From the Face Of The Earth

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IT'S NOT DIFFICULT TO PREDICT THE FUTURE.

Just scan today's headlines and extend the trends. Climate change, virus pandemic, terrorist threat, government surveillance, genetic engineering, extreme veganism,corporate malpractice. Yet on a personal level, there's an issue that's perhaps even more disturbing.

Identity theft.

In an era of security paranoia, every aspect of our lives will be registered, from DNA to IQ, from official documentation to private finance, from medical history to psychological profile. When that information is hacked and sold, it will be the innocent victim with no credentials who'll be classified as a risk to society.

This is the odyssey of one such individual, of the journey she takes and the truth that she finds...


PART ONE

THE GATES OF EQUINOX

1

It's late afternoon and the young woman is riding hard. This is high country, remote, and her mount's hooves kick up divots from the rain-soaked turf.

Until a few hours ago, she was the privileged daughter of criminal wealth. Raised with all the unfair advantages, her only challenge was trying to appear more mature than her years. Then at precisely midday, her entire existence vanished, with all data eradicated and all record of her life wiped from the face of the Earth.

One moment she was fully engrossed in her designs, the next her screen went blank and a message appeared suggesting she register on the link at her earliest convenience. Cordial to be sure, yet that didn't prevent the palpitations, a clammy sweat that spread throughout her being because she knew, as everyone knows, that a posting like that is not designed as a request and the stated course of action is not meant to be discretionary. On the contrary, deliberate non-compliance can carry severe penalties.

Of course, she could have called her parents. That would have been the obvious thing to do but she's already spent so much of her life trying to resist that course of action. She doesn't care much for either of them and she takes major exception to being their princess. So instead, she ran. Stupid, perhaps, but what was the alternative? Give herself up? Surrender to her fate? Not for her. The question therefore became not what, but how? How to escape? How to avoid the inevitable?

The answer occurred to her from out of nowhere, an unlikely spark from a stray synapsis. It was a mere fragment of memory from some item about the cloud jungles of Laos where they still smuggle jade by elephant because biological forms are less detectable on the sensor grid. It was a flaw in the system, an algorithmic anomaly, first discovered in the black-hat basements of Korea and still not fully fixed. Or so they said.

Nevertheless, valid or not, the idea represented a focus for her energies, her rationale being that if it works for one quadruped, it should work for another. And this is the irony. If the database no longer holds any record of her identity, it essentially means that this thoroughbred stallion currently has more legitimacy than she does herself. While he has a multi-generational breeding history on file at the association, she's had her life erased as if it never existed. She has no name, no age, no gender, no country. There's nothing left, not a file, not a record, not a trace of who or what she was. She's no longer a functioning citizen and by legal definition, that makes her a security suspect until such time as her credentials can be restored.

The horse is strong and full of running but there's no point pushing him beyond his limits, so she reins in and allows him to pick his way up a rock-strewn slope. He's managed to sniff out a fresh-water source, a trickling stream, and it's here that he pauses to slake his thirst and snatch at some of the surrounding shrub.

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