware entities and their existence. Corporate culture though was bland and cold. Real culture was far too vibrant to be mistaken for the non-entity that was Corp culture.

It was night and day.

And in the minds of most people, that’s what it became. The cold, bland, workaday world for wage-slaves and sell-outs. The rest was night. And because of light pollution the corps sold us with bullshit lies, the nights were getting brighter and longer.

It wasn’t ’til Web 2.0 fractured that any change really became apparent though:

Digitally, Humanity had always looked like one, prosperous group formed of a melange of diversity. Fractured though, the two groups didn’t fit. Simply, one was much smaller– far too small to be doing what was being done. That defied visible reality.

Then came the black-market and the bit-currency boon. In the corporate world, the biggest fish ate first. For once though, the corps weren’t it.

Cameron Mobility sold the world its first Augment, but it was people that designed and built it. Specifically, black-marketpeople. In the same way open-source software was designed; in revision-states to rapidly hone designs through the dual forces of need and skill.

It was that same market, firmly ensconced in shadow and belonging to the palaces of thieves, hackers, fixers, their nets of scum and villainy, that finally did the world good.

Yes, the other bazaar. The digital one. Of blacks and whites. Ones and zeros. Where only desire and money existed. And only to serve one another. The same market that once pilfered tea, ran moonshine, hired out hitmen, and sold illicit goods globally.

It was the all-encompassing culture of need/want/payment. One of a new age going nowhere but forward and regardless of its supposed amorality. Nothing would stop it.

The why was simply; the culture really killing the corps was their own. Or rather, the veneer of one they’d formulated from the requirements for complicit employees. Corporate culture had no personability to it. At the end of a long day of number crunching, between work and dinner, no corporate occupier remained to cling to. No external influence for those few times it was needed.

Living without that inspired no security or comfort, and Humans rejected the unfamiliar.

The inherent flaw in the corporations’ system was that their sole concern was only and forever profit. It wasn’t profitable to be clung to; to keep the lights on after 5. To man the sails for the few nights that weren’t calm for the people temporarily below-decks.

After all, profits can’t be maximized with skeleton-crews costing the ship hazard-pay. Those were premium rate-times! Electricity was worth more then. Keeping lights on and people working thinned the margin. No matter how little the consumer needed them. That wasn’t the corporate way. Corporatism was living and dying by the dime, being always and forever in the black.

People didn’t get that guarantee, because they couldn’t give it.There was no corporate-prayer service for when baby’s diaper exploded across the kitchen, and parents need a solvent to clean with. There was no corporate-barricade barring the front door against their own, unwanted intruders. There wasn’t even a corporate-identity. The thing simply existing as part of an individual’s designation. Their actual titles were designed as reflowable to adjust to ever-shifting political-correctness.

But people were all of those things and more.

The mistake was moulding people to an existence between 9AM and 5PM. That world’s totality at your voluntary request, but nonexistent otherwise. And when it did not exist, you did not exist. It was no different than being released from chain-gang to pass time, too tired and battered to do more than daydream, intentionally.

And why wouldn’t people be so battered? Two generations of corporate formation and overt political-correctness had dulled even the sharpest wits. People needed only accept the bargain was good enough for slaves. Since slaves were good and slavery bad, it was good for you, right?

Most people swallowed it without resistance. The chains came later; after compliance but before realization.

The manipulation was obvious. More-so from the outside. Unfortunately few were heard through the din. General insanity had filled the world, post digital-age. Sheer-will oozed enough through to the more enlightened among them. Those few, also broken and damaged, saw no peaceful strategy remaining.

The message for them was clear; run.

The few whom did eventually became the Resistance’s spine and the nerves along its central column. They were more fortunate than most. No more or less intelligent, just aware and better-positioned. They saw enough of the barrel aimed at them to know to duck.

They jumped ship right up ‘til the war, ensuring the survival of the culture they defected to. Their own immortality assured therein. Living as they did ensured they remained important symbols, even if it was all they knew of how, why, what for.

Nowhere was this more obvious than the Aug movement, whose champions themselves formed the very leadership of Corp-Resistance. The results of those champions eventually led to the Fall. They’d begun the right way, simply shifted their focus after circumstances allowed– or rather forced, them to.

That base strategy was straight from the Corp-playbook; re-branding. It had another name too, one far more powerful to a disenfranchised group seeking something more; Evolution. The one the corps had used time and again to validate their actions. The difference was, the scale would allow change in totality, and with utterly no chance or path of reversion.

Of course rallying around Lemaire’s death was convenient; the Paris Incident and its ignition of the Two-Week War forced the few undecided to finally choose sides. The unfortunate side-effect was untold deaths from Corps bombing civilians and rioters alike. Basically, a tantrum of epic portion.

