The Human Operator
And we're in a large cool calm tent. Momentary salvation from the chaos outside. Dark and spooky in here, with a tempo that doesn’t match the food aid frenzy outside. Hale takes deep breaths scouting back out the flap she came in from. She turns around.
Rebel leaders in camouflage lounge on low furniture smoking shisha in the gloom. Gulp. The powerful Sudanese warlords size this strange gawky woman up. Hale meets their eyes. They take deep inhales on the pipes. All eyes on her.
The man who lured her here, Kaur, a young Kazakh techie mercenary covered in tattoos, gestures to sit. In a practiced maneuver Hale squats. Removes high-tech gear from her satchel. Fast.
Hale secures her tools. Elaborate advanced security protocols. Her terminal set up and secure, Hale breathes deep, looks at each rebel leader.
“Search is easy when you know what you're searching for.” Her voice wavers just a bit. “But what if you don't know what you're searching for. What if you have to start by searching for what kind of map you need? You call us.”
Whoa, it’s a business presentation, and one Hale seems to have down.
The relaxed and jolly rebel leader in charge Machar interrupts her. “We have maps. We need computers!”
Hale doesn’t laugh. She just barrels forward with her presentation. “Prescience's proprietary technology is a data mining system used by law enforcement agencies and national security to connect the dots between known criminals and rogue actors.”
A presentation she knows inside out. Canned beats. “The combination of Big Brother and Big Data makes us all powerful.”
“Whatever you're giving the NSA, that's what we want,” says Machar. The rebel leaders laugh knowingly. Full-bodied African laughs.
Hale laser-focused on her presentation and will not be distracted. “It's one thing to look for a needle in a haystack. But what if you don't even know you're looking for a needle? We fragment and analyze the entire haystack, immersing you inside it, to show you anything in it you should be looking for.”
Machar shoots a look at Kaur: what is a haystack?
“A haystack is a pile of straw. Like on a farm,” answers Kaur.
Hale keeps moving, as if she doesn’t want to lose her place. “The expression is ‘searching for a needle in a haystack.’ The haystack is your theater. We make sure there's nothing in there you don't want there.”
Knowing looks between the leaders. “We got a lot inside ours we don't want.”
“Our toolsets are aimed at massive data caches, allowing lawmakers and the police to make connections that are otherwise invisible.”
“I want my enemies to be invisible.” Machar gets another big laugh.
“If you have a major dissident, we can shut him down. We can stop an Arab Spring from happening here. We can start an Arab Spring too.” Hale sets up her device.
“How did your boss know President Trump was going to win the election?”
“We showed him. We showed CIA where Osama bin Laden was. We can do that for you.”
“You can show me anyone?”
“No human can look at all the data sources at one time. We show you the aggregate, the likelihood of anyone being anywhere, doing anything. Morgan Stanley uses us to spot money laundering and employee theft.”
The tent flaps pop open and Thomas and Reynaldo appear. Their faces register shock when they see Hale down on the floor giving a presentation. They look around. Who are these other people?
Kaur clocks the armed UNWFP guys. “Why the elaborate security protocol? Are you afraid of us?”
Hale has an answer for everything. “Malware is a weapon. We could be investigated for violations of the arms embargo against Sudan.”
“Is this malware?” asks Machar. “Is this against the law?”
“Code moves faster than law.”
A flash of skepticism flashes across Machar’s face. “Northrup Grumman told us it would take two years to put this together.”
Hale works on her device. “There. That's it.”
“What is it?” He looks confused.
“It's done. The analysis. I just did it. I can show you a preview on good faith.” As Hale spins her monitor to show them -
Machine gun fire strafes the outside of the tent - an ear-piercing rap rap rap rap rap rap rap -
Kaur jumps to his feet and scrams out the flaps of the tent. Hale doesn't hesitate, races out the tent flaps to follow him.