[PI] The Fun Thief – Worldbuilding – 2341 Words
The original prompt two years ago by /u/throwaway1231231231a was: In a dystopian future, "fun" is the currency and sole reason for living, the rich have all the fun whilst the poor live dull lives. Backstreet "fun" is produced and policed by the "fun police”
My first story was titled “The sole reason for living” and is at the link. I recommend reading it for more on the world.
Below is the second story in the same world, titled “The Fun Thief”.
Year: August 2037
Bryce looked down at the blade, then back up at the man's face. His assailant looked high on something, screaming "I want some fun man! Just give me some fun!"
Bryce thought back to the old martial arts films that filled his home library. He imagined at least six different ways that he had seen knives disarmed. He thought about delivering the man to the authorities, corrupt as they were. Then he sighed, back in reality. His large belly moved generously within the fine suit he was wearing. He was sweating profusely and was breathing hard, not because he was nervous about the mugging, but because he had been walking down the street and it was warm out. He had no training and wasn't exactly in peak shape.
"Look, I've got some fun for you. There's a card in my bag." Bryce slowly tried to unbuckle the leather bag at his side with the initials BB carefully engraved on the edge.
"Just give me the bag!" The thief screamed and Bryce flinched, his hand jumping away from the clasp.
"Now look man, you know fun theft doesn't work that way." Bryce took some slow deep breaths to stay calm, starting back to open the bag again. "You take my bag, I report you to the fun police and the fun is canceled before you can have it. They may even come arrest you. But let me open my bag and give you a card with four fun points on it, and I won't report anything and you can use it however you want."
The offer of four fun points almost made the mugger's eyes leap out of his head. Not a quarter point or a tenth of a point like he normally stole on the days he got lucky. Four was a lot of fun. It'd keep him supplied with fun for weeks.
Bryce handed over the card, calmed his nerves with a deep breath, and walked into the bank.
Bryce walked into the front door of MGS Bank Tower in a fine Italian suit, well tailored though a bit tight after he had gained 10 pounds in recent months. He was shorter than the average man, mostly bald and his brown skin had seen too much sun in his youth. His commanding well-dressed presence helped obscure the fact he was kind of ugly. The security guard waved him around the metal detector and said, "54th floor Mr. Blackwell. Our board is expecting you. And on a personal note, it is a pleasure to see you again."
Bryce tipped two fingers to his forehead and then pointed them at the guard and winked his right eye in a cool salute that made them both smile. He stepped into the elevator and took it up to the executive board room.
The entire committee was seated at the oval table with the bank's chairwoman, Cameal Acre, seated at the head. Bryce walked up, set down his small notebook and sat down in the empty seat next to her. Nobody shook hands at these meetings, which Bryce thought was a bit strange, but he had gotten used to the customs of the bank.
"Mr. Blackwind, thank you for joining our meeting." the director began, getting right to the point, "I trust you had a good trip to Japan."
A man in a tuxedo reached over Bryce's left shoulder to set down a hot cup of coffee with milk and three sugars, just the way he liked it. As he took a sip and considered his answer, Bryce looked around the table and saw all eyes on him. He had their attention.
"My trip was long but productive. Over the course of the last three weeks, I met in private with five of the eight executive board members of the target firm. I believe that your bank stands a good shot at a successful hostile takeover."
He watched a wave of relief roll across other people sitting the table. A few openly smiled. They had put time, money and significant energy into this acquisition of a Japanese bank. Conducting it in secret was clearly stressful on the board. MGS was one of only three banks remaining in the United States. With little reason to hold money in a cashless society and 90% of people jobless and without fun, the bank profited on international transactions, exchanging fun for gold or goods or services. But those opportunities were growing scarce as more countries gained technology that freed them from traditional capitalism.
"There are a few hold-ups, but I've been told an additional five gold bars hand delivered plus some convertible fun will help make sure everything goes smoothly. Just two to three hundred fun points delivered in small batches of anonymous cards plus the gold will nail this deal for you and make you millions in profit."
Though this was his fourth meeting with the board, a few members looked uncomfortable. Bryce kept talking. He spoke for five more minutes and ended with, "Please don't view this as a kickback, it's more of a necessary fee that is part of the acquisition process. I will ensure that a receipt is given after the process is complete and it will comply with all government regulations.
Once again, the tension in the room eased.
"That all sounds manageable Mr. Blackwind" the director concluded. "Shall we have a drink to celebrate?"
"No, I never drink. And besides, I need to be on a private flight back to Tokyo this evening to continue your arrangements. Now if you'll excuse me…." with that Bryce stood up and walked out of the room. He used the formality as an excuse to not deal in chitchatter.
Bryce stepped down in to the lobby, only to be confronted by three police officers. He glanced at the doors, considering his options. “Mr. Blackhall?” the tall, pale lead officer asked looking at him.
"Yes?" Bryce responded tentatively. He also glanced over at the security guard, who was trying to not pay attention.
"I’d like to let you know we caught a Jobless who mugged you earlier today. One of our cameras caught the incident and we immediately dispatched a team to arrest him. We caught him about to enter the Firering Pub on the North Side. Our officers are returning your card with all three fun points still on it."
Bryce hesitated for the slightest of moments. The corruption of the fun police was well known. They took a little fun off the top of everything they seized or found. But at the eyebrow raise of the lead officer, he simply responded, "Thank you officers. I truly appreciate it. In fact, I will be donating one of the THREE fun points you have returned to me to your local police unit for the officers to divide and enjoy at their leisure."
