display | more...
The primary concern of those responsible for public affairs will be to make sure that every man is secure in his possessions and that this is no invasion of privacy on the part of government ... this indeed is the whole reason why states and republics have been created. ~Cicero

  Mark sat with his trainee, crammed intimately into the small booth at the very back of the all night diner, both having just finished their breakfast specials.  He pushed aside a plate streaked with yellow yolk and ketchup.  Except for two policeman seated at a table near the front window, exchanging notes over coffee, the place was empty.  An oldies station was playing Arcade Fire.   
       He looked at a clock mounted on the wall behind the lunch counter.  It was five past three in the morning.  Still a bit too early he figured to start their shift.  In this cold, the van would be miserable and take a good twenty minutes to heat past the comfort of a meat locker.
       "So, should we get some coffee to go?" 
       He looked at Sean.  The kid was scrolling through something on his tablet and had a I/O piece on one ear.  Mark knew he was twenty-four, recruited out of some top school or institute out west.  He'd come out somewhere near the top of his graduating class, with a double major in advanced wireless and electromagnetic engineering.  Great references, all the right scores and profile.  He could probably rewire a battleship.   
       Whatever he was mucking about with - tracing a subtle succession of waves, punches and swirls above the glowing interface with his fingers - it was clearly endlessly more interesting, entertaining or important than conversing with his new supervisor.  On day one of his new job.  Before they'd even started. 
       So it was, working with the talented and truly gifted of this generation.  Mark sighed, feeling very old at having completed that thought and looked around for the waitress.  She was making small talk with the two cops. 
       "This particular install has a series of twenty-five panel arrays, ten base stations, two geo-locational units and a microwave relay, correct?" 
       Mark leaned over the table and took the tablet from the hands of his junior.  He switched it off, stood up from the table with a groan and left a twenty by his empty cup.     
       "Let's get to where we're going first."  He pulled on his parka and picked up his gloves and hat.  "And for that, I really am going to need to some coffee." 
       They headed out into the blustering wind with their hoods up.  Mark glasses immediately began to fog up and he fumbled around for his keys.  After finally managing to get the van's engine started, they drove in silence.  Having confiscated the younger man's personal device, Mark felt he had surely established two obvious points in Sean's mind.  Hence the deep freeze.   
       First, he was a typical, grumpy, sleep-deprived oldster, the sort who was endless droning on about how people his age couldn't string a sentence together or complete a genuine thought on the rare occasion that one occurred to them without some passing glance or twitching gesture towards one device or another on their person.  These kids were well-groomed idiot savants - absolutely brilliant at routine and process, but awful at extrapolation or context.                           
       Second, he was clearly thinking that Mark had zero respect for Sean's personal, unique and very worldly point of view, which less than an hour into their working relationship was likely going to be a bit of a drag.  No discussion, no deliberation, just immediate judgement.  Typical. 
       Mark glanced sidelong at his passenger.  Sean looked out the window, shivering in the sub-polar extremity of the cube van's interior.  He breathed mist onto the glass, where it wasn't still coated in frost.  Except for the occasional police cruiser or cab, the streets downtown were almost totally empty.  At this hour, in this cold, only the dedicated drunk or sworn dutiful would bother to be outside.    
       Finally, after about driving about fifteen minutes out of the downtown core, they arrived.  Mark pulled the van slowly up a hillside to the rear of an apartment complex, rolled down the window and swiped a electronic fob-key across a sensor mounted on a steel post.  The parking garage door silently began to slide open, the warm air inside rippling the light of the street lamps as it was sucked outside.  The van pulled into the underground lot and they parked in the reserved space next to the service elevator. 
       Each of them slid out from their seats, walked to the back of the van and removed their gear from the storage space.  Mark carried two grey metal toolboxes, one in each hand, and had a large heavy-duty thermos tucked under one arm with coffee from the restaurant.  Sean hoisted two standard tablet totes on one shoulder, and carried a small pack-sack in the other with his lunch and cold weather gear.  The rest of the van's cargo compartment was crowded with hardware.  Spools of wiring in every conceivable colour and gauge, heavy plastic insulated boxes and cases of components, caged racks of labelled bins, each with dozens of the same indiscernible part, splitter, fuse or relay.  The walls were lined with cutters and splicers, screwdrivers, wrenches and power drills. 
       Mark shut the door and keyed the lock on the van.  The alarm engaged.  They walked over to the service elevator, where he used the key-fob again on a sensor panel for the door.  It opened and they stepped inside.  Sean looked grimly at his boots, knocking off bits of snow, as Mark punched "R" and the elevator lurched. 
