Archive for security

Executive Floor Executive

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby couldn’t believe it. He had applied for a job at the Lucerne Valley Hotel and got it, and not only that, it was a job on the Executive Floor. Was it a mistake? Had two people with the same name applied, and they’d mixed up their applications?

A resident of the halfway house getting a good job was not a regular occurrence. At any given time, no more than six of the thirty-six people living there were working, mostly in short-term menial jobs. As far as he knew, no one from the house had ever worked at the Lucerne Valley Hotel. It was run by the fearsome Mr Kazantazkis who was said to be a fascist, believing in survival of the fittest.

Bobby’s letter confirmed his position as Executive Floor Executive. He would earn twenty-five thousand dollars plus tips, which he’d heard could exceed the basic salary, so this was a fifty grand job! He’d earned this kind of money before, but that was a long time ago when he was a different person in a different world, before the curse of drugs, but he was clean now. Why shouldn’t he make a fresh start?

Bobby wasn’t sure whether to tell his housemates. He didn’t want to seem like a show-off, but he couldn’t help mentioning it.

“What?” said Shama. “When was that job available? I didn’t see it advertised.”

“It wasn’t advertised,” said Bobby. “I sent them a letter mentioning my background, and the troubles I’d had, and how I had overcome them. I told them I would love to work again at a meaningful job, something I could take pride in, that would help to develop good daily habits.”

“What’s the job exactly? Executive Floor Executive. Is it a fancy word for cleaner? Will we see you leave the house wearing a frilly apron, carrying a feather duster, and bending over for businessmen to tickle your…”

“Don’t be stupid!” said a girl entering the kitchen. No one knew what her name was. “He’s got a good job. We should celebrate. Hang on.” She went to her room and returned with a bottle of cheap vodka. She poured them each a measure.

They downed them in sequence, the girl saying “Executive,” Shama saying “Floor,” and Bobby saying “Executive!” They laughed together and did it again, this time with the girl saying, “Floor”, and then finally, Bobby. Spirits were high at the halfway house.

Bobby’s first week went well. There was some cleaning involved, but the job mainly involved concierge and security duties. He got great tips, and the pile of cash under his mattress grew rapidly. He was so busy at work that he wouldn’t have had time to go to the bank, even if he’d had a bank account. The pile became huge.

One night he awoke, inspired. He counted out his cash: there was $7,200. He divided the money into thirty-six lots and walked around the house, putting $200 beneath everyone’s mattress. People were sick or drunk, and none awoke. It was enough for a month’s basic groceries.

He could use this money to get out of here himself, or he could use it to make everyone’s lives a little better. He had an additional role here: Forgotten Floor Executive.

Bright Brown Eyes

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2012 by javedbabar

There was half an hour to go till the global launch of the film HUMANITY. Its celebrated auteur had eschewed London, Mumbai and New York in favour of Lucerne, where the idea for the film had first come to him while mountain climbing.

Local project manager Sami had been asked to run through everything with the General Manager prior to doors opening. He hadn’t been able to locate him yet and the screening time was drawing near.

He asked the projectionist, “Have you seen the General Manager around?”

“Ah, The General. He was here this afternoon when I was setting up. I’m not sure where he’s gone.”

“Why do you call him The General?” asked Sami. “Is he a tough guy?”

“Actually, no. Quite the opposite, but I know he is an ex-military man. He led tough campaigns in Asia, and fought in brutal African wars. You wouldn’t think so though.”

This made Sami think of the ancient Indian king Asoka, who renounced bloodshed and became an advocate of non-violence, truth and tolerance instead. Sumerian king Gilgamesh, said to be one-third human and two-thirds divine, also mended his vicious ways. If only such leaders had been studied in 20th century Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, China, Russia and America, the world would now be a better place.

Sami located The General fifteen minutes before doors opened. He was a tall, well-built man with cropped red hair and eyes that seemed orange at first, but were in fact bright brown. Sami walked him around the site and showed him the screen, which had been stiffened to counter evening winds, projector, cabling, seating, ropes, poles and carpets. He ran through key timings and flows, and showed the required safety certificates.

The General was very friendly and calm. He made some minor comments, said, “Good job”, “Good stuff”, and “Good work”, and said he would be in his office if needed. The run through with him took under five minutes. Now that’s a guy who trusts people, thought Sami. I’ll bet his soldiers felt inspired.

There was an issue concerning wheelchair spaces. Sami had allocated five spaces, but a village official said there should be seven. It was too late to change seating layout now as doors were opening in less than ten minutes, but the village official insisted on the change.

Sami decided to get support from The General. After all, he was in charge here and had approved the plan. He buzzed his office, and the door flew open immediately.

After a dark hallway, Sami came to a steel door which slid open silently. There was The General watching a bank of screens that covered an entire wall. Facial recognition technology identified people and followed them around. Where were these cameras hidden? Sami hadn’t noticed them anywhere in The Place.

On the adjacent wall were pinned scores of faces, a few of whom he recognized. Many had a black strike slashing across their faces. The General looked at Sami and said, “Two strikes and you’re out.”

His bright brown eyes lit up, very fiery, like when he had dropped bombs on restless provinces, and spearheaded “population control” projects. He had acted as consultant to many governments, and oil and water companies, who needed certain people to disappear. The General was interested in the film tonight, HUMANITY, but more so in its rumoured sequel, INHUMANITY. He hoped it would feature some of his special projects.

High Security

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2012 by javedbabar

TJ called the Chief Housekeeper and asked, “Is no one coming over today? I mean to get the daily security data? It is already five a.m. Okay, see you in ten minutes. I will be here.”

You’d think they would know by now, but he had to remind them daily. Maybe six months ago you could skip a day, but these days, no way. The Lucerne Valley Hotel had a reputation to maintain. Their business depended on it.

He was only the night-receptionist, but knew that all must play their part. So much had changed in the industry. He recalled when hotel rooms had mechanical locks, the first time around. Every guest received a key and most guests returned them when checking out, however some keys were lost in town, some taken home by mistake, and some deliberately with the notion of committing future crimes.

The Lifetime GM, Mr Kazantzakis, invested in a new system of key cards. They were coded at reception and opened guests’ doors during their stays. The cards became invalid upon checkout, and were erased and reused.

It was a very good system but as with everything these days, hackers worked out a way to override it. They placed the cards into portable readers and stole their codes. TJ was sorry to say that part-androids like himself were more guilty than most; they had a knack for manipulating technology. There was a spate of free stays and break-ins at the hotel. Something had to be done.

They moved to a fingerprint system which again seemed invincible, but the quality of digital cameras these days was such that eating crisps with your beer became a risky act; one greasy fingerprint was enough to undermine security. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags suffered a similar fate. Hackers found a way to pick up tags’ signals with cell phones, which could then act as keys.

Iris scans were a heavy investment, but Mr Kazantzakis felt they were worth it for Executive floors. They worked well for a month before a rush of laptop thefts from female executives’ rooms. Staff discovered micro-cameras installed behind mirrors in female washrooms. They took sharp shots of women applying their eye shadow and mascara.

People’s wallets, laptops, and identities were being stolen, the latter for months, even years. It was hard these days to prove that you were not you. The hotel tried secret codes, secret information, and security tokens, but these also failed.

A housekeeper mentioned that her grandpa, a Luddite and regular gambler, had suggested a system involving interchangeable mechanical locks. There were fifty guest rooms in the hotel requiring locking. If they placed two rusty old locks, each requiring a good five minutes to open, on each door, and swapped a fifth of them around each day, opportunistic criminals would simply get bored of trying and failing. Each entry attempt would require at least ten minutes of work, with only a two percent of two percent chance of success.

Now there was a sheet of daily security data, saying which locks were to be swapped. This, combined with a password from the lobby, puzzling knots securing items, and fake locks that could be set anywhere in the building, ensured the good reputation of the Lucerne Valley Hotel. It held an unassailable four star security rating.

