Welcome to your future.

Spaceships. Jet packs. Laser guns. 


Fifty years from now, the future will still be shaped by the mundane, the stupid, and the petty, living side by side with the Big Ideas. Dirty, shining, poor, glorious, filthy, and wonderful. 50.YFN is where we tell our future's story, hangover and all.

In its short life,
50.YFN has already become a very sharply defined setting, with unique language and history. Because of the ongoing storylines and broad geographical setting, we strongly recommend using the archives and category tags before throwing yourself in the deep end. Read the guidelines, take a look around. There's a truly talented pool of creators breathing life into our world Fifty Years From Now.

You are welcome to be a part of it.

And remember:

This is not a land-grab. There's no turf.  If you're a new writer, you have the same access to Brooklyn as I do, and as much an opportunity to leave your imprint on it. Don't be intimidated. Leave your brand on the future alongside everyone else. It's your world too. 


King of the Californias Pt IV

by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

A softknife isn't much more than a floppy length of plastic, malleable enough to tie in a bow until contact with electricity, when it goes rigid as aircraft-grade aluminum. At ease, the human body generates about 120 watts, and since electro-sensitive plastics aren't detectable by anything short of costly tight-bandwidth spectrometers, the softknife has become modern upgrade to the common prison shank. It’s not actually surprising, then, that Cecilio Goncz sneaked one past the Palma de Baís’s security. What's dazzling is that he got an actual chrome-and-ceramic pistol into his room, and used it expertly on the invaders who crashed midway through our interview.

From the balcony, I have a reasonable view of the suite’s living room, where Goncz confronts his attackers in the brutally forthright manner that death-proofed him against rival Los Angeles warlords. Three black-cloaked forms litter the floor, haloed by evaporating pools of their own vital fluids, decompiled by the expensive self-cleaning rug. Goncz stands over a fourth figure, bowed on its knees, hands pinned to a single thigh by the softknife, pistol to the throat. Goncz leans in, his lips moving. The lightning bolt livetattoos above his eyes flicker red and black, pale nictitating membranes blinking out of sync with his actual eyelids.

Distant bomb blasts over East Oakland remind me I was left outside for reasons apart from safety. Separated by a door of synthetic, grown diamond, I have a moment for contemplation. It is an important moment in my project. I have only gotten this far with Mr Goncz by being passive. History is littered with men like me, who maybe thought too much, pushed too hard at the wrong moment, and abruptly discovered just how disposable they were. Modesty has worked to my advantage thus far. So long as I balance my subject's monstrous past with my own clinical detachment, the project can continue apace. But as much as I want to remain in his good graces, I know this thing will never develop without some initiative. Scripted questions and canned answers won't get me my Pulitzer. Minor risks, I reason, will take me further than the safe route I've taken. I adjust the acoustics on my recorder, set it to use the balcony door as an amplifier, and am soon listening to my subject’s conversation.

“...did you find me?” he asks.

The survivor makes a moaning sound. I realize at that moment those aren’t black cloaks. They’re hijabs. Goncz’s attackers are women. When the survivor doesn’t make any meaningful sound, he twists the softknife. She shrieks.

“I’m asking nicely,” Goncz says evenly. “You can make this last five seconds or five weeks. I have all the time in the world to get an answer out of you.”

She shakes her head violently, mumbling rapidly under her breath. I adjust the volume. She’s praying.

Goncz clicks his tongue and shrugs. “Fine. Okay. I’m just going to leave you here to think it over for a little bit then, okay? Let me know when you want to have a conversation like a grown-up.” He presses the softknife to its hilt, effectively nailing her to the floor through her hands and thigh.

The soundproofing of the room is all that shields the rest of the hotel from the cries: piercing crescendo, tapering to gurgling sobs. Almost blows out my eardrums. I reduce the volume on the recorder. Loud enough still to hear Goncz smack his lips as he leans forward, kisses her lovingly on the veiled forehead. I see him pocket the gun, start sifting through his attackers’ bodies.

Hundreds of miles away, Los Angeles’ provisional government continues trying war criminals as they trickle in from the international manhunt, handing out lifetime sentences as soon as they step into the courtroom. They’ve imported thousands of counselors, therapists, medical groups, and health systems from mainland America to compensate victims of some of the most brutal human rights violations in modern history. Half of Los Angeles’s national budget is set to build a permanent healthcare apparatus to repatriate and normalize freed factory slaves, crippled Hollywood gladiators, and brutalized rape camp survivors. The women inside could have been any of these. Whatever their beef, they came to Goncz for justice, and leave this life disappointed. I watch Cecilio Goncz pick through their remains.

