“Change views to multiple-timeline vids. Correlate response rates and marketing numbers to highest-action chase vids. Put vids with both high city response rates and high marketing numbers onto centre point of screen.” A chopping motion of George Carpenter’s hand confirmed the action, and the high-intensity, 3-D screens covering two of his office walls showed the new data.
A former Chase commander, George Carpenter had been promoted to the front office where his executive bearing, powerful body and video-perfect face weren’t as important as his impeccable sense of timing, and diplomatic skills. His capacity to learn, and skill in pleasing the powerful eased his way up the ranks – from trooper to team leader and now to the second rung of the Corporate ladder in a brief decade. It didn’t hurt he had the graceful good looks of a video star and maintained his body with exercise and his appearance with regular hair replacement implants and coloring.
At the moment, he paced back and forth in front of the two fully-windowed walls of his massive corner office overlooking the Hudson Bay port of Churchill, the largest city in North America. The glass walls reflected the crisp black, everyday Security uniform but one unadorned with medal bars or insignia other than a single blue eagle – wings outstretched – on the white shoulder flash.
Carpenter, an accomplished sailor in his younger days, watched as the strong east winds drove storm clouds off the Bay down into the city. Even after five years of owning this office, he never tired of watching the port disappear as those salt-laden sea winds drove blinding storms back onto the land. He truly loved their sense of power and mystery. The only thing he missed in his controlled environment office was the smell of the sea, the cool, heavy smell of salt water.
The city streets below him criss-crossed the concrete-gray city in geometric patterns making travel easy and quick for those with enough of a credit balance to afford an automobile or for one of the many public transport vehicles taking workers from the outer zones to the docks or shopping areas.
From the air, the thirty-mile wide city could almost have passed for a forest because of the tree-lined streets. But from the ground, stark, gray concrete and rusting steel stood exposed as the main surfaces. The regular winds from the southwest brought the earthy smells of surrounding farms while the storm-filled east winds pitted the city’s concrete with the salty residue from Hudson’s Bay.
He stopped pacing in front of the main central screen showing the Captain’s last knockdown shot and watched the Captain and his team move toward the downed runner.
He had a decision to make. “Run current city pulse rates against previous kill values. Display left middle.” A wave of his hand ending in a pointed finger sent the data to that screen.
Interesting. The city expects him to win and after this run, he should, he thought. The votes were clearly in his favor across the city.
“What are projected city adrenalin levels if he wins? Do they bounce over accepted norms?”
An instant later, the expected numbers scrolled across a secondary screen.
“Too damn high. Sorry my old friend, you’re done.” It wouldn’t do he knew to reward somebody when the numbers showed otherwise, Corporate would not be pleased with that decision.
“Show city adrenalin levels averaged by age group.”
He heard the query from the Captain for a kill or no-kill decision in his ear feeds. He waited a few seconds for the adrenalin and anticipation graphs to show a rise across the city and as soon as they stopped rising, as soon as they peaked, he spoke.
“No, he lost.” The message went directly to the Captain’s feed.
Carpenter watched the kill shot silently. Nodded when his former friend’s eye’s glazed over in death. He was surprised how sad he felt at the sight.
He then turned to his main screen. He started pacing again as he spoke.
“Set up two Chase-review programs for review. The first is high city-involvement vids, and the second is effective-marketing impact vids. Correlate actual numbers as overlays. Send them to all Corporate execs for departmental distribution.”
He stopped pacing for a moment, turned and watched the visuals flowing across two office walls. The current multi-shot review made him smile as the chase program statistics and city sales data showed excellent profits being generated and stable and satisfied biometric levels.
A few simple hand gestures and the screens morphed to larger 3-D displays while added audience reaction data flowed seamlessly along the side of the video action. All participant’s feeds, including the condemned, were constantly broadcast, and all data was computer-compared and evaluated for future programming and marketing.
“Also, review our chip inputs for effectiveness related to that data.”
Everyone knew Security read chip data but few understood they could also influence what the chip did to the wearer. Satisfaction levels were only a minor adjustment when you could adjust endorphin hormone levels to individuals or even large groups with a simple computer command. The problem for Security was walking the line between control and productivity. Too happy a population reduced output and too unhappy created resentment, poor sales and reduced profits.
He set the automatic analysis software to work with a single flick of his finger at the screen. The output would be shared with the Marketing Department for its use. He knew the security analysts also combed the servers for any dissent among the workers after the show. There would also be recommendations from his senior staff about how they might improve on the chase-show format given current audience reactions. But this show had hit all the target high points and sweet spots of programming so Corporate would be pleased. This took a only few seconds to set in motion.
He smiled. Controlling Flee or Kill was one of his greatest pleasures as the Secretary of Homeland Security. There was ongoing corporate infighting for control of this program and pointed suggestions made to share FOK decisions were common. In the past month, the Vice-Presidents had begun, once again, more and more overtly aggressive actions for access, and his concern was this might be with the Chairman’s support.
