Chapter Eight

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This one didn't drink. Posted a lot about veganism too. She was single and in her thirties. A bit of phishing would do it. He thought for a minute.

Compose message in large green font. It's time for beauty to become fully sustainable! Aren't you tired of organic skin products that just don't work? Or how about products that claim to be all-natural but are actually hiding chemical substances? We're putting together a pop-up blog to share ideas about world-conscious but effective ways to stay looking healthy and sexy. Click or sync here to check us out! End message.

After the link was inserted, he added a header featuring a slender, smiling woman with her hands buried in a head of lathered up hair. The message was sent and he waited. Half an hour later, she opened the link and was disappointed to see that it led to an error message. In that instant, a quiet infection planted itself in her SiSip.

He smiled.

Cross out item twenty three.

A red line appeared over 'Gerlinde Brixius – Vero Beach, Florida'

Too easy. Dumb bitch.

Abandoning their drinks and the stiffening remains of the croissant, Firespike and Orion trekked out of PreOccupy and along the cracked sidewalk. Sullen clouds lumbered overhead, dragging with them a slight breeze. Trees pocked with tight buds were experimenting with green. The street, which had been almost uninhabited earlier, was now peppered with packs of giddy students. Neither Firespike nor Orion spoke as they made their way to a broad avenue that formed one of Manhattan's spines. The stream of cars had thickened and slowed since Firespike had entered the teashop.

Primed for fast-paced entertainment rather than long contemplation, she couldn't keep her mind glued to one topic. Craving the visual caresses of her blog, she pined for her own SiSup. The symphony of law and linguistics reminded her that order could always be found somewhere in the world, no matter how far it seemed to be from her life. Earlier she had passed a scoreboard for Politiscramble, her favorite game, and was now eager to see if it had been updated.

A crowd had gathered on the corner the board presided over. Grumbles and questions were filling the air. Firespike's gait quickened. Maybe there had been a major upset in the Politiscramble rankings, like when Quarter2Three dislodged LadyGlitterSnowPrincess from the number two spot. Ugh. Of course something like this would happen during the few hours she was disconn—

Her breath flew out of her.

All of Politicomma's interactive billboards were frozen in a grotesque display, their clean dance crippled. The Politiscramble scoreboard seized, spasmed, and twitched apart. Graphics dissolved into strips of gritty pixels. Indigo text jerked and vanished. Some people, convinced of a gimmick or an ad, waited impatiently for a punch line or a product name. Others were already feeling the grip of panic.

"Is it a new media campaign?"

"It's probably just a hardware malfunction of some kind."

"It can't be a malfunction! It's on every board!"

"Should I try to sync with it?"

Fretful murmuring rose up. Heads flicked left to right. The boards displaying Pop Stop and Philotage content appeared unaffected. But every screen that normally offered court case updates, vidstreams from juries, the latest GrammSlams, and other Politicomma content was being twisted and scrambled. Firespike desperately wished she had her SiSup so she could see if the interactive data for followers had been compromised too.

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