Here’s a dark little dystopian piece of fiction I wrote for the Transhumanity.net Immmortality Fiction Contest. Hank has kindly published my QS article there, and I hope to contribute more in the future.
Joe sat on top of an ancient, rusted artifact labeled “John Deere,” in a brown, junk filled field as the sun dipped behind the skyscrapers in the distance. He was staring into infinity with a pose that indicated he was accessing Content.
“Seen this news about Gates on the feeds?” he asked his companions in meatspace.
A fellow traveller named Ling-Ling grunted a coarse laugh as she chewed her Social Stability Ration, a tough, brown, nutritionally complete, algae-based biscuit provided by the NGOs here in the Western States Autonomous Economic Zone [Demilitarized]. “Yeah, he’s going to live forever you know. Spend some of your bandwidth allotment and grab the pix. He looks 25 but he must be 80 by now.”
A kid called Spaz perked up at this and put down the security drone he was dismantling. “How’s that work?” he asked.
“The study is behind a paywall. Here’s a link if you think you can hack it,” said Joe, and messaged the link to Spaz via the LAN he was running off an improvised refrigerator controller juiced by solar paint.
Spaz assumed the infinite stare while the others sat in silence. The sun had set and a cold wind was kicking up dust all around them.
“You should finish up with that security drone before farting around with those longevity papers,” chastised an old man called Jerome. “We won’t be able to take shelter until you do that. Then you can read about the bullshit that billionaires can afford all night long. You can even dream of going to the Orbitals if you like.”
Ling-Ling and a few others chuckled at that, but Spaz just said, “Got it, the link’s on my private status page for those who care.” There was a pause. “You’re right Jerome, I wouldn’t mess around with those telomerase hacks unless I had a real budget, ya know. Got to focus on the here and now.” He resumed working on the security drone.
“No point in living forever if you don’t have money,” said Joe absently. “Can you really see living like this for eternity?” he asked, indicating his own filthy clothes. Then he grabbed a rock and flung it at a pack of feral dogs that was shadowing the group at a distance.
“I’m not ready to die yet,” said Jerome. “This life’s hard, for sure, but I’ll go kicking and screaming.”
“Yeah, you can still move around pretty good,” responded Ling-Ling. “My grandmother is in worse shape. She can’t even think straight.”
“What’s that, Alzheimer’s?” asked Joe sympathetically.
Ling-Ling just nodded and said nothing.
Jerome came over and sat next to her. “Why hell, that’s been cured for years. I thought the treatment was pretty cheap now too.”
“Too much for us,” said Ling-Ling simply.
“Is she here or in China?” asked Joe.
“I thought they had subsidies. The feeds are always going on about the great health care over there,” said Joe thoughtfully.
“Ha! Maybe if you are in Shenzhen or the big city. If you are out in the boonies, forget it,” said Ling-Ling scornfully.
“Yeah, well old Gates can just kick back in his compound and enjoy the good life,” mused Joe. “He just got approval for upgraded autonomous armed drones at his northwest estate. Hardcore killbots to keep the logger anarchists off his back.”
“I thought a lot of those longevity techniques were still in animal testing,” said Spaz.
“Sure, but the darknet feeds have rumors of big human trials down south where the rules are looser,” Joe replied.
“Looser than here?” asked Jerome incredulously.
“Yeah, like CartelLand loose. You throw some bank around down there and they round up as many peasants as you need. Hell, most of them would probably volunteer for a few bucks a day. Grow a snout out my elbow? No problem, fifty bucks upfront,” said Joe, smiling.
Several of the group laughed at that.
“But I might take that deal myself some days,” he continued, wistfully looking off into the distance but not to infinity.
“Ah, quit your whining and eat an SSR,” said Jerome, getting up to slap him on the knee and hand him a biscuit.
The security drone suddenly lifted off and hovered above the little group. “Damn!” shouted Spaz, surprised, still holding it’s cover in his hands. “I might have done the steps in the wrong order there.”
“Are we in danger?” asked Jerome shakily.
Joe quickly pulled up an interface. “No. It’s in a preboot mode waiting for a password. I assume you did a factory default settings reset, Spaz?”
“Well I hope so …” he said hesitantly.
“Ok, let’s see … Yep, that’s in the doc … We’re in! Did you mod the config files already?” Joe asked, staring into infinity.
“Right here,” responded Spaz with relief. He messaged them via the LAN.
A few minutes later the drone buzzed off and resumed it’s patrol of the abandoned condominium complex adjacent to the field where the little band was camped. Everyone held their breathe, watching to see if their hacked drone would be detected as compromised and shot down by the others. But they heaved a collective sigh of relief as it seamlessly merged back into formation with the other drones already on patrol.
“Oh nice,” said Spaz excitedly. “Our little messenger delivered a package right into the facility control systems. I’m in as root right now. We can just walk in the front gate.”
“That’s a lot of work for one night of lodging in a building no one has been able to afford for years,” grumbled Jerome as the group packed up their meager belongings and got under way.
“That’s capitalism baby, where would we be without it?” laughed Ling-Ling.