It was time to remind them of how things really work around here, he thought.
“Run pattern scan biometrics on the Chairman, all Vice-Presidents and their family members for the last forty-eight hours. Focus around chase-action high points and city-response rates. Send to private. Name ‘Planning’.”
Luckily, this last show had been a good one. Ratings were excellent, sales were trending higher, assuring extra performance payments for himself, the Chase Team and the production crew. He had briefly considered letting the runner live, but another runner was voted safe only a month ago and he wasn’t sure how many success stories he’d need to maintain program ratings.
“Set up population satisfaction analysis and optimum time between winning players to maintain optimum marketing reactions.”
The results came back within seconds.
Carpenter smiled when he saw having one of eight runners win the vote remained the optimum number to keep the program ratings high and ensure excellent economic returns. More would increase short term satisfaction but then would crash the ratings with boredom while fewer would increase overall worker dissatisfaction.
“Lieutenant Palmer. Report.” He noted the time on the wall display, walked to his antique wooden desk, sat and leaned back in his chair.
Thirty-three seconds later, Palmer walked through the office double doors, crossed the gleaming, antique Southern heart-pine floor, came to attention in front of the desk, saluted and stood silently.
Lieutenant Palmer was an atypical Security officer, slightly built instead of soldierly, hair slightly longer than regulation, uniform jacket straight enough but with the air of spending nights slung over a chair rather than hung properly in a closet. The fact he’d risen into the officer corps from the tech Team spoke to his command of computers, and not his command of tactics and men. Carpenter wanted him to develop both.
“Lieutenant, you’re in charge of computing but we seem to have a small failure here. Check the R-4 screen please.”
The young officer wheeled, took in the analysis showing one in eight runners was optimum, and turned to face his superior. His face was unsettled. “Yes Sir, I see these results. It’s not something I had thought to do.” He hesitated before adding, “Yet, Sir.” Another slight pause, “I’m still learning the scope of my operation, Sir. Thank you for pointing these out.”
“Lieutenant. I just did this analysis myself. But I note it’s your job to think of these things as well. I’m won’t note anything on your record, but I want to make it clear you have to broaden your thinking. Future promotions will depend on using the systems to our best advantage. You are to be aggressive with your planning. Is this clear?”
And with that, Carpenter threw his feet up on his desk and smiled at the anachronism of an old wooden desk being used to command the highest level of tech control and surveillance ever seen on this planet. A desk once used by a President of the old United States to free black slaves was now in his office sitting on a gorgeous, antique oriental rug. The combination, his one public indulgence, stood out in this room of sleek modern furniture, thick carpets, and electronic screens.
He watched the anxiety in the young officer’s eyes and noted how he held his face straight. The eyes never lied though.
“Show me how you might check on the Captain,” said Carpenter. “Consider it a training exercise.”
“Produce a systems report for chase-Team biometrics, including a full scan of the Captain. Produce and analyze a video scan of each trooper’s feeds during the chase, indicating high stress points or anything out of previously acceptable norms. Put Captain’s on the R-3 screen,” said Palmer. A single flicked first finger set the machine working. The numbers scrolled upwards.
“Summarize this for me, Lieutenant.”
“Sir. Captain Fraser has a large and growing fan base and most are the coveted 16 – 18-year-old male demographic. His reach into the 17 – 25-year-old female group is larger than any other combatant. This show has confirmed his new status as a hero and the audience reactions in both biometrics and attention rate show this clearly.”
“Analysis of this data from Security point of view?” said Carpenter.
“Sir, we need to observe the Captain more closely. Flag his biometrics for eyes-only review and do a deep pattern search at least once a week. Sir, if I may be so bold, the Captain is on a rocket ride of popularity and bears watching. The 22 to 25-year-old female hormone data shows the Captain could be easily distracted.”
“What about running one of those 22-25-year-old women? What are the key components there?”
“Computer, do a primary analysis on the current impact of running a woman. Screen L-4.” Another finger flick.
Those results came back a few seconds later with a high reliability factor. If they could find a young, attractive athletic woman, viewer ratings would rise significantly but population satisfaction rates in the city would plummet.
“Sir, unless we’re prepared to adjust city hormone levels in a major way and prepared for the server costs for adjusting a half-million people, I suggest we leave women alone unless it’s absolutely necessary to run one. We let them keep their secrets, Sir.”
I know a few whose husbands would likely volunteer them, Carpenter thought.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. This is the kind of work I expect from you and your Team. Dismissed.” Carpenter watched the young man walk across his office and decided he had potential and learned quickly.
