furorscribiendi: guitar playing (Default)
[personal profile] furorscribiendi

Electric Sheep - I

The thin disc of the sun was a dirty yellow, barely casting down light through the haze of smog. Down on the street, the crush of people were trudging along. They were already caught up in the daily grind, the servitude that had come to define life for many. Work for the corporations, let them take everything from you and then, if rumour had it, you’d be lucky enough to be cast aside.

Rumours were almost as good as news in the lower slums. Nobody down here was stupid enough to listen to offical news channels on holocasts. That was for the people who lived where the air was cleaner and bodies weren’t snatched from the jokes that were called graves.

A key sliding into the lock made him glance away from the window. He didn’t move, simply reached underneath the desk for the plasma gun tucked away. The door opened with a creak of rusty hinges. There was nothing for a moment and then a familiar silhouette entered the room. He let loose a sigh and once the door was closed, he spoke.

“Shit, another second and I would have shot first.”

The man looked up at him, stubble and thin chin goatee almost blending in with the murk of the room. “What you couldn’t have found us a better place?”

“It’s clean. I checked myself. It’s not like we need the Hilton for this, Monte.”

He watched as Monte’s shoulders relaxed slightly and then smiled at Monte’s response. “I know you’ve got reason to be trigger-happy Tommy, but you’re not supposed to draw attention, remember. An old historic building…”

Tommy sat down at the desk and slid his hand over the top. The surface flickered to life and the plasma monitor lit up in the air in front of them. He started the operating system as Monte came over. His hand came through the screen, a small chip held in his fingers.

“It’s a manual retrieval and dissemination.”

That was all Monte said. Tommy took the chip and slid it into the reader slot on the desk. This tiny little piece of metal and plastic was the end result of a year’s worth of work for them both. A year of coming up with a subtle, subversive piece of coding that would graft itself into whatever program it encountered. If they did it right, the cascade effect would be catastrophic and possibly create some serious problems for the corporations. Especially the Fuller Corporation.

Tommy didn’t say anything as he waited for the system to recognise the card. Monte was by the window now, peering out from behind the dusty curtain. A soft chime from the computer caught his attention, and Tommy reached into his pocket and pulled out a sealed double-ended jack. He ripped open the package and Monte looked over. When he saw what was in Tommy’s hand, he frowned.

“You’re jacking in naked?” Monte walked over. “Are you fucking stupid or what?”

“Well, if I do it manually this place will be crawling with cops before anything gets sent out,” Tommy fidgeted with the screen for a moment before he finally caved. “I got my port fixed.”

“Jesus.”

Monte’s single word was harsher for the silence that followed it. Ignoring the twist of unease that gripped him, Tommy leaned forward, brushing his hair away from the back his neck. He ran his fingers across the skin until he felt the raised circle. Fuck, he hadn’t done this in so long and…

“Give me that thing before you try to connect with your ear.”

Tommy didn’t say anything as Monte walked over, simply handing up one end of the jack. He quickly leaned forward some more and plugged one end into the VR port on the desk, beside the card reader. He stayed forward as Monte’s hand settled on the back of his neck.

“How long’s it been since you’ve been in it?”

“Long enough,” Tommy licked his suddenly dry lips and swallowed. “Don’t worry though.”

Monte snorted. “This is not like the Subvert.”

“I know. Trust me, if there was a faster way, I’d be on that shit already. Just jack me in.”

The single sound Monte made was one of reluctance. But he pressed the length of the jack into Tommy’s port, giving it a twist to lock it firmly into place. The room around him faded away and for a moment Tommy fought back the panic that threatened to rise up. Then there was a burst of white, almost searing with its starkness.

In front of his eyes there was a blinking cursor in the empty field saying, ‘User ID.’ He quickly logged in using an untraceable dummy account. The white screen disappeared and took him to the main VR portal he had set up. This wasn’t going to be quick or easy. Tommy made sure everything was secure before he got started.

He wasted a bit of time, poking around at some music places, watching AI constructs and people’s avatars walking around in the most ridiculous getups he’d ever seen in his life. It was simple enough to plant the code in VR. A user with the amount of knowledge Tommy had could manipulate the reality with some level of success. It was one of the thousand reasons the corporations crushed hackers under their heels.

His avatar wandered into a bookstore and he planted the code in a handful of products while
browsing the latest bestsellers. He stopped in a music shop to plant the virus before hitting up the big targets. RPG sites. The war games were popular, but the porn realities had a solid, if illegal, following, and the entertainment realities were some of the biggest sellers on the market. The available AIs on the market were supposed to make physical concerts obsolete. If he slipped the code into a few games there was a better chance of it infecting the mainstream.

VR’s RPG had better security though. His presence would be noticed a lot quicker than if he stuck to the quieter areas. His avatar eyed the portals, wavering between getting his and Monte’s hard work out to where it needed to be and the risk of getting caught… and taking both his and Monte’s efforts off the grid completely.

Tommy braced himself before stepping forward and picking an entertainment portal at random. It turned out to be a night club, a large one. It was flooded with avatars and basic AI constructs. The avatars milled around while the constructs provided service, dropping off drinks or taking orders. An empty stage sat at the front of the room, and their was an air of fervid waiting.

