Saturday Fiction: Cyberghetto Part 1

I shared a previous snippet on here with what I would call ‘Urban Sci-fi’, and really I haven’t continued too much further with it. Experimenting with the concept is fun, but so far nothing has felt golden. What I wrote today is a scene set in the same universe as my NaNoWriMo stories, a ‘socialist paradise’ cyberpunk world where the corporations were were defeated after years of harsh classic cyberpunk like darkness.

Life doesn’t get too much better when the world rewrites itself after years of cyberpunk.

Either way, here is a scene from ‘Cyberghetto’.

Cyberghetto

The door swung open, letting in a flood of noise from the street. It was the sound of people cursing, jeering, laughing. That meant Tee was home, and he brought friends.

“Hey RJ,” Tee said as he walked in and collapsed into the only other seat in the small ‘Famdorm’ family apartment, “You looking to get pretty?”

Tee looked like his shirt was wound on too tight, and his pants belonged to a different species entirely. It was all a little colorful, but it was the trend. The colors were defiant, against the endless gray into blue built into so many government built complexes like where RJ lived. He had two others with him, Mark, and Dabble, both nicknames, both kids from the Loop.

“I’m good,” RJ said as he typed away at his console.

“Whatever soft,” Dabble said as he leaned against the frame of the door, “We can barely get you out on the loop anymore.”

RJ looked over. The three of them surrounded a low table stacked with boxes from fast food and deliveries, with a small space left for RJ’s mother’s flower vase filled with little white marbles. Tee was smiling at him, showing off the left half of his teeth that had been replaced with plastic-like replacements that gave off fluorescent color in the right light.

“He got that chem test soon,” Tee said, “Almost forgot.”

RJ knew he didn’t forget. It was just how Tee was. RJ could be in the middle of winning them the Sea-Van lottery, and Tee would forget to remind him to turn in the slip. He thrived on conflict, those little moments where it seemed like there was nothing in the world but your own troubles.

“He trying to get that dawn to dusk cred, huh?” Dabble added with a laugh.

RJ turned back to his console, “Something like that.”

“Man, you gonna move your mail?” Tee said as he cleared space by shoving a ration box to the floor.

There was no mail, RJ hadn’t received a package in days, so he ignored Tee’s pointless complaining.

“Close the door,” Tee said, “Sit down Mark, you make me nervous.”

“Man but it’s hot in here,” Dabble complained as he shut the door and joined the others at the table.

Mark was the quiet one. He was also a bit of a punk. That’s where the name came from. You told him what to do, and he turn down his eyes and comply. You could get him to walk into a room of blackcaps in full riot gear if barked hard enough. It was no wonder he got mixed up with the wrong crowd.

Tee pulled out a baggie of crudely proportioned uncut tablets of glistening red. He pulled the stick out on the table, and got a small knife to divide it up between them. Mark smiled and rubbed his hands together, Dabble just watched Tee’s hands work.

“You still fuck with Wendy?” Dabble asked.

He was talking to RJ, pretended not to notice. Not because he didn’t like Dabble, Dabble was fine. He just didn’t want to talk about Wendy. He had enough problems in life without cutting at festering sores and seeing what fresh stuff he could pull out of them.

“Hey,” Dabble got louder.

“Man shut up,” Tee snapped, “Is there anybody who don’t fuck with Wendy?”

That was Tee being a friend, for what it was worth.

RJ’s display popped up a picture from a shooting the night before. Well, it was pictures of the crime scene, with Sea-Van law surrounding the point of the murder.

Mark must have seen it from where he sat, “That that scene near the underground?”

RJ read down, “Some local anti-drug chip, was heading to a vid filming, got seared by a nobody.”

“That explains all the black and blue,” Dabble said.

“No suspect, no weapon,” RJ added, scrolling down. Dabble was right, this explained all the cops. An NAB official gets shot in their neighborhood, they had something to prove. They wanted to pin someone down. Boys on the street were going to suffer for it, he had seen it so many times before. They were going to be harassed, searched, a few would probably end up in the hospital.

He was going to have to stay off the streets, he needed his record to stay clean for the job interview. Corporate didn’t like recent arrests, especially if it was related to one of their own. Even finding a chance at a job was hard enough, especially one that would pay good enough to get him out of the dorms. Losing it all to a wave of random arrests would be one more burn in his crisp black history.

There was a clatter as Tee’s knife clattered on the table.

“Damnit, just take your stupid box man,” Tee grumbled.

RJ turned and saw a plain white box sitting on the table with the rest of the trash there. It didn’t have any real distinguishing marks, but looked used. It looked like Tee accidentally ran his arm into it while cutting. It wasn’t RJ’s.

Back on his console, RJ had a message. It was anonymous, which meant it was probably junk. He still hit it, and a username that was just a series of numbers popped up.

‘You live in 534C at Everest Dorm?’

RJ replied, ‘Who dis?’

‘Then you’re home. Make this pretty for me. Hope you like the gift.’

Gift? The box.

Dabble grabbed a slice, and set it on his tongue before sucking on it. His face went passive, and he leaned back against the leg of Tee’s chair.

RJ got up and walked over, “What is this?”

“I dunno man, you’re always leaving shit around.”

RJ picked it up, and turned the box over in his hands. It was almost as long as his arm, but not nearly as deep. It opened with a clasp that was tied with a zip tie. Whatever it was, he was sure it wasn’t his.

