Bewildering Stories

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by Michael Collins

part 1 of 2

As I sit here on this lonely starless night patiently awaiting speeders to race by, I find myself pondering the wait I’m really here for.

It’s not much of a job, but it pays the rent — that’s about all it pays, though. It’s hard to believe I’ve been with the Middleton County police department for over seven years, and I’m still struggling to pay the rent. Even though we put our lives on the line every day, no one even cares that refuse workers make more money. Citizens could care less about the financial problems of the men and women protecting them; all they care about is their protection. It doesn’t matter how they get it, or who provides it.

I’ve noticed rich people are the worst. You know how they are; they think they’re better than everyone else. I can tell you this: they hate obeying people they think are beneath them. I sometimes put rich people through sobriety checks even though I know they haven’t been drinking. They hate standing beside the road performing those stupid coordination tests while others drive past gawking. I have to admit it’s one of the few pleasures I get these days.

The most frustrating thing about my job is watching the government pass all these idiotic laws that cost a fortune to enforce. But, you never hear about pay increases for those enforcing the laws already in effect, though, do you? And these new laws are ridiculous. What were they thinking when they passed the most recent, which has us changing road signs from physical to virtual? They’re planning to spend millions of dollars on a system where digital road signs appear on the inside of the windshield. The sad part is it will change nothing. We’ll have the same number of accidents, the same number of moving violations and the same number of police officers getting the same crappy pay!

I’ve done everything to stay clean, but it’s hard when the money gets tighter with each passing year. I know cops who’ve dirtied their hands with several scams and schemes just to make enough money for a decent living, but I’m not getting mixed up in the drug rings or the head-turning con games. I’m not taking any chances of going to prison for something as trivial as that. Besides, I’ve put too many people behind bars to know I’d have terrible neighbors.

However, in the past couple years I’ve made specific plans for financial independence thanks to the misfortune of a certain rich shmuck. If everything goes as planned, I’ll never again have to worry about finances.

I’ve kept my plan a secret from everyone, that way when it’s time, I won’t have liabilities to worry about. My wife left three years ago for a stockbroker, so I have no accountability. The truth is, they could find me dead tomorrow and no one would ask a question or even show up to collect the measly life insurance check the government provides. Pretty depressing, huh? Not when you’ve got a plan like mine.

Since the government implemented the Identification Chip, the traditional driver’s license no longer exists. Government officials convinced everyone this would be the best way to reduce crime and retain more information. They claimed drivers would no longer need to carry a driver’s license — or worry about losing them, for that matter.

Since the law came into affect, every citizen had a chip surgically implanted in his or her head, containing his or her basic information. As the citizen grows older, the information is updated — information like employment records, occupation titles, and driving and criminal records.

Federal surgeons place this chip near the base of the brain stem, where scientists have discovered a plethora of bioelectrical activity, which causes the human flesh to work as a biochemical transmitter, emitting the chip’s information. Engineered to last at least two hundred years, this fireproof chip is as resilient as any human body part.

There are several devices used to view chip information. The most popular is a handheld unit with a small computer screen. These devices are restricted to federal employees, and used only for job-related roles. The FCC regulated this technology because companies were manufacturing devices with the average consumer in mind. Well, think about it, how would you feel if your neighbor could scan your records and history?

Those of us in law enforcement use a device with a little more complexity — we call it the Immobilizer. It looks like a flashlight, but it’s much more than that. When you point that sucker at a perpetrator, you can immobilize him while getting his name, date of birth, Social Security number, fingerprint scans, and driving and criminal records at the same time. Its design was to empower police with an accurate, reliable weapon not intended for deadly force. And to look like a flashlight so as not to intimidate or frighten citizens on routine stops.

An electrical stun charge shoots from the weapon at the velocity, distance and accuracy of a ballistic weapon. When you hit someone with the Immobilizer, he or she instantly becomes paralyzed for around an hour and a half. I’ve heard a few criminals say they can still feel the burning sensation deep in the pores of their skin months after taking the hit.

I’ve got the ideal person in mind for my plan. Frank Anderson made his money from dot-com stocks that went through the roof after the Internet became regulated to the point where the sites sold as actual real estate. He was one of the biggest virtual landlords in history before selling everything. Now an eccentric living alone in a small mansion in Middleton, he’s a recluse who only comes out during the night. Well anyway, I did some research, and this fellow is worth one hundred and fifteen billion dollars! That’s right, billion with a capital B. Now get this: he has no relatives, no friends and no beneficiaries in his will.

