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Chapter (1)


The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.

Winston Churchill


Headshop on Haight

Gordon thanked the gray haired woman in the paisley tunic and waved his way through the hanging beads in the doorway of the back room. She mouthed a quiet blessing as he left and turned to light a candle on the altar behind her and the statue of Ishtar cast a flickering shadow against the wall. The antique store and head shop was quietly known as one of the best places in the world to buy magical items and powers for use in virtual game worlds. She also sold magical supplies to the Wiccan and occult communities but her heart was really in the antiques. She and Gordon were old friends from a few neuropsychology classes in grad school and had stayed in touch ever since. He still bought the occasional antique from her when she found something that peaked his interest. This time Gordon came in to get something a little more arcane than a statue or a piece of furniture. 

When he stepped out the door onto Haight Street he looked like an ancient Babylonian king with a well muscled body, a dark braided beard, linen tunic, robe and sandals. At least that's how he looked to those that had the eyes to see it. Others simply saw him as an average height but stocky man with dark curly hair, close shaved beard, jeans and a tweed sports coat.

He wrinkled his nose as the smell of urine, alcohol and pot smoke washed over him when he passed some of the homeless and the street kids sitting against the walls between the storefronts. Nanobots coursing through his bloodstream attacked and disassembled the foreign molecules and volatile organic compounds he inadvertently inhaled and efficiently carried them away for elimination. 

As he walked down the street toward the park he wove his way through a menagerie of mythic and popular characters and creatures. Gordon had programmed his neural implants to accept the augmented reality data that others were projecting and to augment the basic stimuli passing into his visual cortex. That way even the people around him not projecting any code looked like various creatures and kinds of humans. Their real postures and movements were the same, mapped directly onto the new imagery. Gordon's default setting was to make anyone not projecting anything into simians and primitive hominids. He let the program randomize the imagery but if truth be told, he preferred Neanderthals. 

The program was called Transposer and was widely accessible on the commercial market though it was not recommended for use by children, people operating heavy machinery or anyone with various odd and sundry mental disorders. The program could not actually remove anything from the visual field, though it could augment things realistically or add things that weren't really there in a translucent form. The most common use for the program was simply to overlay information and virtual objects onto the real world. While supermarkets, universities, museums, restaurants and big business used augmented reality data for product information and advertising, by a simple tweak of code the general public was now able to wear information for social and entertainment value. Various subcultures and gangs wore signature augments like tattoos and many teenagers loved to play with the way they represented their parents and authority figures in their visual fields. Gordon liked to blend the waking and the dream worlds so he could walk around in a jungle of information.

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At the end of the Haight he crossed the street and entered Golden Gate Park through a small tunnel where musicians played and illegal code and drugs were exchanged for money. He walked along tree-lined paths where people slept, prayed and toked up. After he passed the stadium he strolled through the playground nearby and stopped to watch the children ride the antique carousel. The ornate menagerie of carved animals often reminded him of the augmented people he saw mulling around on Haight Street. Organ music played as the children rode round and round on brightly painted deer, storks, tigers, lions, goats, giraffes and horses. It was the one chimera that caught his eye though, a strange combination of something like a fish and a fanged goat.
    More than any other creature he thought it embodied the amalgamation that he and the culture had become. The image of the cyborg had finally grown in popular media and mass consciousness into something benevolent and heroic. The problem with cyborgs though was that it always struck him as an uneasy truce between the organic and the mechanical that lacked elegance and beauty. What he liked about the chimera though was that it was seamless integration of technology and biology through wetware. The neural implants that interfaced his brain with the information systems of the world were as organic as the rest of him. The nanobots that coursed through his bloodstream to keep him healthy were designed and built up from carefully arranged structures of molecules that while being synthetic, interfaced smoothly with the organic. It was a seamless agreement and it allowed him to live, work and play in fantastic worlds. The cyborg image though effective, was a crude and blunt instrument for popular culture.
By the time he approached the University campus he remembered it was time to turn off his augmented identity. As liberal as the college could be, the administration didn't consider showing up at work looking like mythological or historical characters consistent with the air of professionalism they were trying to project. By the time he got to the lab he had a good hour before the conference call was to begin. He checked the news and his system alerted him to an article under the Health link about the local appearance of a new virus from Asia. He logged onto the premium part of the CDC site, downloaded the viral configuration into his implants and loaded them into the database that his nano enhanced immune system used for recognition and removal. It would only take about a day before he was immune to the new variant.

This was originally Chapter II but 
Gordon is a main character and in some ways more edgy and dynamic in the beginning.


*When I first started going to CIIS in the early 90's 
the school was located a block or so up from the 
Haight Ashbury and I often went down there for lunch. 
It was a lively, colorful and grungy place. Several times I went to the carousel in Golden Gate Park.


Haight Street


The antique carousel at Golden Gate Park