Re: AR would be better than VR.
"But a Virtual Reality would be a legal nightmare, if for no other reason than some idiot would immerse themselves entire in VR while trying to do something else (like, say, DRIVING), get into serious trouble because they can't focus on the VR & Reality at the same time, then sue the pants off the VR maker as a result."
Your nightmare is my wish for reality. From Neil Stephen's Snow Crash,
(Y.T. is a teenage female courier riding a skateboard with computer controlled adaptive wheels, several other tricks, and a 'poon', short for harpoon, but not destructive that can adhere to any vehicle and tow her at freeway speeds in traffic. This is the book that put the idea of 90's cyberspace into peoples heads, and a few pages after this excerpt, they even use semi automated, personal drones.)
Y.T. is maxing at a Mom's Truck Stop on 405, waiting for her ride. Not that she would ever be caught dead at a Mom's Truck Stop. If, like, a semi ran her over with all eighteen of its wheels in front of a Mom's Truck Stop, she would drag herself down the shoulder of the highway using her eyelid muscles until she reached a Snooze 'n' Cruise full of horny derelicts rather than go into a Mom's Truck Stop. But sometimes when you're a professional, they give you a job that you don't like, and you just have to be very
cool and put up with it.
For purposes of this evening's job, the man with the glass eye has already supplied her with a “driver and security person,” as he put it. A totally unknown quantity. Y.T. isn't sure she likes putting up with some mystery guy. She has this image in her mind that he's going to be like the wrestling coach at the high school. That would be so grotendous. Anyway, this is where she's supposed to meet him.
Y.T. orders a coffee and a slice of cherry pie à la mode. She carries them over to the public Street terminal back in the corner. It is sort of a wraparound stainless steel booth stuck between a phone booth, which has a homesick truck driver poured into it, and a pinball machine, which features a chick with big boobs that light up when you shoot the ball up the magic Fallopians.
She's not that good at the Metaverse, but she knows her way around, and she's got an address. And finding an address in the Metaverse shouldn't be any more difficult than doing it in Reality, at least if you're not a totally retarded ped.
As soon as she steps out into the Street, people start giving her these looks. The same kind of looks that people give her when she walks through the worsted-wool desolation of the Westlake Corporate Park in her dynamic blue-and-orange Kourier gear. She knows that the people in the Street are giving her dirty looks because she's just coming in froma shitty public terminal. She's a trashy black-and-white person.
The built-up part of the Street, around Port Zero, forms a luminescent thunderhead off to her right. She puts her back to it and climbs onto the monorail. She'd like to go into town, but that's an expensive part of the Street to visit, and she'd be dumping money into the coin slot about every one-tenth of a millisecond.
The guy's name is Ng. In Reality, he is somewhere in Southern California. Y.T. isn't sure exactly what he is driving; some kind of a van full of what the man with the glass eye described as “stuff, really incredible stuff that you don't need to know about.” In the Metaverse, he lives outside of town, around Port 2, where things really start to spread out.
Ng's Metaverse home is a French colonial villa in the prewar village of My Tho in the Mekong Delta.
Visiting him is like going to Vietnam in about 1955, except that you don't have to get all sweaty. In order to make room for this creation, he has laid claim to a patch of Metaverse space a couple of miles off the Street. There's no monorail service in this low-rent development, so Y.T.'s avatar has to walk the entire way.
He has a large office with French doors and a balcony looking out over endless rice paddies where little Vietnamese people work. Clearly, this guy is a fairly hardcore techie, because Y.T. counts hundreds of people out in his rice paddies, plus dozens more running around the village, all of them fairly well rendered and all of themdoing different things. She's not a bithead, but she knows that this guy is throwing a lot of computer time into the task of creating a realistic view out his office window. And the fact that it's Vietnam makes it twisted and spooky. Y.T. can't wait to tell Roadkill about this place. She wonders if it has bombings and strafings and napalmdrops. That would be the best.
Ng himself, or at least, Ng's avatar, is a small, very dapper Vietnamese man in his fifties, hair plastered to his head, wearing military-style khakis. At the time Y.T. comes into his office, he is leaning forward in his chair, getting his shoulders rubbed by a geisha.
A geisha in Vietnam?
