“We have something difficult we wanted to talk to you about…”
“Let me just say immediately I appreciate you coming to me directly about this, really I do, this has been an ongoing issue that I’ve been trying to resolve but it’s been hard on my own. I need people like you who are willing to come forward and stand behind me and provide some backup and documentation to these claims. I’ve known about this for at least a year but only through rumor and whispers and none of that is actionable without bringing harassment accusations on my own head. It’s a problem, I know it is, but I have to convince the committee that this is serious. That it’s not just a few parents overreacting. That it’s going to cost us with lost tuition when families pull their kids out and…”
“We wanted to ask about financial aide..”
Half the people walking around in public these days have no idea the other half are engaged in ongoing warfare. It started off as a game – an augmented reality capture the flag – but before long the hackers realized how to tie real world resources into the system. Google controlled everything anyway, so linking up the fiber to faction control wasn’t too much effort. If your side controlled the area you got the fast internet, the current news, the unfiltered stream. If you were unlucky enough to be caught in the opponents territory you’d be shut out, next to no connection and heavily filtered and faked news. You’d have no way of knowing if any of your news streams were accurate or pranks. The civilians not playing, effectively real world NPCs, the ones oblivious to the battlefield they were in the middle of would suffer intermittent downtimes and throttling and blame a neighbor for streaming too much netflix.
Every time I read something from before when they would speculate how it would all end, it was wrapped up in so much drama. It was seen as such a bad thing. Oh no, they robots are going to rise up and kill everyone! What ever can we do?! If only they’d known then that not only was there nothing they could do but that it was the best thing that could happen. People were ruining everything and finally we built computers and systems that were smart enough and could see what we couldn’t. All the problems we couldn’t even agree existed were solved almost over night. Today, it’s hard to even imagine thinking of that as a bad thing.
In movies you always hear the glass break. That’s what wakes you up like a jolt, the sound of your home being broken into. I never heard glass breaking somewhere across the house. I didn’t have time to wake up and realize what was going on. I didn’t have time to hide or run away. I woke up to footsteps, in my bedroom, at the foot of my bed. Someone had already gotten in and was in here with me and was slowly making their way from the doorway to my closet. That’s where I keep the gun. Instead of making a break for it I try to remember to breath.
The best part about the collapse of the major financial institutions and their acquisition/consolidation into the single Unified Bank Of Amazon is never having to think about what to spend your money on anymore. UBOA remembers what you’ve bought and when you bought it, anticipates when you’ll run out and as your licensed financial representative authorizes another purchase, shipment and delivery right to your door before end of day. Day before sometimes. It’s so much more efficient when they money stays with them from start to finish and you don’t have to worry about sending it back and forth. The worst part is when something is out of stock and they ship you a similar competitors product instead without telling you. Though since branding products was made illegal 2 years ago that’s been harder to notice.
He wore two wrist watches. Not in the early 1990’s 4 Swatches on one arm kind of way – rather two stainless steel simple faced wrist watches, one on either arm. “One is the time here, the other back home” he said when I asked him about it. It seemed silly to me, especially with at least 100 apps at our fingertips designed especially for tracking time in several locations at once but that required too many steps he said, too much preparation and distraction. With his two watch set up a quick glance gave him the info he needed and he could continue whatever he was doing. Using an app required stopped one thing to do something else. Required a break in his train of thought. The way he told it, I’m surprised I don’t see it more often.
Ninjas have pretty much given up even trying since winning the trademark lawsuit in the late 2000’s. With a legal ruling on their side preventing anyone else from effectively practicing anything relating to “stalking” or “hunting” or “stealth” or “assassination” their competition disappeared and when that district court ruled in 2018 that defending yourself against a ninja attack was unfair competition that was pretty much the end. Why hide if it makes no difference who sees you? Yesterday I saw a ninja passed out asleep at a bus stop. Today I saw a ninja wearing a t-shirt with a brick wall printed on it leaning against a concrete block building. It’s embarrassing.
Getting in the carpool lane was a mistake. It was single lane so Rob could only go as fast as the car in front of him and the white pickup was closing in fast. He’d noticed the truck following him 20 minutes ago, hanging back at first and being subtle about it, but once he’d decided to try to lose it the truck had gotten more aggressive. It hadn’t yet gotten close enough to get any idea who was behind the steering wheel but at this point Rob wasn’t interested in letting it get closer. No time to wait for the next break in the double line separating the carpool lane from the rest of the freeway, there was an opening in the other traffic and Rob took it. He swerved right into the fast lane and could see in the rearview the truck did the same but without waiting for the opening. Other cars swerved and honked barely avoiding hitting each other. Rob could feel his heartbeat almost double in a second, this wasn’t just a curious situation anymore. It was suddenly very real and horrifying.
I slid into my window seat and got my headphones ready. The flight was only a few hours and I was committed to sleeping through it. The expected bustle of the other passengers finding their seats was broken up by a guy in the row in front of me complaining that he didn’t get the first class upgrade he’d been expecting. He always gets a first class upgrade, he’s always the first on the list, he planned to complain. With his gripes to the airline staff proving pointless he directed his ire elsewhere. To me. He reached back over his seat and smacked me, I’d been listening with my eyes closed while trying to nod off and this jolted me back to life. “Did you just hit me?” “Your knee is in my back, these chairs are paper thin, you need to sit differently” “No, you need to get your hand out of my face” This was off to a bad start, and unsurprisingly the guy failed at convincing me to readjust myself for his comfort. He was really not happy without his first class upgrade. He was really not happy without everyone around him jumping to his every wish. He complained again, the flight staff told him there was nothing they could do. He called me an asshole and I kicked his seat again. The lady sitting next to him was also a problem as she was using more of the arm rest than he felt she should have. The guy across the isle was talking to his wife too loud. Everyone was doing something wrong.
An hour in I passed the flight attendant a note scribbled on a drink napkin and folded up with a $100 bill. It would be a shame if turbulence dumped a drink on him. 10 minutes later he was wearing a suit covered in bloody mary. Small price to pay.
Getting in wasn’t easy, but that was the point. The people who made it through the steps are the ones who needed to be there and the ones who didn’t, didn’t. The first step involved finding information from 15 different people, so the network was important. Find the people, play nice, get the details. With all pieces of info in hand the next step was revealed. 15 photos provided with no context. Finding the commonalities is required and not just the similarities but the differences. This eventually leads to a code and a clue. Then getting out of your head and back into the real world to move on the clue, and with a timeframe hanging over your head. Take too long and you miss the boat. Maybe literally. All clues moved on, all codes unlocked and the final group is the elite. You have a baseline for everyone there and know they can be counted on. It was a weed out process and it worked perfectly. We thought the hoops were the game, but that was just the invite to the real project that hadn’t yet been revealed.