When the islands finally drowned, Janelle's father's family had been in Australia for seven years; Janelle had been born there. There were rumours of old people staying behind and starving in the wash of salt. Janelle's granddad laughed at the rumours, so Janelle did too.
"Only borders locked us in place, " he told her. "We're navigators."
Ten years older, she wasn't so sure. Their cowrie logo was everywhere, from print readers in shops to those fucken hologram ads at the elevator doors, and she knew her granddad was as much hated as loved.
From the Pasifika Wave User Manual, version 5.1.6, 2081/10/10, Introduction.
Pasifika is an international company founded by the Tasi and Sereima families of the former nation of Samoa. We supply virtual mapping services all over the world. Pasifika works by a series of complex algorithms that use the past and present to plot the future, keeping you and your information safe from attacks that haven't happened yet. Our cowrie logo is a symbol of guaranteed security – everywhere.
"He's a fucken asshole," Ioana shouted, chucking herself down on the bottom bunk. Janelle looked down from the top to watch her bounce right back off the memory mattress. Ioana glared at her, then slid to the floor in a pile of tartan school uniform and anger. They had a huge home compared to most: they didn't even need to fold up the beds in the daytime.
"What's Granddad up to now, then?" Janelle was meant to be studying for her final exams and was banned from the wave booths, but she'd rigged herself up one on the top bunk. She relied on her little sister to give her warning of Mum approaching, though, so she couldn't go visiting anyone until Ioana was home.
"He says I can't go on the heritage trip. He says the islands are dead and we've got to find new places."
Janelle peered over the edge of the bunk. "Yeah, no, he's been saying that forever. You're surprised?"
"I thought he meant, you know, like a metaphor? Cos we're all scattered? But he really fucken means it."
"Oh, Ioana, that sucks. Can you get Dad to argue with him when he gets home? Or give the minister a go?"
Ioana sighed and heaved herself to her feet. "I suppose. I don't want to get Mum involved again. Hey, you getting in your booth again?"
"Nah. Gotta sail the wave…"
"Pasifika, Pasifika," Janelle sang, finishing their granddad's all-pervasive jingle. "Yeah, maybe he should let you sail a real wave."
Ioana shrugged, so Janelle took a few deep breaths to get her brain into connection state and flickered into her digital island.
From the Pasifika Wave User Manual, version 5.1.6, 2081/10/10, Chapter 4: Immersion.
Pasifika Wave is an experience that you access every day, whether it's at the entrance to your building or when you shop. Full interactivity requires a different kind of interface: between a booth and your own mind. Despite the name, a booth can be as small as a newborn baby and is highly portable. Access is simple, but a fully immersive experience can only occur when your mind is relaxed and producing alpha waves. This can be difficult at first, but with only a few minutes' practice a day, you will soon be enjoying the full Pasifika Wave experience.
The first thing Janelle always did was cover the cowrie logo on the brain tower. It was easy to do – and it was so omnipresent that most people didn't notice it in their own islands anymore, like a Coke ad – but she could remember when her uncle first drew it. She couldn't help it being displayed everywhere, but it took up so much room in her body life that she didn't want it in her wave life. Most of the planet lived in tiny apartments barely big enough for a mattress and got their fill of freedom and escape in the Wave: Janelle didn't see why her free space should be any different.
Fa'apapa was there, of course, though he'd died two years ago and he was Mum's dog anyway. Mum said it was creepy to have the dead walking around, and Janelle had to admit she felt the same about dead people. But she didn't see the harm in having Fa'apapa there: all he did was lie there like the big heavy loaf he was named for. He was just Janelle's memory of a dog, anyway – elders might think differently, but Janelle knew he was only her changing impressions, a comforting echo of a real animal. She'd brought her Nan there once, when she really missed her, but it wasn't the same at all: the real Nan was funny and mean and full of gossip, but Janelle's memory was a soggy imitation that didn't even smell right.
Janelle grew to the size of a building to look around and see who was visiting today. She preferred to keep her island open and on the map, letting the tentacles take care of the usual vandals and spammers. Two guys she didn't know were playing chess on a rooftop and waved to her politely – thanks for the space – but apart from a few TV watchers relaxing in their buildings or chatting with friends, there wasn't much going on. Unusual for this time of day – it was evening in +10, not to mention the Korea Dome in +9 – so China was still at school but there should be dozens of users chilling out in Janelle's city.
