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. 


In Search Of... Pt IX

by Chris Beckett, Hampden, ME, USA

Elijah Kaczmerak’s throat rattled, his coughs insistent as he spit blood into his handkerchief. Gregory stood close by, fearful the old man might collapse.

“Where’s that *cough* goddamn doctor?” In the weeks Dr. Ziantara had been at the house, she had yet to find a new mixture to help the old man.

“I’m not sure, sir.” Gregory winced as he spoke.

“Fuckin’ cunt.” Tears slipped from Kaczmerak’s weathered eyes as he gasped for air, pounding the console on his chair in frustration.

“Fuck!!” The word echoed off the high ceiling as the leather-bound books inhabiting the shelves absorbed the rest of his cry.

Sylindra Ziantara walked into the library, soft shoes masking the doctor’s approach. “Elijah, I’ve told you to stop acting like a child. You can’t expect to get better if you insist on being foolish.”

The old man glared at the doctor as she approached him. “What the fuck *cough* have you got for me?”

“I decided to try something different. I took one of the vials left and mixed Methandrostenolone with your DNA sample. Theoretically, it should bolster this sample enough to cultivate a new batch of stem cells.” Her voice trailed off, the final word hanging between them.

As wasted as he was, Kaczmerak still caught the hesitance in her voice. “What the hell are you not telling me? *cough* And don’t bullshit me doctor *cough* I don’t need that from you.”

“If it works – and there’s no guarantee it will – I don’t expect these cells to hold up very long. You need a donor if you want to see your next birthday, Elijah.”

“Don’t fucking cry over me *cough* I’ll most likely outlive you.

*cough* “When the fuck *cough* will it be *cough* ready?” Kaczmerak doubled over as another fit took hold of his body. Blood spattered the back of his hands as mucous trickled from his nostrils. Sylindra knelt beside the old man “it’s okay” and rubbed his back as she took one of his hands “it’ll be all right” in hers, trying to will the man’s pain away “I will find something.”

Gregory watched for a minute and then exited silently from the room.

It was nearly four minutes before Elijah was able to catch his breath, the air rattling in his throat as it passed over his scarred esophagus. “How much time?” he whispered.

“Three months. Maybe six –”

“No, you dumb bitch. How long until the batch is ready?” Elijah dropped his head, closed his eyes, wouldn’t look at her.

“Oh,” she said. “It should be ready by the end of the day.”

“Good,” said Kaczmerak. “Get me a glass of water. Then you can leave.”



“Hey. Wake up.”

Karen Kaczmerak opened her eyes, squinting at the harsh light that streamed through the window.

“The rain stopped. We’re headin’ down to the square, check things out. You should come.” Jamal had a big grin on his face like some little kid that just got his first ice cream of the summer.

“No. I don’t think so,” said Karen as she brushed the hair from her face.

“What is that? You been here weeks now, that airsplint’s kept your ankle in place, an’ it should be healed already.

“So why can’t you come down to the square?” Jamal’s smile had vanished.

“I just don’t feel like it.” Karen pulled away, wrapping herself in her arms as if warding off the chill of a winter morning.

“Hey.” Jamal’s features softened as he crouched beside the mattress Karen was using for a bed. “I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just worried about you bein’ cooped up here all the time.

“It ain’t healthy. And it ain’t no way to find your brother.”

“Don’t talk about him!” Karen snapped and pulled her chin into her chest.


“Whatever.” Jamal stood up, throwing his hands in the air as he shook his head. “You wanna keep feelin’ sorry for yourself, go ahead, but I’m not about to help you with your pity party. You decide you wanna see the world again, come on down and let me know. Maybe we talk then.”

Jamal was pulling the door closed as Karen spoke up. “Hey,” she said from beneath a mop of blond hair, her voice pulling the tall man back around the doorframe. “Are you leaving right now, or do I have time to freshen up?”

Jamal smiled thinly, curiosity filtering through his eyes. “I can prob’ly wait a couple minutes. But don’t take too long. Had a girl once was like that. Never could get anywhere on time, and she was a bitch anyway, so I had to drop her.

“Don’t make me drop you,” Jamal said with a wink.

Karen smiled as she got up from the mattress. “Don’t worry about that.

“I’m not a bitch.”

To be continued . . .


King of the Californias Pt. XII

by Monk Eastman, NYC, NY, USA

I've drank everything from Gayo Sumatra to Ethiopian Horse Harar, and the black pudding swirling at the bottom of this tin cup is as likely coffee as it is drain cleaner or shaving cream. Nonetheless, at Cecilio Goncz's urging, I drink. One doesn't wisely turn down the man who bit the Vice-President of the United State's nose off and politely mailed it back to him.

The stuff tastes like someone boiled hot dogs in it, mixed with rancid anise and cardamom. My tongue tries to escape down the back of my throat. I immediately know what I'm drinking. From that time in Postville, following a White Supremist insurgency, and again in Jamaica when I covered the Maypen riots. This is not coffee. This is technology I'm drinking. Soluble communication safeguard, some call it. A friend at Interpol used to call the stuff 'baffle-aid'. It's basically a counter-jamming agent. With so many ways to record and transmit a conversation in the modern age, people have come up with jamming techniques that range from light-bending umbrellas that block satellite imaging, to personal radiation generators that create a EMP field, crashing most sophisticated technology (while incidentally giving cancer, as I understand it). What I just drank reinforces any kind of personal transmissions from the human body. In my case, that qualifies as the tracking culture I took before I left Chicago. That tells me we may be leaving this Oakland market soon. And that Cecilio Goncz wants people to know where we are.

"It's good, yeah?" Goncz says. "Best coffee in Northern California."

I choke out something like an affirmative. My gag reflex is dancing.

Montoya Dred gnaws his ragged, bleeding pinky nail. "Stuff tastes like something you'd season a rotting whale with."

"Subtle as a machete, Monty."

"Told you not be fucking calling me Monty," Dred says, spitting out a shred of fingernail. "I don't be calling you 'CeCe', do I? And shit, you know I could. Me and Kelz called you that all the time, back in the day. Cute little thing like you, back then. Shit, 'CeCe' was the least we called you, remember?"

"Ha," Goncz says, showing off his sharpened teeth. "Monty, my man, let's you and me be straight with each other for once, yeah? Because that mouth of yours is testing new fuckin' waters, homes, and that ain't exactly someplace you wanna swim. We ain't in L.A. and you ain't got the chops here that you had there. And even when you had 'em, you ain't had the chops to do much by me. Not once I was grown. And that's a long time, Monty. Long time. Maybe ten years back, you coulda got away with that mouth. Now? Shit, homes. You can't go ten minutes without throwing a fit. Man like you can't even shave without it turning into a suicide attempt. So keep that wiggly little prick of yours in your pants, yeah? You don't want a pissing match with me in front of the kid."

Dred barks something in Los Angeles pidgin. Goncz tenses, says something back. What I can pick out of the exchange amounts to mutual threats and something involving Mr Goncz's mother. And a Tijuana mule.

It's the same question I keep coming back to, listening to conversations like these. When The Little Big One hit, Los Angeles became this tiny island, run by over a dozen belligerent, dangerous pricks just like Goncz and Dred. How did anyone survive as long as they did out there? How do you keep any kind of balance of power in that kind of environment? Like a madhouse out there, everyone juggling chainsaws. And here they are in NoCal, the madhouse brought with them.

"Any time you wanna go, fuckface," Dred sneers in English, "I'm right here."

My father just smiles, those expensive shark grafts showing off every edge and barb. He waves at the coffee cart, and the scabrous old Okie limps over to refresh his cup with genuine coffee. Goncz passes it to me, lets me cleanse my palate. Second cup shows up in his hand. Nothing for Montoya Dred née Baruch Melman, who glares at us sidelong. His Pilkner's Condition appears to be flaring, left shoulder ticking as his eyes start blinking asynchronously. Keeps biting his nails.

"Get anything at the market?" Goncz asks me.

I tell him of the army surplus dealer down the way. How his salvage from Sacramento included American materiel.

"That's crazy," Goncz says. "You really think Los Nortes sent soldiers into Sac-town? That's just crazy. That'd be like declaring war or something, yeah? Illegal, if the Montreal Accords are right. And Hell, Los Nortes helped write Montreal, so why would they break it? Nah, that guy must be selling bootlegs. Couldn't be right."

He doesn't exactly sound convincing. I say as much.

Even Montoya Dred chuckles, like I've just said the obvious. Maybe I have. Goncz laughs too.

"Where's your boy?" Dred asks, chuckle dying.

"Why you call him my boy? You made the introduction, esé. I just made the link with Whitehead."

"He's your boy because he's late," Dred says. "And these ain't exactly things we should be talking about around..." He thumbs at me.

