There is the Net and the Web. The Web is everything we wanted. A global village. Information on a super highway. Our Library of Alexandria. Our Tower of Babel. It is dark, it is worldwide, it is as vast and truly infinite as the Major dreamed.
And yeah, there are some fucking cat pictures.
The Net, on the other hand, the Net is where all the slummers get stuck. Looking to hit it big one day and get a fast connection back to the glorious Web. Back to content. Back to Sato-Bits and making rent payments and maybe even buying their own rig. Maybe start making something of their own.
That would be, like, totally slick.
That is why slummers tolerate the Net. The slow downs, the bottlenecks, the boots and bans--all of it is worth it if you can get a shot at the Web.
Everyone takes that shot.
Because Franklin's got a big score coming his way. He has to. His number’s gotta come up. It's odds. It's probability. It's time. It's his time.
Which is to say, Franklin is sitting in front of the green blue cascade of pixels pouring from an old monitor pulsing iridescent, convulsing in the final throes of spasmodic back lighting and dead pixels. A nic stick dangles from the corner of his mouth. Old coffee--burned, cold, and stale--lingers by his wrist. He'd use the meph stims if he could afford them, but like most things in life, he's just a little too analog. He's not thinking about what he doesn't have though. Not right now. He's thinking about what he's going to get.
He stabs F5 compulsively.
And then it happens.
A job came in.
Franklin clicks bid before the description completely loads. TaskMarmot chitters with gleeful acknowledgment. Gig request accepted. His fee is pegged to six percent lower than the next lowest bid. It’s a thin way to eat, but no one makes a big score who isn’t a little hungry.
TaskMarmot squeals with resignation. Another user outbid him by four percent.
He doesn’t eat much. Or often.
There is a wild look lurking beneath the glossy surface of his glazed eyeballs. It is somewhere between desperation and zealoutry. Franklin smashes the F5 key with frantic piety. At the church of Net, it was he who prays hardest that makes it to the Web.
Our Father, who art Connected, hallowed be thy Domain Name. By Content come, I will be done, connected and ready...
Franklin bids eleven percent lower. Gotta beat the next slummer who thinks he’s clever. Can’t be too proud. You either have a price or a gig. You can’t eat a price. Can’t warm yourself with pride.
TaskMarmot agrees. The gig is his.
Franklin takes a moment to read the job description. It’s a cake walk. Warm bodies needed for surveys and online studies. Six marketing, two academic, two other. Paid on completion of ten in the hour. If there’s time, he qualifies for a bonus at one and half rate for each five additional completed. Answers must be thorough, honest, and timely. No payment for partial completion.
Easy peasy, man.
The first survey loads after what must be like a minute. It’s a demographic page. Age, race, income--that sort of thing.
Young, other, slummer.
Franklin may be in some buckets, but he doens’t have to play by all the rules.
Which is to say he is pretty honest about himself, but doesn’t like the clinical description staring back at him from the other side of the server.
“How often would you say you look at porn?”
Franklin runs up the flag pole now and again.
“Do you like women?”
“Do you like men?”
“Do you like bots?”
“Do you like animals?”
Where the hell do they get an animal these days for this shit? If it’s a paying gig, though, the answer is Yes.
Franklin clicks through a series of ratings scaled one to five on how he feels about sex toys. What kind of insertion he’s comfortable with. Whether violence in sex play appeals to him. And what kind. It takes painfully long for the four comparison pic to load.
What makes a better splash screen? A woman crying out in pleasure pain as a hand without context sticks a phallic looking submarine in her rectum. A man reacts to the same cavity plunging friendliness with a look of daring malice glittering behind his submissive eyes. The sexbot stares blissfully into the uncanny valley with the nearest thing to a smile Franklin’s seen in a long time. And that manitee? He calls shooped. Still, it’s kinda funny.
AquaFuck.com thanks him for his time.
Next, how does Franklin feel about long term high interest loans?
The hour ticks by quickly. Time on the Web is never slow. Always fast, fast, fast. Never enough. Yet the local Net struggles with the pics. Load time is killing him. Literally. He feels his chest constrict everytime a graphic halts mid line, the pixels trailing off in a digital sputter, like an elipsis coming to a halt with no punchline. He wants to hit F5 but it will queer the survey, break results, maybe send him to the beginning. Why can’t it go to the end? Just use fucking text. He can’t even stop for a nic stick. The coffee is getting colder.
On the seventh survey, on a qualitative portion about his sleeping habits, he times out. It’s a hollow feeling. He’s clicked through sea cow fuckery, bank fuckery, and real personal questions about how much protection he uses during the sex he doesn’t have. It feels like rape. They have taken anything from him. He gets nothing. No, worse, he gets less than he had before and a feeling of violation. A sense he can’t trust the Net to keep him connected, that the Web only takes from him.
It’s pretty fucking horrible.
A guy who bid six percent below market picks up the job he can’t finish.
Why doesn’t that happen to him?
Franklin prays at the temple of TaskMarmot for an answer. F5, oh master, F5 and bring me the fruit of your blessings. F5 for life. F5 for the eternal soul.
TaskMarmot hears his prayer and gives throws him a bone.
It’s a grind job.
A low level streamer called @d1st4ntLyfe needs someone to havest twenty thousand gum drops in Clash of Candies. Pay is a dimebag, which has too many zeros on the wrong end of the dot before a real number comes up. All Franklin sees is two hours of spotted time in Clash of Candies.
