by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 20||Table of Contents||Chapter 22|
At a sidewalk cafe, November 19, 2055
In North America, privacy is a thing of the past. How often we hear that! Wherever you go, newseyes operated by various government agencies or private corporations flit about recording every sight and sound to be analyzed by computer. Electronic communication is routinely monitored. Stationary cameras are everywhere. Microbugs make the detection of surveillance almost impossible. Newseyes put it in your face.
When someone is watching over your shoulder, you feel different. It has a visceral effect, but it is not a political issue. The technological ground has shifted and there is no going back. The technology that puts the equivalent of a turn of the millennium supercomputer in a contact lens makes surveillance easy. There is no point in fighting it. We are all in the electronic soup.
And that is precisely what surprised me when I next met Carman. He told me he had lost track of Matt. It wasn’t supposed to be possible.
I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe waiting for Olivia and enjoying the late afternoon sun. I was wondering if a newseye could detect how much I enjoyed the dark aroma of real coffee. I closed my eyes to bask in the sun momentarily and was startled when Carman spoke right beside me. “Did you know your brother is out of the country?”
Recognizing his voice, yet wanting to maintain my cool, I opened one eye. “Which country?”
I shrugged. “Well I have been in several, as you well know.”
Carman circled the table examining me, the lens computer in his left eye twinkling. He waved away an ever vigilant waiter and, leaning forward against the back of the chair opposite, asked, “Has he ever been religious?”
“No. Just the opposite I would say. He doesn’t have much use for regimentation or uniformity of thought. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. How would you like to take a little trip?”
“Vancouver. We have a mystery and you might be able to help.”
“Help how? What can I do?”
“Come to Vancouver and find out.” He waited and when I didn’t respond, he said, “We have a body that shouldn’t exist.”
It crossed my mind that he might be telling me Matt was dead. “Is it Matt?”
“I don’t think so, but…”
“Why don’t you just do a DNA test?”
A silence grew between us as I tried to imagine what circumstances would preclude DNA testing a body.
“It would be unfortunate if certain parties were to learn of your clonehood,” said Carman in a quiet voice.
My eyes whipped to his face. “So this is how we’re playing it,” I thought as the reality of my situation sank in. What choice did I have? The phrase “the euphemisms of power” passed through my mind.
“I assume you will be paying for this little jaunt.”
Carman looked up suddenly. “Oh she’s coming. We’ll talk later.” He disappeared into the back of the restaurant.
Olivia strolled around the corner with a book in her hand. The sun caught her hair and brought out a slight reddish tint. She was a ripe earth goddess on the prowl. Heads turned as she walked up to me.
“Well you look…” She started and suddenly changed gears. “What’s the matter?”
“I was just talking with Carman.”
“Oh, and what does the little weasel want?”
“He wants me to go to Vancouver.”
Just then the waiter arrived and Olivia ordered. An espresso, no food.
“You can’t go again. So soon.”
“It will only be a quick trip.”
She wouldn’t be mollified. “I don’t care how long it will be. We never have any time together and besides, you don’t know that for sure. Carman is…unpredictable.” She pouted with a twinkle in her eye. I thought she was playing. “If you leave, I won’t be here when you get back.”
That stopped me cold. “Olivia, I have to do this. Carman won’t say, but Matt might be dead.”
“I won’t wait for you again. There’s a lot of fish in the sea.”
“I hope you understand I have no choice.”
“You can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified January 2, 2012