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. XIII

by Monk Eastman, Uptown, NYC, USA

I tag Blue/Horse. As collectives go, mine is connected, with mobile journalists in almost every urban center on the planet. I'd be denied them if Cecilio Goncz hadn't slipped me a communication safeguard. Whatever jamming agent he's anticipating would probably block even a prosumer implant like mine. Whatever his reasons, they've left me a lifeline to the rest of the world. Cortical implant translates my eye movements into text, lets me interact however I need to with Blue/Horse. Doesn't suck up much bandwidth, little discrete 56k bursts. Five minutes later, my man in Anatolia gives me as close a rundown as he can before linking me with one of our editors in Halifax:

Yonge Street Ali. Born Ali Buryäk, maybe forty years earlier. Grew up in Ankara at the cusp of The Troubles, when the radicals were just gaining real traction. Long line of soldiers, the Buryäks, going all the way back to Atatürk. Secular, the way the French used to be: rigid, nationalist. When the JDP was put out of government and the army stepped in, Ali's dear poppa was apparently leading the charge. No one anticipated the severity of the riots that followed, nor that of the internal conflict that chased it. Ali came up in one of a dozen paramilitaries that succeeded the army: nationalists every bit as zealous as the religious fundamentalists they clashed with. As the conflict slogged on, and The Troubles turned into a full-scale civil war, Ali Buryäk established himself as some kind of logistical wizard, securing more arms even as his budget shrank. By the time he was twenty, he'd made connections with everyone from the Kurdish Workers Party to the Azeri Republican Front. Things get fuzzy around when Ankara falls, though.

Our editor in Halifax tells a less glorious tale, two years down the line. This one is of Peg-Leg Ali, who limped off a refugee boat in Nova Scotia alongside a troupe of disillusioned veterans. Set themselves up as a local syndicate before being rounded up by the RCMP. Turned up, alone, in Toronto, after a seven year stretch in Kingston Penitentiary. Started quickly working both ends of the longest street in the world: spreading mysterious wealth around the suits at One Yonge Street, then moving guns at the other end, out by Jane and Finch. Somewhere between Halifax and Toronto, Ali Buryäk had his leg replaced. Got a smart haircut. All the right implants, and even better connections. Theoretically hasn't picked up a gun in years, even to sell. These things just sort of move around him at his behest. When Alaska wanted out of the Union, it was his munitions that somehow found their way into secessionists' hands. No linear connection, of course, but The Word is The Word, and that is: Yonge Street Ali makes guns happen. Whenever, wherever. He's become one of the lowest profile high-end gunrunners in North America. Lives in one of those mobile low-orbit habitats. Hyper-exclusive. Never know where he'll be next week. Total anonymity, absolute freedom of movement.

Must be a nice way to live.

Especially compared to Oakland, Northern Republic of California. Growth market here, by all accounts. But not without risk. My contact at University of Michigan says Ali also armed the U.S.-backed Republica Libre party during their overthrow of Los Angeles, a coup that wiped away the old confederation of criminal cantons -- including that of Cecilio Goncz, my host and father. Not to mention Montoya Dred, who even now, twitches and shudders, almost foaming at the mouth from his Pilkner's Condition. So how is here here, now, without Goncz's teeth on his throat?

"Yonge Street," Goncz hails. "What it is."

"What it will be," Ali says, sliding into a chair opposite. He's got a soft face, lines around his eyes like he smiles a lot. He nods at Dred. "How you doing, Monty?"

"Duh-don't be fucking calling me that, yuh-yeeeew you..."

"Play nice," Goncz warns.

"Fuck you, CeCe." Rain of white spit arcs across the table when Dred talks. "And you tuh-too, fuckface."

"Still a lover, Monty?" Ali smiles. "You still talk to me like a lover. Would that help, maybe? If I gave you a little?"

"Fuh-fuh-fuuuuuuuuuuck yuh-yuh-yuh --"

"Don't be giving yourself a heart attack," Goncz says. "We're all friends here."

"Friends? Wuh-with him?"

"Oh yeah," Ali says. "Best friends. Especially today." For the first time, he turns his attention to me. "We haven't been introduced."

"Don't worry about him," Goncz says coolly.

