Honking, the geese fly overhead in a giant V as the sky reddens in the late September dawn. Tralley watches them for a moment before continuing to unload the pickup truck outside the transmission tower high on the hill. Rucker fixating on his smartphone in the cab looks up for a moment tracking the impressively precise formation.
Rucker turns his attention back to his phone. Tralley sighs. Who knows what Rucker is doing in there. Gaming. Texting. Posting. Shopping. Streaming. Or maybe all of them. The screen’s the thing.
Tralley bangs on the bed of the truck with his toolbox and Rucker nods holding up a finger. Not the middle one. It’s his be-with-you-in-a-sec signal. Surprisingly, he is gently natured and loosely cerebral for a guy wedded to his smartphone.
Rucker finally joins Tralley at the back of the pickup. “Beautiful morning,” Rucker says taking a deep breath.
“Get that information from Google?”
Not acknowledging the sarcasm, Rucker replies, “Naw, direct from the photons on yonder horizon transmitting that info. You gotta get the soup wherever it’s dished, my man.”
In spite of his earlier irritation, Tralley laughs. “You are a philosopher-king, Rucker. The world is your oyster—or at least your trail mix.”
“I’ll take whatever is in my line of sight. Front and center.”
“Never look back?”
“Got to at times. Safety, ya know.” Rucker starts taking the equipment to the squat, bunker-like building next to the tower. “You think these new relays are going to dampen the noise?”
“They’ll do some good,” Tralley answers. “But, they’ll always be noise. We just want it far in the background. Keep things as harmonious as possible. Folks don’t want to hear their own blood circulating.”
Rucker nods. “Got no problems with that. But noise is information too. Everything is information. Sometimes listening to the noise reminds us that reality is just a strange mix of uncertainty, randomness and probability. Position, time and energy. Source, medium and destination. It’s all about the bit. We are the signal, my man, and it’s a beautiful morning.”
“This esoteric before 7AM, Rucker? Even for you that’s early.”
Rucker sets his load down by the heavy metal door and holds his phone to the entry pad. From inside, locks click and unlatch. Rucker pulls the door slightly ajar. “Might as well tell you,” he says. “I just found out that I’ve been approved for encoding.”
Tralley eyes widen momentarily and then quickly narrow. “You’re not going to do that!” It comes out like a command.
“Course I am.”
“Become a walking relay station? A human piece of infrastructure?” Tralley almost yells.
“Why not? The company hires folks to do it with external hardware. This is just embedded. To my way of thinking it’s building a network no one can take down. Relay towers like this are outdated targets fast becoming relics.” Rucker fully faces Tralley, grinning. “We’re already the information. Now we become the channel.”
“You mean a cog in the machine, a chip on the circuit board,” Tralley pleads. “Don’t you know you’ll always be connected. Always locatable.”
“Yeah, I’ll be integral. Information that can’t be lost. I kinda of like that. The hive doesn’t scare me. Mutual dependence is not a bad thing. Openness and transparency are the way forward. I’m more wary of lone wolves. Isolation and secrets create miscreants.”
Tralley looks to the east where the sun is peeping over the top of the distant peaks, some already tipped with snow. “I just don’t get it, Rucker. You’re so easy going. So grounded and damn smart. Why would you let your person be compromised to become part of the company machine?”
“Really, Tralley? You think this is compromise? You think this is unexamined? Impetuous? Childish?”
Tralley does not answer.
“This is transcendence. This is how it starts. You saw that flock of geese. Someone has to take the point. Maybe it won’t work out like I thought. Maybe I’ll rue the day I got encoded, but I’m thinking of a very different tomorrow from you. Information is all about position, and I’m putting myself front and center. In a decade, this transmission tower will be obsolete, but I will be sitting like a lotus on a mountaintop and what makes humanity hum will be passing directly through me. I dig that idea.”
“Could be you’re digging your own grave.”
“Could be. It’s all heat death to me.”
The two men face each other, across a load of electronics, a gulf of uncertainty. “Let’s get our job done,” Tralley finally says.
“That’s what we do,” Rucker agrees and holds the thick metal door open for Tralley. “After you.”