1 Whale Hunting

Hand reaching outward, teeth perturbed, vaginas on his mind. Their shape, their smell, their feel. With instant access to billions of thoughts vaginas had a disproportionately high hit rate and low ROI in this user’s mindspace. If one were to review a 7-day slice of his bio-analytics data alone, eschewing his physical self, one could mistakenly extrapolate that this mindspace was part of the 18 to 35 demographic. In actuality this unmarried, childless, sexually repressed hero of his own life was a Monsanto subsidiary chief executive a couple years away from retirement.

He was a pudgy, balding, bearded man of average height in his late 60s. His grey whiskers hid his acne scarred complexion. Dressed in a black suit with a green and yellow striped tie, he wore casual, black pleather shoes and was one sale away from earning his annual bonus.

“I’ll try anything once except anal,” Hegelian dialectics, Atlas Shrugged, Patrick Stewart as Vladimir Lenin in BBC’s The Fall of the Eagles (1974), of course vulvae, and a thousand other references made up the bulk of his curated sales pitch; the product placement a mere outlier. It was an unconventional slide deck but he knew it would work. He was an exceptional discourser and he had a killer instinct for recipe sales. Once the mindspace link was initiated the deal was as good as sealed, or so he said to himself.

Blad’s favourite venue to do business was a strip shop on the western outskirts of the city. Perched over the concrete beach almost touching the force field dividing the evening skyline and the sea, Plato’s Retreat had the best buffet spread and the fastest Strippers in New Toronto. If you went to the top of this 500 floor structure and looked across the ocean you could see the skyglow made by Nebraska, the largest island in the world. The City Of Nebraska was 50 times bigger than the island of New Toronto, and at 2000 KM away it was also New Toronto’s nearest neighbour.

Today was not the day to be looking out windows dreaming of big city vacations however. Today CEO Blad Terren was there to butter up and make a deal with Senator Jhiana Voltrand; a big fish at Google who ran a daisy chain of five star repositories; storage databases from which Replicators could retrieve and install a set of instructions that described how to prepare a culinary dish. She and Blad stood in the lobby waiting for their booth.

Jhiana was a tall, big boned, middle aged woman with long blond hair, hoop earrings and pencilled in eyebrows. She wore soft-soled moccasins and black stockings. Her dress was a brightly coloured yellow, red, green and blue Marimekko styled print, in charge of call for tenders and contract award procedures for her  department.

“We exist to appropriately enhance mission-critical intellectual capital in order that we may interactively empower premier e-business with 100% on-time delivery” said Blad.

This was English in the 4th millennium, sing songy nonsense that had become a sort of status symbol. People were intelligent but no longer reasoned using language. Words were considered too slow. Actual discourse occurred by aggregating a collection of digitized ideas into a single theme, then asking a receiver to accept a “pitch” from a shared mindspace link. This was all possible thanks to the Segway. Everyone had a Segway. Having a Segway was the law. According to Google law when a citizen became 13 years old they must be interfaced to a Segway.

A Segway was a two-wheeled, self-balancing, fission powered trailer dolly designed to scoot citizens around in a manner that was fast and space efficient. The base of a Segway was a sleekly designed compact encasing for a thousand server farms; an all powerful Beowulf cluster of computing intelligence branded the Personal Googleplex. An antenna ran from the base up through the Segway’s control shaft broadcasting an encrypted WiFi signal to a single human brain. This one-to-one connection was “mindspace” and allowed access to all the features of contemporary adulthood. Segways in the future were actually Google Glass that got bigger. Hence their slogan: A Segway for your face.

On average, interfacing a 13 year old to a Segway took 27 minutes. The surgery involved gouging out the left eye and running the optic nerve through a kaleidoscope tube which acted as a high speed wireless hub. A user could then walk a ten meter radius around their Segway and still be connected. The surgery had a 99.9% success rate. This was incredibly great. With the world’s population ceiling at roughly 0.6 billion only a meagre, statistically insignificant, 600,000 children were at risk of euthanasia if the operation failed. Our land scarce planet was no place for primitive man.

“We want to efficiently facilitate competitive total linkage to set us apart from the competition” replied Jhiana.

Jhiana and Blad were in the difficult position of trying to negotiate conditions for their data exchange. Trust had to be established before accepting a shared mindspace link from one another because of “exposure.” This was a heinous act whereby a competitor could trick you into accepting corrupted memories of executions, murders and sexual abuse. According to Monsanto law this was a serious crime that caused permanent psychological damage.

Risk in mind, it was part of their jobs to formalize business agreements and scout for new, untaxed, ideas. Open discourse was their duty. “No goths, no glory” as they would probably say to each other, and did. “No goths, no glory” they agreed.