       "Sean, look, sorry.  Here's your terminal back.  I don't want to get off to a bad start.  I know you're a smart guy.  Hell, that's really the only sort of person who goes in for this line of work, right?  We don't hire anyone else." 
       Mark leaned against the wall. 
       "It's just that this is really the first time I've had someone report to me.  It's a bit nerve-wracking.  I've been a technician almost twenty-five years now, since the mid-90s, and it's been pretty much solid solo work straight through.  So you're going to have to bear with me, okay?"
       The elevator stopped and the door slid open.  They walked into a drab, narrow concrete service corridor, lit every fifty feet with wire-wrapped bulbs.  It continued along a heavily-cabled wall, then up a short flight of stairs to a heavy steel door.  Two mounted signs above the handle read: Unauthorized personnel prohibited and This is not a fire exit. Mark used his fob-key again at a reader on the wall and the door clicked.  Sean sighed, zipped his parka up to his chin and pulled on his heavy gloves.   
       "Alight.  Think I'm ready.  Man, it is going to be cold out there." 
       Mark squinted, smiled and opened the rooftop door.   
       "Don't worry.  I wouldn't be much of a boss if you got exposure your first night?  Come on, I'll show you to the hut." 

       They were staring down a touch-screen flat-panel, swivel mounted on an arm so you could read it off the wall, or if you preferred work on it like a drafting desk.  They had pulled up the wiring diagrams and schematics for the electronics on the left half of the screen, then pulled up the building blueprints for reference on the other half.  The sensors in the panels that needed service had already identified themselves.  Some of the work could be done on the tablets from the warmth of the hut where they stood, in relatively little time.  That part of the call was routine and Mark figured would take Sean less than an hour. 
       The more complex issue, especially in this weather, was realigning the Geo-locational arrays.  It had been a truly hellish winter.  It was only January and they had a good five feet of snow.  A few of the storms from December had brought savage winds and blast after blast of sleet and snow.  Sometime in all that driving wind and ice, one or both of the directional masts had either been twisted, blown or bent just out of calibration.  So they needed to inspect them both, along with their data links and power cables. 
        Mark was impressed but by no mean surprised to see Sean now turning away from the panel display without a word and pulling out his tablet to get into his first set of diagnostics.  This showed some clarity and initiative.  It also meant Mark could set about initiating a location-wide service scan from the workstation inside the hut.  This was already a periodic routine, or it could be run remotely if there was a problem; since they were up here with their tools, it was good practice.  He sat down, logged in, opened the installation maintenance interface, and began the sweep.  All around him, on rack after rack of server, modulator, splitter, scanner, hub and switch, a hundred inert boxes began a hushed series of whirs, whispers and blinks as they all simultaneously lurched into self-inspection
       Mark's gaze wandered around the dark interior of the windowless room.  It was corrugated steel, but warmed in the winter by an expensive mobile heater / humidifier that rolled easy on the concrete floor.  The furniture and equipment racks running along both of the long walls were nondescript gunmetal, sturdy but generic.  The desk and workstation where he sat was patched to the swivel arm and table monitor mounted to the wall beside him.   
       His gaze then fell longingly on the folding cot next to the door where they'd entered off the roof.  He been up the night before their day-long shift, fretting over his new managerial responsibilities.  Already prone to spells of insomnia, major changes in routine tended to make sleep impossible.  He wondered how bad an impression it would make for him to quietly drift over to the cot, if only for a half-hour or so.  Very bad, most likely, especially as he was trying to get over their initial discomfort in the diner.   
       Instead, he closed his eyes where he sat, let his head droop and just listened to the electronics hum.  The squares, rectangles, diamonds and lines of the installations. 
       "All done.  Panel six on the south side of the building is going to need to be looked at.  The shielding is distorting a bit, probably dented from a bird flying into it or something."  Mark opened one eye and wondered if he'd been asleep.  Sean was on his feet in front of one rack, looking over the boxes and squinting into the dark behind here and there to check out the wiring.  He turned to Mark. 
       "So when do I get the big speech?" 
       Mark glanced at the workstation monitor to see how the system scan was coming along. 
       "I have an idea.  How about you pretend you're the world-weary veteran, and I'll be the new kid on the block?  Why don't you give it a go instead?" 
       Sean sat down on a old rolling chair, turned the back forward and leaned over toward Mark who was still rubbing his eyes.  His eyes went down one side of the room and back the other.  He took a deep breath. 
