Radio Ga Ga: We Built This City









Track 9

We Built This City




                         “Someone's always playing corporation games.
                         Who cares they're always changing corporation names!
                         We just want to dance here someone stole the stage,
                         They call us irresponsible write us off the page.
                         Don't tell us you need us, 'cos we're the ship of fools
                         Looking for America, coming through your schools.
                         We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll.”
                                         - Starship


                         “I'm a Weapon of Massive Consumption
                         And it's not my fault,
                         It's how I'm programmed to function
                         Now I'm not a saint but I'm not a sinner
                         And everything's cool
                         As long as I'm getting thinner.”
                                         - Lily Allen



Brand-N sits in his gaming pod, fully immersed in the surround-sight-sound-smells-and-feels of Final Fantasy LXXXVII. As buckets of holographic blood explode on him, he wonders at what point he should sue for fraudulent misrepresentation. If this really was the Final Fantasy, why were there 88 of them?

“Troll the Respawn, Jeremy!” He hollers into the microphone to his partner who helps him fight the same aliens from across the ether.

Outside of his family's Nouveau-Palazzo Compound, a singing telegram drone swirls, scanning the estate's 42 individual structures. The drone searches for its target in the indoor pool house, the outdoor pool house, the boat house, the yacht house, the stable, the helipad, the antique car garage, the autocar garage, the grotto, the home theater, the wine cellar, the whiskey distillery, and, of course, the centrally-located golf cart house that zips them around the estate. With infrared heat sensors, the drone identifies Brand-N's body shape radiating 98.89 degrees with regular gusts of 107-degree farts.

Target: Brand-N.

Location: Home Theater, 2nd Floor, Front Room.

Entrance: <Searching>

In seconds, the drone accesses the county’s tax assessors office, finds this home, searches the floor plans and identifies.

Entrance: 2nd Floor Balcony Doors.

The drone syncs with the electronics in the vicinity and surmises that Brand-N is in a gaming cocoon. The drone inceptions this dream world, entering the game as an adorable, blue PuPu that waddles around him and coos with a reptilian tongue that tickles his right ear: “Package for you.”

“Awwwwww Shiiiiit! Pause! Pod Open.” He shouts as he wipes off the blood. “Waiiiit.” The blood had disappeared once the game was paused.

He leaps to the balcony doors.

The drone scans his retinas.

“Identity: Confirmed.”

The drone drops the package on the balcony and shoots up. It starts flashing disco lights and blasts a dubstep version of the Cha-Cha Slide.

A little stale, Brand-N's frontal cortex thinks, but underneath, his body reacts with joy. The drone had selected this song from his workout mix since his body often reached its maximum heart rate when this song played.

As the song finishes, the drone turns and shoots up, up and away.

Brand-N instinctively waves and shouts.

“Bye, Bye Dronie!” Just as his mom had taught him as a child.

He bounces around the room before gleefully ripping open the box.

A hologram of a beautiful, ethnically-ambiguous woman shoots up from the box.

“Welcome Brand-N. I’m Fifi O'Flannigan. We're so happy to have you aboard! Inside, you'll find your passport, allowing you free travel in and out of Metropolis. You'll report for team building exercises at 10am Monday in the Ping Pong Ball Pit on Level 18 of the Mayweather Pavilion. Don't worry, I synced all directions to your devices.

“Glad to have you aboard and enjoy the welcome gifts.”

“Whadda we got herrrre?” A grin engulfs his face as he pulls out a $250,000 bottle of Armand de Brignac Midas Champagne and a bitcoin bag of glint (street names: glow, glimmer or Satan's hairlip), the hot new synthetic drug made by and legal in Metropolis.

