The Origin Point: A Future Tech Cyber Novella, p.1Case Lane
THE ORIGIN POINT
A Future Tech Cyber Novella
by Case Lane
Copyright 2016 Case Lane
Thank you for downloading this e-book. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Discover other books by Case Lane:
Angle of Deception
The Motion Clue: A Future Tech Cyber Thriller
The Unbroken Line: A Future Tech Cyber Thriller
Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE - THE DISCRIMINATION FILE
CHAPTER TWO - THE EDUCATION FILE
CHAPTER THREE - THE LAW ENFORCEMENT FILE
CHAPTER FOUR - THE CONSUMER FILE
The Contents on the Mystery Flash Drive
About Case Lane
Connect with Case Lane
Bonus Reading - Discover More Books by Case Lane
The Origin Point: A Future Tech Cyber Novella
Your Future is in Play
WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED two American federal government cabinet ministers involve the U.S. in a secretive alliance to create a global surveillance and online tracking system of sweeping control. But a ubiquitous flash drive with shocking content falls into the hands of an intrepid journalist, and the untold plan may suddenly be made available to the world. When global cyber security is the prize in the race for our online future, can the defiance of two master operators backed by a clandestine global group outpace the vaunted skill of America's free press and an underground cyber defense team with its own agenda?
Who will win a contest of wills and intelligence when the only question asked is: do you want individual privacy or do you want global security?
This novella is the first prequel in the Life Online series of cyber thrillers about the future impact of our rising dependency on technology. To find out why we end up in a post-control world governed by the sophisticated software of an omnipresent server network, start here...
THE LIFE ONLINE BOOK SERIES
From the author of the Life Online Book series, The Power of Preparation: 10 Things to Do Before the Future Arrives is a free guide to help you learn about the steps to take today to be ready for tomorrow.
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The Origin Point: A Future Tech Cyber Novella
Prequel 01 in the Life Online series
Easter Sunday morning, 2014
The glaring lights illuminating from the pedestrian plaza in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. provided Elmira Sanchez with a luminescent bath as she diligently finished cleaning inside Infrared, one of the city's most exclusive restaurants. D.C. was a power town and even at 3 am, the vivid intensity of the streetlights marking the pedestrian pathways and sidewalks around one of the world's most significant buildings, enveloped the plush chairs and white table-clothed dining tables around which she was maneuvering an industrial vacuum. In the past year, the city's influence peddlers from brokers to senators to lobbyists to lawyers to journalists to financiers to diplomats had turned Fresno Tyler's early American eatery into a go-to location for intimate conversation. The low-walled booths lining the walls around the restaurant were self-contained sanctuaries for a discerning few who preferred to slurp through their cumin-infused wheat flakes and cayenne chewy bacon, in splendid isolation from the sight of their enemies.
Sanchez had no time to think of the guarded discussions that had taken place hours before she arrived. Her crew cleaned four restaurants around the neighborhood between midnight and 8 am each night. For them, Infrared was a building space where grease in the kitchen and tissues in the toilet had limited impact on their senses. They learned to ignore the sights and smells encircling their bodies while sweating through the late night tasks. As overnight patrons occupying the restaurant space, the cleaning crew were not engaged in billion-dollar policy negotiations to change the laws of America, but were wiping away the discarded food and human waste made unimpressive by indulgence and decay within each location where they worked. The media-created cachet linking the exclusivity of being inside Infrared to the privileged few, failed to consider the $12-an-hour cleaners with children to feed who were also among the restaurant's recurrent guests. But the workers knew the five star menu did not reduce the smell in the bathroom when a power broker decided to occupy a stall as if he were at home. Nor could a reservation waitlist stretching over ten months upgrade the chore of removing rotting animal flesh, fruit and vegetable cast-offs, and buckets of grease from the premises each night. The vision of Infrared captured in its kitchen and bathrooms revealed not a must-see destination of pounding conversation and emotion, but a soiled, misused, crowded functional space, requiring by law, a complete refreshment each night before the cycle could begin again the next day.
Turning the vacuum around a corner, Sanchez's eye caught a sparkle of silver shining from a ledge next to a table. Normally, she would be indifferent to any item not in her immediate cleaning area, but Tyler was meticulous about the cleanliness of his restaurant, and had demanded the crew immediately report any maintenance issues such as peeling paint or torn carpet so he could address the problem before a dining guest noticed the flaw. Since the cleaning service was outsourced to another company, Tyler paid extra for the vigilance, and Sanchez's supervisor enforced the additional attention.
