Is it Worth it? A Question Whether to Continue Writing Science Fiction

As you, my dear readers, know, I have been working on writing a science fiction dystopia novel entitled Cold Shades. To those who have read it, you know one of its prominent themes is about a society so overwhelmed with technology that human interaction suffers. It’s an issue in our society that I have worried over for a long time. An issue so important to me, that I decided I would write a novel detailing my fears. Analyzing all the worst aspects of human nature, my plan was to visualize what technology could come possibly forth, issuing a word of warning about how it could potentially make us lose contact with humanity.

 

Driving_Google_Self-Driving_Car

A self-driving Google car. Image taken by Steve Jurvetson. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/8190954243/in/photostream

While I have had this idea for years, it wasn’t until the last couple of years that I really began to apply myself in writing my novel. However, as the years and months have passed by, I have noticed that many of my ideas that I had consigned to the realm of speculation and science fiction were ceasing to be such. For starters, take self-driving cars. In my novel, characters use self-driving cars that fly. While it’s true that cars can’t fly yet, imagine my surprise when I found out that self-driving cars were already in the works. No big deal, I said to myself. There are still plenty of other warnings I can give people. One of the most prominent themes of my novel is a lack of human touch, and people turning to physical touch and intimacy in the form of sex-bots rather than flesh and blood people. Well, lo and behold, friends were posting articles this year alone about some pervert who is already working on sex-bots. Okay, no big deal! What about mind reading computers? Already done. Mind-reading headsets are in the works, if they aren’t already out yet, that allow people to control computers. Yes, the concept in my book is a little more technologically advanced, but the concept is already in development.

I ask what’s the point of it all? The point of my dystopian novel was to warn about the potential dangers of a society over saturated with technology. Yet with the rapid pace that technological innovation is moving, I feel like there is no imagination left to imagine the ‘what if’ scenarios. Instead of giving a warning about the dangers of such potential technology being developed, I am instead left as a man stating the potentially obvious or at least spouting off my bias. Now there will be no time for people to think of such consequences because of the accelerated development of said technology. It feels like my idea, which had felt so fresh originally, is quickly turning dated.

Of course, this goes back to my other long-standing issue. In an earlier post, I asked if science fiction was better than fantasy. I mentioned that fantasy had the benefit of never feeling dated, whereas there is much in science fiction that can’t afford that luxury. The problem is technology moves too fast. I honestly do wonder if there will be a day in which science fiction novels and stories will be looked at as dated relics. Yes, I think the writers will be appreciated as visionaries from their time periods, almost like prophets. But I don’t think science fiction books, or movies for that matter, will hold the same sense of wonder for people as they did in the past. In other words, I wonder if I should just forsake science fiction and just stick with fantasy. After all, fantasy is timeless, consigned safely to the mists of ancient times, back to the mythopoeic mind, where it resides eternally.

So, there’s the matter laid out. Should I continue writing my science fiction novel which seems to be rapidly turning into science fact, or should I just scrap it altogether as a lost cause? I do feel like I still have some ideas that haven’t come to fruition in our society yet, but knowing my luck, by the time I finish writing Cold Shades as well as editing it, those other thoughts in my head could turn into reality. Yeah, I’m feeling discouraged. I wish I could have gotten this novel out faster.

 

1200px-Kodomoroid®_(Child_Android),_the_world's_first_news_announcer_android,_exhibited_at_Miraikan_(2015-06-15_04.00.10_by_Franklin_Heijnen)

Kodemoroid! The first news announcing android. One of the themes in my book is androids taking jobs from people. A concept that’s been used before, but one with my spin on it. Image copyright by Franklin Heijnen.

Cold Shades Ch 2

A dystopian future, in which humanity is overwhelmed by technology, causing a lack of human interaction.

Parental Advisory: This story is strongly suggested for ages 18 and up due to harsh violence, strong language, and adult themes.

It had been a week since Becca visited her brother, and she was still saddened over the whole ordeal. Though he was difficult, she still loved him. But there wasn’t anything she could do for him. She wished that an employer would give Harold a second chance, but she knew that she was nearly asking the impossible. The vast majority of employers didn’t want to take the time to see the potential employee, hence they had computers do it. She wondered if it was because they were afraid. Becca couldn’t say so for certain, but it would make sense. After all, if a potential employer were forced to look her brother in the eyes, seeing his hardships and his struggles, would such an employer be willing to give him a chance? Furthermore, despite all of the technology, would more people, even if only a few more, have jobs if there were less computers to conduct the interview process?

Computer interviews were so convenient for employers. They could hire whomever they wanted to by programming the computer to interview using the simplest and most basic of questions, not giving any leeway or room for extenuating circumstances or complex reasons for why someone did what they did, or why they lacked experience but could gain it. There was no room for bargaining, no room for understanding. Harold was certainly a victim of that.

Becca tried to stop thinking about it. The situation was just too painful. Instead she redirected her thoughts to the night at hand, one that could be alive with passionate embraces from another human being.  Some people would call her foolish. Why bring about the chance of heartache when one could just settle for a sex-bot!

Sex-bots were in high demand, with manufacturers selling large commodities of them. Advertisements abounded upon computer monitors and 3D billboards which read, Why risk fucking yourself or a friend when you can safely fuck a bot? It worked. These androids were not only lifelike replicas programmed with personalities, but they were also equipped with the sexual organs of male and female, being programmed in all manner of sex. Plus, they were disease and heartbreak free. Constantly connected to the internet, sex bots could have personality upgrades transmitted to them.

But Becca never liked the idea of cleaving unto a machine. If she were to twain as one flesh, she wanted to twain with someone real. She wanted more than just fucking, she wanted the actual process of making love, of giving ones heart and soul, the joining of two people not just physically, but mentally. She was hoping to find that in Ted, though for the life of her, seeing as how odd he was, she didn’t know how. But she always believed in giving people a chance. This was a particularly important mindset to possess in a time in which finding human interaction was becoming rare.

