The time?: Maybe sooner, perhaps later… but it could be sooner than you think.
The place?: Nearer than you could possibly imagine.
The victim?: It could be you.
You’d think that places like this would be things of the past, yet peer through the plasti-metal and chromo-glass spires of any city, anywhere you wish to choose; try lifting the veneer of the opti-glow hoardings with their garish ads for last-minute bargains and hot deals and I guarantee that you’ll find the festering, hovel-ridden middens of the gutter-dwellers.
Back in the old-times, before the days of political-uber-correctness, we simply called them slums, these days we’ve engrandified them with tosspot terminology – respectifying the disreputable. Somehow, ‘non-enfranchisable autonomous zonal communities’, sounds so much better than ‘slums’… same thing though, just with a poshified name – same slime, same grime, same chuckouts we’ve always had; no doubt, we’ll always have them – that much is clear to anyone with even the most basic versing in old-time/new-time historic academicals. I guess that includes me.
Funny how excusisms always get made to cover up the basics of people-nature – would make a lot more posilogic if we just acknowledged there’s always gonna be possessed and dispossessed, live with it and stop the cover-up correctisms. Let the trendies and upsters get on with their consumoralist lifestyles in the high-rises and condo-communes, sitting behind their slick ‘stations, with their slick hair, slick shoes and slick attitudes, and just accept the scummies have their place too.
Every society has to have its scummies; that’s why we go blind-eye on them, tart them up with quasi-communes and pretendify they’re something they’re not. Do away with scummies and slummies, and who’s gonna to do all the crap-’ployment? Who you gonna have peddle the fixes and keep the booze-heads stoked? Without the mobbies, who’s taking care of business? – like it, or not, maffy-style has its place… and its place is in the slums. This way it’s easy – everyone knows the score, tabs are kept and you know where to find the solutions to your griefings. So we put up with it, accept it has its place and life goes on happy-style – so why all the pretendifying?
It’s a cover-up – make us feel all gooey-hearted and that we’re doing good. Slums out, smiles up! ‘Course they’re still there actual-style, but we feel bigtime better ’cause we’re investing in change. Crap – was then, is now, gonna be tomorrow: A great steaming, hooting pile of crap – but, smiles up! it’s crap we gotta have.
‘Course, the greenies gotta have their chunk of flesh – “Socio-reformatise”, they scream, “Give people privilege!” Well, I got news for you greenies – some people don’t want no privilege; not everyone wants to be a slicker or a consumoralist and, even if they did, you ain’t never gonna make it happen – if you did, society would grind to breakpoint – like I said, we need the scummies, can’t do without them. And here’s the bigtime news – if it wasn’t for the greenies, we wouldn’t have the scummies, or need them, in the first place!
I can tell you’re hot-braining that one – lemme put you outta your misery. Back in the old-times, the greenies were on their save-the-everything mission. They had their mantra, the old ’3-Rs recycle-cycle’ – ‘reuse; recycle; regurgitate’, and everyone thought it was mission-accomplished. How wrong they were. All started smile up!, of course, then people realised it was all tripsy and stuffed. You 3R stuff enough times and bang goes its use-worthiness – like 4th-time-round puke; after a few chunders it’s still juicyful but it’s got no vita-fibre… useless to anyone. So what do you do with the crap that’s left? Same as you always did – bury it, chuck it, drown it, hide it – doesn’t ever go away, but what can you do? That’s when the scrappers and the trashies first appeared – using stuff that had no use; making cash from trash, homes from bones and that’s how the ‘burbs first grew. ‘Course they weren’t the most poshified joints, so’s the trendies and upsters steered clear – Yeah… smile up! to wave tootles to their crap, but not so shiny about seeing where it ended up. Stands-reasonable that we end up with split-cities: The flash and sparkle of the tower-ups and mall-o-marts on the uppers, and the fibro-crete and ghetto-dumps of the lowers. It works – smile up! everyone’s shiny and life goes on.
‘Course, divide-wise, stuff goes wide – no-one upside wants to get tarnished and no-one downside gives a steaming pile of crap about the upsters, so’s both go about their own bizzies, minding each other’s asses and getting on in some weird parasitication – neither side standing a chance without the other, but neither side wanting touchy-feeliness neither. ‘Course, the greenies keep harping on their whine-fest, but no-one cares, and no-ones gonna do a thing about it – stuff works too damn well.
Anyhows, that’s how the slums were birthed and onwardly-forward, they became a home for all the no-hopes who couldn’t fit it as upsters – flabbies, mobbies, shysters, sexxxers, boozies, tokes, pharmies and chipsters – they all got a home here and they’re all welcome.
‘Course it’s not all shiny in the slums – no NRG, excepting what you can side-tack and no easy ride, but the socials do their stuff and everyone’s looked after; for the dropouts and freakos there’s always the shelters and the faith-folk, so no-one gets dropped fulltime, even so, it ain’t easy 247 for slummers, but they get by. Sure, it can get tricksy sometimes when the cleaners come by – gotta keep your wits, but slummies ain’t thicksters and most of them can handle the odd agent or two when the need arises.
Oh, me? Yeah – if I gotta be full-frontal, I don’t like the joint, it gives me the creeps and if I didn’t have to be here you can bet a month’s foldies I’d be outta here faster than the chillie-squits, but truth is I gotta be in this dump and that one of life’s factoids.
Anyhow’s, this is me – and this is where we say our sweet sayonaras. It’s been shiny but time for tootles; this is where we hit the big divide. Hell, I know this is only the slum but, like they say, a guy’s house is his fortress, and it may be a dump to you, but it’s a home to me. See you on the Up.
You academicals crease me – always questions, never answers, so’s you gotta come crawling to scummies like me for your kicks; somehow’s you thinks the scumbos got the answers you ain’t. Maybe we have, never did us no good though.
