The baby in 4E was screaming, yet again, as Dixon trudged by, shoulder sagging under the weight of his gear bag. *Another boring night*, the rookie firefighter thought.
He brushed the hair from his temple, feeling the implant’s hard plastic just beneath the skin.
*One more night like that, and I’m done*.
Dixon tossed the duffel into its corner by the television, wincing as the axe head dug into the drywall. “Systems online,” he muttered, slumping into the wobbly computer chair.
Stuffing peeked through a half-dozen tears. The monitor flashed cheerfully to Dixon’s home page:
*Welcome to LifeLine, Your Only Place to Connect*
He removed the GoPro unit from his headband and immediately set about uploading his footage. An avalanche of fatigue crushed Dixon’s mind, but he had to produce. Had to stay relevant.
It was the way of the new world: social media had reached its pinnacle in LifeLine. Now, if you contributed nothing to the collective culture, you died. It was an unavoidable fact of life.
‘Likes or Die’ the propaganda posters plastering the city decreed.
A siren outside pulled Dixon’s attention out the window. A black armored vehicle screeched to a halt outside the neighboring building.
A team of heavily armed agents stormed through the door, weapons readied. Dixon sidled his squeaky chair to the window sill and leaned over.
A moment later, the Department of Cultural Engineering team dragged a shirtless man, barely voter-aged—when voting had still been a thing—into the street.
The implant in the man’s head emitted a blazing golden glow that split the witching hour.
The dazzling ring reminded Dixon of a picture from one of his grandmother’s old books—when prayer had still been a thing. He knew what was coming next and turned back to his desk.
He didn’t need to see it again. The staccato of gunfire didn’t even draw a passing flinch.
When the footage finally uploaded, Dixon set about editing the few worthwhile clips into something useable on LifeLine.
His account still had him safely in the yellow, but he knew how quickly the public’s attention span could turn.
One minute, you were riding high in the green, content being ‘liked’ and ‘shared’, hundreds of new followers a day.
Then, *BOOM*! A minute later you’re in the red, your implant is flashing brighter than the sun and the DCE is banging your door down.
*Likes or Die...*
Dixon was about to submit footage of a car crash when darkness blanketed the apartment. One by one his appliances went offline. The TV, the digital picture frames… the computer.
Rolling outages weren’t unheard of after the Upheaval, he thought. Probably just a glitch. When LifeLine came back online, Dixon’s heart sank.
*Account’s in the red!*
The blackout had corrupted his padding of banked time. Beneath his scalp, the implant tingled. He needed content. Now. His mind raced. The screaming baby’s cries tangled his thoughts.
Then it hit him. He grabbed the GoPro. And his axe.
The screaming baby...