Warning: This poem contains controversial topics that many readers may find disturbing. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features suicide, cyberbullying, failed therapy, an internet troll, revenge by ostracizing someone from electronics, and other mayhem. If there are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding if this is something you want to read.
"Big Brother and the Cyberbully"
Capricorn was on BlackSheep
when word hit the shadow bands
that Minkie had killed herself.
Everyone knew that she had
problems. (This was BlackSheep.
Who didn't have problems?) At school
her classmates teased her about being
both smart and pretty, and online she
made a tempting target for trolls.
She was in therapy, though, and
talking about college or trade school --
she loved STEMZ, so Capricorn had been
quietly looking into possible scholarships.
Minkie had been doing everything
right. It just wasn't enough.
Capricorn rubbed his hands
over his face. No matter how
he tried, he couldn't save them all.
He was rather good at revenge, though.
It didn't take long to trace Minkie's account
on BlackSheep back to Evah's, then
hack into the records to see what
people had been saying to her.
Capricorn read the fatal post
written by someone who used
the unfortunate name Goateater.
Ur such know-it-all, nobody
would ever want to fuck u.
why don't u just kill yrself
and get it over with?
Despite pretensions of
competence, Goateater wasn't
as good a hacker as he thought, and
it took very little effort to find him.
The man lived in the basement
under his parents' house, rarely
emerging into the light of day.
It would be easy to kill him;
nobody would notice for a while.
Capricorn wasn't in that forgiving a mood.
He called up the core file that held
modules of code for what he called
ElectrocuShun, and then began
customizing it for Goateater.
He plugged in all the usernames
(some of them even worse, how was
that even possible?) and the legal name
(Mortimer Smee, what were his parents
thinking?) and the home address (basement)
and the fingerprints from that cyberstalking case
(his kung fu was not strong).
Capricorn taught the program two things:
how to recognize Goateater, and
how to turn things off.
He sent the cyberbully two things:
a cartoon of a goat butting a troll
off a bridge, and a text message.
You picked on the wrong girl.
-- Big Brother
as he watched through
the computer camera while
the man opened the message.
And that was the last time
worked for Goateater,
aka Mortimer Smee.
His desktop shut itself down,
wiping the hard drive.
His smartphone was bricked.
So was his vidwatch.
None of his music players,
movie players, video games,
or other entertainment worked.
He couldn't turn on the microwave,
although it worked fine for his mother.
He had programmed the houseware
well enough for it to tell the difference.
His parents' car wouldn't start
if he was in it, only if he got out.
Trying to borrow a library computer
made it lock up until after he left.
He couldn't use a self-checkout lane.
Or interactive vending machines.
Or the e-Bus touchscreen.
Or even an ATM.
If he wanted to go anywhere,
he pretty much had to walk,
and if he wanted to do anything,
it had to be dumb stuff.
Everything connected to
a computer system turned off
as soon as it recognized him.
Other people could still
save things about him, though.
His criminal record, for instance,
remained perfectly intact.
Goateater hadn't been killed.
He was just dead to the internet.
If he wanted to hurt anyone else,
he'd have to do it in person, and
observations indicated he was
too much of a coward for that.
Capricorn leaned back in his chair
with a smile of grim satisfaction.
"Rest in peace, Minkie," he said.
* * *
Minkie (Evah James) -- She had fair skin, gray eyes, and long straight red hair. Always interested in STEMZ, Evah found her way onto BlackSheep, where she posted as Minkie and talked about wanting to go to college or a tech school. But her peers at school teased her about being both smart and pretty, while internet trolls found her a tasty target. She was in therapy and doing everything right. The constant harrassment wore her down, though, and she wound up killing herself.
Qualities: Good (+2) Pretty, Good (+2) Smart, Good (+2) STEMZ
Poor (-2) Suicidal Tendencies
Goateater (Mortimer Smee) -- He has fair skin with copious body hair, brown eyes, and curly brown hair past his shoulders. He wears glasses and is quite fat. Mortimer lives in the basement below his parents' house and rarely leaves. He has no real job, but does make some spending money with online scams and gaming. His main occupation, however, is internet troll. He is frustrated by how few people get the joke of his username, Goateater, and instead misconstrue it for sexual perversion. He's actually heterosexual and vanilla, even though he rarely gets laid.
Qualities: Good (+2) Hacker, Good (+2) Indulgent Parents, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Stirring Up a Crowd
Poor (-2) Basement Bum
* * *
(These links are harsh.)
Suicide is increasingly linked to cyberbullying, and has become a public health concern. There are tips on how to stop cyberbullying. Understand how to cope with suicidal thoughts. Dealing with a suicidal friend is difficult, because there are limits to what you can do, especially if the person doesn't want help. Sometimes people do all the right things and die anyway. Read about dealing with suicide loss.
(So are these.)
An internet troll is someone who stirs trouble for fun or profit. Various countries including Russia and America have hired trolls for nefarious purposes. And there is this waste of carbon, who demonstrates that Mortimer Smee is not, alas, an implausible exaggeration.
"Three Billy Goats Gruff" customarily includes a reference to the troll wanting to eat the goats. This fairytale appears in different variations across many cultures.
"His kung fu was not strong" has been used in reference to hacking as well as the original martial arts.
Bricked means that an electronic device ceases to function as such and becomes inert.
Interactive vending machines are just starting to appear in local-America. In Terramagne-America, they are widespread. They're perky things that will chat with you about available food options, your health and any special dietary needs, the latest news about food, and so on. Many of them will play educational games with you, often offering prizes if you score well. So Mortimer just lost a whole swath of "friends" there.
Touchscreen bus stops are another innovation here that is common in T-America. Not all towns or routes have them, but many do, especially in high-traffic areas. Aside from being convenient for travelers, such systems can also alert bus companies to surges in demand, alerting them to roll out more buses. In theory, Mortimer could hop on a bus that wasn't linked to any outside electronic system, but in practice, he can't easily tell which things are connected and which aren't. So much has quit working, it leaves him feeling that nothing works.
A killswitch in a car can remotely disable it. This is a matter of fierce debate, because many people -- police, the government, lenders, car dealers, GPS companies -- love being able to take over vehicles; but consumers resent it. The plain fact is, if someone else can disable your device, then you don't really own it; you're just paying for the privilege of using it, which people in power can take away from you whenever they please. Many people don't wish to buy things under this deal. Also, shutting off cars in transit is downright dangerous to everyone, and even rendering them unable to start causes serious disruption not just to the person who may (or may not) have annoyed someone, but also their coworkers,spouse, children, and everyone else caught up in the mishap. It makes a small localized problem much bigger. Well, supervillains don't necessarily care about that.