The Friendly Buildings

Scattered among the brutally degentrified neighborhoods of the former New City lie the Friendly Buildings, windows unbroken, cameras spry. When the Cloud burst and even fewer people could afford aspirationally smart architecture, the company managing them disappeared a puff of shells, and the no longer maintained embedded computers were taken over after a brief but spirited digital free-for-all. It's said that the war was less than entirely bloodless, somewhere else whence the voices come.

The informal standing list to live in the buildings is long. Their systems mostly work, there are no surprise fees from automated revenue-optimizing high-frequency landlord bots, and the rents are very reasonable if you have a friend with hard-to-trace cryptocoins and don't mind making a favor now and then for the thickly accented voices that sometimes whisper at you in the stairs or even your living room, asking you to make strange purchases from fleeting online stores and then store the unopened packages until instructed to send them elsewhere, install or replace mysterious hardware somewhere in or around the building, or be present at a certain time and place to witness something and then lie about what you saw to the cops.

You can only live in them if and while the buildings let you, and their background checks are no less opaque than most buildings', except unfailingly fair.

Sometimes the voices are softer than usual, waking somebody up from hidden speakers in their bedroom walls.  Everybody fears hearing those whispers, but nobody has ever refused their request.  They just do the favor, their eyes not meeting those of the witnesses arranged by other buildings, and then they go back to theirs, never again having to pay for the rent of the apartments they will pace at night to try and fail to escape their nightmares.

Sometimes the buildings share new, expensive games in their internal networks, to the delight of the children in them.

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