* * *

After three weeks buzzing like a bumble bee on glint, Brand-N took the hyperloop from Tampa to Metropolis passport control at Cape Liberty Harbor in Middle Jersey. Once strapped to the cushy seats of the 'loop, he was shot by electromagnetic motors through a low-pressure vacuum tube at 2,000 miles-per-hour like a greased pig from a cannon. He whizzes over the swamps of the failed states of the rotted Peach, the Kakalakis, the deflowered Virginnies and the crumbled Keystone.

The 'loop opens up and he stumbles out.

The city blinds him as it sparkles across the river under a marquise-cut diamond dome.


* * *

Metropolis was the first city-state to husk off the failed American experiment and to emerge from its tyranny as a dazzling climate-controlled paradise.

The Boujees had long been fine with the fact that America was a tiered system, as long as they were on the top.

Sure, black American communities were destroyed when Hurricane Katrina and its waves breached levees and drowned New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast. And brown Americans in Puerto Rico were left without power and clean water for years after Hurricane Maria. This was to be expected for the lower-tier Americans.

But after three hurricanes flooded New York City and droughts and fires damaged San Francisco and Los Angeles, the ultra-wealthy Boujees revolted.

They had paid for Diamond Platinum Preferred citizen status and expected to be treated better. After the first Hurricane damaged $13 trillion of property in the tri-state area, the Boujees unleashed their inner white woman and angrily demanded to speak with a manager. When they realized there was no special customer service line for the Haught Boujees, they fumed.

“How DARE they take our millions in tax dollars and treat us with the same incompetence!”

They represented 1% of the American population, but paid more than 50% of federal income taxes. They deserved personal attention! They sent their servants to harass their elected representatives daily, but still they received no superior solutions.

How dare they!

They had spent billions on politicians in the Super-PAC arms race only to be left with less effective representatives who couldn't even pass a perfunctory budget let alone protect them and their 2nd, 3 rd, 4th, 5th or even 6th homes.

The Boujees blithely overlooked all that the American government had done to help them make, secure and keep their wealth. America had a robust legal system and, until then, stable politics which were a necessary precursor to build the trust that allowed large amounts of capital to be raised and credit to be issued. The Boujees' factories moved products to market using roads paid for by American taxpayers and built by the federal government. And the workforce that created the internet and the algorithms used by the Boujees were funded and educated by the American government. Rather than dutifully paying taxes and paying forward to future generations of burgeoning Boujee entrepreneurs, they cried.

“What have you done for me lately?”

And thus the American Experiment fizzled as most failed experiments do, with mixed results paraded as preliminary and a request for more funding. But this time, the Boujees wouldn't pay. These United States had dawdled 300 years with their money and still couldn't protect them from humanity's most basic enemy, Mother Nature.

“Yawn,” thought Europe. “We've had wars, plagues and inbred dynasties that lasted longer!”

And as usual, when a space didn't meet their desires, the ultra-wealthy went to great lengths to change it. Sure, they called themselves capital L-Liberals, but that rhetoric only went so far as the wrought iron entrances to their gated communities. Any problem that occurred inside was met with tribalism and self-preservationism.

The whispers began in Upper West Side cocktail parties, usually after the third round of cosmotinis swilled from diamond goblets. Each treasonous question was staccatoed with nervous laughter.

“We couldn't really secede... could we?”

“I mean, it is technically feasible and it would solve our problems... but no, we're...”


That identity felt stranger each day, like a snug coat they once wore in childhood. Sure, it carries sentimental value, but it no longer fits them and their needs.


The idea infected thousands, tickling them as they clutched the ivory bannisters of their spiral staircases.

True, we do have our own exclusive entrances to buildings and our own elevators. We do hire from the same bodyguard companies. We have the same kidnapping insurance. We do summer in the same exclusive locations. (Imagine, it could be like the Hamptons all year round!) We rush for release at the same resorts and private country clubs. We already send our offspring to the same schools. We have 2nd and 3rd homes on the same Swiss Mountain and Greek isle. We hide our money in the same offshore bank accounts.

How small of a leap would it be to form our own nation?

