Privacy is an interesting concept in a world where so many have freely given up on the idea. The thought of living in a world where your entire life is not put on display seems almost alien now. We know what is happening in one another’s lives on a day to day basis, minute to minute. I can open up a social networking site and find out not only where my niece is but what she is eating and how long she has been there for. The trails that are left by each and every one of us are growing and no one seems to care about the ramifications.
A morning fog slowly wound its way through the trees gathered just outside of my kitchen window as I pondered this, my palms tingling from the warmth of my cup of tea. There was a silence in the fog as it surrounded my home which had become my sanctuary from a world that was changing too fast for me. I live alone and that is the way I prefer it. I have always kept to myself and for good reason.
When I first started out as a young man in the world of law enforcement I worked on the beat. During those days everything was hands on and it felt like I had a purpose. If something bad happened I would get a call and off I would go to do what I could to solve the case. There was gratification in what I did. Sifting through piles of evidence to come to any sort of conclusion was what it was all about. It was all great when we would catch the bad guys but as I look back on it now I think it was the process more than anything that really held me.
As I stood reminiscing about the cliché “good ol’ days” my heart sank as I fell painfully back into reality. I could feel my hand starting to shake as it grasped my warm mug filled with the steaming discolored water. My lungs ached as I took a deep, long breath in to calm myself.
I chose to live in the woods to escape from a world that was much too revealing for my tastes. Unlike so many others, I didn’t want everyone to know what I was doing, no matter how close they were to me. I just thanked god that I had not been born into the CYCLO generation. Those poor bastards truly had their privacy stripped from them and it was utterly out of their control.
The CYCLO project was introduced almost 35 years ago now and was actually for all intents and purposes developed with the best of intentions. I really didn’t disagree with the program, as it sure made the world of policing a lot easier, almost too easy.
Prior to the launch of CYCLO the economists of the world had been predicting the downfall of our society but no one had expected it to happen so quickly or in such a devastating manner. While the world fell apart the human population did what everyone expected and panicked. Unfortunately, although the response was anticipated no one was prepared. The world fell into anarchy as food shortages reached an all-time high and even those who had been weathering out the storm previously, also began to starve. Just as cities began burning across the world and hordes of people marched on their respective government facilities the world leaders joined together and signed an agreement. In a split second the world went from divided countries to an organized Global Government. Once the Global Government had been formed the previous leaders became members of the High Council. The armed forces were launched on the people of the world to quell all riots and rebellions. Millions were slaughtered through a show of force by the Council.
I had my part to play in the blood shed, as we were ordered to fight alongside the Council armies. It was a disgusting, terrible time. I have not slept an entire night since. A person can only kill so many innocent people without seeing their mangled bodies in the dark silence of the night.
Once the blood shed had ended and the people of the world were so beaten down that their only choice was to comply, the High Council began to rebuild society. At least that is what they called it. The world did return, for the most part, back to normal with the exception of the High Council. It may not have even been a bad thing that the world was united under a common banner, but the manner in which it was done will leave me wondering for the rest of my life if it was worth it.
It was frightening to watch how quickly the world was stabilized. As people returned to their lives and began working on rebuilding projects and new world connection initiatives that were meant to bring the new global community together, a wide spread wealth began to circulate. It was not long after that that people once again were happily distracted with technology, entertainment and consumption. As far as many were concerned everything was good once again.
I have come to realize that there will never be a balance on this earth when it comes to humans. No matter how much wealth there was to spread around there were still those who suffered. There still remained those throughout the world who lived in poverty which caused them to resort to crime as their means of survival. This posed a significant problem to the High Council as in their utopian society there was no room for criminal activity.
Thus, the CYCLO project was born, literally. As the High Council saw it, crime could not be committed when there was absolutely zero chance that the perpetrator could get away with such disgraceful conduct. The Council enacted the Law of CYCLO which took effect immediately with ocular implants being placed in every single child that was born or would be born for the foreseeable future. The CYCLO implants enabled the Council to order authorization for law enforcement to access the databases of stored visual and audio memories of every living person in the world who had been born after CYCLO’s inception. After the memories were obtained they were used to convict the criminal, as there was no way for them to deny their actions. It was not an immediate fix to the problem although as time progressed and the people without the implants died, those left would be unable to hide anything they ever did.
