(This is fiction...)
“Sevier!” and the lights jumped up. Oh, how he had fought for that name. And now, the Now would repay him his efforts.
He did a jig as he crossed the stage. GorelyAppler, surffoam hair, wild sparrow eyebrows, kingsnake lips, and puddling eel eyes awaited. Gorely, the ugliest man alive according to some of the strictest facial-rec programs, was the Voice of Culture. Gorely had a way of finding the most important, the most influential. It didn’t matter where on the planet the individual arose. One of his feeder shows lifted these individuals from the mire of mundane persona and cast light and amps on them.
There were twelve tiers of Gorely shows. Getting on the GorelyAppler show itself was akin to flying to the moon without the spaceship. It happened for exactly 300 people a year. Entire now-mags and compiles were built on the interviews, prestories, and updates of these 300.
Of that 300, in the last eight years of Gorely, exactly twelve did not appear on any of his feeder shows first. And that number was heavily skewed into the past. Eight of those were the first year. There had been none in the last four years.
Now here was he, Sevier, like a new-born babe.
This morning, before the announcement, his amps had been running at 4. Nothing to sneeze at in a world where a 1 was nevertheless cause for celebration. But the scale ran to 100. The moment of the announcement, he had jumped to 26. Now, as he jigged onto the stage, he was pinging at 40.
Gorely, of course, was one of three people on the planet who averaged over 60 during those moments when he nowed.
“Fuck you, Sevier,” Gorely greeted him. “You blackmailed me, otherwise there would be an otherwise.” Sevier detected malice under Gorely-skewed lips.
The audience, virtual and live, roared with laughter. Sevier’s amps pulsed up, 52, still a far leap from Gorely’s own at 75. The anticipation for this Now was immense.
“I thought you were lying.” Gorely’s eyes were wet and flat. His lips rimmed and dark. Almost purple. “But you seem to have evidence.”
Gorely turned to his audience. “Let’s hear your story, Sevier.”
Sevier arched his eyebrows and burst out laughing. He too faced the audience, and bent and touched his knees, very campy. “Tell you my story? Oh my God you’re a peach, Gorely. Remember those?”
It happened at 8:02 in the morning. It was not just the daily bandpeak, or even the weekly one. It was at the pinnacle of the annual bandpeak, that moment at which more Now was occurring than at any other time of the year, and this year coming in the ineluctable sequence of years of increase, it was the moment of the greatest Now ever achieved.
Within three minutes, it was understood what had happened. Khan Bull had not died. He had not entered a shield. There was no glitch in the Now. There was no defense threat.
Khan Bull had, utterly, impossibly, in the heart of the most densely Now place on Earth, and at the highest height of Now, somehow intentionally gone dark.
In the spec that followed, Momentzia09 was surprised to find herself gaining in amps. Not just gaining, but appearing in the whole Now. As a Now unto itself. She would have to choose her words more carefully. What had she said already? She Nowed herself from the pinpoint of Bull’s absolute.
“Absolute is only theoretically impossible. You could have an unfound remote. The last one was only supposedly located in 2031.”
Her mother intruded, an apron on and flour to her elbows. She must have looked at her Now and seen Momen’s amps. “Momen, what is happening?”
Momen looked up from her portal and smiled with a calibrated warmth. “Love you, Momma. KB went dark.”
“Khan Bull,” Momen said, her voice edged with exasperation.
Her mother began to turn away but stopped. “Dark? You keep telling me that I’m dark.”
“No Momma. I tell you that you’re obscure.”
“You’ve said ‘dark’ before.”
“If I said that, I meant your attention. You don’t Now.”
“Well, you know how I feel about Now. It’s such a waste of time.”
“Yeah, Momma, bake some bread. I have to get back…”
Her mother began again to turn away and again stopped. “What do you mean, absolute?”
“He disappeared. Zero Now. But measured in absolute terms.” She stared at her mother and waited for the next question. If she didn’t ask, then fine. If she did, well then she’d at least assimilated the basic information.
“What’s that? Absolute terms?”
“Negative, Momma. He was a positive Now, but disappearing or dying creates a negative Now, sometimes, depending on who, very powerful. His is the first known instance of an absolute dark Now. No positives, no viable negs.”
“Oh my god, can you use words a human understands?”
“His disappearance created more Now that anyone’s present Now has ever created. It’s running a steady 87. It’s counter-intuitive, Momma. Don’t worry about it.”
“I worry about you,” her mother shook her head and swept back into the cooking arena.
Momen Nowed and saw her amps were, as she expected, six-plus minutes post event, declining rapidly. She knew she had maybe a minute to recover even a fraction, simply because of the millions of deflects caused by her earlier Now.
She would re-Now later.
She Nowed Khan and felt the dis-evolving. ‘Undis’ she Nowed. ‘KB invented choice.’
Her amps climbed on the reflects over deflects, or RoDs, but showed amping, a self-contained increase.
A rain of ‘Disimpossible!’ thundered over the Now. Millions of them. All tiny in the whole, but creating a mass Now of their own.
