Every first and third Friday of the month there will be two story excerpts from the Shine anthology. This is the second one: “The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up” by Jacques Barcia:
(UPDATE: phishers have stolen around $4 million in carbon credits [as reported in Wired, via Boing Boing]. Just to show that carbon credits are already a highly important — and interesting — item today, and will be even more so tomorrow. Ideally, SHINE stories are highly relevant, and increasingly, they prove to be exactly that…;-)
(UPDATE 2: while some — at New Scientist, no less — may think Jacques’ story may ‘teeter into transhumanist follies’, others like Jamais Cascio — a top 100 Global Thinker of 2009 — think it will eventually become so normal that it’ll bore people [via io9]. As always, YMMV…;-)
The pricking under his shirt had stopped. They talked in a dedicated moIP connection for no more than ten minutes, with only one of those spent on discussing the many zeroes being offered to Inácio as a reward and how they’d known his lover. Lúcio met them at the Shigeru Awards and apparently gave them Inácio’s contact details.
The three clients wore encrypted avatars that masked their features, appearing as nothing but dark cloaks with plasma globes for heads. But out of recklessness or sheer confidence their voices weren’t jumbled. They were all teens.
“And that’s it, Inácio. We want you to find everything you can about Gear5’s policies.” The taller avatar had an older but more casual tone. Advanced physics algorithms made the somewhat anthropomorphic illusion dodge waiters, tourists and other rich media floating in the augmented reality.
In the real world, Inácio sat at a round stone table close to the escalator leading to the avenue down below. Rush hour had passed, but the traffic systems were still operating. The street drove the cars so close to each other they looked like a single line of black bars and yellow spots. “You understand that what you’re asking is extremely unusual, don’t you?” The analyst already had three search engines running in his field of vision, along with dozens of other eydgets, including some custom market research apps, blabber feeds and text clients, sending private messages to trustworthy contacts and opening anonymous topics in professional social networks’ forums. “And your deadline is impossible to meet. I just can’t provide you a full report about this Gear5 in less than eight hours.”
“I told you,” said the third plasma globe. It had the sweet voice of a girl, but naturally distorted like a bad death metal guitar plug-in. “We should have contacted him much earlier.”
The youngest avatar seemed to turn to the angry girl and back to face Inácio. “Unfortunately, Mr. Lima, it’s a very tight window of opportunity. But we know you’re probably asking questions to your acquaintances by now and they’ll certainly ask their own in the following minutes. We couldn’t let an avalanche of gossip be spread before the markets were closed. Besides, we decided to make our move just a few hours ago when word has reached us that the company will open part of their codes tomorrow morning.” The globe’s innards were filled with a storm of pink lightning. The avatar leaned closer to Inácio. “But I don’t think you really find the task unusual, do you?”
He didn’t. There was this indigent startup wikindustry operating for eleven months now with an ever rising stock of carbon credits and these kids, whoever they were, wanted to know whether the thing Gear5 had under development, besides the occasional crowdvertising for rising mobbands they claimed to do, was sustainable or not. That all meant he had to find out everything about the company and their product using, he’d say, unconventional methods. “Like I said, the deadline is impossible,” he said.
“Just give it a try. We trust you.”
Rich teenage wallets were not uncommon, especially in the tech business. But this group was different. They were too young and seemed to have a different focus, too knew for him to clearly identify. So his only option was to treat them as a common group of aggressive investors, the kind of people he had a history of hating. “Look, I know you know exactly what that company has been developing. You won’t tell me for competitive reasons, of course, but if you are considering the investment then you’ve already measured how much money you can get from that. So why bother with carbon market regulations they’re certainly meeting? Just go there and put your cash on it.”
The young foreigner put his cloak-and-globe body back straight and raised, for the first time, a pair of ghostly hands. “You’re not getting it, Mr. Lima.” He looked like he was giving a lecture. “Money has meaning only to those old enough to remember it. No, Mr. Lima, we don’t want to put a single penny on it. We want to find out if this project conforms to our working ethics. We want to invest our brains and bandwidth on it.”
Jacques Barcia is a speculative fiction writer and information technology reporter from Recife, Brazil. His short fiction has appeared in Brazilian, American and Romanian online markets. He’s one of the authors actively supporting Greenpunk.net and the Outer Alliance initiative. When he’s not writing, Jacques acts as the lead singer of Brazilian grindcore band Rabujos. He’s married and has the smartest, loveliest, bookishiest daughter in the world. Jacques is currently working on his first novel. He can be reached at http://www.verbeat.org/blogs/thedreammachine/.
In a near future Recife, Brazil, Inacio Lima a middle aged former “green soldier”, haunted by the untimely death of his husband Lucio, works as a “sustainability consultant” when he is approached by some mysterious foreigners to investigate Gear5, a company that is supposed to announce a new revolutionary product and is buying carbon credits like mad. The investigation will carry Inacio to unexpected places and encounters. Another superb story that works as atmosphere, style, characters and world building.
This story is very relevant given the present-day, myopic ‘group-think’ support of carbon trading that has resulted in inevitable profligate funding as well as what is in effect fraud. In this story a cyber-jock checks out a new trading group for a team of young Turks…
A mysterious group of young people ask a self-employed sustainability analyst to do some very quick work for them. But what is the real product and what is really going on?
**** 4 Stars! Mysterious, vague, and a bit confusing until all the pieces begin to fall into place. ****
And if the most radical aims of transhumanism are realised, could mortality itself become a thing of the past?
The state is viewed with suspicion, while the market moves so quickly that malevolent corporations die off with a minimum of fuss. China, Brazil, tiny Vanuatu all have powerful roles in a post-superpower future.
The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up by Jacques Barcia — sadly, the final short story in Shine and the second one in the anthology which I could not rap my mind around. I re-read it several times and the story became clearer but again, I strongly suspect that this is for true fans of the genre.
Others, like Jacques Barcia’s The Greenman Watches the Black Bar Go Up, Up, Up strive so hard to transcend present-day troubles that they teeter into transhumanist follies.
An interactive map with locations of the SHINE stories: