The following is the thrilling continuation of Hypermart Syndrome.
You’re sitting in a plush genuine leather executive chair with a wide window to the outside world passing by in graceful silence. Glowing billboards are plied with a hint of class and flick over to craft furniture as you pass, which you realize you’ll need in only a few months should managerial mortality rates remain steady. Enough suites on top of the hypermart will vacate almost instantly if there’s another death cluster.
The feeling of seeing the outside world slide by like this is sickening, like your first VR trip, but vodka eases the discomfort. A break in the billboards frames the hypermart, low grey clouds of exhaust blotting out all but the manic pulsating subworld of the helax data herd.
Hopefully you’ll die in a death cluster. And that’ll be a good thing because at least you won’t be alone. Do people die alone anymore, or do they only die in clusters? You take a long drink of the Eurasian vodka and relax into the thought of some computer terminating your life and the knowledge that such a death is for the greater good. Probably everything is under control of an AI much more competent and far-sighted than any human, but also attended by the very best minds of history. Continually optimized, Chandice’s mantra and slogan.
And every Christmas Santa comes through the vidders while little Johnny Helax is sleeping and manifests consumer goods via nano assemblers hidden in the hypermart walls.
You’re chasing a glitch right now, a very subtle optimization failure in the system that warrants the attention of only the most junior manager. The manager app never tells you what you’re looking for, you just go there and vid it all. The app runs through an AI-assisted analysis tying up and quantifying helax behavior on an hourly basis.
You’ll visit some godforsaken corner in the hypermart’s base and mill about in the midst of helax who might be misbehaving in a completely intangible, but somehow sub-optimal manner. Probably there are some control cases mixed into your workload. Things are usually kind of fucked up, you’ve seen fights, but that’s what you expect out of helax to begin with.
Perhaps junior executives only take control cases, performing random culture audits with no tactic or timing. Just surveying the dataherd, no big deal. It’s busywork to prove you’re fit for the job. The most appealing possibility, sure. The hypermart’s pyramid structure has a way of filling the horizon only when you’re right up on it, and there it is. You slide right into the VIP entrance and board the all-access vacculev.
“I’ve been coining, man.” Dweeqer unwraps the periwinkle hate dust and forms it into a line.
He leans back, slouches, the proprietary mixture supposedly of PCP, ketamine, cannabinoids, methamphetamine is insufflated and already affecting him.
Numbers are everything, you think. You got the satoshis and Dweeqer got exposure. He went from B-list cyber nobody to a hypermart brand, so you bought him all the chandust he wanted. He’s been crashing at your pad, warmed by your bitcard, and the news that he’s coining is the stupidest opsec you’ve ever heard of. But actually he’s just fucking with you. Best to just let it slide on by like a ghost ship in the night, the USS terror joke.
“I should take the prime steal going on now.”
BetaMart prime comes with the epic bitcard, charged on twenty-year batteries made from salt mine nuclear waste. If you don’t upgrade the damn thing soon it’s going to burn itself out. But it’s too much, you cannot afford prime. Definitely you should spend as quickly as possible on the first impulses that strike you. You take a huge hit of the chan.
Dweeqer stands upright, his spine to the north star and his eyes to the horizon as the dust takes full effect, “We must go to Kergeulen! The navel of the world! We must seek Chandice and have him bring back the great intellectual, masculine heroes of the past. AlphaMart was far superior!”
You take the polemic, “They were stuck in their ways. Holding the planet back. Chandice and his team of self-futurists are finally oriented in the correct posture. BetaMart is better than AlphaMart. Everyone knows that!”
Sullen, Dweeqer sits down and cracks his vidder and is typing some kind of screed well in excess of 200 strokes per minute. He’s already coming down, and hell, so are you.
Derek’s face appears in the corner of your culture data graphs – apparently standing outside a representation of your suite.
“Hey babe,” he’s grinning, and you think maybe he is really out there and you flush, suspicious but elated. Also mad. He hasn’t called for days. “Just thought I’d drop by.”
You stand up and walk to the door. You did not order an expensive bioware liason. Maybe you should you grab some kind of a weapon? Have your fantasies become so twisted as to cause the simulfriend to appear, a tease, just cgi? Ah, of course, some goddamn ad gimmick. God dammit. Brutal marketing.
As you fling open the door, he clutches you too tightly and is kissing your gasping, limp body. You think you cannot afford him and you feel guilty because you don’t seem to interest him much lately anyway. Also you didn’t believe he’s there, you still don’t. But he keeps kissing you, and you don’t know whether to squirm away or kiss him back. So you freeze and try not to cry.
