Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 64 of 64


I have a brand-new translucent Sony Veddic, a series 12. I bought it on credit—not mine, mine’s sunk; six months of living on plastic and kiting balance-payments with new cards while getting the patents filed on the eight new gizmos that constitute HumanCare’s sole asset has blackened my good name with the credit bureaus.

I bought it with the company credit card. The company credit card. Our local Baby Amex rep dropped it off himself after Doc Szandor faxed over the signed contract from the Bureau of Health. Half a million bucks for a proof-of-concept install at the very same Route 128 nuthatch where I’d been “treated.” If that works, we’ll be rolling out a dozen more installs over the next year: smart doors, public drug-prescription stats, locator bracelets that let “clients”—I’ve been learning the nuthouse jargon, and have forcibly removed “patient” from my vocabulary—discover other clients with similar treatment regimens on the ward, bells and whistles galore.

I am cruising the MassPike with HumanCare’s first-ever employee, who is, in turn, holding onto HumanCare’s first-ever paycheck. Caitlin’s husband has been very patient over the past six months as she worked days fixing the ailing machinery at the sanitarium and nights prototyping my designs. He’s been likewise patient with my presence on his sagging living-room sofa, where I’ve had my nightly ten-hour repose faithfully since my release. Caitlin and I have actually seen precious little of each other considering that I’ve been living under her roof. (Doc Szandor’s Cambridge apartment is hardly bigger than my room at the hospital, and between his snoring and the hard floor, I didn’t even last a whole night there.) We’ve communicated mostly by notes commed to her fridge and prototypes left atop my suitcase of day-clothes and sharp-edged toiletries at the foot of my makeshift bed when she staggered in from her workbench while I snored away the nights. Come to think of it, I haven’t really seen much of Doc Szandor, either—he’s been holed up in his rooms, chatting away on the EST channels.

I am well rested. I am happy. My back is loose and my Chi is flowing. I am driving my few belongings to a lovely two-bedroom—one to sleep in, one to work in—flat overlooking Harvard Square, where the pretty co-eds and their shaggy boyfriends tease one another in the technical argot of a dozen abstruse disciplines. I’m looking forward to picking up a basic physics, law, medicine and business vocabulary just by sitting in my window with my comm, tapping away at new designs.

We drive up to a toll plaza and I crank the yielding, human-centric steering wheel toward the EZPass lane. The dealer installed the transponder and gave me a brochure explaining the Sony Family’s approach to maximum driving convenience. But as I approach the toll gate, it stays steadfastly down.

The Veddic’s HUD flashes an instruction to pull over to the booth. A bored attendant leans out of the toll booth and squirts his comm at me, and the HUD comes to life with an animated commercial for the new, improved TunePay service, now under direct MassPike management.

The TunePay scandal’s been hot news for weeks now. Bribery, corruption, patent disputes—I’d been gratified to discover that my name had been removed from the patent applications, sparing me the nightly hounding Fede and Linda and her fucking ex had been subjected to on my comm as the legal net tightened around them.

I end up laughing so hard that Caitlin gets out of the car and walks around to my side, opens the door, and pulls me bodily to the passenger side. She serenely ignores the blaring of the horns from the aggravated, psychotic Boston drivers stacked up behind us, walks back to the driver’s side and takes the wheel.

“Thanks,” I tell her, and lay a hand on her pudgy, freckled arm.

“You belong in a loony bin, you know that?” she says, punching me in the thigh harder than is strictly necessary.

“Oh, I know,” I say, and dial up some music on the car stereo.


This novel was workshopped by the Cecil Street Irregulars, the Novelettes and the Gibraltar Point gang, and received excellent feedback from the first readers on the est-preview list (especially Pat York). Likewise, I’m indebted to all the people who read and commented on this book along the way.

Thanks go to my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, for reading this so quickly—minutes after I finished it! Likewise to my agent, Don Maass, thank you.

Thanks to Irene Gallo and Shelley Eshkar for knocking two out of the park with their cover-designs for my books.

Thanks to my co-editors at Boing Boing and all the collaborators I’ve written with, who’ve made me a better writer.

Thanks, I suppose, to the villains in my life, who inspired me to write this book rather than do something ugly that I’d regret.

Thanks to Paul Boutin for commissioning the Wired article of the same name.

Thanks to the readers and bloggers and Tribespeople who cared enough to check out my first book and liked it enough to check out this one.

Thanks to Creative Commons for the licenses that give me the freedom to say “Some Rights Reserved.”


  1. ScottS-M Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    ScottS-M wrote:

    Pretty good book. I think I liked Down and Out a bit better but this was a pretty entertaining read too.

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