       "Okay.  I graduated just over a month ago from one of the best technical programs in the country, but there is equipment in this room I have no clue about, from companies I've never even heard of.  By a rough estimate of the hardware I can identify here, we have easily something like a thirty million dollar outlay alone.  I thought we were going to be headed to a telecoms hotel or maybe a switching station when I first looked at the work description, but instead we're on the rooftop of an apartment building largely populated from by old folks.  It's an over-priced seniors home for the most part.  It's half past four in the morning and I've just finished a diagnostic on a mixed array receiver station that has a carrying capacity that I have to believe exceeds by several orders of magnitude what I estimate is necessary.  It seems both ridiculous and redundant, given we may not be in the suburbs but I can quite easily see them from here." 
       "Wow, old guy.  What does all that mean?"  Mark smirked, untucked his flannel shirt and used it to clean his glasses. 
       "Most of this is intercept, filtering or surveillance hardware.  The oldest is 4G, the newest as I said I can't even guess except to say it must be bleeding edge.  Very little of it is for conventional communications routing.  This is a monitoring station." 
        "Golly.  That's a bit spooky.  Why is this place so special do you think?  I thought you said it was mostly just retirees who live around here?"   
       Sean grimaced and looked over at his hand-held.  Maybe a map would show the significance of their location, their proximity to some important site.  Mark put his glasses back on and waited quietly.  Around them the micro-circuitry continued to drone, as the young man imagined, considered, then rejected a wide range of possibilities.  The thermos of coffee was opened, cups poured, their blackness considered mutely for a long time. 
       "It's not special at all is it." 
       "Very good, Sean.  I'm guessing you're going to do very well in this firm.  And yes, I am also sorry in a way to say you're right.  It's not at all special.  And neither, I'd point out, are we.  How about let's go get this inspection done now, while the system scan finishes, and then maybe you can finish up your thinking on this?" 
       The old rolling chair creaked as Mark stood up and began to zip up his jacket.  Sean rubbed his eyes, swore under his breath and began suiting up.  Thermal gloves and goggles, heavy boots, polar weather parka.   
       "Sure, why not.  Let's go freeze in the dark." 


     The wind outside threw the accumulated into blinding swirls, lashing their cheeks and making any conversation next to impossible.  With the hoods of their parkas pulled up, they'd have had to shout half a foot away to make themselves heard in any case.  Instead, Mark gestured for Sean to follow and they trudged up a set of steel stairs, around a set of air-conditioning units, then across a steel railing to a raised platform.  Twenty-five stories up, they could see the much of the city spread out below them in the darkness.  The heavy ploughs trundling down one street or another, the glimmer of street lights, the blinking regular flash of sirens in the distance.  They made their way slowly across the rooftop, through three feet of snow and finally to the base of the antenna.   
       Mark got down on knees and began to excavate the base of the mast.  Sean did the same on the other side, carefully clearing out the edging where the actual antenna was bolted in place to the roof from the polymer casing.  Once this was done, Mark opened his toolbox, found the appropriate power tool and began trying to unfasten the radome.  With the accumulated layers of ice, this took some brute force but finally the plastic sleeve was unfastened and the two of them lifted off the covering. 
       On closer inspection, and once Sean had mustered the courage to remove his cumbersome gloves and do a quick diagnostic with his tablet, it was fairly clear where the problem lay.  Enough ice had accumulated inside and around the seam of the antenna's base to crack the rubber sealant, which meant when it was warm enough on the rooftop to melt the snow, water was seeping in under the mounting and refreezing.  With a typical aerial, that would be no issue at all but with a precision piece of locational equipment meant to pinpoint data emissions on three-dimension axes it was led to recalibration.  Particularly at a distance, this could throw off a moving marker by several meters.    
       "Someone didn't test this array for the environment," Mark said, slipping the radome cover back over the slight curvature of the antenna.  The wind howled and waves of white whirling snow enveloped them on all sides.   
       "What?  Can't we fix it?"  Sean was shouting over the gale.  Mark stood up and put his face to Sean's, their linings of their hoods meeting.  He gripped the shoulders of the younger man.  He could hear his own heartbeat in his ears. 
       "No, we can't, not in this.  It's a bad install.  Let's get back to the hut.  It'll be dawn soon.  And for god's sake be quiet." 

       They were back inside, soon after, huddling around the space heater for warmth and nursing the last of their coffee.  Sean offered Mark half a peanut butter sandwich.  Mark just shook his head and glanced again at the progress bar on the work station. 
