Everyone on the list got the text at 3:15pm. It was a Friday afternoon and the mob was planned for 4:05 sharp.
It was to go down at the old Tri-Cties Shopping Mall food court, near the Show-Business Burrito Hut.
When Jessicon and the others arrived some forty minutes later, they were to mill about as passersby. They were not to gather in groups of more than two, or linger in any one location for more than thirty seconds, which was the supposed window of comfort for not entangling the interest of the crowd monitoring and machine vision system which monitored that area and the entire mall.
The begin signal was to be: a woman wearing a yellow coat would pass by the mall fountain, climb the two stairs to stand next to it, open a red umbrella, and throw a coin into the water. This was to set all the various teams into motion, following their own assigned tasks or patterns as the greater orchestration of the moment unfolded.
I was an analyst working for William Maze, aka Wormwood, when this event went down. It was my job to write a post-mortem of what most likely had gone down based on the available evidence.
Whatever else happened that day, the woman with the red umbrella did not show up. Or if she did, she forgot her red umbrella and her yellow raincoat. Instead a woman in a black t-shirt and jeans had climbed those two steps and otherwise followed the same chain of action which would have triggered the hidden actors to life had it been the right signal. But it was not the right signal, and what happened instead was par for when humans tried to organize themselves into botnets. Half the agents activated, thinking it was the right trigger sequence. Others did not, knowing it was not only the wrong signal, but the wrong time. And others still hesitated to see what everyone else was doing. But the participants were, officially anyway, unknown to one another. Though they might have been able to guess had they the chance to look around and place their silent bets on one another.
As the plan failed but half the flashmob haphazardly came online anyway, the interest of the risk system that governed the shopping complex was unequivocally piqued.
From its point of view, it saw several squads of four or five individuals suddenly come together and start waving their arms and shouting.
Several classifications raced through its decision matrix. Unscheduled coordinated actors distributed through space. Riot indicators. Hostage situation indicators. Street fight indicators. Shopping stampede indicators.
It was, admittedly, a bit of an old and jumpy system. Maybe needing maintenance, maybe tweaked beyond its official use parameters by third parties. I’ll leave that to forensics – if it ever gets that far.
But the system over-reacted, putting the mall on lock-down, and sealing sections off from each other to contain and mitigate any propagation between the observed cells. And not just that, the security robots were set out in an unusually aggressive formation against the would-be human botnet.
Well, mistakes were made and there were a number of human casualties and two fatalities.
When the human organizers behind the event were tracked down and interviewed by Newschan as the events unfolded, they said nobody should have gotten hurt. It was supposed to be a fun event. Nothing dangerous. Just some singing and dancing. They were going to try and #codechant.
But this was not the early 2000s anymore. You could not run around out in public organizing strange avant garde spontaneous participatory performances without the eyes of the Autonomous Cities watching your every move. And with everything which was to happen in the coming Shape Wars, no one for long would blame a few robots knocking down some mall punks which were acting suspiciously, even if a couple of them may have actually had their heads bashed in in front of Dick Greid’s famous Show-Business Burrito Hut to the terrified wonder of families who just were there for the cheezy crickadillas.