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Sunday, 26 August 2012

PERMANENTLY SWITCHED OFF



The telegates completed their meeting right on time. It was always on time. It was very well choreographed. It had to be. Otherwise the scheduling would be thrown out and there would be complaints.

Outside in the city streets nothing moved. Why should it? These days most people wondered why they paid so much in taxes to keep the streets maintained. They had become an anachronism.

‘See me, see me in the screen?
Do you hear, hear what I mean?
I’m lost, lost on the line
When, oh when will you be mine?’



(Tri-V Top Ten Hit. ‘Oh, Ho-De-Ho!’ by Gil Glitterhorn. 265,167,453 votes @ 21.42 12/13/2165)
 

I sat, in my room, in my usual black, pondering my next move. I ran my favorite gizmo through the fingers of my right hand as I did so. This was a losing battle I thought. Still, what choice did I have? I chuckled bitterly… "choice". They told us we had "unlimited" choice, five thousand networks and that didn’t count the indies, alternates and rebels. "Rebels"… pah! Some rebels those, using the methods of their enemies to subvert them. Some chance!
No, this would take something more than words, the situation was so far gone and so much damage had been done already. The time for words was over.

‘Bang, bang me again the way you do
Suck, suck and chew, chew
You are, you are my little ho-de-ho
Oh at Christmas I luv you so!’

I grimaced at the sound of the latest Christmas pap hit emanating through the wall of my room at me. My resolve was strengthened even more. It didn’t matter what happened to me now, I no longer wished to live within this poor soap opera of a life. I would make my useless gesture, aim my blow against an empire of garbage and leave.

But how? How to do it?

Despite the mindless garbage tinkling disgustingly from the next room an idea began to form. I would have to first infiltrate The Hub.

~
I queued a little longer than usual for the port. Christmas fever was hitting harder each and every day now. People were clucking like chickens about it down in the trans cabin. The excited gabbling and the wild colors of the season’s clothing would have driven me completely crazy but for my full sound blockers and pitch black shades.


I saw the bleep rather than heard it, stepped inside and keyed my co-ordinates.

Hub Reception was designed to inspire awe, I guess it had been modelled after some great gothic medieval cathedral. Except it was all in the new Supa-Day-Glo colors the ad folk were so excited about these days. ‘It Sells Better Than Smells’ was their slogan. (‘Smell-O had been the ad gimmick which preceded it I should tell you, just in case you have been living underground or in your wardrobe for the past couple of years. Sorry, I’m afraid sarcasm is now all I have left of my previously mordant wit.)

I strode to the desk where the carefully chosen chicklet with the bright red hair languorously posed as a receptionist. "Whassis?" she enquired in a carefully judged and well-honed simulacra of boredom. I explained I was seeking employment in this great and noble establishment. "Fillaform" she drawled pushing a garish pink slab of plastic at me. She then pointed vaguely in a generally rightward direction her arm dipping immediately as if the effort was all too much for her. Which it probably was. Too bad they eliminated the need for remotes back in the twentytwenties, she could have used the exercise…

She was indicating the all too familiar datapoints. They were conveniently located, most people couldn’t walk too far these days so this was vital.

I sat within the mold and opened the pad she’d given me placing my palm upon it. I opted for the Op-Sec option where they could take the first level of data from me. If this piqued their interest sufficiently then they’d probably ask me for Mid-Sec later. Op-Sec would provide the basic information they needed to see whether a slot could be found for me in their programming. In other words, if they’d consider giving me a job.

You might think I’d be a little worried about showing my inner feelings but no, I knew my enemy well, hadn’t I studied them since birth? I knew the operational parameters of the datapoint like some people used to know the Holy Bible. Remember that? It was one of those book things. No? Maybe you saw the Holo of it on Tri-V? Yes, that’s the one, they premiered that "revolutionary" ‘V-RealSex’ ad during the sixth break, the one where everyone felt that overwhelming compulsion to buy ‘Channel 6’ perfume when their groins got lit up with that certain sound vibe the ‘Sellem Ad Agency’ had perfected? Okay, you got it now. That used to be what’s called a book, it sold millions, hundreds of millions. Well, I knew the book on the datapoints and I knew how to trick them.

~
The job offer emerged on the gizmo the next day. 12 2 2. Prog Progger. Good hours and yes, their software was working well, they’d spotted my chief talent. I was going to help with the master program. Not at first of course. They weren’t THAT stupid.
 