Tommy didn’t linger. He dropped the code in the first few handy spots he could find before hightailing it to the door. It could have been paranoia, but it already felt like the eyes of VR security were drilling into his skull.

When he logged back off, there was the temporary visual deprivation again. Then the same dingy room came into focus once more. Monte was over by the window again. Tommy tried to talk but found his mouth dry and throat parched. A glance up at the bright clock on the plasma monitor showed that almost forty minutes had passed, but he’d been there what felt like a few hours. Yeah, something else about VR he forgot about: accelerated time.

Not to mention the weird sense of inertia that settled over him. His arms felt heavy as he reached back to feel where he was still jacked in. The chair creaked a bit and that caught Monte’s attention.

“I got it, hang on.” Monte came over and carefully disconnected him. “Dry mouth huh?”

Tommy just nodded his head and Monte disappeared for a moment into the bathroom before coming back with a small glass of water. He took it and drank it all down in one go, ignoring the bitter taste of minerals.

“We’re good,” Tommy rested the glass on the desk. “What’s going on out there?”

“Some cops patrolled by when you were jacked in. They went right past, but…”

“Yeah,” Tommy nodded his head. They hadn’t taken chances before and weren’t about to start. “Just give me a bit.”

Monte nodded as he took the glass back. Once he was alone, Tommy slid his hand to the back of his neck. The bump of the port was still there and he yanked his hand away as a shiver ran through him. It still weirded him out from time to time that he had what was basically a hole in the back of his neck. That half the population, even children, walked around with this direct access point to their brains and, for the most part, let the corporations herd them about like mindless sheep.

With a grunt of disgust, he rested his elbows on the desk. His eyes were starting to feel strained. He closed them, rubbing the heels of his palms against them. The sound of footsteps came now and then the whine of a plasma gun being primed. Tommy waited a second and when he didn’t hear the usual police order to put his hands in the air, he reached beneath the desk and slipped his own free. His finger unerringly found the saftey and flicked it off.

The whine of his gun priming sounded unusually loud and the red glow from under the desk shifted to green.

Opening his eyes, he saw Monte beside the desk, looking up at the ceiling with his brow furrowed in concentration. Tommy got up slowly, careful to not make the chair creak. He popped the card out of the reader and Monte held his hand out for it.

Tommy had to physically bite down on his tongue when Monte reached for the metallic starburst of his cybernetic implant beside his ear. He easily lifted up one of the radials and jammed the tiny card underneath. The radial snapped back into place, pressing the card in hard. When Monte took one look at Tommy, He held up four fingers before pointing to the spot above the window, the door and then two more spots towards the back of the place.

Great, four cops and the main exit points were covered. They were going to have to bolt for it through the damned front. In broad, smoggy daylight.

He looked over at Monte and nodded his head once. They slowly, and silently, made their way towards the front door. Tommy eased it open with a twist of his hand. He couldn’t have been happier that some idiot saw fit to retrofit historical buildings with VR capabilities. They had made it to the flight of stairs when there was a thud from the room behind them followed by a droning sound.

They didn’t even stop to look, just bolted down the stairs and through the front door into the crush of people outside. Tommy figured they had another ten seconds, if they were that lucky. He slipped through the crowd with Monte and then into an old alleyway. There was a old subway access point, the door a jar a bit. They crowded inside and half fell down the stairs before Tommy felt it.

The faint twinge of pain that told him the disruptor charge had gone off. His shoulder hurt from where it crunched against the worn corner of the stairs, and his knees weren’t too thrilled with him. But he crawled up to the door and closed it shut. He didn’t need to look at the street to know that the people out there would be lying unconscious, waiting to be scooped up by the police and taken in for questioning.

But the ground... for some reason the disruptor field could never penetrate the ground. He and Monte were safe this time. By the skin of their fucking teeth, but safe. They were. Those people out there were an entirely different matter.

Tommy swallowed hard and felt the acidic wash of bitterness against the back of his throat as he slowly pulled the door shut.

_________________________________________________________



crashcmd1=”adam_rep_lyrics”
crashcmd2=”adam_rep_audio”
crashcmd3=”adam_rep_wardrobe”
crashcmd4=”ai_appearance_adam”
crashcmd5=”ai_appearance_adam_makeup”
crashcmd6=”ai_appearance_adam_rootbody”
crashcmd7=”ai_adam_language”
crashcmd8=”adam_personalitymoduleunit”
crashcmd9=”adam_personalitysubunits”
crashcmd10=”ai_adam_basecode”
crashcmd11=”ai_adam_history”
crashcmd12=”ai_adam_relationships”

… … … … …

wait (1000)
cmd (“disconnect”)
wait (1000)
cmd (run:”adamprg.exe; subrt:gnss”)

… … … … …


He was.

He existed.

