“….some people like the earth, and some people like screens.”- Branson to Dominique
The Motion Clue is the first book in the future tech cyber thriller Life Online series, where the stories imagine the unintended consequences of turning our human lives over to computers
Set in the 22nd century when we live in a settled world of digitally organized and documented lives, The Motion Clue is a globe-trotting thriller about the post-control world, when humans have programmed computers to automatically run everyday life, and people no longer pay attention to how the machines function. To conserve water and energy resources, and to protect agricultural land, almost all of the world’s ten billion people live in skyscraper cities where interconnected buildings are monitored 24/7 by cameras, sensors and surveillance drones. Countries work together in a form of grudging cooperation as most people are focused on survival and maintenance of their cultures and way of life. This expected order is controlled by The Network, the global hardware and software digital infrastructure that captures all data from computers, servers, communication devices (called coms), cameras, sensors, drones, and satellites, and processes it for further action. Humans monitor The Network, reacting to instructions to direct their personal and work lives to a point of total dependency.
The organized order is shattered when an electrical glitch triggers an error message requiring human intervention at a hydroelectric power complex, an action the one-and-only onsite employee has never seen. For the first and last time, Louis Santino will follow instructions from The Network to investigate the error, but learns to his surprise, that a workplace drone has arrived at the error location ahead of him. Humans and drones are never sent to fix the same error at the same time. As Santino stands on the transmission tower that he had climbed without question, and before he can contemplate the significance of the drone’s presence, the machine turns on him. The man and the technology are in a state of confrontation that sets off alarms all over the world.
In the post-control world Network data integration has ended humans’ need to think. Most people function only by looking at their coms, and responding to the information presented to them in a continually updated stream. No one is aware of life without The Network, and most have complacently accepted the conveniences the system provides in exchange for personal privacy and anonymity.
But the incident with the transmission tower ignites the first electricity emergency in living memory. And draws attention to unexplained attacks by unidentified, undetectable drones. Without a Network error report, or a Network response on how to fix the problem, the global community is at a standstill. When two more undetectable drones appear at undersea industrial sites in the Pacific Ocean near Chile, the unknown threat to American and Chinese ship crews moves their countries closer to war as each prepares to blame the other for the electronic intruders. In response, military and intelligence leaders engage Kadie Laltanca, the Commander of the United Nations Security Council Special Command for Cyber Security, to organize a global team of thinkers to investigate the incidents and, for the first time ever, to work around The Network to find a solution. Special Command is a division within the UN created to prevent global cyber warfare. Kadie and her partner and boyfriend Roman Francon, recommend a team of Intelligence officers, diplomats and even a medical scientist to lead the worldwide investigation into the drone attacks. They quickly realize they do not know if humans or The Network are responsible for the attacks, and if the issue is The Network, they do not know how to approach unraveling the code that created the attack drones.
While the team looks for evidence by backtracking through the previous incident sites in Botswana and Scotland, and launches a strategy for fighting the drones under the Pacific, a suspected rogue technologist named Zylen Blain begins to wonder why no one has figured out his connection to the incidents. As Zylen tries to determine the global law enforcement response to his handiwork, he follows Kadie to Chile where she is managing the battle with the undersea drones. In the Pacific, he realizes his undetectable drones are not the only triggers for The Network’s defensive drone attacks, but he does not know how the convergence of deadly events has happened.
When Roman secretly engages Zylen’s rivals, the wanted Bash twins, to help find the defensive drone code within The Network, Zylen uncovers their scheme and follows his competition into cyberspace to disrupt their plans. But to reclaim control of the investigation, he’ll need a unilateral tactic providing a portal into understanding The Network’s intentions and how future incidents can be stopped. Zylen works faster than Montana Bash, and Kadie’s team, until they determine he is also in Chile, and they turn the tables in an attempt to capture him and his data before the irreversible disruption of their once stable world. Kadie and her team realize they are at the beginning, not the end, of a new battle to understand how The Network is using its own logic, and why an immediate revitalization of human brainpower is required to return the machine to human control.
The LIfe Online series continues in Book Two, The Unbroken Line.
All of the novels can be read independently.