Tags: alcohol, bar, bouncer, CBD, cigarette, de facto cigarette, miniaturisation, MTD, relationship, research, Retro Bar, romance, science fiction, speculative fiction, technology, tobacco
Jessica Diep killed the lights and locked the research centre. Filled with petty reconfigurations and endless testing for questionable gains, her week had been as uninspiring as the month preceding it. Developing the Molecular Tracking Device had been the proud realisation of her father’s dream. Miniaturisation had generated a fresh array of challenges.
Optimising the pilot production line simply wasn’t in the same league. Her team had been reduced to six and they were all on the cusp of boredom, painting by complex numbers. Tired and deflated, Jessica pocketed her locking card and entered the car park.
Phase Three did have advantages. She no longer had to live in the centre, working up to twenty hours a day. The project had taken its toll and she was beginning to look her years. She was happy to spend evenings at home with her mother and had begun to reflect that her whole life had revolved around molecular tracking technology. What had happened to her adolescence? Her twenties?
Such thoughts occupied her as she paced to her car. She didn’t hear her name hailed from the exit. Nor did she notice the young man running lightly towards her. Only when Fabien Varste overtook her and performed a low, theatrical bow did she react.
‘Hey! What the… Fabien! You scared the daylights out of me!’
Fabien flashed even teeth. ‘Ah! Got you that time, Boss. Man, were you away with the fairies or what?’
Jessica smiled, despite herself. ‘Yes, yes, “salaam” to you too, Brother. But stay your shenanigans. What brings you back here on a Friday night? Surely you have places to go?’
‘Ah but of course — and so do you, if I may so presume.’
She looked at him. ‘I beg your pardon?’
‘O Fates! She has forgotten! What did I ever do to deserve such a heartless team leader?’
‘Lord, the drama!’ Jessica leaned against her car. ‘What did I forget, your birthday?’
‘Oh no, my mentor; worse! Do our water cooler conferences mean nothing to you? A year ago today, you saw fit to hire me onto your team. You took a stupid child from the scrap heap and taught me everything I know. And now, I can only celebrate this momentous anniversary with you, tonight!’
Jessica folded her long arms. ‘You certainly are one for dramatics. How come you never became an actor?’
‘It was your eyes, Boss. They led me from my calling to a place where I would forever be the dolt who ruined tests and lost files.’ Fabien cringed inwardly at his clumsy departure from rehearsal.
Jessica’s tone was one of thinning tolerance. ‘I’m sorry, but what’s this all about really?’ Then she recalled his previous week’s invitation. He’d mentioned it so casually, so passively that she’d discarded it without a thought.
Fabien noted her flicker of comprehension. He composed himself and in his deep, true voice said, ‘Jessica, a year ago you gave me a job I didn’t fully deserve. You’ve been very good to me and I am grateful. I’ve enjoyed working and learning with you. I was hoping you might let me buy you a drink on your way home.’
Jessica blinked. She’d never heard such a serious sentence from him. The five years separating them had always felt more like fifteen. For once she saw him as something other than the workplace clown. ‘That’s sweet of you, Fabien, but I’m very tired and I have to get home. My mother’s expecting me.’
‘Jessica,’ again the resonant tone, ‘this will not take long. You’ll be home in little more than an hour.’ Fabien proffered his mobile with more bravado than he knew he had. ‘Could I suggest that you ring your mother for me?’
No one told Jessica what to do, let alone her assistant. She formed a biting retort, but Fabien shrank away, arms in mock surrender.
‘Sorry, Boss. I can see you’re tired and have more important things to do. It was just really important to me that you came tonight. Forget it.’
Jessica watched him go and felt a pang of guilt. She dined with her mother every night; what was the big deal there? Fabien had asked for an hour. Though not as intelligent as he’d appeared on paper, his contribution to the team had been significant.
