Published: Sep 30, 2016 12:00:00 PM

interconnected-stories.pngI've finished drafting The Diffused States of America's second chapter. I haven't determined the delivery method for it yet. However, the chapter required intensive editing to keep the story sharp.

Lucky for you, I saved most of the passages that I altogether removed from the book.

Turns out they create a weird dream-state when presented out of context while still in chronological order. Enjoy the weirdness:


American youth was weaned on the scientific and cultural rebels that invented space travel, Russian Roulette, and LSD. The American love affair with 6-Jacking ought to be no surprise.


The first 6-Jack was executed on a San Francisco real estate broker. The small intrusion recorded everything he heard for a day. It was enough evidence to prove California was broke. Outside investors owned the state’s most valuable land. What's more, they brought no value and spent no money in the region, except when they sold property to foreign consumer electronics companies, who in turn paid no taxes.


There was always a way in. If the hackers couldn’t find it, they’d draw straws and 6-Jack somebody that did.

Many of the truly mad and desperate were already employed at ISP’s. A few code jockeys being paid less than most unionized transit workers had become the most powerful members of a new military industrial complex.


In the wilderness, still some distance from the Atlantic coast, he noticed there were four empty ports on the rig’s rear shoulders. Two on the small of its back. One on each joint on the elbows and knees.

He cursed himself. These expansion sockets were for over-boost engines. The engineer hadn’t mentioned them and he hadn’t thought to ask. Running the rekt without them was like driving a truck without power steering while stuck in first gear.


Stro had to go. He panted, packing quick as he could with a smile too heavy to heave from his face. The mud on the trail from the lean-to was so slick he slipped and fell, releasing only a moronic laugh before lifting himself up and showing the dirt stain to the rekt. It observed, still and silent beneath the trees.

“Worked ourselves out of a job,” Stro said, packing the compartment with his laptop, some warmer clothes, and little else. The rekt didn’t respond. Stro faced south, down the valley, matching where he noticed the machine was stuck staring. “Where we can do good, we can do the best. It’s worth the risk.”

Facing the rekt, he was startled to see it bend its knee without command. The left arm swayed forward like a tree’s bough. The palm opened to him, and though the fingers didn’t bend, Stro slipped himself into its grip. Then it all stopped.

Stro met its electric eyes, glassy lenses, quiet but not dull. The moment was past. “Yeah, I heard you,” Stro said. “Your voice carries. Time to go.”

Stro went south to Boston. He kept the rekt at a steady jog. Sustained action was much more difficult than the cutting and hauling he’d done clearing debris. Learning to run again from within the rig’s dimensions was mentally taxing. Every action demanded focus and energy.

They kept their steady jog. The rekt’s constant metallic rattle attracted attention whenever Stro passed through town centers. Folks put their faces out windows to catch the sight of the upright machine loping by. Those with earbuds, blocking out all sound, eyes fixed on their handsets, even they perked up, the vibrations from the footfalls were so thunderous. They had to see what could possibly hassle them out of their precious audio-visual containment. When they saw, they sent out word of some idiot trampling the highways.

At first, Stro didn’t realize the damage he was causing to the asphalt where he ran. He stamped potholes the size of car tires with each step. Maintaining his own precious audio-visual containment, partly to keep himself entertained, partly to keep up a decent rhythm and sync with the rekt and keep the machine from over-thinking, it took Stro almost a hundred miles to notice the complaints against him.


He crossed the Charles River on the Longfellow Bridge, capped with bronze turrets, only to be delayed for a moment as a mighty Coast Guard ship passed beneath, cutting a sleek path downstream toward the sea. The children on the bridge cheered and waved to the black and red vessel, loaded with well-armed men. A deep, open hold yawned below deck. It was empty now. With luck, they would return with forty or fifty European refugees trying to break the blockade. The refugees would be shipped back up the river to labor in the mill towns like New Watertown and Waltham.


Stro kept his eyes open for some weirdness. His face sank when he noticed none. There were indeed locals packed into booths, talking at a volume that demonstrated a confidence only regulars might achieve. The food had to be local, only mussels from Boston harbor smelled that hard of spoiled engine oil.

As for the beer, Stro only recognized one on tap of the hundreds prepared, and it wasn’t local: Kentucky Ale. He had enjoyed it once with his brother when he was out west on a job. They stood to admire the Kingdom’s wall, bottles in hand, speechless, observing the green aurora rise above the ramparts’ peak, staining the night sky with some geomagnetic science Stro didn’t understand.

That was years ago now.


The first reaction would be rampant abuse of these artificially-activated sensations. But this was an age of digital resentment. Substance abuse was taboo. Thousands of people had died. In a nation of limited resources, the human body was precious and singular thing. The designer-sensations flopped at the marketplace when they hit pharmacy shelves. Making them entirely legal was a shrewd move by the head of the Drug Admin, a man named Victor Han.

Had the product been forced underground, it might have found more success. As it was, it arrived, fully legal, with negative stigma and in bad taste.

It died in the open market faster than New Coke.


And still, each of the individual Diffused States carried a torch for their citizens. They believed they knew how best to govern themselves and their kind, too harried to recognize each nation going its separate way was the path of least resistance.