By the time she was done getting ready she looked like a queen among queens. She was the very embodiment of passion, dripping with sexuality, in her scarlet dress hugging her hips, lips glistening with gloss, her red hair brushed and curled to perfection, and her red slippers glittering under the lamplight. She was Venus De-Milo incarnate, walking, talking, and breathing, breaking free of her stone. She was now ready to meet Ted at Club Starlight.

The automated flight down there was dull, all of the houses and shopping centers looking the same in a sea of mediocrity. Eventually she grew so tired of the dull scenery that she activated a book on her V-Tablet. A small handheld device that when activated displayed a holographic image of a book. Like her computer screen back home, the image was triggered by the device sending a signal to the chip in her brain, making her see virtual pages. She opened a cover without substance, her hand turning air, to the first page of her novel and began reading.

In all respects, the trip shouldn’t take long. Jet cars could travel 300 mph. Though on a busy evening like this, they usually flew slower. Many vehicles were out flying, though a few kept to the roads down below. It was true that many of them didn’t have passengers in them, being piloted by robots. Some of the vehicles were even robots themselves, like the driver that deliver Becca’s food to her the day before. Like the robotic vehicle, many of the vehicles on the road were making deliveries to homebodies, and there were a lot of homebodies. Because of this, there were a few stops at hover lights to prevent an accident.

All things considered, it took her only ten minutes to get downtown. Soon she was at the top of the glass skyscraper where Club Starlight was located. Much to her chagrin, the upper parking lot, which didn’t have much space to begin with, was full. She would have to park below and take the elevator up.

“Find a parking space below,” she told the car.

The car complied, hovering slowly down to the street below her, where numerous homeless people were congregated.

Becca felt uncomfortable with so many of them about. She felt bad that she felt this way. She was sure that many of them wouldn’t hurt her, but couldn’t they go to one of the numerous shelters? There was certainly no shortage of shelters since machines had taken over ninety percent of jobs. The ironic thing was that many of those who were once employed at homeless shelters were now homeless themselves, androids having taken their place.

Becca knew that she was one of the fortunate ten percent holding a job. Because of this it was important to be sympathetic, but the crowd of homeless people edging their way to her car were putting her on edge. Breathe, she thought to herself. She wouldn’t be able to help them. There was no way she could transfer funds to all of their chips, especially since some probably had minds so scrambled from drugs and alcohol that they couldn’t remember their chip numbers anyway. She would walk straight towards the door, ignoring them. It was cruel, but it was necessary.

Hungry hands reached out to her as she got out of the car. Whether they were hands hungry for food, hungry for love, or for whatever funds she could spare to feed an addiction, she couldn’t say. Either way, she practically jogged to the door of the building.

Homeless people were practically breathing down her neck, their breath rancid and stale. Their bodies were covered in a fine layer of grime. The smell of their clothes washed in urine and soaped in alcohol were assaulting her nose. As this was going on, Becca was waiting for the computer to conclude with its analysis that she was not one of the homeless. Come on, hurry up, she thought to herself.

Suddenly the doors slid open, allowing her to escape from the ocean of lost souls. Once inside, Becca breathed deeply. After a couple of breaths and looking down at her feet, she turned back to see the hands of many of the homeless pounding on the glass door, as well as hear the faint words of “help us,” “I just need a little for a meal,” and so forth. She turned away from it, not letting them see her tears. She was trying to hold her emotions in, but she was struggling to keep from bawling. They didn’t deserve this. Yet, she couldn’t help one without helping the others, and she just didn’t have the funds to help all of them.

Becca turned a corner in the hall before finding a bench to sit down on and sob. Harold could have been in the same situation if she and her parents hadn’t of helped him in the first place. He could be in that same situation if she didn’t continue to help him.

A rough grip took Becca by her right wrist, violently yanking her hand away that had been wiping away her tears. She looked into the face of a man sporting a bushy beard, greased with sweat and blood, and be-speckled with dirt. His eyes flashed at her, drawing her into not the soul of a man, but of a frenzied tiger, hungry for her flesh. His teeth gritted together and his tongue licked his lips. Becca wanted to scream, but she was nearly paralyzed.

“You best be quiet!” he ordered.

Becca just barely managed to nod in assent.

“Nobody can help you, bitch.”

“What do you want from me?” Becca was just barely able to express her question above a whisper.

The homeless man took both her wrists tightly in his hands, yanked her up, and then slammed her against a wall. Becca’s space was being personally violated as she found his face near hers, his nose just about touching her nose. His breath smelled like he was decaying just a little bit each day, turning him into nearly a walking corpse. Still, though much of his humanity had long died, leaving behind a savage beast, a little bit of it must have clung onto him, as even in his anger tears of frustration and loneliness were forming in his eyes.

“I want to eat a good meal again,” he said, spitting a shower of putrid droplets on her face. “I want my own bed to sleep in. I want a job to work at during the day, but no one is fucking giving me a chance. I want someone to touch, someone to caress. I want the feel of flesh.”

“I’m sorry, don’t hurt me,” Becca was crying. “I’ll give you some money. Just let me be. What’s your chip number?”

“I said shut up!” he barked, and then slapped her hard across the face causing her to be dazed as he tore a huge tear in her dress down from the bust line. She was in a dire situation now. Though she had never been violated, she knew a rape when she saw it.

Becca did the only thing she could do. She fought back. She sunk her teeth into his cheek, causing him to scream. The taste of bitter blood conglomerated with old dirt almost made her retch. She smacked him as hard as she could across the area where she bit him, his cheek still raw from it. He staggered back, falling on his backside. Becca gave a quick prayer for deliverance.