Oh, a periphery attack. Some idiot was all Godzillaed up, stomping and burning. The attack wasn't close enough to bother those already here, but anyone else wanting to visit would steer away until the city's defences had dealt with the chaos. Most of the tentacles were in their regular places, waving placidly, but the ones near today's Godzilla were in full defence mode, fronds grabbing at it while choppers sprayed suppressant on that sector. It was the highly active defence programs and the massive mapping system behind them that made Janelle one of the lucky ones, someone who had the money or connections to have their own place. It wasn't hard to set up a virtual existence, to escape from the limited privacy offered by a planet divided between 15 billion humans and giant ag platforms. The problem was keeping it. Nothing undefended lasted long.
From the Pasifika Wave User Manual, version 5.1.6, 2081/10/10, Chapter 8: Your Virtual World.
Pasifika Wave does not recommend that users create their own digital islands, whether public or private. While security is our foremost concern, the constant attacks on all digital space means that tremendous resources are required to maintain stability. Corporate and governmental islands are the most able to provide the appropriate level of security for your safe and enjoyable Pasifika Wave experience. We strongly recommend that you visit only digital zones that are verified secure with the Pasifika cowrie logo. (Further security information may be obtained in Chapter 11: Public Access.)
Pasifika wasn't the only corporate nation that provided wave security, but it was the fastest and most flexible and run from every continent, where the Islanders had travelled when their homelands drowned. Janelle had never seen the barren rocks of Samoa, the home of three of her grandparents; nor the Maldives, the home of the fourth. Most kids Janelle's age were in the same position, unless they'd been on a heritage trip. They all met up in their islands and cities – Janelle had built this one from vague, fond memories of visiting her cousins in Brooklyn, East America – and chilled, stretching out their digital bodies in place of their constricted flesh. Reaching connection state was good for that in itself. Anger, agitation, unexpected pain or panic would throw a user right out, which was why Janelle could rely on Ioana to pull her out in an instant with a hard pinch. Plenty of people, including Janelle, still managed to have sex here, though, with negotiation and care.
She was hoping to meet up with Peng or Serena today, friends in +10 and +11, for that very purpose, but there was no way they were going to bother showing up until that Godzilla attack was over. Janelle messaged both of them, delighting in how much simpler it was to do anything at all with her mind completely immersed in the currents of the digital world. She wished her school worked this way, as some companies did, virtualised and instantaneous, but her school only used the Pasifika connections for delivering texts and for biometric verification on exams. So antiquated.
Stepping up into her favourite plastic cherry tree on a rooftop, Janelle decided to hang out and read something, since time moved differently here. That had never convinced her mum to let her study here, but then, her mum never used the Wave. Janelle couldn't really blame Mum for avoiding Granddad's creation, considering how he was always cracking the shits at her, constantly insulting her half-Divehi heritage, her appearance, her food, and everything else about her whenever she dared speak up to him. Dad handled him better, through long practice. Janelle was pretty sure it was all about Granddad thinking he knew best on everything rather than actual dislike of Mum, since he'd employed her as a programmer for over 20 years and always supported her at work – but not over anything to do with the family. She'd seen photos of Grandad when he was young, handsome and broad-bodied, but even so Janelle thought he must have been born a mean old man.
Two user shadows skittered in front of her and Janelle tried to grab them, extending her arm twenty metres or so and scooping with her hand. The users unwilling to relax into the virtual world usually showed up looking that way, their external access shown by their two-dimensional, plain black avatars. They couldn't do any real damage – their interface was far too slow – but they could graffiti and leave messages, which always annoyed Janelle. They were the only type of person who'd show up during an attack because they knew the defences were busy. The user shadows neatly dodged Janelle's hand and ran down the vertical face of a pale pink building. One was immediately wrapped and squished by a tentacle; the other made it to a billboard on a lower building. Words unravelled across the screen, replacing the picture of Janelle's uncle with three words:
TASI HAPPY CONSPIRACY
The shadow vanished back wherever it came from, and Janelle floated down to look at the words. She had no idea why someone would be scrawling her surname here – it wasn't advertising and she couldn't think of what it might mean politically – and it was pissing her off that someone was running around sending Godzilla attacks and defacing her place with their stupid slogan. She wiped it away with a sweep of her hand, though it actually took several sweeps, as it was programmed to be sticky. She doubted any of her friends were going to show up now, and oh, there was Ioana's signal.
Sydney Morning Herald, 2078/11/10, +10, unit 71, Opinion
The virtual world is a constant battle between the spammers and the terrorists and the nationalists, all trying to co-opt the last remaining free places in order to advertise, bully and coerce. Pasifika promotes itself as the solution, but Pasifika itself is a corporation, and an ethno-nationalist one at that.
