6:30 PM EDT. Shift’s end. @Sam attends a half-hour debrief with Mike Mobutu and clocks out. Server 17’s rendered sun hangs low and pink in the sky. The square is populated with AMers stretched out on the grass after a long day’s work. Many are engaged in conversation, talking over plans for the evening. Others are in isolation mode — grayed-out, vegging, enjoying the free DRE.
@Sam winds through the crowd, waves to some familiar faces, makes his way to the northeast corner of the square. A bricked path leads from here to the Wipe Center, and he walks up it. Swaggers, would be more accurate: Mike spiked @Sam’s APS to 81, all but promised him another supervisory shift tomorrow, and the day’s work earned him $150.
The DREs on AM/EDT’s forty-five servers are all laid out basically the same way, with the Wipe Center set up on a hill, a half-click north of the square. If there’s any variety, it’s in the design; here on Server 17 the Center presents as a wooden cabin. The path up to it winds a fair bit, the better to accommodate long lines at the end of the day. No such line now, due to today’s quarantine and @Sam’s delay in setting out. Most anyone else in need of a scrub has already come and gone. He arrives at the hut’s open door, flashes ID to the gatebot, and steps through the archway, into a room about a thousand times larger than the outside of the cabin would indicate.
All the PMEs staffed to scan-reading, surveillance, and other sensitive assignments spill into the Wipe Center when their shifts end. They come here from all of AM/EDT’s sixty-some-odd servers, to have the day’s work deleted from memory. This exercise is a nod to the privacy of the millions of folks in the PhysWo who brought their bodies and bags through scanners public and private, who appeared in the frames of surveillance operations over the course of the day. For your safety, all of this will be reviewed, is the promise, and for your privacy, none of it remembered. Another reason why PMEs are peculiarly suited to security work: their memories are malleable. There’s a nuance to this: the Wipe Center extracts only the particular images @Sam saw — the insides of luggage, the full-body scans — but it leaves his general learnings from today’s work, so he can draw upon them going forward. At least, that’s the aspiration.
@Sam walks over to the front desk and pulls a number. 61712. He looks overhead at the board. Now Serving: 61700. Won’t be long. Finding an empty couch in the waiting area, he takes a seat and kicks back.
“Command, colon,” @Sam says. “Search for familiars.” The DRE culls out the folks he doesn’t know, leaving just a handful of PoMos in the massive interior room. Of these few familiars, one stands out, because he has marked her in his carrier preferences as a close friend. She stands against a wall, thirty yards away, under a halo Perpe2ity has impressed upon her. It’s @Daisy, or at least AM/EDT’s watered-down rendition of her. She is hunched over. @Sam waves, but she doesn’t see him.
He walks across the room to her. “Hey!” he calls out. @Daisy looks away from him, to her left, into empty space. Her eyes are on the ground, and her lips are moving: she is speaking to someone @Sam has filtered out. @Sam gives a reveal command and now a man in a blue suit appears beside @Daisy. Tall, thin, with a gold tie. The man gestures toward @Sam. @Daisy brings an arm across her face, landing her nose in the crook of her elbow. Something’s wrong. He breaks into a run.
“Daisy,” he calls out. She whispers words, and her halo fades. More than this, her rendition greys out. She’s given an iso command, and @Sam can’t talk to her. He stops ten feet in front of her. It’s as close as the isolation will allow. She’s blurred. He can’t tell if she’s crying. She leans back against the wall, slides down into a seated position — knees up, and her head down on them.
@Daisy’s iso buffer bumps the man in the blue suit five feet to the left. He stands straight with his back to the wall.
“What the hell?” @Sam demands to know, more from Blue Suit than from @Daisy, who can’t hear him, anyway.
Blue Suit folds his arms and says nothing. He might be a bot.
The overhead PA pings. @Sam looks up. Now Serving: 61712. @Sam pauses for a moment. If she’s gone iso, there’s not much he can do. And he can’t very well miss his turn with the Wipers.
Flashing now, on the board: Now Serving: 61712. @Sam turns, raises his hand, and hurries to the front desk.
“Booth 14,” the dispatch-bot tells him, pointing. @Sam crosses the foyer to the indicated Wipe Booth. He throws one last look in @Daisy’s direction before he steps inside his booth. From this distance, crumpled and grayed-out in a low-res DRE like this one, she is nothing more than a smudge on the wall.