As the homeless man was in the process of getting up, her prayers were answered. But not by the kind Savior of the New Testament, or the mighty Abrahamic God of the Old Testament or the Torah, nor by a benevolent Buddha, or a mythical Brahma of the Hindu texts, but by the ominous figures of two security bots. They towered up above the bum, their metal armor gleaming under the light. The pair of them were warriors, guardians to potential customers, ready to delivery divine retribution to those unholy.  Unlike androids, security bots, as well as police bots, didn’t look like people. They were built to look machine through and through, their purpose to inspire fear in criminals and troublemakers. These bots were grey and black all over, with broad, round cylinder chests of plated steel. A firm pair of trunk-like metal legs held them up, and long steel arms, ending in thick metallic fingers for strong grip, hung from their sides. A small cylinder was atop the large cylinder of each, forming a crude head, fashioned with two flashing lights to make eyes. Unlike police bots, these were without any form of guns or ammunition, being bouncer bots.

“Are you alright, mam?” one of them asked, its metallic voice displaying no emotion.

“He tried to rape me!” she cried, pointing to her attacker.

The homeless man’s countenance had greatly changed, having turned from a fierce tiger to a mouse wanting to scurry away. He had no time to escape his judgement as the steel fists of the two bouncer bots pounded into his soft flesh. Becca was certain that they would give him a couple of punches and then carry him out. She was shocked to see them keep on brutalizing the man. Her attacker was being morphed into their punching bag.

“Stop it! Stop! He’s had enough!” she screamed.

Her cries for leniency were ignored.

Becca closed her eyes. But, though it protected her from the horrendous sight of violence, it couldn’t drown out the sounds of breaking bones. Only when she ceased to hear sounds of punching did she venture to open them again. The homeless man dangled in front of her, mangled and broken, blood dripping. She let out an inaudible gasp. The bouncer bots, as cold in their mannerisms as the steel that plated them, said not a word of comfort as they threw him to the side, leaving him to drown in his pool of blood.

Conflicting emotions swarmed within Becca, threatening to drown her in terror. She didn’t know what scared her more. There was no telling what the crazy homeless man would have done to her if they hadn’t of come. He could have killed her after he tried raping her. As for the bouncer bots, certainly they saved her life, but what if they had turned on her? Who could stop them if they had of chosen to beat her to a pulp or rip her limb from limb?

For a while she wondered if it was even worth going to meet Ted, shaken up as she was. Would it be better to call the whole thing off for the night, to reschedule? She shook her head. She needed to try and forget about the situation. After all, she came to potentially be in a man’s arms. There was a comfort and love, a mystical power that came from the arms of a man, like something out of a fairy tale that ended happily ever after. If only the car wreck hadn’t of ended her happily ever after with her husband.

Taking a breath, she let herself know that should could do this. She held the torn opening of her dress closed so as not expose herself when she walked into the club. She wished that she could find something like a safety pin to at least pin her dress closed, but all she could manage was her left hand to hold the broken seams together. She hoped that Ted would be beyond understanding, offering comfort to her distress.

Becca took the elevator up to the top floor, while realizing she was crazy for carrying on her evening appointment in her current emotional and physical state. Passing by her view from the glass elevator were a plethora of shops, store chains, and restaurants. Occasionally, she could see an employee or a shopper, but they were few and far between. Of course there were life-like androids as well as average robots, but even the life-like androids had aspects of the way they were built that differentiated them from people. For instance, androids had to be designed to show seams around the outline of their face in order to have a removable faceplate. This was made into law so that people could differentiate between a real person and an android. As for the lack of customers at the establishments, this didn’t matter, since all of these restaurants and stores delivered anyway, including Club Starlight, who delivered drinks.

Yet, even looking at all the stores and restaurants couldn’t keep Becca’s mind off the fact that she had nearly been raped. How many other women, homeless women even, had that man violated? She felt numb. And yet she also felt like she needed someone talk to. She fought back the urge to throw up.

She felt weak in her legs when the elevator reached the final floor, but she managed to steady herself and make her way to the entrance of Club Starlight. Though the huge neon blue logo complete with a big star was supposed to bring a sense of excitement, Becca felt that it looked garish instead. The music could be heard blaring from inside, if it could be called such.

A robot bouncer waited at the door, one less large and intimidating than the two that had killed her attacker, but still formidable. Becca panicked, thinking in her current state that the bot bouncer would mistakenly identify her as one of the homeless. Thankfully, such was not the case, and she was allowed in, even with the bust of her dress torn wide open. Looking back, Becca was sure that the bot saw it as fashion statement, seeing as there were women who wore little more than bikini tops to such clubs.

Inside, strobe lights were flashing, seizure inducing to anyone unlucky enough to be cursed with epilepsy. A few people were dirty dancing, their senses hypnotized by the blare and rhythmic pounding of the music. They were all slaves to their passions and to the beat of the stereo.

Becca scanned the room, easily catching sight of Ted at the bar. It wasn’t hard. Aside from the few people dancing on the dance floor, and those few drowning out their sorrows at the bar, he was one of the few people there. For a place that should have been swarming with people, the club was nearly empty. There wasn’t even a bartender at the bar, but an android pouring drinks, telling canned jokes. If one didn’t want to hear the canned jokes, there were also the vending cabinets that could dispense alcoholic beverages.

Still shaken, Becca slowly took a seat next to Ted. If she had of previously been an Aphrodite, then Ted was still a Dionysus, god of wine and intoxication, as he seemed to have drowned seven glasses. Still, strangely enough, he didn’t look the least bit inebriated. He looked handsome decked out from head to toe in a fresh polo shirt, ironed out slacks, and a pair of polished shoes. She wanted to tell him that he was handsome. She wanted to engage in pleasantries. But she couldn’t. She was doing all that she could not to break down into tears over what had just happened.

“Well, hello beautiful,” he eyed her up and down. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”

“Flatterer.”

“Thanks,” he said, gulping down his eighth glass. “Hey, you look a bit startled. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she lied, unable to conceal the quivering of her voice.

“Are you sure?”

“Actually, no,” she yelled. It was hard enough to speak of it, but the loud music made it even worse. “A guy tried to rape me.”

