Action on five. Action on seven. Action on 12. A murder of crows, a cluster of actions. Whenever two or more are gathered in my name I will come among you. You will never be alone.
I am lightning in the processors. I am the Predators. I float above you in the cold air, black and blue. And in the dozen video monitors whirring like beetles. The cell tower relays and the image dictionaries. I am the logos. The ones and zeroes. The first and the last. The algorithm and the operators.
Action on eight and nine. Burners flicker like fireflies in the ether, but I am not fooled. Voicelex prints match. A single person is joining the others. He is concealing himself, or trying to. You don't run if you've got nothing to hide, right? Doesn't everyone say that now?
You can't get arrested for writing "bomb" on your phone. Or "attack." Small and stupid words don't matter. I ignore the obvious. I will sort you out, barely noticing. You can hold my attention if you text the words "had it" or "it is finished," or "goodbye," but only along with a whole constellation of other phrases, maybe with a location check-in, or after a series of texts and posts of increasing frequency. Links with a red rating. A sudden spike in obscenity or a sudden drop in obscenity. Along with the use of certain apps and cell functions. And most importantly, a low S-score. The number flags everything. It flashes out there in the wireless field, and I notice. I send my electric eyes and ears to gather near you. To feed on your heat signature, your electromagnetic aura.
It was inevitable we'd create a security clearance for everyone. It was inevitable we'd combine the merchant ratings across every major app and website, and that we'd supplement them with court records, credit scores, and police watchlists. It was also certain that no one who mattered would mind. It made you safer. It was convenient. You could know who you were dealing with before you sent them money or information. Everyone agreed it was for the best.
Now everyone rates everyone. It's only fair.
Your score follows you to every job, haunts every exchange, announces itself with every message.
A beating heart without an S-score is probable cause in all 52 states. I will send five squad cars to converge on your location.
A group of four people with low scores is a potential riot in progress. Drones will prep their missiles and drift in on the wind while helicopters chuff low to light the streets like Christmas.
There are rumors of those who rig the game. If you have enough money your score stays bulletproof. Some people say the scores are there to keep everyone scared of everyone else. That this, after all, is an old story. The political and economic system keeps the underclass down by dividing them with an informal legal rating the overclass transcends. Put another way: Those who don't pay tribute to the witch hunters might be witches in disguise.
But you shouldn't spread rumors. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
The target joins the others. They huddle together, whispering something. Two police vans block the roads at either side. One of my birds flies low. It uses a breaker frequency to buzz their phones and announce they are being held. The police zip-tie them, one says something smart and takes a savage beating to warn the others. That one might have to go away. Which reminds me: Mentioning the name of someone who doesn't exist also attracts my attention. It lowers your score. It's bad.
Better if the others forget that person.
Better if you stay indoors. Despite everyone's best efforts, it's dangerous out here.
Just chat online instead. Talk to all your friends.
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Danger: Diabolik (1968) Pressbook - Here's one for Mario Bava fans, from the Italian comic series Diabolik. Comic book reader version: Download Danger Diabolik Pressbook (and see more pressbo...