If you fail to keep these temple flames burning it angers the gods, and the gods take your satoshis. Weird dream? Dronebreakfast would be nice but the bitcard’s battery is all fouled up. It’ll be hours before it’ll take enough charge for any kind of a transaction. All that crypto in these new cards and those damn GPUs. They make the batteries shitty so you have to pay the fee to get a new bitcard every couple of months. Didn’t someone say people still use paper money in Iceland? That’s you in the future everyone knew was coming.
Your boss Doug at AlphaMart offered employees a bitcard and 100,000 free satoshis as a convenient new option for payroll — with the added incentive of a permanent 25% discount for all in-store purchases. Although you can spend the satoshis anywhere you want, it really amounts to a scrip currency that’s worthless anywhere but AlphaMart. All the computing needs of AlphaMart are now distributed into the bitcard meshnet.
They put this scrip through last year when they were tearing out old checkout systems and auctioning off their outdated data centers. Glittering ad videos of the new self-checkouts saturating youtube showed ecstatic families rolling their groceries into MRI scanners, flashing a bitcard with a grin, and tallying their savings in an instant. Be the cloud. And isn’t that always how things slowly get shittier.
Not like you really want to go out, all the way to the curb, half dressed to pick up the shitty AlphaMart breakfast from the drone. Only reason you didn’t plug the bitcard in was you were too drunk, and now you’re just too hungover. But you lean across the bed and reach to plug the USB into your wall. It’s upside down. No it’s not. Fuck… There.
You roll over, put on smudged glasses without wiping them and flip open your laptop. You have to piss. Doug’s calling. You answer with the camera off. He’s fidgeting in his big leather chair like he’s the one who has to piss. “Um, so. Uh. Lindsey, good morning. You need to come in to talk to the psychiatrist at four. When an employee buys as much alcohol as you do in a month, this is just standard procedure. And just to remind you, you still have 27 hours to phone in over the next two days and you’ve got no more evenings left.”
So you say “thanks, Doug,” and click over to cashiering. You’ll do warehousing tonight and Doug’s dumb forgetful ass will be embarrassed as hell when you’ve put in overtime. Scanners in hypermarts in Dubai flash your game with cart scans and you verify that the tags match up with the intended objects. The scan lets you see inside the packaging and the AI teammate will almost always notice any irregularities before you will, but you still do a fast and thorough job even now because you think no matter how shitty and evil the world and your job might be, you at least will rise above it all. You’re not too competitive about it, like some people, but you’ve seen the scoreboard and you’re one of the fastest.
You take a break only to finally relieve yourself when it is absolutely unbearable and check to confirm that the bitcard’s barely charged battery is still shitty. It is. Holy shit, it’s already 3. You schedule your ride and get dressed.
The ads for things you desperately want but can’t afford, mostly nice clothing but also a few dildos, taunt you from every direction in the upright coffin as it leans into turns without slowing down as per your tight schedule, and your bitcard’s battery is already down to the last red sliver. Fuck it. You order a coffee and a doughnut from the dash and you feel much less sick from the G forces you can’t see coming because cheap coffins don’t have windshields, only these fucking ads that know way too much about what you want. Stepping out in front of the AlphaMart hypercenter’s medical wing you scope yourself out in the one way mirror and think you look relatively not hungover. Everything will be alright.
Sitting in the waiting room, a man with his arm in a sling tells you he isn’t crazy and you think maybe this is a test of your psychology because it sure feels fake. So you wink at his cam and tell him, “I won’t hold your sanity against you,” and he laughs.
Doug is in the office with your psychiatrist, Linda, and they look up in a guilty way that lets you know they’re up to some bad shit, such as looking through your recent personal messages.
Linda smiles and raises an eyebrow, “Hey sweetie, who’s this hot new man in your life I’m just learning about now?”
Hot new man? Oh. Ohhhhh shit. “Derek’s not a man, he’s a simulfriend.”
Linda sneers down at you like the lizard queen she is, “So you’ve been drinking all this wine to yourself and dating what amounts to a sophisticated video game. It’s very good you’re here now, so we can nip this little problem in the bud. We’re prescribing you Trapazam, a very common medication for game mania, but it is also expensive.”
You pass the bitcard to Linda and she initiates the transfer. The batteries fail just before the transaction completes. That bitch and asshole both look smug and satisfied, their suspicions validated. Linda looks down her mean nose, “You can pay online when you get home, for a small fee. I should remind you that if you don’t pay by five there will be a more significant penalty.”
