Sherlock read everything. Maps, spreadsheets, Supreme Court dissents, reports on Samoan ecosystems or credit derivatives that would become obsolete in two years, the 800 number on his Pandy shampoo bottle to see if it had changed since the last time he'd gotten up to pee. It hadn't. John liked to pretend the girl in the commercial was saying "panty" every time, and Sherlock kept meaning to switch out brands.
He scrolled down another page and stopped.
"...if you fail, or the City suspects that you have failed, to comply with any of the provisions of this Agreement, the City, at its sole discretion, without notice to you may: (i) terminate this Agreement, and you will remain liable for all amounts due under your Account up to and including the date of termination; and/or (ii) terminate your state license; and/or (iii) preclude access to the City and it's services (or any part thereof)."
He hit 'print' and looked up from the moniter. The warehouse of the Baker Street Irregulars was a man-cave: a kitchenette piled high with dirty dishes, a few sofas lifted from the GoodWill loading dock, and five thousand square feet of industrial toys. MIG welders and 3-D printers crowded out sewing machines and ATMs that had been welded onto Volvos, some stuck in a corner with scrap wood, some organized on pegboard with their silhouettes carefully spraypainted behind them. Most of the paid members just used it for storage, but a few diehards had nowhere else to go if their girlfriends were out of town.
An engineer in bicycle pants pointed to the next slide in his presentation, citing the many uses of drywall screws to an audience of ten. No one moved save to pass a bag of chips. When all seventy pages finished printing, Holmes leaned down and unplugged the projector. Bike Pants looked around, thinking the power had gone out.
"Have you seen this?" he asked, waving the document over his head.
John took it to read, scanning the cover page entitled 'Terms and Conditions'. "Huh, I didn't know the city had free wireless access."
"They started offering it after the election."
"Skip to page forty-two."
Their heads knocked together to read it. "Holy crap," said John, re-reading to be sure, "Can they get away with this?"
"Only if they catch us. Which brings me," he said, cracking his knuckles over the keyboard. "To my next trick."
John grasped his wrist, looked around, and dropped his voice. "...what are you doing?"
Holmes turned in his chair. "With the jails shut down, the city's been bulking up electronic surveillance to prevent crime, specifically crimes of intent."
"Arrested before they get a chance to break the law?"
Holmes looked away. "Something like that."
Everyone in the coffee line was talking about the new mayor, or The Officer depending on which morning news show you watched. After taking office, his press secretary declared that all of the municipal jails were to be repurposed, either as hospitals, libraries, or, hoping to cash in on poverty porn tourists, hotels. What the city intended on doing with all the prisoners had yet to be announced.
"Look at that one," said Cindy, admiring a tattooed inmate being interviewed, "You think he's single?"
Sheila rolled her eyes. "You're gonna date a murderer?"
"Come on, everyone's gotta stick their hand in the blender once, right?"
They moved up the line, giving the homeless woman behind them a little space as she laughed at something over her new cell phone.
"Dang, everyone's got one now," said Shiela, "I paid four hundred dollars for mine and she gets it for free?"
"When was the last time you saw a pay phone?" Cindy pointed out, "Besides, you have a heart attack on the side of the road you have to call somebody, right?"
"I guess..." Shiela conceded, eyeing the booth outside the shop window, where more homeless signed a clipboard in exchange for free phones. Further down the street a separate line formed, though these people appeared to be more affluent and...worried.
"The Internet's been crazy good for some reason," said Cindy, "Normally it's crap in my building, I can't even get texts half the time, but this morning my mom video-called from Dublin, no lag or anything. Craziness."
"City must've made some repairs," Shiela replied absently, as the man in front of her paid and left, "Ooo he dropped something."
Everyone in line looked down. A pound note meant for the tip jar had slid from the counter onto the floor, and Shiela eyed it hungrily. If it had been a twenty she might have spoken up, but a single was like stealing napkins or toilet paper, something no one ran out of. Waiting for the cashier to turn his back, she bent to take it.
A light winked in the security camera, and Sheila felt a hand on her arm. She looked up at her own fishbowl reflection in a mirrored visor, the security guard plated in black riot armor. "Come with me, ma'am."
"What's going on?" asked Cindy, as more guards appeared and everyone in the shop was escorted outside. Main Street was filled with shoppers now, all facing the same direction. "Is there a bomb threat? Are we being evacuated?"
