Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
A/N: E3 is upon us again, and Watch Dogs, the Ubisoft game that made such a splash last time around, has very firmly caught my imagination. I hammered this out last night because it wouldn't leave me alone. This done, I'm going back to writing Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum's next chapter for the several hundred people waiting for it. Fans of my other stories will probably note the continuation of my 'pretentious Latin motto as a title' theme! They're just so pithy, it's hard not to use them!
There will be more chapters of this, but probably not very many until the game comes out in November. Then I might have to scrap the whole thing and restart it if I messed it up.
Sic Semper Tyrannis - "Thus always to Tyrants"
Chapter 1 - Welcome to Chicago
"It is no use saying, 'we are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."
Winston S. Churchill
Chicago has many names.
'The Windy City.' 'The Heart of America.' 'Paris on the Prairie.' 'The Hog Butcher for the World.'
Most ironic, perhaps, is one appellation given by Chicago's mayor of twenty-one years, from 1955 to 76, Richard J. Daley: 'The City that Works'. It's been taken to refer both to Chicago's heavy industrial past and hardworking, no-nonsense attitude, as well as the city's famous culture of corruption, where 'whatever works' is more important than the rules.
Daley used it in 1971, and meant it in the sense that the Chicago metropolis was a city that operated smoothly when contrasted to other to other American cities of the early seventies, stumbling under economic depression and massive social upheaval.
The irony, of course, is that when I'm around, Chicago doesn't work quite so well any more.
Chicago has yet another nickname; a very appropriate one for today's issues, for all that it predates them by decades if not a century or more.
'The Big Onion.' This one is a play on the original native American word for the area, shikaakwa, or 'wild onion,' and New York's 'The Big Apple.'
To me, it holds a different meaning. Layers within layers. The depth and complexity of the ctOS, the city's Central Operating System.
Officially, ctOS is for the citizen's convenience and security. It runs the traffic lights, the bridges, the cameras, the phone lines, the sanitation network, the waterworks, the power stations; all city infrastructure, major or minor in the Greater Chicago Area is directly linked to it.
It has access to a massive swathe of our private information, and unlike any other computer system in the world it is capable of understanding the incredible complexity of our lives, at least to a certain degree. "The net truly is vast and infinite", as some have said.
It watches your every move, listens to your every word, logs your every websearch. It knows your family, friends, enemies, your tastes in food, music, art, cars, clothing and kinks. It knows your opinions, your beliefs, and can make a probably accurate guess at your very thoughts themselves.
It knows you better than you know yourself.
And yet … no one notices. It's all … unobtrusive. Relatively speaking, anyway.
Out of sight, out of mind.
And since it's 'out of mind,' no one thinks anything of it, or does anything about it. Not even when the corporations who built it and the mobsters who greased their palms started to utilise it for their own ends.
ctOS may have been started to protect the citizens of Chicago. Now, it's used to channel them. Imprison them, in an iron cage of control concealed behind a thick wrapping of cotton wool; by which I mean lots of good PR and reassurances from politicians. But it can control their thoughts and opinions, and takes away the inhabitants' free will without them ever even noticing.
"Of course ctOS is safe; it's secure, it can't be exploited. Only city authorities have access."
The 'city authorities' are being less than honest. There are backdoors, hard-coded access points where corporations, mob bosses and corrupt politicians can manipulate the system, hide their activities. For the right price, of course.
That's the price of privatisation. The contractors who made 'the perfect system' for the city sold it out, and the city authorities let it happen without so much as a whisper.
Out of sight, out of mind, right?
"If ctOS doesn't see it, it isn't happening."
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Chicago is a big-time criminal's heaven right now. The much-vaunted ctOS is as full as holes as a block of swiss cheese, but not through any problem with the program. The city's underlying infrastructure works just fine - better now, actually, than it ever did before, just as they promised. No, the basic program isn't the problem. Good old fashioned human greed, that's what really screwed it up.
Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The program isn't corrupt; it just does what it's told. The problem is that it handed 'absolute power' over Chicago to a bunch of greedy politicians and mercenary CEOs … who sold it down the river, surprise surprise.
Of course, if you're good enough … you don't need to pay to get access to ctOS. Those backdoors are there regardless, which leaves openings for more … civic minded people; not that we hackers are often described thus. People who want to stand up to the corruption, people who want to fight back against the mobsters, people who want to live their lives without that niggling little feeling between your shoulder blades that something, or somebody is watching you all the time.
That's where I come in.
I am a hacker. A good one, though I do say so myself. I wasn't always; I used to be a thug for those very same gangs I now disrupt. In the neighbourhood I grew up in, you didn't have many other options for a career.
Now, I do. Now, I have an in, I have a way to set things right. I have a network of contacts, friends and informants, people who see this the same way I do. And I have the ultimate ace-in-the-hole.
I own ctOS.
They cannot stop me; they crippled the very system they would use to do so. The backdoors into ctOS they sold cannot be closed; there are just too many, and too many customers. I can reach out, take control, manipulate the very city itself; shut down the power, raise street barricades, see all that private information that they use to manipulate your thoughts.
There's an app for that, believe it or not.
ctOS evens the odds. What is impossible for one man is less so for one who can control an entire city to do his bidding.
They attacked my family. In a city like Chicago under ctOS, I cannot hide from them for long, so I have to take the fight to the oppressors, to protect my family. Go on the offensive, take the initiative. The best defence is a good offence, after all.
I am Aiden Pierce. And if it takes me a month, a year or a decade, I will finish this fight that they started. I will use their own city against them, make them pay for their actions; not just against my family, but against every unaware citizen of this city. I will be sought out, tracked, hunted down. And every time, I will be able to escape because of their own system.
'Welcome to Chicago.'
More like welcome to the warzone. They just haven't realised it yet.