Business agreements must be conducted by virtue of existing contract law:

The law states that the Google government is responsible for interfacing a 13 year old to a Segway and that all 13 year olds must be interfaced to a Segway. In return for this service a tax is collected. A Segway user must make public domain 1% of their new ideas a year. The Google government then indexes, triages, and redistributes these new ideas to new 13 year old Segway users. This is done in the hopes of taxing increasingly sophisticated ideas. This policy has worked so far. A vast wealth of knowledge now comes digitized by default on a new Segway installation. Segway is Google’s patented intellectual property and is leased in perpetuity. A user must not disconnect from their Segway unless authorized. Unauthorized disconnection is considered a crime. Any Google government violation is handled by government police. People think Google enhanced thoughts.

The law states that Monsanto owns the copyrights on all food ingredients, that the Replicator is Monsanto’s patented intellectual property, and that all recipes are subject to royalties. The payment terms vary from recipe to recipe but, essentially, debts are bulk grouped into blocks of labour whereby a user may temporarily disconnect from their Segway to help with construction, manufacturing, infrastructure, utilities, daycare and sewers. Disconnection times are negotiated between Monsanto and Google. Any labour done outside of these terms is considered a crime. Any Monsanto company violation is handled by company police. People eat Monsanto enhanced foods.

Monsato’s modus operandi was to amass enough new ideas and labour contracts a year so that, come tax time, the government could not legally copy and redistribute food. Google on the other hand cared only about one thing: Disallowing other businesses from building and tampering with Segways for the good of all.

To complicate matters there was no functional distinction between government or company in New Toronto or anywhere else for that matter. No one voted for Google. No one quit Monsanto. Every interaction that led to a legally binding transaction between these two juggernauts was dubbed “competitive business.” Unauthorized business was illegal.

Startups, often branded criminal cartels, were routinely “bought out” by Google or Monsanto before they had a chance to compete. Buying out a competitor involved annexing their intellectual property and euthanising their employees. This had been going on for hundreds of years and was considered boring by now. Societal order and norms were well established and as far as Blad and Jhiana were concerned the world was locked in a happy, competitive, stalemate.

“We strive to synergistically communicate superior sources in order to solve business problems” cried Blad impatiently hand still hanging waiting for a hi-five.

“Omg the heat and the refs have really #turndup” she whispered right up in his face a bit too close spitting on him a bit.

“Had this speak and say taken a turn from mission statements into historical Tweets with less than ten views?” thought Blad as he accessed his mindspace for an appropriate sound bite. He replied:

“Water me”

Jhiana slapped Blad’s outreached hand and beckoned him to follow her. Their booth was ready.

They approached the maître d’ and followed him into an elevator up to the 9th floor. After rolling down a long hallway for less than a minute, the host slid open a fragile, clay white paper shōji inspired door, revealing a chic and shimmering tree branch chandelier hung from the high ceiling of a clean and elegant eating area. Several other groups could be overheard through the paper thin walls, gleaming with excitement, eagerly awaiting to get their teeth knocked out. The inside of Jhiana and Blad’s mostly paper booth was equipped with a wooden table, a power supply, a Replicator, two benches, and two Strippers.

Well within wireless range, they dismounted from their Segways and sat down in front of the Strippers waiting for them on the table.

A Replicator was a machine that synthesized meals on demand. It was also capable of inverting its function, thus disposing of leftovers and storing the bulk material again. A replicator worked by rearranging subatomic particles to form molecules, then arranging those molecules to form food. For example, to create pork chop sandwiches the replicator would first form atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and other chemical elements, then arrange them into amino acids, proteins, and cells, finally assembling the particles into a pork chop sandwich. A replicator could create any meal so long as the molecular data structure was on file.

A Stripper was a small, spherical, robotic dentistry unit that performed psychotropic root canal surgery by drilling and injecting drugs into the highly vascularized loose connective dental pulp of molars. A black silicon ball gag was strapped into the mouth behind the teeth, with leather straps going around the head to secure it in place. Once secured, diamond drill bits and syringes would jut out, drill, and inject in accordance to a Replicator’s sommelier program, pairing drugs that would best complement each particular food menu item. After the procedure completed, the ball gag was removed and the meal synthesized.

Plato’s Retreat was the authorized reseller for half a million high quality recipes, from avocado natto bowl to za’atar pomegranate tofu kebabs, every dish fantastic. On this day duck confit with salad was the menu du jour. Both agreed that the duck was a sublime choice and punched in their orders. The Strippers finished in no time at all and the meal was served.

Meanwhile, a rogue entrepreneur sat in the next booth tampering with her Replicator. In cahoots with an accomplice who worked a low level job at the establishment, she was a wanted criminal with the data structure to an illegal recipe: Hinomaru bento; plain white rice with an umeboshi in the centre. Umeboshi was a sort of brined, sweet and sour, red pickled plum. Legend had it that the original version of this recipe was the starvation ration for a primitive warrior class known as the samurai. The pickle could easily be mass-produced and if placed in the centre of a rice ball, the flavor of the umeboshi would drain out into the rice as ancient soldiers would go on the march. Legend also has it that this recipe inspired the flag for one of the actors in the last great war, thousands of years ago.

