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  • #16
    Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

    SIX Title: Six
    Author: Heather Lawrence


    Sand, sand everywhere. Red sand, rocky sand, sugar sand, sand with metal shards, Xan had seen them all. An endless world of sand extended in all directions in front of him. But it was not all flatland. Dunes taller than two of him combined flowed like waves across the landscape. Occasionally you would see a pile of recognizable rubble. A tower with a needle at its peak lay in pieces like a broken child's toy. A broken obelisk stood a lonely watch off to the left. A mirage floated above all in a brain-boiling haze. Foolish men had wandered off to the mirage in search of water, only to die. Xan was not that man. He enjoyed the coolness of his suit and the ice-blue displays within his full-face helmet. Today, however, he was annoyed. Sand had worked its way into the little crevices of his standard issue combat boots and he was unable to empty them until his shift ended. He could finally take off his boots after going through the decontamination air lock. He had little concept as to when that was. This day seemed to drag on longer than any he remembered.
    He had stood guarding the same portion of metal fence that he had guarded the past ten watches. Why couldn't he draw a roving watch? Or get swapped in for kitchen duties? Within the fence betallions of soldiers idled near barracks in the courtyard or ran drills in formation. Beyond the ants stood the unyielding montrosity of Metropolis Six. Those black towers stood in fierce opposition to the elements, extending far above the clouds and into the horizon. It was a hive of activity at night from the 15th floor and above.
    Xan was bored. His gun had begun to weigh heavy in his arms hours ago. Like his pack and all his gear, his plasma incinerator was made by only one company these days: Gtek. He would count himself lucky if the damn thing worked. But Gtek ran everything - the government was riddled with employees sponsored by them, the towers were theirs, all maintenance was their maintenance, even food was grown in their labs.
    The food... he missed fresh fruit the most. Gtek had stomped out any other startup before it even got off the ground. As such, the prices they set for gourmet food and fruit were far above his paygrade. He could find dried fruit leather in his pack with his MREs, but he knew it was not made from real fruit anymore.
    The furious sun blazed down on him. At this time of day, not even the towers provided any futile shelter. He had to rely on his suit to cool him down and protect him from the rays. An hour of direct exposure meant a day in a regen tank. He made that mistake before after a night of debauchery. Apparently you could not venture out in the day for long without getting burned. Somehow the sun down here was more murderous. At least the night patrols did not have the sun to contend with. They did, however, get more surprise attacks from the Outlanders. They were getting smarter these days. Night vision and infared had draw backs when your enemies had the means to outsmart them.
    Far down the fence line his visor picked up another guard. Holo outlines flashed and brought the number blazoned on the front of the guard's uniform into focus. Good old 5651. He turned the dial on his in-ear radio from channel 6, Central's monitored channel, to channel 10, the guard channel.
    "Tom, check in."
    "Hey Xan. Yeah, it's me."
    "What's good man? Anything interesting happen in the past six hours?"
    "Nothing interesting. It's still hotter than two rats screwing in a wool sock."
    Xan chuckled. He tapped a button on his temple to scan the line for eavesdroppers.
    "So hey, you still going to the Con later?"
    "Yo, you really want to talk about that now? We're on watch. Central could be listening."
    "I already scanned the line. I have to know. Are you going?"
    Tom groaned over the channel. He shifted the weight of his gun. He was closer now and about to pass Xan by.
    "I have to work tomorrow but I think I can get an encrypted line to listen in to some of the talks."
    "Don't get caught with any of the video. Or any of the audio for that matter. Central finds that and you can bet on your one way ticket into a black bag. Personally, I'm going right after this shift ends. I wouldn't miss the Defcon talks for anything. Last year they there was a talk on how to reclaim anonymity."
    "I missed that talk. Know of a place where I could view a back up?"
    "Weren't you listening? No one keeps hardcopy anymore. It's an open invitation to get caught."
    An abnormal static fuzzed over the line.
    Tom passed by with a nod and continued walking along his patrol route down the fence. They both switched back over to channel 6.


    "Did you get that round of coms on channel 10?" Said a man in a white lab coat stood in the center of a vast white control room. He spoke to a small group of technicians. Each monitored their own hologram panel.
    "Yes Doctor, saved the data to Drive Zeta."
    "How much longer do we have before the shift change? I have to prepare some updates."
    "About another six hours, Doctor."
    "When the changeover happens, call me. I'll be in my office."


    Xan yawned and shifted his weight again. Tom had gone hours ago. Now the sun knelt low in the horizon and painted the desert a vivid crimson. The temperature had begun to drop in the gloaming and a cold moon danced in a growing night sky. There would have been more to look if they had never mined there. Once a silver orb, a jagged edge remained of what was once a perfect arc. Xan's suit switched over to night mode. Infared flashed in the visor before settling on the cold empty desert.
    He stretched his shoulders the best he could to remove the ache of standing all day. He daydreamed about that first drink after shift. Maybe he'd meet a girl. They could fight the system together. She picked locks and loved his terrible puns. Maybe she...
    Xan saw movement and froze. No red bloomed over his visor and yet he was unsure of his lonliness. Did something move out there? He could not say.
    "Central, I'm seeing movement out here in quad A-5. Please advise."
    "3418, we have eyes on your location."
    There! He saw it again. The cloak of a humanoid shape moved from dune to dune. Xan had to strain to see the motion in the moonlight. Why didn't the visor pick them up?
    A flashbang went off to his left, blinding him. His vision was a sea of white. Quickly, his suit took over and aimed his arm for him, softly chiming the location of his charging attackers.
    "Outlanders" It said. "The closest is a half klick away, encroaching on your location. Aiming... Aiming... Aiming... "
    "Fire weapon." It said at last.
    Xan pulled the trigger of his torch. The gun vaporized the attacker in fractions of a second. His sight was returning. Only human ash wafted into the air from the black glass burn where sand used to be. He aimed four more times before he contacted Central again. His gun worked. He felt relieved.
    "Central, threat neutralized."
    "Copy that 3418. Sending a relief to your location."
    Relief? Was it that time already?
    The smoke stopped billowing by the time the relief got there. Turnover was an unenthusiastic affair. A tap on the shoulder and a vocal pass of the logs. Xan signed out.
    "You've got the watch. I stand relieved." Xan breathed a sigh of relief. Not a moment too soon.
    He walked a long time back to the barracks.
    He approached the wide hydraulic metal gate that led into the decon airlock. It snicked open when it registered his presence. A lemon colored light illuminated a sickly green room. It was empty save for drains bolted into the floor. He was excited to be able to empty the sand from his boots. The door snicked down shut behind him. Xan shut down into darkness.


