Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The chaos on the streets is nothing compared to the chaos at headquarters. In the end, I give up and hop from desk to desk, then jump down and barge through the queue into his office.
“You called, Chief?”
Clarence Christie, Chief of the San Francisco Special Operations Bureau, grins at the shouts of outrage at my queue jumping, then gestures for Rales – the gent I pre-empted – to close the door.
“One day you’re going to meet someone you can’t get by.”
He shakes his head, then scoops a file off his cluttered desk and throws it to me.
“Find this man. You’ll have anything you need to make it happen.”
I open the file. There’s an interview document, some psych evaluation notes, a blurred mugshot, and some CCTV stills of him being carried from a building by four sanatorium orderlies. I check the location and dates. Los Angeles. Four years ago, almost to the day.
“How does this loon link to what just levelled Los Angeles?”
Clarence gestures to the SD card in the plastic bag stapled to the inside of the folder. He pushes his laptop over.
“Slot and play.”
I do so. It’s a short video. The figure is dressed in a ragged T-shirt and chinos. Manacled and chained to both chair and table, he glares from the screen. I can almost feel his rage as he starts to speak.
“One more time for the hard of believing: I come from a time 176 years ahead of this today. We’re told The Singularity has happened for those deserving of it. The EHAI – Enhanced Humans and Artificial Intelligences – created a supposed utopia in which there is nothing for the unmodded to do except work in factories accruing credits towards enhancement. Production lines are human powered because we’re better at maintaining and replacing ourselves than machines.
“Some of us unmodded decided to carve out a future for ourselves: an independent nation where we could live free of implants. At first, EHAI ignored us. Then they laughed. Then they legislated. That’s when the riots occurred. Soon after that, the resistance started. Fortunately, leaders rose to turn UnMod into a cohesive force. We won: got ourselves a decent size island. We’re getting more and more disaffected coming to join us. People are shutting off their enhancements and leaving EHAI.
“The ruling polity decided to stop the UnMod movement. Tracing the bloodlines back, they found a critical point where the ancestors of many key UnMod figures were in geographic proximity. They’re going to send something back to deal with them.”
An indistinct question comes from off-screen. There’s laughter. The soldier looks confused, then angrier.
“Why would they send a cyborg assassin? It’s simpler to send a K-bomb.”
He stares at the screen.
“They’re going to erase Los Angeles sometime in the next five years.”
The video ends. I look at Clarence.
“You have got to be kidding me.”
He shrugs.
“Four years ago, the name he gave was Kevar Jykson. After transfer and evaluation, he did two stints at Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital right here in San Francisco, then some new therapy worked. He was declared sane and released eleven months ago.”
My boss sighs.
“Yes, I think he played along to get released. Question is, why? What did he know that could have prevented the five hundred square miles containing Los Angeles from being vapourised?”
I tuck the file into my jacket, then smile at him.
“More importantly, does Mister Jykson have a Plan B?”
Clarence sighs.
“That’s the essential question. Go find him and ask.”