Now the prevailing wisdom of the 4th millennium was that truculent competition between Monsanto and Google was, literally, the most efficient way to keep humanity afloat. Earth was mostly water and mankind overcrowded a handful of technologically advanced cities. Only two monopolies in their respective spheres of influence, Monsanto and Google, fought to create economic policy through deliberation, negotiation and compromise. To add other business interests to the equation would imperil mankind. This dualistic social and economic balance had come to be known as neo-corporativism. Reading, interpreting and applying statues was the domain of these two companies alone.

Fanni Roytblat was of a different point of view. She was employed by a small revolutionary startup. She and her colleagues believed that all food should be free, thereby liberating mankind from the shackles of forced labour, ushering in a leisure society focused exclusively on pleasure and the development of new ideas. She believed that humans had become intelligent enough to voluntarily solve labour shortages, that life after neo-corporativism was now possible, that Monsanto and Google had become corrupt.

Young Fanni wore dark clothes, had dark skin, had dark curly hair, and was an attractive woman with a face that a lover might die for. “Lazy people are skinny” was a stereotype based on a prejudice that people of average weight opted out of meals to avoid an honest day’s work, and Fanni was not the exception. Waif thin, her eager and beautiful visage leaning into the Replicator sick with fear, she held up one shaking finger above the machine her wide eyes glancing back, like those of a frightened child, into the gloom around her.

Fanni’s recipe was not illegal in itself. Hinomaru bento was widely available and innocuous. Her copy of the recipe, on the other hand, had been tampered with. It encapsulated a buffer exploit that would, after a series of instructions, mount a Salami slicing attack. The attack would reprogram the way a Replicator invoiced food. It would divide, slice, and reroute debits to a long list of Google Senators. The shaved transactions were small enough that, when bulk grouped with real transactions, they would go undetected for weeks. This allowed anyone using the affected Replicator to eat for free by passing off their labour to the government.

Her hot pink lee press on nail flicked open the lid exposing the service port of the Replicator she had spent the last forty five minutes buggering and lock picking. “Temba, his arms wide/open” she mumbled to herself probably meaning nothing. Nervous and sweating at the brow, she inserted a service key containing the exploit and instantly triggered a loud, high-pitched, alarm. Foiled! The Replicator had been patched. Her mind raced, had her contact at Plato’s deliberately misled her or was he simply an incompetent cretin? In either case she had to get out of there now, and fast.

Ripping through the paper walls she darted on foot. Wall after wall after wall, leaving her Segway behind, disconnecting from her neoteric sentience, Fanni was a wild woman without a mindspace link, on the run, sewing pandemonium and confusion as she tore through the storey.

Customers screamed in horror as she burst through paper doors and walls but those unlucky enough to still be gagged by Strippers could not be heard. Zigzagging left, then right, then left and right again, she followed a destructive path that finally led her to a set of emergency stairs and ran down as fast as she could.

Racing down nine floors, to Fanni, felt like falling in a dream. She was no longer Segway enhanced and was functioning with the bare minimum of intelligence. Before she had bolted she had devised a plan and told herself to stick to it, repeating to herself over and over “todo” but her new found stupidity was not helping in the least.

Being disconnected from her Segway was not a new feeling for Fanni. She had done labour many times. She knew what it felt like to be ruptured from mindspace. Anyone who had ever worked a day in their life knew what it was like to feel like this. Everyone under the age of 13 knew this feeling as well. Still, it was not pleasant for her and she felt impaired.

Prior to triggering the alarm, Fanni had disabled the Replicator’s communication port, rendering the alarm audible only. With no connection to an external security company she hoped the disorder she had deliberately caused would buy her enough time to make it down the stairs, out an unmarked service entrance, before someone thought to contact the police.

Jhiana and Blad, still in shock from all the chaos, peered through their torn walls. On the right side was a gagged, teary eyed group of customers waiting impatiently for the sommelier procedure to end. Interrupting Stripper surgery mid-process would be harmful to their health. On the left side was an empty, dimly lit booth with an abandoned Segway next to a shrieking Replicator. The siren continued to blare loudly.

At first Jhiana and Blad did nothing, assuming the authorities had been automatically alerted by the Monsanto machine. They put their hands over their ears, looking at each other in silence, crouching, waiting.

After five minutes Blad had had enough. He got up, walked over, kicked down what was left of the wall, and slowly approached the Replicator. He clearly saw that the machine had been tampered with. Jhiana, next to him, saw this too. With the Replicator’s internals exposed it was obvious to anyone, someone had tried to hack this machine. What they didn’t understand was why? Why would someone risk tampering with a Replicator at prime time amidst thousands of customers in New Toronto’s biggest buffet?

For now the what’s and why’s were too late. Fanni’s scheme had worked. She had escaped and was in hiding.

It would soon be evident that she was the culprit. With her Segway discarded into the hands of the government, Google would do inventory analysis and know everything about her. They would know where she had been. They could guess who her colleagues were. They might model and predict the probable courses of action that she would take based on her log files. Truth be told, Google could deduce innumerable things with all of her mindspace available to them.

This was a colossal screw-up for her and her startup. Fanni had to get to her compatriots before the authorities.

Police raids would soon follow.