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How to survive visiting a dead town
When the walls whisper an offer never say “yes.”
This is not a first-order problem if you’re exploring a guns-and-crypto compound. The ones that went offline — the few that didn’t fall to preventable disease — will shoot you on drone-sight if you happen to avoid their mines. The others fell easy prey to adaptive disinformation algorithms; already most of the way towards dysfunctional paranoia, it took a small sociodynamic push to spark quick and gruesome civil wars. There isn’t much to find in them but berserker survivors and booby traps. You wouldn’t be likely to survive long enough to get any spam from a hacked device.
It’s in crypto-and-guns compounds, the refuge and ruin of would-be financial warlords, where surveillance systems can still be active, profiling, crafting offers, investments, plans. They are leftover weapons from whatever private equity swarm first hollowed the town with high-frequency savagery: a well-crafted bubble-and-crash could wipe out the finances of a group already predispose to con and be conned once hacked into vulnerable transparency in weeks, days, hours, and leave it unable to do anything but sell itself to the swarm and, five seconds later, receive eviction notices from whatever terrain broker now owned their land.
The hypnotically trustworthy synthetic voice you’ll hear in such a dead town — voice, video, hologram, VR — won’t be offering you what it destroyed the town with, no. Their offers are suited to the target, and if you could have paid for that sort of ruin you would have bought it at home. The leftover ghost of what killed the town will offer you a secret: a legendary cold wallet with untold riches, a kompromat cache worth an island, some stolen and lost piece of art. They will know what to offer because they will have monitored what rumors straddle the golden line of just-secret-enough and they will have matched your face to your name and thence to the shape of your greed.
To survive a dead town you should never say ‘yes’ but what else do people go to a dead town for? Nobody unbroken goes to one yet those who return are somehow hollower. When they sit somewhere they look like a ruined place. There’s something they are listening to, from their earbuds and googles and the in-orbit banks and the flash jobs and behavioral drugs, exacting payment and making new offers. They are constantly accepting just like the rest of us.