‘Fabien!’ The name echoed eerily and he turned, lifted with hope. ‘Wait there!’ Jessica climbed into her car. The batteries bled and she drew up beside him. ‘Alright; one drink. I have to admit you’ve earned it. Where to?’
Fabien grinned and gripped the door, rocking the vehicle slightly. ‘Ah, that’s part of the surprise!’
The streets were busy. All the technology in the world couldn’t replace a Friday night with friends. Light rain swirled between the buildings. The streets were mirrors on which silent vehicles laid silver ribbons.
Fabien motioned Jessica into in a side street. Springing from the car, he offered to help her from the low seat. ‘I’m so pleased you decided to come. Thank you.’
Jessica declined his hand. ‘No worries. I’m happy to be here, wherever this is.’
‘All will be revealed; just walk this way.’
He guided her down an alley. She could tell it was part of the old city from the cobblestones visible beneath their high-tech veneer. The space was so narrow and the buildings so tall that little rain made it to the ground. Two ragged kittens played under a string of recycling bins. Their stiff-tailed posturing and comic pounces made Jessica smile.
‘We’re here; this is the place.’
Jessica saw a massive iron door, centuries old. Huge bolts studded the surface. Paint clung to dints and tears in a crude palimpsest of eras and episodes. Accustomed to grey furniture and pastel partitions, Jessica marvelled at the door’s texture, tracing her fingertips along an ancient scar.
‘I have to knock. Could I get past you please?’
‘Yes. Yes, of course.’
‘You like the door too, eh? It blew me away when I first saw it. They don’t build them like that any more, do they?’
‘No, they certainly don’t.’
Gripping a knocker the size of a porthole, Fabien sounded four loud clangs. There came the sound of bolts withdrawing and the great door swung. A bald, ageing bouncer appeared. His professional scowl twisted into a gap-toothed grimace and his gravel voice grated. ‘Fabien, lad! How are you my boy? Come in, come in and bring your companion with you.’
Fabien stepped into the foyer, relieved to be on familiar ground. ‘Hello Gerald, it’s good to see you again. May I present my team leader, Dr Jessica Diep? Jessica, meet Gerald Bouvier, crowd control technician for the Retro Bar.’
Gerald bowed and took Jessica’s hand with incongruous grace. ‘Enchanted.’
‘Pleased to meet you.’ She glanced about. ‘Have… have you worked here long?’
Gerald drew himself up. ‘For as long as there has been a past, I have been here in the present. My vocation will forever be to guard this establishment from the vicissitudes of the future.’
‘Then how about guarding us from our thirst, Sir Gerald?’ Fabien whispered to Jessica, ‘all he does is read history all day; he’s out of his mind with bullshit!’
‘I hear you, heathen!’ Gerald growled. ‘Begone! Ascend your godless mountain and consume your evil liquors.’ He grabbed Fabien in a headlock and made to dash his head against the banister. Fabien dug sharply into Gerald’s ribs and broke free. Laughing, he fled up the stairs and beckoned to Jessica. Gerald hurled a final curse and retired chuckling to his cubby-hole.
Jessica studied the surroundings as they ascended. On the right was a sheer drop to bituminous black carpet. The rough walls, also black, were dimly lit. Posters touted seminal acts from the controversial ‘bleen’ era, so long gone that even its tribute bands were extinct. The place reeked of nostalgia and had a snug, worn feel about it. Jessica felt a flicker of enthusiasm for her outing. She peered past Fabien as he opened the landing door.
He turned smiling, eyebrow cocked. Stunned that he had progressed so far into his vision. ‘Ready?’
‘Yes, Fabien, lead on.’
The first thing to strike Jessica was the haze of blue smoke. It transported her back to the courtyard below her father’s old office, where she’d often seen his colleagues smoking tobacco.
‘You’ll never catch me using that substitute crap, Missy,’ one had proclaimed through his stained moustache. ‘Don’t you know it’s the carcinogens that make a smoke worthwhile?’
