His fingers flew over the keys with pointed urgency in place of agility. Normally, he might take his time, savor each string of code written or command entered. Today, he was only concerned with finishing before the clock hit ten-to-five. If it did, the entire plan would be shot, and he’d have to return to his handlers with nothing, forced to slog through one more day where his ruse might falter.
His name was Shane Yates; a nobody, low-level programmer working for the largest tech firm in the known world. Arc Systems was the number one creator and distributor of mobility and security software for cybernetic augments and prosthetics. Shane had written code for them on everything from Optical HUD augs to bionic-limb movements. Most every major augment on the market had some of strings of his work in them. All the same, he lived on minimum wage, ate day old leftovers, and showered in cold water with the lights off.
Such was the nature of the US after the Corporate Take-over displaced the Government as the country’s overseer. Unlike London or Paris, where silent or violent revolutions were taking place, the US had willingly allowed the take-over. The population had been pacified by a bolstered economy that allowed higher-wages, lowered cost of living, and faster, freer internet porn. Even to those that were awake, aware, the revelation that the Corps were taking over was nothing new. Most didn’t care. Those that did, found themselves as an extreme minority.
All of that changed with the Corporate Accountability Act; a ratification to the US Constitution that gave corporations all the rights of individual people with none of the responsibilities nor– contrary to its name– legal accountability of the people. In essence, the CAA allowed Corporations the right to do anything a person could without fear of reprisal. In America, that meant espionage, sabotage, and the lobbying of political figures for one purpose or another. It wasn’t long before the government’s power was almost wholly transferred to the few, corporate boards that already controlled its economy.
Shortly after, the US militaries were absorbed into local branches of Corps whose headquarters were scattered around the globe. A few, smaller businesses still remained here and there, but only through the laziness of the thirteen, global corporations that couldn’t be bothered with things like dry-cleaning or pizza delivery.
Shane was one of the “lucky” few who managed to keep their job when that American Dream turned into a seedy nightmare. The Corps’ lobbying power was unmatched, their only concerns their competition with one another. Their money lined the pockets of every politician until they nearly drowned in a sea of their own materialism. Then, once sated by the glitz of the money offered, they blindly ratified new bills and laws so filled with legalese even lawyers couldn’t properly discern them.
Everything changed then; the CAA led to power for the Corps whom corrupted the government until it was, quite literally, useless. All the same, a few, minor acronym agencies managed to survive the obsolescence of their governing system. One of those few, was the CIA.
Though its funding had been cut, and its duties merged with that of the maligned and poorly perceived NSA, it still largely functioned as intended. In an era where Corporate-Security was both police and national defense, surveillance was more invasive than even most, high-level Corp employees knew. With its coverage, the CIA remained powerful enough to act as the last investigative body and line of defense against any threats, internal or otherwise, to America’s sovereignty.
With that in mind, it was of the utmost importance they procure the work passed off to Shane; next-generation augment-software that controlled small, embedded magnetic fields and cameras to create true-to-life invisibility. With the magnetic field capable of masking both thermal and motion-sensors, as well as deceiving both human and electronic eyes, there was no end to the possible applications– whether for a national spy agency or a rogue, terrorist force. More importantly though, Shane wanted out, and the CIA knew that.
Shane had always been a simple person. After graduating from College, he’d been happy just to get a job. The nature of the world was soon revealed to him though. He began to slave away each day for less pay than he was worth. The bolstered economy showed its true face then. It was little more than a facade to keep the people in-line, give them enough to live on but not to become overly roused by passions or pass-times.
Unlike most other countries, whose digital currencies were still worth something, the US’ digital dollar was mostly useless outside a few, non-corporate shops. Otherwise, everything was calculated in terms of debt. What had once been credit-card balances became life-debts; the amount owed to any corporation by an individual that had “charged” anything. When first introduced, the idea was meant to help repay a surplus National Debt from decades of war, but like everything else, it too became yet another collar and chain around the peoples’ necks.
The CIA approached Shane on a park bench. It was one of the gray-afternoons he’d come to expect of his rare days off. He sat alone, staring, with hazel eyes glazed over by the ferocity of his exhaustion. A man sat next to him with mirrored, wrap-around sunglasses.
“Don’t get up,” he instructed. “Don’t make eye-contact. We’re being surveilled, but I’ve managed to deploy a net to interfere with any audio devices. We have two minutes.”
Shane’s mind was dulled, but intrigued. He kept his eyes forward, “Who are you?”
“Who I am isn’t important,” the man replied over a gust of cold wind. A casual glance swept the the park ahead as he continued, “What I want is simple; your employers have something you will receive. I need you to copy it, then corrupt everything they have on it.”
Shane’s eyes widened, his neck locked against turns for fear of reprisal, “Are you insane? Why would I do that? I’ll lose my job, and Corp-Sec will murder me.”
“My people have been watching you,” the man explained quietly. “Like many others, you’re not happy with the state of the country. You can decide, here and now, whether you’ll be one of the few that does something about it.”
Shane swallowed hard, “What’s my incentive?”
The man checked his wrist-watch, replied, “Let’s just say, our government still has enough support that you can choose to start fresh anywhere you want, as whomever you want.” He rose to button his long coat, readied to walk away, “If you choose to help, we’ll contact you.”
“How will you know?”
He began to walk away, “We’ll know.”
And so he sat, one week to the day later, at his desk. His eyes darted between the clock and the progress bar on his screen. It crawled forward as it copied the gigs of data the software represented. The seconds ticked away. At ten to five he was expected to be up, ready to clock out with all of the other wage-slaves like him. The progress bar jumped to completion. He sighed relief, exchanged the USB drive for another, and shut off the screen to his computer.
A few minutes later Shane was in the street, waiting for the bus. About now, the auto-injection computer virus contained on the second flash-drive had finished uploading. It would be unfurling its corruption through Arc Systems’ servers.
A man in a fedora and black overcoat appeared. He walked toward Shane with mirrored sunglasses and a hand stiff at his side. Shane palmed the flash-drive in his right hand. The man brushed past him and with a sleight of hand, took the drive from Shane to disappear into the crowd.
The large, electric bus rolled quietly into place. Shane Yates entered the bus for the last time that afternoon. Who he had been was gone, and who he was to become hadn’t been decided yet. In time though, the CIA would repay the man that had turned against his masters, helped ensure the sovereignty of his homeland. No matter what the Corps would call him, he was a true patriot, willing to cross the line, give up everything when his country asked him to.