He leaned down and grabbed Tee’s knife.

“What the hell, man,” Tee complained as he looked up.

RJ cut the tie, unwrapped the clasp, and then opened the box. His eyes locked on the contents.

“What is it?” Tee said.

Dabble was far gone, but at least Mark looked interested as well.

It was an SSW 9mm ‘Predator’ pistol. The gun had a long black barrel, the nu-safety technology that had become common. Still, the weapon looked worn. There was a magazine emptied, with slots where ammunition would sit beneath the magazine’s space. Only four bullets were in the case.

“Ray?” Tee asked, a note of real concern in his voice.

Then there was a scream outside, and all heads turned. There was a muffled popping noise, and a distant whine.

Tee shot to the door, opening the viewport and peeking out. His back went stiff, and RJ could see that he was ready to run already.

“They’re searching the building,” Tee said, “Look like they’re going door to door, they got busses!”

A bus? They were going to take anyone that looked young and dark enough to have shot someone, and process them all. At least the ones they didn’t leave facedown in a puddle of their own blood.

Worse, he was holding a gun that wasn’t his, while a killer was on the run somewhere.

“We gotta clean this up,” Tee said as he looked around. He snatched up the remaining tabs of Sparkle, slapping Mark’s tab out of his hand, “Help me stupid, they’re coming in here.”

“It don’t matter,” RJ said as he put the box on the table, lid open.

“What the fuck you have that for?” Tee said, “Since when do you pack that?”

RJ was shivering, it made it hard to argue, or to look strong enough to have any say, “Ain’t mine. Somebody dropped that on us.”

Even Dabble stared at it. A little box of trouble dropped into their lives. The NAB didn’t take kindly to weapons at all, but a gun like this would get them locked up for a long time. Just having his prints on that box would be enough to get RJ sent away.

Tee shook his head, “So what? We just sit here and wait for them to ram a codex down our ass?”

what else could be done? Fight off a whole complex full of cops? Take on Blustar and fight their way across the country? They had to hide, but there was no hiding.

But he had to try something.

“Watch the door,” RJ said as he took the lid to the box and put it back on, tying the clasp, “All of you get ready to run. We need to go dark real quick.”

He went back to his console, his eyes flashing to that stranger in a chat window. There was a new message, a winking emote.

It was always something. Life could never get easier.

Deepity of the Week: Kneel and take a load from God

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A deepity is a term introduced by Daniel Dennett: “The term refers to a statement that is apparently profound but actually asserts a triviality on one level and something meaningless on another. Generally, a deepity has (at least) two meanings; one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound, but is essentially false or meaningless and would be “earth-shattering” if true.”

Time for a new Deepity, and this is the sort that I am used to when interacting with my family on social networks. If you have a Black American family, you may have experienced the same.

Surely, if you can kneel before this non-physical omnipotent creature, you can stand before anything else. Kneeling, the best sign of submission we know that doesn’t require chains, or fellatio, is here used as the best indicator of an internal strength. To the religious out there, it is our connection to god that lets us rise above conflicts like finding your car keys, or asking your boss for a raise. Now that you got down on your knees, you have everything you need to stand tall.

I take issue with quite a few parts of this, so I’ll try to contain myself. First off, I have trouble whenever Black people fall into the whole ‘kneel to god’ thing. I can only imagine a well-dressed slave master standing over them whenever they lay out this common trope. I know god doesn’t bring the whips and cuffs to the party, but I would hope we could be a little more cautious before submitting to bearded White guys. Of course, Black people are overwhelmingly religious in the US, to a degree others would find staggering. Also, overwhelmingly protestant.

When I asked about this in an African American history course, my teacher informed me that the Bible was the only real literature slaves interacted with, it was read to them, the ones that learned to read learned from the bible. After being freed, this trend continued. The stories of freed slaves gave them hope, Jesus would free those who behaved, there was a better life after this. That teacher’s mother kept the Bible she learned from with her at all times.

Knowing this, I would expect that history teacher to be atheist, knowing how religious was driven into his family, and that it was used to dominate them. He was devout.

The other thing, women and religion. I’m not a woman, so I stay away from undocumented ideas of what drives women. With that said, women are documented being more religious than men, and more active in their religious communities. Which should confuse everyone, considering how misogynistic, patriarchal, and generally ‘he-man-women-hating-club’ most religions are.

The best explanation I’ve been given is that religion gives women agency. It definitely gives social restraints on the behavior of men. It shames them for leaving their wives (which would leave many women earning lower wages or no wage), and lays out paths for women whose husbands die to gain new husbands. Of course this is balanced by rules on ostracizing them for their sexuality, silencing their opinions, killing them for indiscretions, and the occasional rules on when or when not to rape them. These rules get shifted around per religion, but this deepity is Christian so we will stick with that one for now.

So with all of this, I find it interesting that deepities like this are quick to call for women to kneel before a magical man, the ultimate patriarchal authority, who lays out the rules for their oppression. This, is then supposed to give them strength. I guess if you can take a shot on your knees from the almighty, most real humans can’t compete.

God is definitely big on the kneeling too, from men and women. Kneel here, kneel there, fall on your face here, fall on your face there. I wouldn’t blame god, if he were real. We’re a loud bunch, need to be controlled. We’re much quieter when plugged up, and kneeling definitely makes us just the right height.