Tuesday, 28 May 2013

SILHOUETTES - Twenty-fifth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Twenty-fifth instalment - Chapter forty-three (b). For more information on this novel, click Here.

'Congratulations, Dave,' said Jon Evans, and held out a hand for shaking.

They drove straight to a small airfield on the edge of the city, a twin prop Cessna was waiting to take off. An hour and forty minutes later they were landing at the small strip attached to his barracks. Nothing of the exercise had been spoken yet, apart from that first word of congratulations.

After being given time for a shower and a meal, he made his way at two pm to the debriefing rooms. Placed in front of a computer he was given two hours to type up his report. He glossed over the part of the amount of money he had taken from the van. If he lied outright, he may get into more trouble than if they knew he had set up a safety deposit box, and had a stash of $180,000 there.

Exactly after the two hours he was taken to another larger debriefing room, he had never been in before. It was more like an operations centre. Eleven other Agents were in the room already.

Jon Evans entered and began by congratulating them all again for doing so well on the recent exercise. Dave had thought he had been the only one, how naive. Evans spoke about how proud the Agency was of such talented recruits, then he pulled down a screen, dimmed the lights, and played a video.

On the screen, the start of the film gave a run down on the CIA Global Network Database, how every computer was accessible, and instantly data could be added, edited, analysed, expanded. How most anyone in the planet, if they even knew of the existence of the Network, would be somewhat surprised to discover exactly how much was known about them. Their everyday life, family, friends, associations, job, salary, pension, bank loans, in fact anything they ever got up to that involved modern technology in the activity, was recorded. Even a list of library books taken out on loan over a period of years could be printed off and analysed.

A short documentary began about a family of four, father, mother, and two teenage kids, a boy and a girl. Every time some form of transaction, or form filling, or some activity that was brought to the attention of any of the civil authorities was done, a running list of entries in a Network Database ran down the side of the screen. Within the period of ten minutes on the screen, the family had undertaken the sort of activities routinely done by any normal family anywhere in America, or for that matter, most anywhere in the civilised world. The list of entries in the Network Database grew longer and longer, the information became far too in-depth and abundant that just picking out a detail or two would become a nightmare activity for anyone charged with doing a background check on that particular family.

After the film, they were given a sheet of paper with a list of questions pertaining to some of the activities the family had undergone in the short film. They were all impossible to answer, though the questions were quite basic and the information asked for should have been clearly apparent. No one in the room answered any of the questions correctly.

They were then given another sheet of paper, with a list of much more in-depth and enquiring questions, far too probing for any of them to be answered by watching the short video clip.

Asked to turn on the computer monitors on their desks though, they all logged in to the Network Database containing the relevant information about the family of four, and with a few key search words, and utilising the information contained within the results, they could easily answer all of the questions from both the first paper, and the far more inquisitive queries in the second.

After the exercise, Jon Evans began another lecture about information in society. How it's collation, storage, and the way it can be manipulated, can detect more easily the kind of activities the Agency should be routinely aware of. Because of the complexity involved in analysing so much data though, all kinds of subversive activities were hidden from apparent view, and allowed to fester and spread and multiply, until events such as 9-11, to use an extreme example, came to fruition. The magic behind the Network Database was the sheer depth of human knowledge it held, the power of the computers and the algorithms of the search queries.

During a coffee break, Jon Evans approached him.

'What do you think, about the subject?' he asked.

'Interesting,' said Dave, 'the problem is access though.'

'Tell me more?'

'This kind of information gathering and collation is alright when you are in an office in front of a computer, and can readily access it and run key searches. When you're in the field though, living by your wits perhaps, technology is as much use as soggy matches when you need a fire.'

'Exactly,' grinned Jon, and walked away.

The quiet chat was a precursor to the next video and talk they were given. On retaking their seats, another film was played. This was a man, obviously an Agency man, being given an operation. A small computer chip was inserted in the side of his head, the chip no more than a few millimetres square, a wire ran from the chip to a circular plate that was buried under the scalp higher up on the side of the head, and two wires ran from the front of the chip and seemed to stop at skin level near the outside of each eye.

The commentary along with the film described how routine the operation was, how painless, and how it was easily reversible, if and when necessary. The entire operation took around two hours, and consisted of implanting a computer chip, two fibre optics, each with a three strand wire, and a pad which drew heat from the head that powered the chip and the array, as well as doubling as an antennae that would covertly access the closest and strongest Wi-Fi (wireless internet network) in any area of operation to allow real time up and downloading of any information required by the operator, i.e., the one who had been given this implant.

The next short film gave a demonstration of the implanted Agent going through a short learning period, then a trial of the actual chip in operation, the screen splitting to show how the information would look to the operator, a small HUD (Heads Up Display) appearing just in front of their eyes, invisible to anyone else in the vicinity. The operator learned a few finger gestures that would control the chip, and was also informed how easily the brain adapted so as to access and control the chip, with impulses of the brain along the network of nerves, adjacent to where the chip had been situated. This was the exact reason why this particular part of the head was chosen to position the chip in the first place.