It certainly was a fresh breath of air for us police, as no longer could the guilty deny their involvement or get some high end lawyer to get them off on a technicality. It makes for a very hard defence when your client’s memories are displayed on a screen for the whole court to see. More than one defence counselor quit on the spot while their client was depicted laughing while beating their wife or committing some other despicable crime. The only down side to the project for me was that the real hands on work that I loved so much virtually came to an end. There were still those in the world without CYCLO who would commit crimes but then all you needed to do was get the visual memories of a witness, even if they didn’t realize they were a witness. Gathering evidence and following trails was a thing of the past.
Now my job consisted of sitting at a computer and accessing and reviewing visual memories whenever an authorization was granted by the High Council. After the memories were reviewed and the guilty identified the arrest team was dispatched and the suspect was brought in and convicted on the spot. I was lucky to have survived the policing cuts, as the need for police officers dropped immensely.
My lips touched the edge of my mug as I slowly lifted it upwards and cold tea ran past my tongue and down my throat. I glanced back towards my kitchen wall clock and realized how long I had been standing at the window. I was going to be late for work.
The remainder of my tea was dumped down the sink as I dropped the mug carelessly onto the counter, causing it to rotate precariously back and forth. In as swift of a motion as I could muster for my age I lifted my jacket off the coat rack while opening the front door with a fingerprint reading terminal on the door frame.
My one arm was barely through the jacket sleeve as I pulled on it with my exposed arm and kicked my cars electrical plug out of its charging station. The cord automatically wound itself back into the cars battery compartment where the engine would have been on a gasoline vehicle. The gentle humming of the electric engine broke the silence as I backed out of the gravel drive way.
The forest of trees that surrounded the edge of the road way began to recede into sparse groupings as the city scape came into view over the horizon. Every day it was as though I was entering a different world, the buildings growing out of the ground and replacing the natural forest for one of metal and glass. As I entered the urban jungle shadows spread across the windshield of my car from the towering sky rails which connected the cities across the world. Living outside of the city was the only way to be disconnected from the main system. It cost me more with living expenses and owning my own vehicle, but to me it was all worth it.
The throngs of people on the sidewalks seemed to blend into the surrounding canvas of the city as I sped past them. My body lurched forward slightly as my cars on board computer automatically decelerated to match the city speed limit. I sighed in frustration as my foot pointlessly pushed the accelerator pedal toward the floor. The buildings and people around me had slowed down enough for me to take a moment to look at them. One person in particular caught my eye as they stood in the middle of the sidewalk staring straight ahead. The person’s body was rigid and their face was a mash of pain and confusion. Groups of people brushed passed this individual without a second look as they continued throughout their busy morning. As I craned my neck back to look at the person I could just see their face relax as they blinked and continued walking.
A loud high pitched alarm went off as my cars collision proximity indicator sounded. My head spun forward as the car came to an abrupt stop. Standing at the front of the car was a man in a suit. I began rolling down my window to apologize. The man looked at me through the windshield, his face blank. Without a word or any indication of any emotion, the man continued walking across the street. My hand went limp as I stopped pushing the window control, watching as the man walked away and disappeared into the sea of people on the sidewalk. Fumbling with the controls, the window began to roll back up as I tried to make sense of the expression, or lack of, on the man’s face.
Absentmindedly, I continued through the streets and came to the large reinforced steel doors of the police station of Sector 8. The doors opened automatically as I approached, the sensors detecting the security chip implanted in my right arm. My hands released the steering wheel as the automatic parking computer of the building took control of my cars computer and directed it to the closest available spot.
A noise like the sound of an elevator ding filled the car through its speakers, indicating a message from the building.