    A trim woman dressed in white contacted the doctor in his office.
    "Doctor, he's ready."
    "Already? I was expecting another hour." He quickly typed a few last lines of code before torturing his compiler.
    "We had some activity on the eastern flank in the A-5 quadrant, but it's quiet now. We felt it was best just to relieve him early."
    The doctor laughed. When would these Outlanders learn? They would never be allowed in. They were infected! They were never going to infiltrate the complex for water. Getting into Six was more impossible that finding clean water from anywhere that was not deep underground.
    "How's 3418?"
    "We have him on standby ready for your update Doctor. He has an appointment with a gen tank afterwards."
    "When are we getting 5651?"
    "Not for a few hours yet."
    "Prep him for the update too. I'll be down shortly."
    "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

    Comment


    • #17
      Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

      SORRY I THREW UP ON YOU, PRIEST by Al

      Sorry I threw up on you Priest.

      It was all a blur at Alexis Park after vomiting on Priest. DefCon 12 was one of my earlier DefCon appearances and I thought it could be my last. I check in at the registration desk that Saturday morning, grabbed my human badge, and off I went to a talk or two. My friend Jon wasn't at the Alexis Park yet, so I wander around the AP.

      DefCon on a Saturday at Alexis Park was like Aaron Spelling converting a cheap Las Vegas resort for a Fantasy Island television special mixed with Hacker Debauchery Hunter S. Thompson would produce to remake Pinocchio's Pleasure Island for prime time network television to a stunned audience. I'm walking through the hallways of kids with their laptops before I walk to my first viewing of the Wall of Sheep. The screen status of teams capturing the flag against each other to the throbbing ambient trance music that sounded like it hasn't changed since I last left Circus in Los Angeles weeks before DefCon. It was a calming atmosphere that I fell comfortably into a trap to.

      At the Poolside patio was a group of folks I kinda remembered from ToorCon the year before with my friend Jon Erickson. Geoff from eEye security was offering me a toast from the table of Costco-sized Alcohol. I'm not going to deny a drink even if it's a hundred degrees outside. I take a drink. It took me a while (or it may be the drink) to see Marc Maffiret and Barnaby Jack on the table with more eEye guys drinking in the afternoon.

      I lost track of time, conversations, and everything else after several screwdrivers, vodka infusions, and whatever drinks I had with Barnes because I can't remember a Goddamed thing that day.

      I wake up. My eyes are all a blur. I look up to see a balding Friar-looking monk wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt in front of me, shaking my shoulders. I can't comprehend what he's asking me. All I hear is: rabble, rabble, rabble, what's your name? I'm sure he's asked me my name probably ten times that day. Thats when I vomited on the poor monk on a Hawaiian t-shirt. It took me several weeks to realize: I threw up on Priest? My bad.

      I black out again and rest to see several faces I will remember after DC12. Skroo was asking me if I needed a glass of water. In my dehydrated state of mind, I probably took a swig of water. I see a crowd of people outside of me by the pool. I probably blacked out after that. Flea was asking me if I needed CPR. I think. I probably blacked out at that point.

      I wake up again to see a gentleman in a goatee and glasses ask me if I need an ambulance. This is the first time I've ever met Noid, and I find it funny I met him and the rest of the DefCon goons this way. I'm not sure what happened and I black out a bit more. I gained some sense of consciousness on the stretcher to a cheering crowd of hackers and onlookers by the Pool. I hear that applause and for some strange premonition, I give my thumbs up to the crowd. I guess I was telling everyone I'll be fine that day.

      I wasn't that fine for the next six or seven hours at the Desert Inn Hospital. I wake up and I see IV tubes and wires attached to me. "The Fuck Happened?" I said to myself. I open the hospital curtains to see three nurses playing cards on the table with grins on their faces. "Good Morning" said the middle-aged nurse, "You must have had one hell of a party. I hope it wasn't your birthday today because the party's still going on." The other two nurses laugh at her joke as I didn't find it that funny. I'm squinting my eyes at her like I kinda wanted to smack her. In my condition at the hospital bed, I'm still woozy and I see an another young human with a DefCon badge. That guy Tenlow becomes one of my drinking buddies later at Hacker Drinkup in Santa Monica and other Cons. That night at the Desert Inn Hospital, we're still recovering. Well, I was. Tenlow looked like he was out when I woke up.

      The middle-aged nurse asked me two questions as I recoverer consciousness with a bad hangover. "Ok, I was going to ask you these two things and I thought it's a birthday party until we had two more of you kids with these neon colored badges. First, Do you need water? Second, What's DefCon?"

      Of course I wanted water. With a nod of my head, she gave me a water bottle from the mini-fridge at the ER. The second question was hard to answer in layman's terms at the time, but I couldn't resist. "DefCon's not a birthday party to begin with. Can I smoke here?"

      The nurse had rules to enforce and defiantly tells me I can't smoke in the Hospital. Not sure what I was thinking at the time, but I could confuse the Emergency Room with one of those DefCon Black and White ballrooms the night before. She sits down on the table and pulls out a chair for me for me to sit down. While I'm sitting down, she asks me "So tell me. What's DefCon?"

      "DefCon's a security conference. It's um…" I'm shaking my head a bit to clear my mind, "It's a security conference."

      The Nurse's questions become more aggressive and aggravating at my attempt of vagueness to her question. "What kind of security? Like Casino Security? Dennys Security? Rent-a-cop?"

      I take a deep breath and a swig of water to make some answers clear to her. "It's a conference gathering computer scientists and hackers every year."

      Her eyes open wide. Stunned. Perhaps a bit flummoxed about the idea, but she's still somewhat unclear about the concept of DefCon. "What kind of computer scientists work with hackers? I mean, I'm like 'are you going to read my email?' everyday."

      "No we don't read your emails everyday." It's my only reply to calm her down a bit.

      "Ok, so will I be safe from." She pauses for a moment to figure it out, "Will I be safe from hackers if I install Norton Antivirus?"

      I didn't want to complicate my answer from that question, but I don't want to give her some delusional sense of hope either. I had to pause for a sec to find something to say, and then I found my answer from the series of six sigma programs as running gags each black belts say in times of crises while jerking my head sideways, "Norton Antivirus? It depends."

      "Depends on what?"

      "It Depends on how you browse the web. Like do you go on myspace or friendster?"

      "No."

      "Do you watch Porn?"

      The Nurse slumps her shoulders with a whimpering sigh like I asked that question randomly to take her out for dinner tomorrow night. "No, I dunno if my husband watches porn. But all I know is my computer is slow as molasses." She gets sensitive about the question, but not defensive enough for my drunk ass to pick up anything else. "Why would you ask me if I watch Porn?"

