Three weeks before the National Elections, a time when all eyes are on the politicians and their behaviour; the scrutiny they are under is intense, they are reminded daily of their popularity polls amongst the public, what the media are saying about them, and of course – what people online are saying about them.
Greenflame has being assigned a mission, which caused him to remember that he hasn’t seen everything – and though he bounces through time like a pinball at the hands of a pro-player, there are still some surprises out there. He only knew a little about it, and was en-route to an apartment block on the South side of the town, in the year 2037 – a time when The Internet was booming and lively, 5 years before it mysteriously resets itself to 0 bytes, and everything is wiped overnight – forcing the world to try and rekindle the lost information. All he knew, was that it was a high profile attack using a spoofed SIM card, the rest would be explained when he got there.
Shadow Secretary of Personality Compliance, Mark Weathers was blissfully unaware that he was the target of the attack, someone, somewhere had ordered a character assassination, and was very insistent that nobody should be hurt, physically. This attack was designed to hurt peoples feelings. He checked the time on his mobile phone, 09:15 – just under three hours until he gives his speech, and started idly flicking through his flash cards again, and cleared his throat ‘What makes us be what we are?’ he looked around his front room as if he was addressing an audience, and paused. ‘What finally makes us come to accept…’ trying to put emphasis on ‘accept’ – and continued: ‘What makes us believe?’ The speech he was giving was about the information in the media, how we can trust it, and why it is important to accept the Personality Compliance laws that his government had brought in during their term in power: not just accept – people needed to adhere to them to the letter, or face the consequences.
Greenflame arrived at the apartment building, a building he vaguely recognised – though it had changed a little in the future from when he remembered it. They still had the outer bays made of glass, where the beds were – so that when the occupant slept, they were sleeping outside of the building, with an impressive view of the city at night (or day, depending on their sleep schedule) – he’d tried it once and found it a little uncomfortable, so slept on the sofa. He pushed the buzzer to be granted entry. ‘Who is it?’ a voice came through the intercom. ‘It’s me. You know who it is’ ‘You alone?’ ‘Of course I am, just let me in.’
With that, the door buzzed and clicked open, allowing Greenflame to push it open and find the flat number. In the foyer, there was a lift – he headed towards that, consulted the plaque on the wall, which confirmed the floor he needed to be on – and pressed the 10th floor, arriving in seconds. The doors opened by themselves, he peeked out of them, to the left and to the right, all clear. He walked quickly to the room he’d been instructed to meet in from the original brief, and opened the door: quite surprised it was already open. ‘Glad you could make it. Please, have a seat – friend.’ Greenflame stood with his back to the wall. ‘I’d rather stand… what’s this about?’ ‘We have a favour to ask – one you might enjoy.’ ‘I don’t usually enjoy doing favours for other people, what is it?’ ‘We understand that you have a penchant for chaos and mischief.’ ‘I’m sure that’s no secret. Please, get on with it.’ ‘We need you to compile a spreadsheet of unique insults. 16 thousand of them.’ Greenflame laughed ‘Is this a joke?’ ‘It is quite important, please, walk to the desk – you won’t be harmed.’
Cautiously, he moved forward – and from the corner of his eye, on the West side of the room, behind the alcove was a man in a suit – mid 50s, a receding hairline, but still with a rather full head of grey hair. ‘Please keep looking forward. I’d rather we didn’t see each other at this moment.’ On the desk, was a purple and gold SIM card, and some official looking documents, with ‘Redacted’ stamped on them – a lot of the information was obfuscated with thick, heavyset, black lines. They were notes from a dossier on a politician in this time. Mark Weathers. ‘Where did you get this?’
