4 Credit Cards

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.

In cahoots with an accomplice who worked a low level job at the establishment a rogue entrepreneur sat in the next booth tampering with her Replicator.  Fanni Roytblat was of a different point of view.

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.

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 hacked 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 and dangling it was clich√© obvious. 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.