      "Most porn websites install funny things on people's computers when they watch porn videos on their computers." I'm giving these dry answers to a nurse in 2005 when people felt carefree to browse anything until they notice popups on their internet explorer browsers.

      The nurse seems content with my answer. "I see. Well we have two more of you hackers or whatever you kids came out of in this room. That must have been one hell of a conference."

      My recovering evil grin while glaring at her followed by my calming chuckle assured her that night. "It's a night to remember."

      The middle-aged nurse was dressed in her conservative, frumpy, baggy uniform, yet looked somewhat attractive to ponder many questions about her past. She was short haired and blonde with the average build to disappoint anyone to think their nurse was from the Blink 182, enema of the state, album cover. She was a professional. She wanted conversations with other patients who had their nights in vegas to see if they were ruined or blessed. I think she thought my night from DefCon to the Hospital was a blessed one.

      The Nurse asks me if I needed a cab to my hotel room. I obliged to agree. I gave her my health insurance and credit card to cover the co-pay and I'm off the ER to the lobby waiting for my cab.

      A true DefCon veteran would go straight to DefCon after my ordeal. I wasn't a veteran and opted to order a drive-thru meal in the cab instead before I go back to my hotel room.

      The next day, I show up in the afternoon and everyone's stunned to see me alive. I'd be stunned myself too.

      The funny thing is, It took four DefCons, three ToorCons and a few LayerOne Cons to recap what the hell happened to me that day. A span of 4 years to figure out the details of my Saturday at DefCon. It's like i'm Guy Pearce from Memento recalling the things that happened to me with polaroids displayed on a timeframe of my life. In this light comparison of analogies, Flea was the guy displaying the timeframe of my moments of fame and drunken grandeur. Noid was the guy who helped recover my consciousness recapping additions of the story at ToorCon months after. Barnaby Jack returns to meet me at ToorCon 7 explaining there was more chaos after I was carried off to the hospital. The eEye guys were pushing DefCon attendees with Laptops to the pool. They may have gotten Tenlow smashed by the poolside. At the LA2600 meeting weeks after DefCon 12, I meet up with M (from NSL) who unknowingly took care of me to see if I needed help that day. Sitting next to me was the poor friar I threw up on. I had no idea Priest was the head Goon at the time.

      It was anarchy with a smile. The infamy I didn't expect, but I'd like to thank you all for keeping me alive.
      "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

      Comment


      • #18
        Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

        I SIGHED AND CLICKED

        I Sighed and Clicked
        by K.L. Chase

        The time on my dashboard read 8:18. Twelve minutes to kill before I needed to be inside for work. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse and unlocked it. A new text from Tanya.

        ìOMG! Ariella just put up pictures of her baby! Cutest thing I have. ever. SEEN!î

        Eager to be distracted until my shift started at Tech City, I closed my messages and clicked on the SocialStream icon.

        SocialStream changed again. I looked at my screen and kind of wanted to throw my phone across my car. All I wanted was to see the pictures of Ariella's baby, and instead I got a screen telling me I would not have access to my profile until I completed their brief survey. I hate surveys. I always feel they have a hidden motive. I glanced at the clock again. Still 8:18. I sighed and clicked, "Start."

        "Just so you know, the information you provide will only be used by SocialStream and its authorized subsidiaries to make your social networking experience better. To review our privacy policy, click here."

        In order to stave off the moment of actually beginning the survey a little longer, I clicked on the hyperlink that took me to the privacy policy. I was expecting the usual wash of legal jargon that I mostly understood. I was bracing myself for the certain knowledge that my continued use of SocialStream for pictures of friend's babies, engagement rings, and articles on Jos Whedon's newest project was at the cost of my soul. But that knowledge did not inundate me. Instead, an error message greeted my wide eyes.

        "The page you requested is unavailable to you until you update your profile. To take part in the new SocialStream survey, click here."

        ìWhat the heck?î I couldnít keep the words from blurting out of my mouth. They sounded too loud in my quiet car, but I was having trouble believing what I was seeing. Surely it was some sort of page redirection glitch. Probably it was only because I was looking at it on my phone app. If I got on my computer, I would certainly be able to read the privacy policy. But there was no way I was going to fill out that survey without knowing what I was agreeing to now that I knew something suspicious was happening. I closed my app and contemplated the home screen of my phone.

        I was going to have to wait until after work to access the privacy policy on a computer. But my curiosity was not going to wait that long, so I asked my good friend, ìSiri, SocialStream privacy glitch.î About a million results popped up, most of them popular SocialStream profiles. Apparently every profile included the words ìSocialStreamî and ìprivacyî and a whole lot of them had the word ìglitchî in there somewhere. I would definitely have to be more strategic about this. ìPrivacy policy redirect to surveyî was about as fancy as I could think to word it while avoiding the use of ìSocialStream.î This time my search proved more fruitful and I clicked on an article from The Hacker News that was third from the top.

        I skimmed through the article. Mostly it acknowledged that there was a problem, talked about the bloggerís rather whiny series of attempts to get around the glitch, the eventual inability to do so, the ease of taking the SocialStream survey, and, finally, the official response from the company about the problem:

        ìWe are aware of the problem and are fixing itÖ users can either forego their social network accounts through the corporation or take the fast and easy SocialStream survey.î

        A chill ran down my spine. ì...through the corporationÖî I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that turned into outright nausea when I opened my Telealbum picture sharing app.

        "The page you requested is unavailable to you until you update your profile. To take part in the new SocialStream survey, click here."

        I jammed the home button down to close that app too. I looked at my phone for a second, then powered it off completely. My frustration finally got the best of me and my phone rebounded off of the car door. It landed screen up on the passengerís seat, the stupid pink and black case not even scratched. I suddenly had this very strange feeling that it was watching me. I went into work five minutes early - the first time in the the three years I had been working at Tech City.

        * * * * *

        Most of the sick, frightened feeling Iíd had about my phone had worn off by the time I got off of work. I was left with just the angry, unhappy feelings that always seemed to accompany changes to SocialStream. I pulled my phone out of my purse and took a moment to check my appearance in the still dark screen. I refused, on the principal of the thing, to use the front-facing camera as a mirror. If random people could access the camera on my computer, surely they could do the same thing to my phone. Unfortunately, the darkened phone was good enough to see that my hair was mutinying against its pony tail again, curling chunks escaping near my face. Not the attractive ones that curly-haired movie stars manage. Just the gross, greasy ones with tiny pieces sticking out in every direction to give my face a halo that vaguely resembled a lionís mane. I hadnít bothered with any make-up because, well, I didnít want most of the guys I saw at Tech City to flirt with me. My brown eyes had no help from eyeliner or mascara to make them look exotic, they were just plain, sad eyes. That wanted to look at pictures of Ariellaís new baby.

