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Discussion => Off topic => Topic started by: Variety Jones on November 01, 2011, 11:45 pm

Title: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: Variety Jones on November 01, 2011, 11:45 pm
*** I smoke a joint and wrote this in about 30 minutes. I haven't read it myself, nor proofed it for error or content. I hope someone enjoys reading it. ***

Darren squirmed in the custon molded Road Chair, struggling, and failing, to find a comfortable position.

"Goddmmit!" he thought.

"Why does Grant always call in sick on Thursdays, the lazy bastard. He knows I had a date tonight." Darren muttered.

But even while he was muttering, he kept a close eye on the readings on the screens around him. This was a family business, and Darren was minding the complex web of constant flowing transactions that were his families lifeblood.


A new order had burbled up on the main screen, a freighter in the asteroid belts wanted a couple of tonnes of cannabis. He wiggled his fingers in the data-web control, and brought up the potential clients history. It was a C class freighter, fairly new to the business with only a couple of 11 months runs out to Io, and a few smaller local hops around the belt to its credit.

He continued to tease more information out of the data-web with his right hand, while at the same time his left hand unconciously called up inventory and shipping manifests from his suppliers, cross-referencing them with requirement forecasts for the week. 2 tonnes wasn't a large order for a belter ship, by any means, but if he fucked this up, it would wipe out the profits for the day; and it had been a long day.

Sighing, he bagan calculating the drop-shipping routes that he'd need if he accepted the contract. While doing this he kept his eyes on the tertiary screens, sending out confirmation notices for smaller orders, answering client inquiries about stock availability, and performing dozens of other simple tasks that almost seemed meaningless. Meaningless, that is, unless you fucked up one of them.

He shivered in the Road Chair, considering for a moment what would happen if he fucked up some minor detail, and it came back to haunt the business later. Grant would laugh at him, and Dad would lecture him for hours.

And Grampa Jones. Grampa Jones would be fucking livid.

"Livid about what?" said the voice of Grampa Jones, behind him.

Darren froze for a microsecond. Goddammit, he must have been talking out loud. Just as quickly, he recovered, glad that he hadn't jumped, or shown outward signs of his surprise. Goddam, but Grampa Jones could sure sneak up on you quick, for an old guy.

"If we get scammed by this freighter," Darren said, nodding in the direction of the screen with the potential order flashing on it. "That would wipe out our profits for a day or two. But, if we don't take orders from newer clients, we'll never build up our business."

He confidently reached out and tapped the confirmation button, initiating the transaction and beaming a sub-ether message to the freighter captain that the order had been accepted and was processing.

"I was just think aloud, I'd already decided to accept the order."

Grampa Jones glanced at the details around the order, and nodded his aquiescience that Darren had made the right decision, this time. He slipped into the Road Chair beside him, and took in all the screens with a deep intensity that told Darren he was critically examining not just the current order he'd just accepted, but all the little tasks that he had been performing as well. Darren tried not to act nervous as Grampa Jones snorted and tsk'd and harrumph'd as he examined the days work.

Darren watched the old man out of the corner of his eye, hoping against hope that the old man didn't find some error he'd made, or problem that he hadn't sorted out yet. He relaxed as Grampa Jones sat back with a satisfied exhalation, his bones creaking as he strecthed his legs and made himself comfortable.

Grampa Jones wasn't just old, he was OLD, in capital letters. He was old when the rejuvination drugs were first discovered, and while they extended his life, he still aged, albeit slower. Rumor was he was over 300 years old, that was before they even had regular space travel! But his brain was still sharp as a tack, and he reached out and tapped the top of the screen, where Darrens operator name was.

And beside his name, was a '(98)' in big, bold, bright green letters.

"Ninety-eight, eh." Grampa Jones leaned forward, as if to confirm that yes, his eyes did not deceive him, his grandson's operator name was indeed 'Darren Jones(98)', and it wasn't a smear on the screen making a 'Darren Jones(100)' just look like a 'Darren Jones(98)' in fact.

"Ninety-eight." He said again, as if he was worried that Darren didn't hear him the first time.

