Ki‘i awoke to the pre-dawn sounds of Kalihi: the rumbling pulse of some of O‘ahu’s last internal combustion engines warming up the car grinders in the Reclamation Zone across Auiki; the rattles, air brake hisses and horns of haulers going into the Zone along Mokauea and out along Kalihi; the electric buzz of unmanned aerial vehicle traffic above Nimitz; the dregs of last night’s revelry coming from Republican.
Domestic noises were more immediate. Ki‘i heard phone alarms chiming, ration packages being opened, water buckets filling, and pots on grills. Then a halo-halo of media feeds. Satellites rained pop, news, comedy, gossip and politics in all the world’s languages.
Home was one among dozens of two-person refugee-style tents pitched in the middle of Home Rule Street. This was a community of the Remaindered: those who survived “Big Bird” flu, the “Stormaggedon” of the ‘20s, Pele’s Great Awakening in 2028, and finally the double-edged “relief” provided by the Chinese at the beginning of the decade.
Ki‘i yawned and opened his eyes to nested patterns of interlocking triangles formed from strips of bioluminescent tape that glowed a warm orange. He turned on his side and lifted the flap that covered the tent’s clear plastic porthole. Still dark outside, but people were up and about, honoring the coming dawn with muted greetings. Their silhouettes were back-lit by more “disaster orange” coming from portable lanterns.
He partially unzipped the door and let in a blade of cool breeze, and took a deep breath. The air smelled of salt, yesterday’s humidity, and diesel from the Zone. With athletic ease, Ki‘i rolled off the memory foam mattress, grabbed his data lei from beneath it. The lei was a set of high-performance computing beads, each 3 centimeters across and 4 long, strung on a thick braid of black fiber-optic threads designed to evoke the ancient ones made of human hair. He hung the comfortable weight of the device around his neck and slipped out of the weatherproof half-cylinder.
Just beyond a row of fruit-laden papaya tree profiles, and above warehouse rooftops crowded with improvised structures for catching rain and wind, a crescent moon was setting. Ki‘i turned around to face the earliest colors of dawn just beginning to distinguish the sky from the clouds that gathered over the Ko‘olau range. Of their own accord his toes found his slippers in the low, scrubby grass.
In the distance, the first recycled car of the day came apart with a plaintive shriek. The crusher’s diamond teeth began the process of reducing the vehicle to industrial dust that might be reprinted as part of a rocket, wheelie frame, drone body or tent skeleton.
Ki‘i looked ‘ewa to see if any breakfast runners were coming. At the end of the street a thin, hyperactive figure was wildly swinging a flashlight beam and stopping to talk to people waiting in front of their homes. He dug in his pockets for a credit square and thumbed it on as three of the fat beads on his necklace came alive.
His logistics interface was waking up too, connecting him to Kalihi’s Datahupua‘a: a subsection of Host Culture’s island-wide digital infrastructure. Ki‘i was an apprentice manager, responsible for keeping aloha, watts, job queues, and social telemetry moving through the Remaindered communities of O‘ahu—in that order. Admittedly, Ki‘i was still learning to reverse his own priorities to meet the requirements.
Where the foundation of the original ahupua‘a was flowing water, virtual ones were based on cycles of social actions and reactions. Some of the engineers that trained Ki‘i said it was basically the same thing as old times, except that the natural world was so busted up that modern people couldn’t use it to organize themselves or recognize their interconnections.
The Datahupua‘a provided the algorithms, grid and encryption for Host Culture’s evolving model of O‘ahu’s ecological, social, economic and political relationships. A network of quantum computers called pōhaku processed finite dimensions of this data as managerial tasks demanded, and governed visualization and feedback systems like Ki‘i’s lei. Pōhaku were camouflaged as rocks and scattered all over O‘ahu, a perfect example of Host Culture’s strategic blurring of the distinctions between technology and metaphor, defense and art.
Ki‘i was training to become a steward for the Remaindered: a population that—out of necessity—had deposed the commodity, but still used the old ways of circulating goods and services. He specialized in logistics, getting stuff—information, energy, and atoms—from here to there. But, despite his name, he was not an errand boy or a slave to some master control program. Host Culture designed, maintained and defended the Datahupua‘a system to help live life, not run it. He looked down at his lei, full of glistening indicators of digital life suspended in computing amber.