Semi-Automatic

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2012 by javedbabar

When Mr Kazantzakis’ business executive guests became crime targets, his booking agents panicked. They were getting bad press and stopped sending guests.

There was no need to panic though. Mr Kazantzakis was a solution-orientated individual. He wasn’t Lifetime General Manager of the Lucerne Valley Hotel without reason. He hired a team of security guards to keep an eye on guests. The guards were vigilant both inside and outside the building, and accompanied business executives around town.

One of the guards, Russell, asked to see the LGM. He said, “This should be a professional job. Being a security guard is a matter of life and death.”

Lucerne had a serious problem. There were many professional jobs available but few unskilled ones. Everybody wanted a professional job. The hours were shorter, the workload was lighter, the pay was better and you didn’t get dirty or wet. However few people were sufficiently well-qualified or well-connected, or filled the right quotas, and thus eligible for such jobs.

Opportunities for pencil pusher were endless, but hammer hitters were a different matter. The Authority’s Job Upgrade Plan had created an imbalance. Most manual jobs had been automated or abolished. There were very few jobs for unprofessional people.

With almost fifty percent unemployment, civic order had crumbled. The number of armed and ordinary robberies, stealth and aggravated burglaries, bag-snatchings, car-jackings, violent muggings and kidnappings all rose exponentially. A lack of work led to poverty, boredom, stress and anger, and there were rumours of an imminent uprising, which people were calling the Arcadian Spring.

Mr Kazantzakis was the right man for a crisis. Though the business may tilt or even sink partially, he always provided the anchor or ballast required. He was a man you could rely on. Investment cycles were calculated in fifty year terms, and he was the man to ensure long-term returns.

Mr Kazantzakis said to Russell, “But it is not a skilled job. That’s what elevates a task, the level of training and experience. Anyone could walk into this hotel, I could give them a uniform, and they’d be a security guard, and….”

“You are wrong, Mr Kazantzakis,” said Russell. The LGM was stunned. Nobody ever interrupted him.

“I am following a timeless warrior tradition. In ancient Greece there was Achilles, in India there was Arjuna, in China, Lu Tung-Pin, and in Scandinavia, Beowulf. In the Middle Ages there were archers, bowmen and palace guards, all elite soldiers guarding the king. During the American Revolution, marksmen picked off British officers, helping to win battles. In Napoleonic wars, infantry soldiers learnt how to use the Baker rifle, which was slower to load but very accurate. In modern warfare, specialists take Annual Personal Weapons Tests, and must score above 85% of maximum score. They scout and delay the enemy in close combat. They put their lives on the line. Do you not think we deserve to be called professionals?

“What will you do if I don’t promote you? Will you leave?”

Russell pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and laid it on the table. “I will kill you.”

Mr Kazantzakis liked his style. This was a man he could count on in a crisis. He said, “I am not sure if I can change the job spec to professional, but let’s say semi-professional.”

No Need to Worry

Posted in Global Travel, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2012 by javedbabar

Adam had heard that professional jobs were available in Lucerne. Things were pretty slow in the city so it seemed like a good idea to try his luck elsewhere.

In days gone by he would have just taken off abroad. Living in developing countries was cheaper than staying in Arcadia. When he wasn’t working here, living in India or Ethiopia or Peru was a way to save money, provided he went for at least a month to amortize the airfare.

A month in the city was about three thousand bucks all in, a hundred a day. A month in Varanasi, Lalibela or Cuzco was two thousand, flights included, and the longer he stayed there, the better the notional day-rate – going from sixty dollars to half that. But now that he had a wife and three step-children, he had to handle the situation carefully.

He did some day trips initially. Lucerne was a pretty village with a white mountain standing guard above it, and surrounded by forests, rivers and lakes. It was filled with old families of farmers, loggers and hunters, but also a new crowd of artists, musicians and yoga teachers. He checked with Village Hall, and yes, they said, they needed professional people desperately. If he moved here, he could have his pick of jobs.