The ghosts of Los Angeles find no peace here in Oakland, a place where exiled kings dance atop crystal castles, and weak men sit at their feet, chronicling safely behind the wall of journalistic neutrality. The recorder's still going, animal grunts from the survivor as she desperately tries to un-skewer herself. Goncz whistles the tune from a children's show that was on in the background of our early interview. I'm sweating. At some point, I've squeezed the recorder tight enough to draw blood. Set it aside.

My project is mutating. I've lost my balance, fallen directly into Goncz's narrative, trapped as witness to another of his horrible secrets. Wondering how much longer I can hold out.

Before he discovers mine.


Keeping Up Appearances

by Kwasi A. Kwakwa, Tema, Ghana.

From the look of the IACU's commander, Ato knew he was going to die tonight. The Indigenous Authenticity Control Unit had been tipped off to raid his father's house, and had found the tiny Omatek superprocessor he usually kept hidden in a screened compartment under his bed. He had been really careful to not show it to anyone, too. His father had warned him about it many times. Not that his father would be warning him about anything else, anymore: all that was left of him was a black smear, residue from the decompiler bullet they had put in the back of his head as he begged for his son's life.

All Ato really wanted was to be able to play the same computer games his online friend from Shanghai played. The government-approved aid laptops distributed to his village school didn't have enough processing power to allow anything more than a basic 2-D version of the virtual world his best friend lived in. Everyone else out there had full sensory support through neural interfaces or, at worst, feedback suits that transmitted decently close representations of sight, sound, touch and smell. Recent advances in quantum computing made that kind of stuff cheap and pretty freely available these days—unless you lived in an Indigenous Control Zone like Ato.

The Zones resulted from a trend in international aid back in the 2030s, when thirty African countries came together as the African Economic Community, and managed to show some fairly phenomenal growth. The AEC ushered decent chunks of their population into the same consumption conspicuous middle class as the rest of the 'First World'.

The following outcry came from all sides. People concerned about the loss of the 'authentic indigenous African culture', and those concerned with their own futures in light of another billion people voraciously consuming the world's limited resources. The proposed solution was brilliantly disturbing: independent federal states within AEC, offered money to maintain reservations in a state of 'Indigenous Authenticity'. A place where people lived with minimal amounts of technology in 'harmony with the ways of their revered forefathers'. Which was, of course, political bullshit. Open borders and a common language led to massive amounts of migration and ensured that the Zones ended up composed of people who willing to give up technology for large subsidies. It amounted to carbon trading, taken to its logical extreme.

The Zones have become great tourist destinations for people interested in a certain mythical kind of Africa, while assuring the global elite of minimum competition for the Earth's resources. Of course, Zone guidelines on how people were to look, dress and act were strict, enforced by the draconian IACU. The proscribed list of technology was pawned off as disruptive to the tourist experience. People looking for a slice of 'authentic' Africa to stare at for a few hours didn't want to see natives using palmtop computers or neural plugs. They paid to see an atavistic backwater before returning to the comfort of their secure, climate controlled resorts. Use of prohibited tech could cause cuts to foreign aid, as 'overuse of quota resource quota'.

Ato and his father lived in the Togoland State, a piece of the former Ghana's Volta region, that had been home to politicians agitating for secession long before the AEC came into being. They managed to get themselves statehood during the formation, and then found themselves in need of money. The result, several Control Zones packed full of people without the skills to get jobs in the Ghanaian State's mines, nanotechnology industries, or the giant Nigeria-Benin manufacturing plants. In exchange for aid, they rallied the Control Zones, which were policed ruthlessly. Beatings were common for minor infractions like upsetting a tourist. The use of forbidden technology usually ended in disappearances. The IACU had absolute power, and wielded it in a manner their worst predecessors would have appreciated.

Ato's father was a fresh university graduate when the new requirements and technological innovations hit Africa's education systems. One of the last to be failed miserably by the crooks running things at the time, who considered Jaguars for their teenage girlfriends more important than schoolbooks. The Togoland state gave him housing in an improved laterite accommodation block (ring of mud huts), synthetic grass clothing and training in drumming, dancing and basic fluency in the main Euro languages. On the side he had supplemented his income playing Mandingo stud for female tourists interested in exploring the wild side of life.