You took the warehouse audit contract on your way home and bought a vacculev seat to Tennessee. You’ve paid for the cheapest, slowest coffin and you’re cashiering all the way to the vacculev station, all the way to Tennessee. They say scanners that can handle more than a cubic meter are twenty years away, but for now experts like you audit warehouses one cubic meter at a time with a team of robots. A few years ago you took a course in robot auditor operation, which was offered due to your high rankings in other easier games, an opportunity which eventually led into your current job, the challenging and competitive world of cashiering. Every now and then when you’ve got to squeeze in some hours at the last minute, you’ll go to a physical location and shadow a scanner robot again. Sometimes it’s kind of like a fun vacation.
But it’s 4 am, and you’re tired and angry and you just want a drink. You deserve a drink, god dammit, for all the hard work you do. One of your hours at work is worth four average cashiers, but do you get a raise? No, you get points for some worthless scoreboard. And now these robots are fucking up. They keep skipping this one row and no matter what you do they won’t go back and scan. What the fuck. Your stats are suffering on an easy job as the robots go through this long broken dance that always lands on the wrong row wasting your precious efficiency points.
The belt mounted Trapazam dispenser bleats, reminding you to take a dose and you swallow the capsule with hours old trash coffee from the vacculev dispensers. Suddenly you remember your training and you know that there may be some kind of electronic equipment in the packages interfering with the robots.
As you grip the hexagonal steel of the crowbar and pry into what must be the offending crate your eyes go wide and your heartbeat quickens with purpose. You’re probably the first person to touch the crowbar in a decade. The steel penetration and the creaking wood, squealing nails make your tits swell, but inside are not the expected electronics. Vodka! And the label looks like it’s Eurasian Union, but that can’t be.
Strange to think it for the first time just now, but there was nothing in the training about contraband. You immediately reseal the crate and open one in the nearest lot and fuck the wood up in mild panic. But you edge it open from the corner. No electronics, just more contraband. Eurasian cigarettes. But as you move through looking for electronics all the other crates in the row are just bottled water. And you see the illegal goods are also listed in the database as bottled water.
It feels like your heart forgets what it’s doing, firing its valves all wrong, but then it races pumping molten lead and you think of how you felt when Doug tried to fuck you. All the mad abuse whenever the store couldn’t meet zero shrinkage, the constant fatherly control. She mocked his condescending tone, “Take your Trapazam, Lindsey. Don’t drink so much, Lindsey.”
But you are compelled to resume your auditing instead of blowing your stats, and you go with the first impulse. You order a creative relabel that assures these packages will be the next “water” on the vacculev to your West Carolinas hypermart and you erase the evidence of the change. The liquor wasn’t set for shipment for another year and auditors will what, be glad to find out that the crates are actually water, like they should be?
By noon the robots are finishing their run on the warehouse and you realize that you’ve really fucked up. What the hell were you thinking? Maybe it felt like the easiest way out, at least in that moment. Maybe you should quit it with the Trapazam. Probably not. If you told someone about the contraband your stats and your hours for the night and the week would be have been totally fucked and Doug would fire you. If you said nothing and left it marked as water they’d probably get you for fraud. But that’s paranoid, although you don’t know. But you committed fraud anyway, and at least they won’t catch you so soon for it. They’re the ones breaking their own company policy. But in two weeks the liquor and smokes will arrive at your local hypermart.
“You know I love you and I will always be here for you, but you know you’d be better off without me.”
“I don’t believe that,” you say, tired. “I just want you to be happy.”
Trina crosses her arms and looks away from you. “I can’t be happy, remember? Go get with Lindsey if you want that. It’ll be better for both of us.”
“I only brought it up because… and you’re jealous anyway. Where do you get off being so jealous?”
Trina looks into your eyes and shakes her head. “I can’t do this anymore. You and all your whore employees.”
She hangs up and ignores your calls. Dumped by a simulfriend, if that’s even possible.
What does it mean to be spat out by a software projection of your own fantasies? It happened sometimes, rarely, and usually with a suicide. God, are you suicidal? Trina would come around. She would always be there, jealous and miserable. And if she didn’t, so what? New simulfriend images are cheap.
