It's true. I'm infohip. Being infohip is the only true hip. It's all about lifestyle, baby. Lifestyle and, of course, work. I'm an exec at Macrohard. I know, I know. Macrohard the big, bad Macrohard. Ruler of the virtual universe and all that. I used to feel guilty. Not anymore. Think benefits. BIG benefits. It doesn't get much more privileged than this. I can get into any data file. I mean ANY data file--without hacking. Give me a name and I'll tell you how many pubic hairs that person has. I don't know if I dig being treated like a God, though. At parties people stop talking when they find out who I work for. Then they act cool. They figure they better so I won't do a filesearch on 'em.
I work in Investor Relations on the 247th floor. I know some call the investors economic bounty hunters. Bean counters gone berserk-- that's the word on the street. Buying and selling the stock of cities to make extra spending dough for Macrohard. But, I prefer to think of them as efficiency experts. Converting local governments over to a completely free enterprise system was the best thing that ever happened to us.
My floor is designed to look just like the Beatles's Yellow Submarine. The hallway floors are long wooden planks. The windows are round glass spy holes that peer into the surrounding offices. Every morning at seven o'clock the loudspeakers play: "WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE, A YELLOW SUBMARINE, A YELLOW SUBMARINE." When Macrohard acquired the copyrights to all the Beatles' music, they built the songs right into the architecture of corporate headquarters. A reminder of who owns what.
My desk is fifteen feet wide, built of solid titanium and fully biocompatible with my DNA. Hell, the whole damn office knows me better than a biological mother ever could. My floor is fully integrated with the latest command activated environmental texture control circuits. Sometimes I kick my shoes off and tell the floor to be sand so I can feel the granules between my toes. Whenever someone comes in the room I don't like, I make the floor icy cold granite. If they complain, I tell them the controls are out. Even the bathrooms are biosensitive; one drop of urine on the floor and the janitor is there before you even shake out the last drop.
Everything here smells fresh. That's what I like most. All the plants have designer fragrances. My favorite is the Tommy Hilfiger Hibiscus outside my office door. You never run into unexpected odors, no in your face pissy smell, no decaying protein, no burning organic leftovers. I haven't worn a nose clip once since I've worked here.
The perks are cool. I only drive Singaporean Luxevehicles. Got three of 'em living in my garage. Get this: I own--not lease--a MACROCARD consumer magnet. Is this the good life, or what? My social life is, well, more than decent. I have to choose between at least three dinner parties every night. I actually possess (we're talking legal possession-not a rental) my own pair of safe sex underwear. All my clothing, my entire wardrobe, every fiber: one hundred percent synthetic. I haven't worn an organic in three years. That's just the kind of life I lead. That's just the kind of guy I am.
I work for Will. Will the Fifth is how he likes to be known in formal circles. Will seems to have taken a liking to me. I think I've become some sort of Pygmalion project for him. Probably because I look harmless enough. My dislike for people doesn't come through my face the way it does with most people. When I say, "YES, SIR," he thinks I'm really thinking he is a "sir." I don't trust him, but then I've never trusted people with synthetic hair implants. Will isn't what you would think of as a typical information oligarch; he's just been infohip too long. The infohip can be so arrogant. Just because they know everything they think they know everything, if you know what I mean. In my humble opinion, information has polluted him. He's lost his innocence and then lost it again a thousand times. Confidential information seeps through his skin and gets on everything he touches. Will is so loaded with secrets they'll keep coming out of him after he dies, like fingernails growing on a corpse.
He has the outward appearance of health for a man who lives on egg yolks and shell fish, but his bulging liver and the tiny traces of yellow jaundiced skin peaking out from under his facial makeup tell you that this is a man who has long since traded in his liver for synthetic joys and preservative injections.
He is a designer dude to match any designer dude. Everything he wears is strictly to CLASS THREE Peacock synthetic specifications. He prefers Peacock synthetics because they perfectly match his purple hair, which for some reason he always combs whenever he shakes someone's hand. I doubt he's ever worn a biological fiber. He smells like money, not fresh money, but money that's been in circulation for a while. His teeth blend together like a bulletproof windshield and his body moves with power steering: graceful, in a rigor mortis way. His personality, however, is strictly hit-and-run.
No one would say Will is a handsome guy, although he thinks so. I can read the genetic alterations all over his face like a faded road map. Facial fixups don't fool me; I can read people's characters by the way they move their eyebrows, by the way they smile, by the way their foreheads react to news. Will's face is screaming out to the world: WARNING--ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. His eyes were shocked by something at an early age and he's never gotten over it. I'd like to know what.
Will frequently calls me up into his think tank room. He's always swallowing Endostim tablets and barking out code to his voice recorders with that high pitched voice of his. To an outsider, they'd sound like meaningless strings of words and incoherent sentences. The guy thinks in code. He dreams in code. He doesn't digest, he compiles. He's a walking, talking algorithm who, for all practical purposes, rules the universe of our daily lives.