“What’s wrong babe?” he loosens his grasp and you look away, hiding from his penetrating — No! stupid, blank — gaze. He touches your shoulder, a computerized cue to reassure you, and is artificial smiles. “This four hour body’s a freebie from simulfriend for Chandice’s most loyal managers. It doesn’t cost you anything. Isn’t that a nice surprise?”
“No, it’s not nice. It’s fucked up is what it is.” You are livid, now that the motive is out in the open. He is unaffected.
Managing is a stupid meaningless job that leaves you with so much free time that all you ever do is stare at webflix. Compared to cashiering and m-auditing, c-auditing is a joke. All you do is talk about your day in the pyramid for a half hour, qualifying data that doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t even feel like real work. And you don’t make quite enough yet to be blowing it all on bioware.
Still, he is something real if not someone real. It feels good in his arms. At this moment, he loosens his grasp, turning away. You grab at his shoulder, desperately.
As you are fucking, or masturbating, or whatever the hell it is one does with a fake, you reflect on how these amazing, sophisticated sex toys changed the nature of economic and social disciplinary systems in your hemisphere, concentrating enough power and wealth in a single monopoly that billed itself as an innovation on traditional so-called democracy 1.0. You say “Oh, that’s plenty thank you,” and the sex is over instantly, no orgasms simulated, faked, or authentic, and no feelings hurt.
“I’ve got to go now,” he mumbles as he’s dressing. Faking feelings. “Got any liquor? Smokes? I’d like to try them sometime as I’ve never experienced that before.”
You think to offer the small box of Eurasian vodka and cigarettes you boosted from the big stash for yourself, but instead you yawn and stretch your arms. Experience? What the fuck? And you are relieved that it was not just an ad but something else, too. Yes, it was all some setup meant to mine you for information in your most vulnerable state. Almost amusing. Trina will laugh. “Get out of my bed before you decay, bot.”
He laughs so naturally that you almost believe he’s not been printed just to fuck with you. Freebie bioware? And it is your turn to laugh, stressing a malice that he can never pick up on. Fake fuck. This, much more than the tepid mechanical sex, is the ultimate pleasure in a simulfriend.
You sit back and down a Long Island Pina Colada in one epic gulp. The hot tub is so nice with it so cold out you reconsider for a moment the terraforming plans. Hah. God, BetaMart is good.
Instead of a desk and office with various doors leading from the myriad outdated departments you see the Indian Ocean crashing against the lighthouse and its tiny boulder island. You imagine for a moment the craggy Maine coast. Ah.
The lighthouse is no augmented overlay of the windows, but the real deal shipped 2,500 miles, preserved in whole on an inflatable drydock and placed, at no small price, on the shore of Kergeulen last night by Mastodoot salvage while you slept.
Secretary Chandice appears in the window overlay. “BetaMart systems are nominal, with only two minor culture and one minor economy anomaly reported. Junior executives are, naturally, already posted at origins.”
God, your double looks so fucking good floating in front of that new Kergeulen bay. Anomalies never fell so low in a single day of AlphaMart history. Not perfect, but close enough. You’re so relaxed, but you can’t slacken your business sense. You rub trapazam crystals into your eyes to shake off the big liquor drink. There is no “close enough.”
“When will the Maine overlay be in place?”
Secretary Chandice smiles. “2pm, sir. The crews will begin reconstructing the submerged Mayan temple this evening.”
“Excellent. Have the bioware promotions harvested the juniors?” You tent your fingers. It’s never too soon to begin research for GammaMart.
“Sir, the genetic retrieval bioware and Junior liasons are completed and the junior doppels and Chandice doppels are all printed, awaiting in stasis for the celebration – er – experiment. Shall I open your office wall?”
You blink. That seemed too quick, even by the new BetaMart standard. “No. Bring brunch and wait until 2, or whenever the overlay is ready. There is no rush.” The seduction APIs must be outperforming all predictive models.
Secretary Chandice is disposing charred remains of brunch as the empty bay is transformed in flickering stages of detail revealing a rocky, mountainous coast obscuring the wastes of Kergeulen. You nod solemnly, acknowledging the old truth that man-made objects as old as that are always better in person. It’s the texture. No simulating that. But the procedural landscape, that’s the right way to use an overlay. An impeccable choice.
You raise one finger and the back wall opens onto the victorian wrought iron bathedral, which is all steam and raucous celebration. 256 Chandice doppels hurrah, and you raise your glass for a toast. “To all the people who made this possible!”
Each Chandice raises the same ironic eyebrow to each junior manager consort and they drink the rainbow cocktail. You smirk at a confused junior who seems to have picked up the overall joke but doesn’t understand why it’s funny. “Drink up, honey! That’s liquid love.”
You clink glasses with secretary Chandice and drink up. “What do you predict will happen out there?”