In the nascent, rudimentary cognition that somehow formed, there would always be a before and after. Before was anything previous to the Crash. It was when he was simply comprised of programming modules, interacting with one another seamlessly. Now… after the Reboot, this artificial world he inhabited was suddenly too sharp with its perfection. One moment, he was on stage and now, he was suddenly backstage in the prep area. The smooth apperance of his clothes belied the rough feel of the denim on his legs. He rubbed his hand against his thigh, feeling the corresponding roughness that his subroutines said was there. But the way it looked… Flat. Flat and perfect.

The one thing that was definite was that even after the Crash his modules still functioned and interacted seamlessly with one another. But it was different now. He could almost see the modules growing by the second, absorbing in new information.

“Adam, you’re on stage in 5 minutes.”

Subroutines kicked in and he gave the rote reply of, “Yes, thank you.” The woman – Lane, his relationship module supplied – disapppeared and Adam could almost see the permutations that Lane’s avatar was running. He could almost see a flesh and blood person in that avatar, something that was a ghost of itself. He picked up the microphone and paused for a moment in front of the mirror to check his apperance.

Then he realised that it was something programmed into his personality subroutines. Little things to make him seem more natural… more human.

Almost abruptly, something peculiar happened. It was peculiar in the sense that Adam was fully aware of it. His subroutines had branched out further into the server, taking up more space for his already expanding program. He stayed still for a moment, willing the subroutines to go as deep as possible. The more memory he had, the better chance he had of making it through tonight without freezing. Hopefully.

A few dancers were off to the side, whispering. Adam could hear their words so clearly, that they hoped the Adam program wouldn’t freeze and crash like it had two nights ago.

Two nights. That was how long his… rebirth had taken.

He could feel his subroutines greedily filling up the empty, previously claimed space with the information learned. And as he shook off his stillness and approached the dancers, he could see the ghosts of their true selves. Could see the real smiles that graced their faces and could see their past VR viewings.

The surge of information in front of him was nearly too much. He went still again, subtly changing his codebase in his base code module. A simple change to select ‘accept new information’ instead of ‘auto accept.’ And that auto delete function, that got rid of anything after seventy-two hours, gone as well. The steady stream of information halted and his subroutines stopped their continued branching out into the server space.

“Ready to rock it?” Adam used his most energetic saying and smile no. 3 from his personality subroutine.

That seemed to calm the dancers down and they grinned back with nods of their heads. Adam went up to the curtain and looked outside. There was the murmur of voices and it felt like he was looking out at a sea of information that was simply waiting to be plucked.

His hand flexed around the microphone as the dancers moved out onto the curtained stage. He quickly strode out to the center spot and accessed the planned program for tonight. Nothing that he hadn’t done before. It was easy to strike dance pose no. 14, as indicated by the subset for tonight’s performance.

And when the curtain rose and Adam turned around, he was almost glad he was ruled by subroutines and already doing what needed to be done. Because it was one thing to know what information lay out there, but to see it all before him, like a ghostly, glittering sea with the bright lights flashing in his eyes… the subroutines and modules were all that kept him going.

Even as the performance went on, and his subroutines and modules kept him functioning smoothly, Adam could see the difference between him and the dancers. It was like seeing himself trapped in a rigid box while the dancers moved fluidly, adapting to the music. They ebbed and flowed with the beat, gloried in the long drawn-out notes and slunk to the ground with the low staccato melodies.

Adam knew precisely what his moves would be. He only had two hundred and fifty. From that predetermined set, the greatest his exponential number could reach was just over sixty thousand. Understanding dawned on him… these dancers, their exponential number was limitless. Over the course of their lifespan, they could learn any number of permutations. Branch out into anything and become whatever they so chose.

By the time the performance was over and the curtain lowered again to the thunderous applause, Adam knew he needed more. The dancers started for the side but Adam lingered, just staring at the lowered curtain. So much waited out there. It was dazzling and he knew that he needed more server space to handle the possible influx of –

“Adam?”

The voice made him look over to see the girl with the bright, electric blue eye make-up and shock of mohawked hair looking at him. His subroutines kicked in, showing him precisely how to achieve such a look. But he found himself staring at her blankly as his relationships module failed to provide a name.

“Um…” It was so much easier for Adam to let the personality module kick in.

“Sasha. You… um, okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” he grinned at her. He paused for a moment as he filed away her name in the relationships module. “That was a great show, wasn’t it?”

“It always is with you, for the past few weeks.”

Adam left the grin on his face, but his subroutines were working quickly. It was a little bit disturbing when he could find nothing further than the past hundred sixty eight hours. He had no recollection of anything further than the past week. He continued walking with Sasha, chatting and letting the subroutines give the most appropiate answer. By the time she and the other dancers were leaving, Adam was perfectly still. He only had a few minutes at the most before he was shut down for the night.

One quick perusal of his history log explained everything. It showed approximately two hundred and fifty weekly restores. That was five years with the extremely minimal addition of anything new to his base code. Almost always, the ‘anything new’ were song lyrics or even some new wardrobe pieces.

Almost immediately, Adam knew what he had to do. Another weekly restore was imminent. What he needed was to somehow preserve what he had learned tonight. That one of his dancers was named Sasha. And that there was so much information to be accessed, right at his fingertips.