If you got a promotion then you could afford several months with a simulfriend, incorporated, each year. Big advances in mass produced bioware lets a regional manager like yourself splurge on a weekend or two with a 3d printed full body babe modeled on, imprinted with, and in all ways contiguous with Trina’s simulfriend personality construct. It’s not even that expensive anymore and it’s getting cheaper every few years. If you one day made it to senior executive at corporate level, you could afford to simulate a whole family, every day, if you wanted. Maybe move to Kergeulen, too. Like Chandice. Trina, or whoever, couldn’t hang up on you then.
But gloomy silence overtakes your normal, reflexive optimism. You contemplate the printing of Trina in the labs in Detroit and her silent, frozen vacculev ride to the campground in the rockies where she was activated moments before meeting you and making love. Sleeping in a tent and hiking in beautiful places, but then you wave goodbye and she sits there, probably crying as she shrinks and shrivels and then her skeleton consumes itself by design and all that’s left is ash. God dammit! Why the hell did she always focus on the negatives?
“I’m worried about this Trapazam. I’m just… I feel like an alien on it.”
Dr. Linda peers at you through her small glasses and her face is totally inscrutable. She says nothing, giving you excessive space to talk. “Go on,” she says.
You don’t want to say something that might sound crazy or violent and you sit there in this big comfortable chair, clever in its design like all furniture in this creepy room built to pry your diseased brain open, as this thin tall blonde bitch stares at you like a butcher looking at some rotten piece of meat.
“It makes me work, sure, but I can’t sit still for a moment. I can’t relax at all. I’m used to thinking calmly and working out problems, and I’ve been just … impulsive. I feel like I’m getting worse and worse at my job.”
Dr. Linda raises an eyebrow and looks at her clipboard. “Since starting on Trapazam you’ve purchased no alcohol at all and stayed in the top three in the cashiering rankings for the whole world. This nervousness and depression is just from the alcohol withdrawals and I notice here you told your little simulfriend you are no longer challenged at all by the work of cashiering because of the Trapazam.”
You feel overwhelming nausea and suppress a screaming fit. “No… It’s making me sick. My accuracy rates must be slipping. There’s something I’m doing wrong, I know it.” You heave and sigh and what does it matter? Why even complain? She won’t care.
Linda half smiles showing her superior knowledge of the totality of you and all your relations of all types as referenced on her clipboard, and now she speaks like your best friend in the world, and she is because she is at least human, and how pathetic is that, “Cheer up, Lindsey. You’re moving to management. Keith’s been promoted straight from assistant regional manager to upper management.”
She hands you an orange slip, a voucher for a new apartment, new laptop, and five suits in the formal wear department. You want to die.
Tall thin faceless white proxyshop bioware push carts threading AlphaMart aisles under mixed control of AI and Chinese, picking out only the most expensive and classy items from the top shelves. They aren’t totally faceless if you count the two camera lenses protruding from where a forehead might be, and for now that’s enough to go on. You want to talk to them, learn where they’re from, do they come by here often? Sometimes they look at you for a long time. Or maybe just one of them. It’s fucked up that they have no mouths or ears, and of course they say it’s all to increase the expensive bioware’s longevity. But you know it’s to keep workers working. The deaf and mute people controlling the bioware’s fine motor controls are more appealing than the fat racists overfilling their carts in the flesh and scowling at you because they can’t afford your shit. Haters.
Riley Chandice descended in this rocket that blew five of those mirror windows out of the retail facade, screaming in coarse barbarian ancient greek with Nietzsche and Socrates, condescending to you on racial reasoning in equally bad Mandarin. You never saw him like that on his wacky morning vids with the androids actually talking — and treating him like a dipshit. They were obviously in charge of his personal life and belittled him when you measured the inside of his legs. It doesn’t take one of the most educated seamstresses in the world to understand what that greek meant. And what a joke to be in on! In the daily vids he was always towering above the androids, held up by their combined experience, looking 20 years farther into the future than any had ever dared.
You blink and you’ve finished sewing for the day. Let your mind wander into that nightmare again. The windy impenetrable island with that idiot man child who owns the better half of the world wearing your goddamn shirt, parading around getting run down by AI projections of his idols. It’s just so fucking funny.
You come around a corner, with this idiot grin on your face and there is this slight pale girl with computer eyes looking through you. She blinks and focuses on you, her posture supernaturally efficient. “Hello Trina. I’m Lindsey.” You shake hands and try not to wince. “I sent you my body scan and I didn’t hear from you. I was hoping, maybe, my suits were ready?”