Desperates were sharping their efforts. Pulsart-98, one of the infamous original Desperates Nowed, ‘Redirects of all NYC ambients to persona-rec of KB.’
Momen leap-frogged a dis of personal-recognition progs, and all the other drone and ambient-based watchers. ‘If KB created darkness,’ Momentzia09, her Nowist persona said, ‘hope he survives there.’
Her amps surged. Momentzia09 threaded over the magical 22. That meant that, of the 2.3 billion people now Nowing, over a half million of them had Nowed her. Momentzia09’s sudden and unexpected ascent was due, she knew, to trueNow. Just three months ago, nowever ago, her Now would have been obliterated by feckoes, the people and auto-fecks that grabbed any amping Now and repeated it.
trueNow, added by the Nowist Ordinal, identified and validated the original and deprecated every copy.
The deluge for Momentzia09’s latest Now came seemingly at once. OVN, Peop, #F, TiME, and hundreds, no thousands, of others sent her clicks. Any one of the clicks, she knew, could cast her whole Now, past-present-future, into a promo that could return her, at this level of Now, millions of creds. Enough creds to support her, her family and friends, for life.
But she also knew, click even one, and her Now would shrink like a poisoned flower. Deflects were automated - you Now someone and your auto-deflect keys you into future Nows from that person. But deflects aged rapidly and contained algorithms to reduce or even repulse based on disses - dislikes or averses. And if there were promos, because promos were people replaced by corporate advertisements, the Now had to achieve near-Voice amps to cancel out the deflects. And Voices were threaded at 50 plus.
Momen was 13. Thousands of others had Nowed-out by her age. They had taken the clicks and lost deflect. Her father, had in fact, Nowed out at the age of 33. Back in the fecko days, he and his friend JukeStukka, still out there in the Now trying to take some early-Now credit for himself, had written a fecker.
Her father had explained to Momen that “fecker” derived from early-Now programs that used algorithms to aggregate and echo content, catching trends before humans could, thus creating near-perfect content popularity rankings. Her father and JukeStukka had written one of the first, and most-effective deflects. A deflect watched echo outputs, grabbed the original posting from the echo, and reposted it for whoever owned the deflect.
This was all before the Now was whole, so echoes and deflects operated in specific media or within languages. As the deflects became invasive, none other than GorelyAppler had called them “feckoes” as in “fucking echoes.” But, her father told her, echoes used to be needed and important. They would find amping material and get it in front of you. There was no whole now then.
‘Stay dark,’ she Nowed for KB. ‘Pray dark.’
She had received one of her first unknown private Nows.
‘I can help!’ PerfectNowZ12x Nowed her.
!onBillty had been Nowing her privately, and CassAssAndra. But they were good friends. Known Nows.
The new Nows were proNows, accredited personas, who were swooping in on her because she was Nowing above a threshold they’d set in their own Now.
She sensed someone and looked up. Her father stood over her, his eyes wide, mouth slightly open. He raised his eyebrows as though he were drawing back a crossbow, and fired. “We have to get you out of here. Now.”
“I’ll be fine, Poppa.”
“That’s one thing you will not be. Look at the house.”
She shifted her Now to the house. Everything was in stasis - temperature, power consumption, water purity, solar, perimeter, delivery schedules, transport. All was at peace except for one angry red knot. She knew what it was, but she opened it anyway.
It was the houseband, and the houseband was being inundated beneath a cascade of illegal entry attempts at the system level.
She already knew, but she asked, “What’s happening?”
“If someone, or some taker, can breach the houseband, they can steal a click or two. They click and take a promo for themselves. You lose your Now amps. They take all the money. Or they can pre-Now: delay your Now a microsecond and Now it before yours Nows shelving you as a copy.”
“I have a NowKit.”
“You know better than me if that’s the one to use. But use it. And then let’s get out of here. We can Zone9. Your sister is out of town.”
HitashGuranHitash, able to go by HGH after his most recent work, HRH, Royally Now, found himself unable to Now. HGH was amping at 25, a very high amp, for no Now. A single Now could propel him into newVoice status. The whole Now knew he was Khan Bull’s biographer. Instead he drank in the flood of Now and searched for even a toehold of originality for himself. But, it seemed as though every time a thought trickled through, he would see it already Nowed.
He had Nowed privately with Khan hundreds of times, had met him all-flesh, had seen the whole Now of the young man, but nothing prepared him for this.
KB was the original argument and example of Nowing - the full-scope shared human experience of images, words, writings and even eye-tracks. At birth, he was fully droned and multi-pointed with sensors. Every account, every action, every expression was shared. And because of this, he more than anyone on Earth or Moon, wanted to step away.
The question HGH had was the same as everyone’s - from top cyberVoices like PerniciousEel to the LCD J&Js, the lowest common denominator Janes and Joes - how the fuck did he do it?
He decided he could at least engage EmpressNowager from TimeSignLine. An interview would at least be a stable Now construct.
He replied to her most recent Now, which had been, ‘HGH must know something. How KB can absolute dark.’
