Read So Yesterday Online

Authors: Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday

BOOK: So Yesterday
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Ever wonder
who was the first kid to keep a wallet on a
big chunky
chain, or wear way-too-big pants on purpose? What about the mythical first guy
who wore his baseball cap
backwards?,
These are
the Innovators, the people at the peak of the cool pyramid.

 

Seventeen-year-old Hunter Braque is
a Trendsetter, on the second level of the pyramid. His
job:
find the
newest, coolest thing for the retail market. His MO: observe, don't get
involved.

 

But he
has
to get involved when he and his crush, Jen, discover his boss's cell
phone in an
abandoned
building— and his boss missing.
Hunter and Jen are soon snared in a web of brand-name intrigue: a missing cargo
of the coolest shoes they've ever seen, ads for products that don't exist, and
a shadowy group dedicated to the downfall of consumerism as we know it.

************************************

To the Innovators.

You know who you are.

************************************

Chapter 0
WE ARE ALL AROUND YOU.

You don't think about us much because we are
invisible. Well, not exactly invisible. A lot of us have hair dyed in four
colors, or wear five-inch platform sneakers, or carry enough metal in our skin
that it's a hassle getting on an airplane. Quite visible, actually, come to
think of it.

But we don't wear signs saying what we are. After all,
if you knew what we were up to, we couldn't work our magic. We have to observe
carefully and push and prompt you in ways you don't notice. Like good teachers,
we let you think you've discovered the truth on your own.

And you need us. Someone has to guide you, to mold
you, to make sure that today turns into yesterday on schedule. Because frankly,
without us to monitor the situation, who knows what would get crammed down your
throats?

It's not like you can just start making your own
decisions, after all.

************************************

So, if we're supposed to be
secret, why am I writing this?

Well, that's a long story. That's
this
story, the one you're holding
in your hands.

It's about how I met Jen. She isn't one of us or one
of you, either. She's on top of the whole pyramid, quietly making her
contribution. Trust me, you need her. We all do.

It's also about the
Jammers, who I'm pretty sure really do exist. Probably.
If
they're
real, then they're crazy smart, and they've got big plans. They're the bad
guys, the ones trying to bring the system down. They want to make people like
me redundant, unnecessary, ridiculous.

They want to set you
free.

And the funny thing is,
I
think
I'm on their side.

************************************

Okay. Is that enough
previews for you? Can you pay attention long enough for me to do this in order?
Is it time for the feature presentation?

Let's get started, then.

 

Chapter 1

"CAN
I TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR SHOE?"

"Huh?"

"Shoelaces,
actually. The way you tied them."

"Oh. Yeah, sure, I
guess. Pretty skate, huh?"

I nodded. That week
skate
meant "cool," like
dope
or
rod
once
did. And this girl's laces
were
cool. Fuzzy and red, they looped
through the middle eyelet repeatedly on one side, spreading out in a fan on the
other. Kind of like the old rising-sun Japanese flag, but sideways.

She was about seventeen,
the same as me. Gray sweatshirt over camo pants, hair dyed so black that it
turned blue when the sun hit it through the trees. The shoes were off-brand
black runners, the logo markings erased with a black laundry pen.

Definitely an Innovator,
I
thought. They tend to specialize, looking like Logo Exiles until you get close,
until you see that one flourish. All their energies focused on a single element.

Like shoelaces.

I pulled out my phone
and pointed it at her foot.

Her eyes widened and she
gave the Nod. My phone for that month, made by a certain company in Finland,
was getting a lot of the Nod, the slight incline of the head that means,
I
saw that in a magazine and I already want it.
Of course, at another
level the Nod also means,
Now that I've seen an actual person with that
phone, I really, really have to get one.

At least, that's what
the certain Finnish company was hoping when they mailed it to me. So there I
was, doing two jobs at once.

The phone took its
picture, signaling success by playing a sample of a certain dysfunctional
father saying, "Sweet, sweet chocolate." The sample did not get the
Nod, and 1 made a mental note to change it. Homer was out; Lisa was in.

I looked at the image on
the phone's little screen, which looked clear enough to copy the lacework back
at home.

"Thanks."

"No problem."
An edge of suspicion in her voice now. Exactly why was I taking a picture of
her laces?

There was a moment of
awkward silence, the kind that sometimes follows after taking a picture of a
stranger's shoe. You think by now I'd be used to it.

I turned away to look at
the river. I'd run into my shoelace Innovator in the East River Park, a strip
of grass and promenade between the FDR Drive and the water. It's one of the few
places where you can tell that Manhattan is an island.