“That’s terrible. Are you alright?”

Are you alright? That was the only thing he could think to ask? Of course she wasn’t alright. How could someone be so dense, so clueless, to ask such a question. Still, she kept her cool.

“Yeah. I guess so. But, no, I guess I’m not. Oh, it was terrible. It was like a living hell. I saw the guy get beat to a pulp by the bouncers, not long after getting out of my car.”

“Speaking of cars, I brought mine,” said Ted. “It’s a new brand, and it can fly ten feet higher than the last model. Would you like me to take you for a ride in it?”

Becca looked at him incredulously. She couldn’t believe that after what she had been through that he’d be so thoughtless to bring up hover cars. “No!” she snapped. “What? Are you crazy! Not right now! I need to unwind. I’ll have a drink.”

“Hey, not a problem. Let me buy you one.”

“Great! Thanks!” she said without much enthusiasm in her voice.

She soon found that she had lost any desire to drink. The most she managed to do was to stare blankly at her poison in a glass, oblivious for a moment that her date had started talking about cars again.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she asked when it finally dawned on her.

“What do you mean?”

“All you do is talk about your love for all these damn flying cars. Can’t you talk about anything else?”

“Do cars bother you that much?”

“Of course,” she said, pushing her glass aside. “My husband was killed in one. His car battery ran out of power and he fell to his death while killing a family when crashing into their living room. Flying cars are one of the crappiest things to happen to society in a good long time. And what’s even crappier is that you don’t seem to care that I was violated by nearly being forcibly penetrated by a bum, and then I then had to see him murdered. This is beyond shitty.”

“I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your husband,” said Ted solemnly. “But you’ll be happy to know that the new models, such as the Light Rods, have built in safety mechanisms to prevent an accident. Plus, they are comfy. I would love to take you for a ride in one. What do you say?”

“I say you’re nothing but a bastard,” Becca, retorted. “All you care about is your cars. Well, I don’t want to hear it. Go to hell.”

As Becca was walking out of the club a middle aged man tapped her on the shoulder.

“What do you want?” she fumed, her patience running thin.

The man just shook his head. “You know that guy wasn’t a real person, right?”

She was taken aback at this. It was the same thing she had been told recently. “How do you mean?”

“I mean he was just a walking advertisement. An android!”

Becca stared at him startled. “No. He couldn’t be. Androids have to be built a certain way. I saw no seams on him.”

“Maybe because some companies aren’t making them with seams anymore,” the man shrugged.

“But that’s illegal!” she protested.

“Only illegal as far as money will say.”

Confused and traumatized, Becca took her leave of the club and made her way back down to the car, finding relief when the crowd of homeless were no longer there.

The airways were fairly clear. But it didn’t prevent her from having a near accident. Out from the darkness a car came flying towards her, its lights off. Her car’s navigation system just barely managed to swerve away from the oncoming car. Palms sweating, heart pumping, voice screaming, her car grazed against the side of the other car, peeling away the paint of both and taking her rearview mirror.

“Idiots!” she called out, as it flew through the darkness.

She was lucky. If her car’s computer had of waited just a second longer to maneuver out of the way, she would have been falling to the surface, the two cars intertwined in a fiery comet of devastation. She checked her car’s navigation system to find that it was functioning properly, meaning that either someone had hacked into the programming of the car that nearly hit her or that the passenger had disabled the safety system so that he or she could be the driver. Whether it was a hacked into car or a driver going for a joy ride it didn’t matter. If Becca was distraught before over the evening’s events, she was twenty times more distraught now.

 

Back at her home, Becca lamented over the current form of society. Had society really grown that cold? Or had it always been so, with technological advances giving people more of the chances to turn such.

She wished for a simpler time. She missed her husband. Her prince charming, her knight in shining armor, her Lancelot, she his Guinevere. Now she sat alone to mull over her thoughts of nearly being raped, of seeing her would-be rapist brutally killed, and almost colliding with another car.

She took a jar of meds out of the cabinet. She was only supposed to take one with a drink of water to cut down on stress. She found herself taking four before drowning them down with a glass of beer to induce her into a blissful near coma of tranquility. She normally drank wine, but tonight called for something stronger.

Lying immobile upon the couch, her second glass of whisky dangling in one hand, Becca’s mind traveled back to when she had first met her Steven, her husband. It had happened entirely by accident. The two of them had been out walking one particular evening, when, upon turning a corner, they bumped heads. What happened next was like something out of a romance novel, the two star-gazed lovers instantly falling for one another. He had shown chivalry, offering her his hand and asking her if she’d like to be taken out for coffee.

Their first date at a coffee shop had been a good one, the two of them being the only ones there. There were of course a couple of robot workers in back, and a few self-serving and making coffee machines. The big chain coffee companies, just like all the other companies, were more than grateful for this option as it allowed them to save money instead of paying employees. Becca and Steve had been grateful too, enjoying the alone time, which quickly turned into a make-out session. It hadn’t taken long for them, just by intellectually stimulating conversation, to find out that the two of them were kindred souls, both of them sharing a love for literature and art.

Later that night they had gone back to Becca’s house to spend an evening in the mountains. The holograms did a wonderful job tricking their brain into making them think they were on a mountain-top at sunset.

From then on Steve and Becca had experienced many other moments together. It wasn’t long until they were married and living together.

It had been late when Steve chose to take his car out, but he had forgotten to check the battery power. The car should have hovered safely to the ground when it ran out of power, but for some reason the safety mechanisms hadn’t worked. So he crashed into a house below him, killing the family, including their two year old child, the bumper landing on the kid. Becca felt sorrow for that family, and for Steve whom she would never see again. For months she had mourned, suffering night and day. She had tried to patch her love-life up, but she had never been able to find another Prince Charming. Becca felt like a Sleeping Beauty, who unlike the one in the fairy tale had received her first kiss to wake her up, she on the other hand was doomed to sleep in a castle of thorns without ever being kissed again.