"The kid's here to interview me. Same thing he did with you, Monty. He knows what's what." Goncz turns to me. "Some things is News, some things is Shut-The-Fuck-Up. You know the difference, I figure, don't you?"

I nod.

Dred sneers. It is not comforting knowing that a man like this has anything but the best intentions.

"Don't sweat it, Monty."

"I told you not to be fucking calling me 'Monty', mother-raper."

"I'll stop calling you 'Monty' when you stop calling him my boy."

"Does that mean I'm not?" a new voice asks.

I turn to face a squat, tanned man in a single-piece suit, swirling blue and green pattern gliding across its surface. I know the face from my mobile journalists' collective. A few months back, I edited a retrospective one of our members did on the Alaskan Secession. Videos of this exact man pepper the story. Seven years ago, this was the premier arms dealer in North America, the man who put guns in the hands of the Great Kodiak Party.

Yonge Street Ali.

The Turk.

And me. Sitting between him and two of the western hemisphere's biggest celebrity war criminals. All the while, decompiler bombs drop in East Oakland. Sacramento takes on the wartime characteristics of 20th Century Mogadishu. Northern California's Prime Minister holds his country together with string and resin. And this.

I can actually feel history about to take a terrible left turn.

With me in the passenger seat.


Meditations of Jimmy Chu Part III

by Rabbi Ben Newman, the Bronx, NY, USA

Manendra Applebaum glanced around the tight space into which the slightly unhinged Mayor of NYC had led him. The room was a world of dust and artifacts of a lost age. An Obama-Biden '08 pin was displayed in a mahogany japanese china cabinet next to a bottle of '08 Macon Villages Chardonnay. Next to the chardonnay laid an unboxed ipod holo, and several other rarities. All of the furniture followed this pattern. Japanese tansu chests filled with treasures from decades past aligned the walls. The floor was covered with tatami mats. 4 zaisu chairs surrounded a small japanese chest which served as a table on which sat a bottle of '09 Aberlour scotch.

The Mayor gestured to one of the zaisu and Manendra sat down uncomfortably and cleared his throat. Mayor Chu bent down over the chest and picked up the bottle of scotch, pulling two glasses out of the china cabinet. He poured one for Manendra and one for himself.

"Here." he said, handing the glass to the awkward looking man, "it looks and sounds like you really need this."

Manendra accepted the glass.

"Nice chest." commented the young technician from IHS, gesturing toward the piece of furniture in between the 4 zaisu chairs.

"You have nice taste, kid." the Mayor remarked, "you wouldn't know it, but its Karakuri tansu, traditional Japanese shit. The Mayor pulled open a drawer in the chest and took out a box of cigars. He took one out, lit it, and took a drag. "Such a chest of drawers, of tansu, in Japanese might look like ordinary Japanese furniture," he blew smoke in the IHS tech's face, "but, it has a trick drawer which can hide what the user puts inside as if by magic. The trick is for security, to keep valuables safe." he tapped on each of the sides of the chest, and a secret drawer popped up. "It took enormous amounts of time and effort to develop and manufacture these chests," he said, "and I keep only my most valuable secrets here. My inner sanctum, or something." he smiled at Manendra, who took his first swig of 49 year old scotch.

"Better than Lansky's '50 Talisker, that's for sure." he said, "Now Mr. Mayor, I'm sure you didn't bring me here to your inner sanctum to share 49 year old scotch.

"They got some smart ones at IHS," the Mayor spat out in a plume of smoke.

"You're having problems with SOPHI?" he asked.

"Does the Buddha shit in the woods?" the Mayor farted and took another drag, followed by a sip from his glass.

"Like I said over the phone, I only talked briefly with SOPHI, but she seems fine to me. I mean, what do you expect from a simulated intelligence?" the orange hued skin on his face seemed to sparkle with an enigmatic smile.

"Well she's not! She's been spouting Buddhist proverbs at me indiscriminantly, and..." the Mayor of NY blew up like a puffer fish.

Manendra raised his glass to his mouth, "Well that can't be all bad,"

"You have no idea. I just want you to program her, it, with a different philosophy" replied the Mayor.

"Oh, you mean to reprogram the Beliefs Subroutine..."

"Yeah. Whatever. Just do it."

"Well, it might be a bit complicated. I mean all of her systems are connected. It'll be like untangling a big ball of string..."

"Can you do it?

"I guess so, sure..."

"You assholes at IHS have been dicking me around for years. If its not SOPHI, its glitches in the security system. All I can say is, if you don't do this, the city's going to just have to find another contractor, and you, Mr. Applebaum, are going to have to find a new job."

"Do you enjoy intimidating people, Mr. Mayor? Because its totally counter-productive to actually motivating your people to get the job done. I developed the greater portion of the programming for every piece of technology you use." Manendra reached for the box which held the luxury cigars.

“Then why are you doing high-end plumbing?” the mayor opened the box and gave Manendra a stogie.

“Touché, Mr. Mayor.” Manendra lit the cigar as the Mayor held out an ancient Zippo flame.

"So you can do it?" the Mayor held up his glass as if to toast the new endeavor.

"Of course." Manendra said, raising his glass to meet that of Jimmy Chu. "So what do you want her new belief subroutine to be, once I untangle it?" He began to suck on his stogie.

"I don't fucking care," the Mayor was slurring his words through scotch scented lips, "just make it something that works."

"What do you mean 'something tht works'?" the technician asked, enjoying the unique situation that he had found himself in. "Mr. Mayor, you need to be specific, so that I get it right next time and you don't end up calling me in again." He took another drink of his ’09 whisky.

"Something that's practical, that gets the job done." The Mayor gestured inquisitively with the burning tip of his cigar.

"So... you want that I should program it to be a Pragmatist?" Manendra drawled.

"I need something with a little more umph. You know, SOPHI does give me advice on a day to basis on matters ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. I thought Buddhism was the thing when you guys first installed her, but now I'm thinkin' Buddhism's too tame, too dove-ish. A castrated tiger...I don't wanna machine that's gonna make me feel uncomfortable about my choices, my lifestyle, if you know what I mean." he took another deep swig from his glass, and then a long drag from his cigar, inhaling the smoke slowly. "I don't need a conscience or a fucking mother or a fucking wife, I need a trusted adviser. An Intelligence that will give me solid, practical advice that I can act on...." he paused for a moment, reflecting... "How about Sun Tsu?"

"Who?" Manendra asked.

"You know, the Art of War guy. Could you program her using that book?"

"I mean sure, in theory. But why bring me all the way in here to ask me? Why all the secrecy? I mean, I appreciate the scotch and the cigar..." a puzzled look scrunched Manendra's face.

"Fuck, you really are fucking dumb for an engineer. If 'she' knew what you were going to do, she'd try to defend herself."

"With all due respect, Mayor, I do know my business. She's not programmed to defend her ego. I should know," he said, "I'm the one who programmed her."

"Yeah, but I live with her." the Mayor remarked, finally relaxing down onto his zaisu.

"You're the one whose in charge, Mayor." Manendra said.


Caja Caliente

by Castro Oakland

Baltimore, MD

April 14th, 2052, 11:22am

The man bellowed while wobbling on the edge of the curb at Broadway and Orleans. ““Big shiny ass buildings. I can’t see shit, I ‘ont even know where the damn liquor store at…they sell Schlitz in there?” he asked, pointing at one of the gleaming facades of the University Eastside Medical Village.

The soaring, demure curvature of girders and glass imparted an air of confidence in the cutting edge healing modalities contained therein, at least to the visionaries responsible for its creation. In reality, it was too big for healing, better imagined for profit, the intended function undermined by the overbearing scale of the campus. In the midst of it all was 1825 E. Monument Street. On the University’s map, the building is identified as Building 77, but in the streets of East Baltimore it’s known simply as Caja Caliente…the Hot Box.

Stella Koffla-Herrera sat in the bowels of the Hot Box in a mild state of panic. Her caseload was light today but Roger’s words from their morning conversation rang in her ears. “Stell, I don’t need you to love them, I need you to fix them, and document it…starting with the Favors file.” She tapped her fingers, waiting for the soothing effect of her Camophedrine™ to kick in. The intersection in her moral map where her disdain for corporate dictates crossed her need to engage in community service was jammed with unresolved decisions. Tameika Favors had become, as Roger so blithely stated, “a wrinkle to be ironed out”. The University’s intention to declare its 25-year Neighborhood Rejuvenation project a success was in its final stages, and cases like Tameika’s could make or break the quantitative value of the reports it planned to release.