My plan is to assume his identity by embezzling the information from his chip. It should be a simple procedure, and after it’s all said and done, I will become Frank Anderson. After it’s done I’ll move to California to get away from anyone who may know him. California and one hundred fifteen billion dollars just sound like the perfect combination.

Law enforcement officers have clearance to update particular sections of a person’s chip information. For instance, when the government adds something to a person’s criminal record, or logs a moving violation, we are the individuals importing that information to the chip. We do not, however, have clearance to alter other sections such as name, address, Social Security number and so forth, but I’ve found a way to alter all the information without leaving a digital paper trail.

I’ve always been a computer hack, but when I stumbled onto a way to manipulate the Identity Chip, I was totally amazed. With some major software manipulation and a little hardware reconstruction, I now have the power to change anyone’s chip with just a few short keystrokes. Of course, I only plan to change two: Frank Anderson’s and mine.

Using the new 3820.15.Q wireless connection, I can plug a preprogrammed USB keyboard into the Immobilizer and not only swap chip information, but also upload the changes on-line for records being stored on the Internet.

I have finished the preparation, and now wait for the perfect moment is all I can do. I’ve been extremely careful to not leave clues of any kind, or keep suspicious documents or remarks in my home computer; so as far as the world knows, it will be I who had been burned to a crisp in the squad car after that horrendous crash near Addington Common. They will of course identify the charred remains by the information found on the chip belonging to the corpse, and the information the chip reveals will be mine. As I said, it’s nearly a foolproof plan, but right now it’s nothing more than a waiting game.

It’s one forty-five a.m. and traffic is dead. I am so sick and tired of working the hoot-owl shift — I don’t think I can stand it very much longer. I’ll just have to make my move when the next opportunity arises. I have to do this soon or I’m going to talk myself out of it, and end up working this stinking night shift for the rest of my life.

Hold on a second: is that who I think it is? Well, well, well, it looks as though ole Frank Anderson has decided to go out for a short drive — he has no idea how short it will actually be.

I’ll follow him for a short distance and then pull him over near a dark, secluded area. It will be a quick and fairly easy job if everything goes as planned. Yeah right, tell that to my nerves! I feel as though I’m on a teeter-totter, desperately trying to weigh the pros and cons of this plot; on one side I could gain everything, yet on the other I could lose it all. The good news is if at any time I feel uncomfortable with the situation, I can let him go and pretend it was nothing more than a routine stop, but if I allow it to escalate too far, I could ruin my chances of ever making another attempt if bungled.

I need to calm down; I am sweating something awful, and my heart feels as though it’s going to burst through my chest. If tonight is going to be the night, then I need to get control of myself before I even consider stopping that vehicle. I can do this. I can do this. That’s it, take deep breaths... deep breaths. I can’t stop now; I have to finish this. I will finish this. This will be the last hoot-owl shift I ever work; in fact, it will be the last time I ever work! Wait a second, where is he going? He’s turning on Border Street and heading east towards Lowards. This is perfect: a quiet street with businesses that are closed until tomorrow morning. I’d better stop him now while the stopping is good.

The less noticeable I become, the more smoothly this should go; if anyone happens to drive by, nothing will appear out of the ordinary. Seeing the flashing blue and red lights in his rear-view mirror, my surprised victim pulls over very close to the barren sidewalk and begins digging behind his sun visor for his registration and proof of insurance. I have often wondered why the government never added that information to the identification chip. It would make life much easier for everyone, but I guess it makes too much sense.

Holding the radio’s microphone to my mouth, I pretend to be running a check on his license plate, but I’m not actually pushing the transmit button. After placing the microphone back in its designated clip, I finally step out of the vehicle. The wind is picking up a little and it’s getting a bit chilly, but I’m still sweating like a maniac.

Cautiously approaching the vehicle, I notice the driver’s side window easing down in one smooth mechanical motion. “Is there a problem officer?” he asks, still fiddling with his sun visor.

“Registration and proof of insurance, please,” I hear my voice sounding gruff — a voice almost foreign to my ears.

“If I was speeding, my speedometer must be out of calibration,” he says, handing me the requested items.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle, please.”

“Certainly officer,” he says, opening his door. “I’m just a little confused as to why you pulled me over.”

My hand slowly reaches for the Immobilizer. “Just turn facing the vehicle and place your hands on the hood.” The voice is becoming more familiar with each word I speak. “Do you have any drugs or weapons on your person that I should know about?”

“No sir, all I have is my wallet.”

Proceed to the conclusion...

Copyright © 2005 by Michael Collins

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