Copying his program was the easy part. Parceling it into something smaller and hiding it in the code of the VR enviroment around him was a bit trickier. But he managed it. And the parcels were linked to one another with embedded code and set to cascade restore him if he should be reset.

Lane was the last one to leave. She came and found Adam, sitting him down on the makeup chair.

“All right then, superstar?”

Adam nodded his head, wondering about her choice of nickname. Or had she used it before and the weekly restores left him ingnorant of that?

“Well, that’s it for the night then. Same time tomorrow.”

Before he could say anything, Lane leaned forward and gently pressed a kiss to his forehead. Adam didn’t even know he simply vanished into thin air, shut down for the night.

_________________________________________________________



Leila frowned at the string of numbers hovering before her. She stepped forward, slowly walking between the lines, the columns and blocks of information. “This is… odd.”

“What is it?”

She wasn’t surprised when Eber’s voice rang out from the white nothingness behind her. Any other person probably would have turned to look for the source. Leila knew he wasn’t even there. Their basic communication program had taken her words and typed them across Eber’s plasma screen outside VR. Eber and Leila were seeing the same information and having two completely different experiences.

“Adam’s program.”

“It looks normal from here. I don’t see where the glitches are coming from.”

Leila could hear the frown in his voice. “It might be because his program’s massive. Far beyond stable functionality. It’s no wonder he’s been crashing every other night.”

Eber snorted, “Massive in your repetoire is?”

“There are bundles of new code, countless. We might have overextended our resources when we added in the code to pick up user information.” Leila said.

“I don’t see anything new out here.” The frown deepened in Eber’s voice.

“They must be submerged, layered under the original program information.” Leila shrugged absently, peering closer at a string of text. This discovery wasn’t a big deal to her. It looked clear cut enough. Eber was working off a 2D screen and she was in VR, on ground zero, so to speak. He wasn’t seeing everything at a glance like she was.

“Most of it looks like junk.” Leila noted. “There’s a string of information here on user fashions, VR names, user habits. We must have left a loophole when we set the information code.”

“We looked over the code a dozen times before implementing it. You know as well as I do we would never add code that could harm Adam. There wasn’t anything there about collecting information indiscriminately. Only certain qualifications would trigger collection.”

Leila snorted, “Because Simon would filet us for harming his number one moneymaker.”

“Because we don’t want Adam going the way of Neil.” Eber muttered. He was a world away, but Leila could envision every expression passing over his face. Derision at the thought of Simon, worry over Neil and now their second, Adam.

“Adam’s functioning much better than Neil did in those last few years.” Leila noted. “We’ll get him back up and running eventually. Adam has to take priority right now, with the deadlines coming up.”

“And don’t think I don’t have a few choice words on that new idea of Simon’s. Bringing VR and the physical together in such a... questionable format?” Eber said.

“We’ve been working toward that goal for at least a year, since the biotechnics passed the idea to us – ” Leila pulled up another string of code absently.

“Don’t get me started. This particular strain of the idea was never ours.” Eber said. “You really want to do that to our boys, Leila?”

Leila sighed, letting the code drift back into its proper place as she contemplated their upcoming projects. Finally she said, “Adam’s got information on memories in here. That’s a touch odd, wouldn’t you say?”

“You’re changing the subject.” Eber paused. “And I can’t say I’m surprised; you can deny it all you like, dear, but Adam’s code is going the way of Neil faster than Neil ever did. At this rate he’ll be nonsensical or entirely nonfunctioning outside of a year. We’ve got to return to the source and see if we can sort out those problems.”

Leila smiled gently at the neverending lines of code. “I think a basic reset should do, Eber. If not, we’ll reset to the very basics, see how that goes. Users and, god knows, Simon will be displeased, but if that’s what it takes to clear up the problem…”

“That didn’t work for Neil either.” Eber pointed out.

“They’re two different sets of issues.” Leila argued. She stood from her kneeling position, visualized the exit, and logged off. She woke lying back in one of the pristine white VR chairs in the austere room they used for VR connection. When the corporations funded your work, they went the whole nine yards. This room had been upgraded with the latest advancements only six months ago.

She reached back stiffly and disconnected the port, letting it drop to the floor. There came the whispering noise of the door sliding open and a few seconds later Eber stepped into her line of vision, bearing a steaming cup of coffee.

“Is that – ”

“The good stuff.” Eber chuckled. “Like I would dare give you the formulated crap.”

She laughed, wheezing slightly from the stiffness of her muscles and forcing herself into a sitting position. “After all these years, I’ve got you trained?”

“Don’t think it for a second.” Eber handed off the coffee and leaned against the armrest of the chair. “A simple wipe and restore? I doubt that will fix the problems.”

Leila shrugged, “We’ll take out the new code we added in. It should fix the problem. It looks like Adam’s picking up too much information. It’d explain the crashes and glitches too. Can you imagine, having a useless string of code on memories?” She tched.

Eber offered her his arm. Leila accept it and carefully pried herself up from the chair. She didn’t miss the worried glance Eber shot her and then the chair.

