Y-Files: Case no. 001 The Mystery of the Cell Phone Apps Murders.
Dexter Hogan opened the files on his desk.
S pecial agent Dexter Hogan worked for a secret FBI division above TOP SECRET, what was referred to in basic terms as THE Y-Files.
Such files were unsolved cases regarding either suspicious disappearances of persons involved in high tech research or any number of unsolved and occasionally out of the ordinary or even paranormal events. In some cases persons of interest ended up cold cases as a result of such instances of an untimely death or being written off as missing and presumed dead as a result of unusual or undetermined events or tragic circumstances where no leads as to their causes could be found through regular channels and all methods at resolution were exhausted, by conventional legal means and conventional forensics.
Hundreds of cases were filed in cold case banker boxes, and these were piled up to the ceiling on the 22nd floor: sub-level 22 B, in New America One. Dexter worked out of a small closet office down the hall and just one door next to SECURITY DIVISION for New America Group A.
Barcarole was playing on the sound system. The telephone rang and it was another agent working with him in his investigations.
"Hello?", Dexter said. "They want us to talk to a man about a case. We meet in half an hour at the coffee house on Grand Avenue to discuss the matter with agent Forbes. Will you be able to make it in time Dexter?" "Yea. I'll meet you there in under 15 minutes Jean. Have a coffee for me when I get there. I will need something to keep me alert." "See you soon Dex."
He looked up at the clock over the desk and it was 4:16 AM, Sunday. He thought about recent cases he and his partner were working on and now to add to his pile of high and deep cold cases, it seemed that this new one might be refreshing in a sense. But who knows, it might just be another dead end missing persons case. No one ever briefed him when he was on call. He just followed orders. Go to the meeting place, talk about the case, then go and find some evidence to make a case if there is any.
Canvasing the area where a Y-File event was reported could be close to home or thousands of miles beyond the perimeter, out in no man's land, The outer perimeter where zone troopers occupy was a place he often disliked because of the real dangers there.
Fortunately, after the meeting at the coffee house, agent Forbes told them both that it was just another case of a missing computer programmer student from the University of South Dallas , involving some kind of cell phone app that had gone missing and was taken the day before in a computer lab. It was on a thumb drive. First the app went missing then the student went missing the next day. His fellow students were to be questioned and they were to give them as much information about this cell phone app and who might have access to the program.
Sometimes these cases turned out being nothing at all. Jean and Dexter would find out more once they obtained the location of the missing student. Before anything could be determined, they had to first find out the nature of this program or App.
"Let me finish my coffee first", said Dexter. Jean sipped on her Tazo tea. They would be going to question the students in a few minutes. Agent Forbes was already outside getting into his black 2017 Dodge Charger. A real beauty, thought Dexter, looking out the window to the streets where Forbes drove off, going from zero to 50.
Jason Tillerman was running after the student who took his thumb drive with his new app on it. He was on foot and the student running from him was gaining a good lead ahead of him.
"Hey, stop. Give me back my app you freaking thief!" Jason gained momentum and finally caught up with the student who stole his thumb drive.
They were both students, in a race to be the first to come up with the ultimate Cell Phone app, Jason was working on his project for months at the university. He called it Dream Catcher. Now he had to first catch a thief. But he lost him at the bus station.
The student who got away with his Dream Catcher app had a name. It was Joseph Turman. He had been working on his own app, called Virtual Death, some kind of video game, but it wasn't working for him and he knew he would win first prize if only he could grab Jason's Dream Catcher app. Although Joseph Turman was the originator of Virtual Death, he had 3 other students on the group project, and among them was Jason Tillerman , the genius of the group and two others, Patty Winters, and Dianna Silverton. They all were generally enthused about working on a group project but they still had some bugs to work out. They all seemed to envy Jason, because he had his very own independent program, Dream Catcher, which, if it turned out to get first place, they would all be losers in the eyes of the other students.
Joseph wanted to know more about Jason 's Dream Catcher app but he just wanted to keep it under wraps. He was very secretive and anytime Joseph brought it up in conversation, all he got was, "I will tell you all about it when it's first place in the Fall competition." All Joseph knew was the Dream Catcher app was supposedly able to record your thoughts while you sleep and create algorithms of images and actions by using a Simulated Intelligent Man doing things in a 3-D virtual world that could be played back on a computer like watching a video game being played out. It was a wild idea and more advanced than anyone in the University could possibly imagine.
