Name: Adam Johnson
Height: 5’ 8”
Current location: UNKNOWN
Last Status Update: 3 Months ago
Rex tapped his teeth with a holo pen. This whole thing was a mess. Several power stations shut down, throwing half the population into panic. Entire communities locked down to prevent panic from spreading—
A small beep issued from the ExPC dash and a small microphone icon flashed and faded in the corner of the wide screen. Rex swiveled his chair to the right, placing two fingers in front of his ear. The icon solidified, indicating a successful link. Rex cleared his throat:
“State your business.”
“We have him, sir.”
“Good. Is he cloistered?”
“Let’s get this over with.”
The communication link disconnected. Rex massaged his forehead above his bushy eyebrows. Even with a more than recognizable signature Johnson had proved untraceable.
Blast; he hated hackers.
The noise echoed through the room.
“Come on, let us out!”
“It’s useless Mike. They can’t hear you.”
“This is all your fault Adam!”
“Calm down. Everything will be fine. It’s all according to plan—”
“According to plan? Adam, I have no connectivity!”
Adam closed his eyes and leaned his head against the cold wall. He resisted the urge to run his hands through his sandy hair. It fell down to his ears. Turning out around the edges. Too long. An itch pricked the top of his ear and he rubbed his shoulder against it. He couldn’t remember his las hair cut; as soon as The Operation was underway, he couldn’t risk his signature showing up in the Frame and stopped going. The binders holding his wrists bit his skin. He tried to relax.
“Mike! Cut that out!”
Mike answered by throwing his broad shoulder into the wall a third time and howling. He slid to the floor. Suppressed sobs reverberated from the walls of the cloister.
Adam breathed deeply, trying to control the suffocating grip of his own anxiety. After living almost 18 years constantly connected to the Frame, it was disconcerting not to feel the omnipresent tremor that came with it.
Out of habit, Adam pulled up the Frame Access Menu on his InPC. The white login screen filled his vision and a small green cursor blinked in the dialog box asking for his signature. An animated icon demonstrated the correct way to swipe his signature across his wrist tablet.
He flexed his right hand. The tendons slid the flexible slice of silicon beneath his skin along the curve of the binders. A distant impulse to ‘tap the Frame’ tugged his mind.
The Mainframe. The government’s base for the entire society. Adam’s brows drew together. He glared at the twisted crest faded into the background of the login screen.
The government penetrated all aspects of life, but no one was awake enough to realize it. Everyone plugged in and tube-fed information. Torrents of information through enormous webs and networks; the useless, the pertinent, the frivolous—shoved down throats of open, willing mouths. And all of it censored. Controlled. Regulated. Nothing came through the Frame without the small official seal signed into its code. Adam minimized the window. The government was hiding something, and he was going to find out what.
Adam blinked the remainder of white from his vision left by the blaring screenlight. The grey walls of the cloister seemed even more foreboding and rose high, ascending into what looked like a black eternity. Across the room, Mike’s silent form huddled on the ground, unmoving. Adam sighed, wondering how much longer they would be cloistered. He dug his heels into the slick floor, using the wall as leverage to stand.
“Mike.” Adam walked across the room and nudged him with his foot.
Adam swallowed. He knelt beside Mike, leaning over him so he could read the vitality display on the back of his bodysuit.
The display glowed dimly in the half light of the cloister. A jagged line blipblipbliped across the screen, indicating an increased heart rate. His breathing came in quick, sharp breaths, back jerking with each intake. The pulsing light trailing down the micro-coils that lined Mike’s bodysuit trembled and his white-knuckled fists shook in the binders holding his arms behind him. Adam shifted his weight to his heels. He should have realized Mike would be feeling the effects of disconnection.
Adam sighed, rolling his sore shoulders. Nothing he could do but wait until the stress knocked Mike out. Closing his eyes, he began to wonder if all the trouble they’d been through over the past few months was worth the price they were paying. He stopped. Don’t forget why you’re here, he reminded himself. Don’t forget everything you’ve sacrificed this far. There’s no turning back. You have to finish this.