When a Knower comes Knocking




“Identity confirmation, social, long, lat,time and date.”

“That’s your theory?”

“No. It’s first hand from someone who needed to launder his or her conscience. And who’s still keen to stay alive.”

“And it’s from a sat transmission?”

“Correct. A single entry in this log, and I’ve got dozens of these logs.”

Sarah scanned the page, noting multiple entries following the IC. They were all prefixed UL.

“Updated location. But really, don’t you want to know the how?”

“Jesus Mink, I’m keen to stay alive too, but you’re telling me anyway?”

“You’re forearm has gooseflesh.”

“But you’re telling me anyway. We’ve published an exposé every six months together, never published on our own. I’d go down with you no matter how innocent I was. Besides curiosity, I’ll need to know everything I can in case I try to talk you out of this.”

“We’re not the leakers. We’d just be Greenwald and company, which might be worse. I’m not sure whether I’d feel safer in Russia or stateside. Probably better perks in Russia.”

“Jesus Mink.”

“Oh yeah, I’ve thought it all through, even down to letting you in.”

“Into a prison of sorts.”

“I like to think you’d have invited me along.”

“I don’t know Mink. Why don’t you spill the details on just how scared I should be.”

Don Mink noted the disappearance of the gooseflesh and looked into his wife’s green eyes. Sparkling. The clearest eyes he’d ever seen. He was glad in the moment for her glasses, which he now understood acted as clothing for her eyes. Flattering, but a material barrier. He wasn’t sure she understood this, and he had decided he would never tell her how he sought glimpses of her eyes side-on, behind the glasses. How he was affected by her removing her glasses. How overwhelmingly sensual her eyes were through pure atmosphere.

“Been to the dentist lately? What was it, a month ago?”


“Dentist’s offices. And I think eyewear outlets too, but I haven’t quite grasped that fully yet. It’s a setup with insurance submission data and the addition of a trackable device. In these cases I’m told that device is a dental filling.”

“Okay, my feet are wet.”

“Ceramic filling material with microscopic chips in the matrix. One known supplier of an ingredient known to add great durability to the fillings. Proprietary stuff. The chips are nothing special, all the same. They just resonate enough for the sat to lock onto, and once you’re locked, you’re locked until the sat falls out of the sky. Or longer – forever –  if they transfer the lock to another bird.”

“Insurance submissions?”

“Secretary punches in your data when you come in the door, punches in a claim before you walk out. All your vital information, which of course is on tap at the NS bunker. All the chips in the filler on site make the office a hot spot, but the sat can pick out a departing customer twenty feet out the door. NS gets your ID in real time, sets sat to monitor for departures. Twenty feet out you’re locked onto. You are then monitored for as long as it takes you to travel to a number of confirmation sites, such as your home address and your work address.”

“Known to any number of federal agencies.”

“”Oh yes. Two or three ducks in a row, I’m told, and you graduate to IC status. For some reason they are still concerned about mistakes.”

“But it wouldn’t take more than three days for ninety-nine percent of people to visit home and work.”

“Actually they calculate that only sixty percent of people reach IC status in a week. Kids, retirees, unemployed people finally getting to the dentist under ACA, none of them going to the workplace where a W-2 would be issued or a tax return filed from. And people with perfect teeth are a problem, but they’re not the type generally sought by the others with perfect teeth. It’s not a singles database.”

“How long? How many?”

“Two years plus. Twenty three million plus.”

“All tracked in real time.”

“They can put a lot of chips in a half ton sat. And there are currently nine sats aloft.”

“Why am I trying to remember when I got a tooth filled last? I know it wasn’t last time.”

“I haven’t been to the dent in three years. And no, I haven’t known about this for that long. I’ve been on it a week.”

She studied his appearance. Was he gaunt? Pale? Even biased by knowing what he’d borne the last week, she couldn’t discern a difference in his look or manner. His hair was exactly as perfectly imperfect as always. His shirt was either clean or a day old, and his shaving hadn’t suffered. Still Don Mink.

“We’ve talked about this before, I scarcely dreamt it might be preparatory chat.”

“The Hersh and Greenwald talk?”

“Those come to mind, yes.”

“Reporters as warriors.”

“Yes we decided soldier implied obedience.”

“Here’s a new one. Reporter as terrorist.”

“Of a sort, Sarah.”

“Of a sort.”

3 responses to this post.

  1. Easier to follow than Chopping Corn which, in retrospect, has rather too many people’s names in it given its length.

    Here the question is one of emphasis. Is it enough to make the method (implantation, data analysis, etc) virtually the hero of the story? And if so, the peeling away of the techno-detail should follow a pattern of revelation, ideally making the system or process more and more frightening and/or inescapable as it proceeds. Occasionally, here, detail is merely added to an outline we already understand.

    Husband and wife vs. merely man and woman? I think choosing the former makes things harder for you: they both look at each other and discover things. With husband and wife, marital familiarity makes this seem less likely. Rediscovering a sexual bond is more difficult to get across and dramatise than having a sexual bond suddenly develop.

    Given the awfulness of their situation the last eight lines need much more attention; they must be stark, very much more present indicative, less reflective (eg, “These come to mind.”) less abstract (“Yes we decided soldier implied obedience.” would be better as “Soldiers do what they’re told.”

    The last two lines fade away which is OK so long as the horror is implied. Or more simply:

    “Heck, we’re dealing in words not bombs.”

    “Data kills, Mink, you know that.”

    But obviously it must be you not me.


  2. Less than an hour’s work here with minimal editing. I appreciate your points, especially the one about a slower revelation of the tech details. That would have allowed more character development between the tech points. The man/wife thing was an impulse, but it seemed to help with establishing that they were more inseparable in the situation. The bit about their earlier collaborations might therefore be extraneous. “Soldiers do what they’re told.”…..I think I’d want a question mark after that so it was more firmly tied to the reference to a past conversation, but it IS more concise. As I said, this was a quick exercise. The feel I thought I (pretty much accidentally) achieved at the end was one of resignation. The transition of emotions was too quick for such a short story I guess. I’ve finished OoA and clearly I’m under the influence, but imitation (however indeliberate, however inept) is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Thanks for the read and the critique. Feels a little like I’m getting tips from Hemingway.


    • Nice of you to say that. But remind yourself, there is no such thing as a definitive short story; as I see things you’re in the process of arriving at a personal, extremely terse style and all I’m doing is shouting suggestions from the sidelines. Concentrate on the style and you’ll find my shouting gets feebler and feebler. Which is as it should be.


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