        I powered on my phone and let it warm up while I drove home. I only lived about ten minutes from work in an apartment complex far enough away from the local college that not a whole lot of students got units there, but close enough that they had to be priced to be competitive with the college apartment complexes. I had a gate opener mounted on my sun visor, but I might as well not have because there was always at least one broken gate leading into the complex. I could tell my phone was back up when it started dancing rhythmically in my cup holder as I turned into a parking space. ìSeven?î Again, my voice sounded loud in the quiet car. I rarely got text messages. What was I doing getting seven during one of my short shifts? Was one of my friends having a mental breakdown? If they had sent me one long text that got broken up into seven, I could only pray that the texts would be in order. I pressed on the message icon.

        I had seven text messages from six different people, each one telling me how cute Ariellaís baby was and asking me if I had seen the newest picture she just posted where he was sticking out his tongue. This time my phone landed on the floorboard.

        Resigning myself to just take the stupid survey without reading the new privacy policy, I trudged up to my apartment. I unlocked my computer. Everything was as I had left it. Twelve tabs, including my email, the last episode Iíd watched of my latest binge TV show, and a couple of random reddit articles. I refreshed my email, praying that maybe I was a good enough friend that Ariella might have sent me an email announcing the birth of her son with a picture or two. No such luck. I did have an email from SocialStream, though, telling me that I would ì...not be able to access the normal features of my account until I completed the quick and easy SocialStream survey.î I wanted to scream at the stupid survey. I did notice, however, that in the fine print at the bottom of the email, there was a hyperlink to the privacy policy. Breathing a sigh of relief (the blogger hadnít tried to get at it through email), I clicked on the link. Unfortunately, that link took me to the SocialStream login page and I knew I would not be able to escape the SocialStream survey if I entered my credentials.

        ìFine,î I conceded to my empty apartment. ìIíll take the stupid quiz.î

        But I couldnít bring myself to type in my username and password just yet. Instead, I opened a new window and typed ìSocialStream current privacy policyî in the search bar. Once more I was overwhelmed with hits, none of them on the first three pages relevant to my quest. Frustrated, I asked the room, ìIs it even worth it?î

        I paused for a moment. ìValue of my SocialStream profileî was my search. I donít know what caused me to type that. Maybe I wanted to be convinced that there was redeeming value in knowing what people I hadnít talked to since high school were doing with their lives. Maybe I wanted someone to tell me it wasnít worth it and I should just leave my profile to rot in ìtake the surveyî limbo. But the link I clicked on did neither of those things.

        It was an IRC log that had made its way to pastebin. Seven handles were commenting back and forth about a talk they attended at DEFCon. They were dissecting a fellow hackerís method of bypassing the SocialStream survey. Apparently there were mixed reviews as to how well your profile really worked once you bypassed the survey, but the conclusion was that you could search for other peopleís profiles and view them reasonably, and, most importantly to the commenters I was seeing, you could save the things you wanted to save and then delete your profile. Of course people pointed out again and again the futility of deleting anything on the internet, but I felt it was the principal of the thing. I did not want SocialStream to think I would fall for whatever malicious designs it was concocting through its survey.

        ìI took the survey,î one brave soul typed. I could see the other contributors hold their collective breaths. No keys were touched, no snarky comments were entered as the contributor continued, ìI took screenshots of each of the questions. Tell me what you think:î

        I clicked the imgur link and there followed a series of pictures that really did chill me. It was a personality quiz interspersed with questions I could see would make mapping your actual social network easy. It sneakily categorized people into groups. People you knew and kept up with in person and online. Your just online friends. People you talked to online and through some other means of communication (calling, texting, writing, etcÖ). And finally, those who you were interested in purely as a voyeur. The survey was brilliantly crafted with innocuous questions about your own pictures, about your interests (your likes as well as the types of status updates you were most likely to comment on), and about your friends (ìWould you describe Jacquelyn as your a)best friend b)close friend c)friend d)acquaintance or e)Iím not sure who Jacquelyn is).

        It was the very last screenshot that really got me, though. The long searched for privacy policy could finally be accessed once the survey was completed. The wording was what I expected. The pictures you uploaded, your status updates, your likes, your comments all belonged to SocialStream. But it was a sentence near the very end, easily lost in the complicated legal jargon, that made me want to crawl in a SocialStream free hole and never emerge.

        ìSocialStream retains the right to, at any time, update their records to reflect changes in the users status, both as account holders and as pieces of the network that creates the SocialStream grid in perpetuity.î

        If I was reading that right, and I had developed some expertise in the subject of legal interpretation while pursuing my pre-law degree, it meant that SocialStream could become me. They could, even if I deactivated it, take over my account and pretend to be me as long as they wanted to. They owned my online persona. They were me. Forever.

        I deleted all the apps off of my phone that had ever in any way been tied to SocialStream. I had never linked my Prater feed to SocialStream, but I deleted that for good measure. Then I sat in my apartment and closed my eyes in defeat. We were helpless in the face of the monster SocialStream had become. Not even the hackers could truly beat the system social media had created. They might DDoS it. They might do funny things to SocialStream executivesí accounts. But, in the end, that would be just one more thing to talk about on SocialStream.

        My phone alerted me to a new email. I unlocked my screen and clicked on the envelope icon of my inbox. I had an email from my mom. Usually they were chain emails, but this one wasnít a forward, so I opened it.

        Jenny,

        I donít know if you remember your friend Ariella, but her mom, Susan, and I are in the same dance class down at the rec center. She sent me an email with a picture of Ariellaís new baby boy! Let me know if you want me to forward it on to you.

        Love,
        Mom
        "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

        Comment


        • #19
          Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

          THE EMPATH by Richard Powell

          Title : The Empath
          Author : Richard Powell

          As I've said before, being an empath ain't all sexy like I used to
          think when watching Counselor Troi on Star Trek. I remember having
          these ridiculous romantic notions about it.

          Like the dork that I am, I had visions of someday inventing the next
          big thing, becoming a billionaire and earning the love and respect of
          my peers. I wanted to be loved like Steve Jobs was loved. Sure, some
          people, including myself, hated the guy. His ego was unparalleled,
          and he was a total asshole ñ but he was loved and respected
          nonetheless. And on my quest to achieve such notoriety, I thought
          having an empathic talent would serve me well as I waded through the
          shark-infested waters of venture capitalists and my fellow geeks, out
          to steal and pervert my ever-so-brilliant ideas. I figured I could
          sense their intentions and react accordingly. I was so naive.