Hey, I shouldn’t have said that word, ‘stupid’, that really sets me off. Stupidity has become an industry. Really. Now, I’m assuming if you’ve read this far you’re NOT stupid okay? Somehow you’ve been living in a virtual cave like me, a troglodyte and have escaped all the "schooling" they are so insistent on. At first you think they may have made a mistake there, demanding you learn and making it a punishable offense not to. But you soon realize where it fits within this wonderful world we’re living in.

Things had got ‘way out of hand back in the Twentytwenties. The ratio of controlled events to uncontrolled got right out of kilter. At least that’s how it seemed to the powers-that-be. Earlier, right back in ye olde days of the Nineteens it hadn’t mattered. People had pretty much done what they wanted in those days. Informed by almost random upbringing and exposure to all kinds of diverse ideas and concepts. They had been pretty much independent spirits and it showed. The world had been a beautifully chaotic and kaleidoscopic miasma of independent activity. You could never know what crazy creativity and endeavor would burst onto the world next.

But, with the years, as the power of the individual rose to a point where it became a danger to the state and military technology became accessible to greater and greater numbers of individuals, this free and easy individualism came to be seen as a real threat.

The balance of the controlled to the uncontrolled had to be re-jigged. And it was. Partly through greater powers for the state, though this was just the short term solution. Long term the solution was education. And within education, the adult part of it, was the media. Here was the chance to homogenize the population and thereby significantly increase predictability. It was a variant of the technique employed by the super ancient Romans. ‘Bread and Circuses’ remember? No? Oh, go look it up!

Anyway, I was in. Stage one of my plan was accomplished. The next day I’d start work at the Hub. And start work on Stage two.


~
At 12 I arrived punctually (it was a virtual crime to do otherwise) and was shown to dept. P1. The first hour was the usual claptrap of rules and regs, health and safety, times for this, that and the other. The second hour was spent getting settled in Training. My mentor would be Jay Reith but I’d not be seeing much of him, mainly I’d be plugged into the comp and learn the ropes that way. Not that I was learning much. As I say, I’d already done my homework. I knew almost every line of hot-code I was seeing in my minds-eye from the beginning of that session to its end.


At 2 I went home. It had been a long day.

People were no longer used to work. They got tired. 12 2 2 was exceptionally short but the standard norm wasn’t much longer, more like 10 2 4. I however had entered into the elite world of the media circus. Ha ha. That’s an archaic term but I still like it ‘cause it fits so well. You just need to keep in mind the Ringmaster. And his whip.

~
Okay, this wasn’t going to be a sophisticated operation. I wasn’t going to be able to disrupt the main program, they’d long ironed out any kinks in the fail safe and foolproof security system which guarded that. I’d have to do this another way.
~
Stupidity had reached monumental proportions. People found it hard to think. Anything. But, that didn’t mean the people in power were the same. Hadn’t it ever been so? Well okay, politicians weren’t the brightest sparks on the plug, we knew that. But then they were no longer in power, were they?



Remember how they used to call those truly in power the media moguls? No? (Sigh) Okay, well they did. Again, I like this early stuff because there’s always a grain of truth in it. The term ‘mogul’ came from an ancient power structure called ‘The Moghul Empire’ These Moghuls controlled a population of some 120 million people and all this ‘way back between the Fifteenhundreds to Eightennhundreds. You see now why they used the term?

Anyway, they weren’t stupid. They hadn’t gotten into this position of power by being stupid. By being viciously ruthless yes. But stupid? No.

So, they had most aspects which could harm them firmly covered. Hadn’t they spent billions on the aspect of data vulnerability alone? Of course they had. But there was one thing which they didn’t have complete control over.

The recalcitrant and dangerous few who had been protected by their parents from programming, who had retained the ability to think for themselves and to formulate new and radical ideas.

The individual.


~
There was no way I could get a device through the port. This was part of the port’s prime function, to detect any and all items capable of doing harm. You could not take so much as a pen through the port. But then, what need did anyone have for a pen these days anyway?


No, this would have to be done in situ. (Oh, look it up damn you!)

~
Next day I was at my mold at The Hub bright and... well, not early, that wasn’t allowed either. Everything was scheduled to happen right on time. (Predictability. Gottit?)


I was playing through their test screens as if I was getting something out of it, letting a little smile play on my lips just for the CCTV, acting normal, you know? Another part of my mind was feverishly active however, going over all the options, searching all the possibilities.

