It must have been the artificial gravity. Nothing gave Nosir Rag migraines like the tight sensation of an art grav environment. He had been told many times that the difference was imperceptible—yet he always noticed. His head was searing off. With every blink the many lights in the tiny spaceship were multiplying making Nosir want to run for the exit. Mainco, his assistant from the InfoAlert company, was sitting next to him. He was calmly reading the latest InfoMod concerning the disappearance of Sarmus. Hap and Spekes, the hired space suits, were up front driving. They looked born in orbit. The only thing bothering them was the presence of Nosir on their ship. Nobody had wanted Nosir to go on this trip. It was unusual that it was taking place at all. Nosir rarely got what he wanted and even he had never thought that this three megaspan trip to Miranda would ever take place.
“Nosir, I think you should read this,” urged Mainco. “It directly pertains to your search.” Mainco handed Nosir his portable InfoBank. Nosir was in his mid-thirties with the gray in the waves of his hair, having arrived ten years ahead of schedule, matching the gray-blue of his eyes. “As you can see, InfoOrg Central has just released the latest Information Modification on Sarmus, series number 15.387.9076. It states that Sarmus never left the planet.”
This irked Nosir. He gave a cursory glance at Mainco’s PIB screen and then roughly handed it back to him. “I did the research before we left. I found some excellent DefectoMod. This new InfoMod doesn’t change a thing. We’re going to find something on Miranda that proves Sarmus made it at least that far . . . I know we are.”
Mainco didn’t think so. InfoOrg Central was the authority on InfoMod and, although InfoMod was changing all the time, it was never wrong. “Do I have to remind you, Nosir,” continued Mainco, “of the journalist’s oath? The InfoMod, the whole InfoMod and nothing but the InfoMod. You would do well to remember it. You might not look like such a fool all the time if you would stay up with what everybody else is thinking. Just read the InfoAlerts—it’s not that difficult.”
Nosir turned to the IA on the cabin wall. He appeared to wince with each new word, bright and digital, flowing straight from Central into every Imkassian’s mind.
InfoAlert: Imkassian economic progress headed for 311th straight year . . . Spand-o-flex shoes, feels like you’re walking in zero grav . . . whether you’re talking or not, the Cornfield is listening . . . Lottokass: 35, 21, 15, 12, 9 (written on the ball), 2, 21 . . . Blubox has everything an Imkassian could want, high quality plasti things at always cheap prices. . .
An InfoAlert was the twenty-seventh century version of written news. InfoAlerts were everywhere all the time. They scrolled off headlines, public service announcements, Lottokass results, sporty scores and the latest celeb info—all cut up with ads. They came in many shapes and sizes. There was one in Center City Imkar twice the height of an average Imkassian scrolling off letters four spans high. There were also petite and portable versions. Multicolored plasti-wrist IAs were all the rage at the moment. Even this tiny ship had several InfoAlerts.
The InfoAlert elicited a sigh from Nosir as the relentless march of words blurred painfully with his migraine making him close his eyes tight and scrunch around in his seat. There was no escape. He opened his eyes to find himself staring into an MT a few microspans from his face. MTs, or media tangentials, were screens displaying two vids by three vids. What played on the vids was sometimes related, as with big stories, but more commonly not related—not in an obvious manner anyway. The MTs constantly provided entertainment, titillation and edification for Imkassians. They were comprised of enties, entertainment bits, along with InfoMod news and an omnipresent assortment of ads.
MT: . . . Imkassians pouring into a Blubox (upper left) . . . Emperor Imkasserite the Magnificent partaking in Imperial Imkar Day ceremonies (upper middle) . . . paras brandishing clubs bring peace to food riot in nonmod section (upper right) . . . Imkass Cola: It’s the Zap thing! (lower left) . . . TapRiot banner waving rally (lower middle) . . . happy Imkassians at work helping increase Imkass productivity (lower right)
Nosir lurched back up in his seat. “Look Mainco, you’re right. This entire trip is going to be a failure. InfoOrg Central has cut the guts right out of it before we’ve even arrived on Miranda. I don’t know why I do it. I honestly don’t. Who can think against all of this?” Nosir gestured at the IAs and MTs on the ship. “There is no beating them . . . but Mainco, I found this Defecto, it was about to be deleted, on it Sarmus said ‘Miranda.’ It was as real as if fresh from InfoOrg Central.”
Most news in the twenty-seventh century came straight from InfoOrg Central. Almost everything in the Empire was being monitored at all times by state of the art news gathering devices. A massive snoop system, popularly referred to as the Cornfield—a thousand ears—was forever sending info back to the powerful MUSH, Mega Universal System Hieroglyphic, InfoBank at InfoOrg Central. There, with the help of Storm Spandows 2657, the congregate experience of everything in Imkass was organized, normalized and saccharinized into info blurbs. The blurbs were sent for final approval to Imkass Central, the grand residence of the emperor, before being passed on to the various media outlet companies for distribution throughout Imkass. Nosir and Mainco worked for Destar Info Technologies. DIT, along with ITB and TPI, were the three large InfoAlert and MT media outlet companies. The scientific term for this creative altering of news to achieve “greater effect” was InfoMod. Reporting in the twenty-seventh century was entirely about the creation and delivery of InfoMod.