Finally a government of the Boujees, for the Boujees and by the Boujees.

But where?

Right here!

Picture it, Manhattan as a Members Only Club.

But how can we stop Climate Change?

What a funny thought and the antithesis to their pioneer spirit. To passively allow the forces of nature to subdue them into accepting the pains of the world.


They were the tycoons, the captains of industry, the owners of algorithms, the overseers of automation. They were never passive. They were full of entitlement and power and the world reflected them as they bent it to fulfill their wishes.

They had the money.

They had the power.

They could make this work.


Is it right?

What does morality matter when your mansion's lagoon is full of fallen trees and quickly sprouting scum?

The Campaign for Climate Control started in the most rarified Boujees circles: cocktail parties, backrooms at cigar restaurants and the VVIP sections of charity mixers for affordable housing. Nicely boozed, the power players schmoozed and sold the possibility.


Manhattan free from the ravages of climate change, how much would you pay?

The besuited men responded: my left testicle! My third wife! My second born!

The convivial chorus cheered.

The power brokers pushed, a little joke that plants the seed of an idea.

Imagine every day full of fresh air! Think like that first morning gulp from your chalet in Switzerland. So crisp, so pure! Now imagine that here, every morning, in Manhattan. How much would you pay for that?

Then the dreams grew. Cocooned! Surrounded by beautiful flowers in a walled garden! Free from crime! Free from vomit and urine in the sidewalks! Free from loud noises, honking horns, overcrowded streets! Free from the slovenly tourists who took their photos as if they were animals plodding along in a zoo!

This is our city!

A clink of glasses would invariably be followed with a single sour face asking.

Well, who does and does not qualify?

Simple! The Golden Rule of Boujees states anyone who can pay can stay and have sway.


No, they wouldn't be discriminating! No, they would never do that! The pitch never mentioned the need to expel the lower classes.

But... this citywide renovation would cost a lot of money and sure, some people would be priced out of it. But this happens with condos and neighborhoods all the time... why not an entire city?

As the laughs died down and the idea sank in, they sealed the deal with the ask.

Will you pay?

Wrists with diamond -ncrusted watches and bracelets shot to the sky to cheer their own ingenuity.

“To Ourselves!”

* * *

The coup began on a Tuesday as the wealthy elite were wheeled down Broadway by their servants, chanting “No Taxation without Excavation!”

Why pay in if waves could wash it all away?

At city hall, they chanted.

“Come on! Come through! New York! New York!”

“We're the cream of the crop! The top of the heap!”

“Let's make a brand new start of it.”

Inside city hall, Mayor Donald Trump III, known as Tre Trump, who was just another in a long line of New York City's billionaire mayors, called a special city council hearing with only the representatives from Manhattan, locking out the representatives of the wasteland boroughs of Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Tre Trump was the grandson of a wall-obsessed New York native turned reality star turned president who ended his superlative presidency as the least effective, most corrupt and the most obese. His corpulence eventually surpassed Taft's tub troubles by 10%. After pardoning himself and 47 members of his cabinet, transition team and political campaign (including three members of his own family), the disgraced Donald Trump found a final act in the wall construction business, first around his golf courses and then around his luxury resorts.

With Tre's father, Donald Trump Jr., left to wallow in jail to protect his own father, Tre took on not only his grandfather's name but also his greatest legacy, building monumental divisions.

But behind the scenes, pulling the strings was Lukasz Higgins, CEO of the Def Corporation. Manhattan was a company town and he was its Chairman of the Board. He used my emotional manipulation skills to promote his puppets to positions of political power.

No blood was shed in what was dubbed the Metropolitan Club Massacre, but through the midnight hours and in over a hundred votes in a vote-a-palooza, Manhattan intricately severed ties both with the outer boroughs and to those Un-uniting states. By dawn, the air raid sirens and social media messages blanketed the city and the country.

“Start spreading the news!”

