Criticality (5): The Iniquity of the Children
It was the landmark case that put Pete and Julian on the law enforcement map. Cadets from across the universe studied the details as the first part of a curriculum leading up to the Detective badge.
Legendary was often the description used to illustrate how far-reaching the finding of guilt ripped through the fabric of a private sector-fueled society. The accompanying pain associated with making waves within, shaking up most of, and indicting previously untouchable executives throughout these companies sent shock waves throughout the Second Earth Special Police Force causing an otherwise incredible accomplishment to become much more bitter than sweet.
A year ago, Pete’s wife was still alive. That same year ago, Julian had significantly less problems to deal with regarding the rugged cop. The fame was nice at the time, but the ensuing ramifications caused the Police Force to rethink how it went about prosecuting these higher profile cases. Their vivid exposure had not only caused tragedy to befall the tight-knit family that was Commissioner Gyro’s crack unit, but it had also caused the reorganization and re-authoring of jurisdiction to suit the more covert purposes of what they now were needing to accomplish in the future. Publicity had its problems, and one of those struck them in the worst possible way. From that moment of innocent miscalculation forward, the Commissioner forbade individual officers from any spokesperson duties and centralized that to a professional media type in the vein of a press secretary.
The case had started with an honest question:
“Where the fu– does all this spam come from?” Pete asked. “The people who send this shi- out should just be killed!”
“No idea,” Julian replied, “but whoever’s servers are sending it out seem to have found the Police Force domain name. Maybe we could get Yori to beef up the spam filter, you think?”
That seemed like a suitable idea, and considering the noise level of a non-cubicle office floor setup, Pete and Julian decided to get up from their shared table-facing desks and take a walk. Packed with activity, breaks were often needed to clear heads up enough with the ointment of silence to be able to think in private plus mitigate the frustration associated with a sick building syndrome. It was too difficult to see the windows from being in the middle of the office floor, and with the shifts that some were putting in, they would have almost forgotten that windows even existed having come to the base before daylight was much less than abundant and left for the evening when daylight was long since gone.
Some things never changed, and the tidiness of Yori’s work area was one of those. Neither Pete nor Julian had stopped in to critique his Feng shui, and both chose to cut the small talk – jumping into the matter at hand. After all, they were in the presence of a very busy man who was constantly in high demand, and he actually preferred it that way.
After greetings and the bonding ritual of a razzing for the previous night’s sports scores were out of the way, Pete started things off by offering what he thought to be a simple question, “Why can’t we just trace spam back to the culprit?”
“I wish I had all day to explain it to you,” Yori admitted while engrossed in whatever it was that he was working on, “but I don’t. Would a greatly abbreviated, crash course suffice?”
It was either that or nothing, so Julian responded, “It’ll have to do for now. Dumb it down to its least common denominator. We’re sleuths, not techies.”
Since there was a genuine respect for his time, Yori stopped what he was doing, turned, and extended his undivided attention to the discussion, “There’s two types, from our legal perspective, and I had to delve into your world to learn the distinction on where it was that we stood, so that I might be able to devise a security scheme for our firewalls in order to best combat the threats. First, is the corporate kind that hungry companies might send out to harmlessly drum up business. It’s normally limited to one email that allows you an opportunity to opt-in for a continuing subscription to the emails – otherwise a simple delete is the end of it. Technically, they are not supposed to be doing that, but no blood, no foul.
The second form, which is much more malicious, is the reason you two are standing before me right now. Often fraught with viruses and scams while harboring shady origins that are masked by proxies and clones throughout the internet, it is perhaps the most annoying thing in all of the universe. What ultimately gets me is that, if by chance I wanted to order something, I couldn’t! So it’s like, what’s the point?”
“Exactly,” Pete was in total agreement with that last statement. “It’s sadistic, for no reason!”
“So, more is slipping through the filter?” Yori inquired. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Yori,” Julian said, “let me ask you something. Who would stand to gain from such a nuisance? It seems like a disruption to all of us, but who could stand to profit or at least benefit from its perpetuation?”