"Yuh-yeah," Dred chuckles. "He's a peach, that one. Nothing to worry about at all."

Ali shrugs, folds his hands on the table. "If that's what you say, that's what you say."

"Do you have them?" Dred snaps.

Ali sniffs, looks slightly stricken. "Poor form, Monty. Whatever happened to etiquette? I've been sitting here five minutes already, no one's offered me a cup of coffee, a glass of water, not even a half decent hello, how's things?"

"Oh," Monty says. "I'm sorry. A cup of coffee? Maybe I could fetch you some water? How about wine. You like a little vino? A nice red? Nah, it's hot out today, you'd like a nice white. Maybe some of that good Sonoma? Stay right here, let me get it for you. No, wait, what am I saying -- here, let me get one of the fine waitresses at this wonderful establishment that is so obviously NOT a fucking glorified fruit stand in the middle of this dinkhole Fourth World fucking republic to bring you a glass of finely purified water in a crystal fluted glass, you screaming piece of --"

"Monty," Goncz growls, and Dred deflates. Goncz waves over the Okie with the coffee pot, takes off his shades, showing off those eerie nictitating eyes that belong on some kind of dead animal. "Let's get the man a drink, then get down to it."

Which is exactly when the other shoe drops, and America lowers its foot onto the neck of Northern California.


Applebaumology Part I

by Rabbi Ben Newman, The Bronx, NYC, NY

Manendra Applebaum sat at his cubicle desk. His computer interface, the electronic desktop superimposed over his normal vision, flickered that it was 9:25 am. He reached for his paper tea cup holding a macha-ocha blend. He sat back and mentally scrolled through his video and text messages. Twelve from the Mayor in the past week cluttered up his in-box. All of them were asking for modifications of Chu's Artificial Intelligence computer advisor, SOPHI. A full year of this dreck. Why won't this guy leave me alone!?

Manendra blew on his hot green tea. The smoke momentarily fogged up his vision and obscured the visual desktop. Every message from the Mayor was a request for a new Belief Subroutine. When he initially designed her program, before the Mayor was sworn in, he used a Buddhist model when programming the spiritual subroutine, thinking that the philosophy of the Middle Path perfectly suited the needs of an AI of this manner. Then, the Mayor began having a 'relationship' with the Construct, seeking its council, and getting angry at it for not giving the advice he wanted. First Manendra reprogrammed the construct to hold the beliefs of Sun Tsu, then it was Hinduism, then Christianity, then Judaism, then back to Buddhism, Satanism, Pragmatism, Existentialism, etc...until he exhausted pretty much every philosophy in the book. At first it was difficult for Applebaum to untie the knots in the program to insert a whole new belief system. After a few times through, however, he developed a shortcut. He knew that he would probably have to come back and do it again, so he found a way to make the Belief Subroutine a detachable function of the overall program, and though a bit less stable over time, it successfully changed the subroutine with only a week's effort. He would have loved to walk away from this particular job but his boss would fire him on the spot--So he continued detaching and reattaching new beliefs to SOPHI. The Mayor of NYC is crazy, he thought to himself. I can't handle this on my own. I'm just a programmer. I need someone who can help me make sense of all this. He scrolled down, and opened the first message he saw that was not from the Mayor's office. He gently sipped at the paper cup containing the bright green liquid. It was a text based message. It read:

To: IHS Employees
From: IHS Management
Subject: New Mental Health Coverage Benefits

Message: Due to the increase in funding we have received from the city, we are now able to provide every technician in the company with full metal health coverage. Any visits to metal health professionals will be reimbursed by the company's insurance company only upon receipt of the doctor's bill and diagnosis. All information will be held confidentially and will not in any way effect an employee's standing.

Thank you for your continued service to our company,

The Management.

Why not give it a try,
he thought, drinking heartily from his cup. He wiped the green residue from his lip as he metally scrolled through listings of psychologists in the NYC area. He dialed the first listing-- Aardard, Dr. Sean. An IA receptionist designed by his own company picked up the call.

"Dr. Aargard' office, how may I help you today?" inquired the affable electronically generated image of a brown haired girl.

"Hello. I'm Manendra Applebaum."

