Here is a short story I write today; Terms of Service. It seems to be a bit of a hot button topic right now and it got me thinking. How far could corporations take the terms of service? Hope you enjoy the story. Leave me a comment. What did you think? On with the story.
Terms of service
John was not sure if this was part of the terms of service. The taxi seemed to be taking some magical alternate route. Of course, the price of his fare was growing with each wrong turn. This had to be illegal. The driver, a Perapopsolian who went by the name of Mark, seemed to be guessing the route.
“Mark” was clearly, not the Perapopsolian’s actual name.
“Are you sure you’re going the right way?” John asked.
“Are you telling me I don’t,” Mark said, but the voice went quiet. It was replaced by a series of squeaks and clicks. The squeaks and clicks were how the Perapopsolians communicated actual. Hearing that could only mean one thing. John’s ear chip was being powered down too.
Whoever had breached his security was good. This appeared to be a coordinated attack. Sophisticated hacktackers, there may be more than one of them. The attacks began small. First, he could not articulate his artificial fingers on his right arm. Then his left arm seized up.
John thought about who it could be. He did not have many enemies. There were the protestors who stopped him from getting into the dinner. A dinner that was to be held in honour of those who served. He wore a face scrambler to the dinner. Did someone unscramble him?
The taxi finally pulled up outside a Mjolnir bionic clinic.
Exiting the taxi was an ordeal. The hacktacker had deactivated his legs. With his right hand, no help from the left, John had to move each leg individually. There was no help from “Mark”. Mark clicked something at him. The clicking became more frequent. Eventually, “Mark” grew impatient. He got out hoisted John from the car and left him balanced against a lamppost. Before leaving “Mark” took John’s phone from his pocket and gave himself a five-star rating. “Mark” tipped himself too. That had to be against terms of service, John thought. At least they can see me, John thought. At least I am at the building, he thought. Someone will come and help.
Nobody came to help John. The receptionists saw him, but they did not help, they watched him struggle.
John entered the foyer at Mjolnir Bionics.
“Thanks for the help,” John said to the receptionists. He was panting.
“We weren’t sure if you were coming in,” one of the receptionists said.
“Well doesn’t matter now. I have an appointment with Pamela, Engineer Tindel,” John said. He was still struggling for breath. They’re shutting down my lungs, John thought to himself.
“Down the hall,” another receptionist said. John looked down at himself and then up at the receptionists.
“Would you mind? It’s urgent”
John sat or rather was leant against a bed in the consultation room. It had taken all three of them to get him down there. John could feel his breath shorten further still.
As John waited, half sitting half standing, he could feel himself getting angry. Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult. He felt the invisible hand of the hacktacker closing round his neck.
John’s anger intensified. It was not that people were reluctant to help him that bothered him, no, he knew what people were like. What angered him was his own helplessness. Needing help in the first place made him angry.
John had been helpless before. He remembered lying on dirty sheets in the old hospital. Those around him dying slowly, in great pain, suffocating. Flies making a new home where once his limbs had lived. John had become accustomed to augmented independence.
John waited a while longer.
Pamela, the engineer, entered.
Pamela conducted a scan on his artificial limbs and ran a diagnostic check. John detailed his problems to her as Pamela swiped away on the screen, trying to locate the source of John’s trouble. The invisible grip tightened harder on John’s throat. He let out a gasp.
“Hmm,” Pamela said, turning from her screen to face John. “This is odd. It appears as if everything is being shut down gradually. The strange thing is there are no signs of a data breach. You either have some sophisticated hacktackers, or there might be something else going on here,”. Pamela looked at John. “Aside from all this, how are you getting on?” John did not answer. Pamela turned back to the screen. “Oh, here we go,” Pamela said. “Our system has flagged you, John”.
“What for?” John said between gasps.
“Have you ever used the phrase Die, you Perapopsol bastards?”
John could barely remember seconds ago, never mind years ago. He closed his eyes. The images flashed before his eyes. Standing on the blue sandhills of Yu-Veral, pointer blaster in hand. John remembered leading the charge. The brutality of the fighting. Laser scythes cutting through the dumb lizards, insects, whatever.
John remembered watching the Perapopsols crack the heads of his friends. Sucking out their innards. His own brother, screaming for their mother, then silence. His own flesh and blood rendered flesh and blood. The Perapopsols discarding the remains. Bodies spent. A pile of fleshy tubing. Fleshy tubing that once contained organs, bones and dreams.
“Well did you?” Pamela asked again, her voice shook him out of his reverie. He blinked several times in quick succession.
“Probably,” John said. He thought a moment longer, “Yeah, I guess I did”.
“Under the new terms of service. That falls under the definition of threatening language,” Pamela said.
“I was at war,” John said, “The whole planet was at war with the Perapopsols”. John pulled as much oxygen into his lungs as he could.
“Yes, thank you for your service, but that was five years ago, John. You can’t keep living in the past. Things have changed. You know they’re a protected species on this planet” Pamela said.
“There are billions of them,” John said, barely audible. He struggled for breath, choked on rage.
“Well, not on this planet. And historical injustices perpetrated on them means that they need to be treated with care. What you said is in breach of Terms of Service.”
“Is there any way I can talk to someone at Mjolnir in the legal department?” John said. Saying that sentence took every last bit of strength he had in him.
“It’s not Mjolnir. Its third parties, revoking access. No one at Mijolnir could help you even if they wanted to,” Pamela said.
“I’m supposed to do what?” John said, his voice now a rasp.
“Are you familiar with constructing your own bionics?”
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