- Foreword: Writing Rochester's Futures
- "Interesting Times"
- "Culinary Capital, 2034"
- "Night Bells"
- "Hollow Lives"
- "The Naked Girl"
- "Time Enough for Love"
- "Day of the Bicentennial"
- "One City at a Time"
- "Want Not"
- "The Costs of Survival"
- "Getting Wet"
- "Top 10 Headlines, Rochester, NY, 2034"
- "North Star Pipeline"
- "The 2034 Lilac Festival"
- "Scotch and Sizzlenuts on the Resolute Bay"
- "Fads (or Why Jerry Loathes the Aliens)" [FULL TEXT, AVAILABLE ONLINE ONLY]
It was two a.m., halfway through the Bang-shift. Dev was zoned-in to his virch and on with his insurance carrier in Petrograd (who was probably a bot), when the building fire alarm went off.
You are free to file a claim, it was telling him.
I just need to know if I’m covered, he responded. The day had started badly when Dev woke at eight p.m. to critical failure indicators on more than half his bot herd. Most of the rest were redlined to make up the difference. He lost half an hour analyzing the source. (Spillover from some active graffiti virus —Thorvald let it in the last time Dev subbed to him while Dev took a night off.) Another hour and a half to get the bots reset and back in-net, while refactoring his contract margin on the fly and trying to figure out what work was lost. He checked his operations insurance. And wasn’t surprised to find that the coverage was vague.
You are free to file a claim, the claims correspondent told him again. We can’t make any judgment without a claim.
Then the alarm went off, as a shrieking-whooping-maddening banshee out in the hallways (barely audible through sound-insulated walls), but also as an insistent chime injected directly into his auditory nerve by his net rig and a nagging flashing red aura inserted at the edge of his field of vision.
Gotta go, fire alarm.
Please include appropriate documentation with your fire claim. The response was instant. Definitely a bot.
Dev zoned-out and headed for the street, grabbing a coat as an afterthought. He tried to stay in virch and keep working as he went but gave up after he stumbled twice hurrying down the fire stairs. Ugly white smoke oozed around what were supposed to be fire doors, tags flashing red and yellow Danger! in the ubicspace in front of them, and Dev caught a whiff of burning plastic. Outside he dumbly watched first smoke, then flame boil out of smashed-open windows a couple of floors down from his apartment. The old factory building was full of wooden beams soaked in oil. Dev imagined them lighting like candles. Police assisted by hovering copstats herded Dev and the other tenants backward as more equipment poured in, and the building began to look like a total loss. They milled around in varied states of ill-preparedness. Most hadn’t grabbed jackets—it was easy when you worked in virch all the time, and for companies in tropical locales, to forget that winter was still real, here. He recognized some of them, but was surprised at how few, and surprised again at how many fewer names he could recall. He just never saw them; groceries came to him in a blue plastic box, and his apartment was his office. Dev hugged his jacket closely around himself and turned in a daze from the heat.
A call came in just then from Chennai. It was Manu, the manager he reported to at TranSecure. Manu just started talking as soon as Dev picked up, and Dev answered automatically: No, he didn’t have the preliminary analysis; yes, all his bots were online; no, he wouldn’t have the report by close of business, there would be a delay.
That caught his interest: “Delay? What’s the delay.”
“My building is burning down. I might not get the analysis done until tomorrow COB.”
“Get out of the building, and send me a status when you find a place to work. We need the analysis by start of business tomorrow.”
Manu disconnected without saying anything more. Dev wondered if he was a bot, too.
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