alternative history, genetic engineering Clear Springs Press

The Non-Conformity Chronicles

Chapter 4 - The First Clue

"No matter how powerful, invasive, controlling and abusive a central authority becomes, it only has access to the outer world, the material manifestation of thoughts and aspirations. No force based on control of the outer world is ever omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent. The more individuality is suppressed, the less aware and effective the suppressor becomes. Real power, real understanding and real communication always comes from within." - From The Non-Conformist Training Manual

         The 3D display in the office of Seymour Code, the Omega Chief of Security in Central Accounting Administration showed hundreds of yellow alert lights, several orange lights and one blinking red light. The lights on the large world map represented incidences of variations in behavior from the expected norm of complete conformity. There were thousands detected and investigated every day. Most of them were the result of technical or communications errors and easily corrected and dismissed. A few represented minor non-conformity and could be easily managed with routine disciplinary measures. A red light was potentially serious and a flashing red light represented an inconsistency from the norm that was considered a serious, dangerous and immediate threat. A flashing red light merited his personal attention.

         Seymour called in a couple of assistants and began to query the Central Accountant. "Display the specific data on the alert," he commanded. The 3D display popped up instantly:

         "The presence of Dr. Sam Baker cannot be accounted for. Dr. Baker has been identified as a non-conformist and has been scheduled for a genetic re-programming."

         "How long has Dr. Baker been unaccounted for?" he queried.

         "17 hours, nineteen minutes and forty seven seconds," the Central Accountant replied.

         "Where was his latest known location?" Seymour queried.

         "The system logged a card scan at his psycho's office COMM terminal 17 hours, twenty one minutes and fourteen seconds ago," the monitor replied.

         "Who is his psycho?" he asked.

         "Dr. Skinner," the computer replied.

         "Access the security camera record of that time in Dr. Skinner's waiting room," Seymour directed.

         The security camera footage was played back and showed no one at the terminal at the prescribed time. This caused Seymour to set upright in his chair and sent a shiver up his spine. This type of discrepancy strongly implied that the system had been hacked. Hacking was an extreme act of defiance and a mortal threat to the tight control that the Central Accountant exercised over society and each member of society.

         In a much more grim tone, Seymour commanded, "Connect me with Dr. Skinner immediately!"

         The system responded and an image of a surprised Dr. Skinner appeared on the central view screen. When he recognized Seymour Code and the Central Accounting Security logo, his eyes got large and he sat upright.

         "I am trying to locate one of your patients, Dr. Sam Baker, have you seen him in the past 24 hours?" Seymour asked.

         "I . . . err . . . uh . . . well, no!" Dr. Skinner replied and turned to access his records.

         "Have you had any communication with him in the past 24 hours?" Seymour asked.

         "Well . . . no!" Dr. Skinner replied. Then he added, "Dear god!" as he looked at his terminal. "I see that he has been labeled a non-conformist and scheduled for genetic re-programming! I had no idea!"

         "Thank you for your help doctor," Seymour replied and terminated the connection. Then he instructed the Central Accounting Computer, "Display all information on Dr. Baker for the past 24 hours."

         The computer instantly responded listing the card rejections at the cafe, the public COMM terminal, tube transport, several food and drink dispensers and the entry to his condo complex. It then compiled and displayed the security camera files at each of those times and locations and confirmed his presence.

         "Check the security logs for that date and time at his condo complex," Seymour ordered.

         The computer responded with the infrared intruder record, a security camera image of a shadowy intruder crossing the grounds and the false alarm at the glass break indicator on his neighbor's window.

         "Identify that neighbor and display her complete profile," he ordered.

         Dora Agnesi's file was instantly displayed. He examined it in detail and found nothing irregular. "Where is Dora Agnesi now?" he inquired.

         "Location unknown," the computer replied. "Her employer reports that she is on sabbatical. No additional information is available."

         Seymour scratched his chin and asked, "Did her sabbatical start at the same time as Dr. Baker's disappearance?"

         "That is confirmed," the computer replied.

         "Her file indicates that she is an artist. Contact the instructor of the most recent training program that she attended," he ordered.

         Almost instantly, a surprised looking woman in colorful dress appeared on the screen. Seymour introduced himself and asked, "Do you recall a young woman named Dora Agnesi in your most recent training class?"

         "No," she replied. "I've never met anyone by that name." She then turned and accessed her COMM terminal and with a surprised look added, "It seems I was wrong. She was in my program and performed with high scores. Since the Central Accountant never makes mistakes, I am in error. I will report to the Central Medical Clinic for an exam!"

         "Thank you for your assistance," Seymour said and terminated the connection. Seymour was ecstatic. There had been hints of hacker activity in the Central Accounting system but it had always been untraceable. Often, it appeared as a discrepancy between human memory and computer records. In all cases, everyone assumed that they were in error since it was solidly programmed into them that the Central Accountant could make no errors. At long last he had a face and an identity to apply to the ephemeral hackers. He had a most wanted person to search for.

         Seymour turned to his assistants and said, "Put out a worldwide 'search and find' on Dora Agnesi, Omega level priority, and send a team to examine the condos and security systems of Dora Agnesi and Dr. Sam Baker."

         He took a closer look at her face and noticed that she had one blue eye and one green eye. The implications suddenly hit him that she might be a non-genetically modified individual. This was, of course, impossible since the entire population had been genetically, mentally and socially programmed for complete conformity for centuries. In a fleeting thought, he wondered how such a person would respond to the advanced super organized world around him.

         "Such a person would have no inhibitions regarding non-conformity and hacking. Such a person could be extremely dangerous," he thought to himself. "Agnesi? That name seems familiar." Then he remembered. Maria Gaetana Agnesi was a famous female mathematician from ancient earth history. He wondered if she had simply taken it as a namesake or if she might actually be a lineal descendent.

         Seymour was suddenly starting to feel very troubled. It was clear from his records and profiles that Dr. Baker had no hacking skills or inclinations. Neither did Dora Agnesi, but her files were clearly fabricated, although the only way to know that is to accept the discrepancy between human memory and the computer records. She could have covered her tracks better and gone undetected, but she didn't. She risked exposing herself to help Dr. Baker escape his genetic re-programming, but why? What would a non-genetically modified and very talented hacker need from a genetic surgeon?

         The hair was starting to stand up on the back of his neck and he couldn't quite understand why.

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