Airport Security, Circa 2020

The way back home.

Airport Security, Circa 2020
By Fred Gielow
Posted here for: 4-21-08. Updated: 8-28-17.

"Excuse me, ma'am."

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you. Would you step out of line, please? It seems we have a problem."

"A problem? What kind of problem?"

"It's your IMC. We're not getting a proper reading from the IMC scanner."

"You mean my Imbedded MicroChip? I haven't had any trouble before. It scanned okay at the bank Tuesday. And at the supermarket yesterday."

The TSA agent eyes the woman suspiciously. She's attractive. She's conservatively dressed. Her demeanor is calm. She has already passed the metal-detector and Dangerous Particles tests, but the IMC reading registered "Fail" and TSA regulations are clear: No "Pass," no fly.

"You'll have to come with me, ma'am. We'll sort this all out."

The agent leads Karen to an office where she sits down in front of a desk, behind which is a man wearing a special TSA uniform: a white shirt, black trousers and suitcoat, and a cap with an emblem which reads "TSA Special Investigator." His nameplate reads "Investigator R. Carlson."

"Will I miss my flight," Karen asks, dejectedly, knowing what the answer will be.

"I'm afraid so, ma'am. Right now your identity is officially designated as 'No Identity' and regulations state we must detain you until we can reclassify you as 'Valid,' 'Travel Disallowed,' or 'In Custody.' That usually takes less than 24 hours."

"Twenty-four hours?"

"It shouldn't take that long. Do you have your National Identity Documents with you?"

"Well, no. I didn't think they were needed anymore since everybody has Imbedded MicroChips. The chips contain all the government-required information about me."

The investigator looks up from his paperwork. "The chips only provide a number, ma'am, a 64-digit number. Government computer records have all the information about you. Each number links to 73 or more federal data-base files. But it seems your IMC number is invalid. Your chip is either malfunctioning or it has been intentionally corrupted. And I have to find out which it is. Intentionally tampering with an IMC is a felony, you know."

"I didn't tamper with it," Karen blurts out.

"We'll see."

An expression of panic slowly moves across Karen's face. Her mind races. "Can I call my husband, Jim?" she asks, hopefully.

"Not until we sort all this out. What other identification do you have with you?"

"I have my driver's license. A couple of credit cards. My voting card."

"Well, then, let me see your driver's license. Maybe we can resolve this matter quickly."

Karen grabs her purse and digs into its contents. She finds her wallet, locates the license, and removes it from its plastic sleeve. "Here it is," she says excitedly, throwing the card on the desk.

Investigator Carlson picks up the card, looks at it, then looks at Karen. "This is you?" he asks, pointing to the photo.

"Yes, of course it's me," Karen replies, "right there!"

"I'm not so sure," Carlson says, "but we'll run it through the system." He keys the license number into his keyboard. Instantly the computer screen lights up. "Here's the record. Now, let's see."

Karen leans forward.

"Looks like this license has expired, Ms. . . . ah . . . Newberry? Is that your name?"

"That was my maiden name. Now I'm Karen Saunter. I married Jim Saunter. We were married in Barcelona a year and a half ago. He was on assignment there for two years."

"But the license has expired, Mrs. Saunter, . . . if that's your real name."

"It is my real name!" Karen snaps back.

"Perhaps," Investigator Carlson says casually, "but right now I have no proof of that."

"Read my chip again," Karen implores. "It must be okay."

"If you insist." A hand-held device is retrieved from a desk drawer, and passed over Karen's arm. The digital readout shows: "XXX-99-CODE 947."

"Hmm, the 900-series." Carlson looks through a reference book. "Code 947 means you have an invalid number," he explains, then reading from the book, "'Often results from efforts to overwrite chip.' Very suspicious. Don't get this code very often. That's why you're here, ma'am. Right now, officially, you have no identity."

"There must be something wrong. Maybe my chip got damaged somehow. Maybe it just doesn't work right for some reason."

"I'm afraid not, ma'am. The IMC program has been thoroughly tested. It doesn't fail. Remember the National Animal Identification System in service about ten years ago? Every animal in the country was chipped and that system paved the way for the citizen IMC program. The chips just don't fail. NAIS was a complete success."

"I remember when our dog, Toto, was chipped. He never seemed to act right after that."

"Toto? You had a dog named Toto? That wasn't a little brown chihuahua, was it? With a little red collar? There used to be a dog with that name a couple of blocks from where I lived 15 years ago. Cute rascal. He was always hanging around our house. The wife used to give him treats."

"That's our Toto!" exclaims Karen. "We always wondered why he sometimes wouldn't eat. I'm Karrie. Remember me? Toto was our family dog!"

"Oh, my gosh, yes, I do. I only saw you a couple of times, but my wife told me the dog belonged to you. I guess you used to hang around with that Judy kid down the street."

"Yes! Judy was a good friend of mine all the way through grade school. What a coincidence. So you do know who I am. Oh, thank goodness!" Karen says with a sigh.

"But I'm not authorized to override your chip ID," Carlson says with a frown, "so officially, you're still classified as 'No Identity'."

Dejected, Karen slumps back in her chair. "Isn't there anything you can do to help me?"

"Look, Karrie, I'd like to help, but my hands are tied. You know, TSA regulations are designed for the nation's safety. I can't violate any rules. I'd lose my job. I've been on this job for over nine years. I'm sorry."

Karen puts her hands to her face and starts to cry. "I didn't do anything wrong," she whimpers. "I just let my driver's license lapse. I was out of the country. I'm sorry! How can I fix all this?"

"The driver's license isn't the problem. It's your chip. Usually an inoperative chip means criminal or terrorist connections or activity. I have to follow procedures."

"Can't I just go home?"

"Absolutely not. Sorry."

Karen looks at the investigator. Her eyes search his.

"Wait a minute!" Karen registers surprise. "You're . . . you're Randy Carlson! I remember Judy telling me how you used to take women into that old garage behind the Jacobson house. She said you did that every couple of days for months. I remember now. A couple of times Judy and I went around to the back to try and listen to what was going on. There were lots of noises and giggles, but we never did hear what you were saying. . ."

The investigator interrupts. "Karrie, please, you're making this all up. I never had any sexual encounters in the room above that garage. I was never even in that garage!"

"Then how did you know there was a room above the garage?"

"Karrie, this is official business. Let's get back to what's important."

"Oh my gosh! I remember how once we got real brave and quietly climbed up the ladder a few steps when you and your friend were up there. We didn't see you, but Judy reached up and took three pictures, and one came out pretty clear. I remember the expression on your face. Oh my gosh! You never even heard the camera click. Wait a minute. I think I still have a copy of that picture. Judy had a print -- I have no idea what she did with it -- but I have the negative. It was my camera."

Carlson looks around the room, pauses, then focuses his eyes on the computer screen. He grimaces. His fingers move deliberately about the keyboard. The screen blinks. Without looking up, he speaks slowly and in a quiet voice. "Mrs. Saunter, I have updated your records to show your chip malfunction never occurred. If you'll allow me, I'll reactivate your old number and rewrite it on your chip with this transmitter wand. Then I believe you're free to go. Have a nice day."