A New World Order
Chantel Wild yawned and stretched out her arms in the suggested stretching motion recommended by the ‘Policy for Promoting Physical Wellbeing and Ultimate Happiness in the Workplace’. It had been exactly two hours and twenty seven minutes since she had started her workday and in precisely three minutes, it would be time for her allotted ten minute break to “re-energise and reinvigorate”. Mundanely watching the timer, Chantel employed various other tension relieving techniques to allow the last few moments before break time to elapse, all the while giving the impression of maintaining productivity.
As soon as the time for her break ticked over, Chantel was up. Away she rose from the desk she occupied as a technical engineer, or ‘tech eng’ being the more common term. Through the corridors she passed in the building occupied by the multi-national conglomerate Pangaea to the pod station. Into the pod she jumped which she programmed to take her out to the Martin Place exit. Down, up, over and around she travelled in the pod through a network of tubes intricately interwoven throughout the building. Forty-seven seconds after she had left her work station on the 167th floor of Pangaea towers, Chantel was spat out of her pod into the pulsing tempo of Sydney Metropolis.
That morning when Chantel stepped out into Martin Place, Sydney Metropolis, location -64+30, she was typical of a generation that was raised to believe that international companies ruled the world and that it had always been this way. She also took for granted the chip embedded in her head that had been hard wired to her brain since the time when her skull had stopped growing and contained the accumulated collection of all the intellectual property she had acquired over her lifetime. Through this chip she licensed, rented, accessed, viewed, read, used all the movies, music, readings and other material acquired from Pangaea. Some material she collected on a more or less permanent basis, other material was licensed on a pay per view or multi-view arrangement which would automatically be deleted upon expiry of the licence.
Each of the five international companies represented in the global parliament had developed their own chip that would only accept downloads in the format specified by that company. Once Chantel had made the decision, at the age of thirteen, to implant a Pangaea chip in her head, she knew this would be a lifetime allegiance. Procedures to remove the chips were costly, invasive and fraught with ramifications. Removal represented repudiation of the terms of the licence agreements which Chantel had agreed to for the implantation of the chip and in removing it, Chantel would have to surrender her full archive of entertainment as well as any personal creations stored on the device. Most people used the chip as their own personal hard drive, storing photos, documents and home movies onto the implant. Once this material was created and stored on the chip in Pangaea format, it could not then be transferred to a different format.
Although, having a Pangaea chip, Chantel could easily have downloaded her chosen content using the wireless transmission available throughout the entire Pangaea tower, on this morning Chantel felt like having a morning stroll before her daily download. At 11am in the morning, the temperature in Sydney Metropolis had already climbed to 50 degrees Celsius and would rise further to 55 degrees by midday. However, she knew it would not take her long to find a download station, there being millions dotted around the central business district alone.
Various download stations, each belonging to one of the big five and branded accordingly, were melded into buildings, light poles, sidewalk eateries and the like, merging with and becoming part of the city scenery. Some were low to the ground and adorned with bright colours to cater for children; others were behind a dark screen to shield the choices being made by perverts downloading porn. Some were in self-contained, air-conditioned booths for those wanting to take their time in deciding upon a download; others were designed for downloading on the run. Each station, though branded according to its company, was targeted at a niche market and personalised to give the downloader the illusion of individualism. Regardless, the content from each company was exactly the same.
Because Chantel usually executed wireless downloads at her workplace, she was unaccustomed to the perception of choice displayed by the different kinds of download stations in the city. She could immediately perceive the stations designed to tap into the young, professional market – brightly lit, trendy booths playing the latest range of music available for download. Instinctively she avoided these, steering clear of the all too obvious aggressive marketing techniques targeted at her niche. Sweating profusely already in the pervasive Sydney heat, Chantel turned down the slightly less populated Pitt Street. Spying an inconspicuous-looking station, replete with tinted windows and shielded interior, Chantel lowered her sunglasses, did a quick sweep of the street to make sure no one she knew was watching and, as furtively as a paedophile, dashed into the dark download booth.
