I arrive in the middle of a right old bun fight. It’s practically scripted violence at the city protests these days. Not matter how early you get there, there’s a shout of initiation and the cops and security companies are in action with gas and stunners.
I’ve got half an eye on the terrain, skates don’t do well with the protest debris, and half an eye on the crowd. My suit lights are on so both sides can see I’m a recorder. Not that it seems to make all that much of a difference.
Just when I think I am about to find a vantage point to turn and record the fray, hands grab my arms and I tense waiting to see who has me first. A recorder is a prime target when you’re stuck between sides who want to make a point and private sec co’s who don’t want to you record anything they might lose money on.
50/50. The gas starts to clear in front of my visor and I can see protesters with wraps around their faces. Teary red eyes squint at me and one of them is shouting.
“Say it! C’mon. She’s info – all recorder. Say it!”
A girl, I think, appears. I’m being held between two people, heavy set. Not much point in struggling, this sort of thing happens and from my visor display, The Info are across the situation. I try to bring my heart rate down and concentrate on what to do next when the girl starts talking into my face. Well, into my face but in the way that I’m not really there. She’s looking for my visor cam and hoping to broadcast to the world.
“Profiteering bastards!” Her voice is raised against the chaos around us. I can hear the crackle and fire of stunners and more nearby, the security companies will arrive soon and this lot will disperse. I look at the faces around my, my visor zooming and reorienting while The Info system tries to grab shots and make matches with facial recognition software in case any of the people here kill or get killed. They’ll make their own killing with the rights.
A rough hand turns my face back to the girl. “Your recordings fund the war! Your recordings fund the war! Let the people know! Media warnography against the people!”
It’s not an inspired speech. She continues, “We know who you are.” I focus sharply and wonder if they mean me this time. “Lusthead, we have your score and we know how to find you.”
Now I’m listening. I want to ask them, what about Lusthead? I thought he was the keyword guy, not an Info guy.
I can hear the boots of the security getting closer and I start to struggle. The protesters know it too. I’m pushed to the ground and they run. This was not the way I had hoped to manage the recording for The Info.
As I get to my feet and manage to roll aside the security company workers rush past me. One stops to scan the code on my suit and then carries on to catch the others. Though it is safer not to be acknowledged, it always feels like a virtual experience to be in protest recording. Here but I’m not here.
I skate out into the open a little more. The crowds are moving down the street toward an open square. It looks like a set up for kettling already. The protesters know that the process of crowding them into a space is frowned upon by the public. It’s almost an unspoken agreement between the sec co’s and the protesters themselves. Who looks better in this situation? Is it worth it? Everyone’s so savvy to the recording these days.
I scope the square and look for a vantage point to see things clearly. There’s less gas in the air which is at least a bit more help.
My visor flickers and there’s a crackle in my ear goggles. I shake my head and hope that those media mobbers didn’t damage my suit set up when I hear a familiar voice.
“Head to the museum, they’re not locked yet and there’s a vantage point on the second floor looking into the square.”
I stop on my wheels and look at my feet.
“You can talk, I’ve split the stream, so best to keep looking around. The Info are getting their stream but they can’t hear your mic.”
“What the fuck are you doing in my suit?”
“You have no idea how great that sounds!”
“Enough Patch. What are you doing?” I skate toward the museum but I’m not sure. If I get in, I might not be able to get out if I need to be on the ground again. I hesitate near the doors.
“Go in. You don’t want to be here in about five minutes, but you will want to be upstairs recording.”
“And how will I explain how I knew this?”
“Tell them you heard a protester say something on the way in.”
It seemed vaguely feasible, I headed into the building and made for the stairs nearest the side of the square. “You’re in my suit how again?”
“I brought it to you dummy. Think I could miss a quick peak at The Info’s dryware?”
I sigh and climb the stairs, my suit braking the wheels for the terrain.
“You could do with some exercise, your vitals are all over the place”
So Patch has full access to the suit. It’s pretty clever I guess but I now feel like a puppet for too many people. I’m stressed, confused and I want to go home and read my contra data. Why are more people talking about Lusthead?
I get to the second floor and Patch directs me through a few short turns to a fire escape set of stairs.
I can hear Patch talking to someone else as I scan the square. My visor is still zooming and shifting to take in the numbers in the crowd and try a few snaps of the odd faces I can see. Something is starting to happen in the corner not far from where the fire escape is set. I look down at the gathering there, protesters, check, security workers, check.
Patch talks in my ear. “I’m logging out from you now, keep looking in their direction, they have something you’ll need to see, but not for too long. I’ll be recording but not accessible. Don’t talk to me from now on. Count to twenty and then get back into the building and shut the door. Head as far inside the museum as you can. Later skater.”
I open my mouth to ask questions but I hear a soft pop in my ears and I know that his line is down. I start counting.
3…The security workers look strange. The uniform is the right shape but not quite the right colour, like a costume?
6…They have something in a strong box, while some of the sec workers hold back the crowd they’re opening the box.
Some of the protesters have clocked the box and they’re moving away. No, they’re trying to move away, but they’re being held. Not let into the square but held closer to this corner. It’s hard to see what is happening properly as fighting breaks out in earnest. Not the usual scrapping and attacks on sec workers but a real struggle, to get away from them.
15…The box is open and I try to zoom at what is taken out. It looks like a computer of sorts with lenses? Something reflective, really shiny. I want to stay, I want to see what it is.
I turn into the museum and shut the door behind me. As I step to roll closer into the museum already starting to regret missing the action a sound like the sound barrier being broken smashes though my mind. I fall over and half way down the stairs. A bomb?
I look down toward the doors into the museum foyer. I can’t see light or fire from outside coming in.
My head is ringing and lights blink in my visor. I feel a bit sick and disoriented but I know I need to get out and see what has happened.
I get up gingerly, the brakes are broken on one of my skates and I step carefully to avoid falling again. The doors to the museum are closed but the crash bar is working as I head out into the street. I can hear distant screaming. It’s closer than I think but my ears feel blown and tinitus is singing in my head.
I head over to the corner I had been looking down on. Nothing is on fire. There are people strewn around on the ground but they are alive and moving. Some are bleeding from their ears, the blast must have shocked them for starters but no one has been killed.
The sec workers must have had some protection, they are piling into a van across the street apparently unharmed. Directional blast?
I don’t know what has happened, this will cost me dearly with The Info to miss the main event. I look across the square. Most people are down or just getting up. The security workers are leaving already.
The protest was predicted to last all day, usually they are carrying flares and looking to protest into the night. But no one is shouting. Beyond the ringing in my ears I can hear almost nothing apart from the odd scream of pain here and there. No chanting. No slogans. No protest.
My visor flickers and dims. It must be broken. The suits don’t need batteries, so they always have alternative power. Something is wrong and I am no longer connected to The Info’s servers.
A message arrives in front of my eyes “Go home. P”.
Patch must be back in my suit but I cannot hear him. Only a few hours into my shift for the Info and I am exhausted and confused. I take a last sweep at the crowd in case my suit is still recording and the message blinks repeatedly “Go home”. As a puppet of I don’t know who by now. Who am I to argue?
To be continued….
Right you lot. Now it’s your turn. What the heck is going on? Who is Patch and what is he up to? Who is Sterling Lusthead and what is his new line of work? Will Sprout be at home to break something else?
Choose your own adventure – sort of. What is missing in the story and what do you want to know about the characters? Tell me in the comments and let’s see if we can’t solve some of the mysteries together.