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Chapter 4 - Zaire

 

 

 

Zaire's upset.  Her 'friend' Willow has left a message with her VPA to tell her that she looked like a troll with today's haircut.  But what's worse she'd deliberately vidied her in a bad light to make it look gross.  Then she posted it in The Cloud to 3,000 of her most intimate friends.  The girl's a bitch.

She knows the reason.  Willow's been hanging around flirting with Starfighter when she knows perfectly well that he's been her boyfriend for months.

Anyway, what was she saying? Oh yes: "Is everyone going to the concert this evening?  It is Friday."

If she's going she will need to get some Helos.  "The band is fantastic but you have to be high to appreciate them and get into the vibe," she told Tiger-lily.

There are huge numbers of concerts featuring what to a non-Bogan seems to be a bewildering range of music styles.  These come and go and are revived.  But like clothes and hairstyles it's social death to be a fan of an old one for too long.

Most require their fans to be on drugs to fully appreciate them.

Synthetic drugs are very popular but are not strictly legal.  Provided they pass the 'pill tests' that venue owners and concert promoters apply to avoid serious injury, no one will stop you.  Like total body scanning toilets and other dubious or semi-legal goods, they are manufactured in mysterious places by entrepreneurial Busies making fast credit. 

Law enforcement bots within The Cloud obviously have no difficulty finding the culprits and will occasionally prosecute them.  But it's a grey area.  The goal of the law is to maximise global happiness so that the harm that might be done by a published law being broken is balanced against the enjoyment people seem to derive from breaking that law.  The law's existence simply provides grounds for prosecution when the happiness equation yields a negative result.

Thus under The Golden Algorithm the harm caused by a few people becoming unwillingly addicted is a small price to pay for the enjoyment so many get from the drugs and the thrill they derive from breaking the published law. 

The illicit manufacturers know that they will be arrested very rapidly if someone gets killed and as a consequence their loved ones and associates are made extremely unhappy.  So they take great care with their formulations. 

Similarly, illicit data collection mechanisms optimise the personalisation of goods and services to the great mass of the population.  So they are tolerated, as long as the happiness they deliver outweighs the harm.

***

Zaire goes to work for a full twenty hour week and loves it.  She gets good credit and likes to shop 'til she drops.  She's just returned from overseas and that's when Willow made the move on her boyfriend.

Her job is organising media relations for a company selling travel services.     

At her job interview, the panel was amazed when a Bogan girl announced that: "Product differentiation is essential to success.  Resorts all need to have a point of distinction and they all rely on advertising."

They really wanted to hire a Grad, like themselves. HR had put her in because of the employment equity policy.  The panel members were suspicious that her answer was something that she had learned by rote. But who might have coached her?   In the end the other candidates had no concept of what a Bogan resort could be like, whereas Zaire had been to over a dozen with her family and could even describe their relative profitability and how one was better managed than the rest.

So they called her back and asked her what she knew about 'economics', thinking that she wouldn't know what they were talking about.

"Oh I'm not a brainiac. So I have a favourite site that simplifies the concepts for me. It's called The Economist," she announced.

She then went on to explain that recreational services were a large part of the post-Famine world economy.   Almost everyone will visit a Bogan resort at some time and many spend much of their life going from one resort to another. But this depends on advertising and it depends on the World's second largest economic sector Entertainment.  For example product placement in the plethora of celebrity chat shoes that pass as news, the many elimination shows from cooking to fashion to dating, reality and talent shows and of course over five thousand sporting codes, each with their own fan base and sports site on MV.

"So what's the biggest economic sector?" one asked suspiciously, still disbelieving that a Bogan would know such things unless coached to recite these passages for the interview.

"That's easy," Zaire replied. "Recycling.  It encompasses the processing of our garbage and all those things we no longer want because they are out of fashion.  But many people don't realise that all those old towns and city buildings that are demolished are also recycled, the land remediated and often returned to wilderness."

"Anything else?"

"Well obviously cadavers and weapons were a big challenge during and after the Famine.  But now much of that recycling effort can be directed to old garbage tips; and so on; that can be mined for useful materials.  It's interesting what they just buried when they could mine new stuff without a non-renewable penalty isn't it?"

"We're amazed that you have been interested enough to find out," said another.  Isn't that a bit odd for a Bogan?"

"I suppose I am a bit odd compared to my friends.  It's just that I'm curious about the world; like how do things work and what motivates people.  It's all there in The Cloud, you don't have to be a genius or anything to find out."

"You are certainly a well-informed young woman," said the third, smiling. "And as an attractive physical appearance is a required job criterion, I can safely say, beautiful too."  They were all smiling.

She got the job.

***

Now Zaire gets to go to lots of new places and stay in six star hotels with the hosts of MV travel shows.  Hotels and resorts love the company she works for because they can pull in the media and the media hosts love the hotels and resorts that the company represents. 

Everyone seems to love everyone.

Well that's not quite true; many 'personalities' are hard to deal with and almost all demand or expect additional favours. 

If all they want is little bit of extra credit it's easy but some might want to meet a celebrity; want drugs; or a favour of a more intimate kind.  She has been learning to listen to the hints they drop and to what others say about their preferences.

Zaire has been doing well because until now she's has a sixth sense about what favour which one wants.  She's become very good at hunting down the appropriate person, place or thing to satisfy all concerned and thus ensure a glowing MV endorsement for the client hotel, resort or attraction.

