Friday, October 17, 2014

A Job

His life is his job. His job is taking lives. He’s good at what he does.
______________________


I wasn’t always good at my job. Hell, I haven’t always done it. There was a time — a few decades or lifetimes ago — when I didn’t even know I could be good at it. I enlisted, like so many of my friends, because I needed to. I would have been drafted eventually, and I wanted to do something to help. All those people suffering needed someone to do some good. All these years later I’m not sure it was good we did. Hell, I’m not sure what good is anymore.

“Flank right!”
“But sir, they’re already flanking us on the left.”
“That’s why  you’re getting your ass in gear and going to the right, soldier.”
“Sir, yes, sir!”

It seems that every generation has a defining moment. For my parents’ generation it was the Four-Hour War. India struck first with a missile that hit Beijing. China struck back. India fired again. When all the dozens of nukes were fired, the ones that hit took a billion lives in an instant and another half billion died of radiation poisoning. My dad still talks about where he was that day. My mom doesn’t talk about it, not unless she’s been drinking.

“Sir, they’ve overrun our position on the left.”
“You mean our former position?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
“Any new intel?”
“Yes, sir. They’re on foot. Their mechanized units can’t handle the terrain.”
“Damn Sherpas can barely handle the terrain.”

I was born into a world that avoided nukes, hated nukes, destroyed nukes at all costs. It was taught to me with my letters and numbers in school that nukes were evil. The radiation shield Japan put up to contain the fallout was the shining example of how evil nukes were. Around the time I was ten the scattered, rural survivors of the Four-Hour War got together and created a new government that rejected everything that had caused the war to begin with. They signed a treaty, had democratic elections, and set out to show the world how to recover from the apocalypse. I remember the naive hope we all had.

“Sitrep”
“Sir, they found the surprise we left.”
“Casualties?”
“Unconfirmed, but it looks like a dozen troops were hit, sir.”
“How much?”
“Sir?”
“Time. How much time did that buy us?”
“I give us an extra ten minutes to exfil, sir.”
“Copy that.”

Then they tore it all apart. It depends on who you ask, some say it was the African Union that struck the first blow. Others say it was when Russia allied themselves with the Arab-Persian Empire. Some think that the North American Alliance could have stopped it by intervening. I don’t really give a damn. It started and then it got ugly. Diplomacy failed. Negotiators were shot at the table. All pretty bad stuff, to be sure, but when the Indo-Sino regime started using gene-bombs against the Russians I had to do something. I had to enlist.

“Move, you lazy sonsabitches! We’ve got ten minutes and two clicks to the LZ. Ain’t none of you want to stick behind and let them figure out how your genes are put together.”
“Sir, we have reports of mechanized units closing in on the LZ.”
“ETA?”
“Eight minutes.”
“Damn.”
“Sir?”
“Did I stutter? Move OUT!” 

______________________________
Read the rest here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Black & White

Hank does his duty. Everyone does. They have no choice. They all chose to have no choice.
_________________________

The line extends around the corner. People huddle under umbrellas and jackets against the unrelenting rain. A few of them talk. Most stand in silence, eyes downcast and unwilling to meet the gaze of those who have finished walking past with tears streaming down their faces. The wet pavement is far more inviting a view than the looks of abject horror and loss. The looks that will plaster the faces of each person waiting as soon as they’ve completed their obligation this Tuesday.
Hank risks a glance back. The officers pace the length of the line. One has just stepped around the corner. Her colleague won’t be in view for several seconds. If he wanted to run, this would be the time. He might make it. He might get across the empty street and into a doorway or alley before anyone could stop him. But then what? Hank considered the choice. He thought about it too long. What would happen would be inevitable. They would know. Even if he wasn’t caught immediately, they could see that he hadn’t participated by checking the DNA records. They would hunt him. They would find him. Without participation he couldn’t use any money, get any transportation, or find any way out of the country. They made sure that everyone did their duty. There was no escape.
When she walked by, Hank barely recognized her. Every line in her face screamed, but her voice was silenced. She wailed wordlessly as she wept impotent tears. Her head bared to the rain, hair sticking to her face, thrown back in agony as if the gray skies would hear the pain she could not utter. She stumbled and nearly fell. Hank instinctively reached out to steady her, but she pulled back from his touch. When their eyes met he saw her, Marie.
They’d worked together for just under a year. The flirtation had started slowly as they each tested the safety. Their first date had been two months ago. She laughed at his jokes. He asked questions about her cat. They were a cliche and happy. Marie stared at Hank with unseeing eyes, unable to resolve humanity amidst her pain.
“Marie?”
Slowly she squinted and dashed the tears from her eyes. Hank fought the urge to embrace her and protect her from whatever horror dwelt within. But as he stepped out of line the officer approaching from behind cleared his throat. Hank froze. Marie began to shake. 