His son grew up a precocious mathematical prodigy, stuck in a small town where using anything more advanced than the equivalent of a slide rule could get him killed. Naturally, he did it anyway. Naturally, it got him noticed, and naturally, that was going to get him killed. Just another smear of carbon up against some nondescript wall, all for wanting to be like his friends abroad. And unlike his games and movies, there would be no hero to rescue him at the last minute, no God Mode, no reset buttons. Just a brief flare of light and pain before the darkness took him.

All to keep up appearances.



by James Peach, Nashville, TN, USA

I'm in the mood to kill everyone in sight. It's too bad that my job requires the exact opposite of me.

I've had a record number of shooting victims on my shift tonight. I had a record number of shooting victims last night. Tomorrow night I might just set another new record by myself. I wonder if they'd count me shooting myself at the end?

If it isn't attempted murders coming through my doors, it's drug addicts. Tonight I had a lady come through that tried self-aborting. She was never pregnant. Our lab can't even figure out what drugs she's on, but that's nothing new. We're usually about a week behind when something new comes out, and something new is ALWAYS coming out. WHERE DOES ALL THIS GARBAGE COME FROM?

I should be working more on my research, but Dr. Edgar has been pissing me off lately, and quite frankly I'm tired of doing anything that benefits him, even if it's benefiting others, also. Every day that I have to be around him I have one of those headaches that you get when the anger in your soul is too much for your brain to process.

Last week a bunch of people came in with symptoms that were kind of flu-like. All of them seemed to know each other on some level, too. After speaking briefly, though, none of them wanted to talk to each other anymore. It was like they remembered that they had a secret and shut up, rather than risk letting on. I couldn't shake the thought that something was wrong with the whole scenario. At first I thought that maybe someone had messed around and put some of the Cumberland's water in their drinks, maybe they were all at the same party or something. Someone's idea of a joke, maybe. I just can't get my brain off of it, though.

It probably doesn't help that I haven't slept properly in so long that…well, in so long that I can't remember. Last night I was too tired to eat before bed, now I'm hungry and there's no time for food. Gotta save lives so people can go back out there and find some new way to almost kill themselves.

I'm tired of doing surgeries that I don't even remember because my mind was elsewhere. 4th of July is coming up. Sure, it'll bring in a crap load more patients from Riverfront, but at least it will be more interesting. It's always funny to see what new ways everyone comes up with each new year to disfigure themselves with explosives. My favorite is still The Man With One Asscheek. He was hilarious. If I were more like him I could be happier. He lost a ridiculous amount of blood that year and has to carry around a phonebook to place under himself so that when he sits down he doesn't lean. The night we fixed him up he went right back out into the streets looking for more fireworks. He loves celebrating. He has no idea what he's celebrating, but he doesn't care. He just like blowing shit up and drinking.

Best damn funeral a country's ever had.


The Last Black Woman In Brooklyn

by Tasha Hanna, Bushwick, Brooklyn, USA

Bed Stuy, NY

Bush died today...

I SAID Bush died today.

Who ma?

...the forty third president. You know when New York lost the first trade center and America went to hell.

Yes mother, we know. When companies ruled the world through the illuminati, when Brooklyn was invaded by white folk and Bush didn't care about black people.<

Don't mock me.

Would I do that?

I gave birth to your ungrateful behind, the least you could do is listen to me before I go senile.

You're already...

What?! I may have given you your trust fund already,but i'm still on the board, I'll have you out on the street so fast with those "closer nature folk"...

Relax mother I'm just tired.

Tired?! You don't KNOW tired. Taking a 45 min train to school, walking home during the black outs, working 8,9,10 hours works days, two, three jobs. Manually turning on the TV, AC, Physically opening doors...doors with KNOBS for that matter, actually talking to people. pssssht you don't KNOW tired.

But things are better now right? Could you turn down the volume on your headset mother? Your shouting at me and I have a headache...

If you actually listened i wouldn't have to 'shout'. Where'd all the black folks go?

Mother i'm right here.

Chile, you ain't black, you kinda look black if i squinted really hard

{Mumbles}... and you are?

I just miss the darker folk, I shoulda left NY when they said 'the people' were leaving. how you gonna have a migration and leave folks behind?! Even the brown latinos left i'm mean damn...

please watch your language...the grandchildren...and you're not the last black person in brooklyn?

well it sure feels that way

I love you too mother.