Two weeks earlier, Mark Weathers was at his local dive of a drinking establishment, hunched over the bar – the campaign was causing an awful amount of stress on him, and he had turned to drink. His interest was piqued by the scent of a woman’s perfume, followed by a blurry glimpse of a bright red dress and flesh tone. ‘Hello handsome, haven’t I seen you somewhere before?’ ‘Me?.. I…er.. maybe..’ ‘You going to offer the lady a drink, then?’ she said, pulling up the bar stool next to him ‘Oh, sorry… erm..sure..what can I get you?’ ‘A whisky. Malt.’ ‘Bartender…Oh, I forgot his name again… Get this lady a Whisky will you please? Malt.’ ‘Certainly, Mr. Weathers.’ ‘Mr Weathers! Mark Weathers? The politician?’ Mark hadn’t clicked that she had discovered his name from the barman addressing him directly, and furrowed his brow at her, as if to ask how she knew who he was – and if he could articulate it, he would have asked. Meanwhile, little to Marks’ knowledge, sat on the floor with his back to the bar was Phil, extracting Marks’ mobile phone from his coat pocket, draped over his bar stool with the precision of a bomb-disposal expert. Breathe in. Move. Breathe out. Breathe in, hold your breath. Move. Breathe out, until it finally came out – and Mark fell hook, line and sinker for the attractive decoy. It wasn’t over yet, though. From his inside pocket, he produced a small black box with a slot, and an LCD screen – with a small button at the top of the box. He carefully removed the SIM from the phone, plugged it into the box, and pressed and held the button down, until the green backlight lit up – he glanced up at Mark to see if he had noticed it, and pointed the LCD downwards, to avoid the glare catching the marks eye. ‘Cloning…’ and 4 LCD progress bars, each roughly representing 25% of progress. A long minute later, and it gave a little vibrate, a shudder to say it had finished, the device stored a .sim file on flash storage, which he will later extract – and clone onto a blank SIM card, and put the box back into his inside pocket, and reassembled the phone. Once it was back together, he stood up quickly – startling Mark Weathers ‘Excuse me!’ to the barman ‘ – I just found this phone, don’t know whos’ it is.’ Mark fumbled his coat pocket. ‘That’s mine! That’s my phone! Where did you get that?’ ‘Nice try mate’ Phil smiled, and patted him on the back as he handed the phone to the barman, and left – the woman in red trailing loosely behind him. Once they’d left, she jogged quickly to catch up with him. ‘Did you get it?’ ‘Sure did. Now lets get this burnt to a SIM and get it posted off.’
‘I’m afraid we’re not completely certain where it came from – it was posted to us.’ ‘By who?’ ‘We don’t know.’ Why do I get the feeling my electric friend has something to do with this? ‘…and you are, again?’ ‘Without giving too much away, we are the opposition party – it was posted to our constituencies head office.’ ‘Ok, so let me get this straight: you have been sent a SIM card anonymously, you know who it belongs to – one of your parties rivals, so you want _me_ to come up with 16 thousand unique insults, to send from a cloned SIM? .’ ‘Correct. We’re going to randomly generate mobile numbers to send each insult to.’ Greenflame laughed, and ran his fingers through his hair. ‘I thought I’d heard everything… I have now.’ ‘Will you do this for us? We will pay well.’ ‘I know you will, or else I won’t do it.’ ‘Thank you. We knew we could rely on you.’ he paused ‘the key to the building and your room is in the top drawer of the desk. You have 20 days – the messages will be pushed out the day before election day. Zero nine-hundred hours.’ To Greenflame, this was one of the most original character assassination methods he’d ever heard of, and wondered if it had ever been done before – and whether he was indirectly carrying out a plan orchestrated by Phil.
Phil hadn’t planned the attack himself, though his foresight knowledge of Weathers was that he wasn’t to be trusted, there were reports of him drugging journalists with psycho-actives at private press conferences, and using illegal hypnosis on their temporarily shattered minds. Anybody who refused the ‘inoculation’ was severely beaten, and had violently enforced D Notices served upon them, and their employers – to prevent them from reporting anything from the event. Mark Weathers is a dangerous, manipulative individual – who abused his elevated role within Personality Compliance. In this time though, this hadn’t been exposed – which is why Phil was more than willing to coerce in this, to take him down in the public eye.
