They stood in single file, wild excitement on their faces in anticipation of the storefront opening. PhotoVolt-film-lined tents wrapped around the block with wireless charging stations plugged into them, and families filmed fathers holding their babies by the hands as they shuffled their young legs around, learning how to walk. Everyone was happy, the moment was joyous, the batteries were charged, the gates were about to open. The geniuses were about to welcome everyone in. Some of the crowd had been camped out for weeks – or even months. It seemed that there was always a continuous presence around the glass fronted stores, for blocks. People recorded their media and quickly produced it into slick prepackaged templates for easy consumption, camped out together, fed each other. They carried banners with illuminated paintings of St. Steve, and flags with depictions of the forbidden fruit and its poignant bite mark. The economy would rise or fall depending on the first weekend of sales. Riots had broken out around releases in the past, though the Jobsians, today, had developed a voluntary set of community agreements to self-organize and prevent violence. Security forces left them alone, for the most part.
As the doors of the glass palace opened amid cheers from the staff and delightful roars of those waiting, a darker spectacle began assembling in the thoroughfare leading up to the quasi-public square where the faithful awaited their prophetic commune with the future. In the center of the foamstone-cobbled court, an elongated cylindrical monolith stood illuminated by projections of the latest smooth translucent slates in various form factors, glowing with interfaces. Down the street a procession of black robed and barefoot outsiders approached the cylinder and filed around it until they all stood equidistant, hands held in a circle.
“You have no right!” someone shouted.
“There are families here!” a mother’s voice echoed.
“HAVE SOME RESPECT!”
The robed figures pulled down their hoods, revealing a cadre of mixed hued skin tones and strange tattoos and scars on masculine and feminine faces. To the East toward the open gates a thin framed orator with ornate braids and a crystal pendent hanging in the cleavage of their breast began the recital:
“For the ancestors of Turtle Island
and the future generations!
For the laborers toiling
To the South another deeper voice from a darker more muscular form intoned:
“What comes up – must come down.
As above, so below.
All empires that rise
will dissipate into cold.”
At the West, a soprano then called out:
“No more shall your hubris
distract and enslave us!
The oceans will swallow
the idols you’ve raised up!”
An androgynous monk-like spirit to the most North solemnly stated:
“We consecrate our bodies
in a gesture of resistance.
Let our will be shown to those who see
to bring about our vision.”
Three times, the group collectively repeated, “This is our will!” in unison.
While this incantation was being performed, a riot detail had begun shutting down the intersections of the blocks immediately surrounding the Jobsian temple; lower ranks had begun moving in to cordon off those who had legitimately gathered for the product launch.
“THIS IS AN UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY-” bellowed a captain at the established perimeter.
“By the authority of the people of California…” the barely intelligible voice continued droning, booming out of the sonic cannon shields the phalanx carried.
But by then the robed practitioners had already begun to break their circle and snake around clockwise, acknowledging each member in sequence with an embrace of hands. After they had all respectively looked into the others’ eyes, they each swallowed a capsule that the first to go around had distributed, and then started shuffling toward the entrance of the storefront. The geniuses, caught off guard, had neglected security protocol and failed to shutter the opening.
As they moved in, they left their robes behind at the outside and revealed bodies completely uncovered, decorated in branding and needled ink patterns worked over their otherwise exposed flesh in motifs of swirls and ancient geometric designs revered across the world. Modest onlookers gasped and shrieked in disapproval as they were hustled away by the security forces.
Widened pupils and goose pimpled skin lazily but deliberately filled the show room and changed the atmosphere decidedly. Even the workers, now effectively trapped inside, felt turned on – unwillingly – as if by aphrodisiac, to their own confusion. The naked school of bodies standing around the tables with patented rounded corners released sweat profusely, the scent of aroused mammalian primal drives crowded out any air of normalcy.
As the intensity of desire reached a boiling point, the nude forms gravitated toward one another, lit up by the bright white lighting falling on faux woodgrain and stainless brushed metallic surfaces. Jaws clenched and smirks and sly smiles opened into hungry grins; tongues licked lips. Display cases for smart panes were pushed to the side as ravenous glistening humans climbed and leapt onto the retail showroom platforms to indulge their lust. The dozens of them, a rainbow tribe of united nations represented in their heritage, now suckled and gnawed at one another, rolling over to mouth each other as they pushed and pumped into their flexed and extended centers. Moans and whimpers of malformed phonemes broke into wordless guttural vowel cries. The geniuses, backed into safety corners and against the radiant walls, were aghast, speechless, frozen.
The variant phenotypes permuted their meatspace into multiplicitous combinations of orifices and protuberances with little regard for any discernible order of social relations. They certainly were not interested in biological reproduction. Pure hedonic ecstasy and impulsive mercy won over their strokes and fondlings. Locked into a pulsing embrace as a kind of super-organism, the body of bodies increased pace. If ever one had seen an orgy, not only would what was taking place here qualify, but it started to resemble something beyond the motivation of sexual gratification. The intensity and dedication of the rhythmic contortions became desperate.
The temperature in the room had risen noticeably. A distinct, strange chlorine-like smell infused the other familiar sweaty odors wafting in the air. Tightly gripped hands scraped into midsections, and skin bore abrasions from the friction. Acidic internal contusions started searing through bellies; gagging mouths gasped for oxygen and began to retch up a foul sticky substance onto each other that burned a bright lilac-colored flame as it engulfed them, still clenched in their now mechanical thrusting and grinding. They went on like that automatically as their bodies blazed neon purple and the flesh melted off of their frames, boiling and bubbling as it cooked into ash. The geniuses ran out of the opening in horror and were immediately detained at the police line.
