Chapter 1: Getting Up

Magus knelt before the makeshift shrine in the cramped hallway of his apartment. The sandalwood smoke wrapped around him like a warm embrace cleansing him for what lay ahead. A prayer. His mission.

Shrouded in a lightweight black flak suit, Magus was one with the darkness around him. He took one last look at his ancestors and blew out the single candle that rested upon the altar. He rose to his feet and checked that he had his equipment in order. A utility vest kept all his necessary tools within reach, and a compact ruck sack held the payload needed to transmit to the wasteland that was the Zenith Sector of Los Angeles.

Stepping out onto Temple and Bonnie Brae, Magus was aware of that familiar smell of asphalt and burnt rubber. Ever since the Zenith Sector went online, much of the Flatlands had nothing but exhaust fumes and operational waste heading their direction. The large mechanical saucers that kept the new city afloat had thousands of ventilation ports that not only sent the waste downward, but kept it from coming up. Most underclass Angelenos were issued ionic implants to filter the toxic blast, but most had malfunctioned, budget cuts as they were in the old city. There was hardly anyone out this time of night and that boded well for Magus’ mission.

Much of the underclass stayed out of the streets when the brown sky turned to black, since crime had run rampant in the city. With much of the resources being funneled to Zenith, the inhabitants of the Flatland did whatever they could to survive. Years ago, many of the underclass provided much need maintenance and service work for the Zenith sector, but those jobs had been supplanted by machines. The underclass were lef to fend for themselves, and that made the old city very angry.

Magus jumped on his chopper and headed towards the valley, turning on his magnapod implant to provide him with a driving soundtrack. BDP began blasting through his brain…

Let’s begin, what, where, why, or when
will all be explained like instructions to a game
See I’m not insane, in fact, I’m kind of rational
when I be asking you, “Who is more dramatical?”
This one or that one, the white one or the black one
pick the punk, and I’ll jump up to attack one
KRS-One is just the guy to lead a crew
right up to your face and dis you…

His heart raced as he felt the road speeding up underneath him. Entering the 110 tunnels, he remembered stories his grandfather told him about old Los Angeles, before the reformation. Everyone had lived in the Flatlands back then, until 2036, working together, walking and driving side-by-side. Society seemed much more vibrant and colorful, and according to his grandfather, the sky was bright blue in the summertime without a cloud to speak of. Only Zenith had that these days. They even owned the sky. Anger rose in his chest as he pondered the privilege they coveted and protected so fiercely. Although, even then they already owned the oceans, and the hills, gates protecting their families, large immovable vehicles running the common folks off of the road. Los Angeles in 2066 was just an extension of that reality.

This is what drove him to become a Cyberscribe. Cyberscribes formed in the 50s as a response to the widespread disenfranchisement of Los Angeles’ underclass. A privileged few had qualified for the Zenith sector, a utopian city in the sky, above the smog and filth of mid-century Los Angeles. Strangely enough, since most of the work had been effectively automated, most citizens of Zenith did practically nothing all day. They sat in their modern houses in the sky tapped into whatever virtual feed was wired into their homes. The rise of true virtual reality made regular life very mundane. Most of Zenith viewed the idea of living in the real world as beneath them, instead engaging in the fantastical, sexy, grotesque world of the virtual landscape.

The underclass on the other hand could only occasionally tap into this world, and most found their fantasies bound up with the latest designer drug to hit the streets. A few learned to tap into these feeds, but the tracer posts installed around the city often kept that from happening for too long. The authorities would often descend on any illegal taps in the Flatlands, a cause for rendition and eventual expulsion from Los Angeles. Some people say these people were deported to Death Valley, where a similarly lawless land was mixed with the barren bleakness of the desert. It was worse than living in the old city.

Magus was part of a smaller sect of scribes, a group that had connections inside the superstructure of DarkStar, the corporation that broadcasted the feeds. They were the ones that set up the large titanium antennas on the San Gabriel mountains that transmitted to Zenith around the clock. They weren’t heavily guarded, but armed robo-patrols hovered around them to spot and kill any trespassers. This night, Magus was told that tower 3 was going to be shut down for maintenance and unguarded. If he could reach the top before the antenna went back online, a payload of imagery designed to subvert the corporate feeds of DarkStar would flood Zenith, and wake the citizens from their ignorant existence. He had no hopes that this would change anything, but the pain and despair that was felt by the underclass every day had to be seen by those who benefited from it. Magus, like all Cyberscribes, vowed to overthrow the structures of this society, not through violence, but through enlightenment via subversive imagery. And “getting up” as they called it was one way that they could make this happen.

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~ by artofpeace on July 1, 2008.

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