Within a few days the implanted Agent was accessing the database and displaying in front of his eyes a wide range of information on a number of topics, they then began also to upload information, this was done by way of a section of memory space in the implanted chip storing visual images of what the Agent viewed before him. Once stored, these images, or data, if it was information gleamed from a directory or publication viewed by the Agent, could be accessed and uploaded to the database. As the memory space in the chip was severely limited at the moment, till further advances in technology rectified this, the chip was forever storing, uploading, deleting, storing, uploading, deleting, so there would always be recording space available. A record of the Agents activities was also available to anyone who could access the information on the database.

By the end of the series of films every Agent in the room knew the implications of being shown these Agency home movies. They were all either expected to volunteer for this procedure, or perhaps they may not even have a choice about the decision. Dave though, was engrossed, and hadn't the slightest reservation, he wanted a chip.

Before they finished up for the day, they were all given a USB containing a report they had to analyse, using the database access each of them had in their room. A homework exercise, write a summary on how accurate the report was and if there were any inconsistencies, list them.

Back in his room, Dave saw when he plugged in the USB, that he had the report of one of the other Agents who had undergone the same type of exercise he had been on the last three days. There was no doubt in his mind that the report he had compiled this afternoon, was at this moment being analysed by one of the other Agents from the classroom today. On giving a brief once over to the file before him, he managed to, without much thought at all, find a few inaccuracies and discrepancies that put any exactness at all, contained in the text, in question. It was too late now though to worry him. If the money he had redirected was discovered, he would hand it back, though in his mind it belonged to the Agency no more than it belonged to him. If anyone had a claim on it, it was perhaps some charity that helped out in the field of drug addiction rehabilitation. There was no thought in his mind, that it would be an issue at all, that would affect his position with the Agency in any way. It was an organization of spooks, and this is what spooks did when an unexpected windfall blew across their lap.

Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2013 All rights reserved

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Down by the River

Down by the River

Rivers can be glorious places to roam along, especially on a mild day when the trees are in bloom and the countryside wildlife is thriving. Time to think, time to be at one with nature for a while, peace at last!

Riverside Walk
Colorful riverbank scene, great day to be out walking, or sitting by the bank in contemplation, calm, serene, peaceful.
Riverside Walk Posters
Riverside Walk Posters by StevieMach
View other River Posters at Zazzle.com

*****

Down by the River
Another colorful riverbank scene, great day to be out walking the dog, calm, serene, peaceful.
Down by the River Posters
Down by the River Posters by StevieMach
Find other designs of Art & Posters at Zazzle.com

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

SILHOUETTES - Twenty-Fourth instalment

SILHOUETTES - Twenty-fourth instalment - Chapter forty-one, forty-two, and forty-three (a). For more information on this novel, click Here.

FORTY-ONE

At nine o'clock, bored, Ben decided to go for a walk around the building. He was now in the uniform provided and felt a real authoritarian wearing it. He almost wished he had someone to boss about. The building was eleven floors of open plan office space, he got the elevator to the top floor, had a look around, nothing of interest really, mostly empty space, but here and there a layout of groups of desks and chairs with head height dividers separating most. All the computers had been ripped out by the last occupant, but there was an occasional base unit or monitor left in place, he tried powering up one, but nothing, seems they had taken all but the junk.

The corridor ran from the staircase and elevator to the fire escape stairwell at the back of the building. Along the door jamb he noticed the magnetic strip and he ran the gizmo he had pulled from the charger on his desk till it gave out a bleep. He worked his way down floor by floor, using the stairs till he got to the fifth floor, where he sat on the window sill for a bit, gazing out at the street below. He had already decided this job was a bad move. The shutter was up on the pub across the road and it was taking a delivery from the brewers. Nicking out for a quick hair of the dog was beginning to sound quite appealing.

When he got back to the ground floor he had another rake about in the office. He was overjoyed when he discovered a portable TV hidden at the back of a cupboard adjacent to it. He pulled it into the office and switched it on, despite having a ring of wire plugged in the back for an aerial, the reception was fine. Too early for a film or some decent broadcasts, he turned it to the news channel.

FORTY-TWO
 

No need to panic, the alien was there. Simon Parker stood in from the street at an alley that ran to the back of the retail premises on Grimeforth Street. Cap on and hood up, he kept as far back from the main drag as possible without blocking his view to the offices across the road. In the backpack strapped to his back was now all his worldly possessions. He would have to start over again with a new Suzi, and it was all because of him, the alien, Dave Stuart.

He popped another pill, his fifth today already, but he felt he needed them. Took a drink from the bottle of water he had, and continued to watch the offices across the road. He was unsettled though, he had no direct communication with his employer now, and the fact that he had a five page report he had taken the time to write before setting the fire, and no where to send it, was a conundrum. Tennyson was right about the fire though, but shouldn't he have waited until after the postman delivery today before setting it? Then again, it wasn't everyday that he received a reply paid envelope to send back his reports, usually only two or three times a week. How would his employer contact him now?

