Author : Joseph Patrick Pascale

An imposing man with the makings of a beard splotched across his face, Garrard skulked down the grimy Philadelphia streets slouched forward as if his muscles were barely contained within his hoodie. He crunched the plastic coffee cups that littered the sidewalk – no newspaper tumbleweed to be found here since paper production had been outlawed. Apparently increased production of plastic was better.

Grunting as he pushed past a throng of pedestrians, Garrard glanced up at the dusky sky with no fear of hiding his face, since most people wore a cybtact in one eye and a speakermic inside an ear to surf the internet. The mind’s autopilot moved them, but they weren’t paying attention to their surroundings. They were probably out for dinner since telecommuting and online shopping removed most of the middle class’s reasons to leave home. Even physical jobs were increasingly replaced by human-controlled robots. Not Garrard’s job though. He had no cybtact, he planned on working with his hands.

He located the manhole with the familiar CTV&T logo on it and once the street was desolate, Garrard easily dislodged it. Climbing down the ladder, he made his way until he located the encasement for the mess of fiber-optic cables that ran underground. He unzipped his sweatshirt and removed a hacksaw, which made quick work of the wires. Reaching into a back pocket, he revealed an archaic rectangular device that filled the underground labyrinth with a white noise echo when he pushed a button.

“SP’s going dark.”

For two days the internet was out. No one knew how widespread it was because there were no streams of communication. Cops were in the streets trying to spread news by word of mouth. “Terrorists,” they’d say. Things were chaotic when people realized that they couldn’t buy anything to eat because their bank accounts were linked to the internet, but the cops got restaurateurs rationing out food with the promise that an emergency tax that would go into effect to repay them.

It was 3:06 AM when people realized that they could connect online. Press conferences were up of the president and other world leaders blaming the outage on widespread and well orchestrated terrorist saboteurs. The leaders assured that the best minds had worked to ensure this would not happen again, and that the new internet they’d rebuilt would be safer and more secure.

As usual, people were posting comments on the websites providing this information. However, users dissenting the official story, questioning the likelihood of such a well organized terrorist group, found their comments could not be posted no matter what they tried. Others who attempted to do their normal share of downloading free copyrighted content on pirate websites found error messages that booted them offline all together. Hackers attempting their traditional routes of hiding their identities and peeking into information that wasn’t theirs were similarly kicked offline.

Over the next few months, these people would be receiving visits from government officials who would ask them about these illegal actives and determine if they were enough of a threat to be imprisoned.

A clean-shaven man dressed in a suit was making his way up a wide stone staircase in Washington, D.C. He pushed his way through the door and past a metal detector that started buzzing.

“Go right through, Agent Garrard,” the security guard said. Garrard continued down the large, marble room toward the elevator. He reported to work in person, the old fashioned way, because when you dealt with secrets, it was best not to leave a trail of text or recordings behind you.

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