"Oh, Manendra." the computer offered, "I remember you. How may I help you today?"

Manendra put down his cup.

"I'd like to make an appointment." he said.

* *

The office of Dr. Sean Aardard was nestled into the basement of an old brownstone on 77th st. and Broadway, amid high end shops, bars and restaurants. Only the priviledged few could pass the subway security checkpoints to enter this part of the city. Only the elite minority could afford to shop there. Ordinarily, Applebaum was neither, but now, due to his recent relationship with the Mayor, and the success of IHS, he was able to pull some strings with his very grateful boss, Mr. Braithwaite, and obtain a priority level security rating on his Metrocard.

Manendra swiped his card at the turnstile, a green light went on, and a poorly synthesized electronic voice sounded for him to proceed.

He descended the steep steps to Dr. Aardard's office and rang the bell, looking up at a small security camera. The door buzzed, Applebaum opened it, and walked into a short corridor, at the end of which was another door. As the buzzer continued to sound, Manendra quickened his step for fear that it might stop before he got through the second doorway. As he turned the knob and walked through, the buzzing stopped. He found himself in a living-room type atmosphere. Comfortable couches and side-tables brimming with magazines lined the walls. A short blond woman sat at a pine desk with US Weekly in her hand. A small name-tag with the name Mrs. Theresa Bishop engraved on its surface rested on the desk.

"Mr. Applebaum, I presume?" She inquired, barely looking up at him.

"Yes. I'm..." Manendra bit his thumbnail absently. Maybe this was a bad idea. he thought.

"Here for your three o'clock?" she pulled out a piece of chewing gum and began masticating.

"Uh. Yeah..."

"Dr. Aardard is with another patient now. Sit on one of the couches and I will call you when he's ready."

Manendra picked out a fuzzy brown couch, and sat down. He engaged his ocular implant, and began scrolling through his electronic mail. After a few minutes, Mrs. Bishop spoke his name.

"Manendra Applebaum!" she called out, as if she hadn't actually met him before, 5 minutes earlier.

"Yes." he stood up and gathered his backpack.

"The Doctor will see you now." she said, and went back to her US Weekly, and fruity gum.

* * *

Dr. Aardard's office seemed more of a small museum of antiquities to the technician Applebaum, rather than what he had imagined a shrink's office to be. African tribal masks, strange looking pipes and swords were littered about on tables throughout the dark room. Dr. Aardard, a blonde haired Norwegian looking man in a blue pin-striped suit sat at one of the tables. He looked at Manendra inquisitively, and gestured to a comfortable looking chair.

"Please, sit, Mr. Applebaum," he said, "make yourself comfortable."


In Search Of...Pt. X

by Chris Beckett, Hampden, ME, USA

Screeching vocals radiated off the walls, swirling around Keenan Archer in his booth near the club’s entrance. He could feel the bass rippling up his spine, punching through his gut. Archer had been hitting up clubs across the city for weeks hunting for the Kaczmerak girl. He’d found little to help so far.

Keenan swirled the ice cubes in his glass, took another drink. The barkeep claimed it was bourbon, but Keenan found that claim dubious. At least it wasn’t as watered as other places.

It took a moment for the detective to recognize the buzzing in his pocket wasn’t coming from the stage. Reaching up, Archer tapped the earpiece once and spoke: “Take a message.”

Lifting his glass again, Keenan knocked back the last of his drink. Sliding the empty glass to the edge of his table, Archer made eye contact with the woman singing on stage. She held his gaze for a few seconds and then smiled before dancing away to the opposite side.

Archer smiled too. He wouldn’t be spending the night alone.

The waitress came over to retrieve his glass. “The same?” She thrust her hips forward as she spoke. Whether working for a tip or something more Keenan couldn’t say. He considered breaking the news that her efforts were a waste of time – skin taut over wasted bones, sunken eyes falling into shadow, devoid of the forced smile in her voice. It all said junkie, and in a better light, Keenan imagined her track marks would be visible. He didn’t look at her as he replied, “sure” and returned his gaze to the stage.

As the girl pranced off, Keenan’s pocket began to vibrate again. He reached to his ear, but this time as he tapped an angry voice shot through.