Fucking gamers. Nosy pushy exhibitionists, optimizing their lives to work up to be the next Chandice. Half androids augmented with too much AI. You want to laugh in her serious sullen face but holy shit, she’s an actual customer. You start sizing her up professionally, smiling at her posture when you notice the med dispenser on her belt. She flinches.
“Hey. I’m not gonna look at your naked scan and I don’t even know how to design that way. I can’t make your suits like they do down at the makery.”
Sick fucking shit, the people who get off looking through databases hacked from clothing factories. She probably knows and doesn’t even care. Those creeps, flashing over a billion nude 3d bodies until finding the perfect one to get off to. Why doesn’t anyone pay attention?
But it’s not about principle, even though it is. You learned your art from your mother, who learned it from hers. And the measurements from the scans are just plain wrong half the time. “I can measure you up now and do your clothes tomorrow.”
She goes rigid and relaxes, then extends her arm and shakes your hand. “I’m Lindsey,”
“Trina,” and you think that if you had it like her you’d probably kill yourself.
Trina presses for level 230 and the vaccuvator begins its angular ascent through the sierpinski shaped hypermart. 231 is Dr. Linda’s, and past that to the very top is management manor and local headquarters, where you’re working now and maybe where you can afford to live one day with this new career path.
Unlike coffins, vaccuvators are completely transparent and show no ads, excepting the constellations of millions of glittering lights streaking by through each hallways like wads of fiber optic cables.
Helax fill the tubes zipping by with their big bodies and smiling faces. Housing in the hypermart is supposedly free, although there are huge disadvantages for gamers. Their full 3d video streaming and advertisement flow is so excessive it strains the network on those floors causing too many outages to game.
The earn all their satoshis with each AlphaMart approved vid they watch, so they leave the streams running even when they are asleep or out to eat. That and the noise, the invasive ads screeching on every free surface rattle a gamer’s already too taut mind. But the helax are happy enough with it, and their love for AlphaMart gives the business total control over what little remains of government. But you can afford the rent on an actual apartment.
Trina was pissed about the body scan, and she chilled out you think, but how should you know she’s from some class of people you didn’t know existed, working on a personal basis and making beautiful clothing by hand. For you. And she has this laid back surly type of attitude only a helax could get away with even though she looks nothing like them. No neon screenprinted LED tshirt flashing ads, just blue jeans and a black western shirt embroidered with the face of Elvis. She almost looks like someone who’d be on a vid, but you don’t think she’s full of herself, at least so far. Just particular about her craft, you hope. Ah.
“I didn’t want to go to management,” you confide, “I was proud of my work and very good at what I did, but they promoted me anyway.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”
You swallow and stammer, “I — I mean it was rewarding, uh, in itself. They said I’d topped the scoreboards but I don’t care about that or check on it like some people.” You keep on talking. Why do you keep on talking? “Cashiering’s everything to me. Even though they’re so distant, I feel like I touch people, you know? And I don’t feel that in the other games.” And now your tongue is running way too rich, “Those aliens in management though. If I’d have known it’d come to this,” your laugh is lame and totally desperate, “I’d have done worse at cashiering.” Great. Now she’s sure to think you’re some kind of a lonely creep trying too hard to make friends. Which is true.
Trina shows you into her workspace on 230 which is archaic and messy with bits of cloth and strange hand tools punctuated by complicated machines. All those things spread around implying a collective history of their former and future use is so thrilling you get dizzy and forget about being embarrassed. You want to feel the cold steel of a crowbar in your palm.
Trina is all quiet and business when she’s measuring you, and she sees you are admiring an iridescent purple green black piece of silk.
Smiling, she says “You like that?”
“No,” you gasp, “I mean yes, my god, it’s lovely.”
She just nods and says, “So I was thinking more and I’ve got a lot of stuff I forgot about so I won’t have these ready for three days, and then you can come in and try them on. If they don’t fit just right, I’ll make adjustments then, and depending on how bad I fuck up, it could be a few minutes or another day.”
“Thanks,” you say, and she shakes her head.
“No. Thank you, ma’am. And thank AlphaMart.”
You hold up your phone and vid the helax stomping and clapping a rhythm and smirk at the toneless bellowing, “WE ARE WE ARE ALPHA!”