“When can I have an interview?” he asked the receptionist.

“This is it,” she said. “You’ve got the job, or more than one if you like.”

“More than one?”

“Yes, we have numerous positions available, and funds from the Authority gathering dust. We want to use them for the benefit of Lucerne’s citizens.” She explained the strange situation here. There was mass unemployment of unskilled people, but a shortage of skilled ones. They desperately needed his expertise.

Adam was assigned the job of CPM: Chief Project Manager, and asked to start as soon as possible. He was also given a house to live in with a nocturnal security guard.

“Is that necessary?” he asked. “It seems like a peaceful place.”

“Just in case,” said the receptionist. “You never know.”

Adam’s wife agreed that he should follow the work, and they moved immediately. On the first evening, they dined outdoors, and were so moved by beauty that they could hardly speak. Adam had seen such beauty before, in the Himalayas, Lasta Mountains, and the Andes, but always alone. He was now seeing it with his family, through the eyes of his beloved, and her children.

As the sun set, the security guard, David, suggested they go indoors.

“What’s the hurry?” said Adam. “Let’s enjoy the stars appearing and tonight’s full moon.” He knew it would be impossible to get the kids early to bed tonight. They may as well stay out.

“You don’t know this place well, do you. Have you stayed here overnight before? No? Okay, trust me. You’re better off indoors. That’s what I’m here for, to stay outdoors to ensure your safety. There’s no need to worry though. I am a professional too. I will keep you safe.”

“Safe from what?”

“You’ll see.”

“Do you have a gun?” Adam recoiled when he realized what he’d said. Had he brought his family to a place where you need a gun to survive?

“No, I won’t need a gun. Just go inside and take it easy. No need to worry.”

That night they heard glass smashing somewhere, screeching tires, and flashes like firecrackers, followed by a chorus of sirens – ambulances, fire trucks, and cops. They slept eventually but were disturbed from their slumber by smashing and shouting. Adam went to the window to see. There was David, covered in blood, either grimacing or grinning.

“What happened?” he called. “Are you okay?”

“I told you not to worry. I have taken care of it.” He wiped his machete, swigged some beer and sat down. He looked at the horrified children and said, “Nothing to see. Now go to bed.”

He wanted them to leave before there was another assault on the house. More of the poor would come.

Ice Block

Posted in Lucerne Village, Sacred Geometry, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , on June 28, 2012 by javedbabar

It was the coldest winter ever and Matt could barely sit on his ass. Even the chair was chilled, it made his butt clench. But his security company, Rapid Response, required someone to man the office. All of its computers, screens and phones were here.

Matt picked up the iced phone – his breath must have frozen on it – and called Danny, who was on duty tonight at the Transparent Temple – nickname for their community centre. “Hey Agent D, how’s the weather over there?”

“It’s bloody freezing! You should know. Don’t you have temperature readings on your monitors?”

“Yes, I do. But they’re telling me minus fifty. Is it really that cold there?”

“Well it’s zero in the office with the heating full on. So that’s probably right.”

Matt said, “Jeez, what’s happening this winter?” He’d heard reports of early frost, growing glaciers and icecaps, and record snowfall, then corrections saying that this winter there would be the least snowfall ever. Snow only forms at -1°C to -4°C; it would be way colder than that.

“This whole village is freezing in,” said Danny. “That’s what’s happening this winter.”

Matt had noticed already that people were minimising their movements. Rather than popping in and out of town, they’d only visit once a day and get all their jobs done. Stores and cafes were suffering. Surprisingly it was the ones on the highway that had first put up notices saying “closed till further notice”, as people were no longer visiting, or even passing through, Lucerne. The stores downtown were still operational, just, because of local business.

