Night Crawler

At the door, a security guard in orange overalls carefully cross-references each guest with names on his hand-held computer. etoy.MATT, the agent in charge of corporate identity, sits in front of a computer across from a very large monitor installed on the sterile gray floor. Because only shareholders are permitted in the etoy.TANK, etoy.MATT has been instructed to offer me a package of microshares from etoy's shadow corporation -- the sinister-sounding Trust and Submit Limited.

My personal stats are entered into the system and stored. I am issued an etoy.SHAREHOLDERS-CARD and an etoy.SURVIVAL-PACKAGE, which contains aspirin and a paper clip (to escape handcuffs).

On the roof of etoy.TANK14, it's standard Fourth of July fare -- barbecued meat, fish, chips, dip, and several baskets of strawberries -- overlooking the charred remains of a burned-out tire store. etoy.HANS, agent in charge of promotion, offers each shareholder a choice of Budweiser, Pepsi, Nestle's Quik, or Slim-Fast. etoy.CARL, agent in charge of soundcoding, manages the small barbecues.

As night falls, etoy.MARK prepares a precise itinerary, which he sends to the other agents. Clearance procedure is initiated. etoy.TANK14 is disinfected and the agents prepare to leave with "blasthaus.WILLY" -- as Will Linn, director of blasthaus, is called among the etoy -- and me in tow. I have been inducted.

Site 1: Waterfront fireworks. Parking along the Embarcadero is not a problem: Three agents are deployed to relocate motorcycles.

Site 2: A rooftop party in North Beach. After a long trek, the agents arrive at the home of a possible shareholder. etoy.Mark secures the premises. The agents zip up their standard-issue orange flight jackets and adjust their glasses. etoy.AGENTS enter as one unit and begin distributing glossy etoy.BUSINESSPLANS. Some partygoers are enamored: "Are they a performance corporation?" asks a clever girl. "What are they selling?" Other folks, though, are not so impressed: "They look like Nazis," says one man. "Switzerland wasn't really neutral during World War II, you know."

Site 3: Steps of Rome, a windowed cafe on Columbus. etoy.AGENTS enjoy espressos and chocolate cake. A cheerful Italian man behind the counter notices their uniforms and asks if they are a security service. He likes their style.

Site 4: The Paladium. After being thoroughly searched, etoy invade the dance floor. While partaking in shots of bourbon, etoy are surrounded by uniformed security guards who demand wristbands that would clash with etoy.STYLE.

Site 5: Club Cocodrie. etoy are not impressed.
Site 6: A boat party somewhere in Sausalito. The boat is paid for by virtual reality money, or so the rumor goes -- a million dollars' worth of hardware in some back room. etoy are intrigued. Sadly, a corporate crisis between etoy.CARL and etoy.MATT causes the etoy to isolate themselves from the party. A hippie offers me a Vienna sausage-sized roach. Upon leaving, I ask how the etoy enjoyed Independence Day in America. The answer: There is no independence, only corporate identity.

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By Silke Tudor

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