Bryce changed into a red t-shirt and sweatpants before taking a cab to the North Side. Wearing a suit would just get him mugged again. He walked confidently into the Firering Pub, took a seat at the nearly empty bar in front of the elderly bartender. There wasn't much business on a side of town where most residents had little fun.
"What'll you have bud?" the bartender's voice was almost robotic, probably some sort of replacement voicebox.
"I want to know what's available." Bryce slid a card across the bar. "That should cover almost anything on and off your menu, but let me know if more is needed."
The bartender scanned the card on his computer, then flicked his eyes back and forth between the computer and the man in sweatpants at the bar. The five and a half fun points on that card certainly caught his attention.
"Look bud, I don't want trouble here. You sure this card is yours?"
"I hear it doesn't really matter." Bryce responded smartly, but then adding a bit of formality, "however, I guarantee you that they are my points. My name is Bryce Blackpool and I'm happy to provide ID if it is necessary, though I understand that you don't want to scan the customers who buy your best merchandise." He stressed those last two words.
"Why don't you come in the back with me?" The bartender grabbed a cane, motioned his hand to the door in the back, and worked his way back there. Bryce stood up and followed.
Once in the back, the bartender looked Bryce up and down while starting to point out the merchandise on the walls. "On that side is my vodka and gin. Behind you is the mezcal, tequila and rum."
Bryce glanced behind him. "I was actually looking for something stronger," he hinted, "but I am partial to mezcal. I'll grab this bottle right here." He picked out a plain bottle with a simple white label and no special graphics.
At that, the bartender smiled and almost managed a laugh out of his robotic voicebox. "Ha, I see you have good taste. You've been to Oaxaca I take it?"
Bryce smiled, "A long time ago, but yes, I know my blends. Now, on to something stronger." He never mentioned the price of the bottle nor did the bartender. They both knew it was well covered by his card.
They worked their way further back in the storage room. The bartender kept looking at his customer, trying to read him. "You looking to go up or down? Some steroids? Or maybe you'd like to see some pretty colors and have great lucid dreams?"
"Looking to go down. Way down." Bryce responded.
"I wouldn't have taken you for a downer," the bartender looked skeptical. "But I guess it happens when you have fun to spare." He grabbed a small bottle off a low shelf. "This is a liquor simply known as sadness. It tastes like shit, so you'll need to mix it with something strong to keep it down. But it'll knock you out for days. You won't remember anything for weeks."
Bryce studied the bottle. "Sadness. Huh. I've heard of that, but I never thought it was true."
The bartender grinned, "Well, that sadness is going to cost you a lot of fun. At least the five and a half points you have on your card."
Bryce winked at him. "Throw in this bottle of spirits" he pointed down at the bottle in his hand, "and we'll call it even."
It was late in the evening, already dark outside when the police showed up at his house.
"Officers, can I offer you a glass of tequila? I only ask that you sip it slowly and enjoy the flavor."
His movements slow and deliberate, Bryce reached for the plain bottle with the white label on the shelf next to him, pulled open the cork of the bottle, sniffed the opening, and poured the clear liquid into three tall shot glasses he already had set out on the bar. His arms then stretched to the other end of the bar to set the glasses slowly on the other side. He motioned to the officers to take a seat.
"This is a high quality product. There's a bar on the West side that will sell you a shot of this for quarter a fun point if you ask for the manager. I, of course, acquired the bottle straight from an associate in Guadalajara, Mexico, where it's still legal to use money."
The two officers stood just inside the doorway, guns drawn and pointed at the man. The officers were as nervous as Bryce was calm. Their hands shook. Sweat rolled off their brow. The older officer on the left managed to stutter out, "Bryce Blackhand of St. Louis, MO, ID number B294-R466, you are under arrest for the crime of stealing approximately 9,000 fun points and 40 gold bars from MGS Bank…."
"Gentlemen, that's absurd. I haven't stolen any fun. I don't even know how I'd spend 90 fun much less 9,000. I also assure you that I have no weapons and I don't intend to flee. Besides, I doubt I'd make it far." With that, he pointed at the roll of fat on his sides hanging out of his tshirt. "Please, take a seat, enjoy a drink, and allow me to explain myself." Bryce motioned once more to the stools on the other side of the bar.
The officers appeared unclear what to do. They were considering his offer. Bryce smiled, he knew he had them.
"I'm sure that if you take a few minutes to hear me out, we can all have some fun."
The officer on the left smiled at the joke. He pointed his gun down and placed it back in its holster. The other officer followed a moment later. They sat down.
"To clean living." Bryce picked his shot glass up and reached over the bar. The officers clinked their glasses against his. "Now, I warn you, this tequila has a strong taste and a strong effect. Allow me to tell you my side of the story and hopefully you'll remember it in the morning."
One week later, Bryce say on a beach in Acapulco, Mexico. A beautiful waitress stopped by every 20-30 minutes to refill his glasses of mezcal and beer. "Señor Sombra, algo mas?" she asked as she passed by again.
"Tal vez mas tarde. Gracias." he responded in a harsh non-native accent, adding in English, "and please, call me Bryce."
"Por supuesto Señor," she smiled as she walked away.
He watched some kids swim in the ocean while carefully staying in the shade himself. He wrote ideas in a blue notebook. He knew he had enough gold and fun to live out the rest of his days here, but he wouldn't last more than a week. He wanted to get on the move and back to work. He knew a bank in Tokyo that might have some interesting opportunities. He had never visited Japan before. It could be a lot of fun.