The beads were showing a series of ideograms representing optimized possibilities for what the day could bring: a guitar, a stylized sun, a tidal chart for Kewalo Basin, a petroglyph surfer, tiny maps of O‘ahu etched with delivery routes, a rapid sequence of clients’ faces, and finally a stylized vector portrait of the guy he was supposed to pick up at the airport this morning: Kauwila “Kay” Bulosan Wallace.
A rush hit him. He had almost forgot.
He slid one of three pop lenses—clear cylindrical sheaths of additional computing power—into position over the one bearing the picture of Kay. Like a jeweler’s loop for data, it bumped the head-shot toward photorealism. Ki‘i smiled in the dark. There was his best and oldest friend, in all his distracted, nut-brown, nerdy glory, sporting a hopelessly dated asymmetric kung-fu villain haircut, and a moustache that would never grow in.
The pop lens decorated Kay’s portrait with a flight path, a weather report, and a delicate loop of down-sweeping arrow. Then glowing text flashed like post-blackout digital clock: “HAA 722 ARR 6:22.” The little collage shimmered, turned into a pixel stream of scrimshaw, then displayed the characters “CHANCE U LATE 48.2123%.” The decimal values were fluctuating, and creeping steadily higher.
Ki‘i looked up and waved his arm to get the breakfast runner’s attention, and a moment later heard the sharp stuttering whistle of acknowledgment. Ki‘i ducked back into the tent, knee-walked over to the more open side where his 2010 Ibanez and personal effects were kept. Next to the lava-black electric guitar that rested in a hand-worked stand of reclaimed metal was a low table where he neatly arranged his gear: a general diagnostic and repair toolset, spare battery slabs, seven effects pedals, five coiled lengths of vintage XLR cable, three paper books (his grandmother’s battered Christian Bible, a more heavily-worn copy of Connelly’s Hawai‘i Futures, and a home print of Beon Kim’s The Art of Transforming), and his hygiene kit. He grabbed the kit, unsealed it and dug for the jars of antibac and mouthwash. He spread a finger’s worth of wash around the inside of his mouth with his tongue, and applied the lightly stinging antibac to each armpit twice.
When he reemerged, the day’s light was already stronger, and the faces of the neighborhood were recognizable. Sai the fisherman, Roberto the hauler tech, Corazón the coder, Tash and Breen the ag specialists. He stood up and turned to face the breakfast runner. He recalled her name: Flea; one of the newer kids, sunkissed a deep brown, bony, and bald by choice. Clearly one of the Remaindered, she wore a charity tank top with a forgotten mascot grinning maniacally, and frayed but impossibly white board shorts.
“‘Chu want, Ki?” she asked in clipped Remainder pidgin. She spun the flashlight on her palm, dancing from one bare foot to the other.
“Have Rita print me one three-layer.”
Flea nodded eagerly in response, making a “gimme” gesture with her empty hand.
“Spam-like. Egg-like. Rice real,” Ki‘i continued. “Five square by three. Default flavor.” He used both hands to roughly outline the expected size of his breakfast.
“Bag’a drink?” she asked, already looking past him for the next customers.
Ki‘i took a moment to study her. Flea was hyper, but he recognized an underlying discipline in her vibe. She was probably already running for her second or third community of the day and thinking of a way to flip the credit. An eager kid like Flea could learn the island in deep detail, and if she built a strong and reciprocal network along the way, Host Culture might even tap her for Datahupua‘a work. He’d have to keep an eye on this one.
Flea read him back in an instant and threw a brief but admiring glance at Ki‘i’s lei.
He briefly considered the extra time coffee would require, and then realized that if he was going to be on time he was going to have to actually drive to the airport. He got ready to respond, but Flea was already moving past him, staccato whistling to acknowledge her next customer.
Ki‘i grabbed her shoulder, which flipped her expression to a cold, measuring alertness. He caught how she subtly shifted some weight to her back foot.
“No foul!” he said, grinning and raising both hands in surrender. “Meet me at the wheelie yard, I’m running late. Bonus if can.”
She shrugged off his grasp with a wily little dance move that she could have played into a spin kick or a rolling dodge, made the money gesture to seal the deal, and headed for her next customer.
“Thirty creds!” she shouted over
“Good!” he called after her. “And make it two, grom! Same-same! At the wheelies, don’t forget!”
The square in Ki‘i’s pocket completed the transaction and buzzed a little affirmative rhythm. He zipped his tent closed and started toward the Diamond Head end of Home Rule, feeling himself dropping into the wave of the day. He turned around to walk backwards for a bit, looking toward the airport and hoping to actually see Kay’s plane coming in on its final approach.
The homie Kay was home today!