It begins as most weeks do… on a Monday. At this point it is usual to tell the reader what kind of a Monday it was so that he or she thinks ‘Oh, so it’s gonna be that kind of a day’. It was a kind of Monday that made school children pretend to be sick and made some adults physically sick. Shiva Singh was one such adult and having woke up with a splitting headache, wished that he was still in school so that he could pretend to be sick. The headache was courtesy of the staggeringly spectacular quantities of alcohol present in his bloodstream. Shiva was what some might call a modest drinker. Of course some might also call the sun moderately warm. He worked at a local souvenir store selling souvenirs. He hated his job and would have quit a long time ago had he been able to get another. The problem was that while he was qualified enough he lacked the drive that others seemed to naturally possess. He was a dreamer, a thinker or in the words of his prospective employers a good for nothing dilettante. He was almost 25 but still lacked a solid purpose in life. He often thought of starting his own business but lacked any ideas on which to base the business.
The most teeming business on the planet Arachnia was tourism. The whole planet’s livelihood depended on it. It was widely regarded as number one of the top ten places to visit before your gentioism (a ceremony on the planet Devestrano in which the pleasure centres of the brain are removed as a means of receiving transcendental knowledge). The life on the planet was considered by most people to be idyllic. Shiva considered most people to be empty headed morons. On this particular Monday doubly so.
After a quick shower and a couple of aspirins he headed for work. A quick teleport later he arrived at Gonzo’s Souvenirs. The owner Gonzo – the big headed, was a clown on the planet Disneyland before he opened his chain of souvenir shops after winning the Jerunese lottery.
Today business was slow as it was the off season on this side of the planet. Shiva sat at the store lost in his own thoughts when there arrived a message on his COMM. The COMM was a wrist watch like object that directly interfaced with the user’s brain and utilized the processing power of the mind to serve as a computational and communications device. It also served as a universal translator and a nearest bar locater for the user. The message was sent by an unknown user. This was highly unusual as privacy was a thing of the past. Everyone was on the network and everyone had a unique brain signature so they could be easily identified. Someone had obviously gone through a lot of trouble to hide their identity and this intrigued Shiva. ‘Meet me at the Backshack bar at 14:00 pm’ it said.
In this day and age, it was very strange to meet someone personally. People usually met on the network where virtual people talked of virtual events in virtual universes. The network was like a virtual universe inside the real one. People had access to whatever they wanted limited only by individual imagination. There were certain locations in the network known as network points where if the network was thought of as a virtual universe these points can only be thought of as planets with sentient life. The network points were vast storehouses of information which could be accessed with the help of COMMs. Of course along with information, misinformation too ran rampant like some universal law of yin and yang.
The Backshack bar was one of the few places left where people met physically. A few drink-o-trons surrounding a crumbling structure was all there was of the Backshack bar. At exactly 14:00 pm Shiva arrived at the Backshack bar wondering who was the mystery person who had sent the message. He was nursing his 2nd drink when an alien from the Antares star system approached him. He was a green skinned humanoid being with incandescent eyes. He had 4 digits on each hand and was wearing a t shirt and jeans. He sat opposite Shiva and said “Hi, the name is Herg freebooter and I’m from Antares prime. It was me who sent you the message. We met at a party hosted by Gonzo at network point 18. You were really drunk back then and were babbling about government conspiracies and what not. “
“Yeah I vaguely remember the party but the details elude me. You don’t work for the government do you?”
“Who me, no I work for network point AA91 aka conspiracy theory haven. Some of the things we spoke about that night are coming to fruition. I have procured a ship and provisions for the journey. We are all set to leave in a couple of hours.”
“What ship? What journey? What are you talking about?”
“Damn man, don’t you remember anything? The other day you were talking about quitting your job and I said I might have an opening at CTH. I interviewed you that day and you were so paranoid the interview was a government plot we had no choice but to hire you. You now work for CTH and our job is to investigate whatever fuckups the galactic government is trying to hide. Any of this ringing any bells?”
“How much does it pay?”
“A few taringas more than your current job but at least you get to travel.”
There was no getting over the fact that Shiva hated his job very much and so he decided at that time that perhaps life was offering him a chance to get out. He decided then and there to take up the new job but was still curious as to what exactly entailed his new assignment.
“What fuckup exactly are we going to investigate?”
“The governor of the planet Omicron 14 has announced plans for testing out a new network protocol. It’s not open source. I think something shady is going on. You and I are supposed to investigate it.”
His newfound enthusiasm for a few more taringas quickly faded and harsh reality crashed in. What was he doing? Leaving everything he knew on a whim due to some drunken bar conversation. Just then he got a call from his boss at Gonzo’s souvenirs.
“Where the hell are you? You can’t just leave in the middle of the workday to go gallivanting off somewhere. Get back here this instant or I’m gonna dock your pay for the day.”
Maybe something had been building up in Shiva. Maybe it had been there for a long time. A kind of resentment deep under the surface. Hidden, obscured, waiting. Some might call it a mental breakdown but I call it fate. Shiva snapped.
“Fuck you Bob. You and your stupid job can do like the lemmings and jump off a cliff.”
Saying so he disconnected the call.
“Let’s do it.”, he said turning to Herg.