"How's it going on that speech?"
"The speech, sir?"
"Yes, the speech. The one you're giving in nine days. Don't tell me you haven't been preparing for it."
"No. I mean, yes, of course I've been preparing. I'm set to go, sir."
"Good. I'm glad to hear that. You know what this means for your career, don't you, Lane? I know you've got what it takes. I've always known that about you. You're a natural. People believe you-it's that face of yours. Straight Nationstates baby masculinity; regular Dudley Doright dignity. Credibility to the core---that's why you're the man for this job. And that," he paused to make sure no one could hear him, "is why I'm gonna give you the highest fuckin' bonus I've ever given anyone. Yes, sir. After you pull this speech off for me you're gonna occupy the Versailles suite with me right up on the 312th floor." Will scooped out another oyster and dipped into one his egg yolks. "That's how it's gonna be. Just you and me."
"I certainly appreciate your confidence, sir."
"I have a knack. That's all. For knowing people's strengths. You," Will walked up to a piece of sculpture on the wall. It was a life size replication of the torso of a naked woman surrounded by a bowl of fruit. He picked two apples from the bowl and threw me one. He sat down and pulled a wedge of Havarti from a refridge beneath his desk.
"No thank you, sir." He placed the wedge of cheese underneath a miniature guillotine cheese cutter on his desk and began slicing it into razor thin slices.
"As I was saying, you have a straight forward style that the buying public notices and respects. They appreciate a face that's honest and trustworthy."
"Thank you, sir. "
"You're an honest man, Cooper. I can see that. He barked into his speaker, "Martha, bring in another cube of butter." He paused and looked at me, "Can I get you a cube?"
"No thank you, sir."
"Just one, Martha. Thank you."
"Lane," he paused as he reached for his comb. "Do you believe in doing the right thing?"
"The right thing, sir?"
"Yes, the right thing. Do you believe if a person knows what is right, that knowledge comes with a responsibility to act in accordance with that knowledge?"
"I'm not entirely sure what you mean sir."
"What I am saying, Lane, is imagine you're a doctor, and you discover a cancerous tumor growing in your patient, would you not have an obligation to act in a certain way for the benefit of your patient?" As he spoke he dragged his comb through his greasy purple hair. I began to wonder if he would spread the grease onto a piece of toast.
"Why yes, I think so, sir."
"And if the patient was ignorant of medicine and didn't believe in tumors, would you not still be left with the obligation to at least try to save his life?"
"Yes, I see what you mean sir."
Will nodded with approval. "Then you would agree, would you not, that knowledge brings with it a responsibility, a responsibility to act for the common good." I tried to think of how he would answer that question.
"Yes, it makes sense to me, sir."
"Of course it makes sense. If you know the cure to a disease and you fail to make use of that knowledge, you have failed to rise up to the calling and responsibility of knowledge. Worse than that, one who knows and does not act is more than a coward, that person is a disgrace, a disgrace to the honor of knowledge." I could see he was getting excited by the greasy beads of sweat forming along his brow.
"That's all Technoliteralism is about: having the courage to use information to do what's best. Of course it's not always easy to do the right thing. We know what's wrong with this society. And this is what I really want you to get across to the audience when you've got them in the grips of your mighty palms. Look at them, and tell them. Tell them how a small percentage of the population will not obey the Law of the Market. They can't see how our market guides us all along the best possible path. They just don't see it. These...parasites, they think they can survive off the rest of us. They almost ruined the Nationstates with their glorified, obscene dependency. If it were not for my father's foresight and generosity, they would have pulled us down into their abyss. Lane, I think you would like to help our cause but, I need to know if you have the courage to do the right thing. To do the right thing, can you do the right thing, Lane?"
I felt my heart start to race. His face made me nervous. He was too excited for his own good. The doors opened and three of his bodyguards walked in. Minotaurs with Meningitis. They looked like human bulls, probably bred for protection.
"Lane, we are going out tonight. We're going out to do the right thing. I want you to know first hand what it is we're up against so that when you make that speech, you can really let 'em know what's going on."
Will was draggin' me into one of his "pro social cruelty" gigs. Maybe it's my Episcocapitalist upbringing, I don't know. But, I'm not really into it. Only thing on my mind is this damn speech. At least we'll be out of the tower and onto the streets for a little while.
We drove downtown in a gigantic white luxelimo covered with peace signs. The interior of the truck was cushioned with a high-grade mammal skin of some sort. The seats were soft and spongy. This was gonna be a PSC night--I could just feel it. I swallowed two relaxants to calm my trembling hands. Downtown was almost deserted. All I could see were the monitors on every corner blaring away Macrohard babble to an audience of no one. Occasionally we drove by small groups of people huddled around small fires. I was sitting in the back with the two big guys on either side of me. I could tell by the way they were shaking their heads back and forth that both of 'em were loaded on Endorphic Visualizers I tried to act friendly.