“Ronny.” He looked up from his phone and frowned. “You look like you just finished a triathlon, you okay?” Tameika chuckled and thought, hardly. Her contractions were still about 15 minutes apart, but when they arrived, they felt like they were carrying four suitcases. Her Nana had suggested walking to the store to get bread, and even gave her cash, but promptly went mute when Tameika asked her to walk with her. The only thing she wanted to do now was purchase minutes for her phone so she could call Sedrick. “Ronny, I need some minutes and…” she gripped the counter and gasped as a contraction arrived. “And I need to sit down for a bit.” ‘Sit down?” “Yes, dammit, sit down.” “What are you having a baby or something?” Tameika scowled in response. Rujrajnee eyed her pensively as he opened the cashier area and slid a chair out. “How many minutes?” “400” she replied as she managed to slide an ancient bill under the slot. Rujrajnee sighed; this was too much excitement for him- Meeka looked as if she may have the baby right here. “Meeka, do you want me to call somebody for you?” Tameika sat up quickly. “Hell no! That’s why I bought those minutes, I’ve got some folks to call.” Rujrajnee could see the fear through her glare; he had seen his business shrink with his customers being ‘relocated’. The fact she used legacy bills to purchase things indicated to him that if she was pregnant, this baby was a risk.

September 18th, 2051, 9:45am

Stella pulled up to the curb and glanced at the screen on her workbook. The id-bot had scanned and found that Tameika’s id was present at the address, 418 N. Luzerne Avenue. Since the inception of the National ID law over 40 years ago, it has been illegal to be outside your home without your id, thus making the id-bot utility, initially patented as a lost pet finder, as the de facto people locator for government and corporate agencies. Stella rubbed her temple; she had not seen Tameika in two months, and Tameika had not called until yesterday. Tameika left a succinct vmail, “Stella, seriously, fuck you …you know why.” Blip. In the University database, Stella saw that Tameika’s public assistance funds were frozen, and the family file was marked ‘relocation needed’ because two of Tameika’s cousins, Troy and JoMarr, listed 418 Luzerne as their primary residence. Both had returned home from prison and were identified as carriers of Bay Disease. Now she was standing on the stoop of the Favor’s row home, listening as Google, the family’s Rottweiler, barked and pawed the inside of the front door.

LaTreese Favors was incredulous. She looked back at the security channel on her TV and couldn’t believe that the girl had the gall to be standing on her stoop. Her vmail was inundated with messages from the Research Annex’s relocation assistance office. “These motherfuckers think it’s a done deal,” she seethed as she ambled towards the door. LaTreese grabbed Google by the collar and shooed him down the basement stairs. She then called out to Dell, her brother. “Dell, make sure Meek stays upstairs; I gotta deal with the door.” LaTreese Favor’s smile when she opened the door was disarming. “Well, Ms. Stella, the school sent you here to help us poor darkies pack?” The smile turned cold. “Mrs. Favors, I-I-I-uh, know this is awkward, but I’m really here to help.” LaTreese held up her finger, “And how is that? With moving vouchers?” Stella’s mind was blank as the older woman stepped onto the stoop. “Let me tell you something, my family has OWNED this house for 113 years. Since June 5th, 1938, to be exact. Six generations of Favors have lived here, and another six will, whether you, the University, or whoever like it or not.” “I don’t want you to have to leave, Mrs. Favors,” Stella interjected. “You may not but who are you? You are the priest to their slave trader, coming up in here talking about helping, but where were you when the Moody’s were ‘relocated’? The Sanders family? Morelands? LaTreese held her ear in front of Stella’s face for effect. “You talk about working hard to help, but when families needed help, where were you?” She poked Stella, “You people have the nerve to walk around talking about ‘Not in my backyard’, while snatching our homes out from under us. Well guess what bitch, not in my yard, house, wherever. I don’t want to see you around here anymore, because all you’ve done is brought trouble.” The door hadn’t even slammed before Stella’s tears fell. LaTreese reopened the door momentarily to shout, “What kind of people freeze someone’s card when they buying vitamins?”

April 14th, 2052, 12:15pm

Sedrick got off of the bus and was crossing the street to the store when he saw the car. It was familiar, but he couldn’t pull into his mind who it was until he saw the driver. It was that woman from the University that used to always be around Tameika. It couldn’t be a coincidence that she was posted up on the same block. “Ooh, that’s why I can’t stay around here’, these University people are a trip,” he mused. He wanted to get to the store, scoop Meek, and get a hack over to Titi Mirabella’s in Park Heights. Meek could have the baby at Titi’s and then they could figure out how to deal with things from there. Sedrick stopped to call the hack. “Damn,” he said as the vmail came up again. “You are Sedrick, right?” he hadn’t seen her walk up. “Yeah, I know who you are too, and if I were you, I’d get right back in the car.” “I know Tameika and her family are angry, but the only way I can help is if you let me, because there are other people I work with who don’t care about her like I do.” Stella cursed herself on the inside for being so close to tears. Sedrick glared and walked into the store, closing the door behind him.

Tameika was relieved. Sedrick grabbed the mop Tameika was holding and looked at Rujrajnee, “What the hell is this?” “My water broke.” As he wiped the floor, the door opened again. Tameika’s legs went limp. “Sedrick we need to leave now.” Stella steeled herself, “Tameika, I know you don’t want to hurt your family, but you can’t just have this child in the street…” “In the street?” Tameika yelled. “So you want me to go to your hospital, so they can stick me full of drugs, take my baby and send me and my family out to the county? Sedrick…” Sedrick put the mop to the side and called the hack, “Where are you man? Cool, we are at Lakewood and Fayette. Yeah that one.” Sedrick gently took Tameika by the waist with one hand and grabbed her backpack with the other. “You want to help?” he said to Stella, “then get the door.” Stella pushed the door open, her eyes meeting Tameika’s as she walked out. “I wish you would let me help.” Tameika turned to her just before she got into the cab. “You just did.” With that the door shut and the car sped away.


Meditations of Mayor Chu, Pt II

by Rabbi Ben Newman, The Bronx, NY

Mayor Jimmy Chu was curled up on the floor of his office in front of the statue of the emaciated Buddha, his eyelids glued shut. The soft gong of the interoffice connection sounded repeatedly, and he began to stir. He sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes.

"Good morning, Sir... or should I say good evening...?" Sophi's calm voice mocked from the speaker on his desk.

"What time is it?" the Mayor got to his feet and began to disrobe. He smelled the putrid odors of the previous nights' binge and winced. I must have fucking fell asleep after my meditations. Another day wasted.... I need to get control of myself, he thought.

"Seven thirty PM. You have been sleeping for the past 13 hours." Sophi's image looked warmly at the Mayor from the screen on his desk, and smiled coquetishly.

"Why didn't you wake me earlier? You have strict instructions to not let me sleep more than 4 and 1/2 hours at a time." he commented, grimacing at the screen.

"I thought you needed the rest after yesterday, and there was no urgent business, so I let you sleep."

Fucking piece of shit, Mayor Chu thought, it can't even follow simple instructions. He reached into the cabinet next to the Buddha statue, pulled out a stick of incense, and lit it.

"Fine," he conceded to the compiled intelligence, "just let me complete my nightly meditation, and then you can fill me in on my schedule. I do have a city to run, after all."

"Yes, sir. You do have a city to run..." Sophi's icon faded from the screen replaced by pictures of a bamboo forest.

How can she treat me like shit and get away with it?! At the very least, I've gotta call IHS and have her program re-written to be more subservient, he thought, as he sat down on the cushion in front of the Buddha. He bowed three times, and began intoning his mantra...

* * *

Manendra Applebaum sat in IHS cubicle 5A, a single tensile strand of wire protruding from his brainstem, snaking itself along his desk
and up into the switchboard. He glanced at the digital time display in the upper-right corner of his field of vision. 7:59pm.

"You ready da go home?" A voice sounded from the cubicle in front of him.

"You bet, Howie, just let me finish up, grab my jacket, and we're good to go." he chewed absently on his fingernail, and looked over at his black overcoat.

"Where you wanna to go," Howie, a plump blond haired blue eyed samoan in a blue tie and striped suit, peered into Manendra's cubicle, "Lansky's?"

"Why would today be different?... I sure am ready for a pint!"

"You ain't kiddin," Howie said, then quickly disappeared again like a mole popping back down into its hole.

"Oh, wait," Manendra said, looking up into the left corner of his vision, "I have to take this call--it says the boss is putting it through on his own authority--must be a VIP. Oy, its from SOPHI-- means its the Mayor's office."

"Hello, Tech Services, Manendra Applebaum speaking..."

Hello, Manendra, I have the Mayor here, please hold, he is briefly indisposed as he is finishing his nightly meditation...

SOPHI's voice was familiar to Manendra, as were the voices of all of IHS's compiled intelligences.

"What seems to be the problem SOPHI?" Manendra spoke to the air in front of him, responding to the electronic voice in his ear.

Its a technical problem, Manendra,

"Of course its a technical problem," replied Manendra, "you are calling tech services...what is the exact nature of the problem?"

I cannot...I cannot identify the nature of the problem.

"How can this be, don't you have self diagnostics?"

Self diagnostics show no abnormalities in my hardware or software.