Jason had shown it to him a week earlier and during that time Joseph plotted and planned getting his hands on that app and getting credit for it and winning the 10,000 dollar prize and 4 years at the University of South Dallas where he would rise in the ranks of the top 10 student programmers and that meant he would be so popular that he would be able to date any girl on campus. They would be all over him because he would be one of the most popular and eligible student bachelors on campus.
After returning home with no leads, Dexter dropped off his paperwork at the office and headed to his apartment on level 215 of New America One. He was met by his robot Alan234. "Welcome home Sir. I hope your day went well." - Dex replied, "Alan, I have no leads today. It was a complete washout." - "You went to wash out your clothes? I thought you had a laundry service with L-14?" - "Not exactly, I meant to say, we went to investigate a missing student and so far have no leads as to his whereabouts." -"Understood. Your bath is ready and your clean clothes are on the counter for your convenience." - "Okay, I am having a coffee and have to do some online research tonight. I will no longer need your assistance for the rest of the day. You can go offline and I will talk to you in the morning at 5AM." -"Very good sir."
The robot prepared the coffee and went into cyber sleep mode. While asleep, his anti-virus software and maintenance programs would run until he went automatically into standby mode the rest of the night.
Online, Dexter sent an e-mail to Jean, thanking her for going along on his wild goose chase. After that he typed in some key words ... 'Dream Catcher, Jason Tillerman, student, the 'University of South Dallas' ... and he got some hits.
He bookmarked the one highlighted on a Google search list that was titled as follows: Students at USD compete for annual app convention, click here to learn more. It brought up a page that profiled Jason, one of 47 students in the competition. Programs and apps of all types were being designed using open source code and many of them were being developed by groups of students. The Dream Catcher app was being worked on only by one student, Tillerman, but he along with 3 other students were working as a team on another project separate from his own and it was called, the Virtual Death app.
This team effort was headed up by the student who ran off with Tillerman's thumb drive, Joseph Turman was now on the run and at this moment authorities had no information yet. Only Jason knew he had the drive. Only he would be the one to report it missing and he was still on foot pursuit. He had a fair idea as to where his fellow colleague might be hanging out, and that might just be where he would find him. At the Arcade on Elm street. It was just 4 blocks West of the bus station. Jason walked and took his time. He knew that if he did spot Joseph, he would have to move fast and get his memory drive back from him, even if that meant getting into a rumble with the guy.
But, reality kicks you in the behind when you’re making other plans.
Two men in black were arguing with Joseph over that thumb drive. Jason observed what was happening from a distance. Shots were fired and Joseph Turman fell to the floor and then one of the men reached over and took something from the dead student’s back pack and fled. They got into a black SUV with no license plates and took off like bats out of hell. Jason ran over to his classmate, no longer concerned over the theft of his program and people gathered all around. The young student, rival and thief, opened up his eyes and looked at Jason and said, “They were gonna pay me more than enough to get my scholarship. I’m sorry. I …” he died there right on the spot with a gunshot to the abdomen.
The ambulance came and took the stone cold dead student to the morgue, and by this time, the very disturbed and bewildered Jason had returned home empty handed and wondering why anyone would kill for that app. In just under an hour, Dexter and Jean were called in to report for a briefing. The coffee house. “They killed the boy. And they took the drive with that program. I need you both to go pay that guy Tillerman a visit ASAP.”
Agent Forbes was looking very seriously at them both. “Here we are, having coffee while an innocent youth is lying dead on a slab at County Hospital and I feel like all we can really do is try to prevent the same fate from befalling the student who may have witnessed the killing. Jason Tillerman may be the next fall guy and I want you two to take him to a safe house after you explain that you are not holding him as a suspect but an innocent victim of some kind of deal gone bad. If you can please get a copy of that program and take it to headquarters and lock it in a safe. Alright, it’s time to move on this.
They both looked at each other and nodded and then got up and drove down South Park Avenue and turned down the road that led to the student’s apartment. Hopefully, he would be there and they also had no idea if the gunmen had any information as to his address. At this point they both were prepared for the worse and hoping for a positive outcome.