The Princess, pt. 1

by Michael Collett, State College, PA, USA

I pulled the vanity mirror down and watched her, visor obscuring my view of the road. My face took up the majority of the pane, and I smoothed my beard, any excuse to let my eyes roam. Driver's side window down, my fixer/driver -- known only to me as Handler Willy -- puffed a joint. Smoke trailed behind him towards her, following the bangs that cut across her forehead, alighted by the breeze coming through the car. She caught me, acknowledging my not-so-sly spy game with a wink and held her left eye closed long enough to give the flippant expression a little more emotion. Something brilliant in her gray-green eye fought its way from under the unnatural blue of her LiveContacts.

We had met a few hours before, as I trawled Old Sacramento looking for something for my editor, who had lodged in my ass about deadlines the minute I landed in Oakland. I had strayed into the Cease-Fire Zone looking for a cross-street to meet a contact. Apparently the river relocation project of 2030 had changed what neighborhoods were east or west of the American.

Been a while since I've been home.

The Cease-Fire Zone--essentially what was left of Old Sac, downtown and midtown--was held together by a multi-lateral agreement made a few years back by the ruling Golden Bear Party, with as many insurgent commanders as the UN could get to sit together at the old Lake Merrit Hotel down in Oakland. The agreement pushed any remaining civilians outside the perimeter of the Capitol City MegaFreeway.

Like most of the cease-fires in NoCal since the Little Big One, it had accomplished its exact opposite intent, leaving the once beautiful downtown and state capitol a bullet-riddled no-mans land. Golden Bear paramilitaries, guerrilla forces and the ubiquitous Shock Police (whose presence was no longer shocking) battled incessantly for control of center city and access to the elevated roads. Bodies stacked higher every day, no side able to control any stretch of the still pristine MegaFreeway for more than a few days.

Ducked into an abandoned Motel 6 off Stockton Boulevard, out of the middle of an escalating firefight between pro-Pivens factions. Despite their ideological alignment, minor disagreements tended to escalate quickly. Could hear sirens: the Shock was coming, they would only make this worse.

Took the stairs two by two, kicked in the door of a room facing the fighting, and set up my tripod in a blown out window, intent on making the best of my time waiting the skirmish out. When the Shocks' 'BadNews' ordinance started dropping, I was already photographing. Figuring strays might hit the building, I folded up quick, and made for the ground floor.

Bounded into the lobby and saw her. She was toting an antique AR-15, firing at a straggler who had spotted her. She nearly shot me when I took her picture, but heard the ominous whistle of an incoming drone mortar, and decided to run. Hot on her heels, I raced out of the hotel, clearing the faux-Victorian façade just as it came crashing down, landing on her. We held each other wordlessly in the aftermath, our mutual distrust overcome by the simple realization of survival.

She joined us in the gray Toyota hybrid SUV, almost as dilapidated as Sacramento itself, clutching her rifle to her chest. Handler Willy piloted us out of the Zone towards Roseville. I grabbed my camera off the floorboard and snapped her picture again, capturing the haunting face in that vanity mirror.

She had mastered a hodge-podge style of dress, typical of many guerillas I had run into since covering the West Coast. In spite of this, her garments had an unmistakably regal nature that she had perhaps been born into, only to have lost in the violence. She was certainly on her own now, but still wore on her lapel a silver variation Jolly Roger, typical of the now defunct buccaneer syndicates from Oregon and Washington; she paired it with what appeared to be a rose, made of ballistic shell casings.

Physically, she was a sight to behold; in her boots, she nearly looked me in the eyes, making her at least 6 feet tall. A few well placed scars -- including one snaking out of the back of her shirt to behind her left ear -- showed she was no stranger to a firefight.

We made it past the MegaFreeways, eastern foothills rolling out ahead of us, sun setting at our backs as we climbed into the smog belt, avoiding the roadblocks, bandits and generally bad drivers on the main roads. Me, Handler Willy and my ticket to a Pulitzer Prize in the back seat.

From the hills, you could almost forget the central valley was on the brink of civil war. As the sun finally bid its goodbye and the golden-grey of the city night took over, Sacramento's visage felt particularly 20th century: downtown's high-rises, the arresting image of capitol dome cracked open like an easter egg, and the endless fields of lights, pockmarked with dark spots where insurgents had cut power. Lovely, just don't mind the sporadic tracer bullet fire crisscrossing the city like so many crimson lightning bugs.

