US & THEM
by Stephen Schlich
Is personal safety an illusion? Albert Tyler moves his family into a secure community, only to discover that the Us inside is more paranoid and dangerous than the Them outside that he sought to escape.
Albert is a black programmer who did jail time for breaking into government computers. Now he's grown rich creating software that keeps others out. Now he has something of his own to protect.
Incidents involving burglars, the homeless and personal threats convince Albert that he and his wife are not safe in their townhouse. They buy a home in a walled, secure development.
Albert is seduced by the gadgets, by the apparent safety of the all-white community, and by the personable developer Bartlett Jerico.
The central question becomes: how much freedom is Albert willing to exchange for safety? All Jerico Estates homes are equipped with high-tech surveillance devices -- a feature for the owners -- but it's Jerico himself who watches.
Albert buys into Jerico's paramilitary activities and paranoia. He gets in even deeper when he unwittingly helps Jerico sabotage a government computer system -- and is caught by his own security software.
He passes the point of no return when he witnesses a killing and Jerico forces him to help hide the body.
When Albert realizes that Jerico is a closet terrorist willing to murder his imagined enemies, he tries to bail out. But Jerico will not let Albert or his wife leave... alive.
In the climax, Albert must defeat Jerico and confront his own psyche: is he an Us or a Them? Albert comes to terms with his fear and realizes that personal safety is not a place, but an attitude.
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