Melancholic, she passed out from these thoughts in her head.

 

She awoke in the morning, her head pounding. Worse, the thoughts of the night prior of her nearly being raped to seeing a man killed came back to her increased fifty fold. This time she couldn’t hold back the sickness that inside her, and she threw up.

She wondered if her favorite hologram simulation could brighten her up.

“Mountaintop at night,” she called out to the computer on her desk.

Immediately, Becca was in another realm. Stars shone above her, as trees cloaked in shadows to her right and to her left rose above her. She breathed deeply, immersing herself in the environment. This was what life used to be like when there were more areas of land without buildings, before houses and other structures covered almost the whole earth. Now, the only way one could commune with nature like a mystic of old was through computers sending false images into the brain to trick someone into thinking they were somewhere else. If there was ever to be another Jesus Christ, Moses, Buddha, Muhammed, or Joseph Smith desiring to commune with nature, to tap into the mysteries of the universe, to evoke higher powers, that holy man, or woman, would have to make use of the computers sending false images to their embedded chips, as not many real forests or deserts existed anymore.

When Becca really wanted to escape civilization, there were other programs she could activate. She had programs of Utah style deserts with great rocky ridges, and of Scottish country-sides full of green rolling hills and lakes.

She often wondered what it would be like to see an actual area of nature, not a computer simulation. She shook her head. There was no use in thinking about it. Those days were turning to dust under foot.

Laying upon her back, she washed away any stress from her mind and just looked at the stars while listening to the sounds of crickets chirping and owls hooting. It was very peaceful, and it functioned better than any therapy that she’d have to dish out loads of money for.

It was interesting to think that when she was done with the simulation, the room would go back to being her living room, the illusion fading away.

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Cold Shades Ch 1: Redone and Expanded

Here is chapter one of Cold Shades, but this time redone and expanded. That said, there will probably still be some grammatical errors. 

Note: Recommended for ages 18 and up due to harsh violence, adult subject matter, and strong language. 

Rebecca Brown, simply known as Becca, rarely left her home. There was no need to. All of the necessities of life were supplied right at her fingertips, her home providing her with everything she needed. She could even engage in her career at home, without having to worry about house work, seeing as there were house bots that would clean and cook dinner for her.

At the moment, Becca was typing on her computer screen, but not in the archaic manner with her fingers in which words came on a physical screen. Instead, the computer monitor was a slender hologram popping out from the slit of a small, flat device that she could fit in the palm of her hand, resting on her table top, and it was reading the words she was thinking from a chip imbedded in her brain. Fresh words scrolled across the screen, as fast as she could think them. If she made an error, needing to delete something, all she had to do was clench her fist and say, “delete.” In this case, she told the program to “delete the third paragraph.” She had been composing an email to an irate customer in too much anger, and the third paragraph had been particularly volatile. There would be much deleting ahead.

It was hard to work with idiots day in and day out, and that was putting it lightly. It was overwhelming.

The soft buzz of robotics hummed gently in the air, helping to soothe her anger just a bit. After all, they were a blessing by keeping up her house so she could focus on her work. When she was done with a dish, she didn’t have to rinse it off and put it in the dishwasher. A mechanical arm and hand near the kitchen sink would take it from her, the faucet would turn on by itself, the dish would be rinsed of food, and then put it in the dishwasher. Scrub beetles would scrub away grime from her kitchen floor. There were even bots in the bathroom to do the dirty work of cleaning.

Her stomach grumbled, letting her know in no uncertain terms that it needed nourishment. A break was in order.

“Restaurants,” Becca said, causing a holographic image to project a list of local eateries. “Chinese,” she continued, realizing she hadn’t had one of her favorite meals in a while; sweet and sour pork. The computer narrowed her choices solely to those catering in Chinese food. “Mrs. Yang’s” she said. Projecting straight out of the little computer box and right into her living room was a Chinese waitress, wearing a long red dress of silk, her black hair curled into a bun. Though only an illusion, the likeness of a real person was impeccable.

Holograms over the years had made such leaps and bounds that most people applauded the technological advancements as modern marvels. And yet, they were a different type of hologram than the old images which were formed by beams of light making 3D images. These holograms were extra lifelike and may as well not have been called such holograms. The very illusions Becca saw before here were produced from the chip in her head, causing her brain and her eyes to visualize it all. It’s not to say that the small, compact desktop upon her table didn’t help with producing such images. The chip within Becca’s brain sent a signal to the computer and thus both computer and chip collaborated together to form said illusion.

As things were, not everyone was pleased with such technology. Some hated it. But though there were a few Platos still in the world who didn’t approve of it, harping on the analogy of the cave with its shadows and illusions, such luddites had always been a rare breed.

“Welcome to Mrs. Yang’s,” the waitress said, “a house of the finest Chinese cuisine to satisfy you and your family’s appetites. Would you like to try our special today?”

“What’s today’s special?” asked Becca.

“Today’s special is twice-cooked pork, fried-cheese wontons, and three egg rolls, plus a drink, all for ten-ninety five,” said the waitress as a perfect 3D image of the food appeared before her.

Tempting price, but Becca didn’t care for twice-cooked pork. “No,” she said.

“Would you like to see our menu?”

“Yes.”

“Let me know when you’re ready to order.”

Illusions of smorgasboards of delicious foods, followed by descriptions of each one, popped up into her living room in crystal clear precision, as though they could be grabbed. Such realism further satiated her hunger. Becca browsed, not bothering to say another word to the waitress until she ordered. It would be pointless to do so anyway, as the waitress, being a recorded person, could only respond to certain words and phrases. It was a normal tactic done by all restaurant management; video record a person, then program that image and voice into the computer, in which they would respond to certain phrases and words. There was no use asking how she was doing. She wasn’t fine, sad, angry, or flustered; she just was as is. It would be pointless telling her that her red dress laced with etchings of golden dragons was appreciated. It wouldn’t affect her in any way. She was only the shell of the waitress recorded for customers to see, not the actual person.