“Archer! What the fuck are you doing?”

Keenan fell back in his seat as if punched in the chest, eyes wide and unfocused. “Who are you? And how did you override my phone?”

“I’m your employer, you fuck! Now answer my question!”

The detective paused. “Mr. Kaczmerak?”

“Well. You do have some detecting skills after all.”

“I didn’t recognize your voice, sir.”

“I don’t care! Excuses aren’t worth my time, Mr. Archer,” the old man continued.

“Yes, sir,” said Archer, sitting up.

“Where is my daughter?” asked Elijah.

“I don’t know,” Archer yelled, barely audible in the club. “I have some leads I’m following right now. But it’s going to take some time.”

“A month. Which is more than you deserve. Have something by then Mr. Archer,” spat Kaczmerak.

“Yes, sir,” but as Keenan uttered “sir,” the line went dead.



Sylindra walked through the foyer to the library, stopping just at the doorway. Across the room, sitting in a chair with his back to the doctor, Elijah Kaczmerak stared out the window. Beyond the deep green of the pines and firs bordering the grounds, a blank slate rose above everything daring Kaczmerak to come outside and mar its serene countenance. Winter was coming fast, and the skies were dressed accordingly.

Dr. Ziantara cleared her throat, but the old man gave no indication he’d heard anything. Sylindra knew better, but said nothing, preferring to wait him out.

A minute passed.

Then another.

Dr. Z shifted her feet, relieving the pressure settling in her heels.

Another minute passed, the steady ticking of the mantel clock – a family heirloom – calling out the seconds that Sylindra now counted silently.

Four hundred forty-two seconds. Over seven minutes. That’s when Elijah finally spoke.

“Yes, doctor.” The wheezing was gone, replaced by a soft baritone Elijah and his physician had not heard for some time.

“I just came to check on you. How are you feeling?” asked the doctor, still standing just beyond the threshold of the library.

“Unsatisfied,” he said. “I do not care much for your prognosis.”

“Well, I’m not sure what I can do about that, Elijah. Would you rather I lie about the time you have before we need to take more serious action?”

“What I would rather, doctor,” said Elijah as he lifted from the chair turning to face her, “is that you would do your job. I expect results Ms. Ziantara. Failure is not a concept with which I am overly familiar.” The lines were gone from his face, the stoop with which he’d walked (when he was able) a memory, and the fire in his eyes burned brighter than it had in years. The stem cell therapy had worked, stimulated by the steroids added to this new cocktail. But it was only temporary.

“If you hadn’t been so reckless with your body, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. You understood going in that this probably wouldn’t be a permanent solution, but at least it could be a stop-gap while we searched for something else.” Dr. Ziantara had her hands out, palms up, sick inside about the deficiencies of her science.

“It’s like a virus,” she continued. “Becoming stronger, mutating and evolving to counteract the old remedies so that we have to come up with new ones. Your body has become accustomed to the therapies we used before. It recognizes them and burns them out faster now.

“You did this to yourself, Elijah!” Dr. Z’s voice was even as she thrust her finger at her employer, her patient.

“Your job is to cure me, doctor, not render judgment upon my lifestyle. That will come later from someone far more qualified than yourself.”

Elijah stepped around the chair and moved toward the foyer, stopping at the doctor’s shoulder as he reached the doorway.

“You have managed to forestall your dismissal for a while longer. But do not fail to understand that your time with us is limited. So long as you are useful you have a place here. But otherwise . . .”

The old man walked off as Sylindra watched him go.



The Meditations of Jimmy Chu Part IV or The Meditations of Jimmy Tzu Part I

by Rabbi Ben Newman, The Bronx, NYC, NY, USA

For 3 weeks Manendra Applebaum and his over-weight friend Howie had been working on reprogramming SOPHI's Belief Matrix. On the 21st day, the work was complete. One week later, Jimmy sat in his office smoking a cigar, and reading the book The Art of War, which Manendra had given him as a gift. 