She touched Fabien’s sleeve, innervating his arm. ‘Is that real tobacco?’
‘Y…Yes. How can you tell?’
‘I saw it when I was a kid. I can’t believe it’s still around!’
‘The regulars here are purists; they literally live in the past. Look, there’s a table.’
They settled into a circular booth. Jessica stared at the décor, some of which looked as old as the front door. Everything obviously predated recycling triggers. Television receivers hung from stout rods, their role integrated into PCs at the time of her birth. Books made of paper and mobiles the size of house bricks flanked an oil heater. Other items she had seen in museums. More were unfamiliar, the detritus of consumerism.
Fabien was watching her closely. ‘What do you think?’
Jessica twisted in her seat. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. How’d you find this place?’
‘A friend at gym told me. Working at the centre all day, I got sick of filtered air and plastic. See this table? It’s wood. Feel the seat; it’s leather — bright red. How long since you saw a primary colour? You picked up on the smell; just wait till you hear some sounds.’
‘But Fabien, where did they get all this stuff? I recognise some of it, but it all looks sort of… alien.’
”’There is nothing so unfamiliar as the recent past.” There’s one for you to look up. Now, let me get you a drink.’
‘I’ll just have a mineral water, thanks.’
‘No way! You can’t. You promised you’d have a drink with me.’
‘Yes, but I’m driving…’
‘Home to your mother’s in one hour, remember?’
‘Alright, alright; I’ll have a drink. What do you recommend?’
‘I will surprise you, just leave it to me.’
Jessica watched him at the bar. It fitted that he went to a gym. Her eyes flicked over his body and she realised she’d never considered what he did outside work. She ran her hands across the dimpled couch. The cracked leather indeed felt different to the clinical surfaces of her world. She leaned back and let herself relax a little, finding with a start that she was getting a mild head rush from the smoke. What would it be like to inhale the fragrant vapour from its source?
Fabien returned with four drinks and two packets. Placing them carefully on the table, he slid opposite her and began a ceremony. ‘Jessica Diep; welcome. Before you I put a single malt Irish whiskey with ice. Beside that, a frosty glass of dark ale. In front I place delicious cashew nuts. Behind, the finest rolling tobacco known to man. And so,’ he performed an elaborate flourish, ‘ta-da!’
To his delight, Jessica actually clapped her hands and laughed. ‘You are one strange man, Fabien Varste. Where do I start?’
‘With the whiskey, Boss! The whiskey!’
Condensation coursed down the tumbler as Jessica brought it close to her face. Through dimpled cubes and bronze fluid she saw Fabien raising a toast. ‘Cheers,’ she murmured and closed her eyes. Barley, oak and spring water burned and cooled in one swift motion. In her empty stomach she felt a soft, far away collision. Then an even gentler impact occurred in her brain.
‘Shit, woman, you don’t muck around!’
Jessica stared at the empty glass. ‘I haven’t drunk for ages. Was that, er, good whiskey?’
‘The best; cost me three days’ pay!’
Jessica smiled and reached for her beer. ‘I feel like some cashews. You’re saying this is the only way I can get to them?’
‘Yes. Beer first, then nuts.’
They clinked and drank deeply, the ale a perfect chaser. More customers arrived. A couple dressed in the fashion of four decades past sauntered to a booth. A business suit joined others at the bar and ordered vodka shots.
‘Ready for the next phase?’
Jessica looked at the packet of tobacco and waved her hand. ‘Not for me, thanks. You go ahead.’
‘Ah, but I bought it specially for you. You want to try it, do you not?’
‘I seem to be getting plenty from the environment.’
‘It’s not the same. I saw it in your face; you want to sample real tobacco. Come on, die a little!’
Fabien turned the packet over and over, caressing it. His performance made her laugh again.
‘Alright, give me a damn cigarette. Lord! What I have to do for my assistant!’