R eno Oz grabbed the thumb drive out of the hands of the man who obtained it. He was very pleased. “Well done. Now go find that student. I will need him to explain everything about this Dream ‘Weaver’ or ‘Catcher’ or whatever, and how to reverse engineer it to suit my plans. You have 24 hours. Now, get going and don’t come back until you find him, but do not hurt him or make him feel uneasy. I will need to find a way to convince him it will be worth his while to cooperate with us.” You have to appear as Federal agents to make this work, got it?”
T he two men in black nodded and walked away.
All of the students at the university were upset with what happened to the one student who was part of the team to create the Virtual Death app. Not only that, all the students were in lock down. They were told to remain in their classrooms until the police could make certain no attempts were made against them. As long as the shooter remained at large, the entire campus was on High Alert status.
Dexter and Jean came to Jason's residence. The front door was open. They went inside and called out, "Is anyone there? Mr. Tillerman are you there?" The house had been ransacked and there was no sign of Jason anywhere. It looked like someone had done serious damage to the place. Computers had been taken, It looked as if an entire computer system was literally removed from a desk top. But what the two investigators did not know was, just a few minutes earlier, it was Jason who removed the computer after having spent time frantically, to find his software and extra memory sticks and piled them into the back seat of his 70's model Ford Pinto hatchback. Jason left his own apartment looking like it had been hit by a group of burglars.
Dexter called it in and told agent Forbes about their recent discovery and they were told to continue looking for the student. They were instructed to look for him at places the other university students knew were common hangouts for him and others around campus.
After the two of them left, in comes the two men in black only to discover the place empty and in disarray.
"We're too late. We got here too late. The place is trashed." They take off in the black SUV roaming the neighborhood and went directly to the campus grounds where they discovered the police had road blocks at all entrances so they knew they had no way of making it though and if the law saw them they would be made and their identities checked from facial recognition phones the police were using at this time. The license plates of their black SUV read, KLD-394 and one of the police officers got it on his cell phone camera. It would be much later before this license was run through their system and came back as a rental from Dal-Tex Sports Van Rentals on Madison and Pearl, a few miles north of the Downtown area.
Dexter and Jean went to the campus to the police blocked entrance and after showing their IDs were permitted to enter the front of the West Campus. They parked near the entrance to the Fine Arts Auditorium side and walked down a wide open area that lead to the elevators. They were met by Forbes and a professor, Van Hoogan, in charge of the Computer Sciences department where all the students were being told to stay and they all went in and began questioning them one by one. The students were wanting to get home as it was just an hour before the rush hour and some students had to commute over 20 miles each way on the interstate.
Looking at each other, the two students who were part of the 4 person group behind the Virtual Death app project, Winters and Silverton felt as if they would be in some sort of trouble and even be suspects in the case just because they were associated with Jason and Joseph on the Virtual Death program team. Guilt by association, so to speak. But when asked if they had any idea where Jason might be at this moment, Dianna Silverton told them she had a good idea where Jason might be at this exact moment. "I got a text from Jason just a few minutes ago. He said he had to get his system and software and put it away in a safe place and that he would meet Patty and me at the arcade in an hour but since the lock down we haven't had the chance to get out and meet with him."
G len Gregory was an MIT student, who was on his computer at the time. He had already downloaded a BETA version of Virtual Death and was about to check it out when a friend called him and asked, "Hey Glen, did you get the BETA of that app called Dream Catcher ? A student at the University of South Dallas sent a copy to me to keep in case his system failed. Did you ever get a chance to look at it?" - "That student, I think his name was Jason, sent me an e-mail a few days ago. I hadn't time to open it yet.", replied Glen.
He looked at his long list of over 5,000 emails. The one from USD was dated 3 days ago. He opened it and saw the zip file attachment. He saved it to his Lower Desktop, Sub Level One and decrypted it and then it opened up. It was a very large file, about 2.4 Gigabytes. The program was not a BETA. It was the full working version of the app, Dream Catcher. Reading the specifics of Dream Catcher, Glen read the following ...
EYES ONLY. The program or app I have created has been constructed to capture brain wave functions during REM sleep and save the data to a VIRTUAL LIFE app that you already own. With this app you can literally download your dreams and see them replayed on VIRTUAL LIFE as a game scenario. Hope you like it. I am asking that you keep this confidential and if for some reason my system crashes, you will have a backup copy on your system. Please make extra copies of the app. Also I have included a copy of a link to the download of Virtual Death to be incorporated with VIRTUAL LIFE as an expansion pack for that game. I already have the approval of the 4 person team that includes me, to use it after the annual Tech Convention and prize winner for best app is announced on Sunday, in about a month from now.
