Author : EL Conrad

Temps pour out of slots, lining the windows and tapping the chipspecs implanted in their skulls. All that platform switching — everyone going from database to real time data simultaneously — causes a sysglitch that forecloses production until a tekfix.

A maximan admonishes the workers, “Don’t negi on storm, platform up shortly. Yay!”

“And if we need to go?” Outside, snow is falling fast and furious.

Maximan’s face stretches as she smiles double wide. “U can go. Who says no? UR all expendable. But we heart U and we plus U so if U go, don’t come back.” Her expression is distracted as nows play on her brain screen. “Reduction is production!” she finishes with forced cheer and the company motto.

No one reminds her that they aren’t reducing shit until she gets a tekfix. So young, so beautiful, and so brimming with nowpow, or maybe tompow, in any case just 24 and already a maximan at Midcorp — who would dare disturb her with fact?

It’s efficiency that eventually encumbers.Managers gotta keep it rolling or heads roll. Later has already been planned and predicted, workflowed, whiteboarded, and graphed, every aspect quantified and then spiced with a dose of chaos math. There are objectives and known results (OKRs). Metrics exist on what was and is and will be.

Output — production or reduction, whichever — has already been measured. Deficiencies are intolerable, and maximan changes her tune soon enough, expelling the temps right after transport is halted, “Secu’s #1 so go home! Grow balance. Have it all. Plus yes 2 checking 4 txts. U rule!”

Ellipsis and Wolf trek downcenter. Everything is lovely. Center is still, storm active, a reversal of biz as usual.

It’s late when they cross into the Point, fringe territory. Across the river, Metropolis is invisible, the perpetual glow of its mammoth structures dimmed to dark. But the Point is always powered. Corp’s most valuable pop shops are here. Liquid gold is the biggest biz, so there’s always juice to process piss.

At the factory where the couple rents a cube, the vidgard’s on the fritz. They take the prohibited fire escape to the roof, use of which is forbidden. Wolf lowers himself over the edge one flight to their window ledge, kicks the plastiglass out.

Ellipsis uses a system she devised and that Wolf strongly advises against, a superfine cord of woven space string, the kind they put in Secucorp laser shields. It works but does not look very secure.

When they first met, El’s daring thrilled Wolf — he never encountered a creature as alive in all the universe. But a decade plus can wear on any duo and now he wonders if the alien’s dangerous streak is dull, just a death wish. All life forms have defective creatures that get those when knowledge infects.

Wolf knows — as a boy he spotted his grandfather’s body hanging from the rafters of his forest cabin, a rope wrapped round his neck. It happened on the day the nows announced that corp was gov and gov was corp and that the twain had met at last in the name of efficiency and the single system system.

Still, despite her mate’s suspicions, Ellipsis is the one with hope. She doesn’t articulate this to Wolf because his magical realism involves a higher proportion of real to magic than hers; he disdains hope as a kind of corrupt, delusional philo for the consolation of morons. “That shit’s totally passe,” he like to say. “Went out with the separation of corp and state.”

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