Knowing Tyler would inspect the restaurant as soon as their work was done, Sanchez reached for the object. Picking the piece up, she realized only the end was silver, the rest was a dark blue plastic. Looking at the item between her fingers, she recognized the two-inch device, but could not recall the object's common name. The silver end, she knew as 'the thing you save computer files onto when you want to move them to another computer.' A friend had once handed her a similar looking gadget when she was giving her pictures of her daughter's birthday party. 'She called it a stick,' Sanchez remembered, amused. 'A memory stick.' Briefly considering again if the name was correct, she put the stick in her pocket, and continued with her rounds.
An hour later while preparing to leave, Sanchez spotted Tyler in his office staring at his computer screen and was prompted to recall she was carrying the memory stick. With a slight nervousness, she lightly knocked on Tyler's open office door. The restaurateur looked up.
"Yes?" Tyler asked without emotion. Razor-thin with curly blond hair and bright green eyes, Fresno Tyler had exited the tranquil rural New York state town where he had been born and raised to change his name, learn to cook and hustle his ambition up the ladder of restaurant success. Infrared was his third location, the first in D.C., conveniently built in a well-trafficked neighborhood, after an influential political party backer tasted Tyler's signature beef pasta one evening at his first New York City spot, and offered to buy him a retail space to establish a franchise in the nation's capital.
"Señor Fresno," Sanchez said removing the stick from her pocket and holding the item up for Tyler to see. "I found this." Lightly walking towards him, she reached out her hand to offer him the memory stick.
Tyler furrowed his brow and stretched out his palm, Sanchez dropped the piece onto his hand. "What's this?" he asked to no one in particular.
"It was by a
"A flash drive?" Tyler patiently inquired, looking at the stick. Sanchez shrugged but did not respond. "Oh, okay thanks." Sanchez nodded and walked out.
Without watching her depart, Tyler turned the flash drive over in his hand. The device was unmarked, no name or even a brand logo appeared on the plastic casing. Shrugging, he placed the silver end in his laptop's USB slot and opened the document view. He looked first for any sign of the owner's name, but no identifiers were prominently displayed. The files, however, were all visible, not encrypted, nor locked using a password. Each file was named for a current issue facing the American people - discrimination, public education, law enforcement, consumer protection. Tyler clicked open the discrimination file. He checked the 'properties' feature for an author's name, but the fields were blank. Glancing back at the content of the file, he presumed the information was a thought-piece. "Preventing the next Dr. King or Ms. Steinem from gaining a foothold," Tyler read the document title aloud. "Sounds sufficiently ominous." As he continued to read in silence, he noted the scope of the document's ideas were laid out as policy or planning instructions for the future.
In Washington, a policy document could originate with anyone from the President's Chief of Staff to a mid-level civil servant to a student summer intern at a think tank. But even to Tyler's untrained eye, the document, with its detailed strategy and references to senior government leaders was too meticulously prepared to be a random discussion piece. The content looked...like official federal government documents. Tyler opened another file. Searching 'properties' again, he confirmed there was no identifying information. But similar to the first document, the content appeared to be laying out the parameters for the organization of America's future.
'Where did this come from?' he wondered. 'Who was mapping out these ideas in such detail?' Knowing his continued speculation would be fruitless, he sent a text to his friend Dallas Winter, a journalist at the National Republic. 'If anyone could uncover the source of these files,' he thought. 'She could.'
A few blocks away, Dallas was asleep when her subconscious picked up the chime for a message alert on her mobile phone. Mechanically she reached for the device, and viewed Tyler's request for her to look at the government documents he had found. Immediately, she hit the 'call' icon.
"You found what?" Dallas asked, the second Tyler answered on his end.
"I'm so happy you stay up all night," Tyler replied. "Especially when I cannot decipher mysterious government files."
"I was not awake. Why do you think you found government files?" Dallas yawned through the question. "This is D.C. Everyone is writing about what they think the government should do."
"The detail is intense, full of names of real people who are actually in a position to do these things."
"But still, extra detail doesn't mean—"
"Look, can I drop the drive off on my way home? I really do not want unclaimed government documents in my possession when the feds show up."
"What am I supposed to do with a lost flash drive?"
