Working for The Info always means getting up at bleaurgh o’clock. Some hideous time before you would normally go to bed. But that’s when their parcels arrive.
I was already up, dealing with my burnt out cleanser after Sprout blew it up for me. The door bell rang and I peered at the sec screen to make sure it was an Info delivery. New equipment for me – usually on permanent loan. This meant they had to send more of fix stuff if it broke on the job.
Sure enough in glitchy black and white a guy in an Info cap carrying a big parcel. Neat. It looked like a few things would be arriving. I buzzed him up, unlatched the door and flipped the kettle on while I waited for him. I turned to hear someone singing. A bad Andy Williams tune from when my parents were kids. “You’re just too good to be true….can’t take my eyes off of you….”
The Info delivery guys were usually surly teens just earning a crust. I can’t say I’ve heard them sing before.
I reached over to open the door when it swung open nearly into my face. “Ba-da, ba-da, baaaaa! I love you baaaay-bee and if it’s quite alright….!” The parcel was shoved into my chest while the “delivery guy” pushed past me and started looking through my cupboards for cups, still singing to himself. He opened the cleanser and closed it again quickly and stopped singing.
He backed away from the cleanser with an “ew” and took off his cap. I relaxed.
“I hate you Patch”
“But I love you baaaybeee…” Patch was an old friend, he does not work for The Info and he is not a delivery boy.
“What are you doing in my home?”
“Looking for coffee, bringing you post”
“How did you get my post?” I looked at the parcel from The Info in my hands. “Mugs are to your right, kettle has just boiled”
“The delivery guy gave it to me, I met him on your doorstep.”
“And how did you get him to hand it over?”
“I used your ID”
Patch makes instant coffee, puts the steaming mugs on the coffee table and folds my sofa bed so he can sit on it. “Are you going to open it in time for work today?” He asks.
Patch has a way of finding things, fixing things, hence the nickname and generally poking around. He’s made more money than he needs to and so he gets to do what he likes. The Info must have asked him a billion times to work for them, but he says no and prefers to consult occasionally for a price bordering on extortion.
“Patch, using my ID is illegal”
“Better that I do it than a criminal then eh?” He sips the coffee and grins at me. Humming the same tune.
I sit down and open the parcel on my lap. A new over ear vidrec, a new set of streaming visors and some sort of webbing I have not seen before. I fish out the data slip and set it to play back the instructions reeling past the visors and vidrec.
“The Info presents the all over microphone, recording internally and externally everything in your immediate surroundings.”
I raise my eyebrows and turn the webbing over in my hands. Holding it up, I can now see that it will fit my torso and that each junction of the webbing has a tiny microphone.
“The Soundweb takes in all surrounding sound and can be worn under your suit for complete discretion.”
Patch laughs, “You had better eat breakfast or it’ll be recording your empty stomach growling all morning.”
I nod thoughtfully, that’s a possibility. I get up and put bread into a toaster.
“The Soundweb is also a security measure so that we can ensure your safety while working for The Info”.
“They mean monitor your every conversation and check if you are working all the time,” comments Patch.
I stop the recording from the Info, I have spotted the transmitter and the how to wire it into my suit. The Info also provides suits for recording, they have high vis markings in case we are in a protest so the cops leave us alone, there’s an aerial, a backup drive and various other wires to keep it together. Suits are made from a kevalar derivative, allegedly indestructable, burn proof, stab proof, most things proof. One Info researcher was bitten recently by a Militant Vegan Protectorate marcher trying to make a point recently, they lost a tooth, he had a small bruise at most. I dug out my suit from a pile of clothing and looked on the inside, there were already places where the Soundweb could hook in. Clever how all of the kit from The Info was always prepared for upgrade.
I look over at Patch, “Time for you to leave now.”
“Not yet, I haven’t finished my coffee.” He looks wounded. “And I brought your post in and sang you a song.”
“Out Patch, I need to get changed for work.”
Patch grins lavisciously and settles back into the sofa. I rub my face with frustration, collect the rest of my kit and take the whole lot into the bathroom, wondering when my home became a free for all and how I lost control over any of it.
I find a packet of sim cigs in my suit and light one while waiting for the shower to warm up. I look into the mirror. Large brown eyes that need more sleep look back at me, I look older than I am, grey hair has started to appear at my temples already. The mirror steams up and I start to get ready.
I struggle with the suit after a hot shower. “Need a hand?” Patch’s voice through the door. I hope to most deities that he is not able to get his data tendrils into my bathroom. “Has Hell frozen over?” I ask him in return. The Soundweb fits perfectly and I attach a headset and clip on the visors. A switch on my shoulder turns the whole thing on and my visor tells me in the display that it’s running a check.
I walk out of the bathroom straight into Patch who has been standing next to the door. I tut at him and push past.
“I like the way The Info designed their suits”, observes Patch.
“You’re a pervert”
“No. I do. It makes sense the way the kit is set up. Of course the fit is good too.” He tries a wolfish grin as I recoil.
“Why are you in my home Patch?” I ask as I look around for my skate and wait for the system check to come up with instructions.
“I need to borrow Sprout.”
I stop in my tracks and look at him. “You’re joking right?”
“No. Not at all, I need to ask him to help me out with something.”
“No way. In the not ever sense of no way. I’m fairly sure it’s not even legal to allow you two into the same room.”
“You know I can reach him anyway. But I thought it better to ask you and see if you would come with of course.”
“No Patch. Aesop is not some new toy you can modify and play with. Get out of my flat.”
“You’re probably going to change your mind of course.”
I hate it when Patch does this. Patch is very similar to Aesop, they can both see time like a chess game, planned so many moves ahead, taking in so many variables that they appear to be able to see the future.
“Well, maybe I can wait for that moment.” I’m feeling angry and put upon. I scan my visor display. Systems are fine and a message is blinking, instructions for the day.
Patch waves a fat envelope at me – surprisingly hard copy. “You’ll be needing this too.” He puts it on the coffee table.
“Why is it on paper?” I ask suspiciously, picking up the envelope and opening the top.
“Better you don’t have the data on your system,” he nods seriously.
“Contraband data? You brought contra into my home?” I ask accusingly.
“You had started to look already and you won’t find this even on the priciest searchers.”
I look into the envelope, the top sheet is a photo and profile run down, for Sterling Lusthead.
“How did you know?” I mutter. “I didn’t even send that search over.”
“Sprout” says Patch proudly. “You know he has a keystroke logger on your machine?” It was simple enough to sniff your system and see what was happening. I modified the logger so that no one else can track that now, hopefully no one was looking. Nice program though, Sprout’s really coming along.
“Why were you sniffing my system at all?” I sit down on my couch, face in my hands. Sometimes I wonder why I know these people and if I will ever escape them.
“Just a friendly look. I keep an eye out on people I care for, no one can get into your system like I can, so it’s pretty easy to see who else is trying. I don’t ever look in, just at the outside. Think of my as a guard dog.”
I look at Patch. There’s not enough time to get into this with him this morning. I put the papers into my safe storage hidey hole. I would do this while alone, but I get the feeling Patch already knows.
I pick up my skates and blink open my instructions. A protest, great. Usually high energy but I’m not in the mood for the possible attacks right now. I need to get my head straight. Patch has buttered my toast and puts the plat on the table in front of me. He can sense I am not happy with his great revelations act.
“Take it easy today,” he says heading toward the door. “And call me later. I think you’ll want to when you get back from the protest.”
The door clicks shut and I feel helpless. Everyone else seems to have more control over my data than I do and most of it’s not even my data. I scan my instructions and directions as I munch on the toast. A day of hunter gathering for The Info.
To be continued….