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  1. The year was 2028, if a year were to mean anything still. Green had long retaken grey in a picture made hazy by the baking heat of a warmed globe. The penthouse view of the coast, or what was now the coast, would once have been a site much in demand. Before the populations declined. Before poverty moved upward towards the sun and the rich descended. Paradise lost, obscured only by the carcass of a waterless bird upon the windowsill. “Sent!” “Sent!” “Sent!” “Sent!” “Sent!” “Sent!” “Sent!” “Sent!” The short, plumpy man departed his gaze from the window short-temperedly with a scowl. “What the hell are you two doing now?!” One of the two scrawny figures looked up briefly and then immediately returned to what they were doing. “We’re sending each other XRP, obviously, Steve. Have you sent it yet, Alyssa?” The woman looked up with a grin. “nope,” suddenly there was the sound of a click followed by the satisfying bing of an XRP-received notification. “Have now, though, Monk.” She winked. “Why are you sending each other XRP, especially at a time like this?!” Steve wiped the stream of sweat from his forehead. “We’re burning XRP to increase the worth,” Alyssa replied, beaming in an array of self-decided intelligence. “So we can get rich and buy a farm.” “But you’re burning YOUR OWN XRP,” Steve retorted, almost bored of the conversation. The attitude of a man long since abandoned by the idea of sane company. “Oh,” said Alyssa, putting down her phone. “Shivs,” Monk agreed, disappointedly. “Sent.” “What we need is to find a way to grow our own food and source clean water,” Steve clarified. “Before we die like the rest of them.” Monk looked distraught. “But there’s no internet, the AI’s down along with the cars inside the network. We can’t get an SOS out without any network signals and the blockchain is chainblocked. What do we do Steve? Sent!” “Why is Ripple the only network working?” Steve scratched his chin. Alyssa shrugged. “Guess it was built to last. Sent, sent, sent – hey, lemme catch up!” “We’re going to have to go out there and look for help. There’s little hope out there but there’s no hope in here.” Steve headed for the door and the other two followed like a couple of bipolar Santa Elves. If inside was hell then outside was Glasgow. The smell of melting rubber was near-intoxicating. A parked autonomous car sat by the entrance to the building block, light still blinking, still displaying its electronic flag of victory. ARRIVED AT DESTINATION. Mission complete. Goal Reached. Medal earned. While the world around it crumbled. It’s the small things in life. A taco-less taco truck across the road communicated its repeated lies of ‘best tacos in town’ and ‘we’ll always be here to feed you’. Promises abandoned. “Where to, Steve? What do we do now?” Alyssa asked, nervously. The stumpy man didn’t reply. He just stormed with quiet confidence across the road to the nearest supermarket. The gates to paradise were closed. Or to be more precise, the automatic gates to the Amazon store were closed. Alyssa held her Iphone70,597 to the scanner to no avail. Using brute force, a force long since replaced by quantum tactics, Steve thrust one of the gates to the side. Error error error system malfunction at gate 2, security and technical personnel to gate 2 came a distant and unanswered whine. “Quick!” Steve yelled behind his shoulder, “grab what you can before the looters find this place and kill us for extra meat!” The other two scurried in behind him. Steve handed Monk part of a chocolate biscuit bar. “Ehh, Steve, remember I’m lactose intolerant. And gluten intolerant.” And so as not to leave anything out, “and quite intolerant in general.” “Shut up and eat it, you fool, before I shove it down your throat – this may be the last meal you ever consume!” Gingerly the man took it from his grasp, peeled back the biodegradable bark wrapping and threw it into his mouth. “Steve, I don’t feel so good,” he yelped. “I think this thing might be coming back out, fast.” “Fast like a fox, fast like a bullet or fast like XRP??” Alyssa raised her hand for a high-five but this was neither the time nor the place. Well, perhaps it was the time and the place but not the delivery. It went un-fived. “We should still pay for these,” Steve managed to spout, holding down his meal. “I’d just feel better.” Steve rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he agreed, if only to keep the peace. Monk skulked over to a machine near the exit which appeared to be partly-functional, opened his phone and made a swiping motion. There was a pause followed by the generation-defeating ‘no-go’ flash of a red light. I’m sorry but the XRP you have tried to deliver has not been recognized. Please leave a bitcoin after the beep. “What?! Bitcoin? Who uses Bitcoin?” Steve gasped. “It’s fine,” Monk retorted, unperturbed. “I have a couple of Bitcoin left in my wallet.” “Is that enough?” Alyssa squinted. “They should be just enough for this chocolate bar,” Monk concentrated. Thank you for using Bitcoin. Please stand to the side while your Bitcoin transaction is being processed. Should this take more than one hour, please visit our website. This will give you something to browse while your Bitcoin transaction takes longer. “Screw this, good enough,” Steve half-dragged the others back out through the semi-gate of destruction. “We need to find water. I once streamed this