Pasifika wraps its service in romanticism and history, claiming that its goal is to map the wild currents of the virtual world to allow safe sailing. Like the Samoan navigators of the past who mapped ocean, not land, Lafaele Tasi and his company map change and trends and currents, not events or intent. They portray this as benign, even helpful, providing information only, as if they are not shaping us by plotting the present and the future.
Next time you place your hand in a Pasifika Wave finance terminal, remember that you are giving them the information to know exactly which Jo'llywood star should holographically leap out at you spraying perfume; which of the remnant nations will try to appeal to your ethnic roots to protect their shaky borders through virtual campaigning; and most of all to the security and finance sectors who don't simply map your future but shape it. Pasifika is the invisible hand in all of this, and the fact that their cowrie shell is in your home doesn't mean that you control your own experience with them.
Janelle flicked into the solid world at the sharp pain on the soft skin inside her wrist.
"Ow, Ioana, what the fuck?"
The door swung open and Mum put her head around. "Tea's up, girls. Ioana, why aren't you changed yet? You're going to have to generate a new uniform now you crumpled that one."
"You're not going downstairs for school dressed in that!" Mum clicked the door shut, allowing no argument.
Ioana started taking off her uniform dress with an eyeroll at Janelle that Janelle could interpret perfectly: "Don't you 'what the fuck?' me, Janelle – you're the one who wanted me to wake you in time!"
Janelle swung down from the top bunk and stepped past Ioana. "Thanks."
"Yeah, no worries. Come with me when I ask Dad about my trip?"
Ioana pressed the button for the table to rise out of the floor, and Janelle grabbed the bowls and took them to the kitchen. They were having curry tonight – Indian curry, not kale – with fish-style protein and it smelled great. Mum ladled it from the pot and Janelle passed it back to Ioana, since there was only room for one person in the kitchen area.
"Not much for me, I'm not hungry," Ioana called, but Mum gave her the same sized share anyway.
"I won't have my daughter getting picky with her food, Ioana."
"I'm not picky, I'm just not hungry," she whined, to no avail. Honestly, Janelle agreed with their mum: Ioana had the perfect figure, the "3 Bigs", and while she did get a certain amount of harassment for it, the combination of very tall, fat and muscular made her look like a runway model. Janelle might style her hair as big as she could, but she'd inherited too much Divehi and couldn't match her sister's stunning size. It always annoyed Janelle when Ioana complained about being bullied because of it, or talked about losing weight or cropping her hair, and she was pretty sure Ioana knew that and complained on purpose.
They sat down together on their cushions, said grace, and ate. The curry had fresh green onion, which was a treat, and for all Ioana's protests, she ate as much as the others.
"Girls, I know you're not supposed to be on the Wave, but if you are…" Mum cast a glance at Janelle, who tried not to look guilty. "If you are, be careful. There's some protesters kicking up at Pasifika at the moment and I don't want you getting caught in anything."
"They can't hurt us, Mum," Janelle explained. "The Wave doesn't work that way. If they're not relaxed they can't get in; they can only set up programs and user shadows."
"I may not work in that part of Pasifika, but you don't need to explain it to me, Janelle. And four years ago we didn't have user shadows," she muttered. "Much easier, then."
Janelle suddenly felt mean for talking back. "Oh, Mum, are they mucking you about at work?" She leaned over and rubbed her mum's tense shoulders. "You should go for full immersion – look how tense you are from sitting at that desk all day!"
Relaxing into the shoulder massage, Mum sighed. "I've told you before, Janelle, I can't work that way. I'm used to a keyboard input."
"Used to being cranky while you work, you mean," Ioana grinned, and there was no malice in it.
"You're bad daughters, both of you."
Ioana got up. "I'll clean up, yeah? Then are we in the good books?"
Mum waved a hand and relaxed a little. "All right, I forgive you."
From Position Paper #41885, 2070/07/16, South East Quadrant Governance Conference
The Austroasian Governance Council strongly supports the Minimum Guaranteed Living Space (MGLS) proposal put forward by the North African Corporate Board. The solving of the worldwide energy and materiel crises via fusion mini-generators and remote interplanetary mining, respectively, have led to the current situation where a population of 14 to 16 billion is, in fact, sustainable for at least another seventy years. The continuation of this confluence of events, however, depends on stable geopolitics, whether democratic or corporate. The North African Corporate Board's suggestion – a guaranteed four cubic metres of living area per person, and an increase to six cubic metres for those who undergo irreversible sterilisation – provides a sense of stability across the planet, while maintaining sufficient space for geobiological processes, manufacturing centres and agricultural platforms.