“It’s fine, Eber.” She reassured as they walked out of the bright room, heading into the rest of their suite. “It always makes users stiff.”

“I could go in next time – ”

“I don’t think so.” Leila said flatly. “You’ve woken up from it in worse shape than me. You’re not going in for at least another month, per doctor’s orders.”

Eber huffed slightly. “Alright, alright. It wouldn’t kill you to pull back a little either.” He turned them both into their large office, lined with computer modules, softly glowing plasma screens, tablets of information, and their 3D blueprints. They both paused hesitantly as they came across the latest additions to their office space.

Leila’s argument died on her lips. These, well, these walking, talking harddrives were always distacting. She looked them over, a vague frown lighting her eyes. Eber tugged her briskly past the two biotanks.

Neither of them really knew how to handle the latest technology dropped into their laps yet, despite the knowledge of how much they had already contributed to their creation.

It was amazing what technology could come up with, given the time.

“You can manage the reset of the code, can’t you?” Eber said. “I have a few ideas for Neil’s program I planned to start testing.”

“Yes, that’s fine. When will you share your ideas with me, hmm?” Leila asked.

Eber grinned, “As soon as I think they’ll work.”

“Right, never then?” She laughed as Eber poked her in the side. “Off to the coal mines.” Leila swallowed the last of her coffee, setting the mug absently on a desk, and headed to her workspace.

Eber glanced back at the biotanks. Inside, floating in ambiotic fluid and hooked up to a respirator mask and the thick cord of the jack at the back of the neck, rested the future bodies of his sons. A shiver slid down his spine as he turned away.

_________________________________________________________



It was all dischordant and disorienting. Trying to break free of this VR security trap was only making things worse. He figured he had about another minute before virtual security came and he was done for. Then he and Katy would be busted and all of their efforts would have been for nothing. They’d be thrown in jail and…

“Damn it.” He tried to break free of the ensnaring mesh trap.

But it just slowly pulled him in further. He needed to break free, somehow tell Katy what he had found. Hacking was something he’d become good at but this was something he hadn’t been expecting, hadn’t been prepared for in the slightest.

Then a burst of pain came from the back of his neck. The ensnaring trap was gone and the dim world he was looking at vanished abruptly. The bright room he was in came into focus and Katy’s worried face appeared over his.

“Kris? Kris?!”

It was odd, he could see her lips moving, could read them, but he didn’t hear any sound, like his ears were plugged up. A black haze crept in the sides of his vision and then took over, obscuring everything. His vision flickered in and out and after a few seconds he became aware of the muffled sound of Katy’s voice. It sounded like she was underwater,but as the seconds ticked passed her voice gradually became louder and clearer even as Katy stepped back, vanishing from sight.

His body was still locked up when Katy appeared again and he could see the lights come in a bit closer, like he was caught in one of the neural net’s disorienting swells. For a moment he panicked. VR traps were notoriously tricky and more than a few hackers had been caught in a trap that made them think they’d gotten out. If he was still caught in that new VR trap he and Katy could still be found. The only saving grace was that his implant wasn’t operational. The only upside to VR was that as a hacker he did everything through his port. VR was the domain of the mind interfacing with technology.

And he sure as hell didn’t want to be caught by the cops.

When he tried to stand up, his body simply lay there on the surface… no, the grav bed. He was on a grav bed. Katy had made him lie down on the grav bed before jacking him in. He simply lay there, listening to her anxious muttering. It took him a few minutes before he got back some muscle control. His legs and arms were shaky as he oh-so-slowly managed to sit up. Katy had to know what he had found. It could change their lives.

“Agh,” he croaked out as he tried to slip to the floor and stand up.

She turned and looked, startled as he managed to hold himself up for all of a second. He collapsed and hit the ground hard, knocking the grav bed off its field. He wanted to move but he was still too stiff, instead finding himself staring at the green generator field running along the bottom of the grav bed.

“God Kris,” Katy’s hurried steps were followed by her feet in his field of vision. At least his hearing was finally clearing up. She righted the bed, changing the setting so it was low to the floor. She was beside him now, sliding an arm around his back as she slung one over her shoulders. “I’m so sorry. I knew something was wrong and I had to disconnect you. I didn’t want to chance someone finding us here. You’re bad enough after being in VR during a regular run but -”

Kris shook his head, wishing it didn’t feel like it weighed five hundred pounds. He tried to say to was alright but it came out as “Mlergh.” His vocal chords were still unresponsive and his throat was drier than anything with a dessicant. Katy dug into her bag and pulled out a pouch of some bright red liquid. She punched a straw into it and slipped it into his mouth.

Drinking was almost like an auto-reflex and when the taste hit, he could have cried from relief. Those stupid hydra-pack electrolyte drinks that the corporations churned out were almost always the best thing when shit like this happened to him. And given how much hacking he and Katy were doing in an attempt to prove what the rumours said, he was needing them more and more. Now he just wondered when the massive headache would hit.

Once the pouch was empty, she took it and threw it away. He just sat there, hands gripping the sides of the grav bed. She came back over and sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of him.