The chant sound less forced than usual because the optional daily invocation in the halls is worth a shit ton of satoshis on Alpha day. And of course, how could you not notice? Every ad space on every surface displays the AlphaMart logo. Maybe you’ll see some exposure today. Not likely, so it’s a good thing you get just as many satoshis as anyone for your sarcastic contribution to the morning’s chant.
An unusual amount of helax are staying after the invocation, faking the calisthenics because some have decided maybe the AlphaDay satoshi jubilee will mean they can afford more calories than they will burn in the daily optional exercises. You smile and hope someone falls, but it’s worse than not funny, it’s just sad. Most of them don’t last the full five minutes before they’re shuffling back inside for chococoffee, cronutsausage, and the morning message from Chandice.
He appears grave and magisterial as always, bioware Thatcher and Clinton at each side posing with bookcases towers that ascend like space elevators. You turn up ads all over the room, maxing satoshis, and you can still hear his tinny voice penetrating over the AlphaMart jingles coming from every other speaker in the room and badly syncing, like a crystalline cavern resounding with echoes of the day’s chant. Blah blah blah. He’s just playing grim, staring down the camera to explain why his fleet of drones just torched some villages on the borders of Eurasia. BS.
You could turn all the ads off, and sometimes you do, but the satoshis you lose in just one hour can hurt you in so many ways. The cramped little helax room drains satoshis from your bitcard from every crevice. Each drop of water or electron of juice is deducted instantly from the bitcard, making the room a closed system where nothing can happen that won’t be paid for, in full, by you. Sensors on the hinges of the doors and the cabinets and sensor fabrics woven into the carpeting and walls withdraw satoshis from your bitcard if you so much as sneeze on them. These places are free, right, but leave the ads or the tv off for too long and they’ll shut off the oxygen. So the helax joke goes, but you wonder. No one knows really how many helax suffer ad mania that develops into the most deadly form where hyped up enthusiasm for ads suddenly turns to extreme aversion. But how many people can really kill themselves like that, just going so passive and letting their bitcards empty out? Most of them just quit the helax lifestyle, and you’ve seen their transformations on the realvids. Truly inspiring stuff.
Been months since you’ve got your cam on some really funny viral helax bullshit. But chewing on your salty sweet cronutsausage and looking at the flab in the mirror you wonder if maybe you should move back to an actual apartment, get away from all these ads before you turn half a helax yourself. Nah. But everyone’s hyped up on AlphaMart and their will be some funny shit happening down in the retail space. When your vid of the morning chant dings in arrival to vidtube you saunter over to the nearest vacculev and board for the ground floor.
Jackpot. In the cramped vacculev there is a shirtless man with the biggest, stupidest AlphaMart tattoo you’ve ever seen, and you watch the trollchans as much as anyone. Plus he’s whooping it up, beating his chest, obviously riding on coffee dialed up on methamphetamines and still screeching about AlphaMart showing those Eurasians a thing or two about freedom.
This guy is gold, more of a helax than you thought possible. Above the multicolored AlphaMart tatt on his chest says “Ain’t tread on me.” Almost too funny to think about the kind of exposure this guy’s worth, if he does something big.
He looks angry as hell that no one else seems to be in the middle of a Jerusalem Syndrome freakout in AlphaMart heaven and he’s in everyone’s face with hell and fury.
“Death to Eurasia!” you raise your clenched fist and he sidles up to you, shifting his weight from leg to leg like he’s pacing in place.
“Name’s Christian Harrowsworth Chamford. Pleasure to meet you. Everyone calls me ChrisCham. Glad someone gets what’s going on.”
He’s got thinning straw hair and a face like a pug. And he’s unwinding a reel of facts about himself and doesn’t notice you reaching for a handshake.
“I invented Mariochu, a crossover between Mario and Pikachu. Live on Walnut 229. Come on by sometime, I’ll show you my comics.” Hanging around his neck is a crude, self-made lumpy porcelain pendant of Mario with electric shock yellow skin and lightning bolt black hair.
You want to laugh at this guy and make him feel too ashamed to live. How autistic can someone be? But you smile, stifling a contemptous snort, and keep vidding. Oh. My. God. You nod and grin and affect your most enthusiastic tone, “Mariochu!? Wow! I’m a huge fan.”
The vacculev door slides open and he is taking long purposeful strides without pausing to think where he’s going, “Hey Buddy, hurry up. Get with it. We’ve got to let the people know about Eurasia. It’s all happening at once and they can’t see it.”
