… or other false alarms, from the green epiphany of Gaia to the Yellowstone Scare, to Awfulday’s horror. Will we ever exhaust the rich supply of dooms?

* * *

And wow, ain’t it strange that… people who know nothing of Isaac Newton the physicist now cite his biblical forecast that the end might come in 2060? (Except Newton himself didn’t believe it.)

* * *

And WAIST… humanity survived at all, with so many rubbing their hands, hoping we’ll fail?

Or that some of us keep offering wagers? Asking doomlovers to back up their next forecast with confidence, courage, and honest cash? Oh, but they-of- little-faith never accept. Refusing to bet, they hold on, like iron, to their money.



A microtyphoon-a brief howl of horizontal rain-blew in from the Catalina Vortex before dawn. Hours later, pavements glistened as pedestrians stepped over detritus-mostly seaweed, plus an unlucky fish or two that got sucked into the funnel. The usual stuff. None of the boats or surfers that gloomcasters expected, when the phenomenon began.

Folks will say anything for ratings. Pessimists keep overplaying the bummer effects of climate change without mentioning anything good. Tor sniffed, relishing a fresh, almost electric breeze, washed clean of pollutants from Old Town.

Others felt it, too. Her VR spectacles, tuned to track overt biosigns, accentuated the flush tones of people passing by. Grinning street vendors stepped out from their stalls, murmuring in a dozen refugee tongues-Russian, Farsi, Polish. When they saw that she didn’t understand-her translator-earpiece hung detached-they switched to gestures. One portly shopkeeper used theatrical flourishes, like a stage magician materializing bouquets of imaginary flowers, all to draw her glance toward a patch of open space, his virtisement display.

But Tor wasn’t shopping. Her eyes flick-examined several overlayers, trolling for correlations and news stories at street level. Once a pastime that became a vocation, till her cred scores vaulted over all the hungry amateurs and semipros out there, scratching to be noticed. No more of that for me. Now it would be office towers and arranged enterviews. Politicians. Celebrighties. Enovators. Luminatis. All sorts of newlites, no flashpans or sugarcoat surrogates.

All because I sniffed some clues and called a posse. Burst a local scandal that went global in farky ways. Till MediaCorp called-said I’m ready for center-frame!

Plenty more hot stories loomed-like signs of fresh volcanism in Wyoming. Or the drowning of South Carolina. (Were corrupt seawall contractors to blame?) Or Senator Crandall Strong’s crazed rant during yesterday’s campaign stop.

Why don’t the media mavens unleash their new aice reporter on stuff like that, instead of sending me on an extended “human interest” tour? Could they still be unsure of me?

No. Don’t go there. One thing the public valued more than veracity, Tor knew, was confidence. Assume you’re worthy. Take it for granted.

Still, with her bags stowed for stage one of her trip across the continent, Tor hankered to prowl the walks and spider-bridges one last time. Scanning Sandego-the Big S-for something newsworthy. A story in-pocket before starting her roundabout journey to Rebuilt Washington. A distraction, to avoid chewing active elements off her manicure till the embarkation whistle blew-a throaty moan beckoning passengers to board the ponderously graceful skyship Alberto Santos-Dumont.

The store owners soon realized that Tor had her specs tuned to omit adverts. Still, they grinned as she passed, crooning compliments in pan-Slavic or Tagalog or broken English.

Tor couldn’t help doing a quick self-checkout, murmuring, “tsoosu.” Subvocal sensors in her collar translated-To See Ourselves as Others See Us-and the inner surface of her specs lit with glimpse-views of her, from several angles, crowding the periphery of her percept, without blocking the center view Tor needed to walk safely.

One image-from a pennycamera someone stuck high on a lamppost -looked down at a leggy brunette walking by, her long dark hair streaked with tendrils of ever-changing color: the active-strand detectors and aiware that Tor could deploy if something newsworthy happened.

Another tsoosu-vista showed her from ground level, smiling now as she passed a kiosk selling gel-kitties (good as mouse catchers, good to play with, good to eat, Humane Society approved, in twelve flavors). This image evidently came from the shop owner’s specs, watching her pass by. It started with Tor’s oval face, lingered briefly over her white smile, then caressed downward, appreciating every curve, even as she strolled away.

Well, it’s nice to be noticed, in a friendly way. Would she have chosen to be in News, if it didn’t involve admiration? Even nowadays, when a person’s looks were subject to budget and taste, it felt good to make heads turn.

Anyway, Tor was depriving no one, by moving away. Ever since Awfulday hit Sandego and a dozen other cities, more gen-bees and immigrants flooded in. Exiles who didn’t mind radioactivity a tad above background-not when compensated by sun, surf, and exciting weather that sometimes dropped fish out of the sky. Throw in bargain-rate housing. It beat watching snowdrifts grow into glaciers outside Helsinki or Warsaw, or sand dunes cover sucked-dry oil wells in the Near East.

Enough narcissism. She click-erased the tsoosu-views, accessing other eyes. First a satellite down-pic of this area, with the Alberto Santos-Dumont bobbing huge at the nearby zep port. Arsenal ships at the nearby Shelter Island Naval Base appeared fuzzy, according to security protocols. Though you could zoom the vessels from 3,470,513 other points of view that HomSecur didn’t control.

One of those POVs-a cam stuck high above the chewing gum-won a brief auto-auction to sell her a panorama, stretching from bay to marketplace, for five milli-cents. Remarkable only because her stringer-ai was programmed to inform her when pic prices hit a new low. Omnipresence spread as the lenses bred and proliferated like insects.

All this camera overlap changed news biz, as lying became damn near impossible. The next gen will take it for granted, Tor pondered. But at twenty-eight, she recalled when people tried every trick to fabricate images and fancy POV-deceits, faking events and alibis-scams made impractical by the modern solution of more witnesses. Or so went the latest truism.

Tor distrusted truisms. Optimists keep forecasting that more information will make us wiser. More willing to accept when facts prove us wrong. But so far, all it’s done is stoke indignation and rage. As Senator Strong illustrated, yesterday.

Another truism came to mind.

You screen,

I screen

We all screen

For my scream.

Immigrants stirred things-the Big S music scene was raki and manic arts flourished, encouraged by a faint glow surrounding old downtown at night-if you set your specs to notice beta rays. Even

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