Fabien smiled at his victory. Things were going better than he could have dreamed. He rolled a pinch of tobacco between his palms, draped it along a cleft of paper and deftly entombed it with a lick. Taking a match, he poked in a few shreds and twisted the cylinder shut. Jessica hesitated, then took it from him and examined it like an artefact.
When the link to cancer was proven beyond dispute, the tobacco companies changed strategy. Funds earmarked for advertising and litigation were ploughed into research until a harmless substitute, accepted by most smokers, was eventually developed. Jessica had smoked a few de facto cigarettes but had never touched one of their disgraced predecessors.
Her common sense said ‘no’. Piqued by alcohol, the uninspiring week and her recent introspection, her curiosity countered with ‘yes’. She lit up and drew back. Though the physical effects were the same as a de facto, her mental reaction was as complex as the smoke leaving her lips. She felt disobedient, then guilty, then heavy with a vague yearning. To belong to a gym. To have friends. To perhaps even fit into an alternative scene like the Retro Bar.
Fabien stayed quiet while she smoked pensively. Her ride ran its course and returned to its platform, but not to the exact point of departure. Calm again, but slightly unsettled, she sank further into the leather.
‘Not bad, Fabien. Not bad at all.’
Fabien fought to conceal his excitement. ‘You pull like a pro, Boss; I’m impressed.’ He fumbled in his jacket.
Jessica took a long last drag and blew it at the ceiling. ‘Do you reckon we could dispense with the ‘‘Boss’’ routine?’ She looked at Fabien and received a shock. In his palm was a small package. She frowned. ‘What is that, and why?’
Fabien’s grin was awkward and motile. ‘I told you I was grateful for my job, B… Jessica. This is the token with which I say “thank you”.’ The package landed in Jessica’s hand and scrunched as he folded her fingers onto it.
To her annoyance, Jessica blushed. The only men ever to give her presents had been her father and a couple of preferred suppliers. She stared at her lap, reflecting that Fabien’s fingers had been clammy, almost wet.
‘Open it,’ he prompted.
‘Thank you,’ she replied woodenly. ‘This is most unexpected.’ She tried to save the pretty paper, but Fabien had mummified it with tape. She filled the ashtray with fragments until a small box appeared. ‘Jewellery,’ she thought, her involuntary interest pierced with concern. Fabien leaned forward eagerly.
She snapped the lid open. On a satin bed lay a pendant with a gold chain. Fixed in crystal was an MTD, fresh from their pilot production line. The piece was obviously hand crafted at considerable expense and the combination worked.
Jessica was flabbergasted. She turned the pendant over and over, trying to determine how the MTD, effectively her totem, had been incorporated without creating a flaw.
Fabien studied her reaction. ‘You like it… don’t you?’
‘…Yes. But it’s far too much; I can’t possibly accept it.’
‘You can and you must. I had it made for you; it cannot be returned.’
‘But it’s…,’ Jessica’s voice rose with exasperation. ‘Why on earth do you want to give it to me?’
‘I already told you. You turned my life around when you chose me for your team. I love my job, I admire you and I am grateful. Please keep it.’
Jessica regarded the pendant, realising she wanted to put it on, just to see how it looked.
Fabien swallowed hard; fortune had favoured him this far. Reaching forward, he fastened the chain around Jessica’s neck. Then he gathered her hair and drew it through the glinting circle. It cascaded, soft as mink, through his hands and fell around her shoulders.
Jessica bristled and went rigid. She watched Fabien resume his seat, hands shaking, then slowly picked up the pendant and stroked it again. Fabien looked back, sweating on the gamble of his life.
A full minute passed, during which Jessica detected the same sense of power she had begun to derive from public speaking. Suddenly, she felt like another drink.
Fabien fidgeted and went red. Then crimson. Then beet.
‘Thank you, Fabien. I accept your generous gift.’