“If it was so clear, why was it labeled Defecto?” Mainco retorted. “What is so zap about DefectoMod, Nosir? It is ruining your career—you should stay clear of that rotten info.”
Mainco’s advice was solid, still Nosir could never resist a good piece of juicy DefectoMod. Anything which did not work to the greater glory of Imkass, whether info or something else, was called DefectoMod. DefectoMod contained everything bad and wrong in the universe. It was to be avoided at all costs. In college Nosir had fallen in love with DefectoMod through studying the ideas of an ancient thinker named Sarmus. This had inspired him to set up his own InfoAlert company. He had the unusual notion that the only way to break through the large scale corruption of the Imkass Empire was by calling Imkassians’ attention to interesting bits of DefectoMod. Everyone thought he was crazy and that he would fail—it was totally unzap to even think about, never mind like, DefectoMod. Amazingly, though, he had some success—until his credentials were called into question by a DIT InfoMod special report. After the report his company began to falter. DIT took advantage of his bad luck, which they had helped create, and gobbled him up. He was paid a modest amount of dollops of Imkass prosperity for his points of access and given an ultimatum—he didn’t work at all or he worked for them.
Nosir was never trusted with any major InfoMod assignments. He was given special projects. Ones that would, in general, not get past the plasto desk of his editor. He had never been what DIT considered a real contributor. Nosir didn’t like Destar either. It represented everything about the news that he thought was unzap. Journalists were not allowed to report anything that did not support a high powered ad environment tailored to corporations’ bottom lines. A journalist who wanted a future, not to mention an existence, did not look behind the shiny commercial veneer of the Imkass Empire.
Nosir tried to keep his eye on stories related to the origins of Imkass. All the really important stories were reserved for the pretty boys of InfoMod like Nad Whynot and Mot Cheekum whose reports were as formula as the greasy stuff they used in their hair. Nosir had sensed this from the start so he had it written into his contract that Destar must give him at least a few stories each year concerning the origins of the Empire. Origins were much more interesting than robot wrestling and it gave him a chance to investigate the multitude of theories concerning his favorite philosopher. From the history of royal sweat suits to theories on when the first InfoBank was invented, Nosir had been assigned some “challenging” reports on the origins of Imkass. In his research (it was all mostly research because Destar was usually too cheap to send him anywhere) he had, however, come across some intriguing pieces of info on Sarmus.
“Nosir, I don’t mean to be a jerk. You have discovered some fascinating info about early Imkass but you should learn to stay away from the DefectoMod. Your job, maybe even more than your job, might depend on it. Sarmus died a long time ago. What could possibly be so important about him that is worth putting your career at risk?”
Nosir shrugged, “I know, Mainco. You are correct as always. What does Sarmus mean to me? I have a job to worry about. A sexbot and three very hungry cats to support. If I could only leave the DefectoMod alone . . . but it calls to me. Sarmus calls to me.” Most Imkassians thought Sarmus was nothing more than a curious relic from an ancient time of upheaval. Nosir knew he was much more than that. Sarmus had been a scientist, a philosopher and a visionary whose life had led him from scientific theories, to revolutionary ideas, and finally all the way to the stars. Sarmus was a name every child knew, not as a great Imkassian, but as a daring explorer. He was rumored to have been the first to break out of the solar system. It was said he blew by the outer ring way back in the 2090s and after that was never heard from again.
Nosir looked at Mainco, with his thick glasses and shock of orange hair, and wondered if he could possibly understand the mysteries of Sarmus. He knew his boss, Vac, had sent Mainco along to annoy him. But Nosir kind of liked this straight-laced Imky. He was glad he had come. “I think you are the one with a promising future at Destar, Mainco. That is, if you can distance yourself from my silly antics.”
Mainco was more than a little concerned about this, too, but he shot a smile back Nosir’s way. Nosir was trying to think outside of InfoMod and, although this scared Mainco to his core, it intrigued him as well. Nosir turned his thoughts to the long ago time of Sarmus. His migraine had settled into a dull shower of colored lights. Their craft would not arrive at Miranda for a few days so he closed his eyes and tried to relax, back into the pain. Images raced through his mind of what it must have been like before the rule of Imkass during the wild times of Sarmus and the ROC Uprising. The legend that was Sarmus was calling Nosir into the mysteries of the outer solar system and, quite possibly, to the greatest story of his career.
copyright 2002-2013 Jason Sullivan