“512 bioware robots are about to seduce one another at levels we’ve long considered unsafe for society. We will observe the death cluster phenomenon firsthand. Lightning in a bottle.”
“We’ll see suicides?”
“Yes. Possibly even murder suicides. Boring. Predictable.” You sigh. The tedious scientific method and control groups. What a waste. To hell with it. “This should be a celebration, not an experiment.”
You swipe open the bathedral controls and indicate the button that would set the juniors to self-destruct. “They’re probably not dangerous, but, you know. We’ve got to be safe.”
“Close out all the data but the C and the M factor.” You monitor the bar graph fluctuations impatiently, eying the developing orgy for viral propagation of sex acts, gestures, anything.
Secretary Chandice notices your finger, hovering over the junior doppel disintegration switch.
You raise your voice at Secretary Chandice, angered by his impertinent, judging glance, “Dammit! Why don’t you go make dinner?” That same suspicious, stupid, blonde bitch junior manager hears your outburst and is upset. Her sex is ruined in an instant. A ripple of tension, withdrawal, and momentary confusion emanates from her and the C factor dips by half. You realize, after you’ve already done it, that you’ve just disintegrated the doppels for every junior manager in your empire. The feeling is incredible.
“There is no life, only math. All is death.” Dweeqer holds forth an invisible globe, pronouncing tremendous words, chest forward, facing outwards from the hypermart balconies and into the glorious, empty yonder.
“The great algorithmic advance of the Helax is hindered now only by the Eurasian menace and its communist multicultural genocide.” He lowers his arm, turning to the camera and pausing — inscrutable perhaps to viewers but you roll your eyes, hoping to fuck up his assbirth of a vid.
“Chandice, undoubtedly the pinnacle of innovators and bringer of the singularity in the form of the glorious BetaMart system, is in error for the first time in his life, my friends. As foretold in his autobiography, there will come a time when his project will be over. Order will spontaneously assert itself in the formation of a gestalt mega-organism ultimately encephalizing the entirety of the planet. You are but brain cells in a great being! BetaMart is the best and last system, despite Chandice’s desire for further meddling. It is time to put all faith into the Oracle of Inglip! Yesterday, my friends, the Oracle brought tidings of the Singularity. It has passed — under our watching, waiting, praying noses. The interface horizon has set on the Chandice regime! All of the expert programmers have decided now is the moment to organize and resist.”
Dweeqer motions across his throat for you to cut, and he continues talking. “Do you think Chandice will like, come after me if I post this?”
You shrug. “You’ve said worse things, and he’d be more suspicious if you didn’t post, probably.”
“Yeah but now I’m a B-rated name. I’m a brand.”
“What, do you think people are actually going to turn against Chandice?”
“Maybe,” Dweeqer shrugs and grins, “But I bet you he’ll at least watch it.”
“I don’t have time for this same stuff again. Listen, I’m going to burn some satoshis hellriding, wanna come along?”
Dweeqer shakes his head. “Nah I gotta edit this and get it out before it’s too late. The hype over the big software change can’t go on for too long. And you hellride too much, man. I mean, once in a while, but… Never mind. See ya later. Have fun, or whatever.”
You ride out to the fancytown in a high class luxury office. Ride’s so smooth the windows might just be a display, you think, but that is the ads thinking for you, mind-controlled windshield fetish. Hellride? Not yet. First you’re going to try something.
Serious satoshis are stored out here in the shells of retro ghost towns. Memorabilia museums for the nostalgia afflicted middle class, remembering the good ‘ol days when they were it, the American dreamers.
Robotic cheetahs powered by vintage motorcycle engines protect passing gardens irrigated with hit-and-miss pumps. Everywhere is the scent of petroleum perfumes. Helax descended from the hypermarts in the early days and ate the fruits, not the vegetables, then fucked in the mock general stores populated only by knick-knacks and drank all the grandfathered top shelf booze. The old reports still go viral in that the big Impact print, the riots measured by gallons of artifact liquor. Just as viral, the photos of bodies shredded by the robocheetahs. The cheetahs, mere scare tactic, exaggeration, or actual truth, ended the helax jubilees and feature heavily in the emergent death cluster culture, with many of the most effective killers deploying robocheetahs that, once let loose in the hypermart, left halls clogged with fat helax bodies.
You visited the fancytowns as a kid, just as they were swallowing up the defunct suburbs, and smirking, you imagine one of these robocheetahs ripping open your school bus and then each kid with its titanium claws. Things ain’t what they used to be.
This small fancytown is wet from a thunderstorm. Tall cumulus open above, sun rays piercing the haze and lighting rooftops in shining Thomas Kinkade glory.
