The Social Media Killer – Chapter 14: Killing Time

I’m not ready to do a fake interview.

It’s not like me to get nervous and my heart go pitter-patter before important events, but… this one is causing me more than a little bit of inner turmoil.

So I’m just trying to walk around town and blow off some steam.

The day is quiet, even in downtown Atlanta.

It’s a Thursday afternoon, a little past lunch, so there’s few cars passing by and almost no people walking the streets. The wind is blowing and the neon signs are glowing, but that’s about it.

Something about the atmosphere here makes you want to lean back on a park bench and let the world pass you by as you stare up at the clouds and take a smoke.

I’m joking, of course. Tobacco is banned in Atlanta.

All of this should be perfect for reducing my stress about the incoming interview, but I still feel high-tension.

With everything that has happened this week I’ve hardly gotten a chance to catch my breath. I think this might be the first time I’ve really been able to have a moment to myself in quite a while. I’m not sure I remember what to do in times like these, it’s been so long. Karina is nice company and R8PR always has some witty mottos to spout, but… “me time” is necessary sometimes.

I’ve been complaining a lot recently about how I feel like my life has stagnated and fallen into a big ambitionless rut. After the past few days I’m starting to crave that sense of normalcy where I can go home and play video games after work every evening.

Though…

It’s becoming obvious to me that “normal” isn’t going to be quite that achievable after all this Social Media Killer debacle. It hasn’t been since the day I met R8PR, and from the looks of it, Atlanta as a whole is going to change a lot soon. Well, people have been saying that for decades now, and nothing has changed, but this time really feels different.

This time might be different largely because the one soothsaying all this vaguery is a sentient robot himself.

Whatever the “new normal” may end up becoming, I’m not even going to be around for it anyway, right?

Well…

Today IS pretty nice.

Up ahead and around a corner is a row of some of the bigger stores, a small shopping district nestled up next to the Karina’s neighborhood. I walk down that street and see several businesses lining it, including small, urban versions of those massive, suburban big box stores. K-Store Selects instead of K-Store, or a Uriel’s Boutique– that sort of store.

One of them is a Get N Go, an electronics and home theater store, though the name has nothing to do with that and almost seems like a warning to go away. Better than Tim’s Codes, at least; that place still has protests outside the store from sunup to sundown since the Social Media Killer hacked the CEO.

I think now might actually be a good time to fulfill my promise to Larkins and start looking more into Dreamtech, especially if he’s been paying me not to work these past two days. While I don’t have a working computer at home and the library’s a chore to sift through, I can always get some information right at the source: retail.

I’ve got time to kill, so why not humor my boss? I walk in the store and look around; lots of giant shelves of electronic products from every company regarding any conceivable niche. The first floor has all their general-use or promotional material, while the second and third floors are for hardware and the fourth floor is for A/V equipment. The fifth floor is still under construction in this Get N Go, but it looks like they’re going to expand to add a full used video game and movie sub-store to tap into the market of lonely nerds that like to spend hours a day browsing through aisles of discarded media to try and find a good deal on stuff they don’t need.

By “they” I mean myself.

There’s so much junk here already, though. Do you need an electronic wrist attachment that levitates light objects and lets you play collectible card games anywhere you go? Well you can buy that for a month’s salary. Do you have lots of board games but not enough time to set them up? You can buy a container that uses AI technology to set the games up for you in advance and even explain the rules to new players, for only a couple thousand-dollar installments.

Technology has remained pretty stagnant for a while after Moore’s Law was proven false and processing speeds flatlined. For a while afterwards companies tried to sell gullible people new computers and laptop models every single year with barely any changes and weird contracts attached to each purchase, but eventually people just got tired of the same products releasing over and over again.

Now the competition is focused on improving on the same technology we already have by adding as many marketable gimmicks as you possibly can throw in.

Magitek Corporation has an entire aisle dedicated to their faux-fantasy products– they’re the prime example of how the tech industry has sunken recently. I’ve always held a special disdain for Magitek for some unexplained reason. Something about the way it’s all marketed like a fantasy novel brought to life, I guess.

On display are some “Sword in the Stone” pencil holders that automatically sharpen your pencils when you leave them in there. With a price tag of fifty dollars each, I am wondering who the target audience actually is. Just buy a pen.

That’s not all: self-reading notebooks that flip through pages with no hands needed, used to look through your notes while working on something; a set of goggles that purportedly give you X-ray vision, though I’ve heard stories about how faulty they are; and of course magic wands that shoot out actual electricity… I know that one from firsthand experience.

They’ve certainly got a wide variety of crap for sale.

And here’s the section of the store I’ve been looking for, up on the third floor.

Dreamtech has a big setup with a ton of promotional material right out at the front of the floor. The helmet is supposed to begin its worldwide product launch in time for the May holidays, which only gives them a month to accelerate their marketing and sell millions of unsuspecting consumers their product.

There’s a “try it yourself” demo that is currently being used by a middle-aged woman.

Is she actually asleep? She’s not moving or anything. I can’t tell.

On the screen next to where the woman is sitting, there’s a video showing off the possibilities of what your life could be like if you can control your dreams. Lots of bad CG nonsense, though; I guess marketing this thing visually IS pretty difficult considering the mental nature of it, but the graphics on this thing look straight out of a VHS promo tape.

There’s a cardboard cutout of the Dreamtech CEO, Sonny Piramal, doing a funny face with wide-open eyes and a huge smile, pointing to the monitor as if it’s really him beckoning you to try the helmet. “Dreamtech on sale April 27th!” the cardboard cutout’s speech bubble reads.

This is the dumbest company ever. They’ve been around for a while, but I’m pretty sure this is their only product. It might be a clean buy, but it’s probably not a wise purchase. It’ll go under in five years just like any other virtual reality-esque upstart since the nineties.

Larkins is being duped.

I can’t say anything for certain but Donald Blyth can’t be interested in a company this unimportant. Not for the reasons Larkins thinks, at least.

Actually, I remember a bit of intrigue in the news about Dreamtech from a while back. When the company was brand-new and still in investment stages, there were a lot of regulatory concerns about the helmet’s effect on mental health that needed to be studied and a lot of talking heads, well, talking about it. No idea what came of it, but there was some power struggle at the same time between co-founders or something. Sonny Piramal was the President and some guy… Nigel North? Nigel Nakazawa? Well, he was CEO, but it looks like Sonny Piramal and his dorky face won out in the end.

Even obscure tech companies end up having bitter political fights.

Atlanta is doomed.

Hell, humanity is doomed.

Hopefully I’ll be alive to see the end of it, though.

I take out the extremely specific directions Karina printed out for me on how to get to the Burrow household by taking two buses and walking one block.

She knows me so well. The directions have little picture icons of what the buses should look like. And on the back side she even included some sample questions for me to ask during the interview that might get the woman to open up without looking too nosy.

I’m… extremely poor at directions and get lost very easily, but… as long as I don’t lose this paper I’ll make it there without too much pain. I’ll get lost, but for less time than usual.

The interview is at five and it’s about two-thirty now, so… I guess I should be on my way now.

 

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6 comments

  1. The amount of useless and unnecessary technology in this chapter was oddly refreshing. It’s like the thinking world ran out of ideas and gimmicks are the new future.

    It’s amusing and disheartening at the same time.

    1. I’m just glad the real world didn’t fall into that! Real life, where we release the same product over and over with incremental, unsubstantial upgrades that are marketed like huge revolutions, is way better than the retrofuture. ….Right?

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