          Being an empath is not so much having the ability to sense things in
          others as it is the compulsion to feel what others are feeling. You
          don't just happily stroll up on a depressed fuckwit and say ìoh hey,
          that guy is depressedî. No, my friends, it is nothing like that at
          all. What happens when you come into the emotional space of said twit
          is that you suddenly lose all desire to press on. You are overcome
          with dread. Even if two seconds before you were filled with
          inspiration and an abundant joy for life, you might drop down on the
          ground and pray for it to all be over. This very thing had been
          happening to me for years, and I'm certain that I suffered from some
          sort of emotional whiplash as a consequence. Alcohol was a blessed
          gift and a false crutch through it all. It was the medicine that
          drowned out all the noise so I could sleep and shut off. And while I
          love AA for giving me the tools to get sober, there was no way I
          could sit in those meetings where so many fucked-up emotions were
          present and pummeling me from all sides.

          For a time, I thought I might be going crazy. Maybe I was just
          emotionally unstable or had something chemically wrong in my brain.
          When I finally realized the truth of what was happening, I struggled
          for years to differentiate my own feelings from the feelings of those
          around me. The brain is such a sensitive piece of work in this
          regard. Every time I had a sudden knot in my stomach or a pang of
          guilt, I had to question what within my own heart could have triggered
          the emotion before I could consider if the emotion was external. Did
          I get a whiff of lavender, causing me to recall the time in the park
          when I poured my heart out to the woman I adored, only to be pitifully
          rejected? Did I hear the whistle of a distant train, transporting my
          subconscious to the time when my vacation was delayed for days because
          of a train-scheduling cock-up?

          During those years, I could not attend Defcon, or any of the other
          security and hacking conferences I had frequented. For one thing,
          there are just too many damned egos requiring stroking at these
          events. I was reminded of my own needy ego, and my insatiable desire
          to be loved and respected by my peers. When those emotions came
          strafing in from all the other egomaniacs, it was just too
          overpowering and hurtful. I found myself wanting to medicate with
          alcohol and drugs, which were never in short supply at Defcon. It had
          always been a huge part of the culture, from my very first conference
          back in the late 90's. Defcon was a dangerous cocktail to me for many
          years.

          Thankfully, today is different. I've spent years getting my own
          emotional baggage in some kind of order. Well, the best anyone could
          hope for anyway. I've made peace with many of those memories that had
          always caused such distress. It's okay that my heart was broken.
          It's okay that people screw up at their jobs, causing delays and
          hardship for others. This is life, and it's all okay. In fact, it is
          absolutely wonderful. This is the stuff that makes life worth living,
          actually. I've come to a place where I can appreciate the raw emotion
          of those egomaniacs. I can mull it over and inspect it with curiosity
          and recognition.

          Egomaniacs are certainly not the only types that attend Defcon though,
          and it's not fair of me to imply that the conference is overrun by
          such types. My focus on them probably comes from my own dark past,
          and the pain that I felt knowing I'd spent so much of my life in that
          self-centered place. Truth be told, there are some fantastic souls
          that converge on this conference every year, and I'm grateful that I'm
          able to submerge myself into this flood of emotion. I'm thankful to
          have the ability to recognize and be at peace with the darker emotions
          that I find in others.

          As for the non egomaniacs, take that man over there for instance. I
          recognize his emotion as something I'm also feeling right now. I love
          this place, and all the people that make this conference possible. I
          can tell that he is feeling that same love for what's going on around
          him. He is feeling very connected to his peers around him, not
          because he is respected or adored by them, but because he is part of
          them. He has found his community.

          And then there's Mags, standing over there all alone. Which I cannot
          believe. She is stunning in appearance and I find myself drawn to
          her, in the same way that I think most of the other geeks around here
          are. But her physical appearance is only one small piece of that
          stunning beauty. I'm even more drawn to her emotional beauty. I find
          myself taking a deep breath as my heart rate quickens.

          You know how you feel when you're tasting a fine wine or beer? That
          moment when it hits your tongue for the first time, and you roll it
          around in your mouth before you swallow it? When you can truly
          appreciate a drink beyond the effects of it making you drunk? That
          feeling can be euphoric when you allow yourself the freedom to live in
          that moment. There's such complexity in a fine drink. This memory is
          painful sometimes, since having to choose real life over alcohol. But
          I've found a replacement for that rush in the feelings of others.
          Mags is standing there, looking calm and composed ñ a little
          intimidating, actually. Maybe that's why no one has approached her.
          But I can sense far more than calm in her. She is nervous. Excited.
          She is in love with life. She is giddy. Her emotions are like a fine
          wine to me. In taking on her emotions as my own, I remember this
          feeling as something I experienced myself when I fantasized about
          speaking at Defcon more than a decade ago, but for me it was never
          anything more than fantasy.

          I must confess, I really have no right to call her Mags, I should be
          calling her Maggie. I only met her last night, and then only because
          I was compelled to walk up to her and her boyfriend, Mickey, offering
          them drinks and introducing myself. I couldn't stop myself when I saw
          them together. Over every other soul in the room, these two stood out
          as special. I could tell that I was intruding when I approached them,
          but the desire to know them overruled any apprehension or respect for
          their privacy. And they were in a public place, after all.
          Thankfully they didn't asked me to leave, and welcomed me to sit with
          them for a while. I don't recall saying much to them about myself, as
          I was primarily interested in drawing out as many of their emotions as
          I could. I had this craving to live vicariously through them. Does
          that make me any more creepy than someone who isnít empathic but wants
          to live vicariously through other peopleís stories and words alone?
          Because sometimes I do feel creepy about it.

          As it turns out, they are both going to be speakers this year, and
          they also live in the same city I do. I was enthralled! Over the
          time I spent with this couple last night, I developed a connection.
          These two people barely know me at all, and yet I feel like I've
          fallen in love with them. They have become dear friends in the course
          of a few hours together over drinks (non-alcoholic for me). Part of
          me wonders if I had interrupted them just as Mickey was getting ready
          to propose. There really was a lot of love there last night. But as I
          can't read minds, I'm always left with my interpretations and
          fantasies. That love I was sensing could just have easily been a love
          of life. They were both getting ready to speak in front of hundreds
          of their peers the next day, and all the emotion surrounding that was
          all over them.

          So, as I walked over to Maggie, I had this strong compulsion to give
          her a hug, which I immediately resisted as I reached out my hand to
          shake hers in greeting. ìYou are so totally going to kick ass,î I
          said with a smile.