_________________________________
 Read the rest here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hope

Humanity is scattered throughout the solar system and losing hope. She exists to bring hope, no matter the cost.
___________________________________ 
You may as well call me Hope. It’s my job. See, hope keeps people engaged. Hope makes them work. Hope makes them fight. Without hope humanity descends into chaos. So my job is to make sure they don’t lose hope. Don’t be jealous. My job isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. If I’m going to preserve hope I have to go to all the places where hope is in danger of dying out. I have to go to the very margins and rein in those things that are actively killing the hope of humanity.
I wish I could tell you more about who I am or that I even knew who you were. I’m mostly keeping this log — or diary or journal — for my own sake. My work is too secret for people to know about it. In a cruel twist of irony my work to preserve hope, if people knew about it, would take their hope away again. So I’m speaking into the void and — you’ll get a laugh from this — hoping. What am I hoping for? I’m hoping my job can be done soon. I’m hoping to have a life of my own. I’m hoping to have a name again. I’m hoping to be free of this terrible onus of providing hope for others while denying it for myself.
I watch the automatic systems of my shuttle rotate around its internal gyroscope to line up with the docking system of the asteroid belt colony. They’ve built a circular station that surrounds and stabilizes an asteroid for mining. Once they’ve fully mined that rock, they can move the station to another one and repeat the process. I look at the kilometer wide diameter of the ring as my shuttle’s computer negotiates with that of the station. Most of the lights are off. It’s their night cycle. Solar Standard Time it’s Oh-eight-forty, but each habitat and station chooses their own diurnal rhythm. The waning moon icon on my chronometer indicates they have about three hours left in their night cycle. Odd that we still use Earth-based iconography when none of us have lived there. But I’m starting to ramble.
I suppose I’m keeping this log because I don’t want anyone to forget. Hope comes at a cost. It’s too valuable a thing to not have a cost. If it didn’t hurt we wouldn’t need it so much. I was born and raised to pay the cost of hope for humanity. You’re welcome.

The docking procedure goes as they always do. My credentials override every security protocol and allow me silent docking. No guards are alerted and all the surveillance systems in the airlock and adjoining corridors are automatically disabled. The hiss of air and the vibration of metal on metal — more felt than heard — bring all my senses to the ready. I go over the plan for the hundredth time. The remaining three hours should be sufficient to get me in and out undetected. Hope must leave no trace of her machinations. 


___________________________

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Breadcrumbs

When you follow the money you find the truth -- whether you want to or not.
____________________________


To: rharris@satellitenews.com

From: blumbergh@initech.com

Subject: Something Weird



HI Rob,



How’s life over there in the news pit? I saw your story the other day about the Supreme Court decisions. Brilliant!



I just wanted to go over some strange stuff I noticed when auditing your accounts. It looks like funds have been going from SN to some political campaigns. I wanted to make sure that was supposed to be happening. If not, I can fix the glitch and get things squared away.



Thanks,



Bill



To: blumbergh@initech.com

From: rharris@satellitenews.com

Subject: RE: Something Weird



Hey Bill,



Glad you liked the story. It was trending on Twitter for a while.



Those contributions are legit. Thanks for checking.



Rob



To: rharris@satellitenews.com

From: blumbergh@initech.com

Subject: Re: RE: Something Weird



So you and Lil Miss Twerk are taking over Twitter?



I really don’t want to beat a dead horse, but you do know that those contributions are going to help the other side, right?



Bill



To: blumbergh@initech.com

From: 808H4RR1$@yahoo.com

Subject: Let’s Talk



Bill, it’s me. I can’t continue the conversation from my other address. Can we meet to talk about what you found?



To: 808H4RR1$@yahoo.com

From: blumbergh@initech.com

Subject: Re: Let’s Talk



What’s going on? I’m halfway across the country right now. Can’t we talk on the phone?



To: blumbergh@initech.com

From: 808H4RR1$@yahoo.com

Subject: Re: Re: Let’s Talk



Tonight. 8:30 EST - irc://irc-harris1.com/chat1?incognitosheep



%% Please Wait while IRC-Transport connects to the server and/or joins the channel…

%% H4RR1$ Has Joined Channel “Private”

%%

%% BillL Has Joined Channel “Private”

<H4RR1gt; Bill?

<BillL> Yeah, it’s me. What’s with all the secrecy, Rob?

<H4RR1gt; You need to back off on the money trail, Bill.

<BillL> What do you mean? What’s going on?

<H4RR1gt; More than you want to know. Can you just back off?

<BillL> No. Not without some idea of what’s going on.

<H4RR1gt; Fine. We’re in the business of making money. We’re making sure that we do that.

<BillL> By contributing to the political campaigns of the people your network opposes?