Once inside the dark surrounds of the Pangaea download station, she was greeted with the all too familiar sight of the holographic download database dinosaur, performing its usual introduction, just like she had witnessed countless times before.
“Welcome to the greatest collection of entertainment in the history of the world! What would you like to experience? Will it be a movie, music, reading, video game or viiiiiiiiirtual reality?”
“Movie,” Chantel stated assertively.
“A great choice! Now what sort of mooooovie gets you in the mood? Will it be a horror, a sci-”
“Comedy” said Chantel, cutting off the dinosaur before it could finish its spiel.
“After something a little…light-hearted are we? I’m sure I’ve got just the movie for you. Just to make sure, why don’t you give me a bit of clue about what tickles your funny bone, hehe-”
“Well I’ll be damned. I never took you for someone with an interest in pre-hysteria. Ho, ho, ho!” chortled the imaginary dinosaur.
Chantel groaned. Despite her own position as a tech eng in Pangaea she would never understand how the company had programmed an interactive voice service to deliver the most tedious of puns. She was sure that some neglected, overlooked engineer, had a lot of fun designing this dinosaur.
Scrolling through the comedy movie selection Chantel’s eyes glazed over the usual brainless, light-hearted escapades. She wanted a film in which she could rejoice in escapism, without losing too many brain cells in the process. After all, Chantel already had the rest of her workday to do that and she was relying upon her post work-hours for at least a smidgen of stimulation. Conscious that the allotted time for her break was well and truly expiring, she grew so impatient with flicking through the thousands of titles on offer that she impulsively closed her eyes and pointed at random.
“Well, what do you know, you’ve picked Soul,” squealed the dinosaur in delight.
“Ugh, whatever,” Chantel muttered, rolling her eyes at the dinosaur’s exuberance.
As per the usual regime, Chantel raised the stylus pen on the download station to the contact point on the chip in her head. Pressing the confirm button, she heard a beep and the process was finished. Chantel felt the scanner lightly brush the payment chip in her arm, debiting 50 dollars from her account to purchase the movie download. 5MB of movie had just been transferred to her head for permanent use. Chantel was, as always, reluctant to select the pay-per-view option. If she enjoyed watching a movie and wanted to see it once more, it was usually impossible to find it again in the vast database operated by Pangaea. The other reason she chose to own rather than rent movies was because Chantel was a verified hoarder who relentlessly felt an ancient, primeval need to acquire more despite the fact that the only physical belongings in the entire world which could actually be considered her property consisted of barely more than a bed and a set of table and chairs, in addition to the obligatory wardrobes of clothes and shoes. Everything else she rented or was supplied as part of a package deal. Even her implant did not belong to her and could theoretically be removed at any time by Pangaea if she breached any of her licence conditions. So when given the choice, Chantel chose to ‘own’ whatever she could ‘own’, despite the equivocality of whether transferring a few megabytes of data onto a rented chip embedded in her head could be called an acquisition. Nevertheless, Chantel added Soul to her collection.
“Lucky me, I’m now the proud owner of Soul,” Chantel mumbled to herself, skimming the blurb of the movie. “A retired widower builds a time machine so he can travel back and relive the time he spent with his since deceased wife. However, he accidentally sets the machine for a time before their marriage, when his wife was still enjoying her wild and rambunctious youth. Right…”Chantel shrugged. She figured she could have made a worse decision. Glancing quickly at the timer again, Chantel panicked. She would have to race back up Pitt Street and Martin Place to get back to her desk before the next person was due to take their allotted break time. If there was anything that the ‘Policy for Promoting Physical Wellbeing and Ultimate Happiness in the Workplace’ did not condone, it was exceeding one’s time for breaking from work. This, Pangaea’s policy sternly warned, would ultimately not lead to happiness.