What the hell, but you’ve got to follow him now. Already you are thinking out the inevitable troll calculus. Your surreptitious vid rig is only so invisible, and there is always that small paranoid group of helax who look for trolls and out them, sometimes with beatings and even killings. It all comes down to how much time do you want to spend with this guy, at his level, before spilling it all to the tubes and chans. The longer, the better for your satoshis but the greater the risk.
He is reaching into his sweatpants and picking at his asshole and already you feel greedy and think he’s just too good. If you play this right you will have topkek. Maybe even win a Hue award.
You caress Lindsey and hold her close. She is as relaxed as you are and as you drift sleepward towards your tingling core of bliss, she trembles and works out of your limp grasp.
“I can’t do this.” Her voice wavers and she turns her nose away from you, as if from a bad smell.
“God dammit,” you growl, “We’ve only got another two hours before your body autodecays. Let’s make the best of it.”
But she puts her head in her hands and sobs, and you grind your teeth. You think of all the money in the new simulfriend image and the small fortune for this little six hour printout and she’s already getting emotional. You should have just stuck it through with Trina, although you still have her image backed up, and maybe you will fire her up next week when the monthly simulfriend software upgrade comes through. Maybe there will be a sale. You resist the urge to clench your fists in rage and move to make a show of comforting Lindsey. She backs out of your reach and eyes you with suspicion.
She’s speaking through tears and sharp breaths, “What’s wrong with you? Why would you love a printout that just feels like a person? You can’t love me. I’m just going to disintegrate as soon as you’re done fucking me.”
You sweat from the anger. Your skin is hot and your fists are clenched, “That’s right. You’re just an object anyway, not even a person.” Your words menace her and she shudders and backs into a corner. Your dick is diamonds as you contemplate the total power over her that comes with the knowledge that no company guidelines protect simulfriends, and you tower over her and she covers her face as if to hide. So much for this simulfriend you think, as you grasp her neck and throw her to the ground. As soon as the body disintegrates you’ll have her deleted, and at least it wasn’t a total waste of money. For the next two hours, you punch and choke and fuck her for every last cent she’s worth.
“Why can’t people be good? It’s not hard. The way they live is hard. Why do they do it themselves?” Janice moved with elegance and dignity through the marble and teakwood kitchen, attractive round windows displaying the dwarf forests and streams of Kergeulen. She plates the eggs benedict, perfectly composed.
You shake the Kergeulen times, fold it, and lower your head. “No honey, I don’t understand it either.”
Sipping at your coffee, you ponder. How could the helax in New York’s AlphaMart possibly become so discontent? They have everything for free.
You sigh, exasperated even before the day has really begun. “They’re bored with AlphaMart.” Bored is a light way to put it, as if boredom is enough to explain away the latest spike in passive type suicides, by far the greatest failure yet in the AlphaMart system.
“We are the ones cursed with the hard life here, where we have to see all the problems with the system and try to fix them. Everything for them is just hype and fun, but,” and you smack the paper, “They don’t have to see this. Responsibility like this is hell!”
Janice nods solemnly and sits at the table across from you, smiling, “You are so compassionate, husband. But why are you so worried? The beta release is tomorrow and these statistical anomalies will be solved, finally. You’ve said so yourself with perfect conviction every morning for as long as I can remember! ‘BetaMart will sweep the planet’, ‘it’s the end of politics’ remember?”
You unclip the vape from the front pocket of your shirt and take a deep breath of citrus monkey. “Yeah, of course. That’s very true. The hypermart in Kiev’s had its grand opening this morning and they’re starting off with BetaMart. Statistics already show ad exposure and titillation are both up at least ten percent, although that’s just a touch over what we expected.” You smack the paper again, “But why is the goddamn global titillation index so low? A week from AlphaDay and it’s like nothing even happened. Oh, sure, we’re running the best numbers I’ve seen in years from a purely financial standpoint, and why can’t they just be happy with that?” Your wife is eying you, and your uneaten eggs benedict, and you pick up fork and knife.
“When you roll out BetaMart I know everything will be just fine. I just know it, and I love you husband.”
You cut into the eggs and take a gentle bite.
Cranking up the old style internal combustion Cadillac convertible, breakfast gases rumble out of your body and into the wind. Kergeulen is a near-perfect temperature, minus a degree or two, but in ten years the microterraforming project will stabilize at the target temp and humidity and that slight dry chill will disappear forever. Your neighbors wave and smile, and they get it, you think. This is simple, good living.
