How one person should solve a problem is completely different from how one million people should solve a problem.

  • The Darkness


1 Day Later - Candy - The Sugar Lab 

Wake. Captain Industry. Sleep. Shower, fuck, eat. Hit the club.

It’s pandemonium. I’ve never seen it this busy. I grab a brew and a joint. They go quickly. I get more.

Omicron comes downstairs. A man and a woman are with him. He kisses both passionately. They leave.

“The fuck?” asks Brian. “When did you become Dick Lightning? I was with you all night. How the fuck did you pick up two people without me noticing?”

Omicron smiles. Shrugs. “They’re friends from work.” He grabs utensils and a napkin, heads out to the patio. A pizza drone follows him. So do I.

Omicron wipes off a table and two chairs. I lay out a couple brew. Pizzabot serves a few slices. THWACK!! It’s hit by a paintball. Loses a rotor. Slams off a wall, nearly hits us, and barely gets back inside.

We look over at the sidewalk. There’s a heavy woman with a paintball gun. She’s covered in pizza guts. She stares at us, then slumps and shuffles off. She pulls a wad of cheese from her hair and eats it.


We eat and drink quietly. Giving the death of normalcy a moment of silence. Eventually, I have to ask.

“Dick Lightning, eh?”

He nods. “Not sure if I like that or not. It's derogatory, but powerful.”

I grunt. “He called me Pussy Hawk once. I was also ambivalent.”

“Ha! Dick Lightning and Pussy Hawk. We should become vigilantes.”

I laugh. What does he think we do here?

“But yeah, there’s a place on the Optimal Job application for your greatest sexual fantasy. I filled it out, and randos started showing up to do it with me.” He shrugs. “I guess it’s a dating service. Or magic. I haven’t really questioned it.”

“Fair enough.”

He’s describing a pretty slick system. Most people never tell anyone their sexual fantasies. It’s the number one reason they stay fantasies. Shame really. 97% of people just want one of the big seven fantasies. There’s a good chance that any given partner is down to clown. Communication is so important.

Looks like the Optimals are subcontracting the shitty parts of being human. No more rejection. No more boredom. No more worrying about money. Or the future. All you need to do is stare at your phone. It’s like they’ve monetized social anxiety. Goddamn. That’s how we could’ve saved the club. So obvious in retrospect.

Fuck. The Optimal Job Experiment is far more sophisticated than Old Money’s usual bribery and intimidation. It’s more like the schemes The Darkness used to pull. The Universal Chatbot. Project Octopus. Goofy little ideas that “inexplicably” took off and destroyed massive chunks of Old Money’s power base. Weaponized self perpetuating madness.

Old Money’s favored control mechanisms were debt and jobs - you need a healthy base of desperate people to keep the useful people in line. The Universal Chatbot slipped past his gatekeepers and destroyed the job market, leaving him only one hand on the levers of world domination. Uneasy with this, he ordered his debt-ridden minions to rebuild the job market.

In theory, Project Octopus was to be the new job market. Cancer was the emperor of maladies. Curing it was sisyphean. Recruiting the hopelessly unemployable was the icing on the cake. Cause, you’re not trapped in meaningless toil, unless you’re too desperate to leave.

Alas, Project Octopus was slipped into the idea pile by The Darkness. It was 100% designed to cure cancer. And everything else. A deathblow for the job market it feigned to save. It’s brilliance was in its simplicity.

Project Octopus had a key rule - participants must run an original experiment.

In theory, this would result in a lot of dummies doing random stupid shit. In practice, it takes a lot of knowledge and organization to be original.

Millions of participants used the Universal Chatbot to find the cutting edge of cancer research. From there, they toiled and flailed - a million man trial and error machine. However meager their contributions, the Chatbot added it to the body of cancer research, making the next group reach farther. An ever widening gyre of knowledge. It produced thousands of cancer cures within 6 months. And, one cure for everything.

Omicron’s phone chimes. “Excuse me, I have to go to work.” He pops a blue pill, stares at his phone.

I look over his shoulder. He’s watching a video feed from a drone. It’s following a man. Omicron taps a button when the man notices the drone following him. The feed switches to another drone following a different man. This guy doesn’t notice he’s being followed.

Yeah, we’re fucked.

Big Iota slides into our table. He’s wearing a black suit. He looks morbidly hungover.

“Hey, hot stuff.” I say. “You clean up purdy.”

He shrugs. “I like to dress formally when I’m hungover. If you ever see me in a wedding dress, step back.”

He slides a USB key over to me. It’s labelled Trouble. “That’s everybody who’s gonna die tomorrow.” He stands. “Pardon me, I need to go puke.”

He’s gone.

I grab a laptop. Load Trouble. I see a couple thousand people in an elevated emotional state. They can’t calm down. Can’t sleep. Can’t think without pain. They want control. They’re planning drastic action.

Well dang. This is distressing. Yesterday we worried that we couldn’t find these people. Now we’ve found them, and they’re immediately overwhelming.

I stand. Time for intervention group. Let’s share this awful responsibility.

I head into the club. I bring Trouble with me. It’s quiet. I find everyone at the big screen. Captain Industry is on.

“Yesterday we were attacked. The terrorist known as Brightside escalated his aggression. Sending a message to his followers, to ready the most terrible of weapons. We will not back down from these extremists. We will not falter, not hesitate, not fear. We will destroy them as utterly as they would destroy us. Let me be clear - because this is the last time you’re going to hear this - anyone, ANYONE, who builds, conspires, or even talks about teleporters will be met with the full force of our armed forces!” Captain Industry pauses. Sneers. “And don’t think you can hide from us. Teleportation is the biggest threat to humanity. It needs to be FORGOTTEN! Get on board, or we will destroy you!”

Well, fuck. There goes freedom of speech. I knew that was the plan, but I didn’t think they’d just come out and say it. Fucking hell. They may get away with it. Everybody’s still terrified of teleportation, and a good chunk of us are dumb enough to think killing anybody who talks about it will save us. I can already imagine what Mr. Brightside will say about this.

It slowly dawns on me that the Presidential feed isn’t freezing. There’s no scratchy, old time audio. There’s just Captain Industry mugging for his cheering mob. They said they’d kill Mr. Brightside and now he’s gone. The crowd at the club is perfectly still. Captain Industry looks fiercely happy.

I can feel my emotions in my body. Stresses, and aches, and hollowness. Weight. The world isn’t a fair place. Sometimes the good guys die, and the bad guys live happily ever after. I watch Captain Industry laugh. I feel a change in my body. I’m light. Loose. Clear.

I thought we’d learned. I thought we’d learned the hard way. I guess history will repeat. I pull Leviathan out of my pocket. I got some history right fuckin here. I plug him into my phone.

Let the monster rise again.


About the author

Doctor Zero


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