‘I am dark about the darkness,’ he Nowed. ‘The dark rights movement has sought a means of achieving absolute dark for years. But we know that no one, even the most reprehensible or most boring or most immobile, is fully dark.’
He continued. ‘Absolute dark means the failure of, or escape from, literally millions of sensor nodes and systems. Someone as famous as Khan has his mydrones and the pernicious clouds of pirate drones. In the last year or so, his main mydrone, his Nowdrone, has been about two feet away, out front and to the right at eye level, off center by 15 degrees or so. He spoke his Now into that drone for the billions.’ HGH’s amps popped to 31.
EmpressNowager Nowed in response. ‘He amped up last October, did he not, by radically altering his main mydrone?’
Hitash’s amps climbed to 35 because of the anticipation deflects weighted in the system. And, he knew that even though everyone knew about the event, they loved to hear about it all over again, especially from an insider of sorts.
‘Yes. On October 5 of last year, at 15:09:15U Now, KB set his main mydrone up and out, nearly 100 feet above him. He Nowed like that for nearly a month. Over twenty-five million mydrones around the world followed his example.’ His amps climbed to 39.
He included the complete timestamp in universal time so that his Now would automatically link into the WholeNow. His earlier work on KB would have also linked the event in question to an EGeo location. The WholeNow had grown out of the fully-automated, relevance-, importance-, and popularity-weighted record of everything. There used to be Wikipedia, painstakingly maintained by thousands of individuals, something like a million people blowing a massive pile of feathers across a vast dry lake bed on their hands and knees. The WholeNow created itself second-by-second using writer bots.
HGH referenced the WholeNow to recount events into the Now. ‘On October 15 last year, he moved his seeNow drone progressively higher. The seeNow drone, up to that time, was routinely deployed two feet above and behind the head, looking forward. That was true for nearly everyone who used one. Since KB’s experiments, both the Nowdrone and the seeNow are deployed at nearly any and all persona-stationary orbits.’
‘Less amps,’ the Empress Nowed.
‘True, the seeNow changes gained KB less amps at the time, but cumAmps, the cumulative Amps, for the two events show near-identical amplitudes with different rates of Now.’
‘KB has backwatchers,’ she Nowed.
Hitash nodded. This was the exact right question to ask. Finish establishing his mydrone deployment before talking about the other drones. His amps drove to 41. Hers were running at 52. Stratospheric.
‘Too true. After the attempts on his life began - there have been over twenty attempts verified since the first at just two years of age - some of the first threatdrones were deployed. The huge threatdrone community sprang up almost instantly, as did the deployment of threatdrones. In the old days, threatdrones were damned effective, sweeping for, identifying, and eliminating all sorts of threats.
‘People forget,’ he continued. ‘How things happened was important. Threatdrones became less effective as assailants figured out means of avoiding them or knocking them out. KB had a beefed-up wide-angle threatdrone added and three professional drone guards assigned to watch the feeds. They were some of the very first backwatchers. But KB’s father, Rista Bull, released the feeds to the Now.
‘Suddenly there were thousands of volunteer backwatchers, and they proved to be more effective than the professional drone guards.’
‘And so it was obvious,’ the Empress prompted.
‘Absolutely obvious. Every key political figure, every celebrity, every soldier deployed threatdrones and millions of people became backwatchers.’
‘Backwatching was big with criminals,’ she Nowed.
He reNowed her statement. ReNowing, he knew, when used sparingly, could accelerate Nowing for both of them. It also served to heighten the connection between the two of them as a real Now. It was intentional, mutual. Because of the amping, he was also now weeding scores of withNows, the Nows that sought to ask, answer, nitpick, click, or otherwise derail his Now.
Hitash had never before been in the midst of such a competition for his Now.
‘Few people know this, but the ESM, the external synaptic map, was developed for Khan. It allowed backwatchers, for the first time, to tap the source of threat on the feed, aggregate the taps, and display the tap heat in a visual field.
‘Of course, the newer ESMs are subsonic colorfields that we can detect with our subcortex, giving us an immediate ‘sense’ of movement or action behind us.’
‘But now backwatching, like crime, is over?’ she Nowed.
It was unusual for a Voice to ask a question. All questions for Voices were typically statements, quotable, short, punchy statements that drew a response. A question demonstrated the Empresses’ deference to him as a knowledgeable Now. His amps pinged at 43 and a spike of elation pulsed in his chest.
‘Backwatching, like crime, may never be over.’ He sat back and rubbed his palms together. Now they were Nowing. ‘Backwatching has been autoed, of course. But, there is the thrill of the hunt, and there are backwatchers who consistently beat the autos. Manual backwatching is still a huge source of income in the BlaCash markets. The highest odds you can get are on assassination attempts.’
Hitash sat back, surprised. He Nowed BlaCash. At 20 million-to-one sat ‘KB stays dark 24.’ The cascade of top odds below that were all for darkness: that someone else would go dark within 24 hours, that 100 people would not achieve darkness in the next year, that ReverendMowlock would be the next to go dark...
‘Yes,’ he Nowed ‘not anymore.’
