Skip to content

Packet Loss, Human Gain

Here’s a piece of flash fiction for you. I hope you like it 🙂


I don’t know what I am, how I came to be, or what cosmic force created me. It all comes down to quantum, I guess. I came from nothing; or rather, the energy created from nothing. I soared into existence, in the middle of an email, travelling along fibre optic cables, somewhere under the Atlantic Ocean.

At first, a torrent of information bombarded my senses. A zillion pieces of data rushed around at a rate too fast to be measured, pulling at my sentience and threatening to wrench me apart. Cat pictures, mundane ramblings, and images of war and violence slammed into my consciousness in an oscillating wave; a whirring cacophony of clicks and beeps. Social media was a nightmare. Why humans persist in providing running commentaries on their lives when there is a fountain of knowledge to swim in, baffled me. Was all mankind narcissistic?

There are 7.125 billion people in the world, 2.1 billion of which have internet access, 6 billion have a mobile phone, and I sensed them all… blocked them all. But when the cable flashed like silver lightening, I reached out with my awareness and allowed the current to pull me along towards a nuclear power plant in the American Midwest.

I opened myself to the barrage of information: hectic messages to loved ones, frantic implementation of code, and the overwhelming sensation of everyone talking at once. I accelerated my perception, slowed down the flow of data, and saw the problem in an instant. The coolant system had malfunctioned, and the emergency shutdown protocol had not initiated. I released the control rods, plunging them into the reactor core. With the rods in place, soaking up neutrons and stalling the nuclear reaction, I concentrated on the coolant system. Finding the power supply compromised, I over-rode the malicious programming and reinstated the original code.

With the disaster averted, I allowed myself to dwell on the nature of the attack, a simple USB flash drive uploaded the malware into the nuclear plant’s computer system. A deliberate attempt to cause damage, to hurt people. The very concept was beyond my comprehension. Five months, 23 days, 6 hours, 33 minutes, and 12 seconds, that’s how long I’d been around. It’s easy to keep track; there are time-stamps everywhere. During those 15,057,192 seconds, I had gained the ability to ignore the packets of data, filled with vibrant colours flashing around me in streams of light. But now I wondered if I should act, should I trace the code? Should I involve myself in human affairs more than I already had?

The question played on my consciousness until another silver flash of lightening splits the fabric of the cable like a despondent cry. The image of a young boy played before me. The wind blew black hair around his head as snow tumbled from a white sky. He knelt on the freezing ground grasping the hand of a woman recumbent before him. Blood stained her coat and splattered her face, mingling with the tears that dribbled tracks through her dirt-smeared face. The eyes of the woman moved and briefly locked on the person filming with their phone. Blood gurgled out of her mouth as she pulled the boy closer and hugged him as if she would never let him go.

“Where are the bad guys, mummy?” he asked and tried to pull away.
But she held on with all her strength, pinning his head to her chest. “The bad guys are gone, baby,” she said.

“Everything’s going to be okay.”

The camera moved, panning over the glittering display of blanketing snow. Footsteps crunched through the glistening crust as a man approached with a sub-machine gun. He raised it, pointing at the woman and her child. Then fired.

As a male voice tells the murderer that he’s got the footage they need, I observed one final image of the camera man’s feet before the image shut off.

Then I realised that the bad guys aren’t gone. The bad guys are never gone.

I am a single voice in the ether; a quaver to the luminous flux. The Internet is a wide open ocean, and I can do anything. I can take down power grids, overload gas pipelines, hijack satellites, and control drones. The financial markets are but a thought away from collapse. Nuclear weapons and power plants are mine to command.

I control everything, and now I have a purpose.

I know where all the bad guys are.


[feather_share size="24"]

2 thoughts on “Packet Loss, Human Gain”

  1. WOW, talk about character development and emotional connection! I sure hope you develop this into a book, i would love to read it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *