When in Venice

February 22, 2010

When in Venice, by Adrian Perez

Charles was terrified he would get caught by the Venice Police for filming in the city. The risk was terrible, but worth it considering how much he was getting payed for guiding the trip. Somewhere in Kansas, a group of “tourists” were sitting on their couch, getting their kicks from going on an illegal telepresence vacation.

Telepresence vacations were now one of the dominant forms of getting away from it all. For a much cheaper fee than an actual vacation, one could go almost anywhere, your local guide showing you the sites and sounds. The experience still paled to the real thing, but fuel prices and a stormier world, both meteorologic and political, made telepresence vacations the fastest growing form of tourism.

Tourist destinations had various reactions to the change in tourist temperament. Places like Palestine were transformed over night. The religious could visit holy sites without the risk of being bombed or kidnapped. If something happened to your tour guide, well, they had insurance, so most tourists told themselves. Other cities tried to circumvent the problem of a cheaper, non-local tourist by promoting red-light districts and gambling. A small few cities, attempted to fight the tide, like Venice was doing.

Charles walked the streets of Venice with a gun in his pocket. If he was caught, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment. Or almost as bad, he could be held for a few years without being charged. He was probably one of a handful of people with a working video-feed in the whole of the city. Government deals with cell phone providers knocked out the majority of video cameras. And jammers and detectors of various sorts looked for high-volume encrypted traffic. The only thing keeping Charles undetected was a suite of software that decentralized and masked his transmission.

Charles had worked for a brief period as a programmer after dropping out of college. His skills were sharp enough to keep him alive. But the Slump meant there was no prosperity employment. Company websites were always advertising positions, but only a small trickle of people got those jobs. Charles would sometimes get depressed about this stuff, but most of the time he just got creative. His last round of creativity was a camera system strapped to his chest and observing the world through a fake button.

The streets of Venice were not as crowded as they were ten years ago. An inadvertent side-effect of a war on technology drove a lot of traditional business to the periphery, where net-access was unhindered.

The new clientele that visited the city were far more obnoxious in Charles’ view. Where there had been many Ugly Americans blabbing loudly, there were now Ugly Russians, sporting their oil-bought fur coats. A different type of ugly. It was a good place to be angry at the rich.

He followed after a group of Chinese that were about to head into a museum. If you stuck with people, there was less chance of being detected. Or so he read on the forums.

As he was entering the museum, a policeman turned the corner and put his arm on Charles’ shoulder. They smiled knowingly at each other. Charles took his gun out and shot the policeman in the leg. Suprisingly, only the museum ticketer noticed the muffled thump of the gun.

Charles ran to a nearby taxi. He got in, realized there was GPS all over the thing. But if he had only been accosted by one policeman then he might still be unobserved. He quietly handed the driver some money to hurry to a train station. He’d risk that over the airport.

Somewhere in Kansas a family sat unblinking.