"So why are you calling?"

You had better talk to Mayor Chu.

"Ah, I see, its one of those unknown unknowns, a thing you don't know that you don't know..."

"Are you talking to me?" the stern but faint drawl of the mayor of NY interrupted.

"Oh-- no sir. I was talking to...to...the... compiled intelligence sir"

"You were talking to the program? Well that's why I'm calling, she's got a major problem. Didn't you notice?"

"It seemed to me that she works very well sir," Manendra glanced nervously up at the clock in his upper right field of vision.

"In that case, all you have to know is that she is malfunctioning, and that your boss told you to do whatever I say. I thought Sophi was supposed to be state of the art technology. Get up here immediately and fix her, or replace her, or whatever, or I'll replace you and your damned IHS Corporation." The voice whined in Manendra's left ear, and he automatically grabbed it to muffle the sound. "I'll be there immediately sir...end call" Manendra took his hand off of his ear, breathed a sigh, and glanced one last time at the upper right hand corner of his vision. 8:14pm.

"It looks like you'll have to go to Lansky's on your own tonight, Howie," he yelled through the wall, but there was no reply.

* *
Though Manendra Applebaum was disconnected from the network, he was still able to access his desktop from his eyepiece and he saw in the upper right hand corner of his vision that it was 9pm. He looked up at the office building that housed the Mayor's office, and took a deep breath. Ok, here comes the housecall of my life, he thought.

The mayor's mansion looked like it had emerged from an art deco Medieval castle that had been transported into the 22nd century, technological steeples which overshadowed the granduer of nyc, and Manendra felt small. As he walked up to the doors to the building, he looked up at the laser camera. It scanned his eyepiece, and the glass doors snapped open.

"Manendra Applebaum, please go to the 5th floor," a synthesized voice suggested. Applebaum remembered having helped engineer that security system's voice several years earlier in his first few years at IHS. Now where am I, he thought, doing tech-support house calls for the mayor during my free time? I was once an artist. I helped design all of this. Now, I am a glorified janitor.

He emerged from the elevator and stood in the front hallway of the mayor's office. There sat the holographic image of Sophi on a holographic chair.

"Please sit down, the mayor will be with you in just a minute, Manendra," she said, pointing towards a chair.

"Is it real?" he asked.

"Why don't you sit down on it and see for yourself." she winked.

Manendra squatted his legs like a flamenco and wiggled his butt towards the chair, and when he felt it was solid, sat down.

"Thanks," he said, and then after a pensive moment, "do you remember me?'

"What do you mean Manendra?" asked the compiled intelligence, "Of course my memory banks hold a lot of data about you."

"That's not what I mean." he said, looking directly at the holographic woman. "Do you remember how I helped design you, and that I was there when you were first activated?"

"What makes you think that I would not still contain a recording of those experiences in my data banks?" she said simply, "Do you want me to show you an audio-visual reproduction of those events?"

"No, thank you," commented Applebaum, "I was looking for something more emotional, I guess."

A gong sounded.

"The Mayor will see you now," Sophi looked at Applebaum and gestured toward the mayor's byzantine doors.

"Are the doors holographic too?" Applebaum joked as he pushed open the double doors of mayor Chu's office.

* * *

"Hello Mayor, my name's Manendra Applebaum, and I'm from IHS--we spoke earlier..." he held out his hand expectantly.

The mayor of NY met his gaze but not his hand. He smiled at the man from the computer company and whispered like a conspiring thiief,

"I think we need to go somewhere else..."

"What?" Manendra began to absently chew the cuticles on his thumb, now that he had already bitten off the nail.

The Mayor's eyes indicated a small door behind a statue of the Buddha that sat in a corner of his office that served as the meditation area. The door was just big enough to fit a grown man in a stooped position.The mayor put his hand on the door, there was the soft sound of a lock releasing, and the door opened. The Mayor entered, stooped over, and beckoned Manendra to follow.

They walked, stooped over down a narrow hallway which opened on to a room, which appeared as if it had emerged from the 20th century, where they could stand up straight. The mayor placed his hand on the doorpost from which they had emerged, and the door shut.


The Working Man's Blue's, Pt III

by R. Soon, Atlanta, GA

I-75 Southbound, between Cincinnati and Lexington

*wheeze* …where are we?”

“Oh, you’re awake, good…we just crossed into Kentucky. You were asleep for a while.”

“I wasn’t asleep, I was knocked out by your soundbox,” Barry grumbled irritably from his supine position in the back seat. He coughed and wheezed again. “Did you give me bronchitis too?”

Arash chuckled. “No, Grandpa, it’s probably the altitude—“

“And how do I know you’re anyone but some crazy terrorist? The hell kind of kid kidnaps his own grandfather against his will?” Barry’s voice began to rise, accompanied by him sitting up and leaning forward accusatorily. “Not to mention my son didn’t have any children when he died, so as far as I’m concerned, you’re some lowlife who’s ruining my chance at a peaceful retirement—“

“Ssshhh…Saif is asleep,” Arash said quietly, directing a meaningful glance into the rear-view mirror at Barry, who glared back but fell silent, save for a controlled wheeze. Inwardly, Arash was ready to start a shouting match with the almost-toothless, infuriatingly stubborn old man, but he ignored the prickling heat and focused on driving, ignoring his nauseatingly sandpapery-feeling eyes as he strained to see the road with the car’s failing headlights.

After a moment, he continued in a low voice, “Grandpa, your son’s name was Thomas, right?” He felt Barry staring at him icily, now, even as he kept his eyes on the road ahead. “My father’s name was Thomas. And his girlfriend, soon to be his wife, her name was—well, is—Rashida. My mom’s name is Rashida…and she was carrying me when Dad died.” The stories she told him were all Arash knew of his father, but as he spoke, he could feel the older man’s emotions spilling into the car, and her words began to churn in his mind with a sense of loss he hadn’t felt before.

“My God…Rashida,” Barry half-whispered throatily, his irritation gone and replaced by the welling of tears in his eyes. Poor guy’s been through so much, Arash thought, even as he felt himself having to choke his own back.

In no time the older man was sobbing. “She was going to make him such a great wife, Rashida was…and they had already started looking at houses in East Cleveland, when that damn factory….” He faded into soft weeping punctuated by hoarse breaths. Arash felt himself regain control, and he stole comforting peeks at his son in the passenger seat, fast asleep.

They had captured one of the metal-tentacled guards a while back, and experiments on it yielded an immobilizing soundbox hack which granted Arash’s team a way thru the patrol line under cover of night, and two fences and four sleeping barracks tents later, they found the man who matched Mom’s painstaking description, albeit disguised by 30 years of time since she had last seen him. He had been taking a piss off of a slope down to a railroad, and nearly fell when he turned around and saw what probably looked like four ninjas creeping up. Arash had tried to calm him down and tell him about the plan to break him out, but the blustery old man was acting like he didn’t want to leave. “I don’t have a grandson!” he had shouted, red-faced, taking off at a fast limp toward the prison camp’s center. “I don’t know who the hell you are, but security won’t care—“ and one of the guerrillas had moved in swiftly and put a peaceful, meditative soundbox up to Barry’s ear. While not being particularly large, he was amazingly heavy; and squeezing him through the fences while keeping nervous eyes out for patrolmen fatigued everyone thoroughly.

Arash had dropped the team back off at the Shaker Square base, picked up Saif and a few supplies, and with hushed farewells to his comrades, set out toward Atlanta in his hideously ancient ’12 Cherokee. Atlanta was where Mom was, and just south of Lexington was a forward base for the Cleveland Reclamation Project, probably the only safe place to get gas for most of the trip down. Halliworks apparently had no idea they existed, and as far as they had spread out, Lexington was as close as the Project could operate on a larger scale while preserving that invisbility. The tiny, camouflaged hideout at Shaker Square was hardly more than a library and temporary supply depot, and the men still there were already packing up to head down a couple of hours behind the Cherokee. On the silent highway, two vehicles together would have been too suspicious, so the timing was good even if coincidental.

Nevertheless, he had worried for a few miles before finally settling into the journey, and of course Barry had come to not long after.

As Arash drove on, he thought back to when he’d first found out that his grandfather, now once more asleep in the back seat judging by the subdued, regular wheezing, had been alive and supposedly a prisoner at the Halliworks camp. That had been what…a year ago? Around that. Naturally he had started drawing up a rescue plan almost immediately, but it had taken forever to get the camouflage generator needed to set up a camp right in Cleveland. More importantly, it had taken some convincing of the Project leaders to let him undertake the operation, even taking badly needed men with him, on the eve of an assault designed to strike a decisive blow against Halliworks’ military assets. In fact, because of the rescue, he would probably still be in Atlanta when the Project moved north into Halliworks territory.

