The End Is Near – Chapter 1

Please steal a quick glance at your watches. That’s precisely when this story takes place.

We zoom into a fairly run-of-the-mill banana republic in East Asia and find ourselves inside a military command room. A control panel takes center stage. It’s studded with a bunch of glowing thingamajiggies, which radiate the most sinister intentions. A big, bright red button, sits in the middle of the console, daring itself to be pressed.

A group of people in military uniforms surround the control panel. They’re led by a small-ish, big-boned figure, dressed impeccably in a black two-piece ensemble, straight out of the latest issue of The Despots’ Weekly. All of them sport Nationally Approved Hairstyle #1 with flair. There is no Nationally Approved Hairstyle #2.

At this precise moment, a highly decorated General decides to let out a cough.

“Are you sure you want to do this, O’ Supreme Leader?” he asks.

Kim raises a displeased eyebrow in his direction.

“Of course you are, of course you are,” he flounders, and steps up to the control panel with haste.

The drama reaches its peak. One of the military men lets out a gasp. Kim shakes his head and makes a mental note to execute the bumbling lot when they’re done.

The General closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, prays to the Nationally approved God, and presses the red monstrosity.

For a moment, nothing happens.

Slowly, the control panel comes alive. A stream of characters flash on the large curved screen. The General peers in and reads them.

“Answer the security question to proceed: What is Hyun-Ki’s favourite flavour of ice cream?”

Everyone turns to look at Hyun-Ki. Then they remember. Then they slowly back away from Kim.

Hyun-Ki is the retired former Head of Defense who’d been sent as a diplomatic ambassador to a neighbouring country a couple of years ago, as reward for his years of service. He had been in constant touch with his fatherland, until sometime last year, when he sent out a cryptic message that read, “Have you heard of this thing called Amway?” No one has heard from him since.

Kim shoves the General away and enters one of the 15 million Nationally approved ice-cream flavours in the country. The control panel whirs for a minute, then begins to wail like a petulant child nearing naptime, before completely shutting down.

We zoom out of the bunker to avoid the imminent sounds of gunshot that would echo through it shortly, and zoom into an innocuous looking house in the suburbs of the city.

A girl sleeps fitfully on a tattered mattress on the floor. She’s awoken by the sound of her phone.

“Hello? Who is this? Oh, yes sir…yes, this is she. Yes…I did say that. Yes sir, given enough time and the right resources, I can hack into any computer on Earth.”

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