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If you don’t want to be a superhero, you’ll never amount to anything.

  • Mr. Brightside’s Guide to Goal Setting

  

3 Weeks Later - Candy - The Sugar Lab

I wake up, check my phone. Captain Industry is driving everybody crazy. I check the time. His address isn’t for another couple hours. I go back to sleep.

I wake up again, head to the shower, turn on the hypno-clone. Hook up with a generic young woman profile. She’s rude. Too grabby. And I fuck squidmaids. I double flick my wrist and toss her avatar down the drain. The consent protocols of the hypno-clone were designed by an air traffic controller. There is no room for miscommunication.

I wash my hair. No sex today I guess. I wash my hair again. Fuck it, I turn the hypno-clone back on. I find a 40 year old dumpy dude who wants bang a bi chick. What a curious display of honesty. We make love.

We chat a bit as I wash my hair. He’s really nice. I friend him.

I head to my kitchen. My plan is to make my usual breakfast of vegan bacon and eggs. A drone delivers a slice of pizza. It has vegan bacon and eggs as toppings. It’s a troubling harbinger of a societal speed wobble. I eat it. It’s pretty good.

I check the indulgences calendar - how shall I get wrecked today? It just says sleep. The fuck! Who agreed to this? I get back in my pajamas.

I send a query - does anybody want to watch Captain Industry with me? I’m tired of being depressed by myself. I get a half dozen yeses, and two dozen maybes. The champaign room is being kitted out for a slumber party. Delta suggests we watch it there.

I head down to the club. There’s a fragile atmosphere of sobriety. And pajamas.

I go see Brian. This is usually where we’d share a drink or a joint. Thankfully, he’s doing something interesting.

“We’re weaponizing the pizza drones.” says Brian. “I'm sick of them getting shot down.”

“Cool. I thought the U.N. outlawed autonomous deathbots.” I say.

“Yeah, we're not going to tell them.” says Brian. “Anyway, there not deathbots. They just deal a face full of piping hot pizza.”

“It’s a weight thing.” says Orcette. “The drones aren't strong enough to carry a pizza and a AK-47.”

“You can take out a gunman with a slice of pizza? Wait! What the fuck! Are people really shooting at our drones?” I ask.

“Paintballs. They're shooting them with paintballs.” He points to a smashed drone covered with fluorescent goo. “Gums up the rotors. Fucking kids.”

“It could be our competition.” says Orcette.

Brian nods. “Some asshole anyway. To answer your question - yes, it is extremely hard to pelt a gunman with pizza. Even if he’s only shooting paintballs. That said, we’ve patched the drones into the hypno-clone network, so they have the same augmented senses a human.”

To access the hypno-clone network, you must share your visual feed. Billions of video feeds are what makes virtual travel possible. Privacy settings only work inside homes.

You can make yourself anonymous, but if you turn off your feed, you can’t see any others.

“How often does the gunman leave his feed on?” I ask.

“So far, always.” says Brian. “Lazy asses are using it to help their aim. Or, maybe they forgot it’s on. I can’t remember the last time I turned mine off. Anywho, we can see what they see. And what any bystanders see. From there it’s just an optimization problem.”

“I started them off with a library of hunting strategies.” says Orcette. “They try them randomly, and beam the results to the rest of the pizzadrones as training data. They learn.” She laughs.

“It’s pretty cool.” says Brian. “If you want to hunt man, may I suggest running from their attacks, and discretely following them home. Eventually, they come out without a gun.”

“One drone flew in a window and pelted a guy while he was taking a shit.” says Orcette. “It was awesome.”

“That does sound awesome. Provisionally.” I say, and slowly back away. I’ll deal with this later. When I can drink.

I sashay over to Intervention Group. Isaiah is talking.

“If I’m understanding the research correctly, a properly functioning human is bummed out most of the time.”

“Interesting.” says Delta. “So, happy people are the weird ones?”

“Nope. They’re just lying.” says Isaiah. “Possibly to themselves. Definitely to us.”

“A conspiracy. I like it.” says Zeta. “Are we going to crush it?”

