There are two interconnected facts about data storage and data transmission.
First: data storage is always getting cheaper, smaller and growing in capacity.
Second: it will always be faster to physically move a modern high-capacity storage device than transmit that data over the same distance.
This is can affected by the geographic and developmental context of an area, of course. For example, sending a jump drive by carrier pigeon wouldn’t cut it in Western Europe, but it would in Central Africa. In Europe, you would be sending a solid-state hard drive down the Autobahn. In both cases, the physical data would arrive faster than the local data transmission frame-work, be it wireless or wired, would allow.
If you think about it, this is one of those “water is wet” sort of observations about technology. So why am I talking about it?
Because I’m going to build a short story off of it, and it is going to work like this:
It is the near, but not too near, future. Over the past half century, urban centers metastasized into blights of concrete, steel and pollution. This was unsustainable. We were unsustainable. So the cities evolved, changed by government order and corporate policy into self-sustaining hives of clean power and reclaimed waste. The environment apocalypse stalled out and a new world was born.
It is a new world where human kind is stacked on top of itself, where your every moved is monitored by the unblinking eye of the closed-circuit security camera, and where every bit and byte of your personal data is sold to the highest bidder. Privacy and personal data are a thing of the past, the new de facto contraband.
It is a world into which a pair of enterprising young twins have carved out their niche as the best data couriers money can buy.
Their rules are simple.
They’ll come to you. You’ll have two packages for them, wrapped in matching opaque static-free bags. The packages can weigh no more than 10 kilos each and must be able to fit in a small backpack. One of those packages will be the real item, the other will be a dummy. You will not tell the couriers which is which, and the couriers must not be able to tell them apart.
If any of these rules are broken, the couriers walk away, and all deposits are non-refundable. If the rules are adhered to, each courier will take a parcel and the job is on.
The woman, Zero, always goes high. The man, One, always goes low. They stay within eyeshot of each other, leapfrogging from point to point. They know how to avoid the CCTV cameras and the biometric ID scans and the random search sweeps. They move through the holes in the security net like water, tracing a fluid path through the rigid lines of the city, always moving toward their destination.
They’ve never lost a package. They’ve never opened a package. They’ve never asked about the contents a package. They know that not knowing is what makes them the best in the business.
The name of their little operation?