Lieutenant Jones hung up the phone, grabbed a color-coded pen that said, expiration date 5 Nov 2047, and stared at the monitor watching the Plaza. He placed the stylus over a young brunette and clicked. A window appeared onscreen:
Date: 23 Oct 2047
He clicked ‘more.’ Her family’s closest relatives came up.
Another tap of the stylus.
The screen magnified her image. He zoomed in on her left hand and frowned when he saw the diamond. ‘Strange how some people refused to abandon old traditions.’
Tap…tap…went the stylus as magnification returned to normal. A bearded man caught his attention. Tap…tap…the window revealed little information.
Date: 23 Oct 2047
Approx age: 33
Unchipper. A call to Central and he would be marked. Lieutenant Jones leaned back in his floating chair and saved the unchipper link to his hard drive, then e-mailed the link to Central. Onscreen, he watched as two Sweep Patrollers immobilized the bearded man with tranquilizers. Nobody asked any questions, nor did they care.
Cash-only transactions in Goshen were almost unheard of nowadays. It would be like paying for goods with gold dust in the early 21st-century. Cash attracted attention to yourself, Sweep Patrollers, Cerberus drones, and (oddly enough) those strange simian-like creatures who wandered the city-state in ever-increasing numbers. Cash labeled you an individual…a solitaire.
Solitaires, while not expressly forbidden, were discouraged and every attempt was made to discourage individualism. Individuals didn’t think like the whole and discouraged unity. Free-thinkers were dangerous.
Four hours of people-monitoring the Plaza wearied Jones. He walked down to the Reality Room, put on his infrared goggles and opened the door to a darkened room. He walked down rows of cubicles seeing people laying on gamer cots with closed eyes and wearing neuroscopes. They were in cybersleep.
Jones settled into the black padded foam chair and adjusted the neuroscopes. He slid his hands into the attached gloves. Almost instantly, the computer read his implanted verichip which identified him as 66-543-8A. A retinal scan confirmed his ID number.
He found himself walking on Madburg Ave in the heart of the club district. He entered St. Bucks Café and Blues. A holographic Elvis and Michael Jackson were singing the duet ‘Love Me Tender, whether I’m Black or White.’ He put a quarter in the juke box (he had an infinite supply of these and never asked why). A blond-haired girl with tattoos covering her arms sang about satellites falling from the sky…watch yourself and death defy.
“So true,” said a weepy-eyed girl beside him. Jones nodded absently. She was a cute girl with nary a single blemish on her pixilated face.
“Did you hear about the latest satellite fall?” asked Jones. “It landed on top of Logan’s Castle.”
She giggled. “Serves him right after closing the water park a month early. Anyone hurt?”
“Nope. Nobody home except Logan himself and some unchippers.”
Five hours later, Jones emerged from cybersleep and returned to work, realized he was done for the day, had 29 more days until the Sucralose and methyl butyrate kicked in, then went home to a night of Lifequility. He found it difficult to differentiate between the virtual and actual world…but then didn’t everybody?