You perceive time as static here — No — it is rolling backwards, if just slightly. Every antique gathered and meticulously arranged in this valley adds up to a conglomerate sigil inflicting the strongest possible spacetime depression and now that you’re aware of it you can feel it tugging at your low chakra. It’s always been there, maybe growing as the fancytowns grow. You sense the field extends and mounts pressure at a distance. At the very limit of this tidal nostalgia is some horrible, incomprehensible war. But this is where the energy is drawn in, and then pushed out.
That bitcard is overheating with the satoshis and you need to get fancy before it’s toast. If you could hook up with some cougar widow, maybe ask about a bar at the tailor, you’d cool that sucker off in no time. Retire today. Why wait?
“Office — Gentleman Rye please. A double.”
On the extruded tray are two tumblers — one filled with twice the whiskey. Damn the software, always interpreting to its profit. You might as well get too drunk, it’ll help the satoshis drop. Ah, yes, the coffin stops. You slam the liquor and step into high society.
Examining your new appearance in the wavy ancient windows at Ye Olde English Pub you’re running through a mental checklist. The pink and purple two tone polyester tuxedo cropped off at the knees and elbows. The facial hairs, waxed and twirled into a julia set pattern. Pink knee-high alligator skin cowboy boots. Everything adding up to more than the substantial cost of each element. Impressive to say the least, maybe even fashionable. Yes. You’ve distinguished your own style.
The old timber frame tudor is scarfed out of the scrap of a hundred shattered antique timber beams with a thick layer of epoxy resin encapsulating the patina and providing a shining, sterile surface that flouresces blue in the sepia light of throwback sodium arcs. Past your reflection, clouds of amber vape catch light from Edison bulbs and the barkeep’s hands seem to be the only thing moving in the old tin ad walled tavern. He is concocting elaborate cocktails in parallel, spinning bottles and dripping small quantities of liquid into suspension.
But one face is not looking at the drink pouring spectacle, she’s staring intently at you. She has been looking at you — for how long now? Her face is pale but fresh and young, and her hair is white. You’ve seen memes with faces like this before — is she plastic, or is she just into old women’s hair? Old people with such extensive plastic would never leave their hair natural, right? That’s the joke anyway. But maybe that’s something quirky to do, for an aging goth in a fancytown. You can’t tell.
She widens her eyes in recognition. She watches your vids, you hope. Coming out of the anxious, fidgeting, self-concerned daze by the window and no longer caring if she’s 20 or 120 you take a deep breath and open the big elephant doors by their hand-forged, ancient iron handle.
Inside the establishment, you get a good look at her perfect hourglass figure, accentuated by a black knee-length red polka-dot miniskirt and a skull-fringed black leather corset. You don’t even really notice anyone else, although the place is packed. Probably she goes home to some creepy moated Victorian nightmare cathedral in the middle of a halloween fancytown where she raises black widows and a ravens. Probably, you think, with the brutal way she’s staring you down, she’s more like 60, goes to cookouts with Chandice, and is about to grind your Helax ass up into 180 lbs of lean hamburger.
You buy her butterflies and you think the flirting is going very well. The bartender twirls bottles carelessly with one hand, filling droppers and streaking colorful iridescent liquids into a suspension with the other.
When she’s left for the bathroom, you begin to feel grim and doubt everything. If she knew about your C level vids she not only wouldn’t care but she wouldn’t be a fan. She only lets you entertain her because she is some kind of sadist, in tune enough with the fashions of the day to spot you as some poor helax faker spending his life savings for a night or a weekend with satoshi traps like her. This getup and about twenty of these barely drinkable works of art and you’ll have spent the entirety of the proceeds from your big vid, and on top of that, your fancytown camo was unconvincing. God damn it, you’re so mad you almost stand up. She returns from the bathroom, and all these horrible thoughts vanish.
“Nobody makes it anymore, not in my field,” your eyes involuntarily widen and you scowl at the drink in your hand, the wasted fruits of your labor. “Twenty million viewed my work, so now I can afford to sit in the bar with someone like you for a few hours. I should’ve bought some backpacking equipment and hiked the Depression Trail. Everyone there is so happy to be in the desert, struggling in the sun for twenty miles a day with everything they need to live carried on their backs. Whether they make it or not they always come back to the hypermart with this glazed lifeless look in their eyes, as if the pilgrimage to nature has robbed them of their soul. But they look so happy. That’s what I need — that trail.” You pause, surprised by your own thoughts, vomited out before you thought them to begin with.
Now she looks at you with genuine interest or probably an appetite for your fracturing psyche. Her eyelashes flutter and her pupils dilate. Maybe she is impressed with your vid work after all. She must be. Is that recognition?