Now, there were only a few locations open to me in those first few months so I bided my time. Six months went by, then nine. I began to use what there was of my smarts to please them. I even developed a new tweak to the subliminal messaging service (SMS) which rose selling levels a full 0.001 of a percentage point. Now that may not seem much but the income generated would have kept the average TV sloth in clover for his whole lifetime. Slowly but surely my clearance level rose.

I was now almost two years in and my access to various sites was opening and the trust levels logged to me were expanding.


~
Back home each night I’d lie in silence. I loved the complete blackness I’d arranged for myself there, windows covered in black velvet drapes, even the keyhole covered to blinker any emanating light. Within that darkness the picture book of my mind opened in glorious Technicolor. Only it wasn’t Technicolor, it was 100% natural imagination. I gloried in my difference, my freedom, in my ability to create and to think for myself.

I was on the thousandth floor of the ‘TVPai 1001’ and I was a living anachronism. I lived and breathed the past, the gloriously chaotic and madly uncontrolled, wonderful past. There were a few sounds I indulged in. You could choose from any sound as offered by the WJB, the World Juke Box. All recorded sounds were available there on mini-3, the supra high quality innovation which had replaced mp3. ‘The Only Living Boy In New York’ was the track I played most often…


I imagined the other residents of T-City1’ as it was also called, plugged into their mold to my right and left and in their thousands above and below me, receiving images, sound, smell and taste like sponges. And, thanks to me and those like me, receiving the little messages to provoke a buying spree. I’d tell you about Pavlov’s Dog now but you wouldn’t understand a word of it. Would you?


~
It was getting serious. They’d progressively given me access to stores x-1, 2 and 3. Of course the items requested had to be logged and accounted for within set programs of research. And yes, the programs checking and re-checking for potential lethal combinations were in place. But I was being supremely careful in my requests and had every confidence nothing suspicious had been detected. And never would. Not until it was too late.



~
It had been the mental labor of my lifetime to schedule each request in exactly the right order to fool them. Like those old ‘Star Trek’ shows it was a variant on ‘3-D Chess’. Now surely you know ‘Star Trek’—the only show to survive in any number from ye goode olden days.


I was exhausted. But at last it was done. The parts were assembled.


~
‘Just a normal day. 12 on the dot. But it was not to be a normal day. Not a normal day at all.


I had to work fast. Each detail had been planned, mapped and re-mapped a thousand times in my mind. The build, the route to BC, ‘Broadcasting Center’, every second, was accounted for, every eventuality, question and the potential for error had been scrutinized in my mind for what seemed like forever.

Now I was walking. The device, disguised as a standard comm gizmo in my hand. My heart pumped and sweat emerged from my pores and slathered between my fingers disconcertingly. My newly granted access to ‘BC’ would allow me in if I could get there.

First, I had to get through Level A barrier port. Two scans, three… okay, I was through. Level B included a human. A security guard used his wand on me. "You need that?" he queried, pointing at the black gizmo I held. In Level B the comm was air to air, no need for devices, simply a name spoken would get you through to whoever you wanted. "It’s part of an ad I’m working on." He nodded and I passed through. Levels C, D and E passed without problem.

I was there. BC. I whispered Joe Reith’s name. A robotic-sounding voice spoke back immediately. "Engaged. Re-try in 10." I waited. On the next try I got him. "Hi. I’m here for the lookaround Joe." He responded, "Oh, okay, I’ll be right there."

When he arrived we chatted for a couple then he took me off on my tour. I worked hard on my breathing, keeping it measured and calm. Even so, when I came to speak, once or twice I found my throat narrowing and the words came out strange. Joe glanced at me once or twice but carried on. Who knows what he thought, maybe that I was nervous by being in his exalted presence? Who knows?

It was the main bank I was interested in, the vast supercomputer which housed the main program controlling in minute detail every aspect of the center and its broadcasts. Strangely Joe avoided its mention. My heartbeat increased. It wouldn’t do to mention it, that might raise suspicion in his mind. I waited. Still no mention. I was becoming desperate and I could feel my clothes starting to drip with sweat. Could I hold onto myself through this? It was becoming touch and go.

We were now headed away from where I had guessed the data banks of the main program were kept and towards the studios. This wasn’t right.

Joe stopped and we both stood there for a moment, me looking toward him for direction. The place was well lit, however as we stood additional lights switched on and a camera crew drew up near us.