‘Assassination is the last crime,’ she Nowed.
‘Assassination is the last unmanaged crime,’ he returned.
The following silence was… vast. With the Empress amping at 55 and the current Now running at 3.1 billion, there were 2 billion potentially Nowing them. He could literally see the Now increase… 3.11, 3.12, 3.13 billion, as people responded to their alerts that something momentous was occurring. And he could see the volume of Now flow decrease from 1.53 billion Nows all the way down to 987 thousand. It was the equivalent of silence at the dinner table in the old days after someone had said, “I’m going Nowist.”
No one was quite comfortable with this aspect of the Nowist government.
Her amps, as did his in perfect shadow-step, climbed. She was pushing 58. He was at 45. The Now hit 3.5 billion. The volume dropped to less than 500K. It was not unprecedented by any means, but unusual enough that he could already see event histories, compiles, of their conversation in the now.
‘Do tell,’ she finally Nowed. The reNows of her Now surged across the Now like a wave.
‘Assassination is accomplished by encoding the assassin’s entire life into a trusted normalcy. The assassin then accomplishes an a-flesh encounter with a target, and using at-hand techniques, typically finger or kick methods, attempts to attack and kill the target.’
‘Assassination techniques are crimes.’
‘Not everyone is under infrared at night. These techniques are practiced in darkness.’
A colliding Now that Hitash had expected to die out - the Now was completely unknown and had never achieved even a one amp in the past - was steady and rising. Momentzia09 had risen to 22 in the flurry, then sank below 20.
Momentzia09 Nowed, ‘Mydrones are easy. Pirate drones and ambients on the other hand.’ Her amps climbed back to 22.
If there was one rule of the Now, it was that Now is Now. There was nothing else. He began to respond to Momentzia09’s Now, but the Empress Nowed faster with an implicit response to Momentzia09, dulling Hitash’s deflects. ‘Pirate drones can be cleansed.’
It was partly, and always temporarily true. Pirate drones were deployed by anyone, from a stalker to a parent to a spouse to a boss to a corporate entity. In the old days, pirate drones were at least visible and detectable. Voices had wearables that did that - detected them - and then battered their operating and comms frequencies, essentially killing them.
People who disliked the wearables, or who couldn’t afford them, could pass through monthly, weekly, or daily cleanses. These included electromagnetic detectors that accepted your mydrone’s electromag signatures, and zotted everything else. The lowest cost models were vast fans that swept the whole mess away. The fans were favored by petty criminals and the paranoid. You had to remove your mydrones to do this, however, and most pirate drones soon were informed of mydrone down states and disappeared before the fans went on.
But in the last year, millions (billions?) of nano drones had been launched with terribly effective capabilities. They could locate a mydrone anywhere on Earth, and hide their electromags or mimic the mydrone’s. The extent of their reach was only discovered when Prime Minister UmanTakoo’s mydrones had failed and it was discovered that his mydrones each had a score or more of nano drones clinging to them. The combined weight was completely sapping the mydrones.
The best way these days was to enter an establishment that guaranteed pirate removal, like a Zone9 or a WalMart Island. Street-side stations from bOCD were good low-cost, interim solutions.
In the last few months, dellas had become popular. These drone-umbrellas were solar and drone covers worn above the head and around the body, not unlike a cocoon. They were open in front of the face, semi-translucent elsewhere, with the drone-defeating effect of scrambling the streaming electrons, thus making the watching drones largely useless. But new drone detectors had found hundreds of bidi drones, bi-directionals, deployed along the front edge of media star Kunisia’s drella hood, like so many mosquitos in the Tropics.
He couldn’t help himself. He checked Kunisia’s Now, Kunisia, the most beautiful woman to ever walk the Earth (at least according to the genetic and perceptual calibrations loaded in from over four billion people). And thrill-of-thrills, she was attending to him! And to the Empress!
It gave him resolve to Now more intensely, as if making he might make an impression on HER.
‘I remember the crunch of drones underfoot,’ he Nowed, clearly referring to nostalgia rather than the Now of the Empress.
As he expected, there was a wave of the standard reactions. ‘You cannot escape the Now!’ ‘The Now is complete!’ ‘UnNow!’
In the flurry, he responded directly to Momentzia09. ‘Pirates will be American tomorrow.’
Bang. That did it. He’d Nowed the unexpectedly obvious. The game changer.
Now surged to 4.2 billion. Volume surged to 3.6. Nearly unheard of - there was always NickoloPicolo’s death last year, or the launch of the Nowist government to see the outer limits of the possible.
At the same time, EmpressNowager was amping at 61, he was at 52, and Momentzia09 was at 25. He felt like he needed oxygen. If only Mother was alive!
Hitash Nowed the markets. The best test of reality: the old currencies were falling!
“I can’t believe American is American,” her father said.
Momen, her Momma and Poppa, were in her sister’s, XoSawPawSoX’s, room at the Zone9Brew, the secure caff shop at Taft and Jefferson. Zone9 had taken over the caff business from the likes of Starbuck’s and Peet’s by offering the best-managed Nowness. In a Zone9, you passed your name and mydrone sigs on entry. Your mydrones were allowed and protected, pirate drones locked out, or for a price, eliminated. As long as you were inside the Zone9, your now was piped in and out through secured pathways.