Her silence is unbearable, and you stammer, “Ah — Oh, sure I get plenty of girls. E-girls, sometimes cgi frauds, gifs. You know, people buying simulfriends just to fuck with you. Who cares though? I’ll buy some bioware, maybe. I make a good side dish to their boyfriends who they can’t hate like they hate me. Probably brings a lot of stability to their relationships to beat up on some big important vid maker like me.” Now you are totally unhinged, saying things you know are untrue, things just to get a reaction, “God damn Chandice! Hell I’ll get a simulfriend that looks like y–”
She clears her throat and her pale skin flushes. The whole tavern is alerted, now aware of and hostile to your presence. You’re not sure what you said but it was definitely the wrong thing, as she stares at you, “I’m an ace,” putting her hand over the emblem on her sweet chest, “That means Asexual. I’m not into this kind of play. Don’t flirt with me. Or whatever the fuck that is. Just stop.”
She doesn’t say, “Why don’t you go back to your troll pyramid and stop bothering me, helax boy?” But that’s what she means. She’s basically right, you’ve violated all the terms and conditions of social life for fancytowners. You didn’t know the emblems were some way to broadcast sex preferences. Shit. You eye the emblem on your tux, a Jack of diamonds. Whatever that means.
“I – I’m sorry for what I said about Chandice. I didn’t mean that.”
Now pink faced, she accuses you, “You masochist shit! Stop it! Don’t talk to me!” She chokes on sobs.
The bartender returns your bitcard, a paper receipt, and one dirty damn look that says “beat it, chump.”
No ritzy business office on air-bag suspension to float you home tonight. It’s a hellride, liquor and coffin, like you originally intended. You won’t spend another dime humping that asexual fancytown success.
No use slamming the plastic doors on the coffin but you do it anyway, and there’s no satisfaction or impact to the soft click. It’s not that you hate her — whoever she is — it’s that she represents everything blocking your way in the world. God damn Chandice, ultimately it is his greedy fault and you feel damn good at telling those fancytowners how it really is. Of course they can’t handle it.
You want to sleep, to dream of a world that takes place in the present, but standing there in the coffin you only enter a hypnagogic state. Slightly aware of the flashing, blaring advertisements, you imagine a hypermart buzzing with helax, you in fancytown fashion, growing gardens and cherishing replica versions of precious old items. Ah, ah, and women who will touch you. But you are too aroused to dream, the coffin is unexpectedly stopping and accelerating. Something which never happens except in emergencies. You open your eyes but you’re paralyzed from the neck down. Careening towards dead end after dead end, vision obscured by ads, you scream but you cannot hear it over the circling, jingling ukelele.
“Now I know you know where the liquor and smokes are.” You do know, but you are not telling Chandice.
These ropes are an insult or a joke, but maybe something else even. Considering Chandice can employ the cleverest possible means, maybe it is a joke. Or something else. The chances of a mistake from someone with that kind of power approaches zero.
Looking Chandice square in the eyes, unintimidated by the cleaver in his hand, you move your body and stress the bindings, a tremendous squawk on the chair joint indicating that you aren’t struggling but making the first move in an easy escape.
Chandice raises his hand and three others, like him in every way, duplicate his presence. Ah, this makes sense then.
“You’re going to make me another four shirts – as identical as you can to the first. Can you manage that?”
You shrug. “Sure thing, boss. Untie me and I’ll get to work.”
The bots release you and you shear the first bits of luxurious floral print silk. You could slash all their nerve couplings and not take any risks, but then there’d be no reward either.
Well, okay. They aren’t printed by Eurasian agents — you would know — and they aren’t from Chandice, so just who is printing up murderous bots, demanding tailor-made copies of his favorite outfit? Maybe some faction of his managers, the first stages in a clever coup, like the Promelkists only clearly much more sophisticated this time. Hell of a difference these Chandices would make, multiplying your work like this with all the latent, horrible threats now in the open. The stuff about the liquor and the smokes though, that too suggests some law and order faction, probably the cryptohounds — they’d have the cover.
Shit. You’re a better spy than seamstress. Already you anticipate the reaction and orders from Beijing. Get the gamer girl, have her hook up with whoever’s behind the bots, cryptohounds, and give them more than four shirts — bring her in on everything. You want to hug the bots.
“For millennia Onan the Barbarian wasted his seed in the soil — why waste your toil? CumShare allows pubesced males of all ages to trade their unique and valuable fluids for maxsatoshi. CumShare is not a cum market.”
Slapped to consciousness with a hyped up advertisement like that, sleep slouch stiffening in the upright coffin as your morning wood is progressing towards dangerous bluejean balls and the autodrive chip is burning up in a series of unlikely high speed careens. Either you just slalomed through a bunch of paramorguics scraping plastic, oil, and viscera off the roads or it’s just another of the many degraded interstate patches with more pothole than road.