After looking over all the appetizers, entrees, dinners, and side dishes, Becca was still confident about her previous decision. “I would like the sweet and sour pork with a side of ham fried rice,” said Becca.

“Anything to drink?”

“No.”

“Will that be all?”

“Yes.”

“Is this for pickup or delivery?”

“Delivery.”

“Plus driver tax, your total comes to fifteen twenty-five,” said the waitress. “Are you ready for us to scan your chip?”

“Go for it!” Becca assented.

A laser reader came out from her computer, scanning the chip implanted in her brain. “Ms. Rebecca Brown, age thirty-one, of 4213 Willington Dr. Las Angeles, California,” said the waitress. “Is this correct?”

“Yes,” said Becca.

“Is there anything else?”

“No.”

“Thank you for ordering from Mrs. Yangs,” the image said with a bow. “Your food will be arriving shortly.”

Becca didn’t immediately return to work, opting to sprawl across her couch instead. Being as hungry as she was she couldn’t concentrate. She was sure that it was her hunger that was causing her to be short with the customer.

As she waited for her food, she thought of how much of a nuisance it was ordering out. Sure, it was convenient, but it came with a price, and that price was more than money. She was certain that she would be dreaming of Mrs. Yang’s off and on, just as she dreamed about some of her other favorite restaurants. It wasn’t uncommon for these companies to hack into the chip when one was asleep to send images into it, causing customers to dream. It was the most effective form of advertising ever.

Originally, there had been laws passed against this, as the courts had deemed it as an infringement upon peoples’ privacy, but the ruling didn’t hold up long. Corporations made the argument that they weren’t actually ‘prying into peoples’ thoughts,’ but rather were ‘only broadcasting their products.’ While this had still seemed invasive, in the end money and corporate interests won out against lawmakers and legislatures against it. Bribery was a surefire way to get politicians on the side of the corporations.

In any event, it wasn’t like many people cared about the advertisements in their sleep Society was bombarded by advertisements on a daily basis. At this very moment, Becca was wearing a t-shirt that screened images of the latest products on it, from a very narrow and flexible computerized screen that picked up satellite signals. Even the legging of her pants had a thin vertical screen running down them, with ever-changing words advertising the newest game released or the latest movie out. This had cut down greatly on the price of clothing, making it very inexpensive. As for the advertisements transferred as dreams into peoples’ sleep, most corporations were smart enough to know not to overdo it. Usually the dreams were subtle, sometimes to the point that people could hardly remember them; only the subliminal message remained.

Growing tired of just lounging upon her couch, Becca decided to experience a movie from her computer. Televisions were a thing of the past, computers having completely taken over, just as they had with everything else. And like everything else, the computer program for the movie worked to send a signal to her chip, enabling her to be engulfed in the story.

Cars in a high speed chased rushed past her, the sounds of bullets blazing by and tires burning rubber assaulted her ears. Sometimes she found herself enveloped in a fiery explosion, to see the hero walk out of it towards her, so life-like that she felt she could reach out and touch him. Or she was soaring with a jet above the snowy Swiss Alps, her favorite scene as it showed a time before those mountains were almost all covered in housing developments.

Everything was so-lifelike while experiencing a movie that one had to be careful so as  not to get carried away. Becca remembered back to when she was experiencing one of her favorite films, a movie about brave adventurers looking for hidden treasure in an ancient, crumbling temple. She had grown so excited during the scenes in which the travelers were jumping from one crumbling platform to another over a chasm that she tried to jump with them, only to break her right leg on her table. Needless to say, she had spent the rest of the day in the hospital, being attended to by robotic nurses. Since then she learned to sit still during a movie.

‘Your food is here,’ said a pleasant computer automated voice over her speaker. Becca ordered the film to shut down, plunging her back into her boring living room.

At her door was a Delivery Bot. The robot was constructed simplistic enough, being built more like a car, and able to hold numerous orders in its interior, which was always heated by a heat lamp. Like an average car, it hovered. A large metal neck jutted out from the front, ending in what looked like a pair of oversized binoculars for vision. It held a bag of food out in one metallic hand, while the other hand was a card scanner, greedily outstretched, as hungry for the payment as Becca was for the food. Becca quickly paid him. No chit-chat, no time wasted. Just pay and eat.

As the Delivery Bot flew off, Becca thought back to the history books she read, which told of a time that human delivery had caused too many problems with drivers because of their irresponsibility or their demanding raises. Robots were the logical answer to the problem. And not just for restaurants, but for grocery stores too. Robots now delivered everything from fresh eggs, meats, and fish, to cereal and bread, to cleaners and soaps and so forth, meaning one never had to leave their home to go to go the grocery store either.

While she was eating her food and experiencing her movie, she occasionally spilt food when she was excited by a certain scene. Not a problem. The maid bot, built low to the ground on a pair of wheels, came by and swept and rinsed away any food particles from her tile floor.

Finishing her meal, Becca felt a walk was in order. While it was true that many people chose to stay inside, living in a state of eternal hibernation, she craved the fresh air. She decided that she would end her work day early and let the disgruntled customer wait

Outside she was greeted by houses spread out for miles in all directions, a sea of concrete and plaster. In-between blocks of neighborhoods, one might come across a store or a restaurant. There were, of course, office buildings, but they were more conglomerated downtown and there was only a few of them. Still, though very few people worked white collar jobs anymore, the few office buildings downtown were islands of steel and spires sticking out of the ocean of mediocre homes.