Easy peasy breezy.
Franklin is a level three Marshmellow. He’s in the Candy Corn faction, so his avatar is something like the Michilen Man striped the color of Reese’s Pieces sporting a licorice mohawk and Gob Stopper mace. Pretty dope for a level three. The gig takes him deep iinto Syrup territory. It will change hands. The server is persistent. Last raid it was held by Candy Canes. Maybe it will swing ‘Corn way next.
In other words, he has a two hour grind in PvP territory with a seriously underleveled character.
Easy peasy breezy sneezy.
He logs in to the game server.
Clash of Candies is a psychadelic confectionary of brutal violence that is the literal obsession of nearly a billion people. Even mediocre players can make a modest living strreaming to different Nets. Watching raids is like going to Clash school. You learn them good enough, you can make a run on your own, maybe hook up with a team. Getting five hours of Web time to make it happen is near impossible, but there is something of a cult sport in watching first timers take a crack at the runs. Established players can suffer loot loss with minimal damage to their rankings. But at the top and the bottom, any loot loss is a critical blow. Watching a level five weenie make a run against an Elder Lollipop Horror is comical. Level fifteens struggle against it. But the anxiety and anguish of failure are nearly palpable on the other end of the streams. Digital blood sport. Comes at a premium and is well worth the corpses.
That’s not gonna be Franklin.
Franklin’s gonna manhandle this run.
Gum drops grow on trees. He need only shake the branches with a swing of his mighty mace and make off with the loot. It’s a common. No one patrols commons.
And just his luck that an hour and a half in there’s a level thirty two Twix Wizard named Turk1shD3L1ght. The pink chocolate means he’s Candy faction. They’re both in enemy territory. They could ignore each other and farm their ingredients without any much fuss.
siktir, ölmek kandy korn
No such luck.
The last twenty five minutes of his run is spent fleeing spells leveled higher than his character as he smashes trees and collects whatever gum drops fall into his path. It the only strategy. Run and gun the trees, hope to hell that you collect enough loot to cover the gig. He’s gonna die. Just needs to beat the bounty call...
He doesn’t. In a hail of spammed pop rocks and nuget, he dies about fourteen thousand drops short. Anouther five thou lost in loot penalties. The motherfucker even tea bags him with a wall of benim fındık yiyin in the chat. As Franklin is booted to the hub, he gets a PM.
TaskMarmot isn’t happy to deliver an incomplete report. But @d1st4ntLyfe is generous. She gives him a nickel for thirty thousand gum drops. A deal for them both, really, as she doens’t have to pay for an incomplete order. She says she’ll think of him when she needs to spot another crafting grind, but they both know it’s probably not going to happen. What’s the point in remembering Franklin when there’s a mass of unwashed mashmellows ready to fight and die over @d1st4ntLyfe’s scraps?
Franklin checks his Sato balance. .00000018 in tips received!, it tells him cheerily. He’s never had a full Sato-Bit. One day, though, one day.
The white print has long been fated from the F5 key. It’s really one of the only ways he can find it. Even the 5 and the 4 are faded, their shift functions lost to the earnest marmots of the digital world, struggling to make ends meet as they move from task to task. There is little good about the public rig. The monitor is dying. The processor is outdated and there is hardly enough ram for vanilla Clash of Candies. But it has eleven pristine function keys and one sticky F5. It is Franklin’s favorite key. He presses it with a frenzied reverence. Please, TaskMarmot, he says with each click. Please.
The next gig comes up.
He bids fifteen percent below. Can’t be too careful in an auction, can’t be too proud of a price.
It’s a dream gig.
A pure cake walk. The payout is nearly an eighth of a Sato-Bit, that’s like... Someone had hacked the machine calculator a long time ago to spew out 8=========>--- for every function considered, so Franklin didn’t know how much it was. But it was more than he had.
His shot to hit the big time. Web time was sold in sixteenths of a Sato-Bit. He could grind, make level five, hit the Lollipop Cthulu...
But there was the job first.
It’s a simple research gig. An essay project for some snot nose college boy. Gather twenty citations for a paper on Internet Addiction. Needed to be ten pages double spaced. Don’t worry about the grammar, just a copy paste job and the client would assemble it into something resembling an original essay.
Shit, Frankling was a source.
If the paper gets an A, there was a potential for long term contracting. Franklin can’t believe it. He’d be rolling in bits. He could ditch the whole fucking Net, set up on Clash of Candies. Join a guild. Stream. Make Content.
To be a maker...
It is too much to dream of. Literally. His time on the public terminal dries up. Counter ran out. The job was lost. In the game of life, Fate rage quits for him.
Franklin is bereft. The words aren’t there. The terminal won’t accept his login for twenty four hours. His big shot. Come and gone. The screen goes idle and it is as if the great blackness within him fills the computer, no, the Net itself. His chance to blow had come and gone. He is still a slummer.
He gets up slowly from the computer and goes back to the front desk and rents a hammock for a dollar. Down ninety five cents on the day. Easy come, easy go. Easy peazy breezy sneezy fo-sheezy. So it goes.
But the Web is vast and wide. Tomorrow, the Net will be there for him. TaskMarmot might put him on a better gig. So long as the Sato-Bits can be farmed, there will be money enough to connect. Franklin is just one click away.