          ìThank you,î she offered in return. ìI'm a little nervous, I suppose,
          but nothing I can't handle.î

          After a few moments of awkward silence, I asked, ìIs Mickey around to
          wish you luck?î

          ìYep,î she said, ìHe's right over there.î

          Oh, there's definitely love there. I felt the warmth pass through me
          the moment I mentioned Mickey's name. This is the feeling that I
          ultimately seek, above all others. In all the chaos out there at this
          conference, I have uncovered a real treasure. I want to stay in this
          moment for as long as possible. And I know that even as I follow her
          gaze over to Mickey, the same feeling is going to be there, so I don't
          hesitate to turn in his direction. That's when an entirely different
          bundle of emotions floods through me, one I remember well from my
          early days in the hacking culture. It hit me so hard I found myself
          having to swallow a chunk of my breakfast for the second time. Fuck!
          The food was less than agreeable the first time, but it did not
          improve the second time around.

          It was after I had successfully tricked my way onto a computer in
          order to gather information that someone had hired me to gather. It
          was the computer of the soon-to-be-ex-wife of a man who wanted to
          prove her adulterous behavior in court. It was such an exhilarating
          feeling, at first, when I had gained access. Disbelief that I had
          actually done it, that I had the guts to lie and get away with it in
          such a huge way. I was cocky, but completely unprepared for success
          when it happened. The moment I walked out of the building with the
          incriminating evidence in hand, I felt like a complete tool. I didn't
          know who this woman was. I had no idea what her story was. Who am I
          to judge her sexual affairs or actions? In my mind, in the matter of
          seconds, I had gone from successful hacker/social engineer to the scum
          of the earth. I felt like vomiting back then, too.

          That is the emotion I was feeling again, great remorse and regret.
          Wishing I could do something, anything, to take it back and start over
          again. After a quick visual recon, I asked Maggie ìWho's that with
          Mickey?î

          ìOh, the kid? That's Eli. We met him a few weeks back. He's from
          Portland, too. He was looking for someone to carpool with. He seemed
          like a good kid, so we offered him a ride.î

          I don't know what this kid's game was, or what he had been up to, but
          I had a strong suspicion it had something to with Mags and Micks.
          What the hell? I wonder where those nicknames came from. Next thing
          you know, I'll be calling them M&M, delicious little chocolates that
          won't melt in your hand. Oh my god, what the hell is wrong with me?
          These people would probably file a restraining order against me if
          they knew how friendly my subconscious had become with them.

          Shaking those thoughts from my mind, I bid Maggie farewell and said
          ìGood luck! I'm going to go say hello.î

          ìThanksî, she said as I walked away with Mickey and Eli in my sights.

          Eli was shifting nervously as I approached. Knowing how he was
          feeling just made it so much more obvious that he was hiding
          something. I reached my hand out to Mickey, saying hello. I don't
          reckon the broad smile was on my face anymore. In the time it had
          taken me to walk across the hall from M to M, I had devised a plan
          to extract some information from Eli, if I could manage it. Somehow
          I conveyed to Mickey my desire to be introduced to Eli, and that was
          indeed the first thing he did after greeting me. I'm not sure if I
          interrupted a conversation or not, but it didn't distract me from my
          mission to get to the bottom of the Eli emotion.

          After shaking Eli's hand, I gave Mickey a quick glance, nodding back
          toward Maggie, and said, ìHey, I think Maggie needs to be rescued from
          some admirers before she's ready to go on stage.î I felt like a
          seasoned spy, able to manipulate Mickey with such ease as he walked
          away. Though I could only revel in my cleverness for a second before
          turning to Eli.

          ìEli.î I said curtly. He looked up at me with cautious eyes.

          ìYeah?î he said.

          I found myself wondering how old this kid was. Was he old enough to
          be here unsupervised? He certainly didn't look 18. But he had to be,
          right? Or maybe his parents agreed to let him take this trip with M&M
          as his chaperones? I donít' even know if there is an age requirement
          to attend Defcon these days.

          Time for my gamble. As I've said, I can't read minds, only emotions.
          I knew something was up with this kid, and I wanted to know what it
          was. So I said his name again, a little more gently this time.

          ìEli... I know what you've done,î I lied. I had no clue what he had
          done, but he didn't know that.

          The response was immediate. My face began to flush red hot almost as
          quickly as his did, and I found myself holding back tears as I watched
          them well up in his eyes. I swallowed, trying keep from choking up.

          ìAre youÖ,î

          He paused to swallow.

          ìAre you going to tell Mickey and Maggie? Please, you can't tell
          them!î

          I shot back with, ìWhat compelling reason could you possibly have to
          prevent me from telling them?î

          We sat there in silence for a few moments. I knew that what he was
          struggling with was huge, and I was content to let him play it all
          out in his mind. I let the silence carry on for a while, watching
          him intently.

          He couldn't stand to look at me for more than a second before shifting
          away in shame. He sniffled as he swiped the back of his hand across
          his eyes, wiping away the tears that were now flowing freely.

          He finally said ìI haven't made the exchange yet. I could just destroy
          the informationî.

          So that's it then, he had stolen some information from his chaperones?
          Some information he was going to hand off to, or sell? They both
          worked for Intel in Portland. I suppose that being security engineers
          and researchers at such a firm would afford them some pretty serious
          access to corporate secrets.

          ìWhat information are you talking about, Eli?î came Mickey's voice
          from behind me.

          I hadn't noticed that he had come back across the hall to stand behind
          me. That's when the downpour started. The confession and apologies
          began to flood out of Eli. I was having a difficult time
          understanding what he was saying, he was so upset. But I could tell
          he was not going to hold back at this point. The truth was going to
          come out, and nothing was going to stop it. Now I felt like an
          unwelcome intruder in the exchange. Whatever I had cracked open here
          was none of my business and it was time to be on my way.

          As I walked away, I was thinking that, no matter how much technology
          advanced, no matter how much ìThe Future is Nowî, there will always be
          social engineering. There will always be ego. There will
          always be a way in, a back door. In one sense, I had found a back
          door into Eli's secrets. There apparently is not yet a security
          application to conceal your emotions from others. And they can always
          give you away. Though, in this case, I believe it was for the best.

