As she walked to the coffee corner, she couldn’t help but look down to the drone booths. A vast hall, every square meter filled with people staring at their screens. She blinked as the lights came on automatically. Another day ended. Nobody seemed to notice.
She was glad she was standing on this side of the railing. That philosophy degree hadn’t been useless after all. What would her professors say if they knew what she was doing with her life? As the rules of the blockchain changed, she had been one of the firsts to see the new opportunity ahead of them. These Minnows in their little Life Containing Booths were brought in when it had become impossible to upvote oneself and when plagiarism and shitposts got autoflagged. The idealists had won the battle for quality content. Authenticity was key nowadays. But at what price? Booths of Sorrow she called them. She wished she could help them. These Minnows with no future.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee quickly let her forget all of that. “Mocha latte please. With skimmed milk and no cream.”
When did she become such a person? Reading through all those reports on the best lifestyle posts had made her go insane. She reminded herself not to believe everything you read on the blockchain. Originality, authenticity--it was all just another layer of bullshit. When did originality become synonymous with quality?
“And a blueberry muffin please.” The barista smiled at her. She smiled back. Let him judge her. It’s not as if he was writing a lifeblog about his time at The Block. Or at least she hoped not. She’d have to check.
A Minnow came running toward her. “Dr. Lene! Sorry to disturb you, but I have been looking for you all over! Egil is asking for you.”
Egil was an up-and-coming Whale that acted like he owned the world. Just because his stupid jokes got him a lot of followers didn’t mean she would be taking him seriously. He did develop interesting anti-plagiarism techniques. If she could call it that… making jokes about everything was not something she could get used to. Even if it created awareness. What was that anyway, awareness? And while they were all laughing about nothing, things in her domain were exploding. Community Support was left to her, the one female board member. Obviously. But stopping plagiarism at least aimed at community health, and she cherished all the support she could get.
The Minnow was still catching his breath. She looked at her watch. Ten minutes since she had left her desk. What was it with these people? She turned back to the barista. “Sorry, Finn is it?” Name tags did come in handy. She had seen him before, but had never thought to look up his name. “I guess I’ll be cancelling that muffin after all. Duty calls.” Finn nodded and handed her the coffee.
Only after she sipped her drink was she ready to face the Minnow that was trying to get her attention. “Yes?”
She was supposed to get a Minnow of her own. Although looking at this one made her wonder if a Minnow would be useful. It did come with a lot of responsibilities. So far she simply avoided meeting people, but commenting only got you so far. A Minnow would be good for that.
“What’s your name?”
The boy fidgeted with his badge. A recent recruit probably. Talking about personal stuff was strictly prohibited for Minnows on the first floor. One minute in and she was already making things difficult for him.
“Never mind. Is that for me?” She pointed at the yellow envelope he was holding.
“Sorry, Dr. Lene. Yes.” The boy handed it to her. He looked more frightened than any Minnow she had seen before.
She opened the envelope and read the message. It was coded, but she hardly noticed as she had created the code in the first place. She had heard the rumors, of course. But it seemed the new protocols were being implemented after all. Damn. If only she had decided to wear something else, anything but this old sweater. Her favorite one, but nobody would care about those personal memories once she stood in front of Dayton, Egil’s sponsor. And head of the board.
Before she finished reading it all, she started walking in the direction of Egil’s office. The Minnow followed closely in her footsteps. He was trained properly, she noted. Perhaps she could use that to her advantage some time.
Egil had recently moved to the office in the corner. When she opened the door, she was again struck by the view. It was hard not to look outside with those giant windows. The sky was clear and she could almost see the city on the other side of the bay. The bang of the door closing behind her made her snap out of it.
She turned around to face Egil. The Minnow was nowhere to be found, but several of the other board members were already there. She took the last empty seat and waited for the show to start. At least she had her back to the window, so she wouldn’t be reminded about where she’d rather be. She sipped her coffee. Thankfully it wasn’t cold yet. She checked her phone. Good thing she had already scheduled all the updates for today. Everything else could wait.