Goddammit, Darren thought, it wasn't my fault. Or, more accurately, it wasn't ALL my fault. He'd got in a shipment that was a lower quality than he expected, and sent it out broken up in a couple of orders before he realized the problem. Things snowballed from there, there were a couple of complaints, and Darren was sure more than one of them was from his competion, smelling blood in the water, and hurrying to assist in assinating his character.But he knew better than to bitch to Grampa Jones about it. He knew *exactly* what he would say if he did. He'd say, "It is what it is. And what it is, is a ninety-eight."

Goddamit, this is going to be a long double shift if Grampa Jones starts to lecture me on my (98).

Grampa Jones, or more formally, 'Dr. V. Jones(100)' as everyone knew him for centuries, was a stickler about the family reputation. When Darren was young, he remembered asking him what the V. stood for. Grampa Jones laughed, and said that over the years, it has stood for a variety of things, and left it at that. One thing Darren knew for sure though, was while Grampa Jones may have changed his first name a few times, that (100) after his name was sancrosanct.

As the silence lengthened, Darren thought he could still hear the words 'ninety-eight' echoing off the walls. Goddammit, why couldn't this visit have happened 3 weeks ago, when the screen had a bright and cheerful 'Darren Jones(100)' on it. Or if Grant hadn't called in sick tonight. Or if that asshole hadn't slipped some moldy cannabis in that shipment. Or, or, or... Darren could feel the blood rushing to his face, as that (98) seemed to absolutely shine like a beacon on the screen.

He sensed the old man leaning forward next to him, and prepared himself for a tongue lashing. But instead of the invective he was expecting, Grampa Jones said, "I remember my first ninety-seven."

Darren froze.

For a full 30 seconds, Darren sat in the Road Chair, absolutely motionless.

His grandfather sat beside him, pulling out his stash pouch and began rolling a joint. Smoking cannabis while working the Road Chair wasn't allowed, but there wasn't anyone alive who was going to tell Dr. V. Jones(100), what the hell he could and couldn't do, Darren knew.

Darren was still sat there, shocked still, when Grampa Jones indicated one of the customer inquiry screens, and said, "So, you going to just sit there, or are you going to respond to those folks."


Darren jolted into action, fielding the questions now scrolling off the bottom of the screen, juggling the tasks of dispatching orders, sending confirmations, answering questions, ordering new stock, and the 1001 and one other things required of a good Road operator.

30 seconds might not seem like a long time, but Darren knew that folks on the sub-ether communication net acted as if you had nothing in the world to do but deal with their problems and questions, as did the suppliers, shippers, and everyone else who worked or used the Road.

And Grampa Jones had taught him a long time ago, as soon as you get even a little bit behind, it can take forever to catch up. Folks who had inquiries start to send second ones, doubling the volume. Antsy customers start sending angry sub-ethers wanting to know where their orders are. All this was exacerbated by the new super-luminal freight cruisers in the game. They were captained by gearheads who had no notion of causality and who -- because of their faster-than-light perspective -- expected you to send the answers before they have even sent you a question!

It was a tiring and thankless task, and Darren loved every minute of it.

Soon, he was back in the groove, and the number of outstanding tasks started to dwindle as he competently worked the data-web controls, doing the work his family had done for centuries - getting contraband past the authorities and to the people that needed it.

And by authorities, he meant the pharmaceutical companies and the governments they controlled.

And by contraband, he meant anything that the pharmaceutical companies didn't control the supply and price of, and that the governments couldn't tax, regulate, and seize at their whim.

From cannabis to fresh cows milk, the Road carried the traffic that the people demanded, while the authorities, as they had for millienum, failed to stop them.

The sweet smell of burning cannabis wafted through the air as Darren flexed his fingers on the data-web controls, doing as his ancestors had for generations, sticking it to the man. Darren relaxed as he scanned the screens, and saw with satisfaction that there were no outstanding issues, and he glanced over at the old man next to him.

Grampa Jones proferred the lit joint, and Darren hesitated. "Go on, it's more of a what you'd call a 'guideline' as opposed to an actual rule. I'll take over for a few minutes, you need a break." Grampa Jones said, as he handed the spliff to him.

