Reads: 117

"How's Will?" Bryce asked about Kay's on-again, off-again boyfriend as they walked down the main street in Leland, heading toward Bryce's favorite haunt - the shoe store. A trip to the salon or anywhere else tuned into a visit to the shoe store. Bryce couldn’t get enough of the place

"Will rocks my world.” Kay pushed a chunk of her raven hair behind her ear that had fallen out of its topknot perch. “Most of the time. Sometimes my work gets in the way and Will has a hard time. He doesn't like to be second to anything."

"Imagine if the two of you had kids – not so good because spouses almost always play second fiddle to the children"

"I know, right? It's good to keep in mind before I let things get too serious. I'm in no hurry. I've always planned to freeze my eggs, which gives a woman more time to get established on a chosen career path. Women aren’t supposed to be passed over for promotions and shit because they get pregnant – but it happens. Kay said.

"Let's cross at the light because Walk is coming up on the left. I remember when mid-day was busy with people running to lunch. Now everyone gets meals delivered, but I like it because it makes shopping easier." Bryce opened the door to the swanky shoe boutique.

"Speaking of delivery, did you see that two drones crashed, fell on a home and started a fire."

"No, but it doesn't surprise me. Those things are supposed to be foolproof, but hackers amuse themselves by causing shit to happen. Was anyone hurt?" Bryce asked.

"No. The article had some click-bait headline and I fell for it. I think it was a minor fire. It's not like the house burned to the ground." Kay's phone chimed. "It's Will. I'm going to bounce out of here for a minute. You take forever to choose your footwear, so come get me when you're done."

"I want you to help me choose," Bryce complained.

"Send me a pic. I'll be on the bench outside," Kay said as she pushed through the steel and glass door.

Will was at his desk eating a burger for lunch. He was wearing a shirt and tie, which was required at the office. "What's up gorgeous?”

"Shopping with Bryce who just quit her job by the way," Kay said. She didn't feel gorgeous because she hadn't even bothered with lipstick.

"That doesn't surprise me. Bryce isn't the 9-5 type. We should celebrate her. unemployment tonight at Captiva. A ton of people from school are going to be there, as they are most Wednesday nights. Barbecue is half off and it's sick," Will said as he chomped his burger and ketchup ran down his chin.

Will was the office manager at a doctor's office, which was a position with no upward mobility. He wasn't really interested in healthcare, but he was organized so the job was a good fit. He returned to Leland after attending college in Southern California. Most of his friends headed up to Silicon Valley but Will returned home. He didn't come back for Kay, but that may have had something to do with it. They hooked up a few times in high school and during school breaks when he came home. Since he came back to Leland, it had been Kay and Will 2.0. She was much more comfortable in her skin in her 20's than she was as a teenager. Kay was athletic and smart, but she wasn't exactly a social butterfly. She wasn't obsessed with the latest in pop culture and did little to conform. Will never asked Kay to change, not as if she ever would. Will liked that Kay danced to her own soundtrack because it made her unique and appear confident. Confidence, Will always said, was sexy. She and Will always had good sex and the older they got, the better it got. Neither Kay nor Will seemed bothered by the fact that fucking was the foundation of their relationship.

"Sure, you're going to have an appetite after that burger?" Kay joked.

"I'm sure Kay. When have you known me to pass up cheap food? I have a meeting in 15, so I'm hanging up. Gotta change my shirt and I always bring an extra because I'm a slob. Tonight Captiva at 8 o'clock. Out."

The screen went black and Kay shoved her phone in her pocket. Bryce hadn't come out yet, so Kay went back inside. Bryce was finishing up her transaction with Plume Pay, so she found a pair of sandals. She flashed Kay a picture of her purchase.

"Cute, when will they arrive?" Kay asked.

"They should be there by the time I get home, as long as the drone doesn't crash." Bryce laughed. "What did Will want?"

"There's a thing at Captiva tonight with a bunch of people from school. He'll be there around 8, so let's call our peeps and make a night of it. You can wear your new sandals. I'll drive if I remembered to charge my car. Otherwise, I'll call a DV (Driverless Vehicle)."

"Do you know if Chip is going?" Bryce asked.

"I assume he'll be there. He always comes to college-related shit. I know what you're going to say and I'm on it. Jade will be the first call I make because of her insufferable crush on the guy. I don't get that because I see nothing spectacular about Chip, but then again – it’s Jade and Chip has money."

"Maybe Jade thinks of him as a blank canvas. Someone she can turn into whatever she wants."

"I guess. Bryce, what the hell are you drooling over?" Kay noticed Bryce staring in a shop window.

"The Plume Z725. They say it's the closet Plume has come to a holographic phone."

"That thing is full of bugs and it's about $6000. Wait and it'll come down like everything else. Maybe you'll get one with your next job."