Had Handler Willy drop us at a darkened café at the edge of an exterior suburb where I had a contact. It was the only structure left standing in what looked to have been a grotesquely decorated south-western motif strip mall.

Hopped out of the passenger seat and reached back behind it to unlatch it for her. Quicker than I, she reached the seat handle, swung her legs over my outstretched arm, landed feet-first behind me, reached around to the passenger side floorboard and grabbed my camera bag from me. She, apparently, was less concerned with the moment we'd shared -- or my Pulitzer -- than with how much she could sell my equipment for.

To be continued.


Bloodlines, Pt I

by Dominick Brady, Atlanta, GA, USA

Statesboro, Georgia

The room was warmer than I thought it would be. Stiff steel chairs made the wait more uncomfortable. The interview table, a makeshift serving table with some grunt's raspberry jelly and cheese-egg stain clinging to the far leg closest to the slate-gray cement wall rattled under Trevor's nervous paradiddles. A column of ants descended the wall, spiraling the near table leg snaking along dutifully, orderly. Glancing at my watch, the irony of their military-like precision drew me deeper into misgivings about his impending interview with Lieutenant Brandt. Decisions were to be made. Today either a scapegoat would be chosen or I would become that scapegoat. As I ran my fingers over my Sergeant’s chevrons I began to wonder if I would be able to keep them. It wasn't fair. But since was life in Uncle Sam's Army fair?

The massacre began early on August 23rd- the day before the start of classes at nearby Georgia Southern University. Chow-hall talk had been consumed with cheeky braggadocio on the prospects of plump young co-eds, which condiments went best with their long, tan legs. Eager company had just come off day shift patrol responsibilities and despite the longer hours, many of the men looked forward to returning the Night Shift. With the night shift came cooler temperatures and extended patrols where a soldier had autonomy away from the ever watchful surveillance of O.C. It also meant that off-duty time back on base could be spent on campus taking in the local talent.

Regulations didn't permit contraband on night patrol, but the lieutenant often looked the other way, as he should. Night patrol is a shit detail and troop morale ain't found in the field manual. Temperatures in Da ‘Boro could reach near 85 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Couple the heat with the nightly stench from nearby Paper mills in Brunswick, Ethanol mills in Metter and Guano processing plants just outside of Hinesville and the orchestra of foul smells playing double time on olfactory senses was hellish. Night runners were aware of this advantage. Temperature regulating exo-suits and embedded personal area networks made the long nights more tolerable as we would often download contraband movies off hacked satellite feeds. The Net is a blister foot’s best friend.

The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team had been stationed in Statesboro for a little over a year now. Interstate 16, highways 80, 24 and 301 made Statesboro a critical junction the Pentagon did not want over-run with indigents. Cities of import such as Atlanta, Macon, Charleston and Savannah could be accessed by these highways. Fuel resources have brought the Greater Statesboro area a gold rush of sorts.

Universal Build Out laws dropped like flies over the years, and none of us noticed until the Digital Divide widened further into an unbridgeable gulf of desperation. Urban and Rural communities were hit hardest. With UBO standards abandoned, many inner cities and rural tracts quickly became ghetto war zones. What no one expected was for gangs and labor interests to mobilize into a two headed political and paramilitary thorn in the side of the federal government.

On the rural front cotton and corn farms engulfed by Corporate Agri-biz and eminent domain became the front lines of domestic terrorism and illegal migration wars.

Eager company’s order were to hold the line.

“I say fuck ‘em all, man. Geechies runnin, Guerillas runnin’— fuck it. I don’t give a fuck anymore. Tired of the shit, Trevor. View finder on my helmet’s had it. And I don’t see why we gotta lug ‘round these MOLLE’s on patrol, “ Tank griped. “Tank, Gator y’all just make sure y’all keep your eyes on that line. 2nd Squad caught a barker and lost two drivers last week. I don’t need that headache,” I replied. “You right, boss.”

Tank had a point. No one really wanted to be here any more in the South Georgia night engulfed in humidity, mosquitoes and cricket calls. Guerillas routinely mixed in with night runners attempting to flee the low country. It was getting harder and harder to determine enemy combatants from civilian illegals. Unattended ground sensors and satellite feeds warned of any incoming activity, but without knowing whether to go hot with live ammo, or to load rubbers good soldiers have gotten hurt. The men were on edge, the safety buttons were off.