“We're leaving today!”

“We're gonna make a brand start of it, in Old New York.”

In retrospect, few should have been surprised.

New York always had an empire state of mind.

But they needed a new name!

A change this severe required a rebranding. In only 600 years, the island of Manhattan had undergone six different brand names by each of its ruling humans. The Lenape Native Americans dubbed it Manna-Hata, land of the many hills. The Lenape sold the entire 13.5-mile-long island for 60 guilders (or about $1,050). The last humans valued this same land at $2.3 quadrillion dollars. Smallpox, the bubonic plague, malaria, measles, and a dozen other European diseases that decimated 90% of the Native American population was just a too generous tip.

The French overlords called the island Nouvelle-Angoulême, the Dutch fur traders dubbed it Nieuw Amsterdam, then the British called it New York, then the Dutch captured the island again, but named it New Orange until the British snatched it back and restored the name New York. Then the members of a plucky union of 13 colonies ousted England's King George III, a stark-raving mad monarch who pissed blue. For a brief moment, New York was the capital of the United States of America but ceded this to become the financial and entertainment capital of humanity's last hegemonic power.

These New New Yorkers savored being from the one and only real city in the world. The city all humans looked up to and suckled fashions, entertainment and trends from its teats. The Haught Boujees solidified the island's identity with its new name, Metropolis, Greek for the Mother City.

All bridges and tunnels to Manhattan were immediately closed to protect this fragile City-State. The wealthy residents had been warned to stock up on caviar and Champagne or to flee and squirrel away in one of their many estates.

Overnight, documents and passports were issued for all 1,187,316 fully-paid residents of Metropolis. They had long subjected themselves to the highest level of identification, using secret dating networks, ID cards for country clubs and boarding schools, eye scans for priority airport security, so this was an easy extension of that.

A series of guards marched through Metropolis at dawn, going door to door and retina scanning everyone. They rounded up all those who weren't wealthy enough to buy into this most exclusive citizenship. All 3,586,723 undocumented people within the borders of Metropolis were brought to refugee camps erected in Central Park.

The Haught Boujees had five days to claim only their essential servants from these camps and issue them temporary visas while the rules were worked out. All non-essential servants and other Manhattan residents too poor to upgrade their citizenship status were expelled from the island on the 6 th day. They were lined up and placed on one of the many yachts quartered for this purpose and shipped down the Atlantic Coast, into the Chesapeake Bay, up the Potomac River and dropped just behind the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

The hundred richest families pooled their security details into a 10,000-person strong black-suit clad militia to protect the fragile city-state. The federal government deployed the National Guard to the island of Manhattan. Wall Street had been returned to its barricade roots to stop the invading guardsmen after they crossed the Hudson River. They were met with NYPD's army of robocops, which had been quietly assuming a paramilitary presence for decades, along with a hundred of the island's most savage headhunters. The cops held them at gunpoint as the headhunters viciously pounced on them, wielding pens and offering them double their salaries, residency in this paradise and a new precision espresso machine if they defected and joined them.

“You're not deserting America. America deserted you. Join us and together, we'll keep the dream alive. Make the Rich Great Again!” The hologram of Mayor-turned-Prime Minister Tre Trump urged these federal troops.

Within hours, 30,000 new recruits for the Metropolis army barricaded all bridges and tunnels with the cheap Ikea furniture confiscated from evicted residents.

Staten Island became the main military outpost with fortifications along the periphery of Metropolis. In Brooklyn to the east, barricades were set up along Williamsburg. Boho women swooned for the handsome soldiers in floppy black DKNY berets, unaccustomed to such virility after generations of hipster men had only grown more nebbish and ratty. Most of these soldiers were from the male model caste. They joined the army in exchange for a great CrossFit-style workout and residency in the new city-state. They would be stationed in the outer boroughs for 9-months each year and then were rotated into Metropolis for three months of fun in this luxury playground. Many ended up engaged to elderly Boujee heiresses and shot up the chutes of this laddered society.

