By Tim Pratt
“Ubiquitous surveillance isn’t the problem. Asymmetrical ubiquitous surveillance is the problem.” The Liberator was playing Chinese checkers against himself and talking, talking, talking, like always. “Who watches the watchmen, after all?”
We were superheroes then. Celebrities, back when there were such things. It was a slow night at orbital headquarters, and Eye-Oh was
sitting at the big screen, watching a couple of people fuck — consensually, or we would have done something about it — in an
alleyway. The screen was green with night-vision enhancements, and Eye-Oh’s strange complicated face was perfectly placid and empty as he observed.
“The problem is that we can watch ordinary people, and they can’t watch us,” the Liberator went on. He looked at me longingly, searchingly, and I thought it might be nice to tweak the inside of his brain and get rid of his earnestness, give him a little taste of what infamous brain-damage victim Phineas Gage got when that iron bar slammed through his frontal lobe, a total personality turnaround, from nice guy to sociopath. Let the Liberator be selfish and impulsive and violent and mercurial for a while, so he could appreciate the way normal avaricious sneaky hungry desperate needy people felt.
But that was supervillain thinking, and I’d gone straight and narrow. In those days I cured neurological damage instead of inflicting it. I fixed people. (Except bad people. Those, I was sometimes still allowed to play with with.) I’d refused to give up my supervillain name though. The Liberator had wanted to call me “Dr. Neuro” when I joined his little boys’ club, but I’d insisted on keeping my maiden name, as it were. Doctor. Please. I was a high-school dropout.
“Do you see?” the Liberator said. “If ordinary people could see us, if everyone could see everyone else, it wouldn’t matter if there were no privacy.”