Saturday, 4 January 2014

Rule of Thumb (Scott E. Baughman) on Sci-fi Saturday

Rule of Thumb by Scott E. Baughman is this week's Sci-Fi Saturday feature on One Thousand Worlds.

Rule of Thumb-

The network of the future is always on...until THEY cut you off. In the social network of the near future, to lose your connection is to be one of the Nameless. And privileged elite Adrien Faulk is about to find out just how quickly you can be cut off from the world when they don't steal your identity, they ERASE it. Faulk's journey to find a missing pair of binoculars will take him from the mean streets of near-future New York City to an ancient pyramid in Guatemala. Along the way he'll come face-to-face with a global mystery, a cybernetic assassin, a group of ragtag revolutionaries and a crazed technological cult. He'll discover an ancient prophesy about mankind's future among the stars. And he'll find out what it means to be an individual, a hero...and maybe what it means to be human.
But will he find those answers in time to save us all?

Rule of Thumb

The first time I saw Smith he was reading a newspaper. And I mean like a printed, physical one. As thousands of people streamed past him in the crowded Grand Central Hovertrain Station, he was sitting there perusing the headlines like a man who had somehow missed his train - from the 20th century - and just stayed there...waiting and watching while the world changed around him.
Yes, he was reading the New York Times, and yes it was the late edition - the only one they still printed on real paper. It was one dinosaur trying to make another dinosaur feel like he was up-to-date and well-informed. But all the "news" in that Times was at least 24 hours old. I kind of pitied him.
He must have understood that somehow. He was old, real old; he had to be over 40. He actually had gray hair around his temples and some in his ridiculously out of style goatee. But when he peered up at me, over the edge of the Times, he seemed to have a smirk.
"You can make fun of me all you want, young buck, but remember, you're the one who called for my help," he said.
"I-I do need your help," I stammered. I wasn't really sure how to explain this to him face-to-face any better than I had over the vidphone. "As I said before, Mr. Smith, I have - lost something."
I whispered that last part. I didn't want any of the hovertrain passengers, security guards or observatrons to overhear. People just didn't lose things in 2042. Almost any object on earth could be located within about one foot by the thermal GPS.
"It happens to everyone, son," Smith said, in a fatherly way I knew I was going to find increasingly annoying. "So you lost something, big deal. When I was a younger man, I made a lot of good money as a private detective who specialized in locating lost things or lost people."
That was, of course, why I wanted to hire him. There were only about five people left in the city that could realistically call themselves private detectives. They were all at least as old as Smith, I think. Actually, he must have been the youngest one left - because when I contacted the others I had to yell so loud into the phone that I decided to hang up before they ever understood what I was saying.
"As I explained on the vid, while I was on vacation last month I somehow-misplaced-my binoculars," I said, again with hushed tones.
Smith crinkled his forehead. Oh no, I thought, he couldn't hear me.
"Son, it's too loud in here, care to take a walk? There's a nice little diner I know nearby."
I shrugged, pulled out my vidphone and waited for him to tell me the address.
"You won't need the dang thermal GPS to find this place, just follow me down the street. You know, there were whole societies that lived without those smartphones," Smith growled. He made his way toward the exit. He might be old, but the man knew how to make an exit. People actually parted in front of him. I found myself hustling to keep up as they let us out the front door.
"Grand central," Smith said as he looked back over his shoulder. "It doesn't matter what kind of train they got, that place is always busy."
"Is this the part where you tell me how busy it was back in the 20th century? You know, it's much better now, the trains don't need the tracks," I said, and pointed at one of the hovertrains as it energized magnetic coils and lifted off the ground. Judging from its direction of departure it was headed north, probably taking people home from a day in the city.
"It doesn't matter if they fly, roll or float, the trains will never run on time when they're handled by the same old bureaucrats," Smith said.
After a few more minutes of walking Smith ducked into a door I had never noticed before. I followed him in and there was an odd dinging sound as the door closed behind us.
My nose was assaulted with smells. There was coffee - the cheap stuff - a hint of sugary sweetness and something else I'm sure was burning bread.
"What?" I choked out. "What is this place?"
"Ruby's," Smith said. "It has been making the finest in greasy spoon fare in this same spot for longer than anyone can remember."
Smith removed his cliché of a trench coat, hung it on a coatrack and sat down in a booth. It was something out of Nighthawks, with red pleather that was probably more duct tape than bench. I slid into the booth, facing him across the table. The place was so old; it had a holographic menu station that had been added to the table after the fact. I pushed the button to turn it on and nothing happened.
"Uhh, Mr. Smith, what do they--" I tried to ask but just then a waitress came over to take our order.
"I'll have the usual, doll," Smith said. At that moment I noticed she was a real live person and not a servbot. I unconsciously rolled my eyes and she noticed.
She leaned down the table, her red hair spilling down around her shoulders and framing her chest, clearly emphasized by her uniform with the top unbuttoned down to the third slot. I tried not to, but I did stare. Whatever quip I was going to spout - something about robots being able to remember my order and serve me more quickly - sort of died on my lips as I took in her beauty. She had the reddest lips that somehow didn't clash with her hair, and the bluest eyes. Which, in retrospect, I should've just stared at those instead of her...ample other attributes.
"They're real, sweetie, and so am I," she said. "So, are you going to order something or just continue to suck up oxygen in my restaurant?"

Rule of Thumb is for sale on Amazon

Barnes and Noble: Nook

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