But now the concert will have to wait.  Her boss has called.  Zaire's made a terrible mistake.  She misunderstood the intentions and sexual preferences of Aden Hitch, the male anchor of the top rating morning MV show. 

At the Command Resort, Phuket she arranged for a 'lady-boy' to go to his suite as a special favour.  But what her boss tells her is he'd actually been demanding, in a round-about way was that she do the honours. 

This was a common demand.  If she'd realised that was the favour he wanted she would have handled it in her usual way. 

"It's like diverting a toddler who is determined to get his hands on fragile figurine," she told Willow.  "All you have to do is dangle something less breakable and more colourful.  There is always a more attractive toy around, if only because it’s more easily available."

Then she'd thought: "Maybe Willow would like to meet a famous media person?"

But this favour was poorly chosen and the distraction would go unnoticed.  He'd apparently had a bit to drink and probably a Helo or two.  In the dimmed lighting it took longer than usual to discover the difference.  He told Zaire's boss that he had not wanted any favour.  And to have this one foist on him was a huge insult to his manhood.  He told her that the Resort was going to suffer his acid tongue on Monday morning unless that girl is gone.

She has just over two days and needs help and fast.  Think! The lady-boy reminded her of that Grad girl they'd been 'winding up' at the Mall. 

"For all her supposed brains and sophistication, she imagined that she looked like a normal person.  She was like a scarecrow in that ridiculous week old outfit and fake tattoos."

Then she thought:

"There are so few Grads in town I bet I could find her in The Cloud.  We all vidied her, she was so funny."

***

If there is one thing Bogan girls can do from the time they can use a screen: it's find a new friend in The Cloud.  It took Zaire less than half an hour to identify and locate Bianca.  As she suspected Bianca lived in that old part of town where ugly old buildings had actually been renovated rather than demolished and built afresh.  Grads liked these places for some inexplicable reason. She'd never been in one but she'd been told that they are 'furnished' with old stuff, some of it many years old, like handmade rugs from before the Famine, and many get by with less than a hundred and fifty square metres of living space per person. 

Since the Famine the houses and apartment blocks are more spread out as a result of demolitions and are now set in parkland. There are still frequent subway stations, particularly in the inner city. The pre-famine subway network has of course been upgraded and the express lines are a lot faster.  But because most time is still spent in the stations, catching the local train with all the stopping and starting can still be tiresome, despite the same personalised on-board entertainment and local climate control at each seat. 

Zaire consulted her VPA, Pip, who told her the fastest route would be express subway for the first 35 kilometres, taking about 10 minutes, then change to a local, another 10 minutes just for the transfer and to go the final five kilometres to Bianca's stop, then another 10 minutes’ walk through a park. 

Some people still preferred a road vehicle but Zaire is not sure why.  Like the subways, the roads are excellent because of the priority for local government consumption spending on infrastructure but almost all vehicles are robotic and driverless and dedicated to goods delivery.  Negotiating a path through them requires some sophisticated navigation by your vehicle's computer and around the city taking manual control is incredibly dangerous and prohibited.  In the city all parking is hidden, usually underground, and it's mostly limited to residents and their guests. Public parking stations might be a kilometre from your destination.  Then there is the weather, it might pour down, and then everything has to slow to less than the standard highway lower limit of 200 km/hr, which at least breaks the monotony of travelling among trucks between sound walls for kilometres on end. 

Although she has bought many and keeps them for a few months until a more fashionable model becomes available, Zaire seldom uses her ground car to go to the city because she usually finds that sitting in a quiet, comfortable subway carriage with a few dozen other passengers for 20 minutes much to be preferred and it avoids those depressing underground car-parks and the higher expenditure of credit involved for casual parking at some distant car-park. Needless to say it’s not possible to manually stop or park on a carriageway anywhere in an urban area.

The alternative is her own hover-fliver or to take a hover-cab.  But they're slow by comparison to the subway or driving and she would have to contact Bianca to get permission to use her landing pad, assuming she even has one. 

So obviously Zaire would accept Pip's advice and take the subway. 

When she arrived Pip directed her thought the park. It was all up and down with winding paths. This was more like a forest than a park. It seemed to be almost wild until she saw a robotic gardener mowing a grass area.  Zaire was horrified.  Gardening is one of many well paid Bogan professions, like hairdressing.  Many take great pride in the placement of every leaf and petal in large ornamental gardens that regularly change shape and have huge changing displays of different seasonal blooms.  Then she decided that this part of town is so alien to Bogans that no one would want to work here, where would they shop?

Some plants looked like they had been here since the Famine. Then she saw a person with an old digging implement.  They, she couldn't determine the sex from the clothes or the disreputable straw hat, were dressed like a tramp. Could this be a gardener with no personal pride who was somehow unaware of the latest fashion in gardening clothes?

The tramp digging in the forest was not the weirdest thing.  When she emerged from the 'park' she saw people in the street wearing ancient clothes in strange fabrics of no discernable design, generally of just one or two colours or even grey. Don't they know that this week's style would make Elizabethans look drab?  But by far the weirdest thing was the old buildings, some of them many stories high.  She knew about them of course, but that didn't fully prepare her for the reality that people actually lived in these places.  It must be amazingly unhygienic to be surrounded by all this old stuff.

Bianca apparently lived in one of the towers.  It was then that Zaire realised what the '20A' before her address must mean. Extraordinary!

 

 

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