The last time they had all met like this had been a disaster. She never understood why people could get so upset about witnesses missing a block, but maybe it was just her. Things had gotten emotional, and incredible proposals about how to get rid of whales had followed one after other. She never got why these men could get so upset when there was a system in place, and the system wasn’t failing. Individuals would always fail every now and then. As long as the system was functioning properly, that was nothing to really get angry about. And it worked fine. Their final decision was to never meet in person again. The meeting room was even dismantled and now housed the Minnow training center. But that was before Egil was even a Dolphin. Maybe that’s why they were now gathering in his office. He could at least claim ignorance. Although he should have read the minutes.
Dayton cleared his throat. People fell silent. Lene continued sipping her coffee and wondered if they would serve popcorn later on, to let this meeting count towards their recreation allowance.
“I guess everyone knows by now. A few minutes ago the new protocol went into effect. We tried to stop it. I even had my whole division of dolphins working on it for a weeks. We couldn’t speak out on it ourselves, because that would have let everything explode. And we can’t afford any explosions like that. Not right now, with China getting their translations into such a shape that their Minnows can hardly be distinguished from ours.”
What was he driving at? This was nothing new.
Dayton avoided looking at her. “What I’m trying to say is that I will donate all my SP to the main hub and leave The Block. I have failed all of you. And I’m taking the hit.”
“Hell you are.” Now they were all looking at her. Either there was some sudden fire outside, or she had actually said that. She cursed to herself. She should learn to shut up. But there was no way back.
“You’re bailing because you think the ship is sinking. Donating your SP may seem generous to the Minnows you have working for you, but we are not impressed. You were the one pushing to put all the Dolphins all under your care. And what did it bring us?” She knew Egil was going to kill her if she finished her thought, but she didn’t really care anymore.
“Comedy. Which is great. Unless you actually want to build up something in the long run. I motion to remove Dayton. And with remove I mean a full gutting.”
She had expected people to explode, but it seemed they had been waiting for this to happen. She knew there were a lot of memos they never sent to her. But she had finished with Dayton a long time ago. Ever since he limited the community budget and put everything on whale protection, she had stopped supporting any of his projects. He was doomed. It was a matter of timing. Perhaps she should have let them discuss this for a few hours first. But every minute of listening to Dayton was a wasted one.
Egil was the first to raise his hand. “Seconded. With an amendment.”
“Go ahead, Egil.” What was he up to now?
Egil got up and looked at her. In a way she wasn’t sure she should be happy about. “I suggest to not only gut Dayton, but also to put Lene in charge. I know I’m the youngest here, in whaleyears. But I’m not blind. And neither should you be. We owe our existence to being the first to use armies of originality. But now other companies have caught up, and The Block is no longer original enough. But we have something that no Chinese Company can ever rival. Community. Dayton is not alone in frustrating the community. But Lene is the only one to have always pointed us in this direction. You might not agree with its aim. But to be honest, it’s the only direction left if we want to succeed. And Lene is the only one to lead us through the purge that is ahead of us.”
Egil sat back in his chair. He had said what she had been unable to. She nodded her head slightly in his general direction, grateful.
“This is insane!” Dayton was not giving up. Not yet. “We always agreed to disagree. That is the strength of the Block. This is a coup! Don’t you see she is trying to get rid of us all. Some grand scheme of self-sacrifice! As if the whales are the problem! Then why is she here, being a whale herself? This is not a big conspiracy. You have been reading too much of that crap Minnows keep on posting. As if we care about them! We choose our own direction. That’s the whole point of the Block! I am free.”
“Not when it is hurting the whole, you’re not. Motion seconded.” That was Brian. It figured, he was trying to save his skin, even though he must know he would be among the first to follow in Dayton’s footsteps. She would gladly fillet him herself. After all the bullshit he made her put up with. Egil was right. Perhaps she was the right person to be put in charge.
She got up and turned to the window. Thinking about the purge that was ahead of her, all her energy disappeared. Egil would take care of the voting. She stared out over the bay. Perhaps the house she had always dreamed of would finally become reality after all. A house without internet, off the blockchain.
She hardly noticed the mechanics of the voting going on behind her. She could only think of the work ahead, of getting people to understand what community was really about. It would take some fights, but it wasn’t too late. She still believed in the blockchain, if only the Whales… She sighed. She probably would never get that house after all. But maybe those Minnows would be finally be able to get enough to eat. That was probably more important anyway.
At last she would be able to get her own Minnow. She finished her coffee and thought about Finn. Perhaps he would make a good Minnow. To share in the heaps of work that lay in front of her. At the very least he could make good coffee.