       "This is all easier to explain than you might think, especially if we back up a bit.  This will sound a bit like ancient history here, but I need to lay the groundwork if you're going to understand."   
       "That sounds pretty ominous." 
       "It's not really.  Fifty years ago, let's say, all this heavy infrastructure was what they used to call 'bolted outward'.  All the predecessors for the all the equipment you see around you here was originally allocated and targeted abroad. This was the Cold War, right?  You've read about this I'm sure." 
        "I am familiar with the period, yes." 
        "Well we spent decades - us and our allies - building up facilities, capacity and technology for the sole purpose of getting at information that was on someone else's network, some other country's soil.  This was a hard, persistent problem, and so I understand it there were some very solid strategic reasons for putting all the dedicated hardware at the periphery."   
       "You mean in the middle of nowhere." 
       "Yes, roughly speaking.  Remote installations.  Tiny islands.  Places nobody would even want to go quite frankly, and we have lots of those.  It was also much cleaner from a legal perspective and sale-able politically.  So year after year, for close to half a century really, that was precisely how the money got spent.  A staggering amount, truth be told." 
       "You mean what didn't get spent on actual weapons." 
       "Sure.  But then, literally overnight sometime in the late 1980s, that whole dynamic collapsed.  Right along with threat.  That tactical reality, the entire construct we'd based all our targeting around, was gone.  Suddenly half the countries we worried about ceased to exist, half the systems we tapped into were gone, half the individuals and groups we spent all this time tracking faded into oblivion." 
       "Tough times, lot of Russian linguists out of work I bet."   
        "You bet.  And not just that.  In the blink of an eye, things got far more porous on the international stage.  And infinitely more complicated from a technical standpoint.  Suddenly all the collection systems, all the acquisition protocols, all the analysis streams that we'd built to look abroad seemed terribly redundant."   
       "Right.  I can see that would be a problem.  You've fine-tuned your systems to catch signals that are no longer there." 
       "Worse than that.  As it would happen, just as the Soviet Bloc came apart and globalization really took off, so too did the Internet.  Not only were people and capital pretty much flying in every conceivable direction, but so were global data and communication streams.  And the volume was jumping exponentially.  This sent people in our industry into panic mode." 
       "I don't get it.  Wouldn't that situation have made people like us more valuable?"   
       "Things were moving too fast, as I recall.  The higher-ups wanted assurances we couldn't give them.  Some very heavy-hitters were more or less talking about throwing in the towel.  That probably sounds melodramatic, but this is just about the time you were born I suspect, so you've never known a world any other way.  But before then our industry was supposed to have all this connectivity and interaction locked down.  The more distributed networks became, the more channels proliferated, the tougher it got for us look on top of things." 
       "But all technologies cut both ways.  There are always fixes."   
       "Very true.  And eventually that was precisely the conclusion people arrived at.  In essence, the answer was to realign and reallocate as much of that old world capacity as the industry could.  The technology, the people, the analysis all turned inward.  It was retooled and re-purposed."   
       "I can only imagine this kept people very busy." 
       "You cannot even begin to imagine.  Literally, for the decade between the Wall coming down and the first serious Internet threats, reallocation was all we did.  Meanwhile, beyond all the rewiring all the threats abroad were swapped out for threats at home." 
      "You mean repackaged?" 
      "No I wouldn't say that.  These were really issues, they'd been here all along in fact, but we'd grown rather blind to them I think.  The dangers of domestic terrorism, organized crime, street gangs, smuggling rings, corporate malfeasance, political conspiracy ... these aren't manufactured problems Sean.  Left untreated they're very serious."
      "But I just don't see how anyone would sign-off on what I think you're describing, and what I see arrayed around us here." 
      "Look, I'm just a technical fixer.  But I think it comes down to a certain pragmatism.  It can't have been difficult to bring most institutions around to the logic I'm describing.  All this gear you see around you, and all that you know that its capable of.  In an abstract way, this is simply redeploying a state capacity we amassed over half a century to scrutinize those who undermine or take advantage of us." 
       "Come on, Mark.  I've never taken a law course but even I know there's more to it than that." 
       "Yet the courts largely conceded this point.  A new reality requires new measures.  And the legislators gave us little grief.  Where new powers were needed, they were granted.  Again, to be purely logical about it, having expended all those years of effort and staggering resources, I would have to think it would be actually fairly difficult to justify dismantling the infrastructure.  That would seem a colossal effort to no good end." 
       "But it was the end.  You said it yourself.  The Cold War ended.  Freedom won."