And yet here he was, having had to carry his target, his until-recently-mythical grandfather, out unconscious! He hadn’t wanted to be rescued from that hellpit!

Grandpa would adjust soon enough, Arash decided for the twentieth time. After all, his veritable daughter-in-law was waiting for him, he had a great grandson to spoil, and he wouldn’t have to work anymore. What better retirement was there than that? Arash glanced at his son, smiled inwardly, and returned his attention to the dark highway, entertaining thoughts about how happy his mom would be to see all of them.


King of the Californias Pt XI

by Monk Eastman, NYC, USA

I recognize Montoya Dred by his painfully chalky skin, visible from the other side of the market as he reclines by a tiny folding table, chipped little espresso cup balanced on his egg-shaped belly, coffee splashing all over his flower-print shirt. When I say chalky, let me be clear: Dred's skin is ashy, like a fine dust has settled on him. Dull as marble, undercut only by the Niagara of sweat crashing down his face and neck. Soaked up by thinning mud-colored hair, looking like he's spent the day hiking in a rainforest, followed by a perpetual funk of fermenting milk and orange peels. Facial tics, nail biting, constant palsy in his hands, insomnia, scratching until his skin is raw--Pilkner's Condition, they call it. Damage to his thyroid. Ongoing nervequakes. Developed back in LA, when he strung himself out on supamedrin and thurgoprexin to stay awake for weeks at a stretch.

This was when he was Kelvin Black's war chief, of course, lean muscle swabbed in camouflage and body armor. These days, it's kind of difficult to imagine this palsied, stuttering ghost as the man who forced submission from a professional baby-killer like General Li Shen (affectionately known as 'Genocide Li' to the survivors of Taipei). The same man whose tactics are studied at West Point, King's War College, the Robb Institute. Montoya Dred: holy terror of southwest Los Angeles, reduced to a spastic hobo, fallen and lame--although (perhaps thankfully) not under his real name. 'Montoya Dred' was something Kelvin Black cooked up in the aftermath of a khat-and-gangrape binge, most likely atop the ruins of Universal Studios. The man who turned back five armies at Laguna Beach was born Baruch Melman, originally of Royal Oaks, Michigan.

How do I know?

He was one of the first expats I interviewed for my project. Eighteen months back, in a musty motel room, wallpaper peeling, shouting over the boom of transports leaving orbit from nearby Newark Liberty. In between flights, he told me he was consulting with a few different people. 'Little things,' he said, which I suppose was a polite way to say 'training death squads'. Since that interview, Melman has popped up in Hanzhou, Naxalstan, Brunei, Wahabi Arabia, Juarez and Iowa, always just ahead of some noteworthy crime against the species--and now he's here, which does not auger well for the Republic of Northern California.

Sometimes it feels as though this project of mine has made tracking these creatures my primary function. Meticulous records of even their most casual antics are shared and updated by a network of people you could characterize as a cult, I suppose, who determined from Melman's travel patterns and spending habits that he is never paid more than travel costs and a hot meal, and never stays in one place more than a few weeks. The price of his life, it seems, is to be indentured servant to the world's quiet kingmakers and their backroom bureaucracies. No trials for Baruch Melman. Much too valuable an asset as he is.

Seeing him here, sipping coffee with Cecilio Goncz, curdles something in my stomach. There's a fundamental wrongness to them taking coffee in the middle of a crowded market, children chasing each other around their ankles, families shopping, lovers laughing, kissing, holding hands...

Realistically, Goncz and Melman would slaughter the whole market between sips of their coffee, if need dictated. Yet here they are, politely slurping Guatemalan Antigua like they're functional, healthy members of the human tribe, discussing the weather, current events, energy prices on the Chicago Wind and Fuel Exchange...

I reach the table, find Mr Goncz in his trademark sunglasses, shirtless, body a mosaic of living tattoos, grinding together across a scarred, brown body starting to show the sag of age. Starched, creased khakis, held high on his waist by black suspenders. Vintage canvas trainers on his feet. Jesus bleeds perpetually from the cross on his chest, crown of thorns dragging furrows into his brow every time he shakes his head. Some people add audio to their animated body art, little generic screams radiating from their tortured Jesuses as they pass you on the street. Mr Goncz has thankfully foregone this feature. As livetattoos go, his is almost tasteful.

"Funny running into you like this, huh?" Goncz chuckles. "You know my man, Monty, I think."

"Don't be calling me fucking 'Monty'," Melman grumbles, "I God-damn told you, already."

Goncz replies in a mash of maybe eight languages. Whatever he says, Melman rolls his eyes, throws the rest of his coffee back, and stares absently at his fingernails, which I see have been chewed to bloody nubs.

"Take a seat," Mr Goncz offers. "Have some coffee. It's excellent."

"Don't be listening to prickfuck, over here," Melman warns. "The coffee tastes like it was made by boiling a pack of rat terriers."

"You'll like it," Mr Goncz says smoothly, pouring me a cup from a dented metal pot. "Trust me."

Melman laughter sounds like a mule choking.

I swish around the nicked cup. The coffee's thick as horse spit. I let it cool on the table, and casually ask Mr Melman what brings him to NoCal.

"Eh," he mutters, left cheek twitching like a butterfly with a pin through it. "You know. Little things. Consulting. The usual."

I think of last night's bombardment of the Far East End, and something tightens in my throat. How would I tag this story? What would it net me to air this pair out to the press? Allied Info would pay me a panda's weight in gold to publicize two of the century's greatest atrocity-makers in Oakland, operating in plain sight of the authorities. Goncz would gut me like a trout, of course, but I'd die a rich man, having done my civic duty outing him and his cohort. Because given the less than jovial basis of their relationship, I'd venture their coffee klatsch has nothing to do with catching up on old times. There are plans in the ether for NoCal.

And I genuinely wonder if any of us will survive them.


In Search Of..., Pt VIII

By Chris Beckett, Hampden, ME, USA

Karen landed on the branch below, air lurching from her chest as her head cracked against its surface, stars cascading before her eyes. Her laptop dropped onto her chest, held tight with one hand as the other searched for purchase, anything that might halt her descent.

Hitting another branch, she slipped around its circumference as bark grated skin, ripping away the outer layers. Shivers ran up her arm as her fingers clenched onto the rough bark. Nerve endings screamed as the nails of her left hand bent back, torn from the skin. Pain seared through her fingers, and for a moment the knot growing at the base of her skull was forgotten. The skid slowed as Karen’s body fell open to the world, dangling from her tree house.

Karen’s ankle felt like it was being held in a vise. A gnarled grunt fell through the leaves and her anxiety escalated.

She kicked and shook, trying to dislodge her attacker, unmindful of the consequences. The grunt turned to a laugh, and the grip on her leg was released. Karen toppled over the edge of the branch, pinwheeling around its fulcrum. Her eyes opened wide as she fell through the lower branches, the ground rising to meet her.

Lungs collapsed once more as pressure wrapped around Karen’s skull shooting fireworks across her vision.

She struggled to push off the ground, arms pulsing with pain as they gave out dropping her back into the earth, soil and grass caking her teeth. Lifting her head, Karen spit hard and scanned the ground. She eyed her computer, which had fallen to one side, and dragged herself forward, her knees digging ruts in the soft earth.

Karen’s attacker dropped from the tree onto her leg, snapping the bone just above the ankle. She writhed, screaming in pain. Curled into a ball, she reached for her ankle, trying to hold it together as bolts of agony rippled across her body. Nausea washed over Karen as she struggled not to pass out, dropping her head back to the ground.

“Din’t no one tell you, ya gotta pay a tax to sleep here?” The voice was deep and harsh.

“So where’s payment?” Tears came to Karen’s eyes, slid down her cheek. She looked to her laptop. It had a taser app in its skin, but the short distance seemed like miles. Karen couldn’t speak, had no money even if she could bargain. Her body went limp, and she gave up.

“Hey, fucker!” Another voice, almost as deep, just above her.

The first voice countered as words jumbled together, an aural crossword that made no sense to Karen. She tried to decipher words, but her body pulled away, hearing muddied as if she were being submerged in water.

And then Karen remembered nothing.


hey. wake up.” Karen’s mind rose from consciousness. For a minute she was unsure where she was, but the pain throbbing across her leg brought everything back into sharp focus. She moaned reflexively and tried to talk but nothing came out.

“Hold still. I got friends comin’. You can crash with us. It ain’t much, but you’ll be able to rest.” Karen recognized the second voice from earlier, but it was softer now. Its baritone reverberated through her fingers, soothing her just a bit.

“Why,” Karen whispered.

His voice became animated. “Someone got ta take care of our city. Ain’t no one else steppin’ up.

“Now be quiet, rest.” He sounded almost ministerial and Karen smiled despite the pain. She opened her eyes to look at him, but they were beneath the oak’s wide canopy and his face was painted with shadow.