program where a guy used two sticks to find water while venturing through the jungle.” Steve marched over to a nearby tree, half-dead from the heat and retrieved two long, straight, twiglets. “They put them together and then looked for water.” The other two gasped in conspiratorially awakened awe. “Then what happened?” asked Alyssa. “I’m not quite sure,” Steve replied. “My Coil account ran out of XRP and the streaming stopped. I tried to top it up using Bitcoin but by the time the transaction went through, the documentary no longer existed on the platform. Alyssa nodded in knowing sympathy. “Maybe you just follow the sticks?” Monk suggested. “And they, like, take you to water, using some kind of GPS system from ten years ago?” Steve lifted the straight sticks in front of him. “Look!” Alyssa clapped her hands, “they’re pointing forward! On we go.” The troop marched a hundred meters or so forward, straight through a hedge. “Oh! Oh!” Alyssa shrieked, “there’s water and lots of it!” “Okay, if we’re going to survive this heat then we need to strip down and cool off in this water,” Steve ordered, leading the way. “I’m not too hot, actually,” Monk and Alyssa shrugged in unison. But by that point, Steve had already blinded them with the sun’s reflection over his left bottom cheek and was taking leisurely strides back and forth across the breadth of the waterbed. A short time passed and the sun set its path below the horizon. “What do we do now, Steve?” Monk wiped his face with a slight shiver. “I’ve seen this before. On a stream,” he snorted. “When the sun goes down, it’ll get VERY cold out here. We need to start a fire.” He looked around to where an old shed stood nestled beside a tree. “Look, that shed there! We can shelter in there and make a small fire.” Alyssa clapped her hands again in excitement. “I’m so glad you’re here, Steve! What do we need?” “Okay,” Steve glanced around thoughtfully. “We need some sticks, dried moss and a flint.” “Okay, and then what?” Monk questioned. Steve scratched his chin. “I don’t really know, I didn’t manage to catch the end of the documentary.” “Bitcoin?” “Bitcoin.” “Well, we have the water sticks but if we use those, I don’t know how we’ll be able to find more water.” “It’ll be fine,” Steve looked unphased. It’s like it says at the end of Jurassic Park… actually I’m not quite sure what it says, I never managed to finish it.” “Bitcoin?” “Bitcoin. Now pass me the moss and the flint.” “We don’t have either of those, Steve,” Monk replied, sadly. “But we could look for some in the dark using the flame from my lighter?” he suggested helpfully. “You idiot,” Steve grabbed the lighter from him and disappeared into the shed. About 10 minutes passed, or what was by then known as 1/800ths of an Average Bitcoin Transfer (ABT), when smoke suddenly began to rise from the shed. Flames ripped through the door, followed swiftly by a grubby-looking Steve. “Good news and bad news, folks. Good news is, we have fire! Bad news is, it might only last us about 2/800ths of an ABT.” The three huddled around the fire, two of them fully clothed and the other very much one with nature. Then out of nowhere a red and blue light lit their surroundings and four bulked-up police officers grabbed them from behind. Things went blurry. The cell was comfortable and clean, as was the interview room. What was uncomfortable was the size-too-small pajama bottoms they had given him that were now digging into his waist. The police officer looked up from her notepad. “So let me get this straight,” she sighed as only someone who had suddenly received unsuspected overtime could understand. “You urinated from your apartment balcony in order to preserve water, destroyed an Amazon gate, stole a chocolate bar…” “Hey!” Steve snapped, “we paid for that chocolate bar!” “Well, I guess on that point we’ll know if the Bitcoin transfer completes in a day or two.” She cleared her throat and continued, “public displays of nudity, disturbing the peace, arson of an old lady’s shed, trespassing on her property while swimming nude in her pool and drinking the water, and finally assault of a police officer.” “I didn’t assault a police officer,” Steve protested. “Your partner in crime, a Mr Monk, did,” she looked at her notepad, “a violent bodily gas attack on an unsuspecting police officer while shrieking something about intolerance.” She took a long swig from a nearby coffee mug, went to place it down, peered across at Steve and decided to finish the remainder. She breathed deeply. “And you say this was for your survival?” “That’s right,” Steve nodded his head in defiance. “Because otherwise only the rich survive and the upper middle class, middle class and lower middle class miss out. My brother says there’s also the non-universal-basic-income class but they’re just a legend. She exhaled slowly, evidently unsure of how exactly to treat her brain by way of oxygen intake. “Mr. Johnson, the internet in your block was down for an hour, could you not have waited it out?” Steve looked defiant. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m from the ‘now’ generation. We wait for very little.” He looked down at her notepad. “So, what’s the damage?” She closed the notepad, sharply. “Including all damage, a night in the cell, the public disruption course and fines… that’ll be 0.00000000023XRP. Would you like to settle now or would you…” “Sent!” Ding
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