“We’ve lost him, Forrester.”
“Damn! All these weeks of security protocols and he hacks us in less than five minutes. What did he get?”
“Schematics for virtual interfaces, off-site building blueprints and surveillance footage dated 13 years ago.”
“Footage that no longer exists, conveniently. I’m assuming…?”
The tech personnel looked up nervously. Forrester rubbed her temples.
“All right guys do a reboot of the system and purge all pathways via the server he hacked us from. Please tell me we got a track on his location.”
“A gateway terminal located in the 1600 blocks in the Outers, I believe Ma’am.
“Christ people are hacking us from everywhere.”
Forrester grabbed her coat and walked in to the frigid Baltimore winter. Accessing her car by thumb print and swinging into the seat, she programmed her destination. She sat back comfortably as she sped toward the Outers. Her favorite music, electronica, slowly began. Skyscrapers zoomed past her as masses of humans went about their days, unaware of how close they now were to technology. Some had even begun upgrading their bodies to keep up with the proliferation of tech and information. Forrester glanced at her own mobile. Ancient by most standards, but Source Point had refused to upgrade company lines. As she looked back up, the skyscrapers had disappeared, replaced by older buildings and bathed in a sepia tone. She had entered the Outers. The poor lived out here, as more and more technology entered into the cities, seemingly driving out those who couldn’t afford it. Upgrades and new patches happened daily, but the Outers still maintained their credo:
“Ups (grade) and augs (ments) still don’t make food.”
Her Onboard Transportation Tracking Ordinance beeped.
“Destination reached, Miss Forrester. This location is on the police network’s not recommended list. Shall I call for assistance?”
They were outside a large empty warehouse, surrounded by old fences and dying trees.
“Relax O.T.T.O., I really doubt the shrubbery is going to mug me. Scan this location.”
“Scan complete. Two life forms detected.”
Unholstering her hand Taser, she slowly approached the door. Swinging her light into the warehouse, she began a systematic search of the building. The warehouse was dark and smelled musty. Its vast expanses were rigged with some type of electrical gear. She followed the wires only to find an empty output. Various components were strewn everywhere, but nothing significant. Oil leaks on the ground confirmed what she had suspected.
“He was here O.T.T.O., but not anymore.”
Kicking a lamp stand, she expressed her displeasure.
“Shall I inform Source Point HQ?”
“No, that will just upset them for no good reason. Whoever this guy was, he was good.”
Guiding the light across the room, she found the main virtual drive. The device allowed cyber interfaces via the virtual gloves she had trained with for years, lay before her, its compartments mostly stripped of all valuable resources. The hacker had gone to ground. With these components, however, she was almost certain he would strike again. It was that hope that drove her. Nudging the parts with her shoes she whispered:
“You and me buddy…we’re going to see each other real soon. I promise that. And next time, you won’t be so quick that I can’t find you.”
A noise like an achy metal joint groaned. Her instincts kicked in and she swung the light and Taser on the source of the sound, taking precise aim at whomever the noise belonged to. Two pairs of eyes, small and bewildered stared back at her, 5 feet away. Her finger eased up on the trigger as she lowered her weapon. She crouched and held out her hand and spoke softly.
“Hey, come here.”
The two bodies attached to the eyes slowly approached her, cautiously gauging her movements. Two small children in extremely worn clothing emerged carrying bags.
“Who was here before you?” Forrester asked slowly.
The older one, a girl, shook her head.
“What are you doing here?”
The children pointed to a large billboard, old and decaying. It read:
“WE SALVAGE: Taking your metal and making our future!”
As she glanced back, the children continued staring at her.
“How peculiar,” she thought.
The girl turned to her younger brother and gestured with her hands, he responded with more signing. As the girl pushed her hair back, Forrester caught a view of an ear-piece hearing aid. An older Source Point model to be sure, but too old to have been custom-made. The girl was deaf. And the boy had probably never been taught how to speak, and so they communicated like this.
What was the point of technology at the fingertips if it can’t fix these simple problems? She fumed.
With a snap, the girl got her brother’s attention and the two sprinted past her into the streets, their bags full of salvage flapping against their chests.
“Did you find what you were looking for Ms. Forrester?”
“No, O.T.T.O., but I found something else.”
She hit the mute button on O.T.T.O’s panel. She didn’t want to have to listen to his cold automated voice right now. She sat in her car and stared at the running children as they slowly escaped her view.
“I found a world without hope.”
Read part one here.
Read part three here.