Loud music filled the room, making it hard for Bentley to hear anything else. This was, of course, the point. He savored the deep, pulsing bass his bluBox had chosen for him. His coffee rippled in time to the music as he scanned the morning paper, enjoying the feel of newsprint between his fingers.
His fellow technocrats insisted newspapers were antiquated, but Bentley preferred to stay offline during breakfast, putting off the inevitable confrontation with his inbox. There was always someone begging him to tweak – or better yet, override – the algorithms directing resource allocations so supplies could go “where they were needed most.”
His phone vibrated in his pocket, silencing the illusion of peace his music provided. Bentley tugged the ear clip from the breast pocket of his ratty flannel and fastened it in place without bothering to identify the caller.
Not many people would try to contact him by voice.
"I’m here.” He finished off his coffee in a last, disappointingly tepid gulp.
"We need you to come in, Bentley." Apparently, Mack was was too busy for polite greetings.
He dumped his mug into the sink and rinsed it. "I’m scheduled for remote work this week, Mack."
"There was a security breach in the reclamations hub.” The Director’s voice had no sympathy. “If you'd been linked you'd've gotten the alert like everyone else.”
“Sorry,” Bentley lied. Staffcore had tried to make constant connectivity part of his contract, but he’d balked and in the end, taken a pay cut instead. Damned if he’d feel guilty about it now. "What did I miss?"
"We had to shut down remote access, so you’re presenting in person this morning."
He took his mug to the sink and rinsed, the motions mechanical as he tried to figure out the best way to transport six petabytes of pathing software and infrastructure reports by hand. Did he even have any extra drives laying around? “Can we push back the deadline?” he asked. Maybe he could reformat one of his old computational math textbooks. He hadn’t needed to refer back to pure theory since before Meck tapped him for the Reclamations Division.
“The client is already waiting, Bentley.”
There was no use arguing about things like contracts and benefits and commute time. Not if he ever wanted to be assigned to another project. “Merk, even if I walk out the door right now and take the train instead of my bike, I can’t be there in six minutes.”
“Be here in thirty."
It took ten minutes to find clean slacks and shower thoroughly enough for polite company. He grabbed his newspaper and took the apartment's elevator down to the metro station, finishing up the comics section as the doors re-opened. A recycling bin emblazoned with the quad peaks of the Staffcore corporate logo stood helpfully beside the exit. He tossed the paper in and smiled as it was automatically shredded into eco-friendly, reusable slivers.
The overhead sign claimed the next train was delayed by three minutes, an unusual enough occurrence that Bentley almost accessed the holonews before he heard a woman’s voice speculating about construction.
“No, the Cerisians bombed Green Street with one of those EMP things.”
Bentley winced. His luddite tendencies had led more than one coworker to accuse him of sympathizing with the Cerisian’s humans-first, anti-algorithm rhetoric, but despite office gossip, he had no problems with the econauts. They had ushered in global technocracy in their mission to eliminate oil wars, plastic-filled oceans, and smog. He liked breathing clean air and believed in the value of his work.
He just liked to disconnect sometimes.
The subway train rumbled into the station and the idling mass of people around him cohered into a bloc of impatient commuters, the perfect reminder that travel by bike was great for more than just reducing his environmental impact.
A short Latino woman caught Bentley in the gut with her elbow as she maneuvered through the press of bodies straining toward the doors. When they opened, the handful of passengers waited for the crowd to open a pathway. As people struggled to move out of the way, a tall GeneE in a Peacekeeper uniform pushed him aside with her bulk as she disembarked.
This Content Is for Paid Members
Unlock full access to Obsidian Iceberg and see the entire library of members-only content.Sign up to view this content
Already have an account? Log in