"Not if I'm a bartender, Kay. I'm not on a hot career track like you, but I'm happy. Although I'd be happier with the Plume Z725."

Kay laughed and kiddingly jabbed Bryce in the arm. They arrived back at Bryce's Condo just as her sandals flew in from the local DC. Kay walked next door and pressed her index finger on the pad as she picked up her quinoa salad waiting for her on the steps. Kay walked into her office. "HR, calling in." Kay's phone was set to receive work calls the moment she stepped in her office. She threw her phone on her desk as she noticed her red incoming button blinking.

 

"Hey Maury, you called?" Kay said.

"I did. There's a problem with the dialect decoder on the chat you've been working on."

"Think you can see what's up?"

"Sure, it's Indian isn't it?" Kay asked.

"Yes, apparently something culturally insensitive is happening and it has been brought to corporate's attention. How was your walk into town with Bryce? It's a beautiful day."

"Good. The fresh air keeps me going for the rest of the day. It beats overloading on caffeine. I'll let you know how the dialect problem works out."

Kay pressed the button and Maury was gone. She would be sure to call Jade as soon as she made sure the chatbot was running smoothly. As Kay powered up her system, she wondered how Maury knew she went downtown with Bryce. ViaTech was able to track her because of the chip card she slipped in her pocket, but Bryce wasn't being tracked. It could have just been assumed by Maury in corporate, but that wasn't possible.

It didn't take long for Kay to realize the ever-present cameras that she and Bryce passed on their walk into downtown. Leland were sending the information back to ViaTech. The company paid for access provided by the municipality. The whole world was deeply entrenched in facial recognition. How did she know this? Kay realized early on from her mother that records were free to the public in many cases. Kay requested the financials from the town, pretending to be a curious and civic minded individual. It was like a massive puzzle and it led her to investigating further. Kay developed an addiction to solving problems and answering questions. She was led to shell companies that told her just how much information was changing hands regarding lifestyle, purchasing habits and the like. Getting this information cost money because it was valuable to corporations. They were developing methods to predict what a person would buy and where they would go next.

Kay tested the system of data collection to see just how specific it got. On several occasions she walked into town with a low cost brand of athletic shoes and bent down to rub her knee. The look on Kays face was pained and she winced when she picked up the pace. She expected to be inundated with shoe advertisements, but it became more invasive. At her annual doctor’s appointment she was asked about knee pain and given a referral to an orthopedic surgeon. Kay went to the surgeon because the consult was free, and the physician recommended surgery to the tune of 12K. Kay would need a mobile brace during recovery - $400, physical therapy - $120/session. Next was a meditation retreat touted by the nurse that helped patients in the past deal with post-op depression. Kay was advised strongly to see a sports medicine doctor to deal with future injuries that would occur in a person with an active lifestyle. The faked sore knee led to a corporate money grab bigger than she imagined.

The information Maury had about her lunch-time excursion into Leland was minor compared to what Kay was finding out. Was privacy and the expectation of making our own decisions sacrificed for convenience? Had it been stolen by technology? Kay wanted answers.

Kay's Plume chimed – it was her personal tone, so she put the work question out of her head. "Hello, Jade. I was going to call you but I'm guessing Bryce beat me to it. Are you in for tonight?" Kay asked.

"Definitely. I'll be there. Think you'll be able to feel out Chip for me? If he's involved with someone, I'd like to know so I don't waste my time. Also, see if you can find out where he's working now. I've been crushing on him for so long and I don't want to ask too many questions. I might come off as stalkerish or creepy."

Jade Healy never wasted time. She was a senior transfer at Leland High School (LHS) who fucked half of the varsity football team. The other half got played in some way by the serial crusher She would make guy one jealous by dating guy two and dump guy one when he had served his purpose. Jade destroyed friendships this way and thought nothing of it.  Jade had pin straight blond hair that she likely spent an hour straightening each morning. She always wore the right clothes to show off her ass and boobs, which were both ample in the right way. Chip represented a new frontier to Jade. He was a little geeky but had a ton of potential. Kay found herself rooting for Chip Mantooth to not just be another notch in Jade's belt. He was kind and guileless in a charming way. She was unpredictable after being recently dumped by her live-in boyfriend of two years and Kay suspected a portion of her financial security went away with him. Since Jade came to LHS late, Kay didn't know her as well as Bryce and her other friends – she was a wildcard.

"I'll get the 411 on Chip Mantooth and put in a good word about you while I'm at it. I may just have a second career as a matchmaker," Kay joked.

Kay spent the rest of the day running tests on existing chatbots for ViaTech. She felt as if she knew as much about the company she worked for as Jade knew about Chip. All Kay really knew that they were based in New York City and their goal was to make communication and customer service run as efficiently as possible.

"HR Kay Whatley out." Her work day was done.


Submitted: May 17, 2019

© Copyright 2022 kristie leonard. All rights reserved.

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