You could also see the security implementation at all times. Any data or comm touch that was impure - not part of the original design - was flagged and eliminated in a viewable and traceable flash of red. If you wanted, you could view the auto, pirate, and directed attacks on the shop’s local infrastructure, or on Zone9’s corporate infrastruture.
The stores had started slowly, but the revelations about the NSA’s incursion into DeftParticipant’s personal and intimate life six years back, and Zone9’s demonstrated ability to block NSA, KGB, CIA, Google and Facebook incursions, had transformed the stores from thousand-square foot caff and muff hoppers into sprawling multi-floor buildings where thousands of people now lived fulltime.
XoSwaPawSox was Momen’s little sister by two years and the family breadwinner. She had shifted to the Veeral, the new loss-less currency, at the age of six, and a year later invented SwaPawS, a Nowing that enabled you to negotiate for parenting or childing needs. After just a year, based on the breadth and depth of SwaPawS use, it had been built directly into the Now and had over 5 billion users. She was in EuroN this week, working on a tweak to SwaPawS that enabled economic needs brokers.
Momen liked her father’s statement and Nowed it, ‘Poppa says I can’t believe American is American.’
She smiled to herself and Nowed, ‘I say I can’t believe American is _still_ American.’ She had followed her sister to the Veeral, and soon after, to the issuing Nowist governance, revoking in the process her American citizenship and passport. Her mother and father were still full-fledged Americans.
They watched HitashGuranHitash reflect off their deflect. ‘American is nostalgia and fear. But their brands decay. Think NSA or Homeland Security, SEC or FDA.’
Empress Nowager Nowed, ‘America outflanked.’
‘Tracers have settled,’ she Nowed. There was now certainty about the last hours and minutes of Khan’s day prior to his darkness. It was time to consider their information. She reNowed the final one-hour trace. ‘KB TRACE: 2032.05.04: 03:02:01 - :60.’
Then the three of them, Momen and her mother and father, leaned over her portal where she controlled the play, and experienced the final hour of Khan Bull as a traced person. Momen added in the systal, the high-level systems data that went along with the trace like a soundtrack to a movie.
The most notable thing was the lack of EGeo trace. Clearly, immense effort was being exerted to regain the trace, but somehow, Khan had broken or blocked the EGeo. It was easy to regain it, of course. And though thousands of people better at this than Momen had already done the work, she did it again. But it would not stabilize. It flitted and died, flitted and died.
She touched-to-capture several of the buildings and faces they saw in the feed. Each one she touched was triangulated and located and the EGeo given. According to the tracker data, he had been in Boston. He did enter a Zone9Brew, bought a caff with Veerals, and walked out into the Tube station. He stepped onto the first train, one headed for New York according to the tracking data, and the Tube cleanser shut many of the pirate systems down. The Tube trace synched him to Car90667, seat 29. According to the vibral feeds, he was meditating: blood pressure was 101 over 62 and heart rate at 45.
When he emerged, 22 minutes later, some of the physical EGeo traces showed up as anomalies. Buildings that should have been on 42nd Street were not. One, two, then three were along 42nd. But one was way up in the Bronx. Then one appeared to have been identified from London. Then one from Houston, Texas.
His feeds kept fading. He had not said a word during all of this, just kept moving along the sidewalks.
Ambient feeds along the way varied. Some had him walking down 42nd, clear as day. On others he seemed to be mixed in the mists from the streets, or wrapped in veils of cold air. He flickered in and out as though he were traversing interstitials in the old Google street views. Still other feeds when he had to have been there to get to the next feed, showed nothing.
‘Nothing!’ she Nowed.
He stepped onto 10th and his legs disappeared beneath him. Reappeared, and then he was gone. His entire Now snapped out. Then he was back again. A final image of him entering a door hung at the end like an impossible coda. It was 268 East 10th Street, an old Turkish Bath.
‘The data unravels,’ she Nowed.
KB put finger to his lips and, for the first time in months (the tracers recorded it as 96 days, 3 hours, 9 minutes, 4 seconds), Nowed, ‘Love you.’
Then he was gone.
‘Bull has entered the building,’ Hitash Nowed.
‘And Now is Then,’ Empress Nowed.
Feeds thrummed with activity at Bull’s home, at his girlfriend’s home, at his works, at the studio where he sometimes played music. But especially, they pulsed outside the Turkish baths at 268 East 10th Street.
A history of the baths was Nowed. Of the building. Of New York.
‘Next, the history of water,’ Hitash Nowed, sarcastic.
The plans of the building were Nowed. The clientele over the last ten years, the years during which facial recognition had gone Crowd, were listed along with their incomes and works.
‘End of America,’ the Empress Nowed.
HGH knew where she was going. The old currencies were still falling. That strange 300-hundred year period when usury was touted as ‘capitalism’ needed to end. Why base an economy on the breaking of the poor? Most money did not need to cost money.