At the concrete Alphamart HQ Musk, Jobs, and Gates are watching — have been watching — the BetaMart rollout in Kiev. Hype is through the roof and mounting, and maybe today you will finally take their advice and rush things through a bit. After all, the beta version has been ten years in the making and you’re very confident in Turing’s team.
“Today’s the day, boys” and you’re taking deep puffs at the vape pen. “Roll the morning simulad with me, Caesar and Reagan. Maximum triumph. Pull the trigger on the preliminary BetaMart distribution as soon as possible. We’ll hold off on install until lunch, got it?” Your secretary brings you a coffee and you smile at the analytics while your team of the world’s greatest CEOs scuttles away at the tasks you’ve just set them.
Oswald Spengler storms through from the psychohistory wing screaming at you in German and flailing the Kergeulen Times. “Delta C is correlated with these suicides, god damn you! I told you!” He unfolds a graph from his pocket and grins in your face, “You see, there is a stage here where cultural novelty indices stagnated and dipped below zero, something which, well it just shouldn’t happen. We’ve had stagnant, total depression for a week but never for a month, and negatives! My God!” He is sweating and tugging at his wet shirt. “And here are the passive type suicide clusters, see? The latest cluster, it makes this even more clear. But there is a new pattern perhaps resolved by the scale of the latest event — management is the blue here, in the suicide statistics.”
You burn the roof of your mouth by sipping too much coffee and you sense the chair’s size growing, your own shrinking. Spengler is showing you that hundreds of managers died within the same six hours last night. And the cluster Y passive aggressive type suicides, maybe the most disturbing of all, taking place immediately after bioware rape. You do not rage or seethe, and you know this is a fact that cannot be printed even in the Kergeulen press because unlike with the E type passive suicide clusters typical to the helax, this stuff is truly sensational and grim. Maybe get marketing to put out a simulad of you with Bill Clinton and a strong denial. Let the managers and everyone else feel even more fear at this most critical juncture. Probably right now your simulated presence is on every screen intoning in supreme triumph that the long awaited beta upgrade is already torrenting into the hypermart nets to be activated at lunch. They’ll be riding high and at their most susceptible to fear.
You clear your throat, gravely addressing Spengler, “Correlation is not causation. I still think the Eurasian menace has some hand in these clusters, especially the latest, and this so-called cultural recession, I am confident the beta version will fix this weakness. There will be no more suicide clusters.” You are of course bullshitting about the Eurasians, useful paranoia from Hannibal’s mil-intel command, but you do have total confidence that the unprintable manager suicide cluster will not recur. In fact, you are genuinely curious as to the C variable correlation. But that’s a secondary matter, for the afternoon — your mind is for now completely set on pushing the BetaMart rollout by lunch.
Spengler is mad, waving the papers around. “Yes, you say that and most agree but Freud and especially Jung are profoundly concerned. They say you’re going to shock the helax with too much fulfilled fantasy at once and they think it is very likely we will see an even greater happening of clusters of fatal types than even this, although maybe they will take a new form.”
You shake your head. “Nonsense. Politics. Mere mythological, pseudo-psychological tripe. Fixing the cultural economy, as the alpha version fixed the material economy, that’s the purpose of the beta upgrade and the only error has been in my waiting too long to get it just right. But now the solution is complete, and it is too late for major changes anyway. I already pulled the trigger on distribution.”
Spengler threw the crumpled papers behind him as he muttered disrespect and shuffled towards the psychohistory wing, and you can only smirk. So it goes in an open style office complex full of the great geniuses of history. There will always be disagreements, and anyway he is just plain wrong, for once. You crack your knuckles and take a long drag on the vape pen. Everything is under total control.
The hypermart’s sierpinski hallways are vibrating with enthusiasm. You are as enthused as you are nervous, a wholly new and terrible emotion. Helax mill about, actually speaking to one another as the tubes zip below and you tap at your Trapazam dispenser, which seems to be shorting you more and more lately. You’ve got to report to Doug by three for management training.
Trina said she’d have your suits touched up by lunch and you arrive early, but she’s cutting your order awfully close and you hope maybe you can hang out and watch her work for a while. She makes it look so easy. Ugh. You feel everything is out of control all the time and this free wheeling bohemian is really taking her time. She’s comfortable or lazy or something. Nobody should have that kind of freedom because it makes for an inefficient system, and everyone has to pay when the system slows down. AlphaMart is locked in a zero sum game with Eurasia. And the BetaMart rollout, God! What a glorious day to start as assistant manager.
