The cold steel of the handgun was stuffed uncomfortably down the front of my pants. As I tore out into the street and hit the highway, leaving behind the decrepit old-world, I couldn’t block it from the forefront of my perception. Never in my life had I held something this illegal.

And I was deeply happy.

Settled in the world around me was a different perception and focus. I had the long ride back into the oceanic districts to think. And my eyes saw anew.

My cognitive miasma had passed behind me with the veil.

Something Michael had shown me, all the trappings in my head. Embedded in my neural computer interface were subroutines. One of which had been recording memories during moments of high activity. I had shut them down with only a thought.

The implications were terrifying. But worse had been not knowing. Shouldn’t I have known all along? The state of total surveillance had long passed beyond suspicion and into total banality.

So much more was becoming clear. Dag must have been avoiding the system entirely, staying offline, unplugged. Had to keep Smiler out of his head.

But there was more that could be done. Confusion was finally tinged with something else.

I screamed into the wind as it ripped by, anger elated. Continue reading


The train was cramped and hot. It reeked of poorly wiped ass. My little white surgical mask did little to help that.

Thin as a rail as I was, the obesity epidemic was most apparent here. Eastern Pacific public transit was fantastic. I could admit that. But people who could stand to walk did. We were the rest.

I tilted my head up to get some air, staring at the yellow handhold I gripped.

Why was I taking the train?

Nobody asked.

Every surface of the interior was glowing with images. Painted on screens which mapped the environment and watched. I hated that damn screen-paper. They had started plastering it everywhere the last few years when augmented reality hadn’t caught on. Too easily hijacked.

Nothing was secure anymore.

I patted the phone tucked in my jacket pocket.

So dramatic.

My stop was coming up, I knew. I’d been on this job for a while, gotten the timing down pat.

I’d grab the hand sanitizer on the way out and continue upholding my record, never getting sick, never missing work. Because I cared about that for some reason.

“Ha!” I laughed out loud. “Fuck!”

Nobody cared. Nobody reacted.

The train was pulling in, allowing the doors to open next. I moved with the morass, out into the subway station.

The elevators weren’t far from here. I stuffed in with twenty others and their chamber closed behind us. It was a short bout of multidirectional inertia to the next stop and one more for mine.

We were let out onto a two-story open hall, wide across. The mall kiosks lined the center, the shopfronts colorfully lit. Above there were countless chandeliers dangling, Christmas lights haphazardly strung everywhere around.

The sound system played loudly, a remix of Last Christmas by Wham! Continue reading