The Secrets

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This chapter was written by the fabulous GregCarrico

    

Sampson Ford was the most famous unknown person in the world. FrindyPeeks, the number 1 selling app on all platforms for three consecutive years was his sole creation. It began as a project meant to distract him from a heart-breaking split with his girlfriend, but quickly took on a life of its own.  FrindyPeeks interfaced with all of a user's social media profiles and displayed publicly shared data in central dashboard. 

While FrindyPeeks was in development, the rapid adoption of optical micro-film to turn contact lenses into digital Heads-Up Displays, or HUDs, gave Sampson the perfect delivery vehicle for his app. He launched it with a free version and an inexpensive subscription option, and in less than 12 months, anyone not living abject poverty could look at someone on the street and see their latest FrindyPeeks posts floating around their head, along with any other information that person shared publicly on social media.

Sampson hired a business manager and a law firm to handle the business aspects of the company, but continued to have a guiding hand in products ongoing development. The only two people who conclusively knew his identity were handsomely paid, and strictly required to protect his identity as the app's creator. There were certain aspects of Sampson's life that he didn't want anyone to know about. Not yet, at least. 

His own public profiles showed a forensic data analyst for the police who spent most of his weekends and spare cash building drones and racing them.

FrindyPeeks explosive worldwide growth eventually led to curiosity about its creator, and despite an army of investigative journalists, private investigators, huge cash rewards, and even official government inquiries, Sampson had kept his secret safe. His access to FrindyPeeks data (which users willingly agreed to give by not reading the 6-page user agreement) helped him uncover and build a database of the secrets of powerful and influential people, and he carved a new business out of discovering and selling other people's secrets.

He'd even created a secret workshop where he and like-minded hackers could work in peace and privacy. Of course, no one knew he owned that establishment either, which was just as he wanted it.

***

No one looked up when the battered, slightly-warped security door swung opened, nor when Sampson entered the room. He was an imposing man, almost 16 athletic stone on a rugged, two-meter frame. He was used to being noticed, even if not recognized. But not here.  The seven... no, eight occupants hunched over their archaic keyboards, either completely absorbed in their work, or dutifully pretending to ignore everything off-screen. The steel door clattered shut against its metal frame and the latches snicked audibly back into their sockets. Still, no one looked. No one cared. 

The room was deep in the basement of a sim centre called The Matrices, and was accessible through a locked door marked "Authorized Personnel Only". Beyond that door, a dim, dirty hallway led to a key-coded elevator tagged "Out of Order", which led down two levels to another hallway and finally, the steel security door. Anyone who reached that door without tripping the silent alarms was there because they belonged. Everyone in the room had paid for the privilege, not with money, but with illicit code that could potentially land them in prison. It ensured that they all had a vested interest in respecting each other's privacy.

Upstairs, in the public area, gamers shut themselves into sensory deprivation booths, spending hours or days living simulated lives as wizards, mech-warriors, car racers, space marines, or whatever other existence they found more interesting than their own. There was even a grisly simulation of The Hunt that drew more users than one might expect. 

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