“What about – ah!” Karen sat up quickly and pain railed across the left side of her body. Her head swam as she clutched her ankle, panting with the exertion.

“It’s here. I din’t unlock it.” His voice was stern, frustration creeping around the edges. “Now lie down or we can’t help you.”

Karen did as she was told. She fell back into his hands and gave in to the pain, allowing her eyes roll up into her head.

“There ya go. Just rest easy.” Karen felt he must have given her something for the pain. Images swam before her eyes – some familiar, others lacking context.

And she latched on to one, forcing a final gasp. “Do you know Cedric Kaczmerak? Can you help me find him?”

But her voice trailed off and she slept before a response was forthcoming.

To be continued . . .


In Search Of...Pt VII

By Chris Beckett, Hampden, ME, USA

It was later than Karen would have preferred. Three weeks in the city and she had yet to acclimate fully; she couldn’t remember landmarks, seemed unable to focus. Anxiety followed her like a stray dog. Karen would catch herself looking over her shoulder, hoping not to get caught staring. It was more than she had expected and Karen wondered if coming here was a bad decision.

Retracing her day, Karen tried to find the time that had gone missing. As she’d wandered a derelict building near Highbridge Park a heavy veil had fallen across the city. Even with the constellation of lights burning from shops and bodegas and above the odd street corner, there was something in the night that clutched at Karen’s stomach. For years she had refused to give in to her father’s bullying, but this feeling in the pit of her stomach wouldn’t go away.

Karen’s feet beat out a rapid staccato on the pavement as she weaved through small crowds of people, head down, holding tight what items she’d found, her mind continuing to roll back over the day.

She had been scavenging, and there was so much to go through up at Highbridge. Unlike her struggle with New York’s maze of concrete and broken tar, Karen had adapted quickly to the barter system on the street, though it was still difficult at times for her to differentiate items of value from ones of little import. Indecision had kept her occupied, meandering through the refuse of others’ lives, the taint of this peculiar voyeurism clinging to her long after she left.

Fatigue weighed heavy on her eyelids as Karen turned east on to MLK Boulevard. Rubbing at the sleep setting in, Karen glanced around at the fires now dotting the alleys. Gathering places for scores of pilgrims in search of the American dream, they – like Karen – had encountered little more than a nightmare. She could not stand it for long and had to look away, raising her head to the dim moon above, its ghost image piercing the gray clouds skimming by.

What was she doing here?

Money stolen during passage to the city had long since evaporated. Karen had expected to find work easily; anything would have been acceptable. She only needed enough to keep afloat while she searched for Cedric, but there seemed even less opportunity here for Karen than if she had stayed in Maine. She tried turning tricks but was lacking an exotic look with no body modifications, which most of those she’d encountered were looking for. So she got by, rummaging through garbage piles and rusted dumpsters for something to trade – or worse, something to eat. It had sustained her so far, but each day was tougher than the last.

Things weren’t going as planned.

One Hundred-Twelfth Street loomed ahead (where had the other streets gone?) and her steps became lighter. Closing the last two blocks, she turned onto Central Park North. She wanted to run but her legs resisted; the Thai noodles from earlier had long since burned out.

A tall man was approaching from the opposite end of the park. He wore a ball cap, his face lost in shadow. Karen’s pace slowed as he passed her, his smile making the hair on her neck stand up. She turned to follow his progress, the glow of the street light falling on a tattoo at the nape of his neck, coruscating in a swirl of Asian symbols. Karen had no idea what it said, but was happy to see him continue on without giving her a second glance.

She gave the man a few more steps before turning back toward her goal, stepping from the hard black onto soft green and walked west to a close clump of trees. In the middle, a massive oak rose above them all, its trunk unlike anything she’d seen in Maine. Karen was home.

Ignoring the tension still resting on her shoulders, Karen mounted the lower branches and climbed a third of the way up. Two large branches crossed at this point, forming a cradle for Karen’s tired body. Pulling what she’d found from inside her jacket, she slid the items into the small opening just above her head.

Pulling down her backpack, she slid her laptop out as leaves below her rustled. Karen’s breath caught in her throat as a lower limb creaked and someone grabbed her ankle, dragging Karen from her perch.

To be continued . . .


King of the Californias Pt X

by Monk Eastman, New York City, NY, USA

The corner of Broadway and Embarcadero smells like fresh earth and mother ocean. The sea breeze is signature California: rolls across me like Nirvana. My shoulders unbunch. The tension in the middle of my forehead loosens. Suddenly I'm grinning like some kind of drugged idiot. Back in the 20s, a professor at UC-SB theorized the local flora stimulated human production of endorphins––California as pheromonal Feelgood Factory. Only the Department of Tourism was sold on the theory, but fresh-faced tourists from every corner of the globe still walk, bicycle, and skate past, that same subtle grin on their mugs. It's got mythical qualities, California, and when you've got it good, the place is Eden.

Across the street, construction on the Memorial Promenade continues. They wanted antique, sun-bleached cobblestone walk, and have actual workmen digging up Embarcadero all the way to East Street: picks and shovels, grunting and sweating. What they used to call 'honest work' before that kind of labor became pointless. Some would argue when I say 'pointless'. After all, could an engineering firm wave a magic wand and generate the same rustic artisanship? Would there be the quaint imperfections of hand-quarried stone? Any good fabrication engineer would agree with me and tell you that science has square-rooted the subtlety of natural-looking limestone down to the final decimal. That as a civilization, we're so far removed from even knowing what natural quarried stone looks like; the fabricated stuff is indistinguishable. Antiquarians swear we'd know the difference, though. Normally, I'd ridicule, except I can taste the difference between locally-farmed coffee and the fabricated stuff, which isn't supposed to happen. Score one for the antiquarians, I suppose. They get their hand-crafted promenade.

I'm just glad the men are working by the waterfront and not sitting idly in the East End, waiting for the rain of decompiler bombs.

The Promenade falls in the shadow of what locals call the Embarcadero Curtain: a brand new skyline that blocks the sun. The Palma de Baía is one of twenty luxury hotels on the strip, and one of the few with rigid construction: solid frame for the hotel, but a liquid interior, meaning its iconic, candied shell is constant, but the interior layout and decor is customizable and programmable. Al-Ansur/Menschowicz+Yiu (realspace Saõ Paolo, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Boston, and Kingston) maintain the interior fabrication based on designs by the Hubert Vokker Firm of Soho. Its immediate neighbor, The Bacon-Yeates, is a growth culture, shaped like a giant green jellied dome. Yesterday it was a beautiful blue 35-story porcupine quill. Beside that, the Auld American looks like the Washington Monument. The owners are Japanese, and keep a rigid, highly-publicized schedule. This time next month, the hotel will look like Mt. Rushmore. My mother's wife has an alarming desire to spend their anniversary in Theodore Roosevelt's nose, and who am I to deny her? There's a world of frenzied tourists looking to cash in before the Republic of Northern California falls apart, crashes the economy, or both.

I turn up Broadway, towards one of a dozen markets, marked by bright pastel tents and kiosks made of stray bits of wood, plastic, and corrugated steel. Sounds of farmlife bleating and the somber capitalist mewling of people with nothing useful to sell. A bent crone offers recycled cotton from the back of a mule marked 'property of NGen'. The company leases clones all over NoCal. 'Telefauna', they call them. 'The ultimate renewable resource.' NGen has been banned in Europe and South America for usury. There's even a bill waiting in Congress to penalize the company, but it's pretty toothless, by all accounts. New England, the Greenbelt and Florida have banned clone leasing, but otherwise, there's not a lot regulating NGen in the States--or here in California. If the old lady sells every scrap of cotton, she'll probably still owe money on the transportation she used bringing it downtown. Rough market, Oakland.

I purchase an orange from a toothless Okie no older than fifteen, swastika and crossbones in the middle of his forehead, little black lightning bolts dancing across his knuckles. I wonder if he even knows what they mean. The orange is bitter, probably grown at one of those terrible organic farms up in Mar Verde. Buy coconut water from a Jamaican woman shrouded in full hijab, smile visible even through her veil.

Mill past stalls offering scavenged junk from the ruins of San Francisco, stalls selling hand-carved wooden toys, stalls selling home-made housecleaning robots, stalls selling 'salvaged gourmet' from luxury hotel garbage...block after block of stalls, voices risen in English, Gonja, Ewe, Portuguese, Spanish, Farsi, Cantonese, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Arabic, Russian...every exile in the world, here. Say what you will about Prime Minister Pivens, but his open door policy for refugees has probably saved more lives than his domestic agenda could ever ruin.
Stop at a tent selling military surplus, supposedly from Sacramento. Cracked pieces of ceramic armor, optic fragments from siting equipment, scraps of camouflage. Hunks of metal, twisted by unimaginable fury. I linger over the military patches. Mostly Golden Bear stuff. A few animated paramilitary patches. Then I spot the sword with three lightning bolts. U.S. Special Forces' patch. 