To the north, large chunks of the Bronx were bought at double the going rate to create a 34-foot tall wall with giant pneumatic tubes to blast out all the waste of this new city-state. Dubbed the Great Sphincter of Metropolis, more than 52-megatons of trash flew out from the wall's well-lubed hole at a speed of 41 miles-per-hour. Generations of Bronx residents had grown up being shit on by their neighbors to the south, so they hardly noticed a difference.

The first ten months were the hardest for this fledgling Big Apple Republic. But its intrepid citizens held steady to their deep faith in the guiding principle of their lives, that the ultra-wealthy would always come out on top. They clung to the dream that together they could make a better world for themselves. But this could only come through sacrifice. They sacrificed the arms and backs and legs of their most faithful servants even in their individual hours of need.

During that period, the city-state set up diplomatic ties and trade relations first with each of the 50 states individually and then with what remained of the United States of America. Now starved for tax revenue, the US government agreed to rent all branches of its military to Metropolis.

Previous empires were made by conquering land and stealing the physical resources: mountains of gold, deep holes of iron, fields of wheat, forests of trees. Those were the raw materials necessary to build agricultural and industrial empires.

But an automation empire was different.

All the most-prized resources were trade secrets, algorithms, patents and intellectual property, which, with the advancements in quantum computing, could fit into a single data center. Along with this, many of the thought leaders who swayed politics, fashion, music, entertainment and other industries were all residents of Metropolis. Sure, the US government had access to 8,716 nuclear warheads. It could blow up Manhattan a thousand times over and plant American flags on every inch of the island, but it could never plunder the most powerful resources locked up in the minds of these Haught Boujees.

The Metropolis elite sent their best Climate Control architect, Willis Carrier, to study the palace of Versailles, the towers of Dubai and gated communities from Jupiter Island, Florida to Calabasas, California.

Decades of gentrification had lifted the island of Manhattan out of squalor. Most thought gentrification was the end. But the work of the landed gentry was just the beginning. The process of noblification took over to painstakingly turn these middle-class homes into walled palaces of unending luxury and pleasure.

Willis Carrier and his team of engineers set to work. A fleet of ships lined the Hudson and East Rivers full of 800,000 indentured Grips from Upstate, Middle Jersey, Pennsyltucky, non-Fairfield County Connecticut and internationally, from the Philippines, Bangladesh and India. These migrants went to work, dredging a canal along the riverfront and laying concrete 10-feet wide and 40-feet tall. On top of this grew what first appeared to be a geometric jungle gym covering the entire island. Those on the outs laughed. They always saw Manhattan as a playground for the wealthy.

But this!

This was just ridiculous.

Thick pentagons of glass were flown in from factories in Shenzhen, China and placed into the metal bars of the geometric dome. The most difficult engineering problem was how to fuse the glass to the metal bars. But the brilliant Dr. Michele Weinberger, inventor of Post-Its and shimmery party dresses, created an advanced glue recipe. She shared her formula during parliamentary proceedings.

“Ordinarily, when you make glue, first you need to thermoset your resin.” The tall, Mary-Tyler-Moore-esque blonde began. “And then after it cools, you have to mix in an epoxide, which is really just a fancy-schmancy name for any simple oxygenated adhesive, right? And then I thought, maybe, just maybe, you could raise the viscosity by adding a complex glucose derivative during the emulsification process and it turns out, I was right.” After the uproarious applause, Dr. Weinberger received full funding to manufacture enough glue to seal up Metropolis.

Finally, Metropolis' climate controlled dome was complete.

One of humanity's final evolutionary adaptations was a symbiosis with a machine that groaned all day and night from windows. The whir of air conditioners sucked in the stifling hot air and ran it through a set of coolants to adjust the atmosphere of a room or a building to a desired temperature.

