Of course I’m telling you all of this on condition of anonymity,
Eh, doesn’t matter much anyway, because no one would believe
you if I was labeled as the source. They’d only believe it if they heard
directly from me, and that’s not going to happen.
Besides, you’re a credible journalist and where would the
incentive be for you to make this stuff up? I don’t see it, which is exactly
why I reached out to you with the story.
I wanted it to be broken to the press, but it had to come
from a real reputable source.
John wasn’t my first choice, to be sure.
But after a lot of preliminary testing, he turned out to be
the ideal candidate for the program. Down from an initial pool of fifteen plausible
people, I ran several additional experiments on him, all showing near perfect
results. Even if I didn’t like working through him, I couldn’t justify using
anyone else at that point.
Besides, he already had access to the ports and could be
used to justify additional port security. Figured the boss would like it,
killing two birds with one stone and all.
That’s where we started anyway.
How many people do you know that take fortune cookie
Maybe one or two, right?
Well, John was one of those people. I know this because it
was one of the tools we used to get to him. Yup, fortune cookies.
Of course that wasn’t the only tool we employed, but it
turned out to be the most successful one. That’s probably because he didn’t
suspect tampering in that situation, which is odd because those are the easiest
to tamper with.
And, when added with the other signals we sent him along, it
really tied the plot together.
It was bitter cold on New Year’s Eve in 2015, at least by my
Californian standards anyway.
“This the order going to Page Street?” I asked, excitedly.
“Um, yea. Why?” Responded the nervous driver, who was
already late for the delivery.
“It’s my friend’s house, and I want to surprise him. Can I
put this fortune cookie in there for him?” I replied, just as excited.
“As long as you aren’t fucking around. He’s not going to die
from food poisoning or something right?” He said, now kind of sternly.
“No, never, he’s been one of my best friends forever.”
Had I been on of John’s best friends? Nope, never met the
guy in person actually.
But, I had some money and really played the part.
So John got the fortune, just like I planned. And he never
questioned the authenticity once, rather taking it at face value as one coincidence too many, which is exactly why we picked John for this.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR FORTUNE TO CHANCE, THE MARKETS WILL CRASH
If that sounded extreme, it’s because it was. Regardless, it
worked brilliantly, especially along with a couple well placed emails.
John became obsessed, sold all of his stocks.
That was the final test.
Out of twelve possible candidates, John was the one who
reacted the best. He sheepishly went along with the entire thing, and more.
Where some of the candidates just wrote off the messages as
a ploy or pure coincidence, John and three others took them as signs. Making
changes based upon what they perceived to be the same thing as divine
John though, he went the farthest and actually helped us
along the way, severing ties with any financial institutions, which for him
were apparently numerous.
And that was just the beginning of it.
Knowing someone is obsessive, and easily coaxed into action
is one thing. Actually setting up the program is another.
Because people are unpredictable, even in the most
controlled environment, we needed to be very careful how we crafted John’s new obsession.
After-all, we didn’t want him to go crazy and blow up a ship or something like
that. Nothing along those lines was called for, or even remotely ideal.
So where you start with something like that? Since, fortune
cookies had already been used we went to the next logical thing.
Music was a great vehicle for that.
About three weeks after John passed the final test my boss, Javier,
gave me the green light.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked, his face glowing in the LCD
light from the monitors.
“Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be ready.” I said, remembering that
life was going to suck for the next few weeks.
“Fair enough.” He replied, turning to leave the dark room.
Closing out all of the programs running on my computers, I
switched the screens off and turned to leave.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” I told Javier, as I walked
past him on the way out.
The next morning, it was warm outside, a stark contrast from
the heavily air conditioned information center in the complex.
Part of me wondered if there was any way for John to know
what was about to happen.
But the rest of me didn’t care.
Walking across the still dark parking lot, I uselessly
glanced down at the procedure I wrote up for this program. I already knew
exactly what it said, because I wrote it, and also have never had much luck
reading while I walk.
But I felt a compulsion to try looking it over one last
“Looks good to me,” said Javier as he sat at his desk
flipping through the binder.
“Pretty sure that’s what I’m here for,” I said brushing off
the compliment. “But thanks.”
“Well,” he started energetically “best get going with it.” He
said this with all the enthusiasm of a person knowingly driving down an icy
Picking up the binder from his desk, I started to walk out
of the office and said “I’ll let you know how it goes.”
And, shortly after leaving his office I returned to the
control room and started my people on the new program.
Because we were going to start all of this through his iPod,
it wasn’t really necessary to be anywhere near him for most of it.
And if that sounds a lot less risky, it’s because it is.
Any fuckups with this part of the plan could, and probably
would, be written off to some malicious hacking or electronic defect. Which, I
suppose is true to some extent.
Tamara, who mostly dealt with sending out the signals to
candidates and potential candidates, had already been tracking his electronics.