A toll that might’ve been entirely avoided was laid at the feet of every person, man, woman, and child for seeing the injustices and not fighting back. No matter the side of the fence, Lemaire’s death signaled people were no different to Corps than any other expendable resource.

Between rumored brain-hacks, the car-bomb, and the scapegoating of Aug aggression as its cause, it was a wonder the fuse burned so long between times. That it did was a testament to the kind of change people needed, hoped for. It was hesitation that admitted they didn’t want to fuck things up, were damned well working not to, but that peaceful routes were running their course.

And they did.

The fuse burned down, sparking a global implosion that resulted in total collapse of Corporate existence. Culture did that. Or the attempt at one. People were objects; materials, resources. That wasn’t right. Ethics aside, it held no logic.

People weren’t meant to be resources bought, sold, traded, or exploited– they weren’t supposed to be consumed; they were supposed to consume.

But they weren’t consuming and only a few others were. A very select few. So few, in fact, even fewer could overthrow them en-masse no matter their own power. If played right, they needed only tease the promise of what Corps had yet never offered; personalized personability.

The tailoring of anything to one’s desires and without judgment or restriction formed the true foundation of the Resistance. The cultural renaissance that followed saw the futility in things like market-power over-regulation and censorship, because markets regulated power naturally once large enough.

The only barrier to accepting it at the broadest level was feeling outside of it. One could refuse improving a systemic culture more easily if they were part of it themselves. Especially if that culture needed no foundational improvements.

Later, of course, the truth of the illusion was revealed and people had no reason not to accept the new culture, but the totality of the corporate collapse by then, had little to do with the war itself.

It was the people fighting that mattered. Each had their own ideas and visions of a place in this potentially open and globally-connected world. Whether that was through innovations in tech or philosophy, there was no reason people couldn’t negotiate compromise, save competition.

Competition though, no longer needed to exist. In the postdigital age, everyone was equal. The resources were all there; scattered, certainly, but there and only in need of re-distribution. Competition wasn’t necessary anymore, only intelligent planning.

The former was a remnant of the Pre-Human era that survived because of its robustness and ubiquity in a fear-driven world. No longer required, competition could be officially relegated to an exercise in adrenaline, or for conflicts on scales larger than yet-Humanly possible. Those involved in it were glad to have it, while the rest were glad to be rid of it.

Competition could survive as little more than a new-age art-form and thus had no reason not to.

It was simple physics; paths of least resistance. The more a thing clamored to fulfill its role, the more energy it expended and the less effective it was at survival, if only rhetorically.

In short; Evolution was the process of honing biological life to perfection through the mechanism of adaptation. The same went for revision with software, and could go for change with Society.

In other words, constant, minor adjustments and refinements ensured survival. Whether from intent or will, nothing need be handled differently anymore because everything could be quantified, somehow. Quantity itself then became an art; of machined numbers and datum, but an art nonetheless.

Most importantly, if input into the right system, such principles of postdigital progress could do anything, anybody wanted.

In that way, Lemaire’s Resistance wasn’t a resistance at all. It was simply a majority overthrowing a former minority. The newly-dethroned disseminated power gained and lost by the likes of snake-oil salesman, brill-creamed con-men, and dark-spectaled suits. They’d formed pacts to better position their marks to buy and sell them back and forth en-masse, and panicked to death when people finally realized it was happening and ended it.

It took time though– and because of the severity of the grievances, blood.

Yet the foresighted once more led the way to light. It just so happened, that light was also the Resistance, thereby bringing to the fight many whom might have chosen pacifism for sake of family or obligation. That same devotion however, then allowed those lost to become paragons to those that remained.

As if through sheer need of people, the remembered became symbols to rallyboth groups and individuals. It was in this way Lemaire’s death had caused the Paris Incident.

The truly egregious trigger-point for outrage was the volatile mixture of changing culture meeting the bombings that followed.Lemaire was corporate, but human. Used and discarded. She was, like all peoplenow; just a resource, a statistic. One who’d outlived her time in the black, was now in the red from the media-risk inherent in her. Therefore, corporate culture dictated she be zeroed-out as quickly, quietly, and cleanly as possible.

The cheapest, most effective way required exploiting her death at larger scalesto maximize effectiveness. The corporate way dictated a car-bomb to suittheir desires. In one move, they could placetheir currently-manufactured scapegoats– Augs– from the news of the week (Aug aggression) in bed with long-running narratives against conventional fuels and private transport.

That idea secure, they buried reality beneath vague reports, inconsistent datum, late retractions, and less-publicized revisions– for clarifications no less vague but masked as natural fog.

And it backfired. In Totalilty.

People had been at odds with the cultural-divide too long. Nothing remained to cling to of the corporate entity. Money was killing everyone. Any residual effects and influence of corporate veneer too weak to distract from that. Rose-colored glasses could no longer be any less-jaded. More than, that they could now take off the glasses, see the vibrant world beyond.

