The world of Bluescreen is full of variety: rich and poor, old and young, honest and criminal, cybernetic and aggressively technophobic. Today’s preview is wildly different from the others we’ve met, and a bundle of contradictions all on his own: say hello to Bao Behar.
That awesome image is, once again, from the artistic wizardry of Santo Ibarra.
Bao met Marisa several years ago, when they wound up in detention together at school; Marisa had been caught trying to hack the school computer, and Bao had been caught straight up stealing from the front office. They realized that they each had a skillset the other lacked, and from that initial rule-breaking team-up they forged a strong friendship that has become, if Marisa’s being honest, maybe even a little stronger than her friendship with Sahara. Despite their closeness, though, his life is significantly darker than hers, and in many ways he lives in a world completely different than hers. Marisa’s family, after all, has the restaurant, and with it a more or less steady middle class income. Bao’s family has nothing, and lives on the meager scraps he’s able to steal in his double life as a digital pickpocket.
Bao was born in the bustling city of Novosibirsk, where his Chinese mother had married his wealthy Russian father. Mr. Behar was not a very good man, however, and when Bao was barely three years old he and his mother found themselves out on the street, forced to survive as best they could. Bao learned how to break in to back doors and windows, how to lie and steal and misdirect, and how to stay invisible in a world of constant surveillance. After several years of scrimping and saving he and his mother were able to flee to LA, where she met and married a loving Chinese man with two twin girls of his own–Jin and Jun, just a few years younger than Bao. Life was good for a year at most, when suddenly Bao’s new stepfather was injured in a factory accident, losing not only his health but his job as well. Once again Bao was forced back into his old schemes, stealing food and money where he could, but LA was a very different place, and his methods had to adapt: virtually nobody in LA uses cash anymore, or even physical credit cards, so picking pockets was not option. Instead, Bao’s come up with a way to hang out in public, high-traffic areas and skim micropayments from tourists; you use your djinni to buy a hot dog or a magazine or anything else in his vicinity, and a couple of extra cents will find their way into one of his many fake accounts. It’s hard, and slow, and dangerous, but in a city where nulis have already taken most of the jobs, it’s all he can do to keep his family going.
One of the things that’s makes Bao such an excellent thief and infiltrator is that he doesn’t have a djinni–and not just because of the cost. Almost everyone in the city has a djinni, from the rich to the homeless, because they’re simply so easy to obtain and install. Bao is different. Bao doesn’t have a djinni because he doesn’t want one, and that makes him one of the strangest people in LA.
A djinni is not just a computer or a phone, it’s also your wallet and your keys and your ID. When you go to a store it reads your djinni, figures out who you are, and offers you deals and helps you pay. When you go to school it reads your djinni, checks your schedule, makes sure you’re always in the right place, and forwards and manages your homework for you. Public transportation reads djinni IDs to know when to stop and who’s getting on; your own home reads djinni IDs to unlock and open your door for you, and if your djinni isn’t working you might be locked out until a technician arrives. Djinni’s make the world function, and trying to get by without one makes virtually everything in that world harder. But…if you can somehow manage to get by, having no djinni is the greatest thing a thief could ever ask for. The world treats you like a ghost, but sometimes you want to be a ghost. If a building doesn’t recognize you as a person, you’re free to move through it with impunity; if a security system is designed to make sure the wrong djinnis stay out of the wrong places, having no djinni at all is like a free pass. Sure, a human security guard watching the door could stop a djinni-less person with no problem, but if everyone has a djinni anyway why bother with a guard? Bao uses this loophole to come and go as he pleases, and when Marisa’s hacks require a personal touch he’s always there to help.
Bao is a bundle of contradictions: a hi-tech luddite, a digital pickpocket, and a living ghost. He has a horrible past but a cheerful demeanor. And he never trusts anybody…but he trusts Marisa with his life.
Tune in next week for another member of the Cherry Dogs: the greatest assassin Overworld has ever seen, Wong Fang.