Taking a moment before answering, Yori asked for additional clarification of the question, “I’m not sure I follow.”
Taking a step back, Julian presented his query in a different way, “If spam were eradicated, who would stand the most to lose from its absence?”
“Software companies to start,” Yori thought, “because if there wasn’t predatory behavior on the internet, what would be the point of anti-virus? We could probably link hardware appliances in along with that – like firewalls. Heck, even internet service providers would stand to gain from it because spam traffic takes up a significant percentage of bandwidth each year, so it behooves people and companies to get faster connections in order to try and offset the degradation. Spam accounts for a sizable amount of wasted bandwidth, actually. Why?”
Pete shot a glance at Julian and thought out loud, “How can we go about proving it?”
Yori started laughing, “Proving what? Wait, you’re serious. Are you going to start investigating – no way, my friends. It’s much less complicated to believe some foreign hackers are to blame for it. I’d just as soon leave it alone if I were you.”
“Boy, were we fu–ing stupid,” Pete reminisced.
“We’ll just go in there and shake down some geeks and nerds,” Julian mocked by using a heavily exaggerated voice meant to be Pete’s, “how hard could it be?”
The Mustang raced down the highway following the lead of a GPS on path to the destination of a nursing home. Neither Pete nor Julian could be overly hard on the other because the uncovering of the sheer amount of entities involved with building scripts to propagate and turning a blind eye to allow spam to fester was disheartening. It was very good work that was done although the corporate boat had been rocked into capsizing. This was the reason that the Space Force had sought them out for the Leader 1 security assignment. They were very clearly the undisputed first two at the top of the list – their job to lose.
A systemic failure in the way that companies were doing business was exposed, and the sirens of collusion were set off alerting the Space Force into having to take punitive actions to prevent the corporate abuse from ever happening again. Once they were in the mix, it meant the enforcement of their societal theory was called for. Coming from corporate and capitalistic roots at that, there was an earnest understanding for the sordid luring of a business sensibility that thought it could get over which was why the gavel needed to have come down as hard as it did.
From the Space Force’s perspective, socialization should only occur as a punishment when corporations prove themselves incompetent from knowingly engaging in egregious acts that could wreck the very fabric of society. This was not a responsibility taken lightly from an entity that was technically judge, jury, and executioner because the business background screamed out for a hands-off approach when dealing with the corporate community to not impede, or worse yet, hamper innovation. So, the finding of guilt needed to follow the burden of proof which required ‘beyond a the shadow of doubt’ meaning that the prosecution needed to get all of the companies to not only admit fault but further incriminate themselves by explaining how they pulled it off.
To do that, the Space Force needed to take Pete and Julian’s work and paint the corporations into a corner. It was possibly one of the biggest breaches in capitalistic trust since the financial markets collapse because, again, the average person did not understand the technicalities of what was going on, and even a person of advanced technical knowledge would find it fairly far-fetched when putting together the various pieces. The situation was definitely of the kind where the crime was too unbelievable to be true let alone possible.
Seeing right through the skewed view of naïve lenses, Pete and Julian likened the tech-speak behaviors to their basest instincts, pulling back the arrogant cover of specialty, and calling the nonsense what it was – a crime. Using completely different cases to earn warrants, they shadily went above and beyond their investigative duties by poking their noses around the companies they were ultimately hunting as if it were some sort of bonus effort like overtime detective work. They poked until they smelled something, and the stench they acquired stunk.
A crime was a crime, and ultimately, Pete and Julian’s job was simple. They needed only to find a breach of the law, no matter how obscure. Proving intent was unnecessary because they needed only bring the activity out into the forefront, and individuals much more judicious than them, like the Space Force, would be tasked with finding the guilt. That was the beauty of what two nobody Police Force officers had accomplished and the reason for their win being vaulted into the text books of law enforcement academies around the universe. Simply put, theirs was not to prove but to point out. Many times, criminals walked because the law enforcement was incapable of gathering enough evidence to bring the bad people to trial let alone secure a warrant. The precedent showed that people should not be afraid to go after the biggest of perpetrators and the largest of offenders.