And all the time, you’re stood there crappin’ your panties, being oh-so-polite and noddy, but up there in your brainies you’re wondering just when I’m gonna jump you and sell your skin to the tanneries. Relax kiddo: I’m one of the good guys!
So, what’s your poison today? Ha! Law and order – been a fair few hangovers since I last heard that little emerald. Just ‘cos I’m a cop don’t mean i get personal about that sort of thing – it’s not like it’s a job or anything, only reason anyone does anything round these parts is ‘cos it’s gotta be done.
I don’t need to spin it out – you’re a brainer… you know how way back flipside, copping was flush and shiny – but that was when the world needed cops. After Turning Point – like most jobs – copping went cyberstyle. ‘Course the big plan was for everyone to go footsie-up and live chill-wise, but that ain’t taking account of people-nature… then there was the greenies getting their skins off about 3R… well, you know the rest. KK – the high-rises take care of themselves; no danger of crime up there – so the upsters are all smile up!; no worries, no problemo.
Things are diffo down here in the slums – no cyberwatch, and plenty bigtime scamming. ‘Course, the mobbies and the maffies take care of their own business, but someone’s gotta watch all the other scummers – stands to reason – that’s where I come in.
What’s in it for me? Respect, that’s what. Even the narcos know better than to slag a cop. So’s I get a quiet life, no worries and plenty of respect – credistyle, if you catch my drift – from the ‘hood. It’s not all shiny though – you get the odd jerkster who wants to slip you a slap.
You brainers are freakos! The stuff you go asking. KK, I’ll give you a one-time – I’m doing my run, checking everything’s tight and shiny and this tosspot steps into my clearway – bigtime closer than you right now. He pops a blade and kinda waves it around like he’s all zen – the jerkoff wants my skin and reckons he’s in with a chance. So’s I gives him one – a chance that is – “Back off kid”, I says, “go home to your momma while you still got legs to run on”. Guy’s a freak and doesn’t take the minty-fresh I’m showing him; just eyeballs me and says, “Give!”
Well, I reckon since he’s asking, I should be obliging – but I hate making a mess – so again, I go with the minty… “Son”, I says, “Are you some sort of freakin’ mentalist? I reckon so, ‘cos I’ve laid turds with more sense than you’re showing. Now, I’ll lay it on full and shiny – you make it past-tense right now, or I make you dog meat. Comprendo?”
Guess he wasn’t square with my lingo, ‘cos he just kept coming. So’s I pulped him. Bigtime gorefest, but what’s a few splats in this place? Truth is, everything’s got a value, so’s the grimers move in pretty quicksure when there’s fluids on offer – big resell market see?
You ain’t looking so shiny… don’t go puking in here, save it for grimeside; someone will want it. Hey, you wanted to know, right? Don’t go shelling no nuts if you can’t handle the weevils! I’m telling you, there ain’t no point being gooey-hearted down here – if you can’t handle it then stay upside, where you’ve got all your sanitaries and plushes… ‘course when cyberwatch decides to hit you for the big recycle you’re kinda wrecked but, who’s counting? Gameover ain’t going away – but that’s the cost of being upster: it ain’t always farting rosy, but smile up! eh? You make your choice: on the up, or hitting the deck – your call, but don’t go freaking when it goes glitchy on you. Scummy suits me for now; ain’t no way I’m ready for the Big R and I ain’t no glitzer or trendy, so’s I put up with the scum and freakies and I don’t go on a whine-fest about it.
Gotta tell you, I’m getting twitchy having you here – scum’ll be watching and – cop or not – some will take a swipe if they see a ripe one and, believe me, you’re pretty ripe! Point is, you got your juice and, if you know what’s sweet, you’ll be past-tense and quicktime too.
Yeah, we’ll convo again – but let’s keep it chillwise, you hear?
Smiles up! And tootles for now.
Not the place for opt-outs like me – give me the slums over the rises anyday… ask any scummer and they’ll tell you the condos and rises are just so many polished turds – slick and shiny on the outside, but don’t poke ’em too hard, if you’re on my bandwidth? Still, this is where the big foldies hang -it’s the only reason I’m here – credits for questions, and I’m not one for turning down freebs.
‘Course, it took some sweet talk to drag me Central. Place gives me the squits – but the guy just kept pinging me, driving me psycho – “Come upside”, he says, and no way is he quitting till I play ball. Just ‘cos he got freaked last time round, that time he cam downside to pump me – some scummer tried greasing him after he tootled – can’t say I didn’t give him the heads-up, frontal-like, but the jerkoff wanted to ‘experience the depravity of the slums’: he got that alright, bigtime! So the guy ain’t so shiny about house visits now… being full frontal with you though, I ain’t so shiny about paying him a call either.
Streets are too empty; walkways slick from rain – the ‘rises crowd around me, high as I can see, making me feel like a louse crawling in a forest of pubes – everything looming over me, boxing me in. Place just feels sterile – give me a few booze-heads tripping and cursing and the clamour of the slums any day over the shiny, slicky silence of the communes – full frontal, I’m a hair from slinging it, but then – smiles up! – I’m here, and almost feeling stoked about it.
It’s your standard hi-rise – plastiglass and fibrocrete, maybe 2k’s high and grey as spent ash. I flash the plasti-pass he pinged me; door opens and I’m in.
Now the squits are back – I’m no slicker and I’m total out of trend, so this place is churning me like bad gas. I’m bigtime not welcome too: moment I’m in and this sanibot is tailing me, slurping up the wet tracks my boots are leaving from the walkways outside. I aim a kick, the bot slips me quicksure, giving me a blast of floral in the process and making me gag as it catches the back of my throat. I mutter something about about scrapper feed, then hawk on the floor, just to clear the crap from my throat and keep the bot tied down. Damn glitzers… turning their oh-so-delicate noses up at second-handies that creeps are all smiles to shell up foldies for down in the burbs – so much for 3R – only recycling going on in the condos is the endless whining. Consumoralists my arse! They could learn a thing or two from the scummies, I think to myself, as I watch the bot clean up after me – as if a bit of dirt is gonna do harm!