Y.T.'s grandpa, who was there for a while, told her that the Nipponese took over Vietnam during the war and treated it with the cruelty that was their trademark before we nuked themand they discovered that they were pacifists. The Vietnamese, like most other Asians, hate the Japanese. And apparently this Ng character gets a kick out of the idea of having a Japanese geisha around to rub his back.
But it is a very strange thing to do, for one reason: The geisha is just a picture on Ng's goggles, and on Y.T.'s. And you can't get a massage froma picture. So why bother?
When Y.T. comes in, Ng stands up and bows. This is how hardcore Street wackos greet each other.
They don't like to shake hands because you can't actually feel the contact and it reminds you that you're not even really there.
“Yeah, hi,” Y.T. says.
Ng sits back down and the geisha goes right back to it. Ng's desk is a nice French antique with a row of small television monitors along the back edge, facing toward him. He spends most of his time watching the monitors, even when he is talking.
“They told me a little bit about you,” Ng says.
“Shouldn't listen to nasty rumors,” Y.T. says.
Ng picks up a glass from his desk and takes a drink from it. It looks like a mint julep. Globes of condensation form on its surface, break loose, and trickle down the side. The rendering is so perfect that Y.T. can see a miniaturized reflection of the office windows in each drop of condensation. It's just totally ostentatious. What a bithead.
He is looking at her with a totally emotionless face, but Y.T. imagines that it is a face of hate and disgust. To spend all this money on the coolest house in the Metaverse and then have some skater come in done up in grainy black-and-white. It must be a real kick in the metaphorical nuts.
Somewhere in this house a radio is going, playing a mix of Vietnamese loungy type stuff and Yank
“Are you a Nova Sicilia citizen?” Ng says.
“No. I just chill sometimes with Uncle Enzo and the other Mafia dudes.”
“Ah. Very unusual.”
Ng is not a man in a hurry. He has soaked up the languid pace of the Mekong Delta and is content to sit there and watch his TV sets and fire off a sentence every few minutes.
Another thing: He apparently has Tourette's syndrome or some other brain woes because from time to time, for no apparent reason, he makes strange noises with his mouth. They have the twangy sound that you always hear fromVietnamese when they are in the back rooms of stores and restaurants carrying on family disputes in the mother tongue, but as far as Y.T. can tell, they aren't real words, just sound effects.
“Do you work a lot for these guys?” Y.T. asks.
“Occasional small security jobs. Unlike most large corporations, the Mafia has a strong tradition of handling its own security arrangements. But when something especially technical is called for—”
He pauses in the middle of this sentence to make an incredible zooming sound in his nose.
“Is that your thing? Security?”
Ng scans all of his TV sets. He snaps his fingers and the geisha scurries out of the room. He folds his hands together on his desk and leans forward. He stares at Y.T. “Yes,” he says.
Y.T. looks back at him for a bit, waiting for him to continue. After a few seconds his attention drifts back to the monitors.
“I do most of my work under a large contract with Mr. Lee,” he blurts.
Y.T. is waiting for the continuation of this sentence: Not “Mr. Lee,” but “Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong.”
Oh, well. If she can drop Uncle Enzo's name, he can drop Mr. Lee's.
“The social structure of any nation-state is ultimately determined by its security arrangements,” Ng says, “and Mr. Lee understands this.”
Oh, wow, we're going to be profound now. Ng is suddenly talking just like the old white men on the TV pundit powwows, which Y.T.'s mother watches obsessively.
“Instead of hiring a large human security force—which impacts the social environment—you know, lots of minimum-wage earners standing around carrying machine guns—Mr. Lee prefers to use nonhuman systems.”
Nonhuman systems. Y.T. is about to ask him, what do you know about the Rat Thing. But it is pointless;
he won't say. It would get their relationship off on the wrong foot, Y.T. asking Ng for intel, intel that he would never give her, and that would make this whole scene even weirder than it is now, which Y.T. can't even imagine.
Ng bursts forth with a long string of twangy noises, pops, and glottal stops.
“Fucking bitch,” he mumbles.
“Nothing,” he says, “a bimbo box cut me off. None of these people understand that with this vehicle, I could crush them like a potbellied pig under an armored personnel carrier.”
“A bimbo box—you're driving?”
“Yes. I'm coming to pick you up—remember?”