[Author's note: Promiscuous is an Anonymous hacker in my debut novel, The Cause.]
February 1st, 2023
In August of 2014, when I still worked for the NSA, I attended an artificial intelligence conference in St. Louis when riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. Details were sketchy through the dubious media, but what I do remember was an unarmed black kid was shot and killed, and his body unceremoniously left on the pavement for four hours afterwards. I remember feeling infuriated with the ordeal, and I felt obliged to go there and join the protests. I left the University of Missouri after the day’s numerous seminars and giving my own lecture on neurosynaptic chips. A few days earlier, I had read a NY Times article on the militarization of the police, and I wondered how much of it was true. Perhaps this was in the back of my mind driving into Ferguson.
I arrived on West Florrisant Avenue as the sun finished reddening the sky. I parked the beige, mid-sized Buick rental car a few blocks away and put my phone in the glove box, leaving it behind even though I had taken out the battery before leaving. Then I walked up the street to where the rally was already underway. As the night crept over the indigo atmosphere, voices blaring from a loudspeaker grew stronger, commanding people to go back to their homes.
They had brought out the heavy machinery—SWAT buses and armored vehicles, MRAPs and paddy wagons. I stood alone watching a good twenty yards from the throng’s circumference as people yelled in the street. I stood there for an hour or so, more content to watch and observe before joining the crowd. After a while, a man split off from the crowd in jeans and a gasmask and approached me. He had a backpack slung over his shoulder and wore a flak jacket underneath his baggy Rams T-shirt, the aqua-blue ram’s horns roping around his chest like a coiled serpent as the humid breeze made his shirt flutter. He lifted his gasmask off his face and asked me my name.