‘I’m afraid our technology in this time is quite primitive’ the suited man in the apartment admitted – ‘so we will need you to use one of our headsets. We do have very responsive speech-to-text technology, so that will make things a little easier for you.’ ‘Very well.’ ‘There’s a tablet there, it’s around ten years old, but for spreadsheets it is perfect. Unfortunately we cannot allocate any budget to this operation, due to the illegal nature of it.’ ‘Has that ever stopped you before?’ ‘I know you have information about our parties history, and our future – but I cannot possibly comment on that. I must leave. Please, Sir – make yourself at home.’ as an afterthought, he turned: ‘Oh, and please do not register the SIM on the network until we are ready to send the messages. We are relying on the element of surprise.’ ‘OK.’ the two shook hands, and with that, the suited man – Jern Palwood left the room – and eventually, the building.
Greenflame lifted the tablet from the table – it was an old-school design, like a picture frame from days gone by, except with two panes of reinforced glass, and a black, plastic rim. The weight of it surprised him. They really weren’t joking about primitive technology, then. He inserted the SIM, and declined the tablets request to register itself. ‘Recent Documents’ ‘Insult Spreadsheet’ A brief barcode displayed, with the documents timestamp, and he was presented with a spreadsheet – only one entry: ‘That hat doesn’t look very good on you.’ Man, it’s no wonder they asked me – if that’s all they could come up with. ‘you look like I feel….’,’open square bracket SIM Error close square bracket…’ What do people do in this time? ‘You still watch that thing on the telly?’ ‘Your a big idiot….no, not Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E… Y-O-U-R.’ That’ll annoy someone, getting insulted with the wrong grammar. ‘stop reading messages from strangers’ He sighed, this was going to be a hard one. ‘are.. letter u… G-U-N-A space T-E-L space the truth space D-E-N..question mark.’ He re-read it silently. Perfect. ‘This is harder than I thought. I should get some food and think of some’ he muttered to himself, hoping the microphone didn’t pick up his dialogue, took the keys from the top drawer – and headed out into the 2037 New District City nightlife.
There’s a saying that nobody appreciates different cultures as much as regular time-travellers, because they literally see so many in their lifetimes, they can appreciate what changes have triggered future events, and how that will affect peoples behaviour in different times – and vice versa, different inventions or global events haven’t affected people in the past because they haven’t happened yet. 2037 happens to be on the brink of war, so there is paranoia in the air, but they still have their Internet – post-Internet collapse is a different culture altogether. The Digital Atlantis event of 17th August 2043, in which The Internet was mysteriously reset to 0 bytes changed that forever; in a sense that people began to communicate face to face with each other a lot more, rather than through interconnected devices. They realised the importance of gaining understanding for themselves, through each other- rather than everything they know been stored in invisible technology, and acquired through osmosis from their technology.
People learnt to mistrust technology after the Internet collapse – but now, in this time period, it’s rife, and it’s everywhere. Illuminated street signs were scrolling the news in 140-characters or less. Everything was online – even vehicles courses were plotted and stored online – and the vehicle itself used GPS to get to its position, and avoided other cars in the air through their GPS and online position. Air traffic control functioned on the same protocol as internet searches, and was easily exploitable to those in the know. People on the street ignored him because they were too focused on their virtual world inside their single electronic eyepatch – projecting an augmented social media infront of their vision. On more than one occasion, he found himself chuckling at some of the people, imagining it was them that received one of his abusive messages, and how much it’d confuse them – how would they react? How will Weathers react when his personal phone explodes with thousands of angry calls and messages all at once – the day before election day too!
He had so many ideas rushing through his head, he had three in his head that he’d made a mental note of: ‘you horrible little man’, ‘I’ve organised a party at your house’ and what was the other one again? Shit, I forgot it. I need a notepad. He eyed the verandas of the streets for anything that could be a stationery store, but found that even if they were – he wouldn’t recognise the brand anyway: Galloos, Wishburns, Dal Rankos…Burner Security? Wow. Even the actual shops here sounded like .com businesses. Luckily, one of the shops had a large pair of scissors hanging from the side of the building. He headed towards that, and sure enough – they had a range of notepads – he browsed through the different styles: swirly patterns, flowers, minimalist with LCD displays, pictures of cartoon characters he’d never even seen before – and settled on a plain brown notepad, partly because it included a nice wooden pen too. He proceeded to purchase it with the few currency credits he did have – he’d forgotten to ask for payment upfront from the suits, and may have to resort to shoplifting in future. His stomach grumbling reminded him of his priorities too, sourcing a local delicacy that he has some kind of understanding of what he is actually eating. A nice burger, or a steak. Yeah, a steak!