They were separated and made to wait their turn, fenced in by police on all sides. Later, when her name was called, Sheila found herself in an old gymnasium long since condemned after the storms in '07, and followed a guard past a row of doors with no knobs and paper stuffed into the windows. A man in scrubs hurried past with two garbage sacks, and she covered her face from the smell.
One door was ajar, and an old woman tapped a piece of paper. "I don't have a driver's license." she said.
The nurse across from her sighed. "You have a library card?"
"I was robbed last week, I don't have any papers!"
The guard leaned across Shiela to shut the door, then proceeded to the end of the hall to a door marked "DIVING WELL". She turned to thank him, but her face glared in his polished visor, and she looked away.
A nurse, or possibly librarian, sat behind a metal desk with a computer and something like a blood pressure moniter cuff. She removed a pair of latex gloves and gestured to the chair across from her, reading from the computer screen before Sheila sat all the way down.
"Shiela Maude Capetown of 33 Broadleaf Place?" she asked, her voice echoing terribly in that vast tiled room. A few feet behind sat another nurse, her name tag reading MONITOR in all caps, knitting a hat beside the fire exit.
Shiela nodded, and pulled the ID from her purse. Confirming her name, the nurse set a few necessaries before her, antiseptic swab, iodine capsule, syringe, bandages, flipping them face up like playing cards. "Please place your right hand on the table."
She looked around, but Cindy had been in another line. She could be anywhere. Her eyes strayed to the empty diving well, where some kids had dumped a pail of red paint and left sneaker tracks up one side. "Am I being fingerprinted?" she asked, putting her hand on the table for disinfection, "Is this about a speeding ticket?"
The nurse unbuttoned Shiela's right sleeve and slipped her arm through the blood pressure cuff, where it tightened until her hand began to throb. A wide window to her left had been replaced with a sheet of plywood, and down the hall someone screamed and screamed, but it didn't sound like anyone Shiela knew.
She snapped back to attention as the nurse placed a small covered box on the table. "By the City of London, you have been charged with intent of unlawful caption and asportation of personal property. This is your first warning," she said, snapping on a fresh pair of latex gloves, "You'll feel a pinch."
A syringe of lydocaine numbed Shiela's hand. The nurse removed the cover, the machine underneath like some combination of a breadbox and a pencil sharpener, and when she flipped a switch with her foot the round opening in it's side whirred to life, sucking in air like a jet engine. The smell of burnt meat filled the room.
Shiela tried to think back something she'd stolen, ever, in her life. It couldn't have just been about the money in the cafe, she hadn't even touched it...
"Come on, everyone's gotta stick their hand in the blender once, right?"
"But you didn't see me doing anything!" she cried, as the cuff tightened and bound her wrist in place.
The monitor looked up for the first time, and Shiela noticed she was only knitting with nine fingers. "You would have done something eventually. Now it's up to everyone to guard themselves. Let this be a reminder," she said, as Shiela's index finger was led into the hole, "You are always on trial."
Sherlock strayed back to the computer. "I have a theory, John, I just want to peak into the CCTV database for a minute."
John grabbed the keyboard. "Oh no, if you...even if you COULD..." he said, "Sherlock, they can trace it back to your computer! Five minutes and they'll be in here with baseball bats and a black sack for our heads!"
Holmes snorted, and pulled up an application on his phone. "You think I'd hack the British government," he said, pressing SEND, "From my own machine?"
John was silent a moment, holding the tablet high over his head like Moses in a sweater vest. "You're not?"
"No," he said, as the fan whirred in a computer further down the hall, "I'm using yours."
The Officer was tall and straight, with movie-star cheekbones and a nose that ended in a point. Despite having over fifty people under his employ, he had the top floor to himself and saw no one during regular hours. He preferred working over the phone.
He lifted the phone from it's cradle. "Yes?"
"We have an emergency, sir."
"You couldn't have notified me by e-mail?"
"Have you checked your e-mail?"
He punched his keyboard and got an error message. "The cameras out front are down," he asked, noting the blank squares in the corner of his laptop screen, "What's wrong with the network?"
"We've been hacked."
The Officer looked out his 'window'. The device had was a recent gift from NASA, a four by four foot display screen with a direct link to ISS feeds. He held out his hand, and blocked England from view. "How?"
"They must have used pattern-matching software to break our codes, with an additional signature on top which, when distributed to the .uk registrar, resulted in a complete cessation of service."
"So all the cameras are out?"
"It's worse than that, sir," he said, as the window lost it's signal, and the Officer was left with his own thin reflection, "Someone's blackholed Great Britain."