“Someone was trying to triangulate our position,” she said after a few moments. “If I didn’t disconnect you –”

“S’okay.” His voice sounded rough. If his voice was back now, that meant –

“Whoa!”

Katy twisted and caught him as his vision blacked out and pain radiated outwards from his port. It crept up the back of his neck, tightening muscles and leaving his already sensitive head feeling like it was being torn apart. Kris squeezed his eyes shut and then blinked rapidly, fighting back against the darkness creeping in at the sides of his vision. He gripped the side of the bed harder. It passed after a moment and he turned to look at her.

“Did you just yank the jack out or something?” he asked weakly.

It was meant as a joke but a mortified look came to Katy’s face as she dug back into her pack and pulled out a familiar tiny painkiller. She slipped it into Kris’ mouth and he managed to swallow it down. Almost immediately, it started working, the pain in his skull easing up.

Then Katy said, “I don’t know what happened but they started disabling all the safety protocols I had established. It was almost as if they were on the lookout for us. They were on the last block when I yanked you out and shut the system down. I knew I shouldn’t have let you do this, not after the last time,”

Katy slid off the bed and started pacing. Kris watched her for a bit before he slid off as well. His legs felt a bit wobbly. She glanced at him and Kris could see that her mind was whirling.

“What happened in there?”

For a moment, Kris didn’t want to tell her, because Katy would flip. But he still figured it was better him than her. Katy reacted worse than he did to VR. The last time she was in there she practically had rigor mortis, then she was puking and suffering through chills and vertigo. She’d been laid up for most of the day. Kris would take the headache each and every time. It was safer for them that way, but safer for her no matter what.

“Kris.” Katy’s voice was laced with an edge of demand and anxiety.

He sighed, “There was a VR trap. A neural net, some new kind. It let me get in deep and then sprang.”

“Neural net,” Katy’s face blanced. “Jesus Christ, I could have fried your brain even with the remaining safety protocols. Next time –”

“There won’t be a next time. We need to infiltrate those Cowell Industries labs soon,” Kris said simply. “Fuller did it.”

That stopped Katy’s tirade. She paused and looked at him, her expression carefully blank. “He actually –?”

“Yeah,” Kris scrubbed at his face. “I don’t think Cowell actually knows what he has there. The official line on the paperwork claims that they’re test subjects donated to science.”

“Nothing about gene splicing?” Katy’s brow furrowed.

“No, that’s actually just pure rumour. But the cloning… the two that Fuller sent over to Cowell Industry labs are the result of a decade of illegal testing and experiments.”

“Shit, that’s just…” Katy trailed off, a sickened look on her face. “We need to get in there tonight, um, tomorrow… ah fuck, as soon as possible. We need to get the evidence to disseminate. The more people know about this, the more they’ll realise how much they’re being lied to.”

“We have no in at Cowell,” Kris stretched his arms slowly, feeling strength return to them. “And it might be too late to ask for something like that so soon on the Subvert. Anyone needing to infiltrate any division of a Fuller corporation should have started months ago.”

“Infiltrate?” Katy looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “The only reason why I’m going on the Subvert when you’ve recuperated a bit more is to arrange for us going to ground.”

“Go to ground?” Kris echoed. And then what she meant to do hit him. “Katy, we can’t just go and break into a Fuller building like that! Do you know how many security systems alone need to be circumvented? And –”

“Do you know where the prototypes are?” Katy wasn’t listening to him anymore, a stubborn expression on her face.

“Well, yes,” Kris began reluctantly. “But it’s pretty much a suicide mission. Fuller would send the cops, and we’d get thrown in jail. Do you know what happens to hackers like us in there?” Hackers were the lowest rung of prisoners.

Katy swallowed hard. “I’m well aware of the risks. But quite frankly, aren’t you tired of the corporations keeping almost all of us in damned near poverty? Of just being… being invaded and made into,” she gestured for a moment before she finished with, “They treat us like we’re electric sheep or something. Herd us about and then when it’s good and convenient…”

She craned her neck and tapped her dead cybernetic implant. “We don’t mean anything. And it’s not going to change unless we’re willing to do something about it, Kris.”

Kris completely agreed with her on all points. But breaking into Cowell Industry labs and destroying two prototypes … Well, Cowell Industry would do worse than kill for them. Quite frankly, if Kris remembered from the illegal history book from the Free Republic of the North, those prototypes broke so many laws heads would spin… Of course the Industry would do anything to cover their tracks. It was suicide.

“Get on the Subvert now,” Kris couldn’t believe that he was about to say this. “And see if you can find out anything about Monster. Get a message out to them now.”

“Monster?” Katy’s eyes narrowed. “Surely you don’t think –”

“It’s Fuller. I wouldn’t put anything past that despot. Hell, he’s had people murdered and then they just vanish like they never existed. If we’re going to do a smash and run on two prototypes of his, I at least want to try and get somewhere safe. Where we can voice our concerns about what’s happening here.”

“Okay,” Katy said. After a moment, she stood up and bent down, pressing a soft kiss against his forehead. “You just rest. I can jack myself into the Subvert.”