       "That didn't really seem to matter.  A new course was set.  Laws were rewritten and arrangements redrawn.  Different technologies were adapted and applied.  New policies, controls and containment were put in place." 
        "Which is where we come in, I'm going to guess."        
        "Absolutely.  Very quietly and slowly, city by city, block by block, a new architecture was drafted and wired up.  It isn't even very hard to see, as you know.  Anyone can see the readers, transponders and relays.  On every roof, every radio tower, every government building they hang like gargoyles, watching and taking it all in." 
       "Which makes us what, exactly?" 
       "We're sculptors, Sean.  I know it's not what you trained for.  And the spires and towers, archways and windows may go largely unnoticed by most people.  But it is an architecture, albeit invisible.  And we construct it, from up here, one rooftop at a time." 

  Like most of his generation, current affairs and politics tended to be more of a background hum or white noise  than anything one actively paid attention to.  All the issues seemed abstract, esoteric, completely detached from one's own life and experience.  International finance, monetary policy, trade agreements, economic blocs, social reform, immigration control, public debt.  The signals of these developments circulated in and out of one's awareness but the way online media covered them they might as well have been astronomical phenomena.  Events emerged out of nowhere, were announced, celebrated or derided as the connected masses saw fit, then it was a week later as if they had never happened.  Politics was like watching a meteor shower, economics like waiting to view an eclipse.  One could watch for a second, maybe a minute, but you could never really grasp and certainly never effect it.
  It was only a few years ago, just before he'd turned fourteen and was asked by a teacher to compile and present some web video on the major news events of the year that Sean had ever thought about this.  He released he had no idea what these events might be.  And by way of explanation when it came time for him to present, even his parents had stopped reading paper magazines and newspapers.  He'd been the one to set up their smart-phones, net-books, monitors and tablets at home to allow them access to e-versions.  This had come as a great to relief, secretly finding all the piled newsprint and stacked glossy magazines inexplicably embarrassing whenever friends came over.
  But what this seemed to mean, then and now, was that trying to recall any real background on events or so-called serious history, like he and Mark were discussing, was like grabbing smoke.  He could summon an occasional, ephemeral detail or disjointed image, but the last decade was less like any kind of connected set of events or narrative like Mark described and more like a jump-cut collage.  Less like history, more like hypnosis.
  Sean had been immediately alarmed at this, being far from an apathetic soul and certainly intelligent and analytical.  It was just they way things had gotten to be in 2013, somehow, and it had shocked him then just as it did now recalling it.  He even wove this theme into his school project.  In terms of literacy of any kind – mathematics, reading, inter-personal – concentration is the mirror-skill to comprehension.  Lose one, he explained, you are bound to being losing the other.  That was where things stood today, why things look so unreasonable much of the time to us, getting quizzical looks from his classmates and teacher.  Half the time we don't even know the words for things anymore, the other half we can't sustain the effort required to consider the ideas behind them.  A room full of uncertain eyes watched as he'd quietly gone back to his seat.  
  Now here he was on a frigid, windswept rooftop, six years older but feeling very little wiser, sunk back into a far deeper swirl of confusion.  He had vague recollections of recent problems: another housing collapse, another tech bubble, another string of corporate fraud, another financial crisis.  But these seemed to just simply come and go now, year after year.  The same with the industry bailouts and government take-overs, rate rigging and bond manipulation, currency meltdowns.  He had no real sense in which order these had occurred or how they were related.
  Politics was much the same jumble of recent and repetitious: election fraud, recounts, court orders, litigation, new electoral boundaries, spending scandals, more re-jigging and redistribution, prorogation, dissolution of certain functions, devolution of others.  To Sean, it just didn't seem to mean much.  He supposed that was probably the point.  
  The collapse of southern Europe?  He realized beyond videos of rioting and burning he had no idea what this actually meant.  The radicalization of scientists?  Just more videos of arrests and protests.  The deportations, water shortages, rolling blackouts, urban demolitions, student strikes, mass layoffs, native blockades, drone deployments, online clampdowns.  That all went by in a blur the past few years and he realized he could explain none of it.  Suddenly, going over all this with Mark, he'd arrived in his own country yesterday.

       The two of them sat, talking quietly, in the room for several more hours.  Mark delved into detail after fractal detail of the electronic infrastructure they were wired into.  He described the challenges of establishing the Pinetree Line, mid-Canada and Distant Early Warning systems in the 1950s and 60s, which were the country's territorial monitors.  He laid out the hundreds of millions spent following those networks by the military on the far-flung Polevault stations and Bridge installations.  He described the transition to satellite relays in the 1970s, then buried cable in the 1980s and 1990s.   