Manendra had handed Jimmy the worn leather volume covered in Chinese characters on his final day of work opened to a page somewhere in the middle. There was one sentence that the technician had highlighted for the Mayor's benefit-- "The more you read and learn, the less your adversary will know." Manendra had explained to him that Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and military stratgist from the 6th century BC. Chu had played it off as if he had known all about the author of the great work all along, but in truth it was a split second decision. I made the decision, he thought, and if I have to call Manendra again, who the fuck cares anyway. I own him and his company. They're my pawns. So far, the new SOPHI has been very helpful. He ashed his cigar. 

"Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness, the Mayor read. I think I'll change my last name to Tzu, he thought.

The Mayor put down the book, and laid his cigar in a pewter ashtray.

"SOPHI!" he said. He stood up and began pacing the room. The holographic image of a young dark haired girl in samurai armor appeared before him.

"Yes, Sir? Would you like some strategic advice?" the flickering girl moved closer to the Mayor.

"Actually its a personal and practical thing. I would like to change my last name to Tzu. How hard would that be?" he asked, picking up his cigar again.

"Not hard at all sir, you are the Mayor after all." 

"Do it." he said. He took a long drag off of his cigar, and grabbed the leather volume.

"Yes, sir." She said.

"Great. How long will it take?" he inquired.

"Its already done. Afterall, " SOPHI said, "Speed is the essence of war." an uncharacteristic smirk appeared on her holographic visage.

*                             *                                         *

Mayor Jimmy Tsu sat at his desk, his copy of The Art of War in one hand, a vial of Cobol, the new drug on the street in the other. He sniffed the intoxicating aroma of the vial and began reading from the book. 

Suddenly, a gong sounded and SOPHI appeared. 

"What now?" roiled the mayor.

"Mayor, with all due respect, I am but a lowly servant," 
she said, "but does not Sun Tsu say: 'the consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success?' the AI queried. The image of the samurai woman approched the mayor at his desk. She reached for his hand, where he held the drug, but it passed through. She said "This Cobol is a distracion, and it prevents you from maintaining your method and discipline. Please put down the vial. I have MARGE from the 50th Precinct on the line. Lt. Dunwitty wishes to speak with you. You need to be focused."

Remind me to have her belief subroutine reprogrammed again. Call Applebaum. But she does give some useful advice...

"Fine, have it your way." He took another swig off of the vial and put it down again.

"Yes sir, I am asking MARGE to put the Captain on now. Just remember, 'A leader leads by example not by force...'" the small girl disappeared but her voice continued to resonate from a speaker on the mahogany desk. I have Lt. Dunwitty on the line now, shall I put him through?"

"Yes, by all means," the Mayor said as he wiped his nose with his sleeve. He put the Sun Tsu volume onto his desk. 

"Hello, Mayor Chu?"

"Actually,  Tom, I legally changed it to Tsu, but I may change it again," he said. "How can I help my favorite law enforcement officer today?"

"I know, Mr. Mayor, that you owe me a few favors, you said you would never forget what I did to help get you elected. I need you to help me."


"Its my friend, Captain Ranjitsinhji, I owe him big, and he's asking a favor for his friend Tiny."

"Schwartzbaum-- of course I know who he is you idiot." the Mayor opened the desk drawer, and pulled out a Cuban cigar. He bit off the end, and then lit it.

"Well, sir, his synthetic limbs are slowly malfunctioning, and the only way to help him will be to get him a new body." the timid voice wheezed from the speaker. 

Mayor Tsu blew out a plume of smoke. "How do you expect me to do that?" he asked. "I don't know a thing about medicine."

"Only you have the resources at your disposal to help him."

"So what can I do for you to nullify the favor you did for me?"

"Can you get someone to help him?"

"Not sure. I'll think about it. " he put his cigar down on the desk. 

"Thank you, Sir."

"SOPHI, hang up call." he said, he picked up the vial of Cobol and held it to his nose, sniffing generously.

The holographic image of the AI appeared before him, arms crossed disapprovingly. 

"I think you should help him. The Master says, "If our soldiers are not overburdened with money, it is not because they have a distaste for riches; if their lives are not unduly long, it is not because they are disinclined to longevity. I Think you should help the Soldier Schwarzbaum" she intoned. 

"Who asked you, you fucking algorithm?" 

Shit, I'll probably have to have her reprogrammed again. Mayor Tsu mused.


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.