Apprehend that Man

The story of how predictions and criminalizing everything ruins everything

Brian Adams, please report to your newest National Police Precinct, you are not currently under arrest, but we would appreciate your cooperation in a matter of public safety. Thank you.

Brian read this message bleary eyed in the morning, quickly the sleep was gone and his hands began to shake.  He had heard a few months ago about this pre-emptive screening that had been implemented, at the time he had not been nervous, since he had nothing to hide, however now his hands were sweating.  He knew that he legally could not be forced to report, those bills had failed to pass in Congress the last few years, however, a recent executive order made it so that if he didn’t respond to it today his social credits would start draining.  Having just started his new job this was not something he could afford to have happen.  He was still in the probationary period so major changes in his score could put him up for an early termination.

Shakily he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, opening up the NatSec app and setting up an interview at the nearest precinct in about an hour.  Closing the app he opened up Uber and called a car to come pick him up and drive him the twenty minutes over to the nearest precinct.  Brian in a haze brushed his teeth and got dressed, before walking down from his small apartment and hopping in the waiting Uber.

A few years ago Uber had switched almost entirely to automated cars.  Brian preferred it that way, as a guy with social anxiety he would rather have a quiet ride where he could get some work done.  However, today was not a day for productive work, so instead he just watched the buildings whip by.  Vaguely he remembered the protests after the push for driver automation, got violent in a few places and national security concern pushed the FBI to consolidate control of state police departments into a national police force.  It was a preventative measure to prevent police brutality, and excessive force in dealing with the protests.  The protests had mostly ended by now.

Brian considered texting a couple friends to get drinks tonight, and then realized that with the move all of his friends were over an hour away.  Having social anxiety made it really hard for him to meet new people in this alien city and the stress of his new job didn’t help.  It had been easier to become a little bit more reclusive, spend a little bit more time doing his research into various compounds and the history of various things.  Plus, online he had tons of friends who even though he had never met he felt totally comfortable sharing personal information with.  It was hard to find people who shared his interests in regular life.

Pulling up to the precinct, Brian stepped out of the car and walked briskly to the heavy door, only vaguely aware of his surroundings.  As he walked up to the front desk the man behind the desk gave him a deadpan stare.

“Name?” he said.

“Brian Adams, I have an interview,” Brian answered.

“ID?” he asked.

“Here you go.”

The man behind the desked scanned the back of Brian’s national ID card.

“Take a seat, they’ll be with you eventually.”

Brian wandered over to the hard chairs that took him back to sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear the results of his father’s surgery.  Felt the same hard pit in his stomach, the same clamminess on his hands, even the same antiseptic smell filled his nostrils.  All Brian could hope was that no one would die today.

“Brian, we will see you now,” said the woman who had just appeared from the door.

Brian stood up and followed her back into what had to be the most stereotypical interrogation room of all time.

“Hey Brian, can I get you anything? A glass of water, some coffee?” the woman who had yet to introduce herself asked Brian.

“No I think I am okay.”

“My name is Cynthia, and I just want to remind you that you are not under arrest, and we just have a couple of questions to ask you, no big deal,” she said while nodding her head.

“Haha, well hopefully I have some answers,” Brian said with a chuckle that set his own teeth on edge.

“So our algorithmic just flagged you because of some of your recent purchases and online activity, I’m sure there is an honest explanation for all of this, but we just need to check in and see with you,” she said leaning back in her chair and smiling gently.

“Sure, I’ll be glad to explain whatever you want so we can get this sorted out.”

“So our system seems to show that you just moved from a suburb outside New York to Chicago, can you explain to me why that was?”

“My dad was my last family in New York, was taking care of him.  He passed and so I found out a job out here and got away from that place as fast as I could.  It was too much for me.”

“Brian, you have a bit of an unusual job wouldn’t you say?”

“Hmm, I mean it seems totally normal to me.  All I am doing at the root of it is automating more of the quality assurance work for supplement companies.  Saves money for them, improves the product for the consumer, and lets me actually use that biochemistry degree I put so much time into.”

“You’re right that does sound helpful, now we saw that you had recently been reading a book called Pihkal, which I would like to emphasize is not illegal, but is impactful because it contains synthetic procedures for a variety of schedule one drugs.Any particular reason you picked it up?”

Now Brian felt his stomach plummet, the truth was legal and innocuous, but the explanation would sound insincere or unlikely.  All of his online conversations came back to him too.

“My father had been a terminal cancer patient, and he was in tremendous pain.  However, the opioids they gave him to help eventually made him an addict.  He could not function without them, and he could not really function with them.  I began obsessively researching opioids and their receptors and their efficacies.  I even sketched out a bivalent opioid ligand that I was optimistic would have significant pain relief without the same addictive potential for other people.  Then he died, but there’s a part of me that has never given up on that goal.”

“That’s very noble of you, now you know that Dave guy you were talking to online? What can you tell me about him?”

Brian started to realize what was going on, he had discussed different synthetic procedures with Brian, assuming he was just a passionate amateur like himself, and in that moment he realized that Dave was actually probably a professional.

“I would like to leave,” Brian said thinking in his minds eye of the various notes and documents scattered around his apartment.

“We cannot hold you here, but do realize that leaving may have a cost.”

Brian stood up, and went to walk out of the room, the woman opened the door, and said, “make sure you sign your ID on the way out.”