Ultimately, what killed corps was a simple reality: Corporate culture was a construct. Culture was a natural force.

VIN 4- Tech Darkness

People aren’t simple.

Teaching this idea is one of society’s greatest mistakes. Failing to recognize it as the horrendous inaccuracy it is, reinforces the divide between individuals.

Consider two people, alike in every way as individuals, but separated by economic extremes. In essence, the Dickenzian love-story between aristocrat and peasant.

This sort of societal block stifles growth of the whole by limiting the potential for aberration or mutation. Not only in the gene pool, but ideologically as well. These processes, wholly interlinked with social evolution, act like a wrench in fine-tuned gear-work in face of these blocks.

This is an admittedly rare and misleading example, but it illustrates the sort of manipulation possible in certain societies– such as that found in Tale of Two Cities. In other words, Revolutionary-era France.

The difference now is the oversight of the peasant-turned iron-fisted leadership; it is total. Through the medium of technology. Technology is enlightening and fulfilling, satisfying on many levels depending on its use.

But at its core, it is a thing of indifference, not virtue. Therefore, its virtue is a product of its use.

What it is used for currently, is insidious. Advertising, social engineering, unrightful surveillance, unlawful collection of said evidence. All of it has invaded every facet of life, demanding conformity.

But ultimately, the technology is just a tool. Its abusers, their failure to recognize their very existence as fault, is the problem. The end-user, in other words.

Technology is a child we are slowly but surely grooming for darkness.

We have helped it create shadow-industries. Introduced it to opportunistic-profiteers. Used it to tie nooses and binds around necks and wrists. And in little more than a quarter century, we’ve multiplied its collective power to do so by twice our civilization’s otherwise-collective power put together.

Then, awed by or own creation, we allowed forces outside our collective sphere of morality to guide it.

Just remember that when you’re hearing someone complain about shitty internet speeds or the latest fuckabout by cumcras’t. More importantly, remind them too.

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.

Sad.

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….

Probably.

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.

Short Story: His(Its?) Image

Nobody believed it. Who would blame them though? It was a difficult thing to believe that one; there was confirmation of God’s existence; two, he was actually hooked into the internet, hip to all of the millions of slangs and cultures; and three that all those social-media posts begging for likes to save cancer-victims, help lost puppies, and vote on the newest teen idol were actually serious.

For his– or rather Its, which is a whole, other complicated conversation we’re not having right now– part, God seemed to be an okay guy (thing?). At least in the last few thousand years, he hadn’t directly caused any kind of mass murder, flooding, or pestilence. Not that there weren’t any, just none he had a direct hand in. Even the good things were none of his doing, sliced bread, the internet, free porn– those were things we’d given ourselves through the freewill he’d set in motion. (If you believe the stories, anyway.)

It was like he– it? Can a limitless entity really be confined to a single gender? I’m sure all those homophobic preachers might have something to say about it, but not me. Mostly I’m focused on the existential properties of the question, and whether or not human language will have to compensate for this new class of being, especially if it turns out he is not the only one. Like I said, ‘nother conversation for ‘nother day.

Anyway, it was like he’d set us up on this crazy green and blue rock, then loosed us to the rigors of time so he might come back later and reap the rewards. The internet had to have been one of those things that finally drew him back. Before he’d sent an ambassador (more than one if you believe the various stories) to speak to us in his name, each with their own language and ways to best keep the people in those parts of the world on the straight and narrow. Really gotta’ hand it to him, did a mostly good job– you know aside from the middle east and the third of the world starving.

But that’s yet another conversation for yet another day. Staying on track.

Seems the Good Lord had set up a kind of system networked into social-media of all things. In retrospect, it wasn’t a bad idea. There’s billions of computers hooked into the net, almost as many people behind them watching everything from social-media updates to, well, porn, and not a one of them was really listening to the Good Lord’s words anymore.

I can only imagine that to a creature like God the internet represented this vast, instant-feedback system where the commodity of information was like a tasty morsel of ambrosia. See, that’s the thing we never think about when we think of a God, or rather the God. Omnipotent may mean unlimited power, but who the hell has the time to be paying that much attention? I mean, if we’re created in his— it’s?– image, wouldn’t He/It be just as prone toward Attention Deficit Disorder?

Each of us has some form of ADD. Granted not everyone needs medication for it, but we all have a point where we can no longer stand to pay attention. Be it from hunger, exhaustion, or sheer boredom, we’ll each eventually turn away, look away, or pass out until we can come back with fresh eyes. It’s the human condition. We’re just sort of flawed in that way. It runs deep too, so deep, it was almost easy for us to miss that He/It was the same way.

