Sunday, March 16, 2008 (SF)

Background of The New World:

North America has been steadily increasing the number of traffic cameras, red light cameras, and camera-pods in public areas for the last ten to twenty years. By 2010, Litigation and lawsuits causes the video streams to be posted to the public domain, since most of the cameras are on city or state property. Some corporations elect to post their own interoffice streams for free; while still others charge a subscription much like pornography sites.

Quickly, Americans begin to carry GPS and arfid tags around with them, and implant geo-tracking cookies into their websites, myspace and facebook pages, and email signatures. To them, it was not just an incredible invasion of privacy; it was a new form of social networking. Now people could see where you were and meet you at any moment! Flashmobs became 10x the norm for geo-tagged celebrities, and every teenager and their dog were rewriting their websites to become the next Real Truman Show.

Around 2013, some politician, whose party affiliation escapes me at the moment, and whose name is to be determined, suggests that since millions of Americans have elected to "chip" themselves into the national citizen (terrorist) registry voluntarily, it would behoove the United States to set up a national lottery as an arm of Homeland Security - whereby citizens could bet on the actions and outcomes of others' everyday lives. Ninety-five percent of the proceeds would be used to fund the national government, and the remaining five percent would serve to fund the lottery.

Within three years of the bill passing, the national income tax is removed and the IRS is merged with the US Lottery (also known as Homeland Security); and judging by the current growth, there is enough of a surplus coming in from lost bets to fund the existing government for the next decade, adjusted for inflation. Britain is watching the outcome very closely, and as soon as the US posts a national profit, the EU isn't far behind constructing its own lottery.

Within ten years of the inception of the US Lottery, most of the first world countries - dragging many of the second- and third-world countries kicking and screaming behind them - band together moreso than ever before in recorded history to create the Benevolent International Gambling (BIG) Nations, otherwise known as The Big Game. It serves to usurp power from NATO and the UN, and has become its own global coalition (much like OPEC did for oil barons) doling out crippling financial penalties to any country that steps out of line.

And so our story takes place approximately fifteen years after the BIG nations and The Big Game replaced the US Government and Baseball, respectively. The year is 2028.


Lucius stepped off the elevator and mounted the gangway; moving toward the main concourse at a moderate pace. It was Sunday, middle of the afternoon on a clear, crisp day. He calculated the odds of getting to his car unmolested at twenty to one.

His car was surely stolen by now anyway. He put 20 dollars on it before leaving for San Francisco. Had Lucius been thinking more clearly, he would have used his trade connections and put a hundred on finding it intact. Would've bumped up his return a few points, but it would have also caused unnecessary headaches - it was illegal to bet on one's own actions or property. He considered himself lucky enough that he knew bookies a little less scrupulous than the law provided.

"Mister Gripper, may I have your autograph?" Lucius had been lost in his thoughts and nearly ran into the twenty-something female pushing a Sharpie and a cast shot of himself in his face. He stopped and peered down at her slight frame. Passing his inspection, he took the items and made some flagrant swirls on the glossy before asking: "To whom shall I make this?"

"Rachel Farley, sir." She was easily pretty without being sexy, with long brown curly hair that always gained points with male viewers. Lucius approximated a three-place gain from the run-in, but had to act quickly lest it become a mob scene. He swirled the pen some more, making sure there was an R- and F-shaped mark on the photo, smiled as he handed the items back to her, and moved on briskly.

Lucius Conrad Gripper was 32, good-looking, six-foot-three, one hundred ninety pounds, with short brown hair and big green eyes, with an even tan all over, and currently ranked 307th in the world this betting season. Top 500 wasn't a bad place, and served him a moderately successful living.

Now a belt away from the concourse, he stepped off the traffic path and made for an open terminal, between a pilot and a suit (probably a banker, from his cut). The screen came to life as soon as he was in range, and he brought up his standings:

Lucius smiled to himself, the autograph was just what he needed today. He may go to a club tonight to gain another point or two, maybe even get drunk. He needed to be careful: the last time he drank lost him ten places, mostly because he threw up in the cab. But today had been good to him thus far ... he might try it anyway.

"Spammers must have hit a jackpot of crazies today," said the Suit to his right. Lucius turned to a face he immediately recognized; his own turning to amusement. "My whole Top Five was extreme foolishness."

"Then I'm lucky I only got one. Good to see you Parker," replied Lucius, taking a hand in his firmly, "Didn't recognize you in the suit."

"Trying something new," said Parker amiably, "I lost two places yesterday to that kid from Monaco. Gotta get 'em back." Parker Christenson was a Top 100 for the past three seasons, currently 101. "What do you think?"



"Definitely. Ten places for a success, easy," Lucius shifted weight to the other foot, anxious to get moving. One Contestant was bad enough, but two? And one a consistent Top?

Parker knew it too; they had both been in The Big Game long enough. He also knew Lucius had four seasons on him, and went for another tip. "Any place particular?"

"Try Bangkok, or The Gin Room," Lucius was already backing out. So was Parker, who nodded a sincere thanks. "Not before eleven."

"I know. They'll kill you for an early arrival. Good running into you. Maybe we'll both make out."

"Let's hope. Care," and Lucius half-waved. He made one last glance at the terminal before waving it off. It was the same rank.