A week later however, they also were closed. People bunkered down in their houses. Woodstoves became lifesavers as people’s gas and electric heating systems began to break down. Their stoves were burning around the clock, with neighbours pressed around them – the more body heat the better – in blanket rooms, built within regular rooms. People ate from their root houses and larders. They knew they couldn’t feed their pets, so killed, and sometimes ate them. Livestock died off quickly, and the one good thing about this cold was that their meat stayed well preserved.

Rapid Response’s control room remained fully functional. Matt had refused to abandon his customers, all signed up for annual contracts. They needed to feel secure in this difficult time. He was sure they would repay him with loyalty when the village returned to normal. They wouldn’t go with cheaper rivals who were trying to steal his business.

Matt however had stopped moving entirely. His last thoughts remained in his mind forever, as they do for those who die frozen. He was comfortably seated, protecting people in a happy, safe, warm land, surrounded by racks of pressed white flowers, all of them six-petalled.

Rabid Response

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by javedbabar

Rapid Response was the only security company licensed by The Authority to operate in the village. It had been started by a doorman, Big Bob, at the Lucerne Valley Hotel, before he had met a Japanese girl, married her and moved to Tokyo. He’d sold the company to Matt, a doorman at the Transparent Temple – nickname for their fancy, glassy community centre – who had expanded the business in and around the village.

Matt manned the base seven days a week. He sat too much; he knew that. He would rather be walking around like an old fashioned cop on his beat, than sitting on his ass. But the structures and processes of the modern security industry required you to sit in an office, close to computers, phones and monitors. He watched a lot of TV, indulged in online gaming, sometimes gambling, and occasionally porn. Should an emergency arise though, he was always ready to go.

Rapid Response’s purpose was to provide a reliable form of protection where a separation was created between assets and threats. This separation was typically breached in the village once a night. Warning lights flashed, overriding his browsing, and he would immediately alert field staff.

Since the development of The Place though, things had gone quiet. What had till recently been the village car park, a badly lit, mostly empty space, with benches for drunks and corners for criminals to lurk, was now a well-maintained, well-lit, popular place with people wandering around. It seemed to have brought a new spirit into town, that of an integrated community.

As crime around the village fell, so did Rapid Response’s business. They barely had enough subscribers to make the enterprise worthwhile. Something needed to be done.

A number of affluent individuals had moved to “the beautiful village with the white mountain above it.” Maybe Rapid Response could focus on those – wealthy, absent, paranoid people like Mr Choo, who came only one weekend a month from the City, and Mr. Bhavan, who was here even less than that. Why did they buy places here when they didn’t have time or inclination to be here? They were taking from, but not giving back, to the local community. It was inevitable that some people would want to correct the balance.

Matt invested in state-of-the-art systems, and sent uniformed staff to walk around the Place, as pure security theatre. He knew that the measures he deployed to increase feelings of subjective security would also cause an increased awareness of crime, and potential for profitable criminal activity, leading to reduced objective security. It was like scanners at airports making innocent folk try to think of ways to beat them; like having two computer security programs working against each other but feeling that you’re getting double protection.

Matt launched an advertising campaign highlighting the low population density of the Lucerne Valley, and its ease of access – in and out; its message was that if you were robbed, “Who would know?”

His scare tactics worked. Both Mr Choo and Mr Bhavan signed up for premium service, along with their wealthy neighbours and friends.

Rapid Response’s new systems were too sensitive though. Many times when staff went to investigate alarms, they found that the “culprits” were house owners’ dogs. And Rapid Response’s staff weren’t sensitive enough. The few times they apprehended real criminals, they were heavy-handed. For these reasons the company became known as Rabid Response.

Matt kept an eye on Shama, a petty criminal who had recently arrived from the City. One day Matt saw him approach and smash a concealed camera. He was about to call field staff to apprehend him, but then recalled that the Authority had denied him permission to install cameras in The Place. They had said it was a “node for self-perpetuating community”, not a location to instil suspicion and fear. In addition there were privacy, child-protection and copyright infringement issues. Matt couldn’t go and get him. He could only sit on his ass.