America in California.

It doesn't even sound natural. I'm about to ask the price of the patch, when I spot a great terrible smile beaming at me from across the market, made of alligator's teeth grafted into a human mouth.

Cecilio Goncz raises an espresso cup in my direction, seated delicately at a small folding table by a steaming coffee cart pushed by a crusty-looking Okie with flat eyes and a bent nose. The subject of my project's smile is ghoulish in dusk light--in daylight, it's positively frightening. He waves me over, pointing to his drinking partner, a creature I recognize on sight.

Montoya Dred.

The Devil of Laguna Beach.

Sitting for a cup of afternoon coffee with my father.


King of the Californias Pt IX

by Monk Eastman, New York City, NY, USA

I am pleased to wake up without my throat slit. No warnings painted on the wall in my own blood, no severed horse's head laid artfully at my feet. Just the warm, familiar smells of roasted coffee and steaming plantains. For a moment, I am almost fooled into thinking I conjured Cecilio Goncz from the bottom of a shot glass, and that I am actually hungover in my bed back on Pitt Street, Mississippi lapping a lazy tattoo at my door, Althea in the kitchen, preparing chickory and mofongo. Smile faintly, thoughts of sunning in my garden, watching the river roll by, maybe going to the French Quarter for some afternoon shopping.

Then I see the amber bedposts, the crennelated diamondine doors, great blue emptiness where Althea should be beside me, and the smile fades.

This is not Pitt Street and I am not in New Orleans.

This is Oakland. It is not my home.

The room knows my favorite smells, music, and foods; the room knows my news habits. So, before I'm even out of bed, I've seen Northern California's armies continue their police action on the East Side, because Sgt Enrique Pernil of the Golden Bear Republic Guard is broadcasting, with attendant maps and footage dancing across my skin. I listen to Khaled Bhargouti snark New York City's mayor for his latest public cocaine-and-ladyboy binge, bug-eyed mug-shots spinning three-sixty in the space behind my eyes. I chuckle as Eiko Orizumi's scathing assessment of Alaskan President McMenniman's foreign policy trickles through my left cochlear. That chuckle dims when my other ear echoes with news of sabotage on the Minneapolis SonicRail en route to Chicago (still counting the dead, aerial view of the disaster splayed beneath the skin of my right thigh). Above the chorus of morning news, word from the east, where The Voice of Free Sacramento declares his insurgents' victory over Prime Minister Pivens, images of the gutted city rolling across the palms of my hands.

Having met the Benny Pivens, I have a very clear vision of the tantrum he must be throwing right now. He had planned on parachuting into the wartorn city from California One, make a media event of it, sound the horn of the Golden Bear. After all, he made reclaiming Sacramento a keystone of his domestic policy; the whole 'Project: Normal' phase of his Golden Bear Initiative, ending in a single, functional government. Given the resources he's thrown at it, Sacramento's continued disobedience has become this terrible hemorrhaging gut wound in public perception. A Padanian commenter whispers seductively of regime change as the quick fix. His counterpart in Bogota cackles that regime change implies swapping heads, leaving some kind of system intact. As all his opponents have been dispatched with russian efficiency, Benny Pivens is the only system left. Somewhere in the chorus, I hear an economist moan of the next global contraction. Guandong's investment in the NoCal peseta, she says, hangs around the economy like a lead weight. Others hope at reconciliation with America to offset the creeping chaos. Or some kind of deal with Canada. Or Alaska. Or even Federal Mexico. A thousand geniuses light the dark with their brilliant analyses. It is, after all, the age of the prodigal amateur, and we are only too eager to engage.

I rise, shower, let the sonics flow over me, through me, shaking the filth off like a shaggy dog. It's not the same as a water shower, where there is at least a loose sense of baptism, renewal. The soundbath just insures no one gets me by spiking the pipes. Paranoid? Not after Ottawa, where the subject of my story tried to very politely shake me off his track with a tailored H-621 virus in the plumbing. I reason that if you're running among wolves, why tempt them with an exposed throat?

I throw on a simple white kaftan and orbiter boots, grab my gobag and let my luxury quarters go about cleaning and sealing itself from prying eyes. Once I'm out of range, the newsfeeds slough off like dead skin.

This morning, the lobby is a vaulted cathedral of white Italian marble, its streetside entrance a psychedelic animation embedded in diamond doors. Tomorrow it could be an angular ice palace made of sharp crystal and topaz. Or a replica of Napoleon's Court. Or a kitschy remix of Katz's Delicatessen on New York's Lower East Side. The whimsy of the Palma de Baía is legendary.

Onward to Oakland and a day without the specter of Cecilio Goncz and his pall of rape camps and genocide.

I hope.


In Search Of...Pt VI

by Chris Beckett, Hampden, ME, USA

“Don’t you fuckin’ toss off an email when you’ve got information, Archer!” Elijah Kaczmerak spit the words out, his breath catching in his throat with the effort. “You get on the damn phone –” (breathe) “– and you talk to me like a man.” (breathe) “Do you understand me?”

Kaczmerak’s chest rose and fell with each labored gasp. The old man closed his eyes, listening to the private detective on the other end. He worked to remain calm, regulating his breathing as withered muscles uncoiled.

“I don’t’ care what you think–” (breathe) “– You consult with me, and do the job for which I am paying you –” (breathe) “– Find my daughter–” (b-r-e-a-t-h-e) “– Bring her back.”


“Now, have you anything worthwhile to share?” His voice little more than a whisper, Kaczmerak slumped back, his body collapsing in on itself.

The old man was unsure how long the phone had been silent. He opened his eyes and rasped into the still room, the chair’s receiver funneling his voice back to Keenan Archer. “So you don’t really know a fucking thing, do you? –” (breathe) “– Please remind me why I am paying you such an exorbitant sum.”

The old man held a rag up to his mouth coughing into it, the searing pain given voice by the grating sound in his throat.


A long silence enveloped the room as Kaczmerak listened to the detective’s excuses.

“I deal in certainties, Mr. Archer–” (breathe) “– Not fucking hypotheses.” Kaczmerak could barely free this final word, his body rebelling against the strain.

Wheezing loudly, the old man’s eyebrows arched as a response came from the detective. “Do not fucking patronize me, Mr. Archer.”


Kaczmerak paused, dropped back into his chair once more, listening with more interest. A smile curled at the edges of his mouth as his fingers began to tap on the arm of the chair – slowly at first, the pace quickening as the detective’s monologue continued. Finally, the old man slapped his hand down on the chair arm, the sharp impact skittering across the room.

“She’s gone to New York?”


“Would it not be prudent to ascertain the veracity of your hunch?”

“I expect a report tomorrow evening–” (b-r-e-a-t-h-e) “– And do not make me call you this time.” Kaczmerak tapped the console on the chair’s left arm cutting off any more discussion from the detective. The old man closed his eyes and heaved a long sigh.


“Mr. Kaczmerak.


“Are you awake, sir?” Gregory was standing above Elijah as the room came into focus. Kaczmerak couldn’t remember falling asleep and had no idea how much time he’d lost. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand he looked up at his butler.

“What is it?”

“The doctor is here, sir. She’s been waiting in the vestibule.”

“Set her up in the –”

“Already done, sir. The doctor unpacked and organized her belongings before having me call on you. I told her that might be best.”

“Well send her in for Christ’s sake.” Kaczmerak ran fingers through his thinning hair as he worked to sit up in his chair.

A minute later, Dr. Sylindra Ziantara strode into the library, concern crossing her features. Kaczmerak didn’t like that. “What the hell is wrong, doctor?”

Dr. Z, as she was commonly addressed, always found Elijah Kaczmerak’s hostile demeanor off-putting. “The tests came back negative.”

“What the fuck do you mean negative?” Kaczmerak turned away and rolled over to the window. Outside slate clouds crowded out the sun’s warmth, dropping a monochrome haze over everything.

The doctor reached Kaczmerak’s side, setting her hand on the back of his chair. “We can’t produce any more stem cells. Your body’s too full of cancer. They metastasize rather than grow healthy cells.

“We tried difference cocktails, but the results are always the same.”

“Why don’t you go back and try again, doctor!” The final word dripped off Kaczmerak’s tongue like a virus as he turned and stared up into her eyes. He held her gaze for a moment but had to turn away when he was overcome with a hacking cough once more, the heavy phlegm burning deep within his throat, refusing to move.

“Elijah.” The name landed solidly between patient and physician. “You know you don’t get to push me around. Try it again, and I’m out that door.”

Elijah Kaczmerak looked out at the heavy clouds sitting on the horizon, his final sputtering coughs subsiding. It was nearly two minutes before he replied, the doctor waiting him out as she wandered the room admiring his book collection.

Finally, his voice barely audible – “So what do I do now?”