With widespread adoption, humans migrated to areas long thought uninhabitable, such as the scorching American Southwest, which regularly reached over 125 degrees. This was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk in 2 minutes.

As temperatures rose, choking out plant and animal life, humans remained blissfully, coolly ignorant of the heat. Ironically, this was a vicious cycle, the cooler they made their homes required more energy which meant more coal was burned in power plants, warming the planet more, thus requiring more energy to cool their homes to the same temperature.

After air conditioning a room and then a building, the atmospheric control of an entire city was the next, obvious step. Dozens of air purification centers sprouted up along Metropolis, sucking in the stale and polluted air from Middle Jersey and Upstate and pulling out all the chemicals and particulates and blasting the purest nitrogen and oxygen through the streets of Metropolis. The Boujees had already been paying extra for their basic necessities, such as consuming half a trillion bottles of water a year, so why not pay a premium for air?

That first day, Breathe Day, the citizens of Metropolis inhaled deeply of their new air, sprinkled with hints of rose and eucalyptus and two parts per trillion cocaine to add some extra zest to their day. In the evening, the city that never sleeps slipped Ambien into the air.

Best to keep the Boujees docile as they adjust to their new domicile!

The unbearable heat and humidity of super-summer, which felt like dense, wet blankets pinning residents down, vanished. Outside the crystal dome, it was 107 degrees and 82% humidity. Inside Metropolis, it was 76 degrees and 5% humidity. During the height of the day, computer chips along the dome switched on to refract the harsh bright white light through a rose-colored lens, softening the sun's photons during the last 100-feet of its journey to Earth's surface. This less-harsh light saved residents from the horrors of crows' feet from squinting their eyes too often.

They finally achieved the dream of a perfectly climate-controlled world. Lest they forget how lucky they have it, holocubes were set up around Metropolis for citizens to humbly watch their fellow humans outside the dome sweating and struggling in the high heat, the back of their necks getting dirty and gritty.

Metropolis birthed the idea to Los Angeles and then the San Francisco peninsula. These coastal California enclaves had long stomped on the grapes of wrath and spat disdainfully at the farmlands and cow towns to their east, complaining how these smelled like shit. But when America's breadbasket started blazing and the winds whipped these wildfires west, all the leaves turned brown and the sky became gray with a hickory smoke. The Angelenos and West Bay Area residents could only get back to California dreaming if they built crystalline domes to kept out the smoke and the riffraff.

Out in the mid-west, Chicago put the chic back in its name when it joined the collection of bejeweled fiefdoms. Citizens remarked how pleasant and mild the winters were now that their city's thermostat stood set at 58 degrees and the dome buffered the arctic winds that blew off Lake Michigan.

In a decade, a dozen such city-states sprouted up. The Haught Boujees of each banded together first to share best practices and air-quality recipes. The Pumpkin Spiced air of October was everyone's favorite, followed closely by the smell of rotisserie turkey the weeks before Thanksgiving and then the brown sugar-glazed ham scent that wafted during the Christmas festivities.

These first city-states put aside their decades long East Coast-West Coast rivalry to work together in what would be the jumping off point for a worldwide collaboration.

The Haught Boujee representatives from all the new domed nations of London, Rome, Venice, Paris, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong, Singapore and Zurich set aside their national and ethnic differences and formed the United Federation of City-States (UfoCS) to celebrate their similarities.

Wealth above all else!

It was Shylock Balthazar, the chief executive of the City-State of Venice, who gave the roaring speech that poured over the crowd like liquid gold and solidified them together as his words sank in.

“If you prick us Boujees, do we not bleed on our Patek Philippe watches? If you poison us Boujees, will we not demand our home doctor pump our stomachs? Don't we all have the same cybernetic eyes? Don't we all eat the same pâté, heal by the same means of newborn stem cells and aren't we warmed by the same sun on our yachts around Mykonos or cooled by the same winter snow outside the Courchevel ski resort?”