He shook his head in smiling disbelief and grabbed some tobacco, only to scatter it over the table. He looked up embarrassed. ‘Would you, um… would you excuse me for a moment?’
As Jessica inclined her head, Fabien propelled himself towards to the bathroom. Jessica examined her gift as she replayed the last scene. Then she tossed her head and strode to the bar. The bartender listened studiously to her order, debited her account and waved her back to her seat.
Read Chapter 12.
Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.
Tags: advertising, advertitle, CBD, chapter, fabric violation zone, IT, Moore's Law, narcotic template renaturing, novel, PC, personal computer, recycling trigger, science fiction, speculative fiction, Stalingrad, technology, tractor
Myron Price sprinted up his stone stairs and fished a locking card from his runner. Entering the relative warmth of his cottage, he felt satisfaction at having risen early on another winter morning. Fourteen kilometres was pretty good for one who sat on his backside all day.
At twenty-five he was determined to maintain his physique, unable to fathom why so many men took thirty as their cue to obesity. Each run set him further from average and he was glad of the distance.
Myron towelled his face and relished the excitement of his day off. It had been a good month and his home-based software consultancy could tick over without him. His second reward was to be the latest performance PC. The Panrax 3700J boasted far more power than his business required and quite enough to make the most of the latest games.
Brochures littered the lounge. Though computing was his passion, Myron didn’t like online catalogues. In anticipating a major purchase, it was more satisfying to possess the desired object on glossy paper than to see it on a monitor. Faced with this reality, advertisers had met strict environmental standards with recycling triggers. Of the various triggers available, single-use literature employed fabric violation zones.
Tearing a zone initiated an accelerated weakening of molecular bonds which, under time lapse, looked like an eerie invisible fire. Showered and shaved, Myron ripped and binned the brochures he no longer wanted. By collection day, the paper discarded during the month would be reduced to fibres tailor-made for reconstitution.
Myron saved the well-thumbed Panrax brochure and felt a tug of pleasure. Soon he would own the finest PC yet built. Too distracted for breakfast, he left home with a light step and a sense of anticipation remembered from childhood.
Soon Myron was slicing through bubble wrap and tape. His face glowed as cardboard petals revealed the black device swathed in cellophane. His superseded PC called Franz Heilmayr, who looked up from his soldering iron.
‘Hello, Mr Price. What’ve you got there then?’
‘The new toy, just out of the box.’
‘I see,’ said Franz with feigned disapproval. ‘And what possessed you to purchase this…,’ he peered through his sandy fringe.
Myron grinned. ’3700J. I told you I was due for a reward.’
‘You must have done some very special work.’
‘Yeah, well, my company values me extremely highly. It follows that I should be compensated accordingly.’
‘I’m very happy for you.’
Myron knew his friend was envious, but not enough to begrudge him pleasure. ‘Thanks. Now, what say you come over and road test it with me?’
‘I can’t, I’ve got jobs on.’
‘Oh, bullshit! How can you think of work?’ Myron’s eyes narrowed conspiratorially. ‘I’ll let you take it to bits.’
Franz contemplated his bench. He enjoyed his work, but it didn’t compare to pulling apart the latest box. ‘You won’t have kittens every time I use my pliers?’
‘Absolutely not. Once we’ve seen what it can do, you may disembowel it — so long as you get us back online for tonight’s campaign.’
Franz’s pale blue eyes stared. ‘Shit! Is it two weeks already? Kiev seems like yesterday.’
‘Ja,’ said Myron, ‘und tonight is Stalingrad. We’re going to combine your paratroop strategy with this new beast. We’ll run their moves and send ours back so damn fast it’ll take their heads clean off!’
‘I still think they’re women,’ said Franz, referring to the team which challenged them fortnightly on PanzerNet. ‘Why else would they want to stay anonymous?’
Myron laughed. ‘Just because your dream girl has to be able to change a fan belt on a Tiger II.’
‘That’s not true! It’s their tactics; they’re diabolical and quite… merciless.’
