The agent – Chapter 1

2027 marks the high point in a golden age of art made possible by a boom in smuggling that began in the late 2010s. Digital had made people’s lives more convenient, but most were not aware of the need to protect their files from being used by those who made a living out of selling ideas for films, books, and music. These opportunists had little worry of being caught; their customers had direct access to the biggest studios and publishers, who remained anonymous in setting up Web pages and payment systems.
In any industry, there are centers of power, according to where trade takes place. One such center was airports, the nature of which the public largely ignored. If they had known better, those who took flights would not keep on hand their works of art in digital form. Only a tiny fraction of these could ever be sold, but what was stolen was enough to keep the cash flowing.
The film ‘Don’t call Mister Bruce’ remains one of the biggest-selling movies of all time, grossing $156 billion in various merchandise, and it almost never came to be, being originally written under the Manzul regime, whose masses were disconnected from the rest of the world. It was only through The Great Run, which was technically a flight, that the story was made known to us.
To tell you more of what happened, and maybe some pertinent details of his life, is The Great Runner himself, Docaz. Now I can’t just drop in on him at any time of the day. Who knows what he’s doing, and how, and with whom? Furthermore, he probably wouldn’t be telling the story at any random time, so our best bet would be when he’s already talking about it, say, in an interview.

“Hey fuckers. You know who I am. You wouldn’t be listening otherwise,” began the host of the podcast. He’s actually alright. I’ll skip his advertisements and go ahead to his introduction of Docaz. “Our most requested guest of all time, and we didn’t think we’d get to book him until he said yes last night…”
“… And you’re the host everyone’s telling me to talk to about this stuff. So it was only a matter of time,” Docaz offered.
“Before The Great Run, you were already known in certain circles for your dealings at Aero Airport, where it was found that 64% of Great Vine Studios’ profits were attributed to your stealing from writers. That’s not a good place to come from.”
“No, and that’s what made the prospect of redemption so appealing. I had to do something big, heroic even.”
“And was there ever a temptation to credit the work to yourself?”
“To make the first-person account a figment of my imagination? I don’t think so. Not that people would believe it was mine, after the crap that I pulled. And the details were just so accurate, it would take some effort to tweak them into lies without ruining the premise. Actually, the main reason I submitted the work as it was, is it was just too good a story to tamper with. I never saw the world in the same way again.”
“And you alone know the identity of the writer.”
“It’s the only way to protect him. Or her. Once that information is out there, it could mean the author’s death, if he hasn’t been tracked already. Or she… I know I had a huge responsibility, with him seeking me out personally.”
“Or her…”
“Or her.”
“But before all this, you were just some low-ranked luggage inspector.”
“The lowest of the low. Even passengers didn’t fear me. When I’d ask them to step aside, some would refuse, and many would make their displeasure known.”
“And your racket was in a sense payback?”
“I never thought of it like that. I just wanted to have a good thing going.”

When I started out, nobody else knew what I was up to. I’d hook up my additional scanners without anyone knowing, making sure I removed them each time my shift was over. It was only later, with the coordination of other employees, including some pretty high officials, that the equipment became more sophisticated.
I remember the first time I was approached about it. I thought for sure I was going to be fired, if not imprisoned.
“Is that all?” Captain Brinks asked, as I let through a bag containing what would become the novel ‘Vader, Salt, and Fuss.’
“All clear, Sir.”
“I could’ve sworn…”
“Sworn what, Sir?”
“Quit the Sir crap. You know this Pillows guy has at least two unpublished manuscripts in his laptop. And according to this,” he showed me his device, “we’ve got a hit on our hands.”
That was new to me. Sure I could detect when a text was unpublished, but I had to scour through the documents I found to determine quality. Brinks had robots that could judge in seconds, based on the correspondence of wordings to patterns of previous works, if something was valuable.
“You’re better at this than I am,” I said, feeling a little more stable knowing that Brinks was complicit.
After that, profits multiplied, enough to justify the shared accountability, in case somebody slipped.

What is The Great Run? And who names their kids Docaz? No guaranteed answers, but check out ‘Man of the East and other stories’ on Amazon Kindle to continue with our hero’s just-begun tale. Or ask me for a copy nicely.

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