There’s a terminal on the wall – I flash my plasti and a pale glow appears down the corridor. “Walk towards the light”, says a voice, so I do – I step into the glow, wait for the twist, then step back out. “Level 803”, say the voice and I almost expect it to carry on… “make it quick, scummer, and then hit past-tense!” – I’m still laughing at my little joke when a door opens and there’s the chump himself, my friendly brainer, waving me in – well, I’m here now, just hope the jerk’s got booze!
“Nice condo”, I say, looking around his joint – and I reckon it is, if you happen to be a slicker: warm, dry, quiet, NRG on tap and – up here in the 800’s – lots of plush and shiny. My eyeballing gets hijacked by a shelf against the wall – it’s stuffed full of of flipside trash: pre-flip kit that gets me hotbraining bigtime. Hell most of this stuff is so banned cyberwatch will shred you just for thinking it! And jerkface brainer-boy here is so loaded with the crap I’ve gotta wonder what’s the deal with him and why the hell cyberwatch has gone blind-eye on his hoard – more than that, my skin’s crawling like maggots on a week-old dingo corpse… have I been set up?
I stay chilly – whatever’s coming, I need my brainies full charged, but this whole thing’s so whacked now, I dunno which hole to crap from. I hold fire, ice up and it’s only then I realise the guy is trying to convo.
He tells me to take a seat and, although it’s kinda full-on that I’ve eyeballed his glitzies, he goes blind-eye about it – seems he just wants to convo about stuff we already glossed the last couple of times, though I can tell he’s cooking up some sort of big stir-fry – I’m braining there’s more to this chump than is showing as flush… still, I figure this is his turf, so I’m staying off the grass till he gives me the green – that’s cool, I’ve got the feeling I’m up to my neck in turd anyway; I can wait.
On he goes, like a freaking narko on weed – he asks, I give him what he wants; he asks more, I toss out more pearls for him and he chews on my words like a dog gnawing on gristle. Then he stops, looks at me long and hard – like he’s braining if I’m gonna skin him – next thing I know, he’s passing me a bottle…
“I think there’s much we can learn from each other”, he says, flipping open his booze…
He’s giving me the freakies – all wide-eye and squinty – then he starts speaking…
“If this meeting is going to achieve anything, we need to come to an understanding.”
He does a noddy towards that trophy shelf and I can see him hot-braining how he’s gonna play this. Then he spills – whatever I hear and whatever I eyeball stays kosher; if I go tabloid then both of us stand to get skinned, and he’s talking finality! He tells me I don’t have to stay – If I want to say tootles, I can, as long as I swear I’ll get forgetful about the whole drama and steer outta his fullbrights for good.
I’m staying – the freak has got my attention bigtime.
So he starts to spill – and I start to freak. Spins me this whole pile of crap about how all this academical stuff is just polish for a turd that’s steaming right under our noses, but no-one’s smelling the stench. Seems his collection of flipside tasties is all gear he’s tripped over in his studies – stuff that Cyberwatch would burn him for if he ever got rumbled – but the freak is chilly about the whole game: Reckons Cyberwatch ain’t so brainful and doesn’t know squat about what’s going down.
Is this jerk real?
I guess he is when he hurls me more booze and starts milking me about flipside and Turning Point. Like I know squat about those things… All I’ve got is the standard, plus the stuff I’ve brained myself – it’s no big deal. The way I got it figured, flipside life was shiny and tasty; free living, free knowing and free loving. Then the greenies started shaking things up, bones got broke and the heavies started calling the shots – before long, it was mass skinnings and a total splat-fest, bad things were happening and it seemed no-one could cap it.Then Worldgov got sarky: started pulling its weight bigtime, and suddenly, as quick as it kicked off, things went total hush. Turning Point.
Worldgov soon put the mockers on freebies, online went straight off, followed PDQ by all the other nets – no talk, no vid, no info: Then came the culling and Cyberwatch… and you know all the rest.
At least, I thought I had all the dope, but the freak is leading me down a tricksy alley. The jerk reckons Worldgov is shaky as a prozzie on Prozac and has lost control of the slums; he reckons the upsters are getting over freaky about Cyberwatch and going vocal – not that it pays to play your cards in the risers – by the time you try to run, Cyberwatch has called your number and it’s checkout time… Say tootles to your hide and the freakoid beneath you gets promo’d up a level – he’s shiny, Gov is shiny, everything’s shiny except you. In the risers, you shut it, or hit the big timeout – almost makes the slums sound shiny.
They ain’t – the slums are about as shiny as the pus outta a flabbie’s busted arse, but at least you ain’t got Cyberwatch squeezing your nuts.
Anyways, the freak is still droning – says there’s a whole bunch of losers in the risers who want out – but here’s the crucial dope – they need a slummer on board, or they’re creased.
Yeah, you brained it bigtime – I’m that freaking slummer!
There’s no way I’m gonna skin myself by climbing on. I ain’t ready for checkout and the thought of hanging with upsters and slickers makes me want to heave like a junkster on a bad trip… but there’s something freaky about this whole mess that’s got me hot-braining at full whack. I eyeball his trophy shelf again…
And I ask him about Cyberwatch.
My name is Tolland L803 and, I suppose, I am what once was known as a rebel.
It is neither something about which I am proud, nor is it a status I would willingly broadcast, although – as is the nature of rebellion, it cannot be such a closely guarded secret that no others have any awareness of my crime. Disclosure is of necessity for progress, yet both disclosure and progress bring risk of downfall. It is an uneasy path I walk.