Furthermore, we propose standardised prices for the lease or purchase of extra personal living area throughout living zones across the planet. Past historical factors such as nationality, convenience, climate and employment access are no longer relevant and must be discarded as sentimental ties to a less developed past; the MGLS proposal will reduce pressure on older and larger buildings via universal pricing and reduction of the fear of housing failure by those in smaller dwellings. Leisure facilities, education, medical care etc. may be provided site by site without reference to past inequities. As restrictions on travel increase, Wave access must be a priority in areas with a large percentage of residents unable to purchase physical space beyond their MGS.
Janelle studied for a while after dinner, driven by her mum's confidence in her, until Ioana complained about wanting to go to bed. Janelle was thoroughly bored by then, and wanted a bit of time in her booth before she really needed to sleep, so climbed into her bunk and relaxed into the Wave.
Fa'apapa looked different, his tail long and striped in strange shades of lime and purple. His eyes were as docile as ever, though, and he lay happily on a building wagging his strange extended tail as if it was his usual lopsided plume. Janelle had no idea why her brain would produce that particular image of Mum's old pet, but maybe someone else's vision was influencing the projection. It was a public place, after all. There were a lot more people present now that the Godzilla had been destroyed, and Janelle went wandering to see who was about.
Peng and Serena weren't there, but several other users she knew were, clustered around the plastic cherry tree. The tree was covered in prayer tags, white paper flapping from every branch, and they all had the same message: TASI HAPPY CONSPIRACY. A few helpful users had tried to remove the graffiti, but tags had stuck to their hands. They had to hold their hands over the edge of the building where the tentacles would be alerted and clean the tags away.
"'Scuse me, I'm an admin," Janelle muttered, reaching over their heads – there were a few with more than one head, but radical skins were getting really old, these days – and picked up the entire tree, throwing it down for the squishy fronds to grab. They'd analyse it as they squashed it, and with any luck, that would be the end of the user shadows and their annoying graffiti, across every Wave.
A small man with red-framed glasses was already spinning out a beautiful pine tree to fill the gap, recreating either an image he'd once seen or his own art: it was hard to tell. Either way, in Janelle's island he could only act by her rules, which might be deliberately broad but had a clear distinction between art and graffiti.
"Can't go without greenery," he called over to her, and she smiled.
"Thanks! Sorry the graffiti was here so long."
"Don't worry about it," another person replied, while ze added a few gilded pinecones to the tree. "It's everywhere – I was pleased your space integrated it so well!"
"At least it's not porn ads this time." Janelle remembered the outbreak of last year all too well, and so did the others, by their shudders. "Let me check out what the tentacles analysed and maybe the information will be useful everywhere else."
"Maybe you can solve this 'happy conspiracy' while you're there!" the man with the pine tree shouted and everyone laughed except Janelle. While she had to remain calm to stay on the Wave, she was starting to get quietly pissed off at the way this campaign against her family was intruding on her privacy. All their fights and arguments – mostly Granddad's doing, to be honest – belonged out there, not here. She stepped off the side of the building.
The tentacles reached out and caught her gently, sharing the information they'd gathered: patterns of attack, security weaknesses, the weird sticking power of their graffiti. There was nothing definitive to shut them out permanently, though.
"Here." A familiar voice spoke and Fa'apapa's strange stripey tail swung up to her, dropping a cowrie shell into her hand. It was patterned differently to the Pasifika logo, and Janelle let a tentacle pluck it from her hand and absorb the program before stepping away to face Mum.
"You never go on the Wave." Janelle had never considered that her mother could be here.
"Not for work, no. You never ask about the rest of my time. Daughters never do." Mum was wearing a bright floral puletasi that Janelle had never actually seen her wear, and her hair was styled in full, curled coils like Janelle's, rather than in its usual short waves.
"So you're checking up on me? Cos you said I shouldn't go here?" Their surroundings wavered slightly with Janelle's cranky outburst and she took a deep breath to maintain equilibrium, as she'd practised so many times before.
Mum smiled and Fa'apapa dropped several more cowries into the gentle grasp of the tentacles. "No, I'm not here for you. I'm following those user shadows. I'm sick of them causing trouble with their stupid conspiracy theories."
"So there's no Tasi happy conspiracy?"
"Oh, there is, absolutely! That's why we built the Wave booth interaction with alpha waves: if users are angry or malicious, they can't connect. We could have built it with any kind of mental switch, really, but alpha wave production is easy to learn and keeps everyone mellow."
"Mum! You want to make everyone on the Wave doped up?" Janelle was genuinely shocked, and not only from seeing her mum here.
"The programmers behind the user shadows, they think the only way forward is to knock everything down, but they're too young to remember the land wars when the islands drowned. Co-operation is the only world I want for you."
"They don't want people to work together? Who are they, Half Population activists?"
