Nick swerved the Lexus into his parking space at KAWW and made his way to the elevator. His own winking mug greeted him on the back wall of the lift. He was smiling in that photo—part of an old ad campaign that never really seemed to go away—and pointing a pistol-cocked finger at the camera, affably reminding the world (reminding himself) that he and others like him are out there. That they’re watching. That if you’re bad, they’re gonna see it and they’re gonna getcha. That was the caption under the photo, in fact:
EVERY DAY AT 9!
Nick smirked at himself. That particular shot had been taken way back in 2007, when Facebook was still an infant and the biggest sources of shame and bloviating were still cable television news shows and politics-obsessed talk radio hosts. He looked young and confident in that photo. He looked smug, satisfied that the world was his. The celebrities and politicians of America were still selfish, still visible, and still no damn good. Prime for harvest. He was the shiny new scythe there to cut them down.
Even back in those early days, Nick and his KAWW minions knew exactly who their target audience was going to be. That promo’s graphic designer had known it, too. Craftily integrated into the iris swirls around Nick’s pupils in that photo were the beady black eyes of a murder of crows. It was what designers and computer programmers liked to call an Easter egg, a hidden feature or message, although there was nothing sacred about them. Not in the slightest.
Nick cleared his throat and turned his back on the blast from the past. He pressed the elevator button for the second floor. The doors closed and he felt the familiar rise in his belly as the little booth climbed upward, ferrying him on his daily ascension into Watchtower, which was no doubt already buzzing this morning with the clacking of fingers on keyboards as his Watchers surreptitiously combed government databases, the news, social media, street cameras, and viewer submissions for someone to take down.
His own reflection stared back at him from the shiny metal on the back wall of the elevator, contrasting his haggard and exhausted present to his smiling, unrepentant past in the ad on the back wall. Nick cocked his thumb and forefinger at his reflection and winked, imitating the smug, coy charm of the photo. He decided that it looked silly now. Besides, he wasn’t that guy anymore. He was older now. And the world had changed on him. More often than not these days, he felt as if he had a bright red target painted on his back.
He balled the pistol into a fist and extended his middle finger at his own aging reflection, then immediately felt a pang of remorse for it. There were security cameras on the elevators, and they might have recorded his little show of self-defiance. Not as bad as, say, punching your fiancée in the face, but certainly not a good impression to leave on any recording media.
He checked the time on his iPhone and made a mental note to erase the section of footage that had been recorded for this elevator between seven fifty-five and eight o’clock. Fortunately, a man in his position had the means to do that type of thing, especially if he got to it first.
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