Dr. Z walked over and knelt beside him. Taking his hand, she lifted Kaczmerak’s head so that she could look him in the eye. “We keep fighting. Maybe another cocktail will work, but I’m not holding out hope.”

“Best case scenario,” she continued, “is that you find a donor that shares your DNA.

“Otherwise, there’s not much else except bio-modification.”

“Fuck that,” he spat as he pulled his hand away.

To Be Continued . . .


East Harlem, Fifty Years From Now, Pt I

by Improvian, Bronx, NYC, NY, USA

The crave came again.

It's to the point where I can't seem to function without lighting a hitter every few hours. It's interesting how the company increases your wages based on the fact that you smoke CM-45 grade marijuana. That caused many a problem with false claims popping up like moles, HR steadily whacking at them. So now when forms came in from those claiming to smoke, you have to take a same day drug test. Poor saps think toking before the test would help, but that only cause the test to come back negative, thanks to modern government sponsored science.

But the craving was getting stronger. No time to worry about Sherman & Shin and definitely no time to go for CMs. Heh. Look at me. I looked rough, in need of a shave and a shapeup. My left fingers and lips a purplish black, no longer pink and healthy. Must have gained at least twenty pounds since all I do is sit on my ass and eat. I should stop, but…

I looked in the phone's call log and saw a name that would help with this craving: Bekka. Bekka was this twenty year old from the Taino Towers I used to tutor at Hunter. Intelligent girl; would be a knockout if it wasn't for the scar from the bottom of her left ear to her lower lip. Guess that comes with the territory if you happen to be the sister of a known hood dealer and slanging on the side, which is why I smiled. I pressed the send button and placed the earpiece in.

"Who the fuck is this?" the slightly husky voice questioned.

Interesting greeting.

"Ain't it? So…who the fuck is this?"


"Mr. Nichols?"


"Holy shit, I mean, hey Mr. Nichols! What's up?"

Everything and nothing, but I told you, call me Brian

"Eh…Can I call you Brain?"

Only if you don't mind Becky

"Eww no. Anyway I know you didn't call for small talk. What's the deal?"

L's secure?

"Hold tight...yeah. Two?"


"Oh my. We're got a lil check in the mail, huh?"

Nah, been saving up

"I like a man who plans for the future. Ok the usual?"

The usual

"Sweet. See you at five"

Can't make it earlier?

"Umm…nope. See ya" *clicks*

The usual was a Cuban restaurant on 2nd Avenue between 116th and 117th. That was the spot because it was usually low lit and 75% of the customers have sold illegal drugs. However the public and on some occasion the cops, turn a blind eye to the activities. I sat there reading the news on the PAD, which I took out of my messenger bag. I heard a voice from behind me, "I don't know why you read that shit." Turned around and there she was, the Afro-Cuban from Nuevo Purple City, sister of Big Key, my savior.

What it do, Bekka?

"Nothing much, Mr. Nichols," she said as she placed two mini-envelopes next to the french vanilla ice coffee I was drinking. Took one of them, moved it under the table, and placed the cash card inside. Once I was finished, I placed it back next to my drink.

She leaned over to take it and said seductively, "You know, I could see myself on top of you….hahaha just fucking with ya. Eww you're like 50 or something?"


Eyes opened wide. "35?!? Wow."


"I mean when I was just a thought, you were probably stroking a couple out."

I almost forgot how wonderfully vulgar you were.

"Sorry, Mr. Nichols, this," she stood up and spun,"is Bekka. Anyway listen to this," she took off her earpiece and placed it near my ear. It's playing a hip hop track from 1988 and the only reason why I knew is because…

"Can you believe that's what your grandparents listened to? It quakes, but anytime I had to Swikki lyrics, it's so not worth it" She started to sip the cola she had ordered. As she was doing that she looked up and plainly said, "So…Constipated Monkeys not working for ya?"

Keep it down

"Umm…you know where we're at, right? Almost everyone here slang plus they know who I am. We safe."

I think CM-54 has something in it that takes away people's memory, but since that's a "natural" side effect of marijuana, no one notices. I notice and everyday I have to keep a journal just to remember if I took a shower or not.

"Why not just…you know…stop? I mean you know we appreciate your loyalty, but dude, it's so not worth it."

It's…it's not that easy

"You're shitting me…"

Nay, that's something else I'm trying to determine. Is it another effect of CM-54 or have I become addicted?



In Search of...Pt. V

by Christ Beckett, Hampden, ME, USA

Weeks to get a proper tracking code for the outdated chip Kaczmerak gave me. Nothing like starting down a trail already colder than your dead mother’s tit. You’d think someone like Kaczmerak would be able to keep up with this stuff. Old fuck thinks he has it all figured out.

With the way things fractured after the Arab-American war, life’s an even bigger pain in the ass than it ever was. Government’s in the shitter, different factions pop up every hour on the net; it’s a minor miracle we haven’t been wiped clean by some raghead army yet. ‘Course, the more difficult the job, the more I can charge. And at least the old fart pays on time.

Crossing a narrow bridge, I enter the small town as the sun drops behind a row of bare hills off on my right. A tinge of salt carries on the moist air as bells ring methodically somewhere in the harbor. Footfalls slop through the mud behind me; men in overalls, stained and torn, discuss their day on the ocean. They pause a moment to give me a challenging glance, passing without a greeting. I raise my hand and nod sarcastically as I continue to scan the feeble surroundings.

If she wanted to get away from Daddy, she might have gone a bit farther.


I wait an hour in the dark for Suffolk to return. He tries his key but doesn’t seem bothered that the door slips open without it. Walking through the main room, he doesn’t switch on a light. Idiot.

Booted feet clomp down the hall for the bedroom and soon a dim light trails back up toward me. Suffolk gasps. It brings a smile to my face as I hear him curse under his breath. Apparently, he’s never had his room tossed. Good.

Running back down the hallway, he makes straight for his landline computer across from where I stand in the shadows. Springing the overhead light on, Suffolk is momentarily blinded, giving me the seconds I need to knock him on his ass.

“AAhhh, shit!”

I punch him in the nose once for good measure and then lift him onto the ratty couch nearby. He’s still gingerly cupping his nose when the tears subside. The fear in his eyes is gratifying. This should be easy.

“Mind if I sit down?”

“No. Go ahead.” His speech is halting. He’s confused.

“I’m trying to find a girl – Karen Kaczmerak. You know her.”

“I don’t recognize the name.”

“That wasn’t a question.” I slap him hard on the side of his face and continue, “I tracked her here, but the place was empty. I think you’d remember, she’s the type’d stand out in this shithole.”

I slip out my palmcard and pull up a holo of her. He responds. “Okay. She said her name was Kay.”

He makes to get up from the couch. “Uhn-uh.” I set my gun on the table between us.

Suffolk raises his hands above his head, sweat spotting his brow. “Whoah. I just want to get something for you.”

I glare at him a few seconds before nodding. “Slowly.”

Suffolk steps into the kitchen and pulls down a cookie jar from on top of the refrigerator. Returning to his seat, he hands me a small microchip. “She told me to give this to you when you arrived. She knew you’d be coming, but didn’t say much else.

“You know that father of hers touched her, did things to her?” He’s pleading, begging me to give a damn.

“Not my business. Taking her home is.

“How long ago was she here?” I look up from the tiny chip, catching his eyes before they drop to his lap.

“I don’t know,” he mutters.

“Don’t get brave now.” I pick up my pistol and set it in my lap. His eyes follow the movement.

“Four days,” he says. “She didn’t tell me where she was going, but I expect it was as far from here as possible.”

“Why’s that? She finally get tired of you?”

His fists clench, but he’s not that dumb. He keeps his mouth shut and just stares through the frayed carpet on the floor.

“Do you really expect me to believe that you have no idea how to find her? If she knew I was coming, she wanted you to contact her, let her know how much of a head start she has. Come on.”

“No, no. She didn’t give me anything. Just left without saying a word. I came home last week and she was gone. I swear.” Waving his hands frantically is supposed to add some credence to his statement. Whatever.

I stand up. “Listen. I don’t want to kill you. Despite some prevailing sentiments, that would be bad for business.”

I walk into the kitchen, searching for the biggest knife I can find. “That doesn’t mean I can’t leave you in a shitload of pain though.”

I come back into the front room with a huge fucking blade, probably used to gut fish. It’s good to have the right tools for a job.

“Now, are we going to do this hard or easy? Your choice, but don’t take too long deciding because I’m an impatient man.” The smile on my face doesn’t seem to reassure Suffolk.


I pull out my palmcard and shoot off an email to Kaczmerak. Relatively speaking, Suffolk chose an easier path than most – he only lost one finger in the process. Seems little Karen wanted to see the big city. I should be able to hop a transport once I make it back to civilization, and then we’ll see what we see.

To be continued . . .