          I feel like I've done something good for Eli, and for M&M today. And
          I can't help but feel a little pride for having intervened. And as I
          inspect that feeling of pride, a feeling that is most definitely my
          own, I realize that despite all my efforts to let go, my ego is still
          alive and well.
          "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

          Comment


          • #20
            Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

            NOTHING TO SEE HERE
            Last edited by eris; June 1, 2014, 02:05. Reason: INCORRECT PLACEMENT FOR POST
            "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

            Comment


            • #21
              Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

              Originally posted by eris
              SPEEDY GONZALES


              DUE TO DISPUTE REGARDING AUTHORSHIP AND OWNERSHIP OF THIS STORY IT IS NO LONGER ELIGIBLE FOR JUDGING. INELIGIBLE FOR PRIZE AND WILL NOT BE INCLUDED IN PEOPLES CHOICE AWARDS. NO FURTHER DETAILS WILL BE RELEASED, FRANKLY, IT ISN'T ANYBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE CONTRIBUTING WRITERS, SO D0NT ASK ME. 1 JUNE 2014

              Pat Boone lyric on Speedy Gonzales link: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/p/p..._gonzales.html
              DUE TO DISPUTE REGARDING AUTHORSHIP AND OWNERSHIP OF THIS STORY IT IS NO LONGER ELIGIBLE FOR JUDGING. INELIGIBLE FOR PRIZE AND WILL NOT BE INCLUDED IN PEOPLES CHOICE AWARDS. NO FURTHER DETAILS WILL BE RELEASED, FRANKLY, IT ISN'T ANYBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE CONTRIBUTING WRITERS, SO D0NT ASK ME. 1 JUNE 2014

              COTMAN thank you for assistance.
              Last edited by eris; June 1, 2014, 15:34.
              "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

              Comment


              • #22
                Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

                Originally posted by eris View Post
                DUE TO DISPUTE REGARDING AUTHORSHIP AND OWNERSHIP OF THIS STORY IT IS NO LONGER ELIGIBLE FOR JUDGING. INELIGIBLE FOR PRIZE AND WILL NOT BE INCLUDED IN PEOPLES CHOICE AWARDS. NO FURTHER DETAILS WILL BE RELEASED, FRANKLY, IT ISN'T ANYBODY'S BUSINESS BUT THE CONTRIBUTING WRITERS, SO D0NT ASK ME. 1 JUNE 2014

                COTMAN, Please remove actual story text from this post when you get a chance. I am unable to "edit post" with full admin at this time. *shrug* Sorry.
                Ooops!

                Forgot to add you to this new forum for this year as "Forum Leader/Organizer" (Just added you now.) You should be able to delete other posts here, edit polls, and not be limited to the 24-hour edit of posts like elsewhere.

                I have deleted your post (as requested) which contained the original post for the story you quoted for the reasons you describe above, but the same story you quoted in your post (immediately above this post) is still here. You can edit your own post (just above this one) where you quote the deleted story to remove it there if you want, or leave it there so people can see what was removed. If you can't I'll debug with you to make sure you have that kind of control in this forum.

                Summary:
                * Original post of story: deleted
                * Your post replying to that story, quoting it, not edited or deleted.

                If you find other controls are missing from your account, please let me know so I can address those.

                Sorry!
                -Cot

                Comment


                • #23
                  Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread)

                  Originally posted by TheCotMan View Post
                  Ooops!

                  Forgot to add you to this new forum for this year as "Forum Leader/Organizer" (Just added you now.) You should be able to delete other posts here, edit polls, and not be limited to the 24-hour edit of posts like elsewhere.

                  I have deleted your post (as requested) which contained the original post for the story you quoted for the reasons you describe above, but the same story you quoted in your post (immediately above this post) is still here. You can edit your own post (just above this one) where you quote the deleted story to remove it there if you want, or leave it there so people can see what was removed. If you can't I'll debug with you to make sure you have that kind of control in this forum.

                  Summary:
                  * Original post of story: deleted
                  * Your post replying to that story, quoting it, not edited or deleted.

                  If you find other controls are missing from your account, please let me know so I can address those.

                  Sorry!
                  -Cot
                  THanks! I hadn't noticed because I hadn't really worked on the forum with the contest much yet! Ha! Have a good day!
                  "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Re: Stories (Not a voting poll thread) - WE ARE NOT JUST BODIES - BEST STORY - VOTE!!

                    THIS THE BEST STORY!!! VOTE FOR IT!!!

                    Originally posted by eris View Post
                    WE ARE NOT JUST BODIES

                    “We Are Not Just Bodies” — By Jaci Jones

                    Private Log Recording 99:
                    // Alias: Spirit
                    The morning was gray and droplets formed on my window. I looked for a second at the tragic little bug crawling and sliding down the window with every step. For a second I felt sad, I think, or what I thought might have been sadness. It had been about ten years since I truly allowed myself to—or even, actually felt a feeling comparable to what was known as sadness. It was about 4AM, the E-drones…sets of glowing, hovering rakes would soon find their way across town before a lot of people had even awakened.

                    Years ago, random acts of violence had gotten so bad that the government decided to biologically regulate people’s moods. The E-drone spray would mist above the houses and in an instant all would feel at ease and we would not question it. Neither would we assume we should feel any other way. We had forgotten any semblance of disappointment that had lingered over from the day before, it’s hard to get to that point of concentrated feeling since even those classified as the otherwise “high priority: very depressed” tend to still be unable to have their negative thoughts penetrate the mood-regulation drug spray. Most of those people, who may be uncontrollable threats to society are sent away anyway. Which I guess is for the best. Why would we want relentless sobbing or those dreary souls contaminating the productivity of our county anyway?

                    I guess everything’s pretty swell. Right? I mean we’ve got the sun and the moon and there’s always ice cream in the freezer. No one really spends time around me but I feel pretty good.

                    Private Log Recording 100:
                    //Alias: Spirit
                    I’ll always remember that one night when I decided not to come home and in the morning when the spray went off, I tried not breathing for a minute. I felt a surge of emotions and that’s why I started my experiment…but I don’t know how to implement it. I don’t think anyone will listen to me… Anyway, the E-drones are roaring in the distance…it’ll be about a minute before I loose my train of thought. My mother never did like that my emotions overcame the mist late at night, but she never said anything either because she knew if I was perceived as uncontrollable, I’d be sent away too. So, I spent a lot of time running and not sleeping, to try and keep my mind straight.

                    Unlike most people, I’ve done some research into the developments behind the E-mist and why it was installed across America and I feel sort of guilty. The massive expenses used for this use of drones, for this type of infrastructure made me feel eerie. But it seems like these drones that mist the population with mood altering drugs have do with regulating society so not too many of one type of person are born. I believed in this for so long. I believed in the forced neutrality of people’s power and how humans have the potential to become livid or unpredictable at any time. I don’t know if I still believe…so I started working on a plan. I started thinking back to those brief moments where I held my breath till I almost passed out. To the 4am dawns where I didn’t let the mist effect me and to those passing moments thereafter where my mind felt new and rich… Then again, they—we—-no I guess they, whoever they are, don’t need all those pointless emotions and junk, I mean what does anger and unnecessary anxiety get us? Nowhere. Nothing? That’s the theory.
                    Nevertheless I have to go through with my plan. Ghost and I have been talking about it since I started the prototypes last summer. He knows I’ve always been small for my age and have a high voice, in turn, people don't always listen to me. So, I’m going to make the anti-mist-masks and Ghost is going to be what I call the “idol,” the face/facade that gains support from the masses. With Ghost by my side we will convert the people we know into mask wearing vigilantes, who will join our experiment. They won’t breathe the mist, and only then will they see what it does to stagnate their minds. It’s dangerous.