Pete and Julian had no idea of what they were supposed to know and circumvented all of that by ‘stumbling’ upon a few coerced statements here and there, biting off of completely unrelated warrants to put them in a position to net those statements, and bringing the case before a society that well over ninety-nine percent of which supported by applauding loudly for their effort which was what ultimately sold it to the Space Force to take up. The targeted companies were still innocent until proven guilty but had no leg to stand on in their explanation of how they had neglected to use their abilities to track down malicious internet citizens which, in the end, were the root and reason for their competitive advantage and yearly profits.
Internet service providers just seemed to have no idea where the spam originated from even though they were more than capable of spying around to find it. The reason they did not was because they stood more to gain financially from the continuance of spam over what they could have made by ridding the universe of it. This same shortsighted behavior exposed the software companies as well with their uncanny ability to sniff out viruses which was the cousin of writing, creating, and introducing those very same instances of malware. Hardware companies were on the hook for creating gateway devices that could keep the spam out but not creating equipment that made the spam incapable of even being sent out in the first place. Crossed arms and raised eye brows met their excuses as to why, in this day and age, authentication was not tied to computer usage. Again, the privacy advocates would have been up in arms, but hard-pressed to debate the merits of the issue that was averted. Even if a person told their authentication to somebody, if any one of the other two culprits were doing their job, spam could not persist. In the end, everybody gave up everybody else, and even the healthcare industry was put on notice and began scaling back on its own collusive efforts….
The Space Force made an example of the technology companies by taking them over, locking up their executives, and fining employees found to have knowingly carried out the crimes and received undue enrichment for having done so. In patented fashion, these companies would later be spun back out into the private sector in some sort of pseudo-IPO causing a monstrous amount of profiteering to come from out of initial, capitalistic stupidity.
Second Earth Special Police Force Base
Chico hurried down the steps to meet up with a car parked in one of the temporary visitor parking spaces. Inside was Lupita who he promptly leaned over the center console to kiss lightly on the cheek.
“How have things gone so far?” Lupita inquired.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” Chico said while putting on his seatbelt. “I know this isn’t your lunch break and all.”
Pulling out of the parking space, Lupita replied, “Not a problem. The heads up you gave me was all I needed. Besides, I’d make time for this. It’s great having you based on Second Earth for a change, so needless to say, I’m excited about the prospects of seeing you more than four hours at night.”
Realizing Chico could not pay for understanding like that, he silently counted his blessings and wasted no time in cluing Lupita in on what had happened, “One of the Police Force officers went on a mini rampage in clear misunderstanding of the powers the Space Force had extended to him.”
“Really?” Lupita was able to turn her head more for the purposes of carrying on eye contact during the conversation now that she was on a main road and driving along normally.
“Neither Murk nor I were surprised,” Chico admitted, “because this is the Police Force officer that cracked the spam case.”
Having seen Pete on the news, Lupita was outwardly familiar with the situation concerning his instability replying, “The one whose wife was murdered?”
Chico nodded, “That would be correct. We’re working very closely with the commissioner over there, so we all devised a way to prevent this from happening in the future. It was also somewhat of a peace offering since we had to put the officer and his partner through the ringer to ensure they were the ones we wanted for the security contract.”
“These must be some pretty important people for that commissioner to keep such insubordinates in his employ,” Lupita reasoned. “I’d keep an eye on their leader if I were you. Overlooking that type of behavior – you know how law enforcement types are, taking care of their own?”
“To Commissioner Gyro’s credit,” Chico defended, “I don’t sense that. I know it’s almost cynical of me to say this, but I actually believe he wants to bring goodness to the universe, and strove to surround himself with people who felt the same. They may falter as I’m sure any of us would in their position, but I have no doubt that they fully believe in his shared vision.”
Smiling, Lupita reiterated, “Sounds even more like a cult leader to me now that you’ve prefaced it. Watch your back, honey.”
The Commissioner had both Sec and Yori corralled in his office as he stared out of the open blinds at Murk who appeared to be carrying on a conversation via Ear-To-Mouth Com outside in the main office floor area. Most of the discussion had centered around base operations, but it was time to take things off topic.
