Title: The Digital Hydra
Author: Emad El-Din Aysha
Summary: A video game always an oppressed ‘ethnic’ group to resist the totalitarian regimes that have stamped out their identity, thanks to the very bio-implants those regimes implanted into them.
Word count: 1,385
Public Domain Mark (PDM)
Struck, the dancer hears a tambourine inside her,
like a wave that crests into foam at the very top,
Maybe you don’t hear that tambourine,
or the tree leaves clapping time.
Close the ears on your head,
that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.
There are other things to see, and hear.
A brilliant city inside your soul!
A shady individual, in a shady part of town, was handing out laser-discs, almost for free. The pocket-sized kind you shove into your head.
“We stamped out these people’s language, their customs and costumes, we eliminated their whole leadership, crushed them militarily…,” the secret police chief said. His official title was Director of Intelligence. “And now they’re organising all over again, and abroad. They’ve got lobbies in every country we have dealings with, and they’re giving us a hell of a time.”
That’s because we import everything, from all those countries, even torture devices, the director’s assistant kept to himself. “We’ve eliminated their schools and radio channels, but that doesn’t mean we eliminated their language. The English thought they did that to the Scots, and look what happened. Things always make a comeback.”
“The English didn’t have our learning technologies. If these upstarts were using the internet, we’d have known. We monitor everything,” the director was adamant. “Not a single phone call leaves this country or comes into this country without us hearing it. They can’t be coordinating with their countrymen abroad, we’d know about it. We have our men in those diasporas.”
“From the look of how they’re coordinating positions, I’d say they’ve become one diaspora,” the assistant said.
“That’s impossible,” the director boasted. “They’ve never spoken with one voice, even in our country, and they’re smeared across several countries. We all have a vested interest in keeping them in line. If there was any coordination, my ‘colleagues’ would inform me.” He meant the fellow intelligence directors and secret police chiefs in the region. Things had got so bad in his country, at one point, that they had to allow their neighbours to invade their territory to take out the separatists.
Now the separatists were beyond their grasp. What to do? Beat them at the source.
But what if there was no source?
A kid, no more than toddler, walked down a dark alleyway in a shady part of town.
A peddler in a trench coat come out of a dark corner and offered him the latest in bio-interface videogames. A simulation game. One that he’d love. They only catch was the kid had to learn another language.
The boy spoke no language – even English – save the one they’d taught him at school. He didn’t know his parents. They were locked up in a lunatic asylum, fed drugs intravenously till they forgot how to speak. Not that he knew any of this. He was a ward of the state.
No bother, the peddler said. The language the game was written in uploaded itself into your cerebrum as soon you put the mini-disc in. He handed him the game at a paltry cost.
The disc-drive in the boy’s skull had been inserted there by the orphanages, to chase away any residual memories and make language instruction all the easier. The argument was that this was the only full proof way to educate someone into total submission. They still had free will, technically, but this way you could always control the flow of information into a child’s head. You had to have a hardware interface to get information in, leaving the brain unhackable. Even if one of these poor souls watched a pirated TV broadcast or read a foreign newspaper or chanced onto an illegal radio channel, they’d check their databases in their minds and argued themselves out of the opposing data.
The perfect control mechanism. If it wasn’t for the black market in videogames.
If there was money in it, the right kind of people would find a way. Two could always play at the technology game, and there was no better way to make money than creating your own voting constituency.
“The UN just passed a resolution making it mandatory to reopen their old schools and teach their language again,” the assistant said in a start.
The director was sitting behind his desk, legs on the desk, without a care in the world. “Big deal. Since when is anybody afraid of the General Assem…”
“It was the Security Council,” the assistant corrected for him. The words left skid marks on his tongue.
The blimp of a man sitting behind the desk almost tipped over backwards.
That particular branch of the UN was a whole other kettle of fish.
The game spread by word of mouth, from child to child to teenager to young man.
Every one of them could live a lifetime in their heads, see their whole history of their people, play all of their heroes, relive battles and victories and try and learn from defeats. Manage their city’s affairs, its diplomacy, its economy, its sciences. Legislate new laws. Reorganise the Senate to represent the people. Everything.
You carried a nation within you wherever you went, in your heart and soul. And since your skull was unhackable, no one was ever the wiser.
All those recipients would grow up one day and become men, destined to migrate to greener pastures around the world.
“They’re doing it. They’re really doing it,” the assistant said, one of his eyes twitching along with the right side of his face.
“It’s nothing but archaeology,” the director said in a vein effort to convince himself. His face was plastered to the TV screen, with the archaeological dig, unearthing the long-lost city.
“It’s a symbol. A symbol of our doom!”
They were in the 22nd century and environmental and geological changes had unearthed a lost continent. Several surrounding nations had laid claim to the slab of land while the so-called natives – just the illegal migrants who had made it their first – ‘claimed’ descent from the original inhabitants.
War had broken out and the natives were subdued, their made-up language dispersed to the four winds, their fictitious country divided up amongst the victors, who at least hailed from legally recognised nations. Not that they remained part of those nations for long. They also went independent, although they spoke their original languages, with a heavy accent.
That’s why the victors lost in the end. They’d boxed themselves into a corner, neglecting relations with their lands of origin. The new kids on the bloc, they had the savvy and skills to make it big abroad. And now they had the memories they needed to coordinate positions without even talking to each other.
There was such a thing as the ‘model’ United Nations. Playing at being diplomats and international lawyers. This was just the next logical step. A simulation of the international community, the latest upgrade; bought at a discount if you were dedicated fan. And since everybody had uploaded the same programme in their heads, they all did the same thing. Impossible to monitor – there was nothing to monitor – but it worked nonetheless.
A couple of weeks after the mythical city had been dusted off, the international community forced the wrangling states on that new-old continent to recognize the independence of the youngest (and oldest) country in human history – Atlantis.
No bother that the language of the original ancients, after it was deciphered years and years later, proved conclusively that the original race had died out when the land sank into the ocean. Even DNA studies of the bones they dug up proved that the descendants were in no way related to them.
It was all a game, after all. Nationality.
All that mattered was how well you played, and nobody played a video game better than the current generation, altered or not – kids with a portable hard-drive in their heads in the place of a brain!