“Sgt. Carn, you are 10 minutes late for your scheduled shift. Sufficient funds to cover the missed time have been automatically withdrawn from your pay check and a formal reprimand has been added to your personal file. Have a nice day.” the far too chipper computer voice stated.
“Fuck.” I snapped as I punched my steering wheel.
I would never be able to figure out how a soul less computer could get under my skin so much, but every time I heard that voice it made my muscles tense up. Stepping out of my car I could feel dirt and gravel crunching beneath my feet. The sound of my car door being slammed echoed throughout the underground parking lot. The elevator to my floor was already waiting with its doors open. As I stepped inside the elevator closed and without saying a word or touching a single button I was taken where I was supposed to go. The high speed elevator came to a stop without a sound as the doors opened up revealing my floor which was at the top of the 26 story building.
Clenching my teeth I turned to see a member of the uniformed arrest team sitting arrogantly on the corner of my desk.
“So I have been told,” I replied. “What do you want officer Mcneil?”
Mcneil lifted an electronic pad which displayed a document that I recognized immediately.
“Just approved this morning,” Mcneil replied with a grin.
I could have smacked that arrogant grin off his face, it didn’t take all that much to get an authorization for CYCLO memories and he was acting like he had been working on approval for months. There really weren’t many officers left who had any idea what real police work was. As Mcneil continued to smirk I sat in my desk chair. The computer recognizing my security implant automatically started up and I began syncing Mcneil’s authorization with my computer. As I continued to work, another uniformed member came up to my desk as Mcneil bragged about his latest authorization.
“So what did this asshole do?”
“I think he robbed a grocery store or something.” Mcneil replied while shrugging.
“Whatever happened with that assault complaint you got?” the other officer asked with a smirk.
“Soon as they showed my CYCLO recordings and it was obvious the guy had it coming, the review board dismissed the whole thing.” Mcneil stated as both chuckled.
“You remember that guy that tried to car jack that lady but kept his eyes closed to avoid recording what he was doing?”
Mcneil laughed as he slapped his knee.
“Yeah the moron got hit by oncoming traffic!” Mcneil replied as the other officer howled.
Half-heartedly listening to the conversation between the uniformed officers the screen in front of me started playing images recorded from Mcneil’s suspect’s ocular implants. Everything seemed to be a normal day for the guy as he walked off of the sky train and onto a platform overlooking the city below. The suspect proceeded to walk towards an elevator which took him down to the streets. As he stepped out onto the sidewalk he stopped. The screen went dark and then the images reappeared a few times as the suspect blinked. Mcneil and the other officer had gathered behind me to watch the show.
“Why is he just standing there?” Mcneild asked.
“No idea.” I replied as I continued to watch, somewhat confused.
It had been a good minute or two since the suspect had done anything but blink. The sound of the busy streets coming out of the computer speakers was suddenly replaced by a deafening screeching sound. I cringed as I lowered the volume.
“What the hell was that?” the other officer asked as he took his hands away from his ears.
Just as the officer had finished speaking the computer screen went black.
“Dammit.” I yelled as I tried to turn the screen back on.
As my hand hovered over the “on” switch I could see blue light shining through my fingers. I touched the main screen and the black screen minimized.
“That’s impossible.” I stated.
“What happened?” Mcneil asked angrily. “Did you screw up the recording?”
“Watch yourself,” I snapped back, “and no I didn’t screw it up, I couldn’t have corrupted a recording, no one can.”
I could tell Mcneil was losing patience.
“Start it from the beginning.” He said in frustration.
Keeping the volume down on the speakers, I started the recording from when the suspect entered the streets. At the exact same moment as before the screen went black.
“I don’t get it.” I said rubbing my chin.
“Fuck!” Mcneil yelled as he threw his authorization across the office. “That is all I have to convict this guy!”
I could feel my temperature rising as Mcneil got on my last nerve.
“This just shows why you shouldn’t be relying on this sort of technology so heavily, if you knew how to do a shred of actual police work you might still have something to go with.” I yelled back.