“I’ve been really impressed with the dispatcher software,” Sec admitted.
“It sure makes my job a lot easier in not having to continually come out here and troubleshoot it,” Yori added.
“The real reason I called you in here,” Commissioner Gyro took the conversation down a path that was normally aired out in the parking lot, “is because I do not trust the Space Force.”
Sec questioned, “Murk and Chico?”
Shaking his head, the Commissioner clarified, “Not them specifically but the Space Force in general and this security contract in particular. My gut has rarely been wrong in the past with its math, so some things now are not quite adding up. I see glimmers of contradictions which are supporting a sneaking suspicion that we are being set up to fail – take the fall, for reasons I can’t…place…my arms around.”
The mood in Commissioner Gyro’s office had turned much more serious with the revelation, so Yori offered any assistance he could provide, “What can I do?”
“I’m not stupid enough to have you two buck heads directly with the Space Force in monitoring Murk and Chico’s communications,” the Commissioner explained, “but only because I doubt that Leader 1’s two right hand people are ultimately in on it. I could be wrong about this, but I want you both to work on the first contradiction. A much larger technological issue that I was previously unaware of popped up unknowingly in a previous conversation, so if we’re going to be caught, I’d rather it be on an issue of greater importance than probing around their individual communications. I had no knowledge about this prior and initially played off my catching on to it, but with me being completely cut off from my contacts on Earth for whatever reason our new employer decides to splice together, I need to find out why. That’s where you come in. The radio silence is much larger than the arrival of Jerry Stuyvescent, and I shudder to think what the harbinger has in store. This is huge and being treated as such. Nobody ever said the apocalypse needed a sign when it could be brought as quietly as a mouse.”
“We’ll do what we can,” Sec accepted while looking at Yori for a nodding confirmation.
Continuing, Commissioner Gyro stated, “I already have Pete and Julian working the Stalkord angle. To be honest, I never liked the overly smug relationship between his corporations and the Space Force anyway. There’s something incestuous about the motives, and I plan on finding out exactly what it is.
Sylvia and Vim are going to work the Space Force angle. Out of all of us, she’s definitely closest to it with her father and grandfather having been instrumental in designing SpaceStation Colt. This investigation is in her very blood, so she’ll know all of the proper angles with which to take in shedding the light over the goings ons over there.”
“You starting to catch feelings already?” Billy said from beneath brutally heavy-looking weights as he lay on top of a bench working out his pectorals.
“I wanted to sincerely apologize for the way that our date turned out,” Sylvia said while overlooking Billy from the spotter position.
With a couple more presses and zero shakiness, Billy angled the intimidating bar over the lipped, reinforced holder. Not even winded, he sat up, turned around, and announced, “That was actually the best date I’ve had in ages.”
Astonished, Sylvia shrugged, “Really?”
“Seriously,” Billy reassured, “I belong to the Djibouti Clan. That’s kinda my sick and twisted idea of a good time so no hard feelings, okay? To prove it to you, would you mind meeting my family tonight? They’ll be in attendance for my match. I already told them all about you.”
“I’d be honored to try and earn their approvals,” Sylvia smiled. This entire conversation was a bit of a relief for her because she was not big on dating other Police Force officers instead opting to veer away from obvious and often deadly conflicts of interest that could come into play as far as the working relationship was concerned, and non-Police Force officers usually did not understand the tribulations associated with the line of work nor have patience for the many incessant dangers. Finding a person who did seem to understand was certainly one of the rarest finds of all – a rare gem indeed. “Who am I up against?”
Billy alerted, “My mom, dad, and sister will be here tonight, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. They’ll absolutely love you, so just be yourself. They don’t normally show up until I get deeper into the tournaments and my sensibility’s cooled down a little bit. There’s nothing worse than having your family there for the opening match – too much pressure.”
One of the things that Sylvia loved about Billy was his sense of humor and she playfully egged him on, “You? Nervous? Somehow, I don’t see that.”
