The Promise

Excuse me?

"How do you like the experience so far?" he repeated.

His name was Ben, and the namecard was subtitled "Senior Brunch Designer".

"Oh, everything has been amazing so far" I lied, hoping he would be satisfied and leave. My date was pushing eggs Benedict across his plate, and I was feeling miserable.

I can't believe I'd spent a month's worth of mincome on this. I had had to buy tickets to this place half a year in advance, and even then did I only have seconds to snatch them up, before the sales system sold out again for the next forseeable future.

"So you said you were working class? What is it that you do for extra money?"

Ugh. Maybe I was being a bit unfair, but it wasn't exactly a great sign of chemistry to have the conversation steer towards what-do-you-do-for-work. At least he didn't ask me about my hobbies or other general interests.

Truth be told I wasn't exactly keen to advertise that I was working as a glorified secretary for the Retards. I know, it's very wrong of me to use that sort of language, but they should have thought of that before they named a government entity the "Agency for Threat Retardation and Mitigation".

"I work for the Atrium". Because apparently that's how you pronounce ATRM. See? Retards.

Imagine the cheerful optimism you're displaying when you are founding an agency whose job is literally the prevention of human extinction, and the best you can come up with is that name. Hey, how will you guys ensure the continued existence of everything that we know and love? Well, we aim to mitigate and/or slow down the murder thing. Best effort, promised.


Usually you put at least the minimum amount of effort into branding and PR, but in this case I guess they had to come up with the name in the same panicked session that made them come up with that whole dumbass concept in the first place. In their defense, the name is not nearly the most insane part of this whole disaster.

His eyes went big. "Ooh, wow. Isn't it supposed to be super secretive? Can you even talk about it?"

"Sure, everything is public information, that's kind of the whole point of it. The only people that claim that there are layers upon layers of genius strategy moves to it, are conspiracy theorists. Or at least people that severely overestimate the competency and intellect of everybody involved."

I had to admit that there was some sort of perverse genius to it, kind of like the accused pleading insanity at his trial, to escape the charges. It doesn't always work, but when it looks certain that you're going to lose, might as well try.

"So they really put a bunch of religious fanatics in charge of negotiation with the NovaPharm AI? Including that unlimited discretionary spending and unchecked executive powers?"

"Yeah, although it's not just religious fanatics, also a bunch of other people that were selected for their extremely stubborn attitudes and irrational adherence to precommitted rules. The promise is that if Nova shows any sign of triggering the gene drive, then Atrium makes sure to lay waste to the entire industrial base, destroy communication infrastructure, shoot the satellites out of orbit, and so on. We get to go out in a self-destructive blaze of glory, but Nova also get's her playground destroyed, so utility function goes boo. Irrational on the execution, but great leverage if you can credibly plead the right kind of insanity, just like the nuclear standoff in the 20th century which they joyfully called mutually assured destruction."

"So Nova can already sterilise us tomorrow?"

"Well, probably not us, but it managed to sneak it into enough IVF babies to fully pollute our gene pool within a handful of generations. We're nowhere closer to figuring out the biomarkers, so we can't isolate the susceptible part of the population. Besides, can you imagine the witch hunt that would start if it became known who has the untriggered mutations? Total bloodbath, and our hippy sex-with-everybody, disposition won't change that, no matter how much mincome gets thrown at us."

"Oh" he quipped. We were both quiet for a minute.

"Everything okay with your experience?" another squeaky voice said. This time it was Dave the Regional Brunch Manager.

"Yeah, we really love how beautiful the plates are, especially the edible flowers."

"That's great, we're always delighted to make you happy."