Mcneil turned towards me, rage in his eyes. He lifted his hand and pointed a finger at me as his mouth began to open. Just as I was expecting the verbal assault to commence there was nothing but silence. Mcneil’s once wild eyes went blank as his hand lowered to his side. Mcneil continued to stand still, his eyes looking through me.
“Mcneil?” the other officer asked hesitantly.
I stood up from my chair and walked around to the side of Mcneil who continued to stare at where I had just been. His face was devoid of any emotion, his eyes glossed over. His lip slowly started to quiver as his face began to twist in pain.
“Mcneil?” I yelled, concern starting to set in.
Although I didn’t like the guy, there was something really wrong with him. I went to grab his arm and attempt to get some kind of response from him when I recognized his behaviour. He was acting just like the person on the sidewalk. He suddenly gasped and blinked as he looked around at the other officer and me.
“What was that?” I asked him cautiously.
He continued to stare at me with the same blank expression as the man I had almost hit crossing the street. His hand flinched as he grasped the handle of his pistol on his hip.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I shouted as he drew the pistol.
“Mcneil!” the other officer cried out as he drew his own pistol.
There was no warning as Mcneil fired a single shot at the other officer who slumped to his knees and fell forward, a pool of blood growing around his head. Instincts took over as I punched Mcneil in the side of the head just as he turned towards me. The strike distracted him giving me a chance to grab the fallen officer’s pistol. As I turned to take aim at Mcneil he had already recovered and was squeezing back on the trigger of his firearm. The glass behind Mcneil shattered as I slowly released the trigger of the pistol I was holding. Mcneil staggered and then fell over backwards.
My head was light as I stood up, my shoes soaked in blood from the officer Mcneil had killed. I looked around the office expecting other officers to come rushing in at the sound of gun shots. There was no sound of anyone coming down the hall, or any sound for that matter.
Slowly walking towards Mcneil, still trying to make sense of what had happened the screams of a woman broke the silence. I ran to the edge of the broken window and looked out to see a woman being thrown from a moving sky train. Helplessly watching her fall to the streets below, she disappeared in a horde of people walking down the center of the road. There was a group running ahead of them. As the group continued to run shots rang out from the streets below they fell to the ground, dead. Uniformed officers surrounded the dead bodies as the horde of people reached them and they joined together.
I stepped back from the open window as my head raced, my mind trying to comprehend what I was seeing. Confused thoughts circulated through my brain as they mixed with images of the riot suppressions, years ago. This was all too familiar and yet so foreign.
Stumbling as I turned around toward the elevator I entered it and clung to the side railing.
“Inspector’s office.” I gasped, feeling as though I was about to vomit.
Even though the elevator was traveling at an extremely high rate of speed, the time between floors felt like hours passing. As the doors opened the smell of gunpowder and urine filled the air. I stepped out into a pool of blood. The hallway was filled with officers and CYCLO analyst’s bodies. I fell against the hallway wall as I began staggering towards the Inspector’s closed office doors.
As I approached the office I heard someone coming around the corner at the end of the hall, their feet sloshing through puddles of blood. I spun around to see a uniformed officer breaking into a run as he lifted a shotgun and took aim at me. Before I even had a chance to aim my own weapon the officer rotated and fell to the ground violently. My ears rang as I felt a hand grab the back of my jacket and drag me backwards.
The hand let me go as I fell onto my back, my eyes locked on the ceiling as the Inspector’s face appeared over top of me. His lips were moving but I could not hear what he was saying. My eyes widened as the black barrel of his shotgun was pointed at my forehead. I lifted my hands non-threateningly. Slowly, the sound of the Inspector yelling began to become clearer.
“Carn, is that you?” the Inspector bellowed. “I swear to god if you don’t answer me I will blow your brains out!”
The Inspector racked the shot gun as I panicked to make any sort of noise escape my lips.
“It…it’s…me!” I blurted out.
My eyes were locked on the shotgun barrel as it lowered away from my head and the Inspector’s tense shoulders relaxed. He sighed and helped me to my feet.
“Of course it is, you are too old.” The Inspector stated.
Still clutching the shot gun the Inspector walked around his desk and sat in his chair, his head in his hands.