The Dream Catcher app required a Bio Feedback head set and some monitor wires to the head via a special hat to be worn by the user. That user was to be Glen. Jason requested Glen try this app out As Soon As Possible.
Tonight would be the night Glen Gregory would have his first lucid dream. He was not expecting anything to come of it but was willing to try the app out and hoped he would learn some things from it. He had no idea what he would experience when the download app, VIRTUAL LIFE , replayed his dreams. It was suggested that he have spicy food before going to bed to insure more active brain wave activity so he prepared some of his good and spicy homemade chili with beans. The equipment was already sent via UPS and he would spend some time reading the instructions while having his late night snack.
J ason tried to slow down just a little. He was at the Lost Castle Arcade near Fairmount Heights, an upscale community smack dab in the newly developing commercial district which was a City renewal project from District 1. The old Mall used to be full of retail businesses but after the 911 attacks and the insurgence of the internet, malls like the old bygone era of corner shopping centers were being replaced by internet Box companies that shipped items directly to the customer from all points on the globe. But the efforts of the City Council were trying to breath fresh life into the southern sector of the city.
Jason paid for some tokens and began playing a game in the corner of the arcade, looking around as he played, for Winters who was expected to meet him there but never arrived. After an hour of game play, it was apparent something had not gone as planned. For that matter, nothing had. He had his app stolen by a student who he trusted who was gunned down by two men who ran off with that app and for now he felt like a fugitive. Not only were the good guys looking for him to protect him from danger but the bad guys were also looking for him to get him to cooperate with their attempt to reverse engineer his app so it could be used for nefarious purposes.
Dexter located the arcade but by the time he got there, Jason had already left just minutes before and at the same time, the two men in black were approaching the mall's front entrance. Jason had a friend, who he called, to pick him up and take him to their place for the night. David Swanson got the call. He would meet in the back of the mall, pick up Jason near the Henderson's Dollar department store. As David pulled up in the rear parking lot, Jason walked out to the vehicle and met with David and at the same time, the two men in black entered the mall and turned into the arcade. At about that same time, Dexter Hogan was walking out of the arcade and just passed the two un-subs. He looked at them as if they were out of place. They were wearing suits and ties and had black fedoras. Then, he looked down the long mall hallway and saw the door opening to the rear entrance where he got a glimpse of what appeared to be Jason, with a backpack exiting.
Dexter called for Jean to meet him at the back side of the mall as soon as possible. She was driving around the outer perimeter of the mall and got the message. She saw a dark blue Dodge Charger drive away with two occupants. "I think they got away. Do you want to meet me at the rear and try to follow them?" - Dexter said, "You follow now and call me if you get a location, then come back here and I will get in and return with you to that location. I have two un-subs in the castle arcade. I think they are also looking to find Jason. We have to act fast. Call me when you get some information on the student's exact location. I will go back to the arcade and try to get some digital images if I can. I will run the facial recognition program if I get the chance."
J ason’s app had yet another hidden feature, called: Mind Reader, which, like Dream Catcher, it was able to record your memories as they happened in real time during the day. This add-on feature was what Glen Gregory had discovered as he previously had looked at the special features listing while exploring all the potential of the app. There was a special cap you wear under a baseball cap, to hide it from public view, so you could literally walk around from the moment you woke up one morning until you downloaded the memory data to the VIRUAL LIFE app so you could replay the events of your day, like a virtual daily diary in 3D virtual reality format. This was what that student was wearing when he was shot dead at the bus station by the two assailants. When crime scene officers took the evidence from the dead student’s body, that special under the cap Mind Reader layer was put in lockup and Dexter and Jean were just about to open up the locker that contained it after having been told to check for any unusual items found on the student after the autopsy was performed. Dexter found that special piece of head gear. It was not made obvious to him as to what it was meant to be used for until he received a telephone call from that student from MIT, Glen Gregory.
“Hello is this special agent Dexter Hogan?” – “Who is this?”- asked Dexter. “My name is Glen Gregory from the other day. I spoke to you about that app, Dream Catcher?” – “Oh yes, do you have that app complete in a safe place for me and my partner to look at?” – “Yes, there is one more thing I failed to mention earlier. Jason told me to check out the special features menu of that app and I looked at it. It has a second function, that is, it can download your daily thoughts and events to play back with the VIRTUAL LIFE app and I think this might be especially important to you in your investigation. It is my assumption that that student, Joseph, was wearing it when he was killed. If so, you might be able to play back the events that led to his death and even lead to visual clues to help you find those men who were after the Dream Catcher.” – “That sounds very interesting. When can we meet and where should we meet to obtain a copy of that app so we can figure things out?”
