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Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

11 months ago

I'm not sure if this is common practice or not, but I remember doing it for the last contest I was in and liking it. This is just a thread to post about my progress for the contest story and ask for feedback/advice. I'll start by posting my first page of the story, any feedback is appreciated! 


One caveat is that this is not up to the first choice--it is just the first page. I usually have two pages in a row that are linear to start because I have long intros. If this intro feels too slow or too boring, please let me know. It is a weakness that I know I have had in the past...


The game is on preview. A link to it is also below, but I haven't gotten that far on it just yet. 


U-Cloud Human Cloud Computing: Unplugged


San Francisco 2075


A skyscraper jungle, the hum of the neon signs, a glowing billboard for a bar, crowded streets, people stumbling in a drunken stupor, the stench of piss and vomit, Alex kept his head down as he navigated the busy slums of 2075 San Francisco. Even the people seemed to glow as subdural microchips implanted at the base of their necks flashed green. 


Then, those chips flashed red and everyone froze. Alex stood in place, unable to move any part of his body as his microchip locked all of his motor functions. A female voice boomed over the city’s loud speakers, “Robbery reported, city wide scan initiated.” 


Shocks tingled Alex’s spine as his memories were accessed by the police. The events over the last few hours were forcibly recalled: they played in his mind like a mental movie fast forwarding at ten times speed.


Grace, a coworker at Volpere, was waiting for him at the bar. Her curly brown hair and warm smile lit up the dark hole in the wall they often met at after work. Blue eyes sparkled as Alex took the seat across from her. 


They talked for hours. Alex could only recall one thing Grace said, “I’m a quality tech, but all I do is check for fifty millivolts across the motor control and memory access pins! When did things get so boring?”


“Culprit found,” the female voice announced. Disoriented, Alex looked around as his body control returned. The flashing neon lights and bustling streets of his walk home had returned along with the usual flashing green at the base of everyone’s neck. “All other personnel are released.”


Two blocks down Main Street, a night club, grocery store, boxing ring and apartment were all housed in one building. Alex started down the stairs to the basement he called home when the front doors were thrown open. Two men in police uniforms dragged a large immobilized man out. The man’s microchip was glowing red, and he clutched a hand-railgun.


“Serves him right,” Mr. Dawson, Alex’s land lord, sneered. His stumpy legs carried his plump belly and wiry white hair to the front door of the building. “Trying to take from my hard earned profits because he isn’t willing to work.”


“Sir,” a third officer said to him. “I’m going to need to take your statement on what happened: we take statements from anyone involved without a chip.”


“I work hard and provide a service so people can live safe, happy lives; in return I don’t have to be a part of that. Stop bothering me and pull what you need from that degenerates memory.”


“Our initial scan told us that he lives in your apartments. Why didn’t you just take control? As a registered unchipped business owner you have admin rights over all your employees and tenants.”


“Peter doesn’t live here anymore. Someone else offered more for his room last night, so I threw him out. This is a business not a charity. If he wanted to stay he should have offered up more rent.”


“That’s all I needed to know, sir...” the police officer grumbled as he turned to walk away.


Alex put his hand on the scanner of the rusty door to the basement with a sigh. It flashed green and creaked open. Two doors in on the left he did the same to get into his rundown studio apartment.


Gears, wires, scrapped electrical components, and a several working inventions were strewn about from various projects. Two metal card tables sat in one corner that served as his workbench. It was covered in slightly rusty and dented tools: a soldering torch, voltmeter, hot glue gun, pliers, wire strippers, bent screw drivers, and various other small tools were neatly separated from the mess everywhere else. A bed was shoved in the opposite corner with a small kitchenette, metal table, and two folding chairs in the middle.


“He wants us to live safe, happy lives?” Alex thought with a chuckle. “What a piece of work..." 


The tired blue collar worker cleared a few circuit boards that he was tinkering with the day before off his bed and flopped down face first. Peter had lived next door, and he didn’t leave quietly the night before when Mr. Dawson kicked him out at the ass crack of dawn. Fortunately, it was quiet enough on this night to drift to sleep.

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

11 months ago
Seems like a good start, establishes the power of the chips well. Although I'm hoping the next page has a bit more about Alex himself now that the setting's been established.