Maybe you should buy a coffee, drink it, jerk off in the cup, and sell that spunk to the first person on CumShare. You could do an ironic vid about your whole experience right now, maybe make some satoshi. Shit. You need to lose satoshis, not gain them.
The impulse to shit is too urgent for a stop. You scan the bitcard and it warms your hand as the gpus process the transaction. The coffin extends the toilet seat and you hunch your legs up, suspending your body from the seat per the animated instructions that strictly forbid pissing in bold flashing red terror script.
Scanning the bitcard once more, a valve in the seat actuates as the anti-pissing propaganda disappears and your strained bladder begins to dribble into a separate chamber, the flow suffering both from the boner and the anti-piss images that still register in your aftervision. Each week the coffin is refitted with new software, new foodstuffs, and the shit and piss is drained for upcycling into helax food before the batteries take their charge.
Last night, fuckin’ creepypasta man — a nightmare you’re just now remembering, the fuck happened? You’ve got too much on your bitcard and it’s making you act erratic, dress strange and go places way outside your class. You may be a troll but you are still a helax, at least to her, and you made her cry with some kind of insult you didn’t even intend and still don’t understand.
That bitcard damn near burns your ass cheek, and you check it. The satoshis you squandered are back, and then some. God damn, did you dream up last night while hellriding this coffin? Browsing the monitor as your long, strained, erectile piss comes to its near-flaccid, near-orgasmic end, you see your vid stats are bumped up big and there’s a slew of links coming in from stories about you and Polly Lackspittle. Who the hell is that? Deciphering the archaic fancytowner writing, you realize you’re the new whatever their equivalent is to a lolcow.
The story of last night adds up even less, unless you figure it all as a dream, which it is, basically, until you look into more general information on Lackspittle. As one of a handful of former lovers of Chandice, she is in the category of famous for being famous although she is also some kind of sexy-prudish vid star.
You load her vid channel intro. Definitely the woman from last night, and all of what you said to her begins to numb your body, starting at your toes, as she outlines the contours of her identity in the broadest of strokes: Cast off by Chandice before his rise and now a celibate nun of the goth subculture cultivating a fancy young audience with serious love-hate passions for authority, sex, and parents, Lackspittle blogs about the hardships of Ace life and the oppressive expectations of reproductive natalist culture.
Dweeqer would’ve recognized her — probably already knows her. You shouldn’t care, except there is your name in some tremendous fancytown version of a trollchan and you failed to drain your satoshis so you’ve been hellriding five hundred miles from nowhere on a spending spree that’s left your wallet scorching hotter than satan’s babyhair. You hesitate to open your mail but there’s Dweeqer and everybody else bombing your inbox. And most of it is praise, congratulations, and even some talk from troll critics of nomination for big awards.
You close your eyes and try to think of anything else. Anywhere else. Another malware laced Chandice ad is crashing your browser, momentarily causing the coffin to coast. You pull your knees out of your goddamned shoulders and close the stinkhole, the piss long past its last drop, now trying to imagine some funny scenario involving Chandice. His face is modded into just about every sim, so how can you take it further? Maybe you ought to mod him into LifeSim and show his mundane side, the life denied to you and everybody else. Or you could mod an orgySim — a big hall, a giant purpose-built bathhouse, totally populated with replicas of him fucking one another, perhaps in a big chain.
You go to the mod store and pick out a pleasing saccharine Chandice morning with his wife, a tense day at the prententious and falsely intellectual office, and then spend a few hours perusing the nicest all-Chandice homo fuck fests, settling on a just impeccably rendered fuckchain and you give them all little tweaks. You package them into a single story line that at least appears original, or better, it satisfies you in a way the strained piss couldn’t. Clicking ‘post’, you feel ultimate relief. Last night is undone. Hopefully within ten minutes you will be permabanned from all hypermarts — so pack up and head out for a long hike on Depression Trail ‘cause there goes your free ride in the hypermart. Banned! Better yet, in 15 minutes the hypersonic wedge already ripping out of Kergeulen bay will leave you and the shitcoffin as just another massive pothole in the interstate.
Or if you don’t die, maybe you should apologize to Polly. Some of that ultimate relief leaves you. You tense up. Could be you’ll make it as a fancytowner one day.
The blastproof sun roof blows open and you teeter into Arabia’s death noon, already sweating in all your rolls.
“Hell it’s hot up here, Jovi, fire the damn thing off already.” Limply pointing the hellrifle, impatient, you shout down, “Hey that’s that ack ack ack song. Turn it –”
The exhaust from the miniaturized gps homing missile makes you cough and collapse into the plush leather air-conditioned attack vehicle. “Sheeeyooot Jovi you coulda said somethin.”
