The Goods Yard, Kings Cross, London, UK
10:13PM, December 3rd, 2026
He tapped forlornly at the phone.
It had been a while since it last offered a response. Since that comforting weight had pulsated through his hands, offering out a range of haptic possibilities which his body would instinctively know how to grasp for. It was now an expensive piece of inert synthetic metal, mockingly dormant in his hand. The universes of possibility once contained within it, ready to be brought to life with nothing more than a thought, instead collapsed into nothing more than a generic weight.
It had been a long time since he had noticed the logos which saturated the square. Now they seemed like a cruel joke though. Darting around his field of vision, illustrating the outlines of the square, it was no longer possible to ignore them. Their movement round the square, seemingly random until you looked more closely and discerned the fractal dance which underpins it, couldn’t have been a sharper contrast to the useless piece of shit he held in his hands.
He threw the useless phone to the ground as hard as he could. His evening was now ruined. In his mind, he rehearsed the chain of events that would begin tomorrow. Or perhaps tonight. These investigations were approached in such hushed terms, their subjects desperate to avoid drawing attention to what was near universally regarded as their irresponsibility. It was hard to know what was real and what was paranoia.
Perhaps it might even be worse than the rumours suggested.
“Well that’s a cheery thought”, he exclaimed to no one in particular as he reached to pull the tin from his packet. Leaning back into the bench, he tried to look on the bright side. Or at least as close to such a point as he could come. He carefully placed the tin on his knee, extracting a roll of cigarette paper from the device fixed on the inside of its lid. He took a tube from inside his tin, flicking the stylised switch on its rim before dispensing its contents into the fold of the paper with the nonchalance borne of habituation. He sighed loudly as he took the paper in his hands, accepting the situation he now found himself in as he rolled in between his fingers to produce the joint. He looked up at the night sky, taking the antique lighter from his pocket with silent amusement as he contemplated how terrifically fucking gaudy the giant Apple logo in the sky now appeared to him.
He breathed deeply, feeling the tension flood from his body as the familiar warmth entered his lungs. It hit his bloodstream almost immediately. A pulsating warmth flowing through his body faster than his muscles could respond, a lightness that lifted him from his bench in the yard and pulled him upwards. But sadly not onwards. He remembered what this used to be like, in the old days… just because some people were too weak to exercise some fucking self control it was denied to everyone else. He’d been told once that it was possible to jailbreak the tubes, if you went to the trouble of stepping back from the grid before you did so. They retained the capacity to synthesise the ket-dust in its original form and the main obstacle was being caught evading the limit that had been legally inscribed in the device to dampen the effects of their products. Well that and the inevitable investigation by the National Tech when you were caught.
It had been a brief moment of respite but he was once again fixated on the events of tomorrow. The alert had almost certainly been sent. That grey warning that everyone dreaded, alerting the please holder to the intrusion into their life that was mandated in the face of their irresponsible use. There was no way around it. Tomorrow was going to be shit. There was a hunger now to how he sucked on the joint, as he sought the relief he knew the dust could bring. With each breath in, the most of release retreated ever further from his mind. The echo of past experiences that were long lost. Perhaps he should try and jailbreak the fucking thing after all.
His gaze returned to the smashed device in the centre of the yard. It wasn’t usually this quiet here, ever, but it was a disconcertingly cold night in London. He was aware that there was little more than the ket-dust shielding him from the artic winds and that the physical toll of the weather would still be felt tomorrow, even if any experienced discomfort was currently kept at bay by the thick narcotic cloud that enveloped him. It also dampened the feelings within him, placing him at a distance within himself, as if he was squinting at his own feelings through thick fog. But they were still there. The frustration, the irritation and the fear about tomorrow.
He sighed once more, exhaling in a curiously melodious manner as the brick came down on the back of his head. The pain might otherwise have been sharp, but with the ket-dust it became a dull thud. What was more pronounced was the confusion, as he felt his legs buckle underneath him. He stuttered in confusion as his head hit the ground, dimly perceiving the disinterested gait of a pigeon in the square as the boot came down on his skull. Another dull thud as his vision blurred, confusion mounting as he felt the strikes multiply, covering his body in a dull paint that rapidly became as all-encompassing as the ket-dust and fog of introspection had been only minutes earlier. He writhed in pain, as the rising panic began to escape the haze of the narcotics, with the strikes continuing in ever-greater number. Then he hard an all-mighty bang and everything went quiet.
Suddenly there was calm in the square. The pigeons had left to escape the commotion, emptying the yard of any life beyond the prostrate figure on the floor and the large men circling him in their strange uniforms. The rain had begun to fall as they stood around their object, lending an oddly ritualistic feel to their silent stance under the pale moonlight. Looking down pointedly at the man flat in the centre of their circle, the largest of the figures plucked a small rectangular artefact from his pocket and casually flicked it to the floor.
It was time for them to go. As they calmly walked out of the square, the same man briefly looked behind him, noting with mild how the red stream emanating from the fallen man’s head was being dispersed around the square by the thickening rain.
This was how things should be. What they had done was a practical matter. But it was also a performance.