She was carrying a
basketball, probably had been shooting hoops on the weedy courts under
Manhattan Bridge.

I was here working, like
I said.

A big container ship
eased by on the water, as slow as a minute hand. Across the river was Brooklyn,
looking industrial, the Domino Sugar factory waiting patiently to be turned
into an art gallery or housing for millionaires.

I was about to smile
once more and keep on walking, but she spoke up.

"What else does it
do?"

"My phone?"
The list of features was on my tongue, but this was the part of the job I
didn't like (which is why you will read
no
product placement in
these pages, if I can possibly help it). I shrugged, trying not to sound like a
salesman. "MP3 player, date book, texting. And the camera can shoot like
ten seconds of video."

She bit her lip, gave
another Nod.

"Very crappy
video," I admitted. It was not my job to lie.

"Can you call people
on it?"

"Sure, it—"
Then I realized she had to be kidding. "Yes, you can actually call people
on it."

Her smile was even
better than her shoelaces.

************************************

When Alexander Graham
Bell invented the telephone, he imagined everybody in the country having one
big party line. We'd all listen to concerts on the phone, or maybe everyone
would pick up and sing the national anthem together. Of course, a somewhat more
popular use of the telephone turned out to be one person talking to one other
person.

The first computers were
designed for naval gunnery and code breaking. And when the Internet was
created, it was supposed to be for controlling the country after a nuclear
war. But guess what? Most people use them for e-mailing and IM-ing. One person
communicating with one other person.

See the pattern?

"My name's
Hunter," I said, returning her smile.

"Jen."

I nodded. "Jennifer
was the most popular girl's name in the 1970s and number two in the
1980s."

"Huh?"

"Oh, sorry."
Sometimes the facts in my head get bored and decide to take a walk in my mouth.
Frequently this is a bad thing.

She shook her head.
"No, I know what you mean. There's Jens all over the place these days. I
was thinking of changing it."

"Jennifer did drop
to fourteenth place in the 1990s. Possibly from overexposure." I winced
when I realized I'd said this out loud. "But I think it's a nice
name."

Great save, huh?

"Me too, but I get
bored, you know? Same name all the time."

"Rebranding,"
I said, nodding. "Everyone's doing it."

She laughed, and I found
that we'd started walking together. On a Thursday the park was pretty empty,
mostly joggers, dog walkers, and a couple of old guys trying to catch something
in the river. We ducked under their fishing lines, which flickered from
invisible to brilliant in the summer sun. Behind the metal guardrail the river
sloshed against concrete, agitated by a small boat motoring past.

"So, how's Hunter
doing?" she asked. "The name, I mean."

"You really want to
know?" I checked her smile for signs of derision. Not everyone appreciates
the pleasures of socialsecurity.gov's name-ranking database.

"Absolutely."

"Well, it's no
Jennifer, but it's moving up. Hunter was barely in the top four hundred when I
was born, but it's a solid number thirty-two these days."

"Wow. So you were
way ahead of the crowd."

"Yeah, I
guess." I took a sidelong glance at her, wondering if she'd figured me out
already.

Jen bounced the
basketball once and let it rise into the air in front of her, ringing like a
bell, before catching it with long fingers. She studied its longitude lines for
a moment, spinning it before her green eyes like a globe.

"Of course, you
wouldn't want your name to get
too
popular, would you?"

"That would
suck," I agreed. "Witness the Britney epidemic of the
mid-1990s."

She shuddered, and my
phone rang. The theme from
The Twilight Zone,
right on cue.

"See?" I said,
holding it up for Jen. "It's doing its phone thing."

"Impressive."

The display
veadshugrrl,
which meant work.

"Hi, Mandy."

"Hunter? Are you
doing anything?"

"Uh, not
really."

"Can you do a
tasting? It's kind of an emergency."

"Right now?"

"Yes. The client
wants to put an advertisement on the air over the weekend, but they're not sure
about it."

Mandy Wilkins always
called her employers "the client," even though she'd worked for them
for two years. They were a certain athletic shoe company named after a certain
Greek god. Maybe she didn't like using four-letter words.

"I'm trying to get
together whoever I can," Mandy said. "The client needs to make a
decision in a couple of hours."

"How much does it
pay?"

"Officially, just a
pair."

"I've got way too
many pairs," I said. A trunk full of shoes, not counting the ones I'd
given away.

"How about fifty
bucks? Out of my own pocket. I need you, Hunter."

BOOK: So Yesterday
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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