Kimberly stood in line to get through the security checkpoint. They weren’t typically slow however it was Friday night and the bars downtown had just closed. While she was against what the government was doing she had never felt safer traveling alone at night in any part of the city. Downtown alleys could still be bad with homeless people who had nothing to lose, but there were even less of them than before.
She scanned her ID Badge at the gate and a guard waved her through. On a little screen opposite of her another guard watched her picture, finger prints, social security number, and current job pop up. She pushed her thumb on another pad past the gate and the screen confirmed her finger prints matched.
Three gates away a screen flashed red indicating finger prints of the person trying to get through didn’t match the ID he flashed. Instantly and quietly six guards appeared from a little shack and escorted the man away.
Kimberly just glanced his way and then continued towards her home. She lived in a suburb that was mostly filled with routines. Most were pregov, civilian routines implanted before the government buy out. And all of them knew Kim, she was THE daughter. She was THE routine. She was routine zero.
Her implant was the most crude of the lot. Despite all the advances upgrades were still difficult and a change in implant was untested because no one knew what would happen to the brain if it all of a sudden stopped receiving the flow of information provided.
Her spinal implant ran all the way down her spine and connected into her body between every vertebra. It was essentially an exo-spine and only a handful of routines had one. The implant in her stomach was even worse. While other routines had a small device inside their body, her control unit was too big to fit inside. Where the appendix would be covered by flesh, there was a small glowing sphere protruding out with a metal ring surrounding it and connecting to her stomach to keep the unit in place. It was bigger because they weren’t originally sure how much power would be needed to supply the information to the brain. They knew how much power it took to send one piece of information but they could only guess at how many times it might actually be accessed in a given second.
So besides the kinetic recharging system and micro battery pack, it had an additional battery pack that could be removed and recharged if needed. It had not been needed which is when they scaled the design down. They would have been able to upgrade her to a newer unit and graft skin back over but she chose to keep it for the other reason it was bigger.
Her unit, with its larger size in back and front, had one distinct advantage over every other routine implant; it could hold more than one program at a time.
Despite the small devices’ ability to hold two terabytes of information, over eighty percent of that is the program that simply tells the device how to actually communicate to the brain. The base communication program itself covers half of that amount while the rest is allotted to error handling. With so many things the brain can do, Kendrick and the designers felt that taking every possible outcome and providing a way to avoid it would avoid any unforeseen errors.
“You know what every Microsoft Windows release is like? We want to avoid that because we only get one shot at it,” Kendrick had quipped on a talk show.
Also, because she had ready access to her control unit, she could switch out programming as she needed. She left the main program and her initial routine running while she uploaded and downloaded other information. She was the closest they had seen to what removing an implant would look like, and it was scary.
The first time she changed her programming she forgot her name. The second time she forgot her family. The third time, she started having recurring acute memory loss. She could be fine for a month and then forget what she had done the entire day.
“Ever walked into a room and forgot why you went in there?” She once asked her friend, “It’s like that except I don’t remember even going to the house the room is in.”
So she had made it a rule to avoid doing it anymore, but she enjoyed having the option if she needed.
Her original routine was in numbers and calculations. She was the worlds’ fastest calculator and more. She could solve equations before you could ask her to. She could remember numbers she heard years before. She was a casinos worst nightmare. And she couldn’t care less.
She had always been good at math and that was what she excelled at when her dad asked her to get an implant but she didn’t feel she should be defined by numbers. That was when she started adding and changing out secondary and tertiary programs. The first one was on flying. Unfortunately she’d never flown before so despite knowing all the technical aspects she still panicked and downed Echo Corps company chopper.
The second one was in martial arts which she actually did have some experience, when she was five years old. It didn’t translate into expertise, however, and she sprained a leg because her body wasn’t used to moving in the way she knew it should.
The latest was her favorite, however, which was an engineering and design program. She had always tinkered around in the garage with her dad so she had a basis. While she couldn’t build the ten story building she was able to envision in her head, she could build and fix small electronics. Tinkering was not just her hobby, it was her.
Being the daughter of one of the richest men in the world means you don’t have to try too hard to get the necessities in life. He had always given her everything she’d ever wanted and after making her routine zero he felt even guiltier and basically put her on the payroll to do nothing. She had everything she needed but nothing she wanted.
Friends were hard to come by as well. Real friends were anyway. Sure she had plenty of girls and guys who would hang around so they could get a piece of the free pie, but few that actually wanted to stay around her. Guys wouldn’t get too close because of the glowing belly and clanking metallic back. And she would hear the girls laughing about what she looked like when she went to buy drinks.
Routines, however, at least had a genuine interest in something other than money. She could help them fix pieces on older units as long as they were still running and they enjoyed picking her brain about what it was like at Echo Corp when ideas started flowing. Echo was known for hiring people and then letting them come up with anything they wanted. It was that kind of freedom that led to the routine revolution. And she actually enjoyed recalling the story.
“Each month, my dad would gather everyone together in this large meeting hall. You didn’t have to come unless you had an idea and it didn’t matter how small or dumb the idea might be, he wanted to hear it.