Soaring in the sky above Becca were a couple of cars. Though she had a car she hated them. Her husband had died in one. Fairly frequently, the news reported terrible car wrecks. One that stuck out in her memory most vividly was of a drunk driver, who had dismantled the automated flying program, – before he was drunk – and came plummeting down into the living room of a family. The parents and the children were all killed, being squashed under the car. One would have thought that since cars were computer operated, being self-driven, that car wrecks would have been a tragedy consigned to the annals of history. But this was not the case. Aside from those who loved the thrill of driving their own cars and who would find ways to deactivate the self-driving mechanics, there were also many hackers who got a sick thrill out of hacking into someone else’s car terminal and rerouting the designated safe route into a building or into a skyway with cars flying in the opposite direction. It didn’t seem to matter how many security programs were newly put in place, as hackers loved the challenge of finding ways around them. In short, Pandora’s Box had been opened, and not solely by flying cars, but by the advent of putting computers into cars even before they could fly.

Becca continued on her walk, choosing not to focus on the macabre scenario. It made her think too much of her deceased husband.

Instead she kept her eyes open for interesting people she could possibly meet. Though not many people were out and about, there were certainly a few.

One fine specimen caught Becca’s eyes. He was tall and broad shouldered. He wore a polo shirt, and a pair of khakis. Upon his shirt an advertisement was ending for a new cereal brand, making way for an ad about the newest in automated indoor sprinkling systems to put out house fires. She would have loved to have stared at his firm, strong legs, but the ad running down his khakis for the latest cell-phone update that could be installed in the computer chip was too distracting. It was best jut to focus on his face. He flashed her a smile that looked as though it could come off the cover of a romance novel.

“Hello there,” said Becca.

“Hello,” reciprocated the handsome man. “Where do you come from?”

Becca shrugged. “Just this neighborhood, I’m afraid. Nothing exciting, I know.”

“Nothing exciting? I can hardly believe that. What’s your name?”

“My name is Rebecca Brown,” she said, extending her hand for him to shake. “But just call me Becca.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Becca,” said the man, shaking her hand. “I’m Theodore Green. Kind of a dorky name, I know.”

“Not at all! It sounds strong, masculine.”

“That’s very kind of you. Anyway, you can call me Ted.”

“Okay, Ted,” Becca nodded. “Are you from around these parts?”

Ted shook his head. “No. I live on the other end of town. But you know, getting restless and all, I decided I’d take a scenic drive.”

“Scenic!” exclaimed Becca in disbelief. “Why? I didn’t think the neighborhood south of here looked much different than this one. Also, why even take a walk here when you can just take one on your end?”

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure of what you’re getting at,” said Ted.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. It seems kind of weird, but whatever.”

“Say, do you like cars?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Not really. My husband was killed in one.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” said Ted. “I hope I didn’t dredge up any painful memories.”

“It’s okay,” said Becca. “I’d like to take a look at your car anyway,” she lied. Nonetheless two factors prompted the lie, her feelings of infatuation, and it being rude to turn down someone being friendly.

Besides, she was lonely, not having gone on a date for quite some time. She needed to get out more, to dance, to feel the embrace of the opposite sex. She had been working far too hard not to indulge in some healthy human interaction. Customers sending angry emails, in which she reciprocated twice as angrily, was not good bonding with her fellow man.

“Right on!” said Ted. “Follow me.” Becca did so, without thinking of the potential consequences of blindly following a stranger. Her parents had warned her, ever since she was a child, of the dangers of just trusting anybody. It was one of the reasons they had enrolled her in virtual classes, so as not to have to deal with bullies and school shootings. In this case, her parents would certainly warn her against following a stranger to his car. And Ted was strange, strange in his mannerisms, and with the way he answered questions.

It only took a minute to come to Ted’s pride and glory, an Orange Bolt 3000. It was sleek and beautiful. Its coloring was that of a sunset, a bright orange slowly fading to a purple, with a yellow stripe running across the middle of it. It was modeled after the old convertibles in that it lacked a roof.

“Would you like to hop in for a drive?” Ted opened the door and wore an expression bespeaking of himself as the perfect gentlemen. “We can go to your place or mine. Maybe we could even get a beer, chill out, watch a movie?”

“Gee, thanks for the invite,” said Becca. “But, I’m not ready for that yet. I mean, let’s get real for a sec. I just met you.”

“I’m sorry, but is there a problem with the car?” asked Ted.

Problem with the car? Becca couldn’t believe her ears. She hadn’t said a thing about the car. Still, he was kind of cute and she was lonely. “How about we meet up some time,” she ventured, not wanting to ruin an opportunity of jumping back into the dating pool.

“That’d be great! What do you like to do?”

“Let’s go to a bar and get plastered,” she said, staring at an advertisement for her favorite beer playing across his shirt. “We could go to a bar and clubbing.”

“Awesome,” said Ted, excitedly. “I’m down for whatever. Maybe I can pick you up in my car.”

“Cool, let’s do it! But I’ll meet you there. I’m not ready to ride with you yet. No offense, but you are a stranger.”

“Can I get your number?”

Becca reluctantly gave it, and in turn he gave her his, the small chip in her head saving it. Now she noticed that the screen on Ted’s polo was primarily showing off different cars. They made a little more chit-chat before Ted drove off.

Overall, Becca had found the conversation to be peculiar, and she was a little annoyed that it often came back to his car. Before leaving he had at least talked about his car for five minutes, boasting about how wonderful it was. Yet, he was kind enough, and she didn’t sense any danger from him.

An older man, who happened to be passing by, shot Becca an inquisitive glance and said, “You do know that he is nothing than a walking advertisement, don’t you?”

“Aren’t we all?” she chuckled seeing an ad playing on the old man’s cap for a new virtual game.

“No. I mean it’s more than that,” the man said.

Becca shrugged. Maybe she didn’t get it, but she didn’t care. She had been trying so hard to forget about her husband that she would take the quirks of a new boyfriend, even if those quirks were talking about cars. Also it’d be a lie to say that she didn’t have her own interests, such as movies and books, which could make her quirky. Who was she to judge someone for loving cars?  She only hoped that if something were to develop between the two of them that she could broaden his horizons.