"We decided to make a little mini-prog of this, I hope you don’t mind." "N-not at all", I stuttered despite my best efforts to control myself. "What’s the script?", "No script. We’ll just wait for your cue." "Sorry, I don’t understand. What cue?" "Don’t you have something for us?" "What do you mean? I… just… I’m just…"

You know you get those feelings? You know something’s happening here and you don’t know what it is? Everything suddenly becomes hyper-real, you find yourself in a moment of clarity brighter and more real than anything you have ever experienced in your whole life?

This was one of those. It was now or never. I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t think of my life, my folks, any of that, I had thought hard about all of that long before. In that one shining exhilarating moment, I simply thought it, "Begin!"


~
Nothing happened. Joe smiled a wan smile, arms folded in front of me.


Everything happened quite quickly after that. Security appeared, I was cuffed and taken here where I’m writing this now. That was several days ago. It’s now 12/14/2167 and I’ve just completed what they asked for. This story.

I have tried and tried, but for the life of me I don’t know why they would want this from me…

You remember how all those old stories finished? On the last page, you remember? No? Not at all? That’s truly sad… It was always the same way and I loved that. Always the very same way, no matter which book you read, as long as it was fiction, it always read...

THE END

It had taken a dedicated team hundreds of man days to cover all the angles. When the idea was first mooted it was dismissed as the epitome of bad taste. But, as others heard of it and saw the plusses involved, the message it could send and the sheer watchability of it, opinions began to change. And then there was the new combination they’d been waiting to test and screen. A combination of Holo and the newly developed C-Inside where the images go direct to the brain of the viewer by-passing every manner of mental filter.

All things having been considered the project finally received authorization.

They had to build a bomb-proof set first of all and carefully construct the robot figures to a degree of accuracy that moved cutting edge to a whole new definition. Then they required a whole new level of environmental and virtual control.

After eighteen months of planning everything was now in place. All they needed to wait for was the man himself.

Constant monitoring showed them that the day had come. Everything was prepared for the pre-shoot. Such a level of reality-v had never before been achieved and the team were highly excited. This day they would make TV history.

Everything went completely to plan. Each step and movement, each expression, brainwave pattern, each word and deed were covered by the most cameras they had ever used for a shoot.

Everything was word perfect. Right down to the last word, "Cut!"


~
The pre-shoot in the can all that was left now was the shooting of the climax. He was brought from his cell five days later, after the storyline was given it’s additional boost by the writing (and editing and re-writing) of what would become, ‘The Terrorist’s Story’.

Everything was set up, everyone was in their millimeter accurate GPS positions and ready to go.


"Action!"

The blast was terrific, combined as it was with a blinding flash and slo-mo panorama of disintegrated body parts, fluids and studio appliances.

Everything was recorded in the minutest detail in Holo, C-Vision, Tri-V and IMAX 3D.

"That’s a wrap!"

The cheers which followed almost raised the rafters, or might have if there had been any rafters to raise.

Champagne ran freely as the teams involved clapped and cheered the successful completion of eighteen months work.

The next day the headlines were full of it.

WORLD EXCLUSIVE! DON’T MISS IT! 10 B4 10 SAT 12/25!

LIVE FOOTAGE OF FOILED PLOT CARNAGE!

IN HOLO AND ** ALL NEW ** C-VISION!

After the broadcast the plaudits started to come in. The words were music to the ears of those who had organized the event. It was "A Triumph" (Global Star), "A Milestone In Broadcasting" (The Syndicate), "A Supreme Achievement" (Pod News), "Devastatingly Good TV!" (Murdoch Media).

And a short memo came in from the SCS, the State Control Authority, too. It read simply, "Good work".

As the pre-cast blurb had said: "He had come to destroy the heart of our world, our access to knowledge and our lifeline to the universe. And he had only succeeded in destroying himself."

And, not communicated in any blurb or ad, not broadcast to the billions of mindless sponges out there in medialand, but given wide internal coverage, he had unwittingly moved the methods and abilities of media to a whole new level of control.

He had lived and died, and in the words of the abiding god of this new world, he had had his fifteen minutes of fame.

Now it was the turn of Gil Glitterhorn...

‘See me, see me in the screen?
Do you hear, hear what I mean?
I’m lost, lost on the line
When, oh when will you be mine?
 
Bang, bang me again the way you do
Suck, suck and chew, chew
You are, you are my little ho-de-ho
Oh at Christmas I luv you so!’

[REPEAT]


Full Year Tri-V Top Ten Hit!!! ‘Oh, Ho-De-Ho!’ by Gil Glitterhorn. 5,174,238,234,265,167,453 votes @ 00.01 01/01/2167)
 

Allan Edward Tierney's Website


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