"Figure out who the files belong to. If it's just some kid at a think tank, you can be a Good Samaritan and return the documents to him. If it's one of the political parties, you can sell the information to the other one. Or if it's government leadership and they're up to something, you've got yourself a story."
Dallas considered the options for a few more seconds. "Okay, I'll put some clothes on."
"Oh no, please don't bother."
"I'll see you in a few minutes."
Tyler exited the restaurant through the back entrance, setting the alarm as he went. His Mercedes sports coupe was parked in the underground garage of an adjacent building. Stepping into the brightly lit alleyway, he crossed from one door to the next and began to descend the stairs. Despite D.C.'s reputation as a crime shaken city, the streets encircling the White House had an additional layer of surveillance cameras, and enough lighting wattage to ensure the area always appeared to be celebrating Christmas even in the middle of summer. Tyler did not think twice about wandering alone into a vacant alley or accessing his car from an empty lot. No crimes were ever reported around his restaurant, not even a pickpocket, such was the comfort provided by omnipresent electronic eyes.
Tyler lifted his key fob to open his car door. As he walked towards the side of the vehicle, he briefly looked at the reflection in the window, and caught the shadowed sight of a stick figure passing behind him. He stopped and carefully looked at the window glass for confirmation of his observation. But from his position, he could not clearly see completely around his surroundings. After waiting another minute to determine if the view in front of him would change from a blurred vision of the parking garage to the clear outline of another human, he rapidly turned around.
The parking lot was empty. Tyler looked left and right, but no person was visible.
'Okay now I'm getting paranoid,' Tyler thought as he jumped into the car. 'I really believe I'm holding wanted government documents. I need to chill out.' As he talked himself down from a moment he suddenly refused to consider as valid, he hit the starter button and raced out of the lot and on towards Dallas's apartment building.
Dallas lived in one of D.C.'s most convenient but expensive neighborhoods, Mount Vernon Square on the other side of Mass Ave from Chinatown. If America's capital had a downtown defined by bars, restaurants, and a sports arena, then Chinatown, complete with the obligatory friendship gate and signs in Chinese lettering, was downtown D.C. If one walked south towards the National Mall the tourist friendly dining choices gave way to stately office complexes designed for Roman Emperors. Venturing north past the homeless people sleeping in neighborhood parks, the commercial district's streets turned residential as new condominium towers were being erected in every direction to pull a moneyed class of young professionals, lawyers, publicists, lobbyists, thinkers and marketers, into the city's core. 'In a few years this will be a densely populated magnet neighborhood,' Tyler thought as he considered the growth potential for his restaurant business. 'D.C. will finally get some traction as a city of professionals who do not disappear into the suburbs each night, but stay to take advantage of the electric moving pace funded by national party politics, 24 hours a day.'
Instantly calmed by the thought of more patrons for his popular establishment, he parked in the street in front of Dallas's building and indifferently exited the car. Turning away as he lifted the fob to lock the door, he glanced at his window, and once again caught the unmistakable outline of a figure looming behind him. Bracing his hands on the car roof, he briefly closed his eyes. 'Relax Frez,' he silently told himself, before opening his eyes and slowly turning around. He was alone. Scattered sounds of laughter, glows of cigarettes, and insomniac dog walkers prevented the somber street from being wrapped in silence, but no figure was clearly visible within a near distance to where Tyler stood. Behind him was empty asphalt leading to more high-rises, the glare from signs of closed restaurants, and the glass windows of a 24-hour pharmacy. But he saw no humans or a lurking beast ready to pounce upon him and demand the details of all he knew. Tyler shook from head to toe. 'Get a grip,' he again admonished himself before hurrying towards Dallas's building door and buzzing for entry.
Opening the door to her apartment, Dallas greeted him in pajamas and a half-open robe. Her uncombed hair hung entangled to her shoulders, and without makeup, her face possessed the healthy youthful glow Tyler had admired since the day they met twelve years earlier, in his first New York City restaurant. "Wine or coffee?" she offered as Tyler entered. Without answering he went to the window and looked out into the street. "What are you doing?"
Still facing the view through the window, Tyler stated, "Okay I know this is going to sound like a super paranoid dude who is actually making up a backstory for the reason he came over here tonight, but..." he turned to face her, "...I think som
Dallas grinned. "Oh c'mon," she replied with a slight hint of concern. Dallas had never seen Frez Tyler operate in fear. His relentless drive was created from an indomitable courage designed to ensure he succeeded in an abrasive competitive world. Having been friends since she had encouraged him to invite acclaimed restaurant critics to try his back-to-the-farm food, she tried to parallel his approach to life. She too sought to be unsurpassed in her field and matched her progress towards prestigious reporting assignments, with his restaurants' rave reviews in the national media.