Historicals? Unremarkable: Post conception, I was afforded Standard Rearing, neither excelling nor warranting summary culling. During my transit period – as is the case so often with mediocre achievers – sanctions were relaxed; I was permitted a modicum of freedom to pursue my own paths, to experiment with forbidden pleasures and to ultimately choose my future. This is how our world is shaped – Achievers progress from rearing to rising: on the up, with scarcely a pause to consider the world of which they are a part, whilst those of lesser value face a choice – Watch is relaxed and the children play, question and explore…
The choice? Conform and meld; or vanish into the shadows… find your own path as an opt-out in the zones, where law, order and Cyberwatch hold little sway. It’s an elegant solution – natural selection of a sort, those who remain begin their ascent, those who run are not pursued – it is a means to a different end, but an end nevertheless.
I am a rebel.
Not by design or will – I am merely the product of those whose paths I have crossed. I am unremarkable.
Here, in the ‘rises, little passes unnoticed – progression is everything and any indiscretion, failure or abnormality is seized upon and used for gain: those on the up have no care for those who lose sight of their goal. Secrets are spilled, quota is met and Cyberwatch is placated… apartments do not sit empty for long – those beneath are eager to ascend. Indeed, that was my story – I may have been a slow-starter but I ascended fast… it was on the six hundreds that I first met Caine.
Caine: I should have tagged him, red-flashed Cyberwatch and it would all have been over. I would be on the up once more and Caine would be on the fast track to zero. Termination. Yet he intrigued me; caught me up in his net and showed me the things that were to change my life. Caine introduced me to the world pre-Flip, showed me how life could be without Cyberwatch and shocked me to the core by revealing to me the truth that now controls my destiny. Caine – the rebel – the man who instilled rebellion into me, and now that he is gone, it falls to me to further the cause.
It has been so hard. Cyberwatch is not to be trifled with and there are plenty below me who would gladly tag me for Termination for the slightest misdemeanor. Even so, I survive – my academical call permits me a degree of freedom that I would otherwise be denied – I have achieved much through feigned ‘research’ and ‘consultation’. Such pursuits have provided the most profitable of opportunities, although obtaining them has been immensely distasteful and horrifically dangerous. Yet the work must continue.
This day may bring rebellion one step closer – it may not – either way, it may destroy me.
The pockmarked, stinking, flea-ridden puker sits in my apartment, supping my beer and babbling in his incoherent streetspeak. He appals me, makes me want to heave as does the thought that it will be I who has to clean his stench and ordure from the apartment when he departs – it is enough that he is here, to call for a sanibot would be foolhardy and would surely raise suspicion with Cyberwatch – somehow, I will manage.
Why invite trouble when I could have travelled to the zones on the pretext of research? There I would be relatively safe from Cyberwatch and far from the inquisitive eyes and ears of those beneath me. The thought makes me shudder. Two visits have been enough for a lifetime and I fear more for my safety amongst the opt-outs than I ever have amongst my peers. Besides, the stench, the filth and the overwhelming sensation of rot and decay horrify me beyond any words. Foolish though my actions may be, I cannot face the zones again.
And so he sits, drinking and jittering as I speak of rebellion.
Hours have passed and I know not whether he even understands my words. I have spoken of freedom; of how the world once was and what it has become. I have explained how he is crucial to the rebellion and why he should become a part. Yet I do not know whether my words have any meaning to him. This is madness.
He can see my fear and I see that fear reflected in his eyes. I calm myself and pause… it is then that he asks.
He asks about the one thing I fear most.
He asks about Cyberwatch.
“These measures alone are not to be considered long-term solutions, if true socio-reformatision is to be achieved on an ongoing basis. WorldGov is constitutionally obliged to ensure the safety of its citizens, stability across all strata of society and – of paramount importance – the security of the WorldGov Secretariat at all times.
The recent global instability merely underlines the importance of enshrining these core values into both our society and governance – by forceful methods, if necessary. To this end, WorldGov today announces the launch of Cyberwatch – ‘A constant companion, from cradle to shredder’. [Note to editors: ensure this phrase is suitably headlined and highlighted].
Cyberwatch has been established upon the backbone of the existing global network and indicates a significant relaxing of webaccess restrictions to world citizens in the wake of The Disturbances. This is not to be taken as a return to wholesale unrestricted webaccess – globalnet content will be strictly monitored, evaluated and censored as an intrinsic facility of the Cyberwatch system – access will be permitted only to enfranchised citizens for justifiable reasons and any such access will be subject to rigorous surveillance and feedback processes. Actions deemed as suspect resulting from accessing globalnet will be considered contraventions of WorldGov policy, attracting appropriate penalties for which Cyberwatch has been permitted full delegated authority to enforce.
Cyberwatch is the primary implementation of WorldGov’s ‘Future Limitation of Inappropriate Practices’ legislation. [Note to editors: this may be rendered as ‘F.L.I.P.’ following first citation].
F.L.I.P. is a wide-ranging suite of measures designed to promote harmony; to efficiently combat unacceptable behaviours and dispense justice summarily; and to enable socio-reformatism and ensure productivity and sustainability. The legislation enshrines a number of principles that have been the subject of considerable debate and division in the past, however WorldGov considers such measures to be essential for stability and reform and is intolerant of further debate, even though some aspects of F.L.I.P. may be considered distasteful or immoral by those antagonistic to WorldGov’s objectives.