Becca could have gotten lost in her reverie of finding romance until she remembered that today was the day that she had to visit her deadbeat brother. She didn’t relish this. But she had made a promise to be his wet nurse and she was stuck with her decision. Taking a deep breath, she reminded herself that he lived within walking distance and that she could keep the visit brief.

Walking briskly, Becca found herself there in no less than five minutes. A laser came down from the front porch, scanning her chip. Only after it had obtained and analyzed all the data did it grant her entrance.

She found her brother sprawled out on the couch, a slug of a man, slowly but steadily drowning under waves of his own fat.

“I don’t suppose you brought me something to eat?” he asked.

How typical! Of course that would be the first question out of his voracious vacuum of a mouth.

“You know, if you hadn’t of lied on the questioner, you probably wouldn’t be immobilized here on your fat ass,” Becca said without worrying the least bit about candor.

“Ah, cut me some slack!” her brother protested. “You know that I tried to sound convincing.”

“Harold,” cried out Becca in exasperation, “you told the computer that you had prior work experience as a manager! How the hell did you think that would go over?”

“I wasn’t thinking” –

“So what else is new?” Becca cut him off. “Harold, even if they didn’t verify through your work history and past employers, the lie detector chip is more than enough to tell them that you are full of shit. A quick scan from a computer monitors your heart rate, your brain waves, just about everything that could give you away. I shouldn’t even be telling you this. You should be smart enough to know this.”

“Well, I’m not, so excuse me!” shouted Harold. “I’ve never been as smart as you. Never as brilliant.”

“Harold. You have genius level abilities in the fields of history and linguistics. You have no right to call yourself stupid. In your case it’s not about brilliance, it’s just about common sense.”

“Yeah, well I guess I lack that.”

Becca was flustered. Why did this have to be so hard? She and Harold had always clashed. This was nothing new. And yet, she couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Most problems he faced in life he had brought upon himself, but society didn’t make it any easier, not with computers and all.

Computers had long ago taken over the interview process. It had started out simple enough, with many large companies using computers to do online applications. Now computers were advanced enough to conduct interviews. Computers were supposed to be so advanced in terms of hiring by ascertaining the honesty of the interviewee, and the interviewee’s skills and weaknesses. In theory it was supposed to be simple, but in reality it made life more difficult.

No matter how smart the AI was, no matter what questions the computer could ask, no matter how capable it was of reading heart-rate and brain waves to analyze honesty, there was still room for a great margin of error.

Harold had had the misfortune of being interviewed by a particularly rigid computer program from a prestigious educational firm. He had wanted to be a museum curator, and had studied hard for many years at an expensive virtual university, paying out huge sums of money and appropriating a large debt in student loans, only to have it capitulate in a small apartment. The thread which had led to his career demise had slowly unwound into a tangled mess after he had graduated. He had made the mistake of taking a year sabbatical before finding a job, in order to help out their sick mother. In retrospect, Harold should have just taken that opportunity to interview for the museum.

But could have he in good conscious?

Their mother had been being treated for cancer for over a year, and she had gradually been growing worse. Nothing the life-like android nurses could do could help her. There had been a couple of flesh and blood doctors there, but they had seldom visited her, except at brief intervals, having so many other things to attend to. Becca had visited her a few times a month when she could manage. If she had of known her mother’s condition was that bad, she would have visited her more. For this Becca still felt heavy guilt. It was Harold who had taken up the mantle of caring for their mother. It was he who had helped her improve for a little while. It didn’t last, but for a short time she was happier.

However, her brother’s sacrifice had come with a price. The computerized interview had asked him if he had been engaged in any education or work in that one year gap. When he had told the computer that he was looking after his mother, the computer had only responded with, ‘I don’t understand. Have you been employed or enrolled in any schooling this past year?’ He should have said no. But he had known that doing so would have brought on the high probability of barring him from future interviews. So, panicking, he had lied, telling the computer that he had spent the last year enrolled as a supervisor for robotic tour guides at historic sites. It didn’t take long for the computer to read his brain waves and his heart-rate, finding that he was lying. Since then, Harold’s reputation had spread through other computer employment systems, effectively lowering his chances fifty-fold of landing a job.

Now, her brother was living off of borrowed funds from their deceased parents, and from Becca herself. He could hardly pay the tuition costs back and he barely had a sufficient amount for his own living conditions. It wouldn’t be long until Becca would have to take her brother in to live with her, seeing as the funds within his chip would soon be depleted.

“I’m sure something will come up,” Becca lied.

“Yeah, maybe if I can get some pills to take that change the heart rate and the brain-waves to fool the computer,” said Harold.

“Those are illegal!”

“Oh, I’d sell my own mother to afford pills to cheat the system,” he shrugged.

“Not funny,” said Becca. She wanted to slap him for that remark. But she controlled herself by remembering that her brother never had much of a filter to begin with. Besides, despite that utterly tasteless joke over their dead mother, he had still been the one to watch over her, not she, thus getting himself into this predicament. “Harold,” she said in a softer tone, “I know it’s rough right now. But you’re bound to find something.”

“Like what? Who in the hell would have me?”

Becca was at a loss for words. Very few companies would hire him. “What can I do to help make your life easier?” she asked instead.

“Well, you could buy me some of those cream filled cookies. You know the kind I like! I can then happily gorge myself on those. You can also buy me some packs of my favorite beer. I can use those to vomit out my sorrow.”

“Damn it, Harold!” exclaimed Becca. “What good will that do?”

“You’re one to talk, you and your pious, holier-than-thou attitude,” pointed out Harold, shaking a fat fist at her, without even standing up. “You at least have a job. I don’t have jack-shit! How dare you have the nerve lecturing me about how morally wrong slowly killing myself is! Well, society is slowly killing me a little bit each and every day. If I’m to die, at least let it be from drinking myself to death, or a heart attack brought on by a sugar rush.”

Becca blushed. He was right. She had no right to condemn him.

“I’m sorry, Harold,” she whispered. “I’ll see what I can do.”

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