The Network

“Your access rights to The Network have been revoked.”, the voice said. “NO! Not that! Please, don’t do that to me!” the man replies. “Please understand, I’m just a messenger. This not my decision; I don’t have the power to change anything.” “I’ll lose everything! EVERYTHING!” “I’m sorry, but I really can’t do anything. The rules are very clear. You overstepped once too many. You had been warned twice already, you knew what was coming.” The one-time disposable cellphone beeps, signalling the end of the call, and then burns the internal fuses, causing the device to become useless.

The man throws the recyclable phone against the wall, breaking it into a million tiny pieces as the internal photonic circuits shatter and break out from the broken rigid casing. Losing his connection to The Network means he lost access to his bank account, phone service, and even medical care, since his unified profile is tied to his Network account.

He blames himself for not being careful enough. The Corporation wants money, so they don’t want to lose anyone. After they took over the international government, everything seemed to improve. Everyone had access to services, all the institutions were updated to the newest technologies and all the information was centralized and distributed over the Corporation’s data centers. Everyone had access to everything they needed: information, entertainment, knowledge, resources. You could expose your idea, and what you needed to achieve it, and assuming they saw any potential profit, they would give you everything you asked for, and if the profits were substantial enough, they’d even reward you.

Essentially, it could be called a monopolistic communism. The Corporation was everything, and everyone was either part of it, or did not exist. Everything was connected to The Network. A refrigerator would automatically request more food when it was needed, the oven would know the temperature and time of cooking automatically, your TV would show you the information you wanted, when you needed it. Everything was seemingly perfect… as long as your existence was profitable. If you were sick, they would heal you, but if the treatment would be too expensive, they would just let you die, sometimes even kill you off faster to avoid costs.

Of course, not everyone is really profitable, sometimes your ideas are rejected by The Corporation, in which case you are assigned an appropriate job based on your skills. The problem is, what happens if you are not required? If the project you had been chosen for ends and you have been your whole adult life involved in it? If there is no one interested in anything similar anymore, and your only skills are unwanted? Then you have to learn new things, start a new project or join an existing one. But if you really are not good for the position, they warn you. Improve, they say. Find another project that fits you better. Become profitable again. If you don’t, we will have no use for you.

Everyone is born in the baseline privilege level, as you grow, they rate your skills. By the time you reach adulthood, they have categorized you. As long as you keep proving yourself to them, you can keep the highest level. But once you begin to fail, your level drops. Lower levels mean more risk. More risk means less funding, fewer resources, fewer people assigned to your projects. You are forbidden from accessing some information or jobs, and your remaining options narrow. As those options narrow, so does the skill set that is useful. At the bottom, there’s physical work. Below the bottom, there’s exile, rejection, and death. No one lives without access to The Network. No one lives without support from The Corporation.

Because guns are controlled by the Network, the man can’t make use of them. He uses the emergency manual override in the door to the balcony, and steps outside. Instead of birds or cars, there’s the humming of The Network’s node towers, which can be head from anywhere not sealed by sound-reflecting meta-materials. The Network is fast, but noisy. The man steps on the rail and spreads his arms. The Network is Life. Without it, there is only death. How fast it comes is your only choice. The man tilts forward and lets gravity take over.

As he drops, the humming of The Network grows louder. Eventually, the sound becomes so loud it takes over the other senses. As the radiation from the network starts to break down his body, he catches a glimpse of something below The Network, at the other side of the mesh. A light, the silhouettes of people. “Impossible”, he thinks. “There’s no life under The Network.” Then an idea strikes him: Could there be another world, one that is not fully connected? A world where people are free from The Corporation? But it doesn’t matter to him. His body is not responding anymore, and he’s reaching the end of the fall. Even if it seems he’s falling slower, it’s just his perception of the world that has been momentarily overclocked by the intensely charged ambient. As his body keeps breaking down from the radiation, he feels regret. “Maybe if I hadn’t jumped, I could have found this other world. Maybe I could have been part of it… maybe…”