"SD and R, dudes!" I said enthusiastically. I wanted to let them know I was up on the latest slang. I know SD and R is short for "sex," "drugs," and "rock n roll."
"Hey, SD and R man," they said giving me the high-five.
Will was holding a small monitor attached to a pen shaped device.
"Lane, take a look at this. This is a prototype of what will soon be the latest Macrohard product. I'm going to call it The Fiscal Fitness Finder. Just take a look, you point the wand at someone and you get an instant read-out of his financial status. It picks up a remote signal from the magnetic tape of the person's ID card. It's great, isn't it? If you don't get a reading, it means they don't have a card. It will revolutionize the way we gather up illegals."
He pointed it at people as we drove by and delighted himself with the wand's accuracy. Most of the poor denizens read out at zero-zero. This meant they didn't earn anything but they didn't cost the Nationstates anything either. You wouldn't think the last depression was over by the numbers of zero-zeros we kept driving by. Face after unshaven face walking aimlessly along the sidewalk.
Will's monitor started beeping. "Yikes," he said excitedly. "Looks like we found us a ten-percenter!" I looked down at his monitor. The monitor said: Twenty-two year old female. Widow. Just got out of the hospital. Medical report said she was treated for shock following the accidental death of her husband. I looked out the window. She looked harmless enough--innocent, even.
"Take a look at this," Will turned to me. "This one's costing over three thousand credits...per day! Let's bring her in." The driver started to pull up behind her. In an instant all of the appeal of Macrohard peeled away. I couldn't let this woman be touched by this wicked, synthetic haired monster. My heart was seized by a moral vice grip.
"For Gods sake, that's my cousin Winny," I yelled out. "I haven't seen her in years. Stop the car." Will looked at me as if I had just thrown up on news upholstery. I had to make up something quickly if I was going to help this girl. The car pulled up along the curb and I jumped out, slamming the door behind me. I ran up to the girl with my arms stretched out and walked alongside her.
"Listen, these guys are psycho'd out loonytooned in a major way. Take these credits and put them on your account, NOW. Pretend you know me. Wave bye-bye and walk briskly home."
"Who the hell are you?" she demanded.
"Never mind who I am. Today, I'm your guardian angel. Take this money and get out of here quick." She looked at the credits, and then up at me. Her eyes were soft. She just nodded, gave the slightest hint of a smile and walked off briskly.
I stood still, watching her as she turned the corner. My armpits were soaked with perspiration. My heart was pounding in my rib cage like a captured pigeon. This morality shit is fuckin' hard on my system. I grabbed for a tobacco tube as I walked back over to the limo. Will rolled open the window.
"That was your cousin?"
"Yeah, Jeez, I didn't know her finances had slipped. She has always been financially independent." Will shrugged his shoulders without sympathy.
"That's rough. Stay in touch with her for Chrissakes." To him, she was just a little minnow to be thrown back in the water. He looked down at the financial fitness finder again, trolling the waters for fresh prey. I smiled at the SD n' R dudes sitting across from me. Their eyes were getting yellow and their skin was starchy from the endorphins. They couldn't care less.
I sucked hard on my tobacco tube while I looked out the window. This was the rough part of town---Dog Town. No organics, anywhere. Will continued to stare at the Financial Fitness Finder and it started beeping at him.
"There, over there on the left," he said as a file was pulled up onto the screen. I looked over and saw an average looking dude in his early forties, clean shaven with a briefcase in hand. Probably walking home from work.
"Out of work for eight months," Will read out loud, "has been receiving social services since July of last year. Three thousand credits a month! Jeez, what a free-loader." Will stopped reading and looked out the window.
"Looks like a regular guy, too. That really burns me up. Fucking hypocrite. At least he could stop pretending. What an asshole. Okay boys, this one's got to go." He signaled to the two beefies, who quickly became alert. We pulled up along the curb and the two jumped out of the car and walked up behind Joe Citizen from either side, scrunching him up between them like a bicyclist caught between two buses. They pulled him aside into an alleyway and slammed him against the walls. Will ran ahead and placed a large piece of plastic on the ground in front of them while they turned the poor fellow into a human battering ram, giving him a cement face massage over and over again. I stayed in the car and shrunk into my seat. There was nothing I could do for this poor bloke.
Where was his guardian angel? Will stood motionless in complete attention, he looked as if he were in a state of rapture, obviously savoring each bone cracking moment. I wanted to plug my ears, but couldn't.
"Lane. All this, all this you see around you. You see what we're up against? The world can be a better place. That's for sure. Think about it, Lane. We need to tell the people how this world could truly be."
I closed my eyes and squeezed a gram of Topical Valium Five into the palm of my hand.
Go to chapter 3