He hated these periods of ignorance, of indecision, but he knew that he did have to make the occasional choice by his own utilisation of free will, and due to the police car and the note, he was in danger and could not afford to either find himself in custody, or attract undue attention to his employer, after all secrecy was what it was all about. If the general public knew about the threat civilisation was under and the mere fact that aliens were not only in existence, but had actually begun to infiltrate humankind, then wholesale panic would ensue. So, he had ended the trail back to him at the house. It had meant the death of Suzi, but Suzi was already dead, it only halted her rebirth. Suzi Two would come along soon, though. He could already feel her in his bones.

If only he was certain what he should do. He had the alien once again under surveillance, but he could not remain wandering about in the open like this, it would only be a matter of time before someone spotted him and he was arrested and taken away. This was his uncle's fault, or no, perhaps it was the fault of the old man with the dog. Everything had been going swimmingly up till then. But his employer would not see it that way. He had taken his eye off the ball, lost contact with his charge, his main assignment, and got himself distracted with creating a new life, creating a partner for himself. It was selfishness that had brought him to this point, but he must not panic, no need for that, all could be recovered, the situation rectified, he could redeem himself. He noticed he was flicking the lid of the Zippo open and shut in the palm of his hand. He put the lighter in his pocket. Fire was not the way this time. The answer would come to him. His employer would find him and pass on instructions. He just had to be patient.

FORTY-THREE (a)

On a bus heading towards Cincinnati on the morning of the third day of the exercise was a joy. Relaxed, feet up on the seat, coffee in hand, he watched the view outside as the bus sped along. He planned on hitting Ridge Street around noon, and he was sure he would get a night out in the city before transport was arranged back to base.

Once he had left the site of the burning van the previous evening, he had trekked along the woodland track until the sun came up and he could actually see where he was going. Eventually the track widened into a road and cabins began to appear at intervals. He had covered 12 miles he estimated. If he heard the approach of a vehicle though, or spotted a pedestrian, he scuttled into the cover of the brush at the side of the road. He could not risk being seen at this time and in this location, it was still too dangerous, who knew what murderous bastards were out there hunting him down?

Finally he came to a small town filling station, a couple of cars with sale signs on the windscreen were parked at the side of the pay kiosk, and after watching for a while, he deduced it was a one man operation, local mechanic, salesman, and filling station attendant. The older of the two vehicles for sale was a dingy looking 92 Chevrolet Silverado truck, and he reached into the sack of money and pulled out a roll of cash, he counted out the correct amount for the sale and added another two-hundred. Buying the car legit would give him a break to get some distance, without being worried about highway patrols, as well as putting more space between him and the drug dealers he had stolen from. He backtracked half a mile, went deeper into the woods and hid the money again. He strapped on his hold-all though and began the walk back to the filling station, sure he would be mistaken for a hitch-hiker that had got fed up with walking, or waiting for lifts.

The negotiation for the car took all of a minute once he had declared cash was the method of payment. He had no doubt the IRS would never hear about this transaction, and the garage owner was happy to allow him to deal with any paperwork involved in the sale, being so snowed under with work he sometimes forgot.

He quickly retrieved his loot and found the Interstate, but instead of heading north to Cincinnati, he drove due west to Nashville, he had an idea that it may not be only drug dealers that were on the look out for him, the Agency probably had him in its sights also, so if could evade it as well, it may earn extra points for him on completion of the exercise. Besides, he now had a good reason for avoiding the eyes of the Agency watching over him at this moment. On a side track he had driven up for the purpose, he had eaten some junk food he had bought at a passing road stop, and he then reclined the seat and closed his eyes for an hour. He woke up four hours later, still hungry, but decided to count the money in the bag now he had a bit of time and was well out of sight. It came to a total of $192,800, far more, he smiled, than the $10,000 that was required to complete the exercise.

A quick stop in Nashville, he found a bank, hired a safe deposit box, and placed in $180,000. If the Agency said nothing, then neither would he, and he would retrieve it in time.

Deciding the car was safe enough for the moment, he risked driving it north on the 65 to Louisville. Once there he found a low end back street dealer and did a trade for something just driveable, worth a lot less, but easily exchanged as the dealer thought he was a moron. His new method of transport spluttered out of the lot, but luckily, quietened down a bit when the engine heated up. He got as far north along Interstate 71 to Cincinnati as Pendleton before the vehicle gave up the ghost. He limped it off the highway, the transmission clanking perilously, belching black smoke and the smell of burnt oil rampant, and parked it, and locked it, at the first place he could legally do so. At the first store he got directions to the bus stop and decided to get the Greyhound into Cincinnati.

Finally the bus turned in at the station on Gilbert Avenue. He planned on going for a beer and a walk around the town before grabbing a taxi to Ridge Street and ending the exercise. He was dismayed though when he spied Jon Evans, his Agency Controller, and another suit he didn't recognize waiting by a vending machine alongside the bus berth. How the fuck did they know?
He walked towards Evans, who waved a hand in the air, and a black panel van with heavily tinted windows appeared and stopped alongside him. Evans, himself, and the stranger, got in the back and the van drove off.

Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.

Copyright © Stevie Mach 2013 All rights reserved