America loved easy.

But the rekt were coming. Easy would not return any time soon.


The public devoured it. It was real, and it was human, and it was intricate, and it was dangerous, and it had innumerable personalities involved at so many levels. Americans had always loved watching esoteric talents clash with neuroses, particularly when there was a good soundtrack and the possibility of injury and fire. There wasn't a person in the Diffused that didn't watch every Sunday, or gobble up the pre-race hype streams during the week.

It was unprecedented. Speed and danger joined with a physicality and engineering brilliance unheard of in human history.

People had to design the machines, called the Smith. People had to grow the organic tissue, called the Angel. People had to design the software, called the Jockey. The teams were bands of beautiful weirdos. Rivalries developed. Each team bubbled with unique style. Viewers wanted to know what made them different. Everything was broadcasted. It was a stunning alchemy of human talent and organizational drama. It was damn-good drama.

It was a marriage that had no business being this successful, particularly when it required trust between all those eccentric individuals operating in tandem. If they didn’t, the brave soul that had been strapped into the D3 was going to wreck at 800 km/h doing a 5-G turn.

Each race began with runners scouting the course. The term for it was called ‘slipping’ because they traced lines in the track as they drove them in regular vehicles. Circuit courses with laps took an hour to slip. Entire days were required for point-to-point courses.

The entire team slipped the course. They discussed corners, blind jumps, hairpins, and speed chutes.

Following the slip, the team’s engineers calibrated the machines while the runners rest. The runners coordinated with their psychologists, called Laureates, to center their mood and build a musical playlist. The music furthered communication between runner and rekt.

Depending on the type of track, a runner chooses one of two stances for their rekt: tuck or roid. Roid-stance, short for ‘android,’ fully enclosed the runner into the rekt’s exoskeleton. Standing upright, a roid could stand at twelve to fifteen feet tall in agile, augmenting normal human movement. In a dead sprint, a runner could reach 340 km/h. With jets accelerating everything and the rollers lowered, a roid could top out at almost 500 km/h. Certain teams fixed laser-sharp stabilizing edges made of a diamond-laced alloy onto different parts of the frame. This allowed runners to carve through turns like a train riding rails. The edges vibrated at inaudible, ultra-high frequencies invisible with the naked eye, so fast that a runner could carve sharp turns through asphalt, rock, or metal.

It became a gliding motion when the rekt’s the jets are active. In conjunction with the series of gyroscopic overlays built into the frame’s middle tier to maintain balance while carving a turn, a runner could lay out entirely into a turn and still be in full control at high speed. With all the balancing countermeasures, it was near-impossible to knock a rekt over.

A good runner should be like hot water flowing over ice. They had to fight gravity without hating it. Otherwise, it hated them back. Most runners studied a ballet, interpretive dance, short track speed-skating, parkour, yoga, downhill skiing, and tai chi to channel and carry momentum.

Sharp runners were quick enough catch an errant electron with chopsticks.

By comparison, the rekt in a tuck-stance was a different beast. More of a charging rhino. More vehicle than ‘advanced prosthetic,’ so to speak. The runner is visible and vulnerable in the saddle when riding in tuck-stance, ride being the opportune word. Modeled like a long-nosed motorcycle, powered by rearranged jets, and balanced by the same gyro-system, tuck-stance is brutal and taxing on the runner. It hurt to stay in the tuck, squeezing the saddle between the runner’s legs. Gravity and the terrain slamming their exposed bodies. Some runners couln’t corner in a tuck. With the proper ability though, the rekt could throw completely sideways on the track and still finesse some speed from the machine.

Trust and the courage is never forgotten.


The Diffused offered no shelter to their kind. The less than one-tenth of 1% found it tough to flex their influence when there was no singular federal government to hide behind. Their powerful friends were dead or disposed of. The former fortunes validated by binary code on a mainframe in the Cayman Islands, or Switzerland, or on a satellite in orbit, were frozen or pinged back to $0.00 by cyberattacks. The money was insured, but when all of a nation's wealth was taken offline simultaneously, the result is economic triage: battlefield surgery.


Calvin entered the stadium’s league office and thumbed over his shoulder to Stro outside. Within the rekt, he bent to get a look inside the ground floor. He startled the office workers on the second story. It was evidence enough for the time being. Reassurances and perfunctory thumbprint authentications earned Stro entry with Calvin in tow while the rekt waited outside.


Stro leaned against the rankings board, alight with shifting percentages. His smile spread, blessed by the luck of the devil that he had encountered Calvin in the first place.


“A massacre?” the journalist suggested to her. Hours later. The journalist had put her tablet down and stopped taking notes. “A nightmare at six hundred kilometers per hour? What would you have called it?”

“Free-form balletic dissonance,” Char said. The journalist cursed these rekt runners and their self-importance. Their vocabulary. That was a writer’s job. “Maybe call it a tango with improbability, Darling?” Char smiled. She slurped some ramen noodles into her grinning mouth. “Primordial poetics beating away at a mendacious glacier, so baffled by its own existence, it must unmake itself, in desperate hope of seeing its own intangible thoughts.”

-- Alex Crumb
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