As he finished, the international Boujee delegation sprang to their feet, hugged each other and, in a sign of cross-cultural understanding, complimented each others' luxury clothes and jewelry.

In their Articles of Confederate-Incorporation, Metropolis remained mother to them all. At the signing, Boujees from around the world remarked how they couldn't believe they had spent so many years of their lives throwing their funds away to the tyranny of the incompetent majority, when they could have slathered it all on themselves and their elite circles of friends.

Its not like the United States died, dissolved or was overthrown. It just made itself useless for the changing needs of its citizens. It actively denied climate change for decades and even made the words unutterable by government scientists and employees. After a dozen government shutdowns, budgets that never passed and funds that shriveled, enough people who thought they were American suddenly wondered, what if?

What if I'm trapped in an abusive relationship, giving too much attention, care and money to someone who's not giving me respect let alone reciprocity.

Sure the Capitol still stood, but those hallowed halls of marble echoed with empty promises and hollow threats as two parties quibbled ceaselessly.

Members of Congress still met, proud of the pittance bills they passed, patting each other on the back, but not realizing they're pawns to a much more powerful undercurrent that pulled America apart. They sealed their own fate when they voted to dismantle the monopoly laws using the talking points their corporate sponsors gave them, claiming these laws were unconstitutional limits on corporate personhood's freedom of expression and privacy, to relate with other corporations as they so chose. The majority of Congress was made up of nonagenarians with pinched faces and feeble minds, who spent more time under the plastic surgeons knife and in tanning booths than talking with their constituents suffering in their districts. During their early afternoon Ovaltine breaks, they still griped about battles that no longer mattered.

“We gotta rebuild the coal industry!”

“Ghina's taking our factory jobs! Ghina!”

On the day Brand-N floated to Metropolis, Senator Gabriel “Rufio” Pempengco (D-CA) tapped his feet in the Thurmond Congressional Building, elated that his bill to provide agricultural subsidies for automated threshers and auto-farming equipment had just passed. The auto-Ag industry had sponsored his transition from smalltime California Assemblyman into a US Senator. This bill would most hurt the farmers from the area where his grandfather had once organized for better pay and workplace protections. He justified his sponsorship of this bill because he told himself it will end the abuse of farmworkers. This was true, but only because this increased automation shucked off farmers and threw them into the unemployment bin.

* * *

Brand-N sails across the Hudson on a yacht, retching out the last of the balmy Middle Jersey air that tainted his lungs before reaching paradise. Around him, the sound systems blare announcements for all the new residents.

“---And don't be alarmed, over 1 million Grips work in Metropolis every day! Making our sandwiches, cleaning our homes, folding our laundry. They're cheaper than any automated labor and far more versatile in their movement. But don't you worry, every Grip has undergone extreme vetting for over three years and must submit to microchip implantation before they can set foot in our glorious Metropolis. This helps us identify where they are at all times. If they're ever idle, a gentle electric shock rouses them. If they overstay their 10-hour daily visa to Metropolis, the chip sends an alarm to the police. Each Grip is strip searched before they can exit to make sure they don't accidentally remove something from Metropolis.

“Don't worry!

“You won't ever have to see these normies. Your enhanced-reality sunglasses defaults to make all Grips disappear from your line of sight. And each Grip wears a noise cancelling vest, so you'll never have to hear them.”

Brand-N lets the drivel drone on as he looks out the window.



The giant glass walls over Metropolis slide open into a decompression chamber that hoses off the yacht and irradiates all passengers with UV rays. Brand-N turns to watch the glass dome seal behind him.

In the distance, he sees the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty always kept her flame burning bright, but now she's turned away from Metropolis and her once welcoming lips have been flipped into a sneer. On her plaque, the word “me” has been changed to “them.” Now the lady colossus waves her tiki torch of elitism to scare away the lower classes as her plaque reads: “Give them your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.”




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