"Some of them. Sometimes I think…your generation has grown up trying to be isolated, getting away from everyone else. There's so many human beings, but I will never say we should let some die."
"All your great-grandparents, and my father, were left to die on Samoa and the Maldives, because they were over 60. That's how all the drowning countries reduced our numbers and persuaded the rest to take us in. The elders sacrificed for the children, and we kept that quiet because the other countries were angry and we were afraid. We couldn't win a war."
Janelle threw her arms around her mother, white flowers blooming along the coils of their identical hair. "I'm sorry, Mum! They made you all be silent, didn't they?"
"A few young people go to Samoa every year. We tell them."
Janelle poked at the ground with her toe. "The population's even bigger now anyway – they could have shared. A few thousand more wouldn't have mattered."
"If the migration was now? They'd have to. There's too many people for mass travel these days, so they have to negotiate over the Wave. Anger can't come here and neither can fear. Here it's negotiation and trust. That's the conspiracy." She laughed. "It's right there in the name: Pacific. And, Janelle, your space here is beautiful."
Janelle thought about the way Granddad yelled at Mum, and how soft his voice would have to be in here. "This is how you make us all able to live together?"
"Yes. This is our island."
ABC Broadcasting, 2063/08/27, +10, unit 12
Funafuti, Tuvalu – The first of the 200,000 Pacific Island refugees accepted by Australia today began boarding ships to take them to their new home. Whether on economic, humanitarian or environmental grounds, seven separate governments have co-operated to resettle these victims of climate change. Protests are planned for their arrival in Sydney Harbour and Darwin.
"We've taken enough of them already," said one masked protest leader, who would not give her name.
Previous protests have drawn far lower numbers than predicted since the June release of images documenting atrocities in the Bangadesh-Burma war zone. Protest organisers are undaunted and claim that the arrival of refugees will galvanise support.
"I'm worried, but we can't stay," said Marianne Laafai, 38, as she carried her permitted 12kg of belongings aboard. "My children can't remember the days before rationing and salt harvests. I'm so glad the governments came to a deal."
Aotearoa, Australia, Canada, Kalaallit Nunaat, Mongolia, Namibtswana, and West America have each accepted a quota of refugees based on available unoccupied land and previous cultural connections. Other low-lying islands, such as the Maldives and Bahamas, have made similar arrangements with these countries and certain low-density nations such as Russia and Mauritania. Some commentators have called this the great migration of this century; others call it simply a tragedy.
Janelle dropped back into her body with a gasp.
"What?" Ioana muttered sleepily.
"Nothing, just…you should go on that heritage trip. Everyone who's been to the islands was really changed by it."
"Grandad won't let me, you know that."
"Fuck him. He's not the law."
Ioana laughed in delight. "Ha! You sounding like me now or what? Nah, we'll talk to Dad next week."
Janelle hung over the edge of the bunk. "He gets to travel all the time with his dance group. He'll understand why you want to get a travel permit, too."
"Preserving culture's about the only reason they give them out these days! Lucky he went for Samoan dance. Hey, maybe you should try travelling? You can dance, Dad would take you if you ever fucken practised."
"Yeah, no, I travel enough on the Wave. I don't want to go sailing round the ag platforms in some crazy old-fashioned 'alia. I feel seasick even thinking about it."
"Sweet dreams!" Ioana cackled and lay down to sleep.
Janelle sighed and reached up to reset her Wave booth for tomorrow, then thought again. Instead, she relaxed her mind again, easily slipping into the mindset that Mum wanted for everyone, and returned to her digital island.
Fa'apapa still had the striped tail, which made Janelle glance around for any sign of her mum. Seeing none – visually or with Wave security – she ran over to the tentacles and let them wrap through her hair, recognising her. It was strange to be calm and happy here, knowing that it was something planned for her.
A cowrie shell dropped into her hand, a copy of the one that her mum had introduced to the system, and she read the code in it. It was simple and direct, attacking the sticky portion of the user shadows' message so that their words would be erased before they were applied. The shell also contained what Janelle was seeking: her mother's personal managerial code that allowed overrides throughout the entire Pasifika system. If she hadn't seen Mum put it here, and if it wasn't Janelle's own island, she'd never have been able to find it. Even so, Janelle wouldn't be able to copy or significantly change anything – it was locked to the personal code – but instead of shutting down the conspiracy message, she would replace one 21-character message with another.
FIND THE BODIES SAMOA
She dropped the cowrie back into the tentacles, letting it spread its message across the Pasifika Wave system. Janelle was a navigator, and navigators mapped their own future from their own past; truth was only possible when the data was correct and complete. It was time to sail this wave.