Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


There's an issue with Izakaya. Now, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of issues with the city but I'm talking about a specific one here. I'm talking about the overhead wires.

Obviously, Izakaya isn't the poshest of neighborhoods, in fact some have considered it appropriate to call it a slum or backwards. Terms like that. Very disrespectful. Not necessarily wrong, but we can sit and argue about it all day and still not run out of words to describe it.

My point is that overhead wires are such an anachronism that they just look wrong. The rest of the country, and the vast majority of the world even, has been on wireless tech or underground whatsits for so long that overhead cabling feels messy. There's even a legit mental disorder that is attributed to hanging cables, particularly in areas that have never had them.

So because Izakaya is kinda derelict and home to certain aspects of society that drag averages down, a lot of national infrastructure is not available here and as such, some of the more resourceful residents strung cables from building to building forging their own networks, which grew and grew until Izakaya had its own little net, existing outside of the nationalised one.

Now I know what you're thinking: overhead cables aren't a bad thing; we used to live like that years ago! And you're right but society moved on and when that happens other things fill the gaps that obsolete technology left behind.

Without the overhead cabling, the drone industry just exploded. So when the larger drones make their way into Izakaya, it’s my job to untangle them from the cabling they're not programmed to see. I say it’s my job. It’s not as if I get paid for it. I get paid from the parts I salvage from the drones I find. It’s not perfect, I’ll admit, but a guys got to eat.

Which brings me to now, 9pm on a Wednesday night and an advertising drone is all up in the temple cabling. The lights are still on, so it hasn't actually disconnected anything yet, but I can hear the motors whining against the strain. Really the temple only has another five or so minutes before this big blow fish abomination renders their systems unusable.

I don't usually let it go that far; a lot of the time these cables are so interconnected that even a small drone tangled in them could easily affect my systems too. The temple, though. They think they're so important and holier than everyone. They had several wires that only connected to outside of Izakaya. One of these was a highly coveted data connection to the nationalised net. I contemplated, just for a moment, rewiring the data cable into my building. But the idea of being visited again by the large men who insisted they were monks, though, changed my mind.

No one knew I was here, and from what I could see – and bear in mind Izakaya is a forest of buildings that almost seem designed to get in the way regardless of what you were doing – there was no other salvagers around. This gave me time to wait and let the blow fish, which incidentally was getting bigger, do its damage to the temple.

Then the temple went dark. From where I stood, opposite it across the highway, several stories above, I could hear the monks yelling about the sudden power outage. I thought about the wisdom of having every important system tied into several non-redundant cables and smirked as I high-wired across to the temple balcony.

“Who are you?” one of the monks demanded.

“Repairman,” I said pointing to the blow fish which was attempting to make off with the temples cables. “Unless you're all ok with living without those cables.”

They left me to my work, as expected. Even here, in the lowest suburb – metaphorically speaking, it’s still several hundred meters in the air – working analogue is something that is told to kids to scare them into behaving.

The fish was easy enough to disable. The inflatable part was just rubber and the butt of my cigarette easily brought it down. The mechanics inside looked like a fairly simple drone, but I would make a better judgment on that once I got it back to my workshop.

I managed to untangle the cables eventually. How it managed to get that bad in such a short amount of time is beyond me, but no matter.

It took a few hours, with almost half of that seeing me hanging above the ground by some amateurishly installed cabling. I can only assume that since no one started yelling at me, I didn't interrupt the systems the drone hadn’t damaged. But eventually the temple power and data came back up and the monks stopped yelling – mostly at each other, but sometimes at me. So much for a life of calm contemplation.

The drone is not standard manufacturing. The rubber case, the inflatey bit, seems to be pretty standard, if a little extravagant for an advertising drone in Izakaya. It’s the drone itself that is weird. It has half a dozen or so tiny antennas tied to the chassis I somehow missed during my quick look at it earlier.

I disconnected the power supply when I realised what I had and I've called up my net specialist to come over and help me figure out what they're for, although I have a pretty strong idea.

Now, it’s not unusual for drones to have an assortment of cameras attached to them. We are mostly beyond needing people to actively watch video feeds and most newer generations of drones have feeds which are monitored by various forms of AI. This fish drone monstrosity is kitted out with a whole host of old cameras. Visible light and infra red, mostly. Which means an actual human is watching.

There's an issue with Izakaya. It’s the reason it’s as horrible as it is. The government has refused to give aid to the city and is almost actively ignoring the duly elected representatives. Izakaya is the one place in the entire country that allows and almost encourages residents to spend time off the grid; off the net. The government isn't fond of this, but technically can’t do anything to stop it. So, instead, they don't do anything at all.

My name is Subika and I am one of the handful of people who lives without implants. I’ve never been on the net. I am, for all intents and purposes, invisible. But the fish saw me.