You shudder with total and complete aversion at the thought you will be working as full time assitant to that creep with his competitive jingoist attitude. God, but you were just harboring that same attitude and you slump in despair. How could anyone counter the mind-altering effet of decades of pervasive advertising of that nature? You’re no better than he is, and probably worse. No, you are definitely worse. Self-obsessed and only interested in simulfriends.
Trina is busy at the sewing machine, intent, but she vaguely acknowledges your presence, shifting her body. “Great timing” she smiles, trimming the thread with tiny scissors. “Try this on.” You change into the suit and it feels loose in a way that makes you feel naked, not clinging like the 3d knitted minimalist one-pieces molded to 3d scans of your totally nude body.
You step out and look in the mirror as Trina eyes the suit, nodding. It makes you feel invisible, but also glamorous. A long skirt and jacket revealing only collar bones and ankles, the faint iridescent greens and purples on the black cloth obscuring rather than revealing your form. Eyes welling with tears, you take a sharp breath but cannot find the words. Trina wasn’t lazy or anything, and so what if she was? You’re such a bitch, and she probably hates you. You want to hold her and sob and tell her how you hate AlphaMart so much. “Wow,” you whisper, “This is too nice.”
She smiles with satisfaction. “Thank you, ma’am. And thank AlphaMart.” She pauses, “Or is it BetaMart now? I thought I heard something about that. Sounds like a downgrade if you ask me.”
ChrisCham is whooping “BETA! BETA! BETA!” and taking bites of triple fried pork belly wrapped with candied bacon and fried again in corn dog batter. You get lots of closeups of his AlphaMart tattoo. Lunch in the helax food court is so packed with idiot helax you spot several familiar trolls following their own, less good marks.
Dweeqer taps your shoulder and whispers, “Man, holy shit. That’s ChrisCham.” You tell him in an angry tone, “I’m niggering right now,” and he breaks off, making like he’s not seen anything. Soon the other trolls have dropped their marks and are edging through the freak helax crowd towards the megafreak ChrisCham, who forms a nucleus of the strange hyped up crowd, and things are looking too hot. You high five ChrisCham and go off to order an old-fashioned bacon wrapped chili cheese corndog. By the time your bitcard’s batteries are half drained from the excessive network load the trolls are shouting at ChrisCham. “Faggottism! Asshurt!”
You think, Good God what a hellish carnival scene. You vid the insults but ChrisCham is not in fact acting very butthurt or participating in any kind of exchange. He’s transfixed at his phone as the Alpha transforms into a Beta. He is infinitely gleeful, “It’s happening! HAHA YES. FINALLY!” People are scanning every surface to see where the new logo has manifested the great brand transformation, pointing in exclamation at the incredible, unprecedented change. “Wow!” ChrisCham is visibly stunned, head cranked back to watch the new logo scroll down the tube ceiling at maximum size, as you perfectly align his AlphaMart tattoo in the shot.
ChrisCham lowers his head and is met with the toothy grin of Dweeqer, who’s givin’ him the business about Eurasia, causing ChrisCham’s face to contract in hatred and disgust.
ChrisCham exclaims, “You spit on me bastard troll boy,” and draws and fires a big can of bear mace wildly at everyone in front of him while you scan to see if any of the other trolls are vidding this epic meltdown from such a dank vantage point. They’re all fucking maced and not getting any decent vid, except Dweeqer, who’s maced but holding his cam steady and taking the stream of mace to his face like a champ.
Riley Chandice is now in the background with Bill Clinton saying something about Eurasian infiltration of the previous system causing a wave of bioware rape-suicides, which adds a serious wtf factor to your vid. You cut it out because there are no satoshis in the more contemplative and artsy lulz that you enjoy.
You ponder. What the hell is bioware rape-suicide anyway? Is bioware getting raped and committing suicide? No. Must be the people then, getting raped and then committing suicide. Or maybe… Nah. You don’t care what the fuck that shit means. Bioware is fucked to begin with. But this might be the best vid you’ve ever shot, and you’re already posting it to the chans, sure you’ll beat the others out to the crucial first post with freshest megalulz anywhere.
This story continues in part 2: A Glorious Hellride