“Well he’d hired this young hotshot programmer who had never gone to school but taught himself everything called Mortimer, though he went by Morty. Morty had not been there but that first month, he’d never even seen one of these meetings, when he got up there on that microphone and started trying to tell his idea.
“He was shaking and obviously never been in such a position. And Morty is a big guy but he looked so small on that stage. People were still murmuring about some idea from the guy who’d just gone up about a toaster for frozen pizza. No really, you take a frozen pizza and slide it in vertically and hit the button and then a minute later you have a pizza. The idea was actually pretty good if you take out the vertical part.
“Anyway my dad realizes someone is up there already and trying to speak so he sits back forward and gives his look like, ‘I’m listening.’ Normally when a CEO gives that look it’s just B.S. but my dad always meant it. So people keep murmuring while Morty is trying to speak because no one else seems to realize he is up there either so my dad clears his throat a few times before I stand up, turn around, and yell “SHUT UP, MINIONS!”
“So Morty and my dad start chuckling at this while everyone else just kind of goes to a stunned quiet. My dad finally asks him, ‘what’s your idea, Mortimer?’ Daddy always had a knack for remembering names. So Morty clears his throat and says ‘Brain enhancements.
“Seeing the quizzical look on my dad’s face he went on to say if a brain uses electrical impulses to speak to the spinal cord and computers can use electrical signals to send information back and forth, why couldn’t we build a computer that could supply information to a brain.
“So my dad cocks his head to the side and looks at Mortimer and says, ‘son, you are either the craziest person in this room,’ and some people chuckle behind us, ‘or the smartest. Why do you think we could ever communicate with the brain. Have you ever studied the brain and how it works?’
“’No sir.’ He kind of stuttered realizing what it’s like to face my dad who is sharp and on top of things, he always knows a good question. ‘Then what makes you think you could do this?’
“’Because no one has ever proven it can’t be done.’ Morty, through all his self-education, had one advantage over every college graduate in that room. No one ever told him what he could and couldn’t do. He simply thought of something and tried it. And that was what he wanted to do now. My dad told him to meet him in his office and after the mice test, he was made vice-president. He was in the right place at the right time.”
Kim had spent many hours with Morty even before she had a real implant during the programming phases. They would hook a series of wires that would flash small electrical pulses through her skin to her spinal cord. It was not as precise as actually connecting turned out to be but it allowed him and the other programmers to perfect everything.
During testing he proved that he could control involuntary movement by making her smack herself at which point she voluntarily smacked him and that they could not recreate muscle memory like playing the piano. A test in her trying to play a piece by Mozart caused him to quip that that had certainly not worked and Mozart was lucky to be dead so he didn’t have to hear it at which point she voluntarily slapped him again.
He got slapped a lot.
But she had not been back to Echo Corp in over two years. Things were different after the government buy out. Her father rarely came to the brainstorming meetings and people were generally less thrilled to be working than before. The company still made innovative products and created more routine implants for the lessening number of people who wanted one but the joy of doing so was gone since they got blamed for creating routines in the first place. All the life had seemed to leave the building.
She moved away from Houston to Chicago so that she could avoid most of that. She inadvertently formed this community of routines who just wanted to live in peace and she was content. Content was better than a lot of people were doing.
As she walked up to her apartment and opened the door someone rushed in behind her and closed the door. There were no lights on for her to see and she couldn’t scream as the intruder had quickly covered her mouth and pinned her against the wall.
“SHHHH. Don’t scream Kim, it’s me.” She relaxed a bit.
“Yeah, look I don’t have much time but there’s something you have to know.”
Alex was a neighbor of hers and a fellow routine. He was missing an eye that he lost when he’d tried to resist. He’d done it before the education camps were built so he felt pretty lucky to have just lost an eye. He moved back and the glow from her implant shone through her shirt. “What are you doing here? I’ll see you tomorrow at the party.”
“No, you won’t. You won’t see a lot of us but we will want to see you.”
“Alex, WHAT are you talking about?”
“It’s happening Kim. A bunch of us are going to fight back.”
“That’s crazy, how could anyone win against tens of thousands of military? What would you fight for? What would it even prove?”
“Look, it’s all a little crazy if you take the time to rationalize it but that’s life, life isn’t rational. We hear that there is a group of routines building an army under the governments’ radar. They even have weapons they just need more numbers.”
“That doesn’t even sound possible.”
“But what if it is?” Kim considered this for a second before Alex went on. “Look, we’re leaving tomorrow and heading to Oklahoma City. No one wanted to tell you at first because leaving as a big group will raise a little suspicion but nothing really works without you. You’re the key.”
“How am I the key?”
“You can get us into Echo.”
“Echo? What does that have to do with anything? Alex, really if you all want to go off getting killed then…”
“There’s not enough time to explain it but I know you’ll understand when I say Morty can help.”
“You’ve talked to Mortimer? Is he ok?”
“No, we haven’t. We only know what you’ve told us which is plenty to know we need him. We need you! Come with us.”
“I just don’t know.” But Alex was already heading out the door. She stood there questioning everything he’d just said. She agreed Morty was required for any chance to take down government routines, but numbers were needed as well. That was when she knew she would be leaving, she had to see the army that would overthrow the government.