F.L.I.P. enshrines the following policies and doctrine:
- The implementation of Cyberwatch, with significantly enhanced capabilities and autonomy in subsequent upgrades;
- Citizen enfranchisement – enfranchised citizens, provided they remain subject to Cyberwatch constraints, will benefit from a range of WorldGov enhancements, to include provision of domicile, occupation, education, basic physical needs and security. Citizens who elect to decline enfranchisement or by other means render themselves unenfranchisable shall be declared non-entities and disposables;
- Full implementation of 3R sustainability reforms – to encompass domestic, industrial, and human wastes, including full body render and recovery at final checkout;
- Routine culling to refresh promotability and underpin population control;
- Limitation of activity to ensure productivity and compliance
Whilst Cyberwatch will primarily facilitate the appropriate and efficient policing of information and global connectivity, it will also fulfil a an important and – until now – impossible task of socio-reformatisation. On enfranchisement, every citizen will become a part of the Cyberwatch network. Cyberwatch will maintain and facilitate a full and comprehensive record of activity, performance, eco-regulation, routines, behaviours and bio-medical health, obtained through constant monitoring and evaluation of each and every enfranchised citizen. Moreover, by virtue of the information available to Cyberwatch for individual citizens, coupled with world trends, needs and the requirements of sustainability, Cyberwatch will occupy a unique position in society, not previously achievable. In short, Cyberwatch will have the facility to assess the individual contribution to world productivity of any enfranchised citizen, at any time; and consequently, to forecast their future productivity and sustainability. In simple terms, Cyberwatch will have both the functionality – and, by virtue of its position; the authority – to determine the optimal moment at which an individual should be scheduled for final checkout. For the first time in history, lifespan will be dictated by an efficient, robust and globally-aware system, upon individual merits and effective contribution to society, (both present and future), rather than on such random variables as health, lifestyle and chance.
WorldGov is however aware of the limitations of cybernetic systems, particularly when faced with the task of socio-reformatisation. Therefore, the following Three Principles will be enshrined within F.L.I.P. to ensure that Cyberwatch has the full support of the citizenry and can benefit from the augmented functionality that human interaction and collaboration will produce:
Principle 1: All citizens may elect at Transit to pursue or decline enfranchisement;
Principle 2: All enfranchised citizens are required to disclose inappropriate behaviours, whether their own, or those observed in others, routinely to Cyberwatch for summary evaluation and action;
Principle 3: All enfranchised citizens have the right to seek release from franchise and submit to immediate Recycle; alternatively all enfranchised citizens have the right to volunteer for culling, without loss of franchise.
WorldGov welcomes the implementation of F.L.I.P. and the launch of Cyberwatch as a necessary and inevitable process towards securing world stability – it is a courageous expression of WorldGov’s determination to put an end to dissension, even though to do so may result in the curtailment of some minor freedoms – if that is what it will cost, then it is most assuredly a price worth paying.
Booze is dry.
Freako’s been sounding off now for longer than I wanna live. Seems the slickers ain’t got it so shiny after all, but then, if the risers were that minty all the scummers would be skinning each other just for a shot at being upsters… that’s about as likely as a whore giving you a freebie ‘cos she likes your face – it ain’t happening. Who am I steaming? Most scummers would be kicked out as trash before they got to level 1.
The way I’m braining it, this whole thing smells of ripe turd – so what if the freak is some sort of Flipside academical? It’s all old news, and he’s still an upster – chump wouldn’t last a freakin’ nano in a real fight, yet he’s talking all bigtime rebel skinmeister – gotta be the craziest snotball I’ve ever wiped, that’s the truth. I fullbeam him and shake my empty tin but the freak is so caught up in his twaddling, he ain’t taking the hint.
One thing is glitching me though – how come he’s got as far as the 800’s without Cyberwatch nuking him?
He shuts his hole for a moment, giving me a chance to poke – “Beer”, I say, and pocket my empty tin – hey, you gotta take the balls that get chucked at you… he don’t need the foldies; I do. Hell, I’d take all his recycles back grimeside if I could – it’s as good as real credit. He looks at me a bit twatty and kinda holds his hand out, like I’m gonna give him the tin, then his face goes fullbright red and he goes to get another beer.
I call after him; “So, how come Skywatch ain’t creamed you by now?”
He doesn’t answer until he’s back with the beers, then he tells me it’s all ‘taken care’ of… he says he has ‘friends’ with ‘influence’ – yeah, I’ve heard that one before; friends are all shiny, till they skin you for the price of a few street narcos! Still, gotta be something in it for him to be here at all, Smiles up! to the guy – hope it works out for him.
Time for the biggie. I give him a hard eyeball and ask: “So, what’s my takeout, and what’s it gonna cost me?”
Freako gives me a big smiley and knocks back his booze in one, then he fumbles in his pocket, fishes something out and flips it into my lap. Shiva’s tits! It’s a plasticard, but I ain’t never seen one like this – you hear about Goldies, but you never think the freakin’ things are for real! This one is as real as the pain from a smashed shoulder blade… I look at the guy and he eyeballs me right back, just nodding like a pharmie on a double hit of miaow.
“If you’re in”, he says, “I’ll activate that card before you leave. You’ll need it – I need you to find me a safe house deep in the slums, out of Cyberwatch range; space for maybe thirty people and safe passage through the slums for each of them. We need to be offline, in every sense of the word – untraceable, hidden and camouflaged. Then there’s a question of supplies for six weeks or so – those things alone will cost a great deal. That card should cover it all… and, whatever is left over, it’s yours. I don’t suggest you flash it around in the slums though – get cash in the city, and keep the card close!”
I’m practically shaking, this creep is gonna make me so rich I can pay people to puke for me! All for finding a quiet dump for a bunch of freaks to hang out – it’s a freakin’ ticket to Golden Arch Land!
Freako is burbling something else; “Of course, come the revolution, we’ll do all that we can to reward your efforts… after all, you’ll be a hero!”
“So”, he says, “do we have a deal?”
“All shiny and glossy”, I said, “you got yourself a deal!”
Stinking rain – burns skin like gut acid retched up. I’m getting the jibbers about this crazyfest and, if it wasn’t for the foldies nestling all tight under my belt and the plasti-gold stashed in my sock, you can bet your mother’s skin I wouldn’t be hanging around in the rain outside Flaky’s Cashino.
The grunt at the door sneers at me as if I’m shoe crud – which I guess I am to him – not that it breaks my sweat, I’ve skinned apes like him more times than you’ve farted – and with less follow-thru too – but this is his patch and it feels greasy being here and being a cop on the wrong sort of business. It’s all wrong… that freako, Tolly, and his crack-arsed revolution; me – a cop – doing business with Flaky; the whole plan is just a crock of mutt vomit, and I’m sat in it up to my eyeballs.