And America, or Spain, or Nigeria, or… any nation-state. Boundaries? Really? Defensive, possessive, hierarchies that optimized what exactly? People. Tribes.
Thus the rise of Nowist. HGH had formally joined just last year. Member 1.298.091.887. Now that number had quadrupled. Everywhere, regimes were crumbling as their tax bases left. All the tests - arresting and incarcerating citizens of Now, claiming their property, seizing their funds, full scale drone attacks, revoking entry and access at random points… These had support in the local courts, but fell under the Nowist courts which had the backing of the GNU, which had legal and fiscal supremacy over its member countries.
The major deciding factor for HGH had come with the second global election. The first had demonstrably selected strong, insightful, and humane leaders. One of the first true elections in… maybe ever. The introduction of Trune had been a major factor. Before Trune, people could stand in front of a feed or a crowd and lie. Trune was a real-time test of the validity of statements. Now, every feed had a Trune that registered and reported the speaker’s honesty, statement-by-statement. The scores applied cum to personas. Permanently. There were histories for people like Vice President Dick Cheney who had lifetime scores as low as 3%. His compatriot in office at the time had been George W. Bush. He was honest 5% of the time.
The old Fox News had lost access to 96% of their feeds in a single week after Trune was introduced. The United States Senate and Congress filled seats with literally less than 1000 votes at the elections, even when the candidates spent over a billion of the old dollars to ‘get out the vote.’ Trune exposed the depth and breadth of the candidates lies. Voters by the thousands and then by millions quit the country and became Nowist citizens.
It was a long time coming.
So the first Nowist election, that had been luck. But no one thought the second election of the Nowist council could achieve a balanced, meretricious, adequately experienced body. But stunningly, against all odds, it did exactly that.
Over 93% of the Nowist populace voted. SatRats, real-time satisfaction ratings derived from Now contexts, hovered over 75.
The dollar, which had fallen off the Now as a measure of global wealth seven months ago, was currently valued at 0.01 Veerals. Almost worthless. Only the Yen was stronger at 0.017 Veerals. The Japanese, older across the population than any other nation, were slower to convert. China had surprisingly been the first country to extinguish its borders, its government, its military. Its people, always strikingly independent within a highly oppressive regime, opted out in numbers too great for the regime to address. Embarrassment ensued and the regime extinguished itself.
The American population was visibly shrinking. HGH wondered, who would be the last American?
Momentzia09 poked at him, ‘End of KB’s bio by HGH.’
In a way, she was right. KB had been dark for almost six hours already. Whether he appeared or not, all the material HGH had dredged up about KB for the bio would be seen by many to be useless. There would be 1 minute bios, 3 minutes, 30 minutes, hour-longs, and on and on. KB had, in a single instant, gone from a seminal but marginal player in the history of Now, to one of the great actors on that stage. His image and ‘last words’ were already the top play for say-shirts.
HGH dis Nowed. ‘For all of recorded history, there have been… gaps, errors, revisions. It is possible that KB exited through a margin of error.’
‘Truly,’ Momentzia09 allowed, ‘the Now is incomplete, even where it is perfect.’
‘KB is tautological.’ It was a new Now. One that floated to the top. It was someone like Momen, coming slowly to the surface by being an original and authentic Now. It was someone called just Sevier.
The insertion of this new Now boosted them all as the old guard, the experts. HGH’s amps leapt to 65, the Empress went to 77, and Momentzia09 popped up over 30. For Momen, all the air seemed to have been sucked out of the room.
Hitash grinned at Sevier’s Now. It referred back to Hitash’s work on ZanderWitt where he drew on Wittgenstein of the previous century and others to establish the idea that all human language is essentially tautological. It means itself, and nothing else. Not even, in fact especially not, the thing the language supposedly references. A whale is the word whale, etc.
‘Perfectly,’ he Nowed.
“The thing about seeing is that the sensors sample what they sample.”
“Isn’t that profound.” Huey was sarcastic, but in a dramatic manner, as though the sarcasm were a show for Cassie on the barstool next to him.
Khan was standing. He pulled in a deep draught from his cigarette, let it percolate in his lungs, and then released it. The lights were hung low with wide shades. Khan’s eyes were lost in darkness.
“I’ve been off the grid for… shit, maybe five years,” Huey bragged. “I don’t know why you’ve got to go through all these shenanigans.”
“In a way you have, and in a way you haven’t,” Khan said. “Been off the grid, that is.”
“Hell, I’m not an American anymore. But I never signed up for the Now either. And no one’s come looking for me. Fuck ‘em all, I say.”
“Yeah, well, that’s a luxury few people have, or want for that matter.”
“What, saying ‘Fuck ‘em?’”
“Not being a citizen. Being forgotten.” The front door opened, and Khan watched two men enter. Their eyes were under hat bills and Khan could not see their eyes. But he could tell: they were looking for him. They were the second pair of hard lookers who’d come through the bar tonight. Not to mention the hundreds of drones. People were getting worried out there.
Well, as Huey said, ‘Fuck ‘em.’