"Look, I'm no Geneva Simmonds," Opal yelled over the din of the crowd crushing each other to get into The Gin Room, "but I know what I know, and I'm certain there's going to be Somebodies here." She was dressed to get picked at the door, wearing a silver miniskirt up tothere, a slinky blouse and bra combo, and fuckme boots.

Her friend, Lisa, was similarly dressed, sans the boots; substituting four inch sandals with straps up her calves. "How much did you bet?" she asked snobbishly between cigarette drags.

"Two hundred. But I think I'm going to raise to a thousand. Should be a decent return." Opal unsnapped her purse and pulled out her diary-sized pad, which came to life as she brought it to view. With a couple of finger taps she brought up her bets for The Gin Room. As she typed one-handed, Lisa stood guard in their spot, trying to conceal from any onlookers. Opal set her raise, and waved the pad off before anyone could get a clear look at what she was doing.

Definitely going to be Somebodies here, she said to herself. I just put my paycheck on it.

"I can't fucking believe you, throwing your hard-earned money away on Homeland Security. You know you're being ridiculous. What's your rank now, anyway? Two hundred millionth?" Lisa argued as quietly as she could without the words being lost to white noise.

"Bottom rung of payouts actually, thank you, bitch. Somewhere in the two hundred thousands."

"You're so willing to give up your privacy to Big Brother for a fucking game. You're no better than some 'roided-out Football player. What do you think your chances are you'll get an invitation this season?" Lisa asked, disgusted.

Nonchalantly: "Probably zip, the league is swinging male this year, trying to find competition for Simmonds."

"And why not another woman? After all, we're the ones with intuition." The sarcasm was only slightly blunted by the vaginamancy of the female collective.

"Predictive abilities, odds calculation, and intuition are entirely separate talents," replied Opal, frustrated that she was merely average in all three.

"Don't forget luck," said a suit behind them, "Geneva herself relies on it heavily." Both women turned an annoyed glance on the suit. He was tall, well-toned, with gracious features, a square jaw, nice smile, and waxed eyebrows. He pulled on his cuff links in a very serious manner.

"Whothefuckareyou?" spat Lisa, "and why are you crawling into our conversation?"

"I apologize for the offense. I'm Lewis. Lewis Parker. I can't help but eavesdrop when it comes to our international pastime. I lose good money on it, so any tip helps." Lewis smiled a car salesman smile.

Before Opal could say anything, Lisa ran full shields: "Here's a tip: Don't eavesdrop on women low-talking. It may cause testicular loss," she scowled.

Opal tried buffering since he was nice to look at, and besides, he looked familiar. She put on a nervous smile and shrugged her shoulders to the man while her friend wasn't looking. He returned her nervous with a sigh and a slump of his own shoulders, and smiled back that he got the hint.

This made Opal retrieve her pad a second time; and this time around she didn't care who saw her tapping when she brought up the list of the Top 100 Contestants.

"What did you say your name is?" asked Opal in her sweetest voice possible. Lisa turned about face, confused at her friend's tactics.

"Lewis," said the suit, still sounding as confident, still looking like a lost puppy.

"Sure you're not this guy?" Opal asked, holding her pad so only he could see the one-hundred-and-first-place contestant.

A little more subdued: "Well maybe, if anyone asks. But consider the bar patrons that may not be Game fans - your friend for example. Just call me Lewis, please."

Lisa rolled her eyes and tried to focus on getting the bouncer's attention, allowing Opal to get closer to the suit - who smelled quite nice. She said, maybe a little too dreamily, "Tell me this. Did I just win my wager?"

Lewis Parker, aka Parker Christenson, took a too-long moment and half of another before slowly nodding, "What were your odds?"

"Four hundred to one."

His smile broadened to mimic the headshot on her pad. "Then you'll have to buy me a drink."

She stuffed her pad back into her purse, taking with it some of the magic of basking in stardom. "I'm already doing you a favor by using your alias. Besides, I'm not a supermodel."

Taken aback: "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Oh, c'mon. We both know how the top from Monaco bested you yesterday. You bag yourself a supermodel, it'll be ten places, easily."

"Hmph. You know your stuff. A friend of mine said the same thing. Maybe you should get an invite. Give old Geneva a run for her money."

Opal was finally done with the suit. "Are you kidding me? No. Wait. Are you crooning me? Is that why you're all kemosabe with me? Your constituency?"

In answer, Parker jerked his head at the bouncer, who nodded with his eyes. "You two are coming in with me. Don't mess with your pad until after you leave this place. Here, take my number. Once you get inside you can do whatever the hell you want, but call me tomorrow. I'll get you an interview."

Opal was taken by the wrist and was half-pulled, half-compressed into The Gin Bar by Lisa, who was only too happy to be let in by anyone, even a life-schmaltzing punk of a Somebody.

She started to come-to about five minutes later at the bar, where she stood holding a purchased drink in one hand and a white linen business card in the other. Not only was this Somebody hitting on her for points, but he seemed genuinely interested in getting her an interview.

At last she let her mouth close and slowly nodded an acceptance of terms that were made eons ago; she was still staring into the rafters like a headlighted animal.

She heard through the distance of her thoughts that Lisa couldn't stop laughing.
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This work by Michael W. Hyde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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