15 years ahead of Greenflame – though some may argue it was happening concurrently, depending on their model view of the Universe and Space and Time continuum: Phil was engrossed in an urban battle. Tiger guards had infiltrated a secure meeting spot unannounced, and executed two members -Phil had dodged a bullet from a rogue human on the wrong side of the battle, given a ten-second advantage over knowing its trajectory, and it hit the wall. The humans had managed to take the battle onto the open streets, while the tigers ran at, and clawed at Phils’ accomplices, and took clumsy swipes at him – knocking their own bodies off centre, and vulnerable to be cracked in the back of the skull with a pistol. ‘Don’t let them get near you! Keep your distance!’ he yelled to his brothers in arms, while grabbing a tiger by the scruff of its neck, and throwing it away from him. ‘Where are the snipers?!’ a distant voice yelled. ‘Keep moving. We’ve got them!’ from another end of the street, and it was looking as if they had. They had herded the tigers into the centre of the road, and had a protective ring around them with guns trained on them: Checkmate. ‘Take them out!’ Phil yelled over the roaring, they’d dropped to all fours and were getting ready to charge outwards. At that, a cacophony of blasts, well executed head-shots; the tiger-human hybrids fell back onto one another, crashing half broken heads into each other and collapsing in a pile on the floor. ‘Ha Ha, we’ll eat well tonight!’ someone excitedly whooped. But Phil had a gut feeling that this wasn’t over yet – attacks as specific as that are rare, and only the first wave. As soon as the thought came into his head, Mills Watfisher bounded forward – his head exploding into the air, throwing up a vapour of red, and it raining down onto the ground – his lifeless body projected forward with the inertia of the blast. ‘Get off the street! Snipers!’ they all huddled to the building where the chaos had started, and regrouped. ‘Man, this isn’t happening…’ Wunch mumbled, he was Watfishers’ best friend – the two were inseperable. ‘I’m sorry Wunch. He was a good man.’ Phil had lost close friends in combat too – the very nature of what he did meant that he would inevitably lose people, and know that his nearest and dearest would have died of old age before they saw this time. ‘I should have seen it man. We let our guard down, we failed him.’ ‘He knew the risks, Wunch – he was a brave man. That could have been any of us!’ Phil retorted. ‘You’re right. Well this fight just got personal. I’ve nothing to lose now.’ The sound of roaring in the distance was about to put that to the test. Like a hoard of Tony the Tigers on PCP, they were nearing – the team reloaded their weapons, replaced their ammo caches for full pouches, and crammed their pockets, backpacks and webbing with armament: grenades, plasma blocks and traditional bullet rounds – Phil adjusted the blade he’d stolen from the Lion guard that assaulted him in a disconnected time: its beautifully carved handle and blade was a tribute to the Lion culture, and its place in history – it ran perfectly along his Ulna bone, and was duct taped at either end of his forearm. Little did he know that this would save his life in just a few minutes time, when he’ll have to slice a tiger-human mutations furry throat, with it while in mid-air, and fire two rounds in quick succession in his left hand within a split-second of each other. Being the only troop on the battlefield who had the ability to pause, accelerate and decelerate time had its perks.
Greenflame was sat by the window, hounding through his steak – when out of the corner of his eye, he saw a figure staring at him through the window: What’s his problem? Has he never seen anyone eat steak before? Instead of reacting, he grabbed his notepad from the table and wrote ‘what you looking in me window 4?’ and carried on eating his steak: and as an after-thought, wrote: ‘look at you, dickhead’ followed by ‘I’ve never seen anything like you before’. No longer annoyed that his devouring session was being witnessed, pleased that he had added three insults to his list.
