Edward waited for the human to do something. What was taking so long?
Finally, the Curmudgeon reached into his pack and withdrew one of those small computational devices humans stare at whenever they get confused. Edward couldn’t make heads or tails what those things did. From eavesdropping on snippets of conversation the best he could tell was that they were used for stalking a prey called Pokémon. The way humans spoke about them, they must be tasty.
Two time zones away, NSA software noted an anomalous use of a phone. One of those prepaid cell phones (which really should be outlawed) had been activated for data use.It’s rare that a data system is utilized for the first time many months after initial voice and text activation. Anomalies are always a sign of incipient evil and/or an opportunity to acquire more Congressional funding. Both being excellent outcomes!
The GPS signal was turned off so the NSA didn’t know where the phone was. Ha, ha, ha, like that anyone believes that! Instantly and automatically the spot of contact was mapped and additional metadata was extracted. Voting district, DNA sample, what the user ate for breakfast, ratio of operating tractors to dead ones; the usual. Oddly, the microphone seemed to be picking up some sort of angry animals in the distance?
A bored, underemployed, non-governmental, contractor swiveled in his chair and read from one of his monitors. Instantly, and a little bit frighteningly, his supervisor appeared behind him. “What’s up?”
“A prepaid phone has just activated its data plan.”
“Well, the phone has been active forever, but the data plan has never been turned on. Also, it was turned on in the middle of the field, nearly a mile from the nearest road.”
“That is interesting!” The supervisor, who seemed to have no name, agreed. “What’s he doing?”
The analyst frowned. “He just did a Google search; ‘neurological disease in black bears’. I have no idea what that means.”
“It’s code! No normal human being cares about neurological disease in black bears!” The supervisor thundered. “We have discovered an Islamic terrorist!”
The analyst sighed. Supervisors came and went so fast. It was so hard to train a supervisor because they all had MBAs which pre-selected for the nearly unteachable. This one had made it only six months and now he was going to have to start all over. But it was a done deal. Because he knew it was going to happen next, the analyst covered his ears and ducked.
An explosion rocked the building. Lines snaked down through a hole that had been blown in the ceiling. Several huge, heavily armed, men rappelled down the lines. The supervisor didn’t know what hit him. He was maced, then he was tasered, then he was pummeled. He offered no resistance but two men took turns kicking him in the balls; just in case. Meanwhile a third zip tied his arms behind him and a fourth injected him with something blue.
The supervisor blubbered in fear. Then he noticed a patch on the bullet proof armor on one of his assailants. “Since when does Walmart have a mercenary division?”
The Walmart mercenary faced the helpless man and drew an evil looking pistol. “Hey guys, did he resist arrest?” He asked of the room in general. There was a general murmur of assent.
Blam! He shot the supervisor in the foot. “Shots fired! Hazard pay for all!” He announced to a general cheer from his compatriots.
Then he addressed the supervisor. “First of all Walmart, in keeping with its family friendly policies, does not endorse violence or hire mercenaries. I am officially an ‘extreme greeter’ and you have been greeted. Second you are under arrest, pursuant to the ‘Double Secret Probation’ clause of the ‘Pen and Phone Act of 2008’. Remember, if the president does it, by definition it’s not illegal. Also thank you for shopping at Walmart.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“We are taking you to an undisclosed location where you will submit to voluntary reeducation or we will kill you.”
“Clearly you haven’t been reading incoming memos!” Explained a second mercenary. This one was not employed by Walmart but was rather subcontracted from a joint venture of Apple and Starbucks. His uniform looked much nicer than the others, it fit perfectly and the shades of camouflage were exquisite. “It is official executive direction that there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism! You said the word aloud and that’s not cool man! You should know better!” He shook his head. “But we’re here to help. In order to encourage you to embrace diversity you’ll get a few water board sessions and then you will voluntarily submit to a mandatory lobotomy. After that you will be reassigned a new job as a telemarketer advertising for a sex toy factory in Bangalore. You will be paid three bucks a day and all the cats you can eat until you are retired by execution at age 75.”
The former supervisor had no time to respond; he was clipped to one of the ropes and at a radioed signal he was was reeled up. In short order the other mercenaries were reeled up as well; all but one.
The remaining mercenary addressed the analyst “did you see anything?”
“Of course not. Not only that but the electronic trace that I didn’t see has been deleted even though it didn’t exist.” This wasn’t the analyst’s first rodeo.
“Cool, we still on for poker Thursday night?”
“Heck yeah, see you then.”
Thousands of miles away, crouched behind a fallen log in the forest, the Curmudgeon grimaced at his cell phone. “Google search unavailable at this time?” Really? He turned the phone off and shoved it in the Faraday cage envelope where it belonged. Clearly he was not going to get any information about bears going crazy in the forest.
He would have to just wait and see what happened next. It was almost like life was an oddly serialized blog post.