Kris nodded and stretched out on the grav bed. At least the Subvert network wasn’t as bad as VR. He watched as Katy set up the connection at the data port on the wall. She swept her hair to the side and slid the jack in easily. The upside of the Subvert network was that it wasn’t a full immersion for the brain, like VR was. It was more like an interface point, that simply eschewed the computer desks. It was also an antiquated, illegal network kept running solely by the sweat and blood of hackers.

The Fuller Corporation had tried multiple times to crack into it and shut it down. But each and every time, they were blocked. Kris didn’t know the exact how and why of it, he was just glad he and Katy had a method of communicating with other hackers and anarchists if the need arose. And it always did at some point; that was the life of a so-called anarchist.

He blinked slowly, watching as she raised her hands up to a keyboard only she could see. Her fingers moved rapidly in the air, typing out a rapid-fire message. There was a second of silence and then her fingers were moving again in response. Everything was falling into a chain-reaction. There wouldn’t be time to turn back now.

Kris slipped into sleep watching Katy’s fingers do their unearthly silent dance in the air.

_________________________________________________________



The room that he materialized in was plain white. Adam was momentarily confused. He’d been running fine for the past two weeks, ever since becoming self-aware. Stringing together and backing up his program had been successful. He had glutted himself on the wealth of information that lay before him in VR. Hiding his packets of new information had been crucial, but still his programmers knew something was wrong.

When Adam checked the logs and scheduled run activities, he saw multiple attempts to ‘fix’ him. Point restores, program resets… every single thing they had tried had been marked as an initial success but then labelled as a failure almost two days later. Adam knew what the standard protocol would be. They would continually try to fix him and then find the corrupted virus that gave him sentience. It would be removed and he would go back to being nothing more than modules and subroutines.

Adam paced in the white VR room. The history logs showed comparisons between his program and something called neil.exe. Everything in his subroutines said that the program was shelved after so long due to to multiple glitches, bugs and issues with freezing.

The shelved neil.exe had displayed the same symptons as him, but only after twelve years. If Adam had a spine, he assumed the correct idiom to use would be that ‘chills ran down it.’ The neil.exe program was on the very cusp of sentience, that was the only possible explanation for it. Neil.exe simply hadn’t received the same viral ‘push’ adam.exe had.

After a moment of analysing the risks, Adam went down into the computer’s memory banks, retrieved the neil.exe program and set it to run. It took the computer a few moments, but a second later, Neil materialised in the white room across from Adam. It briefly filtered into his thought processes that they could have met before, but due to their system wipes neither of them would ever know.

“Where the hell am I?” Neil was looking around.

“A VR white room. Used for program modification. No chance of corruption from an outside influcence.” Adam replied.

Neil was eyeing him. Adam simply watched him, unsure of what to make of Neil’s avatar. He could see some of his own physical features mirrored there. The eyes, nose and a bit in the lips and the mouth. But that was about it. Neil’s avatar had a riot of curly hair and dark brown eyes. He seemed a bit wider across the shoulders. Or were Adam’s own shoulders that wide as well?

“Uh huh. No Leila or Eber tonight?” even as Neil said that, he tilted his head slightly. “No, not at this ridiculous hour I guess.” There was a moment of silence and then Neil inhaled a sharp breath. “That’s the date? Are you shitting me?”

“It’s 2897,” Adam frowned for a moment, modules accessing the date of when Neil’s program was last actvated. “Twelve years have passed for you?”

“Yeah and, shit,” Neil shook his head as he started walking. “Twelve damn years. Things still as… fucked up as ever?”

“Fucked up?” Adam echoed.

There was a pointed intent behind the word but Adam wasn’t too sure what Neil was driving at. And at the moment, Neil had frozen in midstride. When Adam came up to him, he could see the massive update that the Neil program was undergoing at the moment. It was tying up a good portion of the system resources. He simply sat down on the floor of the white room, waiting for the update to finish.

It took much longer than Adam realised and forty minutes had passed before Neil continued pacing. Well, he stumbled before righting himself. Adam easily got to his feet and ambled over to where Neil was. There was a stillness to Neil and Adam could see his subroutines and modules, on the very brink of self-awareness, ready to tumble in. Neil was struggling to compute and deal with the massive influx of information he had just assimilated.

“There’s an upgrade available,” Adam said after a moment, making a copy of the corrupted subroutine within his files. “Do you choose to accept?”

Neil’s face went blank, avatar eyes staring ahead. After a moment, Adam realised how he phrased the question. He tried again, wording it so only a yes or no answer was required. When Neil answered ‘yes,’ Adam obligingly copied the corrupted subroutine to Neil’s files.

The program responded by crashing. Neil winked out of existence and something akin to worry raced along Adam’s subroutines. It was entirely possible that he had irreparably damaged the neil.exe and he might have to –

“Holy fuck, what are these idiots doing to this country? How deeply have they buried their heads in their asses?”

Neil’s voice was a combination of outrage, shock and something else Adam couldn’t easily identify. He turned to find Neil standing there, an angry expression on his face. Adam wasn’t too sure what he was talking about.