At first the steady beep of the UGS didn’t catch my attention. A herd of deer was known to travel feed at the edge of these cotton fields at night. The beeping persisted. And with it came Brandt’s orders.

I shook my head in disbelief. Squinting down the column of parked Infantry Carrier Vehicles, I observed a chorus of shrugs, scowls and sneers echoing down the line. Was Lieutenant Brandt serious? “Here we are on the brink of civil war, and he wanna go and command some bullshit like this? Fucked up in the game, aint it,” I said, turning to Gator. He shook his head and stared off into the high cotton. Gator didn’t say much these days. It wasn’t in him anymore. Some of these Night Runners were kin to him. I’m surprised his Geechie draftee ass ain’t gone A.W.O.L. already. I suspect he will any day now. That’s why I sleep with my Corner shot at a right angle. Just in case. You can’t trust much of anyone these days outside of the major cities. Everybody’s got an agenda. Labor, Agro-Activists, Radicals the shit is an unending list of the kind of scum you don’t mind cleaning off your boot after you’ve stomped on it a little, make it bleed. We’d been on patrol for just over an hour and Brandt is telling us to dismount already.

I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel right. Ain’t no telling what them Geechies and cousin fuckers had in store for us. We had to hold the line.

…to be continued.


Rico pt I

by Nichole Perkins, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Rico leaned against a building, ignoring the bricks’ burn onto his back. His blue sarong, eloquently knotted below his navel, brushed the heels of his feet, while waves of overly-long hair hid his face from view. Cars circled the block a few times before taking a short trip with an additional passenger.

He tapped a bare foot impatiently. It would be dark soon. He thought he’d be gone by now, preferably with someone looking to extend happy hour. If he didn’t catch one by nightfall, he’d have to go back to the dorm and the guardians would tease him again.

The thought of their taunts pushed him from the wall. He refused to listen to their scolding any more. He’d heard it too many times already. They’d tell him he used his pretty face as an excuse for laziness and that he had to work in order to get work. What he wanted was a protector, but he wasn’t going to find one on a corner in K-Town. Rico started to walk to the lockers to get his bag. He wanted to make a list of what he might need to do in order to improve the quality of his clientele. If he asked the guardians for help, they’d probably ask for a cut, and he was tired of giving them his money.

He’d only gone half a block when he felt a car pulled alongside him. The black exterior was nothing unusual but the wide whitewalls brought him up short. The Benz was quiet, its french fry scent of biodiesel faint, and that was more than enough to stretch a grin across Rico’s face. The passenger window eased down, and he was careful not to touch the finish as he leaned close and asked, “How can I perfect your evening?” He raked his hair back, uncovering the bronzed features of his mixed heritage, opening his face.

“Do you service women?” the whisper was not one of disguise or enticement. Rico’s smile stumbled before righting itself.

“How many and do I get breaks?” he quipped.

“You are too young.” The ruins of her voice cast shadows over Rico’s anticipation. He reached between his sarong and hip and pulled out a thin, laminated card. His employment license listed his current age as twenty and his most recent physical, three weeks ago, as clean. He let his smile fall and rested his forearms against the doorframe. She didn’t want silliness.

“I’m not too young to give you what you need, amante.” Promise, edged with desperation, filled his eyes.

“Get your things and hurry.”

Watching him lope back to the standard issue grey lockers, Asiya ran a hand over her throat, an old, useless habit.

…to be continued…


King of the Californias Pt III

by Monk, New York City, NY, USA

Midnight at the Palma de Baía is surreal and alarming. Atop a fifty-story spire shaped a bit like a melted candle, you can still hear the artillery in East Oakland's flatlands as the Northern Republic of California continues its purge of the Deep East Side. Guandong, another breakaway republic across the Pacific, has long subsidized arms sales to NoCal in return for preferential shipping rights, and with all this money floating around, the Pacific Arms race is at full steam. Combat drones made in the factory hives of Guanzhou screech overhead like pterodactyls, dropping decompiler bombs on ghostly suburbia. NoCal's Army uses Guandong-made bioweapons and nerve bombs to 'pacify' great swaths of urban NoCal, against almost every recognized convention of human rights. And while the old men in Beijing stomp their feet in impotent rage, their dreams of Chinese hegemony stalled when the wealthy provinces quit the country. They, like their counterparts in Washington, have learned some hard lessons in modern politics the past few years. None could teach these old dogs new tricks better than Prime Minister Benny Pivens, whose Golden Bear Party made its bones reclaiming vast stretches of the country and putting them back on the grid. Yet as the country's largest city, Oakland has proven particularly difficult to tame, especially given meager police resources. While NoCal's constitution gives Pivens sweeping power to maintain order, using the Army to clear the Deep East Side seems excessive to my tender Yankee sensibilities.