Another grunt appears and says something to grunt #1, who hawks on the floor, then growls in my direction, “Mr Flake will see you now”.
I gotta laugh inside at the ‘Mr’! – Flaky is the last freak on the planet who should deserve any sorta title, other than ‘Arsewipe’. A slummer from birth – yeah, birth… concepted and reared in the slums, by the slums, and anyone would think he owned the damn slums. Fact is, he clawed his way through the scum and slime and now sits on top of the lot of them, lording it like some sorta emperor and raking in the readies like he owned it. He was thick with the mobbies and kept a tight grip of the pharmos in his ‘hood – there wasn’t a narco, boozie, shyster or sexxxer within hurling distance who didn’t rely on his food chain in some fashion – and he made sure they knew it. As for the few upsters who found their way to the slums, with their shiny shoes and shiny credit, and the wannabe scummers who fancied themselves as upster bumboys or sugar-girlies, well, they ended up here – the Cashino – and if they got back out with anything more than their shiny shoes, or even their skins, they could count themselves lucky… of course, most of them ended up slum fodder and never made it home to the ‘rises, while the bumboys and sugars counted their creamings, and ‘Mr’ Flaky scooped the froth.
‘Course, my standing with Flaky is purely pro. He keeps the slums pacified and I make sure he’s not bothered – although there’s times I gotta show who’s boss… but that’s on a pro basis, it’s not why I’m getting shat on by acid rain outside his gaff today.
Grunt #2 beckons me, and I follow him inside the Cashino, glad to be outta the rain, but real freaked at how he made me wait.
Inside, I can see why I’ve been waiting – the joint is practically dead. Apart from a few sugars who try it on as I walk past and a couple of narcos slumped in a corner – dead for all I know – the slots and tables are empty, but I’m no dumb-ass… I can feel the eyeballing from behind the walls and I know, the moment I tootle, the place’ll be heaving and swinging like a sexxxer’s panties.
I’m led to a door and up some stairs – again, I gotta laugh… old Flaky’s building himself a hi-rise, right in the middle of the slums – then we’re in a room that stinks of week old tart-juice and meow, in equal measure, and there’s Flaky, sprawled in a fat leather chair, leering at me stupidly. The grunt leaves and Flaky eyeballs me critically.
“Well?”, he squawks.
I wait a moment, listening to him wheeze, then peel out a pile of foldies – I don’t bother counting – and flip them at his feet. I’m rewarded by more wheezing, coughing and hawking of phlegm, as he struggles to reach down to retrieve them, and then something I’ve not seen before… Flaky is shocked at the size of the wad! Then he smiles and nods at me…
“Fer dis, I give ya bigtime shiny gaff, wiv da wicked hidey-hidey, ya copy? You no get dem freakos outta urbex checking ya, you no get no scummies up yo ass and squealing yo stash. You got mister Flaky blood word, yah hear – dis dirt buy you plenty safe gaff, and I skin personal any freakin pigeon wot scams ya.”
That’s all shiny by me – I’ve got Flaky’s word, which is good as nailed.
I tootle, but I’m hotbraining all the while back… that was the easy part, the sticky bitch is gonna be getting the upsters through the slums and into Flaky’s safe-house, without getting the whole lot skinned, or worse: me getting strung up by my sweetmeats!
“Get your squitting, runty-headed, hairy-balled hide outta the spew runs!”
This was bigtime freakism! I hotbrained one more time why I was doing this… it all kept coming back to that goldie that I had stashed away where no freako would find it – it was the foldies, plain and simple – I wanted no part of Tolly’s revolution, but he paid well, and that plasticard was a sweet-talking mother, if ever there was one!
Flaky was true to his word – the safehouse was deep in scummer territory, off the radar to even the trash that called the place home; The Flake even threw in a few gutter rats to watch our backs – kinda glossy of him, but I guess he reckoned there were plenty more foldies that could come his way if he kept himself flush-side with me. I wasn’t complaining – I needed all the help I could get with the bunch of deadbeat upsters Tolly was sending my way.
I grabbed the tosser who’d gone sightseeing by the throat and yanked him back in line – gave him, and the other two a fullbright eyeballing and laid it on a plate for them for about the twentieth time since we hit the slums:
“I’m gonna tell you once more… you stay outta the spew runs; you stay outta the shades; you do not stop, talk, slow down or fart unless I say, and next time any one of you thinks to go solo, I ain’t gonna drag you back out again. I’m keeping my skin – you wanna lose yours, that’s plush with me;I ain’t gonna stop you – but if you wanna be around when your tosspot revolution goes frontal, you better just play by my rules.”
They looked at me all freaky and spooked.
“Are we shiny?”
They nodded. We moved on and I silently thanked all the Powers that might be, that I wasn’t being paid for results. Sure it would be less tossing about to deliver Tolly a bunch of dead meat but I kinda got the feeling that he’d be bigtime puked over it, so it’s left to me to somehow drag these lame-arsed upsters and slickers through the slums and shanties with all their limbs still intact. Smiles up!
Down here you smell trouble before you get the chance to become acquainted. This smelled real bad, like rotting dog in the midday sun – and that’s not a dish that’s to my taste. I stopped: the jerkoff slicktard trailing behind me bounced off my shoulder, lost his feet and sprawled in the filth. Of course, the jerkball starts mouthing off about the muck he’s wallowing about in, so I give him a swift kick in the nads: “Shut your stink-ridden cack-hole, or I’ll slice your tongue out and toss you to the tanneries!” – his jaw snapped shut so hard I heard the crunch!
