This was a meeting, trading and transitioning place. Like Anchorage airport on a busy day but not confined to aeroplanes, their goods and passengers. The location was out in the Far East and somewhere in the Far North. It was an Internet destination, sometimes short-lived. It had at one time been very busy for “the electronic traveller”, that is to say those people who travelled with and defined their progress using one or more electronic sensors. These started with cell phones of course, but the bots that could be installed on them had many characteristics. Some were social media, often used as a narrow means of identification. Facebook and Google+ speak for themselves. Also there were what I will call the image intensive “sub apps” like Singular and Pinterest. But many players also ran a lot of custom apps
New breeds of bot and types of sensor continued to appear as the cyberwars got hotter and more vicious. RFC-capable devices and applications like payments were increasingly popular, becoming more personal and innovative. The main identification keys were derived from your passport and extensions to it. Your professional associations were also important. “Are you an engineer, and if so what kind?”. Your language, dialect, and so on became features of your appearance. You might search and look to associate with all native persons from Kobe, Japan but not necessarily Tokyo or even or Japan in general. Your mode of travel might be single or in a group. How large was your group? Did this indicate your need to travel using a private rather than a commercial carrier? The private traveller is usually seen only fleetingly and in passing, whereas group members often have to rendezvous and wait around.
In extreme times whole city areas providing shelter and support for travellers could be filled or empty very quickly. Also, people could actually die if they were waiting at a remote location for transport that never arrived. The waiting areas could also be blocked at will by the authorities. They could also be turned into kill zones.
One afternoon all East-West identification sharing just stopped working. Situations like this were quite common but rarely for the same reasons. This one was at least partly due to problems between DPRK and the West. It was expected to be resolved quickly but the timing was uncertain. It could take a while, leaving some people without recognition entirely and consequently unable to travel or buy temporary food and accommodation. What was usually a whole city block full of waiting areas was completely available, and people were reduced to walking across the tundra without contact with others at all.
On a simulator, the tundra looked just like that. Frozen fields of empty snow with a few black dots moving across it. Then, as service started to come back, different types of of ID start to be recognized. Slowly for individuals and then suddenly for groups. One minute you could find yourself on your own walking across the tundra, perhaps dealing with threats from hostile border agents. Then, all of a sudden you would be sitting in a waiting room full of people in the process of being discovered. Members were still being associated with their groups and interests but no conversations were up. Then, before very long people you didn’t know would start saying hi to you and and even be wanting to make deals with you.
Earlier on there that day there had been just one waiting area open. This was unusual. People were holding up their credentials to one another. There might be different reactions. Someone else’s handset might flash red to indicate that it was blocked, or it might flash green to indicate a successful pairing. But there could be danger too, and agents might start to follow you. People you did not know. On an earlier occasion I had to try to disappear more than once to shake such a pursuit. “Today I am a spy”, I thought.
This time the outage was short-lived and things opened up quickly. All the old halls came back within half an hour, with multiple levels, services and signage. Even the food court opened quickly. But it was confusing. All of a sudden “Mr.Itoh” was waving at me from the entrance to a restaurant three floors up. It turned out he was interested in someone else who was standing behind me. Too bad because I was getting hungry myself. And then there was Ms.Shih.