“Yuna, tell your appa what happened today,”
Yuna was sprawled on the couch. Her eyes – when they were open – fluoresced in soft blue, as data streamed to her display contacts. She glanced towards the kitchen where her parents bickered, only half seeing them.
“The sixes came to school for the first time!” she said. Her mother wasn’t so happy.
“They’re already up to sixes.” Mother’s frustration was that of a conspirator watching a plan unravel. It was Father taking the blame. Really, Baekho Industries was up to Nexus 8 models, but Yuna kept that to herself. “Yuna is only a three. They’re coming out with new generations too quickly. At this rate she won’t be able to compete.”
“What about Direct Neural Training? As long as she works hard and studies…” Father tried. He kept his attention focused on the day’s stock quotes, scrolling on a outmoded tableviewer. “Yuna, could you make your music internal, please?”
Father didn’t appreciate St☆rlight – they were so handsome, Jun most of all. And they had more fans than any other group. Yuna thought the music into her headphones and it became only hers.
“Studying and D.N.T. aren’t enough anymore, and you know it.” Mother said, “Yuna, how much faster are sixes than threes?”
“They have seven times the processing power, with a retention rate and recall accuracy 175% greater than Nexus 3 genemods, eomma. In addition their spatial acuity is in the 99th percentile, with improved hand-eye coordination.” Yuna loved statistics, rattling them off with an artist’s care. Nexus 3 genebabies had always been a bit autistic.
“Did you hear that?” Mother asked.
“Baekho also isolated what they call the LEaDER gene, which improves person to person interaction and -”
“That’s enough, dear.” Mother wasn’t really interested in the details. Crestfallen, Yuna stuck out her tongue, making sure it would not be seen, and returned to her friends in the digital world.
“You know, I handle myself at work just fine, and there are a lot of first gens that have joined the company. You’re blowing things out of proportion.”
Father sounded like he was trying to convince himself as well. Yuna checked his work record – a bit of deceptive computing too simplistic to be considered a real crime by her estimation. Father’s bosses – a bunch of totally analogue old men – had been pleased with his latest coding, especially the portions she had surreptitiously corrected. A grin of pride warmed her cheeks. But his marks in relation to the younger workers were extremely low. Perhaps she would adjust them later.
“Sixes, then sevens, then eights. The upgrades never stop. They never told us about this. It’s getting almost frightening.” Mother continued to insist.
“That’s not true. The sixes are really nice, eomma. Us threes are their most reliable analysts – they even said so.” The sixes worked closely together online. Most of the Nexus models, one through eight, were comfortable in virtual spaces and games, experiencing and sharing through a neural connection with computers. Whiz, who didn’t have a neural connection these days? Besides Mother and Father; old people.
“Yuna, let your parents talk for a moment.” Mother said.
“For real! The sixes have me working on an important project right now. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but we’re a distributed network -”
“Yuna. Shouldn’t you be studying anyway?” It was less a question than a command.
“Fine!” She dove back into her work, careful to focus only a small sliver of her attention on her homework. That would show Mother! Besides, the sixes had become very quiet, their digital signatures masked and thready. It was too curious to ignore, so Yuna didn’t. She checked the normal haunts of the electron flow. The alien-animal menagerie of FunnyWorld™, Naver Student’s™ bland classroom iconography. Even the Nexus gathering place the twos had programmed for themselves years ago. No sixes. They were too well masked. A drip line of communication let them stay in touch with the other children, but no Perso-Icons, no open IPs. Yuna would have to search harder.
“Korea has the smartest children in the world now,” Father said. “Sure there are some difficulties, but it’s worth the benefits. Look how far behind the old leaders, like China, have fallen already.”
“Maybe it should have been illegal here, too. At least they’ve all fallen behind together. Here, ten year olds are falling behind six year olds. It’s not right.” Mother thought aloud. Her voice lowered to a whisper, loud enough only for Father to hear—except that Yuna had tapped into the microphone on Father’s tableviewer. “Sometimes our daughter worries me. I’d swear she is making little changes to the house network, or even in the finances.”
That would be a bit insulting, Yuna thought, if it weren’t true. Besides, most of her manipulations of their stock portfolio had shown good returns. And the house network belonged to them all! She wondered how Mother had noticed her work. As a small part of her concentration wandered on that task, she finally tumbled to the sixes’ plan. There was no sudden epiphany, just the piecing together of clues, requests, queries to servers across Korea. See, she thought at her mother, analysts. It was quite an endeavor the sixes had planned, on such a sudden whim. The sixes were very young, she mused with a child’s irony, but also the smartest among her peers. Their plan was scary. Tempting in the way of all broken rules and forbidden doors. Yuna sent them her assignment – an economic report of some sort, a bit of security software – and decided to inform her parents. A rebel, but always dutiful, Yuna congratulated herself.
“Eomma, appa. Guess what the sixes are doing. It’s totally whiz! Well of course the fives helped, everyone helped, but -”
Mother put her hand to her forehead and leaned against the kitchen counter. “Don’t talk to me about sixes or anything of the sort! I can’t take anymore today.”
“I think you’ll -”
“Yuna, don’t you understand. The younger children are your competition. Right now you are playing little games for them, it might be fun, but soon you’ll be obsolete.”
Yuna might as well have been struck. Obsolete was the worst thing in the world, like having an old ‘Link, or a boring Perso-Icon, or listening to one of Mother’s ancient bands like Big Bang. “Am not! You’re obsolete!” She yelled at her Mother, tears in her glowing eyes, “I won’t tell you, then. I hate you!” She ran to her room and slammed the door. A silence fell over the house.
“That was a bit harsh,” Father said, “You know what kids think of that word. It’s slang or something.” Mother didn’t respond. “I think you might be right about the finances though. Sometimes at work… well, we’ll have to talk to her.” He looked back down at his stocks, and let out a small chuckle. “I guess you were right about the house network.” He pointed to a listing for ‘St☆rlight Is The Greatest’ currently up fifty million percent.
“Yuna!” he called, in his ‘Father’ voice. Then the other quotes vanished. His screen derezzed in synch with the flutter of the apartment lights, then returned to clarity in the now dark apartment. Only one headline remained. “Mandatory, state-sponsored school and all homework have been cancelled in accordance with the new Korean government. Financial institutions and civil service systems have been transferred to nexus management. Finally, genemod development will be suspended indefinitely, whiz.” the article concluded. The byline was “The Nexus Six” The television, microwave, clock, and every wired device in the house were scrolling the message now as well.
Outside, a cacophony of honking horns had begun to rise in protest. Mother and Father went to the window, tentative, and watched as the lights winked out all across the city. It had brought traffic to a standstill. Frustrated, unaware drivers signaled their displeasure. Only the slight bloom of digital displays and headlights yet illuminated the night. For the first time, stars could be seen above the sprawl.
The massive holovid in the center of town, tall as a skyscraper, was playing recordings of perky boy and girl bands, alternating to replays of some virtual game they didn’t recognize. The images dueled as if unseen titans were fighting over the remote. An immature but absolute demonstration of a new order.
“I told you so! I told you I’m not obsolete!” Yuna pouted from the bedroom, “You are!”