Then the two slimers appeared, sidling outta the shades like a couple of mangy, scab-ridden cats. As trouble goes, these were pretty ripe, but nothing I couldn’t handle on a good day – damn shame today wasn’t a good day… my little upster crew were whimpering and filling their panties – this was the closest they’d been to getting creamed in their shiny, slicker lives, and no way was I about to risk my own neck to save theirs.
The slimers looked at me all twitchy, but the sight of my crew was distracting them – the slobber over their chins and the darting eyeballs told me everything I needed to know: cop or not, these boys were gonna try their luck.
“Fresh meat”, says the one, giggling and snorting.
“Boys”, I say, unhooking the razor chain from my belt, “the only fresh meat I see is your hides.”
We have an unwritten rule in the slums; talk first, then sort out your differences. I figured we’d done our share of talking… time for some sorting out. There’s another unwritten rule, which everyone kinda knows by instinct – hit first, hit fast, hit hard.
I guess these two didn’t know the rules too well.
Slimer #2 didn’t even know he’d been hit – he just stood there, looking dumb and watching as his bro screamed and thrashed in the dirt, both achilles’ sliced clean through with a single flick and pull of the chain-link. I pride myself on doing a proper job – why waste two shots when one will do? – Although it’s a good few seconds before #2 realises the smell of hot blood is his own, spurting like a whore’s party trick outta the 3-inch hole i’ve sliced in his carotid – neat, I tell myself, one flick for two dirtbags – no mess, no fuss, and no effort. As he slumps to the floor, I nod to my cargo: “Let’s go before it gets messy around here”.
Job done. We make the safehouse in good time and my charges are all Smiles up!, slapping and twatting each other on the backs, all hugs and laughing with the rest of the bozo’s I’ve had to drag through the slums. My little dirt pig is whining he wants a bath – can you believe these tossers?
I miss being back in my own place, and the solitude – being holed up with these losers is worse than sticking pins in your eyes – i keep reminding myself they’re my ticket outta the slums, but somehow it doesn’t help that much. I grab a beer from the crate, kick off my boots and slump in the corner. Smiles up! eh?
Tosspot Tolly appears: “Good work”, he says, taking a beer for himself. “I hear you had some trouble…”, he pauses, with that stupid academical look on his face, like he’s trying to read inside my brainbox or something. “Look, I know you don’t feel you fit in here, but without you, none of this would be happening… I just want you to know how grateful I am.”
I ignore him. Damn right I’m doing a good job – I’ve dragged twenty of these fanny-puking arsewipes through the slums and only lost three… even I’m impressed!
“Only ten more to go”, he smiles and I eyeball him carefully… Dammit! Maybe he can read my mind.
Shutting out the noise and laughter around me, I try to grab some downtime. Drifting into a fitful sleep, my last thoughts are the same as always – It’s a crappy job, but the money’s good!
“Rats – that’s what we are: flea-ridden, diseased things, scuttling around, out of sight and hiding in the gutter as we go about our clandestine business. How long is it that we’ve been holed-up in this foul place? Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and every moment is filled with fear, loathing and horrors. I cannot help wondering at times whether we have made the right choice – can we truly defeat those in power and bring a new world order? Is the restoration of a world as it was flipside even possible? Are we really beyond the reach of Cyberwatch?… My greatest fear is that we are not as invisible as we believe ourselves to be – ultimately, nowhere is safe from Cyberwatch.
It is remarkable that we have come this far. My choice of guide was well-founded – true to his word, the unsavoury lout brought us here and, for now at least, keeps us secure from prying eyes. I can tell he resents us – that he feels this is not his fight; I can hardly blame him for that, having now experienced his world first-hand, I am somewhat more appreciative of the daily struggle that all slummers face… the struggle that we all – the rebels – now also face.
I will not dwell upon that particular struggle – it is too distasteful: the dirt, the foul stench of the slums, the revolting muck that passes as food and always, the constant, nerve-wracking fear of violence and pain. Every day is torture, every new day is a victory.
Our other struggle: that of our own making – the rebellion – proceeds, albeit unutterably slowly. We dare not pursue our aims with haste – this is not a rebellion that will flourish overnight; it is a tortuous, insidious virus that will eventually blossom into open revolt – until then, we gnaw away at the fabric of Worldgov… rats in the storehouse, undermining, poisoning, weakening and shredding the networks, systems and conduits that support, nourish and perpetuate the way of life we call ‘normality’. Rats, however, are vermin – at least to those who are not of their kind – all it takes is a single slip and they will crush us underfoot; so we progress, but very, very slowly.
Even if speed were of the essence, which in many ways it is – the longer our campaign, the greater the risk of discovery and failure – we are compelled by circumstance to crawl: NRG is at a premium in the slums, accessible only through a convoluted process that I do not pretend to understand – ‘side-tacking’ they call it – even so, it is at best fluctuating, unreliable and dirty… as is everything in this forsaken place. Nevertheless, my comrades work ceaselessly: our mission is everything.”
Tolland wearily closed his notebook, absently swatting at the flies that consantly buzzed in the rank air of the safe house and stared dully into the distance.
“Rats – that’s what we are: brainwise, crafty critters. You can’t catch us and we go where we want, do what we want and you ain’t stopping us. Corner us and we’ll rip your throat out before you can move!
That Tolley: he’s losing his balls. Freak can’t handle the grind – factoid is, none of these riser slickers can handle it. All day they go wetting their panties about ‘the conditions’… can’t stomach the gruel; puking ‘cos of the ripeness in the air; getting all tossful about the freaking NRG – it’s like nannying a bunch of week-old turds, only less smiley.
Look at him scribbling away in his little book again – yeah right, that’s gonna win your big rebel cause – what you gonna do, rip out your pages and throw paper balls at the Worldgov grunts when they’re breathing down your necks? Go all Smiles up! as the crap comes down… maybe write them some poems before they skin you? This rebellion is a pile of rancid dog puke, but as long as Tolley’s paying me, I ain’t complaining.