Phil stood back to back with his comrade, a group of eight – they were being flanked on Tubwell, the town clock towering behind him, and the ruins of St. Cuthberts Church dead ahead, once a tall, majestic building – now little more than foundations stood, and the buildings centre had been modernised, leaving the now ancient brickwork of the ground floor surrounding it – making the building a mixture of ancient architecture, combined with sleak, modern, sharp contours of a booming metropolis. Tiger guards approached from either end ‘Keep a tight formation!’ Phil yelled to the soldiers. The first of the tigers dropped to all fours and charged at them, his metal body-plate glistening in the sun, and without warning, a crack from above, a still silence in the air, and like a narcoleptic feline, the tiger stopped dead in its track, losing its head – the inertia causing it to roll over itself, and land sprawled on the floor, a gaping hole where the furry top of his head once was just seconds ago. ‘Target down’ crackled over Phils radio. ‘Cavalry are here. We’ve got friendly snipers!’
A small cheer from the troupe, and more shots from the same building, three in quick succession. Snap. Snap.Snap, and a fraction of a second of silence hung in the air; the sound ricocheting across the brickwork of the town Market. Two direct hits to the head, and one to the chest – leaving one very confused looking Tiger Guard in the distance. Even from where he stood, Phil could see the tiger in a bipedal pose, looking from left to right, to see where the shot had come from, and seeing his downed comrades on either side – then down at his armour plate to see where the projectile had lodged, his own genetically mutated blood dripping to the floor. He looked forward, and the human in the dishevelled suit and tie stood before his troops; The leader. Their target. From this distance, he could see him raise his pistol; that white pistol he’d often use – The Vanisher they called it, who knows what it actually does, but people vanish into thin air when hit by it. A blue flash, slight burn on impact, blackness – and the feeling of being woken up after a sleep, except he wasn’t anywhere he recognised. It was a lot dimmer than he remembered; no artifical glow from the bright city lights, everything had an orange hue, the first thing he noticed was the illumination was all from oil-based candles placed on the sides of buildings. Not that he’d ever seen, or heard of oil candles before. Though he didn’t know it, the era he was the 1800s, still injured from a bullet blast, bleeding out onto the cobbled street – while women in Petitcoats ushered their children away from him as they tried to get past – looks of horror on their faces as they crossed the path of a half human, half tiger soldier. That’s what that weapon does. It sends you back in time! He’d been sent back in time to die, no matter what.
‘No, I won’t read it – it’s propaganda!’ ‘You have to, it came from the top.’ ‘I’m not going out on national news, and reading that out on TV. No way.’ Hector Bishop didn’t often find himself in power struggles at work, but on this occasion – he had to put his foot down. He’d been instructed to read a piece handed down from Mark Weathers’ PR office, and he point blank refused. ‘You know what they’ll do to you if you don’t read it. They’ll drug you with Comply until you do.’ Mario Cox, his senior co-ordinator at MB Networks: News Division. Truth. Honesty. Integrity – that’s their slogan, not in this case though. ‘Let them drug me. I’ll still refuse, even when I’m tripping my box off.’ ‘Right. So your final decision is, you’re not reading it?’ ‘Correct.’ ‘You leave me no choice – this is out of my hands now, Hector. You know that?’ ‘I do.’ ‘Well, if you’ll forgive me – I need to make a phone call, and try and sort this mess out. You’re on air in half an hour. You better buck your ideas up. That’s all I’m saying, this is a Network issue now – I tried my best to help you.’ as he left the newsdesk, he turned to Hector and advised ‘I’d take a break if I were you, think about what you are doing. ‘Comply isn’t a nice drug, you know that.’ And he left it at that. He left Hector with the papers he was to read out on the desk; Hector idly read it, and flicked it away from him – Pfft. As he knew all too well, in around half an hour – he will have had Comply forced into his bloodstream, and will be reading this paper regardless of whether he likes it or not, not without a fight though. He’ll try and resist it.
Meanwhile, Mark Weathers was giving his speech on Personality Compliance in the general public, and how new sanctions will be brought into place for those who do not follow the imposed rules and regulations – little did he know that this speech would become infamous. While only a dress rehersal for the media, it was still an important speech – there were cameras and reporters at the event, and the footage will be used for promotional material only. They say promotional, but actually mean mandatory emplacement around public TV screens, billboards, unskippable adverts forced onto mobile communication devices – and anywhere that actively plays video – including photo frames in peoples personal, residential property. The media, and his PR team were looking for short soundbytes, ten seconds at the most. ‘We can go forward with lies, but we can never go back’ accompanied by an image of ever changing fractal pyramid, masqueraded as his parties logo and when animated, was hypnotic by nature. It encouraged subserviance – nay, it _commanded_ subserviance.