So he took the joint, and watched as Dr. V. Jones(100) slipped his hands into the data-web controls, and began scanning the screens. With a fluid grace he dealt with inquiries, examined the shipping manifestos, and carried out all the tasks of a vendor on the Road with skills that were honed over centuries.

The Road spanned the solar system, from the cities of Earth, to the moons of Jupiter and beyond, the Road was more than just a hidden network of vendors and customers, products and shipments. The Road was a concept, an idea, more than just an encrypted network and forwarding nodes. The Road was freedom, a way of life.

As Darren watched his grandfather work, he realized that the old man didn't just work the Road when he operated the road Chair, he was the Road. He took it personally when people couldn't get what they needed because some bureaucrat somewhere had declared it contraband. Whether it was an MS afflicted patient who needed cannabis, or some health nut who wanted unpasteurized milk, Dr. V. Jones(100) would do everything in his power to assist in skirting the rules and getting them what they wanted.

Grampa Jones had the same affliction that Darren had.

Grampa Jones *cared*.

Darren couldn't possibly believe that he had ever sported a (97).

"Actually, that's what I wanted to come to talk to you about." Grampa said, waving at the 'Darren Jones (98)' that still glowed accusingly at the top of the screen. "Don't worry, your not in trouble. Like I said, it could happen to anyone, myself included."

Proving that Darren had not in fact mis-heard him earlier, Grampa Jones looked over at Darren and said, "What, you're surprised I ever had a ninety-seven?" Darren just looked at him, his wide eyes betraying that he was indeed surprised.

"Shit, it happens to every vendor, once in a while. Not a goddam thing you can do about it, either. Oh, you try, and swear to yourself and your gods if you believe in them, that you'll never have less than a hunnert. But there aren't any gods to hear your prayers, and no matter how hard you try, in the end, Mr. Murphy's law will always catch up to you."

Darren had heard lots of stories about Mr. Murphy and his laws, collaries and axioms over the years from his grandfather. He didn't know exactly what Mr. Murphy did for a living, and gathered that he was a business partner and drinking buddy of his grandfather. He'd deduced this from the fact that most Mr. Murphy's observations seemed to stem from the results of an evening of drinking with Grampa Jones. He always thought that Mr. Murphy was kind of a negative Nancy, as his mother would say, and more than a bit of a pessimist. He'd ventured that thought to his grandfather one time, to which he replied, "Waht, Murphy, a pessimist?" He said, "No, son -- Murphy was a goddam optimist!"

Still, his grandfather must have liked Mr. Murphy, for he said that he never had a business that Mr. Murphy didn't play a large role in.

The old man, without taking his eyes off the information flowing accross all the screens reached out his hand, indicating with a motion that it was severely lacking in the possession of a cannabis cigarette at the moment. Darren handed the joint back to him, and Grampa Jones took a long, slow draw on it.

He handed it back to Darren, and continued his story.

"Was back in two-tousand-ought-ten, or ought-eleven, or thereabouts. We was on the original Road, back on Earth."

Darren pondered this for a moment. It was the year 2450 now, goddammit! Grampa Jones must be close to 500 years old!

"I don't recall the specifics now, which is funny, because at the time I thought it was the end of the world. I worked hard, and brought it back up, but that takes time, and it frustrated the hell outta me.

"But eventually, I got it back up to a hunnert, and swore it would always stay there.

"It didn't, of course.

"Eventually, I took another hit, and it dropped again. But this time, I said to myself I'm not going to beat myself up. I thought I'd been trying as hard as I could, but I resolved to just try a little bit harder.

"You see, everyone needs to have a (97) or a (98) after their name once in a while. It reminds you that you have to earn it, and keep earning it. Don't ever think that a hunnert is yours by right. It's not. You have to strive to maintain it, and even then Mr. Murphy can come along and fuck things up through absolutely no fault of your own.

"And all you can do then, is work at bringing it back up again.

"And as long as you keep trying, you'll be making the ghost of Mr. Road proud."

Grampa Jones looked at Darren. "What, you didn't know there was a Mr. Road?