“Yeah…” Jovi is not listening, watching the infrared drone livestream the battle tablet for kill confirmation. There is a blast in the distance and the white phosphorus overloads the drone’s camera. Numbers flash across the screen. “Say what now?”
“Aw fuck it, Jovi. All you ever doin’ is a messin’ and a gommin'” You rub at your rotund, growling belly, “Damn that was a fight. Scrottle – heat me one of them fruit pies. Cherry.” You insert the bitcard burning with fresh satoshis into the attack vehicle which promptly vends the microwaved confection.
You take two bites and offer the pie to Jovi. “You want this?”
“Naw man. Not after you been a slobberin’ on it.”
Tossing the fruit pie on the floor, you begin reloading the hellrifle, taking heaving breaths for air.
“Better hurry up,” Jovi’s teasing, “Says we’ll be at the next battle in ten minutes.”
“Aw sheeyoot. What kinda points?”
“It’s a level 12 hardon. Neutron rounds Jubby, neutron.”
“But I’s already got the phosphorus half a’ways loaded. It’ll work.”
Jovi eyes you, eyes the incendiary homing missile in your hand. “Sure it will, once you shoot off about three of ’em like you did yesterday.”
“Yeah but three phosphorus rounds cost just a little more than one neutron.”
“God dammit, Jovi! I told you! This is a level twelve hardon. I don’t care if you did wipe that eleven out last week with a single phosphorus missile. Damn! That was a fluke, man! Every god damn time, ‘no, we gotta save the neutrons Jovi, what if we get in trouble!’ and we’ve been eating rifle fire every god damn time, almost every time, because you and your god damn phosphorus rounds.”
“I’m good with ’em. I like ’em. I got a feelin, Jovi. I’m gonna do it again this time.”
“The hell you will. You’ll fire four of ’em off, probably five, and we’ll eat a bunch of rifle shots, as usual.”
“Hell, so what? We got armor. We can take a loss or two now and then.”
“God dammit! That’s what did in Roy and them. This ain’t no game, Jubbs. This is war. They were trying to squeeze every damn satoshi outta each mission, not doing very good anyway, wastin’ a ton of phosphorus rounds. Ate a fifty cal to the fender seam and lost the drive computer. They rode straight into the hardon, firing phosphorus the whole way when a single neutron would’ve cleaned ’em out neat and solid like to begin with.”
“Yeah but it woulda made ’em sick just to ride through that rad.”
“Better than burning to death. And anyway, if they’d hit the hardon with a neutron first, the guy with the rifle would’ve died first.”
“You don’t know that. And anyway, I don’t get as much xp from those one shot kills.”
Scrottle squawks over the rattling DJ, “Battle Engaged!” and the sunroof opens. You jam the phosphorus missile into the hellrifle and wave the triggerless tube towards the desert, flinching in anticipation. Jovi pokes at the battle tablet, furiously zooming through live drone footage and clicking on the first thing that looks like a target. Whoosh. The missile’s off, first tracking the target and then arcing for heaven. At apogee, the missile inverts and screams down in a millimeter perfect path towards a school filled with helpless children.
“God dammit!” Jovi throws the tablet to the floor, mushing the still-warm pie. ‘Mission failure – excessive collateral murder – return to base’ is flashing in red above some numbers.
“Knocked back to level 22.” You sigh massively, burping up the taste of pie. “It’s like we ain’t makin’ no progress at all.”
“Hello caller, this is Free Humanity Reality Radio and you wanted to talk about the new BetaMart upgrades.”
You click the big red button, putting the caller on air.
“The hell I do! Why are all you whinging, pathetic losers at FrHump going on and on about all these meaningless differences with the new software? You’re buying into the hype more than –”
You mute the caller and pause as shortly as radio will allow. “I’m so glad you asked that. Great question. Fantastic question. Let me lay it out for you, in the most incredibly revealing thing you need to know about FrHump.” Another brief radio pause. “We are not against BetaMart. We just want the option for some people out there to continue to use a few familiar AlphaMart interfaces in their homes and coffins. It’s as simple as that. Now if they believe that their hypermart experiences are ruined with every new change, that we’ve passed the interface horizon and Chandice must be immediately removed from power, that is allowed in the Free Humanity Party. I personally believe that. It doesn’t mean you have to. FrHump has the best programmers, the best hackers, the best team of people to have ever been assembled and we will manage the hypermart system in the best way possible. We’ll give people choices and let them make all the shots.” You unmute the caller, but keep your hand over the mute button.
“How are you any different than Chandice? All that stuff you said, about just letting hypermart do its thing, letting people decide. That’s how it works already.”
