Date Published: 8/17/2020
Publisher: Entangled Publushing, LLC
Set in an uncomfortably familiar future…
We built a wall to keep the dangers of the world out…but was it actually meant to keep us in?
Your every word is monitored. Your every movement watched.
If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
And if you stay within the wall, the Loyalist Party will protect you.
Gideon Frome knows that safety is an illusion. Ten years ago, his perfect life was shattered, and he left Washington DC in disgrace, sentenced to serve on The Wall. He may be back, lauded as a hero, but he knows he’s only traded one prison for another, assigned a position to the infamous Secret Service.
Kate Buchanan uses her illegal predictive engine to monitor the “chatter,” flagging perceived threats to America. When the program suggests that nuclear war is imminent, and people around her start to die, Kate can no longer hide. She needs help, and it comes from the most unlikely place—Gideon Frome, a ghost from her past.
The American people thought they were safe, but it’s becoming shockingly clear that the price of safety is too high. And somehow, together, Kate and Gideon must tear down the walls that keep their country a prisoner.
“Can I ask you a hypothetical question?” Kate said.
Oliver raised an eyebrow but nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Do you think it’s possible to design an accurate predictive engine?”
“You know my views on the matter. With the amount of data available today—or rather the amount which should be available if they’d let us have a free hand—and a computer with the power to sift through that data and find the patterns, yes, I think it’s possible. Whether it will ever happen is unlikely.”
“If it did, would you think it better to rely on a machine rather than on humans? To make decisions and…things?”
She let out a short laugh. Oliver didn’t have a high opinion of most people.
“A computer is always impartial,” he continued. “It looks at facts. People are rarely impartial and come to any decision with a whole lot of baggage.” He swallowed the last of his coffee and tossed the cup in the trash. “Is there anything you want to tell me, Kate?”
She shook her head. “No. Definitely not.”
“Good, because I’m pretty certain I’m being monitored and that even now this meeting is being sent to the Secret Service. At least it’s known we had a past relationship, so it’s unlikely anyone will think it suspicious.”
“Why are they watching you?”
He shrugged. “My lack of support for the Party has never been a secret, but let’s not dwell on that. How can I help you? There’s obviously something more than a hypothetical question bothering you.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay, again hypothetically, if you did have a predictive engine, and it predicted something catastrophic, would you try and prove it wrong?”
He gave her a sharp look. Perhaps she should have been a little vaguer, but she was rattled, and she found being evasive no easier than she found lying. “What have you done, Kate?”
She couldn’t involve him. “Nothing.”
He snorted, then shook his head. “There was a reason I hid you away in the basement when I gave you a job. I knew what I was getting into. Some people you just can’t stop. I considered it better to hide you in plain sight.”
“Really, Oliver, it’s just a theory I’m working on.”
He nodded slowly, blew out his breath, and scrubbed a hand through his wiry hair. “Okay. First, I’d make sure that this theory is reliable. Do some short-term tests. See how accurate this hypothetical machine is. Then go back to your prediction and run the same scenario under different conditions.”
“What if it comes up the same?”
He gave a faint smile. “Then we’d be in trouble. You’d have to keep digging. You’d need to find whatever it is that can change the probability of the catastrophic outcome. The negative prediction. Quite often something quite minor can have a major effect on outcomes. Think of the butterfly effect.”
That sounded positive. She’d just have to flap her wings and maybe she’d save a good proportion of the human race. At any rate, it gave her something to do rather than sit around twiddling her thumbs and waiting for the bomb to go off.
“The future is not set,” he continued. “Any predictive engine can only work on what’s happened in the past, so anything that happens between the time of the original prediction and the predicted event will have an effect. Remember that.”
She smiled. “I will.”
“You’re an extraordinary scientist, Kate. In any other time, you’d be allowed free rein.”
“It’s for the good of the people.”
He threw up his hands. “And comments like that make me want to bang my head against the wall. The good of the people. What happened to freedom, and the search for truth and knowledge? What about expanding our minds, stretching ourselves, exploring the unknown?”
“We had all those things and we nearly destroyed the world and all of humanity. At least people are safe and healthy and…”
Except that, according to Auspex, the world was anything but safe.
“Some people,” Oliver said. “Not all.”
“We can’t look after the entire world.” They were words her father repeated often, as though if he said them enough they would become true.
Oliver banged his hand down on the bench beside him and she jumped. “Stop fucking spouting the Party crap, Kate. I expect more from you.”
About the Author
After a number of years wandering the world in search of adventure, N.J. Croft finally settled on a farm in the mountains and now lives off-grid, growing almonds, drinking cold beer, taking in stray dogs, and writing stories where the stakes are huge and absolutely anything can happen.