There was silence as his fingers gripped his grey hair.
“Inspector Martin…” I began.
“Everything, they control it all.” The Inspector began.
I wasn’t entirely following him, although he seemed to be lost in a train of thought that I was not about to interrupt while his shotgun sat so close by.
“What were we thinking?”
The Inspector’s hands curled into fists as he slammed them down onto his desk.
“Well?” he demanded, his eyes narrowing. “What the hell were we thinking?”
“I don’t even know what is happening here.” I replied hesitantly.
His face scrunched up in frustration.
“Come on Carn, you are smarter than that, look at us. We are some of the only ones not going bat shit crazy, you tell me what is going on here!” he stated expectantly.
The pieces slowly started to fall into place as I looked into the eyes of the Inspector. His face creased with the lines of age and his skin weathered by time. The gleam in his eyes, was from emotion.
The Inspector sighed.
“But what is happening?” I asked.
He hesitated as he looked at his desk and then looked back at me. His eyes searched me as though looking for approval. He closed his eyes as he began to speak.
“Since day one, CYCLO has been flawed,” he stated quietly. “Or rather some saw it as flawed while others saw it as a miscalculated opportunity. The ocular implants began fusing with the nervous systems of the test patients back when the project was first in development. The developers didn’t think it was going to cause any problems. In fact, they thought it would create the potential for not only monitoring society but also in necessary circumstances, controlling society.”
“You have got to be kidding me!” I stated in disgust.
The Inspector looked at me, panic in his eyes.
“You don’t understand there had not been any issues with it after such a long period of time that no one thought it would ever pose a problem!”
“Obviously there is a problem!” I snapped back. “Are you telling me that the control aspect of CYCLO worked?”
The Inspector swallowed hard.
“Yes,” he replied slowly. “It has worked and has been utilized.”
The bastards had done it. Not only had they been able to monitor everything happening in the world, they could control what was happening.
“How could anyone ever choose when it was alright to use that kind of control?” I asked angrily.
“It was only in the most extreme cases, certain individuals had the necessary authorizations in order to avoid catastrophic incidents.” The Inspector replied.
“Certain individuals like you?”
“Only when necessary,” the Inspector replied, his facial expression hardening.
“Wouldn’t this be one of those instances, if ever, that you initiated some sort of control?”
The Inspector spun his computer screen around to face me. I slowly approached the desk as the writing across the screen became clear.
SYSTEM CORRUPTION – UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS GAINED – SYSTEM COMPROMISED
My eyes darted from the screen to the Inspector’s face which had gone pale.
“There is no control anymore,” he stated quietly. “We have lost it all. Not only did CYCLO fuse with the brains of those it was installed in, it has completely taken over them. Those people out there on the streets, that officer I just shot, none of them are themselves anymore. It started less than 24 hours ago and now it has spread across the globe.”
“If they are not themselves, what are they?”
The Inspector looked up from his hands which he had been staring at intently. His gaze met mine.
“They are the system, they are everything they can control everything. The world has been connected by a main system that was thought to be impenetrable. There was no way for it to be accessed by anyone without the strictest of authorizations. But the CYCLO project was built into the system, it is a part of it. Those now controlled by the CYCLO have complete unhindered access to absolutely everything in the world. Not only that, but they have locked the rest of us out.”
“For what purpose?” I asked panicked.
“The only people the CYCLO’s are killing are those without implants,” the Inspector explained. “It’s an extermination.”
My heart was pounding in my chest as I looked out through the window behind the Inspector’s desk smoke was rising into the air. Screams were beginning to break the silence. There was a flash that I caught out of the corner of my eye. I turned to the Inspector’s screen to see that the words had changed. There was a beep and before I could read the words the Inspector had turned the monitor back towards himself. His eyes began to fill with tears as he clenched his jaw.
“What?” I questioned as I walked around his desk.
I fell to my knees as I read the words.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS ENGAGED
My eyes closed as the sound of the Inspector weeping was drowned out by the shattering of glass all around us.