So we let women keep their secrets. Not likely, and at this thought, he smiled. He stood, walked to his window to watch activity on the streets pick up now the Chase had ended. There wasn’t much of an increase in people walking in the Corporate Sector. He leaned against the floor to ceiling glass wall, flicked a hand to his main screen accompanied by the command, “Random shots of interiors in Entertainment District. Duration 5 seconds per.”
The two main screens split into four small screens and interior images of bars appeared and disappeared at the commanded intervals.
“Slow down, give me ten second views. Flag any Security personnel and hold them on screen. Record at my command. Flag any Corporate senior executives.”
The screens continued to fade in and out as the computer randomly posted views generated by the hundreds of CCTV cameras and thousands of personal visual feeds.
“Come to papa,” said the Secretary. “I know you’re out there just waiting for me to make a mistake,” he finished smiling to himself. Not today though, he thought. Not today.
A screen froze and Carpenter examined it closely. “Data,” he said. The executive’s current job, notes regarding his recent promotion, and security ratings flashed onto the screen. “Potential rating,” he ordered. The data flow changed to indicate the man’s personnel ratings for possible promotion along with his security rating. “Church attendance excellent, porn views within limits, spending within salary, wife and one child, health care from Corporation, banality insured,” he finished. Not worth worrying about he decided.
“Flag security personnel and notify by voice,” he ordered. The screen remained silent, but the images kept flashing.
Carpenter looked directly at the mirrored building across from his office. Taller than his by six stories – one for each of the senior executives. They subtly let him know his place by their ability to look down on him from their office windows. His mouth tightened at the thought of any of them looking down on him and he imagined what he might see through those mirrored windows. Too bad I don’t have eyes in there he thought. Too foking bad.
“Remind me to discuss penetrating Corporate security with Palmer tomorrow at our regular meeting,” he ordered. He knew the minute Palmer walked into the office, a reminder would flash in his personal eye feed. We really need to figure a way around their firewalls. He nodded his head, smiled in case any of them were watching him and turned back to his desk as a beep sounded in his ear feed.
Ah the Captain and his men are celebrating this last show, he thought. “Record all biometrics, note any out of standard, put on high scrutiny for any brainwave irregularities and image creation. Give me a full data scan of brain activity every forty-five seconds and log anything that’s inconsistent with current behavior.” A flick of his fingers confirmed the order.
I’ve got all the data in the world, but no way to sort through what’s important and what’s not except by looking at the data myself, he thought. Where’s a good A.I. when you need one? Breaking his silence, he said, “Remind me to encourage Palmer to pursue A.I. programing further.”
He returned to the window and paced along its length matching his speed to that of a mag-lev train slowing down as it moved through the city streets on the final leg of delivering grain to the hundreds of elevators lined up around the port. I should have been a train engineer, he smiled. I never get tired of watching them glide through my city. It’s probably as boring as anything I could imagine, given the computer controls we put on them but still, might be interesting to sit up in the cab as that safety person he decided.
He smiled softly as he watched the long train wind its way through the city. Quit daydreaming Carpenter he thought to himself. No foking way to run a city.
He turned to the screen, jabbed his finger forcefully straight out. “Computer, run chase simulations that would continue this audience-involvement level. Identify individuals with the capacity to continue this trend. Take from previously identified possibles.” Another pointed finger wave set that process running.
It would only be a few minutes before he’d send his police-level troopers out to collect his next runner.
His initial request for his next chase victim came up in his eye-feed as well as the main screen and he had to smile. A tax-attorney! And he was just a bit too creative on his own accounts as well as his clients. A lawyer and taxes. Can it get any better, he asked himself with a large grin?
“Output client list. Eye feed but file to ‘Chase options.'”
The list flowed across his feed. One name caught his eye as it scrolled past. “Stop.”
“List by seniority within QuellCorp.”
Not only would he run the lawyer, but he now had an interesting collection of senior people, the lawyer’s former clients, who could be victims or allies, depending on which he needed. One of the Vice-Presidents and his entire family were clients. The trail from them led to quite a few of the city elite.
Striding down the length of the office, he continued directing his next attack.
“Rank by gross income.” A quick scan of the top fifty names contained most of the city’s leading families.
“Do a full, top-security level financial audit for the past ten years and biometric scan for the last month on the top twenty. Report only to me.” Carpenter smiled. He was scanning two-thirds of the board.
Wheeling, he pointed at the monitor setting the system to work. He was in full control now, orchestrating his next move. The stride slowed to a more thoughtful pace.
He also had to be prepared for the blowback on this from Corporate trying to protect one of its own. They might see it as a shot across their bows or a direct attack so he had to be prepared for any infighting. An interrogation would likely provide good material.
He opened his communication systems to his police chief.
“Troop. I’ve sent a data pack for our next Chase target. Pick him up at your convenience.”
The Commanding Officer of the troops responsible for policing the city, knew that meant “do it now” and he dispatched a squad.
“System, bring up the Captain and his men. Give me preliminary reports on their activities.”