All we needed was for him to connect his iPod to a network.
Early the next day, before John started off on his way to
work for the Monday shift, he hooked up is iPod to the house computer so he
could sync it up for some new songs.
It was still dark in the control room, the scrolling
monitors glowing in the dim red light. A brief alarm went off, informing the
watch that it was time to start.
At 0445 on January 8th 2018 a highly suggestive
playlist was placed onto John Cliffcrest’s iPod. It happened so quickly, and in
such a way that he had no idea.
Then it started.
Damn, I didn’t know I
had this song, thought John as he pulled out of the parking lot and a
vaguely familiar song came across his speakers.
“Blue morning, blue day, won't you see things my way?
Blue morning, can't you see what your love has done to me?”
With that, he continued the drive, not paying attention to
the next song as he was navigating the neighborhood stop signs and lights.
And that’s when the next lyrics hit him.
Weird, I didn’t know I
had this either, he thought.
"Blue are the words I say and what I think."
It didn’t take much more than that.
Within the first two strategically planted songs, John’s
thought patterns were already changed.
He was thinking about it, although he didn’t know wat it
The operation was set into three very obvious phases, and
the only focus of phase one was to get him thinking about it. To get him
unconsciously obsessed with the vehicle subject.
It’s impossible to know if it will ever work, but after that
short car ride, I knew it would.
So yes, the intended obsessive behavior was already in
motion before he got to work that morning.
Yea, the blue music trick was pretty cute.
Wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t.
Anyway, that was the easy part because it didn’t require any
specific direction. Just priming the pump of obsessive thinking. The next few
steps were going to be a lot more difficult.
The CitRed program was a relatively passive thing in our
society. It created jobs, and I
guess that’s about it, really. So to get John to obsess over it was, in theory
easy, but we didn’t know until we actually tried.
And for that there was the internet.
“Hey, Mark.” Said John, as he walked through the breakroom.
“Yea, what?” replied Mark, turning away from the coffee vending
“You’d ever hear of the CidRed program?” Asked John, half
“John,” said Mark seriously, before pausing for a moment. “Everyone’s
heard of the CitRed program, because everyone’s got one. But either way, what
type of conspiracy are you cooking up now?” he finished, turning back away from
John didn’t know what to say, so he did what he had figured
“Maybe you’re right, dumb idea anyway,” replied John as he
walked out of the breakroom.
Maybe it should’ve been counted a s a victory, right then
when John latched onto the CitRed idea.
Maybe we should’ve celebrated, but we didn’t.
As we watched that exchange in the breakroom I sank. I did
that because I knew that we missed something, and even though this would technically
make the project easier.
Hell, it was already making it easier.
I knew we couldn’t take the credit for all of it anymore.
After all, you can’t take credit for making a conspiracy theorist fall into
another conspiracy theory. It made the whole thing loose some of its luster.
Waves broke over the bow of the MV Andromeda as it plowed
through the rough sea, looking for calmer waters.
“It’s not normally like this here,” said the mate to the
bridge watch-stander at the helm.
“You say that, everywhere.” She replied curtly, as spray
peppered the windows.
“Oh,” he said, looking away, down towards down towards the
It was 0600, and the Andromeda was heading through the Gulf
of Alaska. On its way to Oakland, this would be the first time a Universal
Lines vessel moored up in California.
And John was selected for the dock crew.
Listen, we had four days before the Andromeda was going to
dock in Oakland. I had been tracking the progress, and noticed that the ship
was making much better time than I had anticipated.
That kind of put us in a tough spot, because John needed to
get on that vessel.
By the time it moored up at the cargo pier, he had to be so
convinced about it that, that he couldn’t avoid doing something drastic.
Which meant we needed to do something drastic, and quickly.
In a departure from protocol, I sent an agent to convince
“Okay, first there’ll be the letter,” said Tamara. “I’ve
already sent it out, should be in his mailbox when this afternoon.”
“Okay,” I replied.
“Then, by the time he opens it we will already have our guy
on the way to confirm it.” She said, reading back through the plan.
It was simple, the mockup letter was going to talk about how
blue letters will spell it all out. And the agent was going to let John know
that a CitRed shipment was going out on the Andromeda, while showing him the
blue lettering on the side of the ship.
As planned the Andromeda moored up in Oakland, and John was on the
vessel. At this point, and from my perspective it was all going according to
Sandra, from the River Bend Production Facility, had been assigned to
ride the ship back up to Alaska with the CitRed beacon, and John was wandering
around the ship.
What I didn’t know however, was that Sandra had
alterative motives during her trip. I needed, well we actually, needed her to
make the trip and publicize the missing equipment. Highlighting the shipping
problem, and also the irrelevance of the CitRed archive program
“What do you mean when you say, it doesn’t matter?” She
asked Stan, in the stark office used for employee reviews.