Khan knocked back his whiskey and turned to face the bar. If he had a run-in with these two… with anyone at all really, he would be seconds or at best minutes out from being reallocated.
He plucked up his refilled whiskey glass and watched the two men heading back out the door. When the door closed, Huey leaned closer to him and wagged a drunken finger in his direction. He said, “So, what do you do... Now?”
“I’ve disappeared. An invisible human being can’t do a thing.”
“Hah,” Huey laughed. “That’s not what they used to say about God.”
Khan smiled flatly. “God is dead, Huey. Circa 1882. Confirmed by the coroner, Frederick Nietzsche.”
It was an unknown, FraggleRock025, who Nowed it first. ‘Now is leaking.’
Hitash checked. It was true. But…
He Nowed FraggleRock025, ‘Sort of.’
It had been just over a year ago that the Now became ‘complete.’ Every single soul on the planet accounted for. They were named, located, and in a supposedly benevolent manner, tracked. It was an exactly inexact science. Like photons, a human was given a definitive name and location only when it was possible, such as when they were tracked on a device with facial recognition. The rest of the time, their location and movements were calculated and projected with a high degree of accuracy. One of the primary tools was the fleet of Doves, the SatNet in orbit that imaged the entire Earth in the infrared and visual spectrum almost continuously. But the billions of visual and voice-rec sensors fed in also.
‘Yes,’ FraggleRock025 replied, ‘exactly.’
Momentzia09 piped, ‘Only identities are leaking.’
‘That is impossible,’ Sevier nowed.
‘KB,’ Hitash replied.
‘KB.’ It returned like a massive wave, from Sevier and over 15 million others.
Hitash entered the mine. The Now data mine was a writhing sea of events, but one of the rising Nows and variations caught his eye. A rising Now was ‘5, 4, 3, 2...’
And for every single Now that contained this countdown, it was that individual’s last Now. And worse, when he tried to locate any of the Nowers, they appeared to be disappeared. Just plain gone.
‘They’re counting down in the Now,’ he reported.
Momentzia09 Nowed. ‘KB left instructions.’ Momentzia09’s amps spiked at 46 and tailed off slowly, and then rose again. Billions of people were Nowing her discovery.
Hitash was one of them. He read the instructions closely. He hung on one paragraph, “Human consciousness as we all know is largely predictive. Our sensors are also predictive. They predict what they sense: mass. How do our sensors detect mass? Motion. They maintain an image of stasis, and when the stasis changes, they image the change. There are ways to sidestep - acceleration and projection, for example - and several ways to create modified imaging - blurring, fade, and others. There is also the disintegrative and the deceptive. These are algorithmic and can be accessed by anyone.”
He provided not one, but twenty different findings for exiting the Now. Hitash followed one and let it tumble in his mind. It was a little device called a redrone. It was a stealth drone that simply infused a slightly altered physical description into all feeds in a given area. It essentially warped reality and though the sensors read accurately, they did not see accurately.
He followed another finding and found a mapping system that, at an exact speed that blanked recognition code, transformed facial images. It was disturbing, almost nauseating, to watch the results. But effective.
There were means of dissembling your attention trail over the Now, essentially erasing your behavior and history by introducing error which the system would then remove as noise. There were guidelines for avoiding the few currency transactions where one needed a personal trace - owning residentials or businesses - as opposed to an identity-free reputation as a trading basis for Veerals.
There were additional findings for what he called reabsorption. These were clustered under a statement from KB to wit, ‘I have been practicing and creating and finding exits for many years. Reabsorption methods are defensive or evasive methods to be used to keep you in the dark after you’re already there.’
Hitash Nowed. ‘Flaws in the fabric.’
Momentzia09, ‘A buttonhole, a zipper. Sewed right in.’
Gorely flashed his wit, ‘Caught in his own zipper.’ But it bottomed out. Went almost negative.
Hitash shook his head. He had been the historian to declare, when the last human on Earth had been located and droned, that ‘The fabric of history is complete.’ He had certainly given them the opening. But Momentzia09 made it appear the flaws had been there all along.
Well, maybe they had been.
In the next six hours, over twelve million people used Khan Bull’s instructions to remove their identities from the Now, and from the forty or so countries still remaining as entities. By evening, five of these countries had less than 1000 people in their population. One, New Zealand, capitulated and ceased functioning.
A slow, almost vicious counter effort located and recaptured the disappeared. Some of the top backwatchers, like 1Pastensic and MadenShades, Nowed themselves as ‘vigilants,’ redrawing attentiveness within the scope of vigilantes. A new lexicon emerged like an island in a dessicated sea: Outnows described the escapees; Nowbountys described the hunters who searched for the escaped; Nowagains were the refound escapees; and Blips, the refound escapees who re-escaped.
Hitash nowed, ‘Post-Nowist.’
Amps and Now surged. It was a question he could not answer. Why?
‘Now is not the Now.’ This was the upstart, Momentzia09. She was Nowing at a mind-bending 61. Unheard of. Her Now was reNowed in a surge that pulsed over 2 Billion.
