Chapter 18 - Nobody Did It Better

A book cover in the style of a 1950's pulp sci-fi novel. An AI generated set of computers are connected by wires.Welcome to NaNoWriMo, where I - and thousands of other plucky souls - try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

You are reading "Tales of the Algorithm". A compendium of near-future sci-fi stories. Each chapter is a stand-alone adventure set a few days from now.

Everything you read is possible - there's no magic, just sufficiently advanced technology. Think of them as technological campfire horror stories.

Your feedback on each story is very much appreciated.

And so, let's crack on with...

Nobody Did It Better

"The name's Bond. James Bond."

"OK Mr Bond, can I see some ID please?"

Bond slipped his hand into the inside jacket pocket of his finely tailored Armani suit. Nestled beside his trusty Walther PPK was the glorious royal blue booklet signed in the name of His Majesty The King. With a well practised flourish, Bond spun the passport in his fingers and opened it to the photo page. He gently slid the document across the counter into the eager hands of the beautiful immigration officer. Her emerald green eyes met his as their fingers touched. She firmly grasped his document and thrust it into her reader.

"This might take a moment," she said apologetically, "The BlockChain is being really slow today."

Bond amused himself by staring at her heaving bosom, tightly bound in the drab colours so beloved of foreign passport control. Perhaps he'd have a chance to riffle through her papers later that evening? A smile played across his lips as the passport officer's eyes grew wide in astonishment.

"Gosh!" she said breathlessly. "You have been to a lot of countries!"

The smile left Bond's lips. This was his new life. An indelible record of everywhere he'd been and everything he'd done. Well, not everything! There were still a few interactions which were blissfully analogue.

Her pretty little nose wrinkled as she read the data being retrieved from the worldwide consensus. "This doesn't make any sense. I can see the last time you entered Germany, but this then shows you leaving China a few days later. Did you not go through passport control between those two interactions?"

This was getting tedious. Every time he went through immigration he had to go through this farcical rigmarole. Back in the good old days, Q or one of his neckbeard friends would have just hacked into the records office. Back in the better days, Bond himself would have seduced a guard and slipped her a little something for correcting the mistake. The BlockChain had ruined more things than political correctness. Every time a passport was scanned, the local system would burn a couple of kWh of electricity to record and reconcile the transaction, placing it on an immutable chain which could be seen across the world. Bond was no crusty environmental hippy, but even he thought this was a monumental waste of energy. Why? So they could catch a few people overstaying their visas? So what!

Bond launched into his well rehearsed spiel about falling asleep on the train, and the patchy Internet on the TransContinental Express passing through Mongolia. The guard seemed unconvinced.

"Wait here. I'll need to get my manager."

Bond was fuming. He remembered when he'd been allowed multiple passports in various names. If he needed to be Mr Smith visiting Kenya, the passport office would gladly knock him up a new set of credentials. They'd backdate its creation and give it one of their reserved serial numbers. That's how MI5 had caught those Russian spies a few years ago - suspiciously sequential serial numbers. But the plucky Brits were too clever for that! All that glorious spycraft was now lost.

When a country minted a passport, they reported it to the global BlockChain. Each new passport was validated by several national institutions at vast cost and, eventually, allowed to proceed. There was no possibility of creating a new passport with an old date. A cryptographic signature adorned every document, embedded in an RFID chip which contained a copy of the biometrics of the holder. If someone tried to mint a passport with a duplicate biometric signature, the whole chain would be alerted and the document would be rejected. There was nowhere for an honest spy to hide.

Oh, there were some advantages, of course. It generally made travel a little bit faster - except when the online transactions were bogged down by holiday-makers. And, Bond supposed, it had cut down on petty identity fraud. But those were fringe benefits. Perhaps the best thing about the new permanent-record was that it allowed you to validate anyone's ID. If you went to buy a bottle of Stolichnaya in a seedy little off-licence on the streets of Moscow, the clerk could run your ID and know that you were of legal drinking age. The same was also true if you met a young woman on the streets of Mississippi; you could be sure that her father wouldn't pursue you on a statutory rape charge.

The guard returned with her supervisor, a camp young man with an obnoxious little rainbow badge on his lanyard. Virtue signalling at its finest, thought Bond as he adjusted the vermillion poppy on his own lapel.

The supervisor spoke with an irritating lisp, "Well, Mr Bond! It looks like someone's been a naughty boy!" He paused to savour Bond's obvious discomfort. "But I've spoken to my manager and she's agreed to let you through. Off you trot!" He handed back the passport. Bond gave an involuntary shudder as their fingers collided.

Perhaps Q had hacked their system? Or maybe the crowd of tourists was getting too long and the authorities wanted the line to disperse. Either way, Bond made his way to the Avis® car rental desk.

"Mein büro hat ein auto reserviert." He said, in his best attempt at a German accent.

The blonde behind the desk grimaced and politely responded in lightly accented English. "Of course. Your driving licence and car insurance record please."

Bugger, thought Bond, here we go again!

Thanks for reading

I'd love your feedback on each chapter. Do you like the style of writing? Was the plot interesting? Did you guess the twist? Please stick a note in the comments to motivate me.

You can read the complete set of short stories in order.

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