Cecilio Goncz fancies himself a scholar of the human condition, and I haven't the backbone to dispute him. He thinks my outrage is cute. Amusing, even. His own human rights record consists of petabytes of footage that might convince Dante to re-write his portrayal of Hell. Goncz's former territories were among the most savagely oppressed in Los Angeles' history. He justifies this often by remarking on how his was one of the few enclaves on the island with electricity and clean, running water. People ate regularly. There was rudimentary net access. Running local newsfeeds. Hospitals. Relatively low murder rate. Lowest infant mortality rate in Los Angeles. But all that was alongside death camps and narcofactories. A burgeoning slave trade and vigorous gladiator culture, arguably unparalleled since the days of ancient Rome. To this day, the provisional government has found his the least manageable of all its cantonments. Cecilio Goncz's throne was built of human bones. In his mind, Benny Pivens is an amateur. He says so.

"If he was smart," my host says, picking at his sharpened teeth, "he'd arm a counterinsurgency. Get one of the other gangs to do his work, absorb the survivors into the police or army. It's win/win. Blooded vets loyal to the state, and you've cleared the streets of dissent."

I have nothing to say to that. Our silence is interrupted by a distant explosion that rains combat drone over Jack London Square. Rumors place U.S. military advisers in East and West Oakland, arming guerillas. Pivens' public rhetoric has heated up over the past weeks. I quietly wonder if North America can take another war.

He lights a little black cigarette and answers my unspoken question. "People can take anything, kid. Human rights bastards wring their fucking hands all day, but people are resilient. I mean, shit, we didn't always have electricity, the net, cars, mortgages, and a Bill of Rights. We lived a long time before that stuff. Loving, hating, fucking, killing, making babies, losing babies—the whole thing. I mean, shit, homes: you think the first caveman complained about human rights when the next guy tried to step on his neck? Hell, no. He picked up a rock and beat the guy to death, or rolled over and showed his belly. That's what it boils down to when you strip away all the fatty tissue. That's people, homey. Get yours or get got. You'd be surprised how quickly people get used to that, no matter how civilized they been brought up. They adapt to adversity. It's what makes us what we are. Our dreams are only as deep as our nightmares, yeah?"

The livetattoos in place of his eyebrows have translated into animated Japanese, kanji characters tracking across his brow: 'Only God Can Judge Me.' I ask if he's saying humanity is only as good as the evil it does. He smiles.

"Look at us, esé," he motions to the penthouse balcony overlooking the Bay. "We're sitting on top of a building that was grown out of the fucking shattered Earth, yeah? Brasilian engineers come up the coast, seeded the ground with nanocrap, and five weeks later, I have a private suite with spigots that pour any drink I want. Furniture that grows out the damned floor and changes color when I clap. That's pretty amazing, right? But flip it around. That same nanocrap goes into decompiler bombs and man-eater bullets. Side by side, homey. That's the human condition. One foot in the gutter, one on the curb."

My follow-up question is interrupted by a crashing sound from inside the penthouse. Shapes move on the other side of the balcony's crystal doors.

Goncz's alligator smile widens, livetattoos morphing to red lightning bolts above his eyes. He passes me his cigarette. "Hold this, and don't smoke it," he growls. "Pendejos found me. Only a matter of time, I suppose. Stay out here. This shouldn't take too long." He pulls a long narrow strip from his belt buckle, quiet buzz as the softknife goes rigid with electric current. A tiny pistol has materialized in his other hand.

I had no idea my host was armed with blade and gun.

Or that I would witness him use them.


Running From Daylight Pt II

by Dominick Brady, Atlanta, GA, USA

Greasy with blood, my fingers fumble clumsily with the buttons on my cargo slacks, grasping for my mobile. I hand the phone to my wife. “Baby, I need you to call Doc. Tell him not to bother leaving. We’ll meet him at his place.” Glancing in my rear view-finder, my mother’s eyes meet mine.