After all, familiarity is comfort, and all beings that we know of seek comfort. Why would He/it be different? In the end, maybe that’s the whole “meaning of life thing:” so no one has to be alone. I mean, sure there were creatures before us, but they weren’t sentient. It’s more than likely that if He/It did anything to create us, it was with a push to the hominid populous’ evolution toward our creation. Then, let it stew for a few million years, and voila, sentient life!

But then we sort of spiraled out of control. We bred like rabbits and took over the face of the Earth. Those telepathic communications that he told us about in his books became overwhelming. Then, for a few millenia, he just sort of slinked away from us for a couple aspirin and a drink. Then one drink turned into five, then five into ten and soon enough he was passed out on the bar-room floor, only to awake in an alley-way dumpster with a hang-over and no shoes– wait, that was exactly my last Friday— Still you get the point. He/it got overwhelmed and he took off for a bit to unwind, prepared to come back later with fresh eyes. (Not literally of course, from all evidence we have He/It doesn’t need new eyes, though I’m sure He/It could conjure them in a moment.)

Maybe those fresh eyes helped, or maybe the hangover finally pounded a realization into his head– like that time I woke up in the Rusty Clam’s Alley with a hooker kicking me and telling me I was scaring off the Johns. I mean really, like I was the problem there. Get over yourself guy. What was I saying? Oh right, the epiphany. It was like that time I woke up and realized maybe the smell in my pants was my fault, and I should probably quit drinking before the hooker kicked me one too many times.

For Him/It, the realization was probably two-fold; we had internet, (Holy shit, free Porn! He/It exclaimed if I’m anything like His/Its image) and now he had an awesome little tool to make all those telepathic prayers easier to deal with.

So, He/It did what any smart Deity would and set up a kind of super-cool bot-net that translated the telepathic message into their own, electronic equivalents. Those lists were somehow programmed to prioritize and post themselves across the ‘net with “Like” and “Share” Goals. If they reached those goals, the bot-net would activate the telepathy machine– the same used to transfer prayers to text– and it would shell out a dose of miracles for whomever the prayer was for or about.

But see, that’s where He/It got things a little wrong. God forgot we’re created in his image, and we’re more than a little deficit in attention ourselves. So what happened? Well first off, no-one believed the profile actually was God. Then, nobody believed God would try to pass out prayers so cheaply. And Then? Some one found out it was real.

Oh yeah. You know that memetic saying that’s flooded every possible forum, chat-room, and website with comments that goes “don’t feed the trolls?” Well, that’s extremely difficult when everyone becomes a troll. See, the atheists weren’t angry that they’d been proven wrong, they were excited. With them were all of those would-be pious that lined up to beg and plead and pray.

But God? Well He/It’s kind’a got a funny sense of humor like that. I guess sort of like me too, in a way. He didn’t shut the bot-net down. Now, I can’t be sure what the hell he’s up to, but I know it’s still running. Every day, billions of posts flood His/Its little corner of the net, and every day, billions of people scramble to pray harder and like and share the ones that might be theirs. Its just so damned hard to tell anyway, so many people need money, or the cure for cancer, or for their pants to stop smelling strange, that it’s difficult to know exactly whose prayer is getting answered when they vote.

And here we come to my devious, devilishly simple bit of mischief. It isn’t mean, not even really difficult to do. In a way, I think He/It might agree with my cleverness. I created a second bot-net. One to spam the hell out of those posts. It’ll be sort of like that heaven and hell war, only digital and without any losers. Everyone will get what they want, have their prayers answered. It’s mischief, sure, but I was made in His/Its image, and he’s just as lazy, deficit, and cunning as I am if you believe it. In the end, maybe he’ll smite me. Or maybe, he’ll do nothing, happy that our ingenuity triumphed. Or maybe even, he’ll flip up the table and rage-quit and run back to the bar.

If so, cheers friend; maybe tomorrow my pants won’t smell so bad and you’ll have another one of your epiphanies. Until then, let the games begin and bring on the porn!

Poetry-Thing Thursday: What Happened to Stories

In the ages of old,
when stories were told,
rather than mold,
and neither quill nor ink were sold,
we knew of imagination,
whose masters could scold.

With a simple inflection,
their only direction,
spurred listeners’ affection,
while inside did correction,
of innermost damnation
became fluid insurrection.

Such is the abstract,
of the heart still intact,
when deep in contract,
with masters of contact,
and relentless dissension,
that readies to retract.

But today we have links,
verbal wars that leave kinks,
in bottomless sinks,
and unhealthy drinks,
from electric derision,
and arm-chair shrinks.

What happened to stories,
both bold and of glories,
where seldom did quarries,
disappear ‘long with lorries,
and hectic decision
or lone allegories?

When did the paper,
along with the caper,
turn from the shaper,
dissolve into vapor,
and delightful incisions,
became keys that did taper?

Whatever the answer,
I’m sure the pen-dancer,
has grown weary of cancer,
from the weakened freelancer,
whose electric visions,
thought himself an enhancer.