Operation Big Brother
“If we want our children to respect us, they have to respect
Senator Julian Humberto Webb on the 2032 Youth Patrol Act
“Smells like… teen spirit,” said the female voice acidly.
Surprised, 19-year old Daniel de Quiros said, “What?” As he floated in a gray sea of static, he gestured and the static formed into a computer simulation of the Taft MRT train station around him. Though he knew it was only virtual reality, he felt claustrophobic as digital spectres of people flowed around him.
“This place,” said a disembodied voice from the digital ether, “It stinks of sweat and fart and garbage and…”
Dan laughed. “Welcome to Manila. Should get used to it, we’ll be spending a lot of time here.”
“Not if I can help it. Ah, I see the bastards.”
“I think the correct term is potential delinquents,” he said as he saw a gang of boys – nine of them, their ages ranging from 13 to 17 – dressed in black jeans, torn shirts. The group was horsing around the entrance of the MRT station, causing a jam as they prevented the evening’s rush-hour crowd from entering the turnstiles. The AI finally solidified the virtual simulacrum of 18-year old Charms Vergara beside him. She said, “God, was I ever that rebellious? I feel old. Do you feel old, Bubble Boy?”
“Don’t call me Bubble Boy,” he snapped as he studied the group. He never had friends in his isolation and he envied the boys their camaraderie. “Are you ready?”
“Would I be dressed like this if I weren’t?” she said. Daniel admitted that she looked good in her black cargo pants, sleeveless plaid blouse, and black metal-capped boots.
“Come on, girl, show me what you got,” he said with a half-smile.
Snorting, she slid out a black metal baton that she extended with a flick of a wrist. She added, “Play some music, Bubble Boy.”
He obliged her and waved a hand in front of him, spreading music files like a pack of cards. “Since you mentioned it earlier… how about this?”
The heavy plucking of a bass guitar filled the electronic air and he knew Charms could hear it as well on her wireless earphone: Load up on guns, bring our friends. It’s fun to lose and to pretend…“Shit, is that Nirvana?” she asked as she approached the group.
The nearest boy looked up with a sneer at the pretty girl walking towards him. She gleefully whipped the baton across the boy’s face in a spray of blood and spittle. Flashing her wallet government ID, she shouted, “Hey you! Stop right there!”
Dan floated above the VR scenery so that he could get a better look. He saw the crowd clear as if they sensed the coming fight. The station security guards had already flat-out refused to deal with the kids, especially after the violent raid in a Manila university that created the Childhood Protection Act in 2012.
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us…Two of the boys charged at Charms but she sidestepped to the left and rammed the metal butt of the baton against the stomach of one of them. As he bent over in pain, she pirouetted and cracked the baton against his friend’s head. Dan winced as he saw the boy tumble to the floor.
Another boy rushed up and Dan shouted, “Behind you!” She ducked the boy’s grasping arms and swept him off his feet with an outstretched leg.
I’m worse at what I do best, and for this gift I feel blessed…As the five remaining gang members circled around Charms, she saw a glint of a knife as well as a lead pipe. Meanwhile, Dan checked the nearby close-circuit cameras and saw a police patrol tromping hurriedly towards the station. “Charms, police ETA in five minutes.”
“Late as always,” she replied as she carefully palmed the small Kahr P380 from the holster at her back. “Take out the station lights in a three-two burst. Don’t want to panic the crowd with gunshots.”
Dan accessed the station electrical grid and counted off: “Got it. Three, two, one, go!”
The overhead lights of the station went out for a couple of seconds and caused the watching crowd to scream. But before the blackout could cause a stampede, five successive shots rang out. When the lights came back on, Dan could see Charms had already brought down all five boys with non-fatal wounds.
I found it hard, it’s hard to find. Oh well, whatever never mind… A beeping sound resonated through the VR. “Uh-oh, gotta go. Good job,” Dan said as he keyed off the music. As he exited, he heard Charms say, “Thanks, Bubble Boy.”
Hello hello hell-ooow, hello hello hell-ooow, hello hello hell-oow… Dan opened his eyes to see the familiar clear plastic sphere that was his whole world. He raised himself from the VR pod and saw three people outside the sterile room that served as his command post.
He recognized Doctor Garner who was treating him for his Severe Combined Immunodeficiency—but not the other American, a pale-looking man in a black suit. The liaison chief approached the plastic wall that separated him from the rest of the human race.
“How was it?” Mr. Ortiz asked.
Dan replied, “No problem, sir. The start-up was a bit slow though.”
“Good,” Ortiz said and turned to the American, “Tell your President that Operation Big Brother was successful. I think we can honestly say that the test run for your global phase is feasible.”
The American nodded and walked out of the room.
Dan thought, What the hell am I getting myself into?