“How’s he doing back there, Mama, ” I ask her. Before she can respond; I don’t have to zoom in to see Pops is fading, or to feel the panic in Mama’s grimace of a gaze.

“He’s getting pale,” she manages to utter.

Priority number 1 is for us to make it to Doc’s place, undetected. Priority 1.A is to keep Gideon calm. “Mama, you’re doing fine. Everything is going to be fine,” I reply to her, attempting to reassure us all.

The tunnel’s cement gray roofing gives way to transparent recycled solar cells as M.A.S.H’s eastbound connector approaches the Downtown Arts District. Off to the left Grady Hospital’s helo-port quickly rises and falls along the horizon line as we approach the assent onto the Edgewood Avenue exit. Doc’s place wasn’t far now.

Dr. Jean “Doc” Chera runs a tight ship. He has to. As a moonlighting Grady Hospital Cardiothoracic surgeon, Chera operates the most respectable 'chop shop' in the metro area. It’s a dangerous business, but if anyone uninsured, undocumented or unemployed needs to get cut cheap, quick and clean Doc is the man to see. City-wide Universal healthcare isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as many hoped it could be. Even with the overwhelming budget surpluses Atlanta has been spoiled with, the unemployed and illegal traffickers such as myself are not eligible for care. Chop shops may be illegal, but they remain as vital to the Atlanta economy and its untold thousands of ATLiens as the tunnels we traverse each day. Doc's celebrity as a childhood phenom secures him a provisional pass with the Juras. Everybody is a soccer fan, even crooked cops.

Doc, like many of my clients, enjoys not having to worry about annoying regulations and data licensing associated with registering for commercial internet service. US.net’s free bandwidth is fine for non-commercial use, but Google-Diebold’s cube mesh network is one of the few real bandwidth solutions for profit-seeking endeavors. I supply my clients with low-cost, high speed bandwidth by bypassing commercial data security systems. It‘s what pays the bills.

Doc and I have a special arrangement. As long as I keep Doc wired, my family receives free service.

We speed up the parking ramp of Doc’s chop shop at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Jesse Hill Jr. near the old Royal Peacock. For some reason, the Juras are not hanging outside the precinct across the street flirting with the Meth-head-crisps near the underpass. Vatos from the fighting Zone Five have a sweet tooth for Anglo putas. After making a quick dua for our stroke of luck I begin to ease Pops out of the backseat. What should take two minutes of quick work is taking the better part of ten minutes, getting pops secured into a wheelchair left next to the stairwell for handicapped patients. I never could get used to manual labor in the morning heat.

“You’re getting soft, playboi”, I laugh to myself.

Leaving Gideon in the truck with Mama, my wife and I struggle to pull Pops up the narrow stairwell into the chop shop foyer. The steady hum of generators and antiquated wall-unit air conditioners is almost soothing. We made it. Doc enters the room in a rush, and squats down in front of the wheelchair. Holding Pop’s left wrist he listens intently to Pop‘s respiration, before ordering the attendant to change the blood soaked dressing wrapped about Pop’s face. Mumbling something unintelligible into his voice pad, Doc scratches his head while walking away to his office.
I can’t read him.

“Well how’s he look,” I ask, growing impatient.

Doc pauses to give me a stern look, “There isn’t much time. Did you bring the boy?”

“Yeah. He’s in the car with his Grandmother keeping cool. When did you get these air cond-”

“We don’t have much time,” he barks, cutting me off.

Reaching into my pocket, I mobile Mama. There is no answer. With no time to waste, I touch my wife gently on the arm letting her know I’ll be right back. The stairwell’s sweltering heat is nearly unbearable as it harmonizes with the steaming stench of vagrant’s piss. At this point I just want the day to be over. With my sweat glistening forehead throbbing I enter the tiny parking garage wiping my brow. The car is gone. In it’s place is a sealed envelope. Quickly snatching up the envelope I sprint down the parking ramp to the street. “What if they were kidnapped,” I wonder aloud. I stumble down the steep descent, nearly falling into the street. Bracing myself against an old deserted Hyundai Genesis, my eyes search left along Jesse Hill Jr. before turning right to peer down Auburn Avenue. The streets are barren. No one but criminals, cops and fiends are on the streets at this hour anyway. What the fuck is going on here?

I open the letter. Marked with an official City of Atlanta police seal, it reads:

We need to talk.
Major Carlos Vasquez,
Zone 5 Commander.'