After the last worker escaped the front room, the building’s systems monitor dropped emergency walls to seal off the area and revved up the ventilation unit to suffocate the smoldering remains of the death orgy. The fumes cleared and robotic power washers sprayed a dry chemical cleansing powder over the afflicted area. The loose material was blasted off of the elevated surfaces and collected by autovac. Sweepers gathered the damaged slates and stocking units replaced them. Within a matter of minutes the look of the place was pristine, as if nothing had happened to disrupt the launch day event. A supervisor walked through the police line to examine the scene as the emergency walls receded.
The situation met with his approval. The supervisor turned to the crowds pushed back behind the lines and bellowed, “Ladies and gentleman – we apologize for this unfortunate delay. Any customers who witnessed any of this unpleasantness will be welcomed back to the front of the line, as soon as you consent to a standard non-disclosure agreement. Please line up to see one of our helpful legal assistants to guide you through the process.” The crowd seemed relieved by the return to order, and proceeded to huddle around the assistants who now punctured the corners of the police lines. The supervisor crossed back over and greeted the frightened geniuses, who were being released from the zip-tie cuffs they had been temporarily restrained by. “I’m sorry this happened to us on our biggest launch yet. A team of retail experts are en route to relieve you all of your duties today. You’ll all be receiving a day’s leave with sick pay.” They seemed to relax at the news and were released thusly.
A private shuttle pulled up at the intersection. A troupe of young, smiling associates in blue t-shirts and khaki shorts hopped out enthusiastically, and waved to the onlookers. The crowds shouted out their approval and at the direction of the newly arrived sales staff were led in exuberant applause as they stood in line to tap “I Accept” on the slates held by the legal assistants. Surges of deeply felt wonderment overcame them all.
A view of the action in the store pulled back, zooming out to reveal those waiting around the police lines that had mobilized in response to the earlier disruption. The view faded to 50 percent opacity revealing the interior of a tea lounge, teak wood decor and little seating areas lined with pillows. Andee was monitoring the scene on the AR-shades she was wearing, the action had been recorded and it was time to get going. As she grabbed her rucksack and headed toward the front door she swept her index finger around in a circle to call up a menu on the floating display in front of her eyes, and with a few more gestures she killed the recording session on the smartbird she was monitoring and terminated the video feed. “Namaste-” the young proprietor of the tea house said to her, as Andee briskly hit the street. She looked down a few blocks at the scene, at the Jobsians lining up to be let into the store, and gestured for the surveillance bot and its sibling repeater units to return to her. The three drones perched on signposts at the intersections between her and the storefront square simultaneously took flight, and began flapping in her direction in a convincing bird-like fashion. Their taxidermy jobs created the intended illusion, very realistically conveying the appearance of common pigeons.
The parameters of the assignment were vague on the details of the subject but very specific about the requirements. Her smartbird collection fit the bill. She’d done offsite monitoring of demonstrations in environments where the authorities had shut down the wireless networks and instituted no-recording geofences in the past. She would take the video to a trusted contact who would handle the upload, to be shared amongst the brave souls who risked circulating anti-Jobsian propaganda on their private networks.
The smartbirds settled on a hedge she had circled with her pointer finger, they swayed gyroscopically, awaiting her next input. She pulled a case out of her bag and stuffed the two repeaters into the padded carrier. She fished a cable out of her vest and downloaded the recording from the leader bird onto her pocket mobile. After the transfer she overwrote the birds’ memory storage, powered them down and put the case away. The taxidermied smartbirds were a real hit at the DIYspaces.
She walked down an avenue of shops, passed by bicyclists and autocabs being rerouted around the security perimeter. It was important that she make contact for the data drop as soon as possible, but she couldn’t bring herself to summon a car share or head to a subway. She needed time to interpret things, the video she was carrying of the horrific protest had nauseated her. Walking slowed things down, everyone else was hurriedly traveling along their usual grind – the fresh air helped calm her stomach. This video would never pass approval on any of the public nets. But sympathizers needed to see that the resistance was alive, the images were powerful. So powerful if they could be leaked they would be hard to ignore.
She stepped into an alley behind an old Victorian duplex as indicated by her instructions and located a data port behind a flip-cover embedded in the wall. As she hooked up her mobile to the port, an encrypted chat request popped onto the screen. She accepted.
@AndeeBales: i captured the action.
@anon112358: Good. We’ll take care of the rest. If I were you I would destroy any copies you have.
@AndeeBales: are you sure? don’t you think my contacts could do a redundant release? we have to make sure that this gets out as widely as possible.
@anon112358: It’s too dangerous. If you get caught holding on to this one you’ll definitely end up in rehabilitation, working some assembly line down in FoxxCity.
@AndeeBales: i know the risks. but how can i trust you? normally when i do this kind of work we have a meet up, make sure everyone is on the same page.
@anon112358: It’s better for you if you don’t know who I am. We’re working with your people. You’ll see. You’ll have to trust us. If we wanted you to be captured you’d have turned down this alley and ran in to a snatch squad.
@AndeeBales: thanks for not giving me up then, i guess.
@anon112358: We like your broadcasts, Andee. Keep it up. Things are going to start happening really quickly. You need to keep documenting, keep disseminating. There’ll be more demonstrations, stay hungry.
She put away her cable and began to securely delete the files on her mobile, overwriting the storage with random junk data. Dusk set over the rows of apartments. If she hurried she could make the debrief with her cluster. A shuttle over the bay and then a brief light rail trip up north, she’d make it out to the redwoods in time to catch everyone after introductions.