The first sentence has some grammatical issues, it really needs to be broken up. Other than that, a couple of minor things that stuck out: do they really freeze *everyone* in the entire city? That was implied, but seems really inefficient and like it would cause an impractical amount of collateral damage compared to just doing it to people related to the apartments. A computer algorithm even today could probably pull up a list of suspects. And with the robbery actually in progress when reported, aka a guy there at the apartment with a gun, it seems like there'd be only one.

And I'm not sure a blue collar worker can afford such a spacious and lavish apartment in San Francisco even today, are we to understand things actually got *better*?

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

11 months ago

I should probably just post the next page...


I'll fix that sentence when I get to editing. My attempts to use cumulative sentences never go well... I also might need to provide more of a description of Alex in general. The focus hasn't been on him specifically much.


The shut down is done by an area of the city. I think that is implied on the next page. I can make it clearer here. It would be like shutting down everyone with a chip in a zone of the city based on GPS coordinates. Since the robbery was reported in progress, the process was shut everyone in the area down, then scan all the memories to find the culprit, then release the innocents. All technology (like cars or industrial equipment) would also be controlled by a micro chip, so there wouldn't be issues like car crashes because of this.

This is important because it shows one of the "weaknesses" of the system. There isn't constant control on people or constant monitoring of thoughts to force people to obey rules. Rather, it's like putting an "E-stop" on everyone in the city. Someone presses a button to stop them. The scans are also usually looking for something specific. It's supposed to be like if you type something into a search bar, the search will ignore everything other than what is specifically being searched for. The search also doesn't happen until someone inputs a query and presses the search button. I wasn't planning on explaining all of this in the story, but it is implied later on when Alex finds his loophole in the system.


His appartment is one small crappy room in the basement. That is also explained on the next page. The impression was supposed to be that the owner had unused space in the basement of his strange collection of businesses under one roof, so he just rented them out as living spaces to make extra money. I've never lived in San Francisco, so I might have to do more research to make sure it's a downgrade from what is there now, I guess. I feel bad for people there if my apartment is an upgrade though, haha. I'm used to the Midwest where rent and living space is relatively cheap, so this seemed bad to me.

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

11 months ago
A studio right now in San Fran goes for over $2000 on average, it's one of those cities like Seattle or Portland that is generally unfit for humans, but many creatures that are like humans in superficial ways seem to nest there anyway, despite all of them claiming to hate it.

You were spot on about the piss and vomit from my understanding, but without the feces and discarded needles everywhere, gutted businesses and Alex having to step over the homeless while various things are on fire in the background, future San Fran seems to have become a much nicer place. Those chips were not a bad idea.

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

11 months ago

I'll have to adjust my prices and make the apartment even crappier, haha. Actually, I probably need to tweak a lot of prices and such now.

Most big cities smell like piss and vomit... that many people living on top of each other has that effect. I'm assuming the wild fires are under control at this point, since there aren't any trees left to burn in the city nowadays. The homeless are ejected from the city, so we see them later on in certain branches. Basically, if you can't afford to rent a chip you are kicked out of society in this world. I'm also going to have to bump up the cost for renting a chip each month according to the price of a studio apartment you cited.


Those chips might not be a bad idea, but it is supposed to be something that is debatable. One of the themes is going to be if the relative peace and prosperity is worth the loss of individual freedoms. My research on the genre made this seem like this was a common theme. The people in the "system" will have a (possibly) better situation, but those not in the system are further removed from society. Also, being rich means you don't have to have a chip, so there is another layer to what is essentially a caste system.

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

10 months ago
Some more real life inspiration. Knocking on the armored door of your local 7-11 and being served by the fearful cashier on the other side is a normal way to live all right.

That related article about all the people getting shot with homemade guns is interesting too. Please stay right where you are while we build a wall, San Franciscans. Those control chips can't arrive fast enough.

Absolutely not planning to enter the contest, but I'm trying to figure out a setting of my own and San Fran seems the place to look at. Although it seems to lend itself more to grim depressing dystopic hellhole than shiny neon.

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

10 months ago

I might just make up a futuristic city to avoid having anyone dive this far into comparing my setting to a real life place now... but I also doubt that I'll finish in time.

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

10 months ago

Try this:

"The horizon a jungle of skyscrapers, the neon signs humming, a glowing billboard for a bar, streets crowded, people stumbling in a drunken stupor, the stench of piss and vomit wafting through the air, Alex navigated the busy slums of 2075 San Francisco, head down."

Cyberpunk Contest: U-Cloud Human Computing

10 months ago

It's much better than mine. That is what I was trying to do, haha. Thanks for the assist, Gower!