‘Franz, I don’t care if we’re fighting gifted ferrets. If we don’t take Stalingrad tonight, our whole campaign’s at risk. So the sooner you satisfy your curiosity, the better we can ready for the fray.’
‘Alright; how does this sound? I’ll meet you half way. You play with your bells and whistles; I’ll come after lunch, look inside and get us up by 18:00. Then we can have a spot of pre-battle sustenance and I can enjoy the evening without freaking out about work. OK?’
‘You’ll miss the fireworks.’
‘I’m sure you’ll deign to run them again for me.’
‘Yeah, righto, but I want you here no later than 13:00. You know how carried away you get.’
‘Alright,’ said Franz, ‘See you then.’
Myron slid the 3700J into his workstation, then fetched a beer. It was mid-morning, but he felt like celebrating. He settled back to watch the PC self test and the beverage went warm in his hand. The industry managed to produce a unit totally superior to its predecessor every two years. Myron never witnessed the change without a feeling of awe. Would the technology never reach a limit? After wrestling with the improbability of his machine’s existence, he surrendered to the fact and simply enjoyed the invention whose complexity was approaching that of the human brain.
Franz Heilmayr shared Myron’s interest, but was less demonstrative. Dressed as usual in his rough, many-pocketed blouse and trousers, he removed the casing while Myron made a late lunch, then systematically disassembled the Panrax. Inside he discovered components which all but defied recognition. Paying homage to those responsible, he realised he’d have to study up to offer a customisation service.
Towards the end of his voyage, Franz grunted.
Myron looked up from a magazine. ‘What is it?’
‘Something strange.’ Franz slipped the Panrax’s manual into Myron’s old PC and a detailed schematic filled the screen. His tweezers held a blue, egg-shaped gob of plastic, three millimetres high and two wide. A fibre protruded from the narrow end. On the table lay a power module.
Myron felt a stab of anxiety. ‘You haven’t busted it, have you?’ He received the Look of Death. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean that. What is it?’
‘Good question, infidel,’ said Franz. ‘It’s a resistor, but as to its purpose, I know not. Even more amazing than my admission of ignorance, your manual doesn’t seem to know either.’
Myron pointed. ‘Did it come from there?’
Franz peered through his magnifying glass. ‘Yes, where a resistor has no place to be. Thinking I was onto another ingenious piece of redesign, I called up the schematic. The component isn’t named at all. See?’
Myron followed the tweezers but saw only a sea of angular tagliatelli. ‘I’ll take your word for it.’
‘Well, my word says it doesn’t match the product.’
Franz shook his head. ‘Not likely; the legal ramifications would be horrendous. Quality Control would never allow it.’
‘But it could be an error,’ said Myron, with no other idea to offer.
‘Possible, but extremely unlikely. I’d lay sixty to one against it.’
‘Well… what, then?’
‘I don’t know. There, I’ve said it again — that’s twice in one month!’ Franz rummaged in his tool bag and withdrew a slim rectangular card.
‘What’re you doing now?’
‘Keep your pants on; just a once over with the multimeter.’
‘Ah, to see if the resistor really is a resistor?’
Myron was pleased with his glimmer of understanding. Franz performed the standard tests, then pushed away from the desk and rubbed his eyes.
‘I’ll be damned; it is a resistor. But what’s it doing there? I’ve gotta get up to speed with this stuff if I’m to stay in business.’
‘Well it’s nice to see that hardware can be as fickle as software,’ said Myron. ‘I’ve always envied you working with things you could smash against the wall. I’ve never had that luxury with coding.’
Franz stared at the schematic. ‘Looks like you might be right about the typo. You should’ve taken my odds.’ He began to reassemble the PC. ‘Why don’t you call Panrax? They might send you a token of thanks.’
‘What would I tell them? “The thingo left of the jigger is light on for tendrils”? They’d think I was mad. You’re the boffin; you call ‘em. Just put me down for twenty percent of the reward, whatever it is.’
