display | more...
My back still hurt where they had removed my identity chip, a dull throbbing pain that I had to constantly fight to keep at the back of my mind. "Its tied into the nerves in the base of your spine," they said. It's removal was a notable point - it was only the second time they'd been able to do it without leaving the subject lying paralysed in a hospital bed for the rest of his or her life. A short way away, a dog barked. I froze. Hard to know why, in this age of infra-red sensors, stun guns and global positioning on every person in the planet except me, they still used guard dogs. Old habits die hard, although not, one would have thought, around Director Gates. A more excited bark - shit, can it smell me?

It began with the TCPA. The Trusted Computing Platform Alliance, an alliance of the big three, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, plus whoever else had enough money, power or political clout to join in. To the men in suits, it was ideal. No more piracy, no more free operating systems, no more free programs. Every program had to be registered, every file had to be digitally signed, and everything, everything, had to be paid for.
People are like sheep - control the shepherd and you control the sheep. Our shepherds, our politicians and senators and aides and presidents and chiefs of staff were all weak with love of money, and when shown enough of it, they did what they were told. The TCPA became fact, and new laws enforced it's authority. All hardware had to be compliant, which meant upgrades, and more expenses. There were protests, rallies, petitions and stands, but they were all far, far too late. What was proposition had become law, and there was no repeal. The majority accepted what they were told - after all, it was for their protection and convenience, isn't that what Mr Gates had said?

The dog barked again. I had been assured that my disguise would work for anyone who didn't look too closely, but my black camoflauge would be a total giveaway. There was one more, subdued bark, before the guard walked off, taking the dog with him. Slowly, I allowed myself to relax. I had to get within the perimeter before I could complete my disguise - and stand a hope of establishing credibility. My own equipment that would have been so useful could not be used - alarms would have triggered at the first sniff of any non-standard equipment. My own five senses would have to do - I could only hope that they would be enough.

But still, a few resisted. They were whittled down over the next few years by agents of the TCPA, who had enough power now to do what they wished, as long as they paid lip-service to the government of whichever country they were in, but still they fought in whichever way they could. Using old computers, and the now illegal Linux operating system, they fought against this triumvirate, remembering always the reason - freedom of speech and of information. Of the price, they needed no reminding - armed arrests and quiet disappearances became the norm. The public were told of terrorists trying to destroy the new world economy, the new world infrastructure. Having no other source of information besides that of their content providers, they ate up every word. Who controls the media controls the public, and Sir Gates did just that.

Sneaking inside was even harder than we had at first anticipated - guard changes and checks were at infrequent intervals, and the routes were changed on a random basis each night. It was by sheer chance that we found the ditch, through which one just may be able to get inside without setting off the alarm. It was a risk, but risks were all we had left. There was no second chance on this one - if I failed, we were all lost.
As any spy will tell you, the uniform is the most crucial part of the disguise - get that right, and everyone will assume that you belong. And the uniform had been the hardest thing to procure. Anything made to specification these days is done through machines, machines run by the TCPA. And if they had even the faintest idea why we had requested these clothes specifically...

The situation was grim - the TCPA controlled almost all electronic communication on the planet, and our own communication could be easily singled out and cracked. It was thanks to one of the oldest forms of encryption - the one time pad - that we could finally communicate in relative security. It was through this that we finally pulled together, using cells and tightly-knit support groups reminiscent of revolutionary France, and came up with our two most powerful weapons.

The bundle against my back made crawling through the ditch difficult, and the thorns cut my hands, but once through I was in a small depression - the perfect place to get into uniform. My camoflauge was hidden in the muck at the bottom of the ditch - it wouldn't escape detection for long, but then, it didn't need to. By the time it was found it would be far, far too late. The last parcel, strapped to my chest, was the only thing I needed to worry about - if it was picked up by the sensors... but they'd told me it was undetectable.
Then I was walking up the slope, slowly, gently, mimicking that stride I'd practised so hard. I saw the guard before he saw me. He turned, hearing me come, and swung his gun around.

That the TCPA had to be destroyed was beyond a doubt, but the manner was a matter for debate. Kill the cancer, and you may just kill the patient, too. Finding out how the structure worked, and where its weak points were, was another challenge. Eventually, it was found. All of the data ran from one spot on the globe. All of the auditing, and pretty much all of the rest of the operation was run from remote locations, but the actual collection all ran into one database, hidden beneath the Director Gates' mansion. If that database could be taken down, the blow might just be crippling enough to destroy the cancer. Might.

As soon as his eyes rested on me, the guard stopped, and pulled a hasty salute. "Sir!" He snapped. His uniform was neat, uncreased. Was that fear in his eyes, or suspicion? "Go on your way soldier," I said. The guard turned, and walked off quickly. I slowly let out my breath. The disguise seemed to work - but it would only be a matter of time before my cover was blown. I turned my eyes towards the main building. There, just off center. That was it, there. One of the few pieces of information we had been able to glean from the rapidly closing communication network were satellite photos. Those had been the hardest to procure, and the most necessary for the planning of this mission. I started walking up to the mansion.

And so I was sent in, our last hope to stop the TCPA, who had taken from everyone their freedom of speech, and made them pay for the privilege. Was I doing the right thing? People would die tonight because of me - I knew that. But how many more would regain their freedom? Was it worth it? Perhaps the sacrifice of a few was worth it for the greater good; or as my drill instructor used to say "To make an omelette you have to break a few eggs."

Getting into the mansion wasn't nearly as hard as getting into the grounds, but it was here that our maps gave out - satellites can't see through roofs. My target was close, I knew; I could only hope it would be close enough. Downwards was the first direction. And so I followed the stairs, deeper down the rabbit hole.
The mansion was an amazing mix between luxury and functionality. Old style opulence was contrasted by cabling running along the floor. This was very shabbily set up for a globally critical operation.
The gun pointed in my face took me rather by surprise. I was surrounded by four guards, all of them most definitely not fooled by my disguise. I looked up - there, in the corner, the flashing red light of a camera.
"Come with us." Their sleek guns, new model, of course, integrated into the global identity system for "safety" reasons, didn't give me much choice.
Down through more doors until we reached a small lift. Crowded inside, and then down, I don't know how far. Until we emerged, and I came face to face with my doppelganger

We had two weapons - one was strapped to my chest, and the other... was me. With the aid of a little elementary make up, and of course the trademark glasses, I was the spitting image of Director William Gates III. That was our best shot at getting into the mansion, getting close enough to succeed. And now my disguise had failed.

Surrounded by computers - this had to be the front end for the database - the Director sat, in an easy chair, watching the figures change on the monitors that lined the wall. In front of him, the rows of technicians sat at their computers, too busy even to look around. For a moment, the Director stared at me. Then, in a level tone, he said "Remarkable. Such courage, such tenacity. You would have done well, working for me." He stood up, and walked towards me. "An almost exact match. Was that what you planned? To kill me, and take my place? No... the disguise was just to get you inside - the bomb you have strapped to your chest was your real mission. It's not C4, I'll tell you now. It's putty, or didn't you know that? After all, who do you think sold it to you?"

We knew we would be spied upon, that we likely had at least one mole amongst us. Our best plan, then, was never to say exactly what our plan was. We made one main plan, researched it exhaustively, ordered materials. Including C4. The main plan was perfect in every detail except one - it was not the true plan, known only to a few.

"Do you understand why I came?" I asked.
"For freedom? Of information? The human race is reaching a new phase of evolution, my idealistic friend. With my software, we are finally accomplishing mankind's greatest desires. Commercially available space flight will be here to stay in six months, with our orbital jets. We will put the first man on Mars inside a year, and have nearly every car on the planet converted to hydrogen fuel in two years."
"At what cost? The third world countries are starving. They couldn't afford your upgrades, and their governments fell apart as a result. Anarchy rules throughout Africa. But no one knows that, because you don't tell people. Where people could help, you restrict information, and they sit by, unknowing. Why haven't you told them about your planned achievements?"
"So a few million people die in some godforsaken countries. It is all for the greater glory - The human race will spread out to the stars because of me. What are a few souls in exchange? Why should you care?"
The Director had become more maniacal as he spoke. His tone, however remained cool. It was only his eyes that gave away any emotion, and that emotion was... hunger.
I leaned forward, and looked the Director square in the eye.
"I have two things to say to you. One, I am from one of those 'godforsaken' countries you speak of so glibly. And secondly... This is not C4."
I pulled free from the guard, slid my hand under my shirt, against my chest, and pressed the trigger. The world went white.

An EMP is truly devastating in nature. Leaving people mostly unharmed, it instead destroys all electronic equipment within a radius that is directly dependant upon the number of capacitors you can use. I was wearing enough densely packed capacitors to achieve an estimated radius of a kilometer.

When I came to, the room was dark. The only illumination came from the monitors that lined the walls, that still gave out an eerie glow. That would fade, in time - there was no more power for them to draw from.

One of the more disturbing things about an EMP is that it doesn't just short out electrical equipment. If there's a connection to the national power grid, you get blowbacks. Power stations across the country blowing up, burning, melting, or any combination of the three. Any power cable immediately transmits a massive electrical charge for a split second - but a split second is far longer than needed.

It was hard, finding my way to the surface, dazed as I was. There were no guards - almost everyone seemed to have fled. I did see other people wandering around aimlessly, their entire life destroyed in a blinding second. I walked outside, and took a deep breath of air that tasted fresh for the first time in years. And why not? The world as we knew it had been altered forever. For freedom.

This is all fiction. The TCPA exists, and is pushing to control personal computers, but is unlikely ever to become nearly as powerful as I have described above. I appreciate that there are numerous technical innaccuracies - these are there so that the plot can be developed in the easiest possible fashion for the reader. Any spelling/grammar corrections or recommendations gladly accepted.