“Nah, just dent it a little. I don't want everybody yelling, and crying, and kicking dogs, and shit.” says Isaiah. “But we do need to let people in on the joke, so they stop feeling like failures for not being happy.”

NICE. says Command Line.

“We have thoughts and emotions. Thoughts are relentless. There’s no way to stop them.” He looks at the bar. “There’s a couple ways to stop them. Point is, you don’t have to do anything about them. Ten, twenty times a day, you’ll think that you’re a piece of shit. You can’t stop that. But, you don’t have to believe it. Or, fight it. Or, do anything about it. You can just thank your brain for the update, and go on with your day.

“Emotions are similar. They’re just another way that we talk to ourselves. You're gonna feel bad a couple times a day. You can stop that - with drugs, TV, or accomplishments. But, long term, that's exhausting. Nobody can stay drunk, distracted, or working 24/7. It's better to just take a little time each day to feel your emotions. Say hello to them. Thank them for dropping by.”

We think.

“So, self-control is a waste of time, and we should all go fucking ape shit?” asks Zeta.

“You may be confusing emotions with actions.” says Isaiah. “You should remain in control of your actions. I'm saying it's okay to feel upset. Not that it's okay to yell, and scream, and shoot up the place.”

“Hmmm, that's an important distinction.” says Zeta. “I’m glad I asked about that.”

We think.

SO, WE PUT THAT ON A PIZZA BOX? WAIT! says Command Line. IS THIS ABOUT SUICIDE?

“Yes. Suicide is an emotional control strategy.” says Isaiah.

IS IT? asks Command Line. BEING SOBER IS WEIRD.

“Agreed.” I say. “Is this the entire therapy?”

“Oh, god no.” says Isaiah. “That’s just all that will fit on a pizza box. On your next pizza, we will introduce the concept of Radical Acceptance. That’s where you stop fighting reality and make peace with what you can’t change. It requires some practice.”

The meeting kind of peters out. We mill around. This is usually when we get high. It's hard to nap socially. Though Omicron seems to be managing.

It's funny. I love sleep, and I'm always sleep deprived, but sleep as an indulgence is the worst. I hate it. Probably why I'm always sleep deprived.

I couple of us go to the champagne room to doze while we wait for Captain Industry. I get a few winks in. When Captain Industry finally begins, he’s immediately depressing.

“So many of our hard working countrymen can’t make ends meet because they can’t get paid the money that is owed them. We need to stop the domino effect of bankruptcies, where the jobless are dragging their friends and neighbors down with them.” says Captain Industry. “No more bankruptcies! No more burdening everyone around you! If you can’t pay your way, we will give you an emergency job until you can! That’s what your government is doing for you!”

He finishes to thunderous applause. He smiles and waves. The feed freezes. His smile is broad, but his eyes are angry.

The applause fades to white noise, which fades to a scratchy, old-timey, audio. Time for Mr. Brightside.

“What the fuck is an emergency job?” says Mr. Brightside. “Is that just selling poor people into slavery?”

There’s a pause in the audio. Presumably, so he can do drugs. I wish I had some.

“Okay, I won’t bore you with why slavery is evil and stupid. You know, you don’t care. Let’s talk about the truth you’re trying to hide. You're not rich anymore. Sure, you have more money than ever, but more and more people are realizing they don’t need money anymore. And, as they do, they escape your control. Your kingdoms are shrinking.” says Mr. Brightside. “Quit trying to make equality illegal. It’s dangerous. Embrace a more elegant solution. Abandon your kingdom. Join us in the underclass. We’re having fun down here. c.. …… …. …

We listen to silence for a bit. The feed shudders and cuts out. Shows over, I guess.

We lie in the dark. Everybody’s quiet. I wonder how many of my friends are on their way to indentured servitude. What will their jobs be? What will they do with my friends? I should stop making trouble, and try to buy them. I close my eyes. I’m not rich. How long could I delay the inevitable?

I picked the wrong day to stop doing drugs. Day’s almost over. I sleep.

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Doctor Zero

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