       Layer after layer, node after node, the networks after that time proliferated as the commercial carriers raced to lay down fibre-optics, built new relay towers and blanketed urban areas with evermore communications capacity.  Every developed industrialized state had followed a similar path.  Connectivity was celebrated, bandwidth seen as an end in itself, the ubiquity of networks and endless uptake of new links were an unquestionable good.  The everyday citizen today literally emitted constant ripples and pulses of data as the went about their lives.  Every transaction and communication, every interaction and movement, all transmitted second after second into the ether
       Mark then went on to stress, at some length, that many of the devices and humming boxes around them were redundant.  Some were for emergencies.  Some had likely never been activated for use at all.  They were just-in-case pieces, likely for legal scenarios or civic emergencies of one manner or another too brutish or extreme to contemplate.  Sean looked over his shoulder one rack of seemingly inert equipment, each box in grey metal with only a single green light to indicate any power at all.  He looked discomforted by Mark's digression.     
       Sean even tried at some point to estimate a kind of tally or ballpark estimate on the money, equipment and man-hours that would have gone into this effort.  Mark felt that was generally an impossible figure to arrive at, given the time span and dual efforts of both government and commercial firms to expand their reach and capacity.  It would surely be in the tens of billions, but a reliable estimate would likely be difficult for even the most highly-cleared technocrats to arrive at, given the extent of classification and compartmentalization and commercial sensitivity.  The scale of it, over decades, was simply unfathomable. 
       When the sky outside at last began to lighten, the wind relented.  Mark finished checking the station diagnostic, noted their lack of success with the locational array in the installation log and wrote in a recommendation that the firm immediately remove the units for repair and better climate-proofing.  Then they gathered their gear, powered down their tablets, put the workspace in order and slipped back into their coats.  Emerging from the hut was like coming up from underground, the early morning light in the frigid air was stunning.  They traversed the snowy path to the rooftop door and made their way back to the van.  At just past seven, they pulled out of the parking garage, their passage and presence unnoticed. 

    "So I'll pick you tomorrow morning at three, okay?  You did a solid shift tonight.  Get some sleep."  Sean slid out of his seat and shut the van door.  It pulled away from the curb in front of his apartment, turned the corner and was gone. 
       He opened to door to his flat, put his coat and bags down on the floor next to the small kitchen and then let out a deep yawn.  He crossed the room and fell on his couch.  He pulled his mobile from his shirt pocket, laid it on the coffee table, regarding it with a newly-felt unease.  Mark had told him on the ride home how impressed he'd been with his questions and work, how quickly he'd digested his meandering explanations.  What he had not remarked on was how silent Sean had gone for the last part of their shift.   
       The young man lay stretched out on the coach and watched the ceiling fan spin above his head.  For whatever reason, he found himself thinking about his first real girlfriend from high school, and more specifically the summer when they broke up.  They'd spent months texting each other an endless stream of flirtatious messages, hints, innuendos, promises and provocations.  Even when they were apart, the two were forever whispering longingly in each others ears, or inserting their fawning thoughts into the others view.   
       Sean had been more in love with that girl, for that summer, than he'd ever been since.  But it had only taken a six word text - with another boy's name attached to it sent to him by accident - to convert their time together to an irrecoverable void.  He turned his head to the tiny device on the table again and sighed.   
       He imagined all the invisible streams tethering it to its systems, all the thoughts he'd ever spoken or typed into it, all the things he'd read or planned or bought through it.  He thought about the endless transmission of his life, recorded and received via this ornate little wired packet.  He wished suddenly to slip loose of that digital shadow of himself, not out of shame or fear or anger, but just to be released from its wretched length and banality, its cloying depth and echoing detail.  He closed his eyes and took deep, patient breaths. 
      And he slept then, sinking beneath all those networks of chattering light into something airy, and natural and properly dark.  He began to dream of what might spread calm, cease the endless reverberation and hum.  What forces or tools might bring that endless recording to halt.  How the wires and airwaves might be returned to something resembling silence again, forever. 
   And in the nights beyond that, his dreams began to reassemble themselves into designs.   
spurred by the 2011 Sci-Fi Quest, and inspired by the research of Christopher Soghoian and James Bamford, the writings of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson, having several rounds with Dr. Ian Brown, listening to Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s lift yr. skinny fists like antennas to heaven!, all the while thinking maybe Joseph K wasn't such a clever name for my boy after all.


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.