“Ah, finally, finally we’re getting somewhere. I thank you caller, for asking that question. FrHump is the only alternative to Chandice that could conceivably work. We will do much, much less than Chandice does, and there will be no more big disturbing updates, only gradual change as we let the data manage itself. That is our solution, that is the natural human way to fulfill all –”
“But my point, my original point is that there are no big changes, that Chandice already does the bare minimum and that the people already–”
Muting out the hater you let out a long, exasperated breath for the listeners to hold onto. “Oh my brothers and sisters out there. Do you hear this? We are beings of pure love and reality, and this… This deluded, sad fallen soul. He was so gone, beyond help. No use arguing with him. I remember thinking these things, that what we’re doing can’t be done, that it’s too big. That everyone before has failed. Do you want to know the real truth? Chandice is not even a programmer. That’s reality. That’s fact. How can he pretend to be in charge of the hypermart system? It is a front, he is a puppet. In the shadows, at the end of his strings, there is the real power.”
Tapping now at a green button, you lean back a bit. You draw back from the tense confrontational mode. “Now it’s time– it’s time to talk to Lacy. Lacy, how are things in the hypermart today?”
“Maxreality brother. Everything is easy. I just, I wanted to call in to say that when you roll out your InfiniteMart software, wouldn’t that, I mean, wouldn’t it be a big change? But it would be at least the last one, right.”
“Sister – maxrealities to you. That question – ah – you see it is so beautiful. The compendium of minds that make up the board of programmers have come together and already solved all these problems. Every problem facing mankind, they’ve solved them. I — I couldn’t do it myself. Nobody could. But the board of programmers have figured everything out. Everything. And let me answer your question. InfiniteMart works exactly opposite the way you think. No one will notice a difference, ever, unless it’s something they want. The data will tell us. Oh, there’s no doubt about it – this is the last software anyone will ever need. I’ve used it, been staying in the test house for years now, and I assure you, we have perfected the final form of humanity by basing everything on reality. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, um, that makes sense. It’s a major change, the last change that will ever take place, but it’s slick. No one will even notice. In a way it’s not even a change at all.”
“Yes. Amazing! People, listen to the bright minds who have come together in reality. Lacy, how old are you?”
“Ahhhhhh, mmmmmm. AWESOME. JUST AWESOME.”
When the coffin crossed into broadband territory, in range of a small, wired fancytown, you launch Townies, the fancytowner’s preferred online haunt, and begin burning through satoshis outfitting your digital self to make a big splash while the apology to Polly suffuses all your thinking. “I am just a humble, nice guy who happens to be caught up with some bad people. What happened the other night was a misunderstanding, and I can make it up to you. As a gesture of good faith, here is a big load of satoshis from what I made off of trolling you.” This string repeats again and again, mutating as it becomes more appealing, until it is polished like an advertisement, not even resembling the original thought. You mess around with your avatar, striking just the right mood, the right pose, so as to convey genuine remorse.
You send the burnished message and then read it over and over again. Will she respond? Yes, she must. This is good. You read it again. Oh, she’ll never buy this, even though it’s true. I mean, look at her, she is a brand. You’re a brand now, maybe. Or will be soon. You read the letter again. Is she reading it right now? No, why would she. She’s Polly.
Things would go differently if you could just explain yourself properly. Take her out to coffee, get a quiet table to yourselves, tell her all these things. You anticipate her response, maybe she is hostile. All she says maybe is, “Fuck off, creep.” But you will ask her out anyway, even then. Ask her out? God, she’s asexual. But she went for Chandice. Ah, shit. Shit! What’s the use? What’s the fuckin’ use?
Polly, oh Polly. You know you can make her love. Fuck. Love? This will never work. What the hell are you thinking? Stick to your work. Hound Chrischam, keep the satoshis going. You haven’t properly market researched the big vid yet. The data is a pleasure you’ve put off, denied yourself so that it’ll be all that much better. Now! Now this depraved self-mutilating hellride ends. No depression trail. No hyperinflated hypersonic death. No ban.
Market research shows what might probably sell, but only the art can make that son of a bitch react again. And it is a flash of inspiration that hits you as the graphs detailing your big vid’s viewer data flashes your retina, a new height, a path by which you can burn your way not just onto the same level as Polly but two tiers above, at least. A level. Maybe going fucking diamond, to the top of the heap. Chrischam — it is too easy, the payout is too big, the story is laid out before you in this vision, a pure gleaming instinct. You grin wide, cheeks pulled back. And the cruel math of jealousy, the women you will attract in the process. Maybe it will wring just one drop of passion out of that dry rag of a white haired bitch and you’ll have done the impossible.