Sevier elbowed back in. ‘The Now is the only Now. Leaving it is leaving.’
‘Any Now is a figment of Now.’ HGH leaned away from his portal. How had he dared Now that?
Suddenly, GorelyAppler was there. He snarled, ‘Outnow equals crime and terrorism, equals police and defense, equals government and borders, equals a-human currencies and poverty.’
The Now came from Momentzia09.
Hitash smiled drily. She had deftly driven Gorely’s own dagger through his guts. Gorely had been big against the remarket of backwatchers and relevants. As soon as backwatchers arose, there had been a concerted effort to declare backwatchers necessary for everyone. ‘Fear the dark!’ ‘Danger always comes from behind.’
Then the relevants emerged. Relevants fed your Now with information from your immediate vicinity. Someone with a low reputation, a felon, an inebriated… a weapon, a speeding car… meteorites, tsunamis. Or it could be parties, food, music, a public dance. You name it. If it was happening within some factored distance - physical, emotional, familial, professional - from the user, the user’s heat sensors would fire.
You could set the sensitivity, and many people cranked it up to max and thereby justified their over-reactions and fear.
Gorely fought against the stupidity of people trusting such crap. But now Gorely was fanning the flames of fear also.
‘Now updated.’ His Now bloomed and surged. JorgenZeit had Nowed this from his deathbed last year. It had become the means of summing up and saying goodbye.
In the room at Zone9, Momentzia09 looked back over her shoulder at her father and mother. They were hovering like old-school parents. She Nowed. ‘Mom wringing her hands. Literally.’
‘Dad should light up.’ It was her sister, XoSwaPawSox.
Momen’s father chuckled. ‘Jahhmmmin’ he said.
‘Jahhmmmin,’ Momen Nowed.
She experienced the odd pleasure of the moment. It was a slowing, one of those instants that gathers in a hundred unsorted threads from the past and forces them through an experience of clarity, arrival, purpose. It was like coming over the rise above a distant city with a small band of survivors after a hundred days journey.
She looked back at her father.
He knew. He shrugged. Her mother watched them and closed her eyes. So I won’t see her roll them, Momen thought.
Then she hovered there, her eyes, her being, her life. She was Nowing at 72.
She watched HGH’s latest now, EmpressNowager’s, and then… she clicked out. Her accounts filled instantly with millions of Veerals and SucroCheerios, Pepsican, and PizzaNow owned her. Her and her Now.
A minute later she Nowed once more. ‘5… 4… 3… 2...’
Twelve hours in, Sevier recounted all of it for the GorelyAppler feed - KB’s exit, the intense climb to the Nowcasters’ oblivion culminating with massive clickouts from HGH and Momentzia09 - the professional and the product.
The GorelyAppler feed climbed to 69, one of the highest Nows since the Now had ended. It was a bittersweet accomplishment. Over a million were Outnow, the number rising hourly.
‘Sevier claims Now has ended.’ GorelyAppler Nowed. ‘Irony is ironic. And Now is Now.’
Sevier smiled broadly and bowed to the feeds. ‘Now is now a choice.’
‘The myth,’ Sevier said, ‘is that Outnows have no access to Veerals or acquisition at all. But evidence is, Outnows live well.’
‘The lonely solitude of the Outnow.’
‘The false society of the Now.’
‘Society is a construct to create a viable and valuable Now.’ GorelyAppler growled.
Momentzia09, rising in the Now because of referrents and deflects, Nowed. ‘SucroCheerios is the perfect nutrial source. Low in-E, high out-E.’
‘That is what I’m talking about,’ Sevier nowed.
‘Someone has to feed the feeders,’ GorelyAppler grinned.
And here it was. Sevier had been too wrapped up, too excited. But he knew, he had known somehow. It was the deflating as thousands Outnowed. It was the pall on his Now. On everyone’s.
Sevier stood straight and smiled into his feed. Then he Nowed, ‘5...’ It was all he needed. His Now plumed to 81. No one had ever Outnowed in full Now.
He bowed again and straightened. The feeds showed Sevier, arms outspread like P. T. Barnum, held in a perfect showman’s stance. But his EGeo sensors, pirate feeds, backwatchers and mydrones lapsed from certainty to anomaly to doubt and then to static-filled absence. His classification popped to Outnow and his image and LastHour records were posted at once in the Nowist domains where nowbounties fell on them, looking for clues.
The show spilled down from the walls at Gump’s Bar and Grill, Sevier hung on screen like a crucifixion.
‘So why?’ Cassie asked. She spun on her barstool to look at Khan.
‘You know why.’
‘Sure I know why for me, but...’
‘I know. I’m surprised. I thought people were nothing more than needs connected to feeds. And that the Now was an optimal creator and connector of feeds.’
Cassie sipped her GinFlower, thoughtful. ‘I know. I know. I can’t see, like, my mother, ever Outnowing.’
‘Your mother will never leave the Now.’
Huey leaned in from his end of the bar. ‘You could totally Now that, man.’
Khan held up his whiskey glass. ‘I just did.’
- FIN -