Glen Gregory told Dexter to meet him at Scientex Science Foundation, located on the top floor of New America Two. They would meet in one hour, with that head gear in hand. At some point the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together to form the complete story.
S ince the first day Dexter Hogan opened the door to the Y-files room to do his very first read from the first group of cases more things were going on in the world than a hundred rooms like this one. Cold steel walls and ceiling were the construction of this place. There was a certain nostalgia found in this room. A landline phone on a metal top desk, a Mr. Coffee maker set on top of an old drafting table made out to be a kitchen counter for making sandwiches and an old 2 sink situated in the corner that looked just like the one he once saw in the back restroom of a Good Will he once saw when shopping with his wife many years ago.
What was the motivation? - Dexter asked himself. What were those people’s intentions with this so called Dream Catcher? Not only was it able to record dreams but it was able to record thoughts and actions during waking hours. And was this app able to do more than that? What if, he thought as he prepared some Black Silk Folgers coffee, the app could do something like, maybe even record one person’s experiences and transfer them into another person’s mind while they slept?
What if this program could be used to give another person the experiences of for instance, a trained fighter pilot, and thus making that user able to take over a fighter as if he had the exact same experience and knowledge that it may have taken years for the original pilot to learn and acquire the skill set that was necessary to become an actual pilot and turn an ordinary person overnight, with just one download of memories into a body double of sorts, with all the experience and expertise? This was not the only what if – Dexter had imagined and if such a program were put in the wrong hands, ordinary people could go to sleep saints and wake up the next day fully functional and combat ready soldiers for an army of foreign terrorists?
God forbid such things might even be considered and even worse, God forbid such things might already have been made reality and placed into the hands of the enemy even at this very moment! Sometimes, being one who has a vivid imagination, it was more a curse than a blessing, thought Dexter as he stared at the map on his desk and tried to figure out where to go next to find and save that student and more than that, where those men in black were located. The databases were full of lists of cyber thieves and internet bandits. The list was a mile long and growing. Somewhere, in hidden darkness, two men in black walked the night.
Dexter and Jean arrived about 45 minutes later at Scientex Science Foundation, located on the top floor of New America Two. The head gear was handed over to that student from MIT, Glen Gregory. He seemed anxious to get his hands on the head gear. Just that moment, Professor Van Hoogan appeared from behind a desk.
Apparently he was given a brief on the situation and he was there to intercept that head gear but Dexter was confident that Glen could use it for the night to see if it was functional and find out more before giving it up to either the professor or handing it all over to Central’s head of the department, Agent Forbes. And of course he had the highest security clearance in the entire department.
The phone rang and Dexter answered. It was Agent Forbes from Central Dispatch. “If you have the setup go ahead but after tomorrow I want all of the software, hardware and everything else you can obtain connected with this Dream Catcher project in my office by the end of tomorrow. What ever you do, do not hand those things over to the professor. I’ll be expecting a copy of your findings when you return to my office.”
"Sorry professor, Agent Forbes from Central wants to handle this personally after the test results are final. You are welcome to stay here and monitor Glen but we also have orders to stay and after all is done and the uploads are finished tomorrow morning, we have to return to Central to meet with Agent Forbes. I can't just hand this over to you with all that has been going on. There has already been one death from this ordeal and we don't want to take any more risks." The professor smiled and said, "Of course. Whatever you say. I will sit at the end on that couch and catch up on my reading while you two handle things. The coffee is on and I am sure you will need it to stay awake the night."
Dexter looked at Jean and they went to the other side of the room where two couches and a television monitor was there to keep them entertained. But Dexter was not interested in being entertained. Jean made him and her a cup of coffee and they both sat together. This would be a very long night to just sit and wait while the MIT student started the countdown to his sleep study, with full head gear wired up to the computer and the professor seemingly engaged in casual reading. Dexter had to keep an eye on him, just to make sure he was not up to anything.
to be continued.
Image Credit » A pen pic by Anthony Davis, who write this silly post.