‘If it’s booze, you’ll not get a drop. Ignorant bastard.’
‘Oh-ho! Bastard am I? Gunner Heilmayr wishes to forfeit his chance to duel with the gorgeous tractor factory amazons using Colonel Price’s superior technology. The Eastern Front Dating Agency is no more!’
‘Steady on, you black mongrel. Drummer Price forgets that Field Marshall Heilmayr has his precious technology in a thousand pieces and that without a full retraction of his insulting outburst, such pieces shall be reunited nevermore.’
Myron leapt to attention. ‘Sir, I hereby request permission to withdraw my insinuation that you participate in our campaign merely to nurture twisted fantasies about women who are into turn-based battle simulations. Forgive me.’
Franz returned the salute. ‘You are forgiven. Your penance shall be to command auxiliary units for the first hour. Also, I want a beer.’
‘Yes Sir! Now, please put my baby back together.’
After three days, Myron had a good idea of what his machine could do. As he watched it handle his most complicated applications with ease, he felt humbled and even sad that he had nothing with which to challenge it. He imagined himself devising software of a complexity that demanded a new class of platform. His accounting and investment programs seemed drab and trivial by comparison.
On Friday he prepared for a drinking and bullshit session with Franz. Though alcohol, like all drugs, had been replaced by templates kind to bodies, it retained its disinhibiting effects. Narcotic Template Renaturing was akin to DNA engineering. Feeding off each other, the two research streams had developed in parallel. Just as it were possible to switch off codes for hereditary traits, adjustments in the molecular composition of intoxicants had swept away the undesirable consequences of a big night out.
Myron filled his freezer bag and wondered why many people had to be pissed to reveal their feelings. The situation had a flip side: if you wanted the truth from someone, you need only get him drunk. Myron resolved to raise the topic after a few beers.
‘It’s a funny old world,’ he said sagely to the mirror.
‘Mustn’t grumble,’ his reflection agreed brightly.
He lived in a doughnut-shaped zone that had once serviced the CBD. Now sourcing decisions were based on performance indicators and customers had abandoned their quest for human service. Materials and products sped cheaply and cleanly beneath the city, making it no longer necessary to locate close to clients. Zones became blurred as manufacturers moved out. Developers renovated most of the shells; councils demolished others for parks. A few niche businesses lived on among nascent residential communities.
Myron power-walked along reclaimed nature strips and bicycle tracks, past converted warehouses, concept domiciles and a growing number of svelte, well-designed public housing projects. Bricks and cancered concrete fought carbon fibre and Electroglass for his attention — two centuries of urban history framed in competing elevations.
The one constant among the farrago was advertising. Whoever owned a surface could rent it and few had resisted the temptation. Some builders even specialised in windowless homes, since unbroken surfaces commanded higher returns. Cued by their own flashing facades, owner-occupiers used the rent for gambling, intoxicants or take-away food. The fiscal advantage of prostituting the suburb thus returned via domestic budgets to corporate coffers.
A phalanx of these ‘advertitles’ pulsed a visual metronome at the end of Myron’s street — garish characters streaming over walls and roofs. As Myron approached, they quizzed his mobile and switched to products in keeping with his purchasing history.
PCs aside, Myron was one of the few consumers who bought only what he required. He was in tune with his needs and no advertising, however intuitive, could move him. Like his friends, Myron deplored the mainstream and was proudly immune to calls for conformity, unless disinhibited by narcotics. Stoned, he was as vulnerable as any to sugar and sex. In his defence, he’d once held that society had been psychologically drugged and was experiencing an era he termed ‘The Global Munchies’. As a Rational Man, he could connect with the majority only by submitting to a drug-induced transformation of identity.
Myron’s friends, themselves considerably disinhibited at the time, had replied candidly that he was full of shit.
Read Chapter 07.
Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.