"I'm serious, Dal."
"You watch too many spy movies."
"I don't watch spy movies. Someone was watching me."
Dallas moved towards the window and observed the shrouded neighborhood below. "There is literally no one in the street."
"I saw something."
"Maybe a fan was trying to speak to you. You are a celebrity you know. Maybe someone knew who you were, but was too shy to ask for your autograph." Surprised, Tyler looked at her as if reevaluating his initial reaction. He never considered himself a celebrity. As a chef, he was driven by his ideas for creating healthy, tasty meals based on the cultivated cereals and domesticated animals humans began consuming when nomadic life ended 12,000 years ago. "Okay?" Dallas asked, as he appeared to settle down. Tyler nodded. "You work hard and have long hours. It's late. Show me the flash drive so we can both get some sleep."
Tyler slowly removed the drive from his pocket and handed the plastic stick to Dallas. She went over to her desk, turned on a light and put the drive into her laptop's USB slot. With one eye on the window, Tyler sat down on her couch to wait.
More than fifteen minutes went by before Dallas looked up at him with undisguised shock. "Frez, these are actually serious planning documents," she finally commented.
"I told you. With those details, I don't think the policies are some think tank's speculation," Tyler responded.
"No, I mean really serious. I think these documents were commissioned for FedSec."
"Very funny. You want me back to believing I am being followed?"
"No, I'm serious."
"Don't mess with me," Tyler admonished her, as he stood to walk towards the desk.
"I'm not kidding."
"You think these documents came from the Federal Security Commission? The government's top secret upon top secret 'who-knows-what-they-really-do' security agency? How could you know these are FedSec documents?"
"It's the template, the organization and style of the writing and the presentation. The documents read like their material."
"But the content is not FedSec's supposed mandate."
"I know. Look at this piece stating tech companies can code racism and sexism into their websites."
"Yeah I read that."
"They can prevent people from getting services, but easily deny the practice because there is no record."
"Yeah, completely illegal."
"And this one on weaponizing civilian law enforcement drones. Could you imagine if drones with guns were patrolling the streets? How could that be safe? Some of these plans are mapped out in detail, like how police forces could use the drones in urban neighborhoods. No word on doing the same thing in suburbia of course."
"No, of course not. But are you sure these documents could be FedSec?"
"Yes, this is exactly how they would present internally created material."
"Yes, I'm completely serious. I've been reading FedSec's documents for years. These files follow their templates to the letter. I mean people can copy a format, but another government department or a think tank would use a different style. No one is going to copy FedSec's document writing directives. Plus there's a tracker file on this drive."
"A tracker file. Whoever lost the stick can trace its location."
"What! Are you serious? Turn your computer off!"
"Frez, calm down. The tracker is off. That's probably why the drive was sitting in your restaurant. Someone left the stick there, but did not come running back to reclaim it because the tracker is turned off."
"Why would someone go to the trouble of adding a tracker file but leave the function turned off?"
"I don't know?"
"Okay what do you think these documents are for?"
"The content is obviously some future planning stuff, ideas about mapping out our online activities. These types of discussions are pretty commonplace these days. But the question is, who was in your restaurant tonight? Why did they take the drive out and how could they forget to take the documents home? All are marked 'top secret' and 'confidential.'"
"Yeah, you think someone would have come back."
"Unless they wanted the drive to be found by a third party."
"Why not, you're as good a whistleblower as anyone."
"Whistleblower? I don't blow whistles. I run a restaurant."
"Well maybe they thought you'd call one of your journalist friends."
"I don't know."
"Okay well either way, what now?"
"I'll investigate, try to find more information about the content. These files all cover a different subject, but I'm not sure if the details are leading to a bigger story."
"These documents are talking about integrating online activity across everything we do, putting all of the consumer tools together with surveillance from cameras and satellites."
"No, sounds like a gross invasion of privacy."
"In the name of national security."
"Ohhh...okay. How are you going to find out more?"
"The best way I can. I'll go right to the source and ask FedSec what they're up to."
The Origin Point: A Future Tech Cyber Novella by Case Lane / Science Fiction / Thrillers & Crime have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on18 votes