“Exactly that,” he started. “It doesn’t matter, this whole
program is useless. Like some giant labor circulating system.”
She leaned forward, putting both her elbows on the desk
between them, and clasped her hands in front of her. “Okay, let’s say that’s
true. Then, why are you here? If it is so pointless, why show up at all?” She
“What choice do I have?” He replied.
Thinking about this, she looked out the window into the
The River Bend Produciton Facility, or RBProfac as its
commonly called, was a manufacturing plant located along the San Joaquin river
in California. Before the restructure of the economy, it produced various
components for heavy agricultural equipment.
After the introduction of the CidRed program, it was
acquired by the government for the purposes of creating the solid-state record
devices issued for each citizen. For what it was producing, the RBPRofac was
But that was the point of the operation.
It created jobs, fake jobs maybe, but it was what the
country needed at the time.
An economic placebo.
Stan’s understanding of the
masked welfare system that was the RBProfac, and calm acceptance of the idea
Do a lot of people know this is bullshit? She thought.
After completing the review, and
sending Stan back out to the production floor, Sandra applied for a transfer.
Although the the CitRed program is intentionally inefficient for the sake of
creating jobs, it is not inefficient for the sake of making people miserable.
In fact, it was determined that
people are more likely to believe a lie if they are comfortable and happy.
So Sandra was awarded the
Sitting back in the control room monitoring John, we had no
idea that Sandra was also on a Collision course with the MV Andromeda. We never
looked too deeply into the crew of the vessel, because they shouldn’t have made
Theoretically, it was supposed to be a quick operation.
Besides, the government was good at keeping people happy,
and happy people don’t do crazy things to jeopardize their happiness.
That was the theory anyway.
Thing is, for all we didn’t know about Sandra, we knew even
less of Captain Younger, who was in charge of the MV Andromeda.
It was a sunny afternoon when the MV Andromeda reached the
port of Oakland, and John was waiting.
“Yup, there it is,” he said as the large blue letters on the
side of the hull brushed past him at the quay. Once the ship was docked he went
up on the deck to assist with the shore power cables.
“You guys all good?” asked John, when it appeared that the
other two dockworkers were close to finishing the task.
“Yea, it’s all good John. Thanks for the help.”
“No problem man.” He said, as he walked aft towards the
Making his way aft, John discreetly used one of the athwartship
passegways to get to away from the busy pier-side of the vessel.
Up in the pilothouse, John started rummaging through the
documents on the chart table. Finding the manifest, he quickly flipped through
until he found the CitRed shipment.
“What the hell are you doing up here?” asked Captain
Younger, as he approached John.
Startled, but not unprepared, John responded” Just checking
the manifest for load rating,” Trying to sound official.
“Oh, fair enough.” Replied the Captain, as he looked out the
bridge windows. “Just be quick about it.”
At this point, it all seemed to be going pretty close to the
But that’s when I lost situational control.
Right as two unexpected people boarded the Andromeda. One
was Sandra Addler, a Management Representative from the RB ProFac, and the
other was someone completely unknown. It turns out that Aaron, the unknown, was
hired through a third party to scuttle the vessel.
Overlooking Sandra’s presence on the vessel made sense, as
she was a representative of CitRed and probably wouldn’t complicate anything.
But, when we saw Aaron board and head up to the Captain’s
cabin, we got nervous.
Damn, now what do I do,
thought John as he watched the Andromeda slip away from the quay and down the
It was late afternoon when he
finally wandered away from the port with his heavy black duffle bag. He was a
card carrying port worker, so no one really paid attention to him as he walked
past the security shack on the way to his truck.
Similarly, no one paid attention to
Aaron as he was escorted up to Captain Youngers stateroom.
And all the same, they didn’t seem
to notice when he never disembarked prior to departure.
“This isn’t really going how we
planned it to go.” Said Tamara as she got ready to leave the control room.
“Yea, about as far as a departure
from the intended plot as I could imagine.” I replied, thinking about John
taking a transponder instead of destroying the shipment, and Sandra sailing
with the vessel, monitoring the CitRed transfer.
“No shit.” She said, walking out the
With only a short time to go before
Pilot Boat would be grabbing the Pilot, Tamara needed to be there for that
transfer, to get onboard the Andromeda.
Fortunately, that wasn’t too difficult.
What was difficult, however, was
explaining why she boarded the vessel by the sea buoy. With the Captain, Tamara used a
Department of Commerce story that she knew would work.With Sandra, however she changed her
“I’d ask you the same thing,
honestly.” Replied Tamara, leaning against the bulwarks. “You know someone made
off with the transponder, right?”
“No, but it wouldn’t matter anyway,”
said Sandra coldly. “We’ve never monitored those things anyway. It’s just a
thing to keep the public happy.”
“Oh,” said Tamara.
“Besides, I’ve got another one right