I keep reminding myself the pay is good – dunno if I could stick it otherwise. Sick to my stomach of this dump: too quiet and shiny and this bunch of tossers are curdling my head. Gotta stay minty fresh though, see it through, take the money and run… just wish they’d get snappy with it, that’s all.”
“UP AGAINST THE WALL… QUICKTIME! MOVE!”
The raid came just before dawn – not that the time of day holds much meaning in the slums – a clatter of boots, the thunder of explosives and, looming through the smoke and dust, the unmistakable, black-clad figures of a cleaning crew. At first, I was sure we’d been outed by the slum dwellers, either that, or Cyberwatch had been on to us from the start – but the truth of the matter was just plain bad luck – the cleaners had stumbled on us by pure chance, but now they were here it was just a matter of time before everything became clear. The revolution was over.
In the initial confusion, I looked frantically around to find the cop – if there was to be any escape, our only chance – my only chance – lay with him. It was not to be: as the cleaners burst in, I caught a fleeting glimpse of his rat-like form disappearing into the shadows and I knew that this was a battle I would be fighting alone. I cannot blame the man – for all his faults, and who can say that I myself would have been any better given the same unfortunate circumstances – he had done his job well. In some ways, the slum-dwelling cop, the least worthy of all of us, had brought the revolution closer than any of those whose closeted lives in the ‘rises could ever have managed. In my mind I wished him well and hoped that the credits now at his disposal would buy his anonymity – I had little use for them: I knew my destiny.
We were bundled into transports and, with the glow of flames and the screams of unfortunate slummers at our backs we left the Zones in our wake, returning to our world: a world of hi-rise, plasti-metal and chromo-glass; a world of safety, morbid fear and the ceaseless gaze of Cyberwatch.
I have waited in a state of fear, mingled with utter boredom in the time that has passed since the raid. I have no fear of torture, pain or hostility – those are the daily stock of the Zones, not of Cyberwatch – here, I only feel the inevitable… call it what you wish, ‘The Big R’, ‘checkout time’, ‘liquidation’… it is all one and the same; the fear comes not from knowing the ‘what’, but the ‘when’. There will be no inquisition, no questioning, no interrogation or intelligence-gathering about the revolution – we will all simply timeout, and that will be an end to it: all of us, terminated; the revolution, forgotten.
How long have I been here? I do not know – here in the sub-levels, as in the Zones, time is irrelevant – it feels like weeks. With nothing to distract from the tedium of waiting, it is difficult to quantify the passing of time. My needs are catered for – if anything, although a far cry from my apartment on the upper levels, my present cell is a significant improvement upon anywhere I experienced in the slums. Not for the first time, I vaguely wonder about the new incumbent of L803 and whether they ever stop to consider what misfortune the previous occupant may have suffered in order to effect their promotion.
Such musings are irrelevant and mean nothing. I close my eyes and sleep.
I am wakened by the clang of the doorlocks and the door swinging wide. Suddenly I feel a sense of panic… it’s too soon… I’m not yet ready, and my fingers scrabble against the surface of the table in front of me as reach out to steady myself. I close my eyes, breathe deeply and prepare myself to face the inevitable. A pungent, sickly and very familiar odour drifts my way and, in its wake, a voice – a voice with which I had become so well-acquainted before my incarceration…
“‘Ello Tolley! Smiles up!”
With sinking heart, I open my eyes – the cop, my partner in crime, stands in the doorway as the door slams shut behind him.
“So, they got you too?”
He shrugs, and I gesture to the seat opposite. I felt sickened, and not merely by his stench, but at least my final hours would not be spent alone.
Freako ain’t too shiny about seeing his old scummer friend, I reckon – I can see him screwing up his nose, but I’m braining the old slicker has been having a bad time of it, so I cut him some slack.
He kinda sits in that chair like a leather bag, full of broken bones that somehow got missed by the meat boys; all slumped and outta shape. Still, it’s gotta be tough knowing your daft revolution is just ashes and dirt and that Cyberwatch is ticking away your time and every breath is just one step closer to the tanneries. I almost get fluffy over the creep! Guess I’m just a big softy – the way I see it, you can’t step in crap without some of it sticking to your boots and I’d kinda grown familiar with the smell, I reckon.
Comes a time when you need fresh air though. Familiar though the stink might be, I was feeling the need for a new pair of boots – guess it was time to sprinkle the angel-dust and come minty clean.
So, I tell him everything.
Never seen a creep go grey like that before, excepting when he’s lost a few jugs of blood after a good old swipe from a blade or wire. The freakoid can barely speak, which suits me just shiny – I can’t stand jerks talking over me. So I give it to him straight – Numero Uno: You don’t run from Cyberwatch… you can’t run from it; every fart, every dump, every thought you even hotbrain don’t belong to you, it belongs to the Watch. Cyberwatch owns you – getting franchise is selling your soul, and nothing gets hidden away.
Numero Two-o: Once a cop, always a cop. Just ‘cos I’m slum scum don’t mean I ain’t got principles – I do my job and I do it well. You wanna have your little revolution? You go ahead, but just remember, the Law is on your case, and you my little slicker friend, are good and proper busted!
‘Course, this job ain’t like the others – this is my last. Tolley did me proud and I waves that little goldie in his slack old face with a great big smiley on mine!
You see, I’m disenfranchised… scum – a loser and crapster – Cyberwatch cares more about week-old dog vomit than me. So, when I walk outta this door, I leave as a freeb! I ain’t going back to the slums – I got me a private island, where it don’t rain and there’s no scum waiting around every corner looking to have your skin for a jacket. I’m so shiny, it’s blinding! Smiles up!
Tolley is blubbing like a kid. Time I was past-tense, I reckon.
I slip the goldie back into its hidey-place and stand up. The door behind me swings open again, and I’m outta here.
I turn for one last eyeball at the freak – his head’s on the table, but he looks up at me. I slip him a wink, give a quick one-finger salute, and head off into the shiny.