"There sure was, he was the one that started it all. First name of Silk. Smart feller. We used to call it the Silk Road, back then. Over the centuries it evolved, and now it's just the Road. I even exchanged messages with him once.

"Was back in tousand-ought-eleven or so. He'd made some changes to the system in regards to postage -- that's how we paid for shipping back then -- in regards to how we charged for postage. I was in the process of entering hundreds of new items when the changes went into effect, and it broke all my new listings.

"But, I sent him a message right away, and he anwered in only minutes, and between us I explained the problem and he'd make some changes and then message back to see if it was fixed. Took a few tries, but soon enough everything was working as smooth as, well as smooth as silk.

"Couldn't ask fer a nicer feller, was polite and helpful through all our back and forth, and you could tell that he really cared that everything worked properly, that the Silk Road succeeded, and that we could all continue to vend our contraband in the face of the authorities that would otherwise have us under their heels."

Darren sat back, processing the tale. Imagine that! Grampa had actually exchanged messages with Mr. Road himself!

Grampa Jones nodded at Darren. "Here, you take over now. I'm gonna take a nap. And whatever you do, don't disturb me untils shifts end, got it!"

Darren assured him that he got it, slipped his hands back into the data-web controls, and concentrated on the business at hand, while Dr. V. Jones(100) snored quietly beside him.

A Short time later, he heard his grandfather give a little snort, and say "Goddammit!" quietly under his breath, and then he stopped breathing.

Darren turned and looked at the old man, laying back in the Road chair, with his hands touching the data-web controls, and a faint smile on his face. He briefly wondered what he should do, and then he realized that there was nothing he could do now. He glanced at the clock, there was two hours left on his shift.

He looked back at the old man, and decided he'd heed his last request, and leave him in the Road chair until the end of his shift, a part of the Road now, extending accross the solar system, spreading freedom as an idea. And Darren knew that someday he'd tell his grandchildren how his grandfather had actually exchanged messages with Mr. Road!

Darren broke out of his reverie, and glanced back at the screens. There were orders pouring in on one screen, and messages had already began scrolling off the bottom of another, while on a third alarms were ringing from suppliers who had problems...

Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: rake on November 02, 2011, 01:22 am
Funny that,  I've always commented that this isn't ebay.  A 100 status is difficult to maintain and even if you do nothing "wrong," situations that arise are going to affect your vendor score.
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: FrenchOnionSoup on August 05, 2012, 06:33 pm
Nice story :)
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: ZenAndTheArt on August 05, 2012, 09:02 pm
For a first draft that was brilliant! I really enjoyed reading it. You've got a real talent there, a talent worth developing.

A few points (if I may), I thought you brought your characters to life really well with some evocative writing. The narrative of the story needs a bit more developing (even for a short story), remember 'beginning, middle and end'. I thought your ideas of how a world in 2450 had developed and changed from our present, were interesting. I'd of found it interesting if you'd developed more ideas on how the 'Road' may have changed by 2450 (just a personal interest, though). And lastly, it didn't totally fit when you brought in the idea of 'Mr. Murphy' and his laws, something that could be worked on if you were to do a second draft.

I'm no literary critic, but I do think you've got a genuine talent there worth developing. I'd happily read any more stories you wish to post.
Keep writing  ;)
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: grahamgreene on August 05, 2012, 09:26 pm
Thoroughly entertaining read!  :)
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: pine on August 05, 2012, 09:38 pm
Great work, you've got a flair! :-)

But one minor problem! No PGP Club in 2450! How can that be! And the Great Crypto-Anarchist Revolution of 2015 - 2025 :o

I expect our public keys are at least ~21kb in size by then :D

Of course... quantum computers, maybe they'll be qubit keys or something.
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: FrenchOnionSoup on August 07, 2012, 12:57 am
Bring on the sequel!
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: BanWork on August 07, 2012, 01:38 am
+1 Enjoyed the read. Keep up the good work!
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: 751a696c24d97009 on August 07, 2012, 02:18 am
+1, write some more, that was a good read  :)
Title: Re: A tale of Darren Jones, vendor on the Road in the year 2450
Post by: amazing777 on August 07, 2012, 05:20 am
+1 Nice story bro