Hector Bishop had had his Comply, they’d injected into the back of his neck – and he found that struggling with someone when they have a needle just centimeters from your spinal cord is really quite dangerous – he certainly didn’t want it injecting into his spine for later retrieval by his body. Tending to his wounds on his face from his obligatory beating by Weathers’ henchmen – he sat with headphones on, completely powerless to resist the TV screen infront of him, in which Weathers had recorded a personal message to him. ‘I can feel your longing, your desires, I can feel your demands. Are you challenging me? Are you questioning my power?!’ all the while shapeshifting into different forms, and changing his entire outfit in a split second, over and over. His face covering itself in grey fur, and disappearing in the blink of an eye, and turning orange, like the surface of Mars. ‘What do you really see? Do you trust your eyes? Do you trust…me?’ Weathers asked through the TV ‘Yes’ Bishop replied automatically. The Comply had taken effect. I wonder if I’ll be comfier if I lay on the desk, he thought – and had to try it, had to do what was unexpected if he was to fight this drug, had to think for himself – he fell off. There’s a lesson there, not to try and out-think Comply.
Greenflame had stood on the top of the roof, watching the sun go down – he’d discovered that from an elevated position, he was able to extract information from inside of the building – and using his own software on the tablet. managed to download data from the other rooms within the building – as a connoisseur of other peoples information, he collected it for later perusal, and uploaded it to the same data-banks that Phil was illegitimately accessing. Though for now, they may be foes – their sharing of data was the only thing that they had in common. Images flicked past in the blink of an eye: schematics, screen-shots, snippets of conversation – none of which he knew how interesting it was until he had time to sift through it. That, and it helped clear his mind: being outside – he’d blitzed through a series of insults: ‘God I hate you.’, ‘Your wife knows’ another one that he wrote down but couldn’t remember. ‘I wrote your number on a toilet door. Enjoy!’ he chuckled at that one Need some more, think of some more…Come on… ‘you smug bastard’ – I’ve been called that before. ‘You’re detestable’ that too.
His eye was caught by movement at the perimiter of the building – someone was perched over the edge: a jumper? ‘Hey!’ he yelled, and ran over to them to try and stop them from jumping ‘Stay there!’ leaving the tablet hovering in the air. She turned, and though she was hooded -he could tell she was female, from the light the aircraft warning lights shone onto the contours of her face – she was laden with lots of layers, probably to protect from the cold – it did get very cold and windy at this altitude. She wore a studded leather jacket with incomprehensible text that he recognised from the punk subculture, and burn marks all across it – as if it had been melted, melted by electricity. Electricity? Wait. This wasn’t a jumper! She was like him – another time traveller! ‘Wait! Wait!’ he yelled, trying to reach the edge of the building in time. He could just about make out her half-smile, as if to say there’s nothing I can do – its’ gotta be done – it’s inevitable. ‘Gotta chip’ and she leant nonchantly over the edge, plummeting towards the ground, disrupting the electricity of the floors she passed, switching off electrics of vehicles in the air, they momentarily fell out of the sky until she was out of range, and steadying themselves once the falling, human EMP had passed. Who the hell was that? Whoever she was, she hadn’t left her destination tag anywhere – so whoever she was, and wherever she was going will remain a mystery. For now.
Something told him he’d be meeting them again, and from the still frame he’d captured in which he had a clear shot of her face, he ran it through his and Phils’ shared data resources. ‘0 matches: 6hr01m17s remaining’ it was going to be a long night. He walked towards his table, put it under his arm – and headed inside – no sooner had he got to the fire exit: 1 match….3 matches….7 matches. Not as long as he thought ‘Display information in a chronological order’ he commanded: and they reorganised themselves. ‘Bio. Who is this?’
unknown@greenflame-wearable:~ >^C —–END TRANSMISSION—–
‘What the fuck?’
Operation cancelled. See /var/log for further segments. Please note: truncated transmissions may take an increased period of time to arrive. [1/3]