“Shi-, you didn’t see me before I asked you out,” Billy shook his head. “I almost called my own match that night because if you said ‘no’, I’d have had no reason to pull my punches, so it would have been best to just forfeit rather than killing my opponent.”
For Sylvia, this relationship was almost too good to be true, but she was very cognizant of another relationship that was fairly similar. It was comforting that Billy could more than hold his own during the times when craziness broke out, but the cautionary tale of love lost was always loitering around the back of every Police Force officer’s mind.
Dynamics Nursing Home
Here, Pete and Julian used the Space Force clout for what it was originally intended – getting around annoyances like Doctor-Patient Confidentiality in the context of their tertiary investigation to seek out any potential threats to Leader 1 (the primary being finding Retsepar and the secondary being finding out about Stalkord). One such threat, by a significant stretch of the imagination, sat on the sidelines mentally confined to a wheelchair out in the back greenery.
Pete had gone on ahead to…question the subject while Julian stayed behind talking to the orderly after putting away his identification, “So what’s the story with that guy?”
“He used to be one of our most active patrons,” the orderly said, “doing everything from sports to the mall runs to taking part in the orchestra concerts provided by local visiting school children. Shortly after his son committed suicide, he just gave up. Physically, there’s nothing wrong with him, but his problem is up here,” pointing to Julian’s head, “and in there,” pointing to Julian’s heart.
“Is that normal?” Julian asked while turning around to keep tabs on Pete.
The orderly nodded, “Unfortunately, yes. It’s normally that wait and want for death that prolongs suffering by needlessly extending agony causing the prospects of which to not be all that bad in retrospect. I just think it’s a perfectly bad waste of a finite amount of time.”
Speaking of Pete, Julian replied, “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve seen that before.”
“There are some real fighters here,” the orderly envied, “and some with very serious ailments and problems, but you couldn’t tell them how bad they have it. All they know is one more day, and I have a heavy appreciation for that. It’s an inspiration. If for nothing else, it causes the next person to not want to give up – making my job easier. And don’t get me wrong, I know aging is hard because I have to deal with this everyday when families either won’t or are incapable of providing the right amount of care, but it does hurt seeing what he’s doing to himself.”
“Well, I’m sure you’re busy,” Julian said while shaking the orderly’s hand, “thanks for your time. Should we sign out or something when we leave?”
Pointing back toward the inside of the nursing home, the orderly said, “Yes, please do. I’ll be right up front, but a quick sign and a date and you two’ll be on your way – out of here posthaste. Good luck officers.”
Pete had waited months for the opportunity presented before him right now, so when it finally arrived, he removed his badge, knelt down beside the wheelchair, and spoke with an eerie, intelligent calm in the ear of a man he, “Should fu–ing blow you away. Oh, you know who I am. Your son breaks the law, and when the heat from the Space Force comes down on him, he isn’t even man enough to face charges – kills himself. I see now that it wasn’t his fault as the bitc- as- gene apparently runs in your family.
That da-n mercenary you hired, missed. Missed badly, killed, and raped my wife. So now, I guess that means you got even, huh? I’m still breathing – my partner’s still breathing, you senile fu–. Look at you, you’re pathetic, and the only thing worse than a cop killer, is an attempted-cop killer. Well, the Second Earth Special Police Force with the aid of the Space Force has your entire family under surveillance. If any of you fu–s decide to make a move on a Police Force Officer ever again, it’s all over for them, and I’m coming back for you, myself.
I don’t play this business/personal shi-, and apparently neither do you, but from one person who doesn’t have shi- else to live for to another; I have a lot more ammo and one less reason not to use it.”
By now, the man in the wheelchair was visibly rattled, contorting his face and clawing at the arms of the chair. Pete left him to his thoughts and walked calmly back inside of the lanai which sat directly adjacent to the nursing home’s main complex in order to link back up with Julian.
Struck by the scene of the man trying to regain enough strength but failing to pull himself out of the wheelchair and chase after Pete, Julian hesitated to ask, “So, how did it go?”
“I told the man I forgave him,” Pete smiled.