<H4RR1gt; Yes… that’s a part of it.
__________________

Friday, September 19, 2014

No True Scotsman

The campaigning is over. The votes are in. The results are about to be announced.
___________________


When the vote came down we were all sitting together. I suppose we thought that our visible unity would lend some weight to our small part of the democratic process. We’d been campaigning for months — and before that we worked hard to collect signatures. All our work had led to this moment. I couldn’t bear to look at the display as the results were read off.
Genetically Modified Organisms — that’s what they’re called officially at least — were on the ballot. Geemos, as most people called them — or Geems if you wanted to be derogatory — were what all the work was about. We tried education. We tried appeals to empathy. We tried free concerts in the park. We tried social mixers. We tried free pizza — because who doesn’t like free pizza — but all of our trying, all of our work, all of our sweat, all of our time, came down to the words being read by a dispassionate news anchor awake far later than she wanted to be.
When the measure was placed on the ballot so many months ago none of us thought it would be this close. No one thought the issue would be this big, touch this many people, or ignite so much fervor — both for and against. The people in favor of Geemos cite all the science behind them, the spotless record, the countless benefits, and the progress of humanity. Those against Geemos point to the companies that use them in less than ethical ways, the fear of the unknown, and the dangers of technology. They were never really speaking the same language, let alone arguing about the same topic. If you were to draw a Venn diagram of everything that the sides think, the only real point of intersection would be the Geemos.
In many ways the argument has come down to money and passion. Who can throw the most money at the campaign and who can generate the most passion in their base? I’m afraid of the results because I know the answer to my own question. Our side — the Pro-Geemo group — is behind on both money and passion. Sure we can get money from the companies doing Geemo work, but that’s a poisoned well. If we take their money, we also take on all the fear that they instill in people. And, if I’m honest, I don’t really like them. The No-Geemo group has some valid critiques. Those companies are jerks — to put it lightly — and if we were to take their money, we’d already have lost the battle for people’s hearts. 
__________
 Read the rest here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Evil?

When the world is faced with annihilation, one reporter sits down with the man who discovered the threat -- renowned billionaire David Sunderlin. The interview reveals much about not only Sunderlin, but also humanity and what true evil really is.

_______________________

“What is evil really? Is a doctor evil for amputating a limb to save a patient? Is a police officer evil for shooting an armed attacker to save innocent lives? Is a military evil for killing soldiers to rescue civilians in danger?” Billionaire and CEO of SpaceFlight, David Sunderlin said in a recent interview. We sat down in his penthouse apartment to discuss recent developments, including his address to the United Nations in which he informed the world of the asteroid hurtling towards Earth. Sunderlin granted the interview gladly and personally, rather than using an assistant to work out the details. When I arrived at his apartment he answered the door himself. The man with the largest fortune in the world — made primarily through buying struggling Internet companies and then selling them once he has turned them into household names — stood before me in ripped jeans, a plaid shirt, and sporting plastic rimmed glasses. His salt-and-pepper hair fought itself, a conflict which Sunderlin paid no mind.
“Of course I don’t consider myself evil,” Sunderlin continued in response to my question, “But then again who would? I doubt any person has thought of themselves as evil. Even the worst of us has justification for our actions. And really, that’s the issue here. Justification.” Sunderlin went on to list companies and individuals who justified what he considers to be evil. Were I to print the names here I might be guilty of libel. Suffice it to say the accusations are serious and wide-reaching. Sunderlin told me of justifying extortion, racism, pollution, murder, slavery, oppression, starvation, war and nearly every other crime imaginable. All of this, said Sunderlin, was justified to the point where simply talking had no chance of changing minds.
“I don’t think I’m the best person for this job,” he leaned forward on his couch and tented his fingers before continuing, “but I’m the one with the means. I tried to convince people. I tried to use the political system. I tried to use economics. I tried begging. I tried spreading my ideas across the Internet. None of it worked and now it’s too late.” With that he leaned back into the Corinthian leather of his sofa with an audible sigh.
Sunderlin was referring to the asteroid and his UN address. He went on to say, “It was the only thing I could think of — the only way I could hope to affect change. I told them what needed to happen. I told them that only if the world started working together could the asteroid be diverted. It’s coming too quickly and too soon for any one country or alliance to stop it alone. The whole world needs to agree or the whole world is doomed.” 
__________________________

Read the rest here

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Battle for the Net

image
Net Neutrality is a popular buzz-word right now, but its political and tangible effects are harder to fathom. The most recent effect is that Netflix slowed down on the servers of Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. To resolve the issue, they agreed to pay a fee for faster internet access.

If the providers are allowed to charge fees for access to faster speeds on the internet, we could soon face a corporately run system where the biggest companies have the loudest voice. This is already true in our political system and our traditional media. If it becomes true of the internet too then the promised democratization effects of online communication will fail.

Let's put that another way. If companies can pay for fast lanes, they can also outbid everyone else to create slow lanes. 

This is a step away from full-on censorship. Right now your voice doesn't matter much in the world. Your elected officials don't really care what you think on an issue. The companies that provide you with everything you need to live don't care if they hurt or abuse you. What they all care about is the flow of money. Politicians overwhelmingly follow the money that comes from lobbyist and SuperPACs -- funded by businesses. Businesses overwhelmingly follow the dictates of their shareholders in making decisions -- intended to maximize profit, not benefit the consumers.

You have one place now where your tiny voice can be magnified to the point where politicians and companies will listen -- at least some of the time. You have one outlet for changing minds. One location where a true democracy lives and thrives.

If we lose Net Neutrality, we lose the last remaining bastion of individual power.

There are a few, simple things you can do, right now. Use the power of the internet to save the power of the internet. Save not only your voice, but the voices of the oppressed around the world.

Click here and learn more. Sign the letter (I did). Write your own letter (I did). Tell your friends. Demand an open internet. Demand your voice be heard.