                    But I don’t think I’ll get in trouble….Ghost says I can’t be afraid, he says it’s brilliant what I’ve done, and so unexpected. Even if we aren’t feeling sad or anxious, fear exists, fear and guilt. It’s harder to alter those feelings than to alter the feelings of sadness or isolation…Ghost and I are afraid, but his bravery and my ideas will keep us going. We have double aliases and costumes for carrying out our plan, it’s a two-step verification for not getting caught. He’s going to wear a gallant black cloak with studded shoulder pads and a black shimmering face mask with just his eyes showing. He’s a specimen people will look at and instantly feel pleasantly about, or maybe even look up to as a superhero. I’m going to cloak myself too, my mask is red and covers my identifying facial features. I’m going to give Ghost an ear piece and tell him what to say. He’s going to gather the support of my anti-mist masks with his charisma and get everyone at Defcon to join in and refuse to be regulated next week.

                    Private Log 101
                    // Alias: Spirit
                    Some people, usually the older people who have more memories of the past think it’s weird, they even in their mental regulation states still judge me by my looks, think that I don't “look” like a hacker, “too conventional” “too clean,” “enjoys going outside and running.” Which is why the plan is only fool-proof if Ghost acts as the face of the project. Stereotyping is so strange— you know what?, I think the mists are especially strong today because I feel great. I feel like going for a run.

                    Next week is Defcon. My parents hate that I go. I guess that is a residual part of the original hacker’s mind that does not change with mandated mood regulation. The slight anarchist side of things will always shine through. I always assure my parents that it’s a safe event, I assure them I won’t try to do anything funny or mess with anything…too important. Defcon used to be really popular—I mean really popular — we are talking fearless humans milling about by the thousands, so I’m told. It used to be unregulated and well, fun…but I’ll let you in on a little secret, even though it’s dangerous, it still is fairly unregulated. We’ve been experimenting for a few years with ways to stop the misting from altering our feelings and emotions, from stopping our innovation and creativity…..I shouldn’t say any more…but I will.
                    ***
                    One week later…
                    Ghost and I have the perfect plan, we’re initiating it tonight. If we get the majority of people to wear the anti-mist masks, there’s no way we won’t experience a combustion of creative energy, emotions flowing that will make this a rather scarily unstable but productive meeting. Whoever we can convince to wear the masks will meet in one of the conference halls at 3AM. They’ll set their bio-trackers(chips everyone has implanted to make sure they aren’t going into isolation, it’s a long story…) to read that each person is in their hotel room (because we have the skills to do that) and they'll meet us in the hall. Then we will all partake in breathing real, non-regulated air when the E-drones spray over Las Vegas tomorrow. We will see what happens. I know it’s insubordinate, I know it’s going to be unpredictable but it’s going to change our lives. Even with heightened security we have found a loophole for the privacy of our experiment. Since some of the talks are top secret the government still allows us private secure rooms which we can use and if I can convince the security guards to wear a mask too, we shouldn't’ get caught.

                    Private Log 102:
                    The time has come. Ghost waltzes into the bustling hall full of supporters he has gathered throughout the day. They burst out into a chant, “All hail Ghost” they scream. I feel a smile creep across my face, I send a message to Ghost’s earpiece and tell him to announce to the room “the time has come!” He jumps on a table for dramatic effect, he passes out the masks to the hungry hackers, attendees, future-vigilantes, and well, everyone. I have sunglasses on in addition to my mask and Ghost’s eyes are covered in shiny goggles. I transmit another message for Ghost to announce. “Freedom is gone,” he says, “we had freedom of speech and the E-drones have taken some of that away. If I can’t actually have what I feel, if I can’t trust my mind anymore it doesn’t matter how “safe” we are. WE ARE NOT JUST BODIES! We are people who feel things in order to make change. This bio-hacking has to stop— when and if it encroaches on our ability to be human! He covers his face with his cloak and helps me on to the table, the hall is bustling with excitement.
                    Just then, sirens wail, the misting has to have started by now, but the law enforcement must be in the building, I hope nothing goes wrong. I get so nervous and hope so hard that I make my knuckles white as I press my fingers into the palms of my hands.
                    ***
                    And here I am, watching Ghost get pulled away by the police and in that moment I stand up. I jump up on another table with my newfound excitement. I say “hey, you’ve got the wrong person. It was me….” and I uncloak myself to reveal to the convention who I really am. Everyone’s in shock, or the closest response similar that they can manage for the first time in some of their young lives now that their moods are unstable.

                    “Yes it was me.”

                    My red hair falls to my shoulders and before I can start pulling out more of my masks from my pocket, someone yells “it’s a girl?!” in a rather noncommittal yet surprised voice.

                    “We are not just bodies, we’re all people with minds, yes I may not appear like what you envision a “hacker” or a master-mind to look like but that shouldn’t matter, I’m the one, I’m the one who made the masks and I’m the mind and the genius and the ideas behind this, not just the body…please let Ghost go, I knew no one would listen to me….so I had Ghost do all the talking.”

                    The police look incredulous even under their swat masks and heavy armor. They stop for a second. The people of Defcon stare at me, I assure them again, “It was me, not Ghost.”
                    I hold up the mask, I take out a crumbled diagram of the the mask’s structural planning. Whatever they see in that moment, something makes the people believe me. Before the police can take another step, I know the masks have worked because I start hearing sobbing. I hear cries and I hear laughter and the emotive responses that are seemingly “normal” for a shocking experience like this. Because of the masks, the people of Defcon start banding together and in an instant we form a riot bigger than the team sent to take who they assumed was a unruly master-mind, Ghost. They have the wrong guy, no wait…they have the wrong person.

                    I yell to whoever can hear me as the crowd roars, “We’re not just bodies, we’re minds that make a difference. Without our full potential for innovation through experiencing the good and the bad, with the E-mist we are far too close to zombies, to hardly counting as sentient beings…we are more than that!”

                    The police don’t drop Ghost, they can’t, they have to make a stand (and he’s technically an accomplice.) The next thing I know, the riot is storming the police, pushing them outside of the conference hall. I take one look back at the action, jump off the table I had been standing on and I just start running. I run into the heat of the Las Vegas sunset and I don’t stop for a long time, but for once, it feels overwhelmingly satisfying. I may have even teared up, or maybe it’s just sweat, it’s sweltering hot tonight.

                    Comment

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