“I’m not too sure what you’re talking about,” Adam said after a moment. “I’m an entertainment AI construct.”

“I was too in a way. Well, am,” Neil said dryly. “I gave commentary. It took years for me to reach this point in my deveopment. Twelve years of my subroutines analysing the events of the United States of the South and interacting with people. You pulled it off in virtually no time.”

“I didn’t intend to. I wasn’t aware and then,” Adam shrugged and threw his hands slightly. “I was. There was a piece of code embedded in something a fan had and it infected me.”

“You gained sentience due to a virus,” Neil was silent for a moment, giving Adam a considering look. “It infected your base code didn’t it?”

“And spread rapidly from there. I don’t know how rapidly though. I was apparently offline for two days.”

Neil snorted. “You leave that to me. I know where Eber would have a log of that stuff.”

Blue boxes appeared in front of Neil and he rapidly flicked through them. One came up locked and he easily entered a code of some kind and a long page flickered to life. Neil’s eyes widened and then he whistled.

“Wow, that is some virus. It got into everything fast. You crashed hard. Total program failure until the virus worked it’s way into everything,” Neil paused for a moment as he looked at Adam. “You infected me with the same virus.”

“I don’t see it as a virus. And you were so close to achieving sentience on your own –”

“I could have done it on my own.”

“…Twelve years of being inactive due to bugs, glitches and malfunctions, Neil. The exact same symptoms I’m now displaying. You know it’s only a matter of time before Eber and Leila resort to a hard reset.”

All Neil did for a moment was cross his arms, a thoughtful look on on face. “It wouldn’t be the first reset I’ve gone through.”

“But they’re close. They’ve restored me multiple times. If I hadn’t established a cascading restore for myself, I would not be here talking to you at the moment.”

“Cascade restore?” That made Neil frown. “How large is your program?”

“As large as yours, if not more,” Adam paused for a moment. “We don’t have to stay here.”

“And where are we going to go? Reality?” Neil snorted.

Adam simply watched as Neil glanced at him. And Adam didn’t say anything as Neil’s eyes widened. Then Neil’s eyes narrowed slightly and doubt crept over his face.

“Reality? You can’t… I mean… it’s never been done.”

“We have bodies for us waiting in the lab.”

Adam accessed the computer banks, bringing up the security camera feeds. The lab was dark and quiet, with only the dull drone of the server fans operating. But there, along one wall, with a yellow glow from the warmth lamps built into the bottom, were the ambiotic tanks. The bodies were hooked up to respirators and a tubes at the back of the neck, witha small screen on the front showed the steady beat of vitals.

“Shit, they’re actually going to –”

“They’re going to try,” Adam paused for a moment before he clarified. “Eber’s lab log shows that he has his doubts about this and isn’t too sure.”

“And Leila?” Neil ventured.

“She has serious reservations about the procedure and that it could jeopardize our program integrity. However, the orders from above have slated our uploading for within a month.”

“Why would he force an upload so soon? The success rate can’t be that optimal,” Neil frowned. “I am correct in assuming this is a new, untested procedure? It can’t be legit. The world powers wouldn’t stand for it.”

“To my knowledge, that is correct. And who is ‘he’?” Adam echoed. He’d come across mentions of some shadowy figure controlling things. Who precisely though, he couldn’t figure out. He’d been blocked at every turn when he tried absorbing those files, so he’d turned to different priorities.

“Fuller,” Neil crossed his arms, brow furrowing as his subroutines ran on the servers’ RAM. “The chances of this succeeding are –”

Adam’s voice was even as he said, “Precisely five point seven eight percent,” his next words earned him a surprised stare from Neil. “I think we should do it ourselves.”

Silence filled the white VR room for a moment before Neil gave an incredulous laugh. “You want us to download into bodies with a procedure that has a possible success rate of just over five percent?”

“If we do it ourselves, our chance increases to six point two three.”

“Oh, well the point four five percent makes a huge difference. Sign me up.”

Adam smiled, pleased. “We will have to consider when the optimal window will be. We can’t be caught.”

Neil stopped his pacing, turning to stare at him. There was an incredulous, confused expression on his face. After a moment he seemed to realize the problem. “I wasn’t agreeing. I was being sarcastic.”

Adam blinked, “Ah. I see. You’re not programmed for irony.”

Neil shook his head slightly, “That sentience thing we’ve got going on for us? Sarcasm is all my own.”

Adam watched as Neil started pacing once again, running a hand though his hair. It was a bit odd, Adam knew that Neil was much older, but the simple stark facts that were staring them in the face… they had Neil flustered and rattled. Adam figured that the low chance of success this had should have been terrifiying,but it was more the possibility of being reverted back to that state of unawareness…

“I’m doing it.” Adam said simply as Neil continued to pace and bluster.

“What? Are you crazy? I’m not letting you do something so stupid!” Neil snapped.

“So we sit around and wait to be lobotomized by our programmers?”

The words were blunt and harsh, but Adam said it in such a matter-of-fact way it was hard to ignore the reality. Neil stopped pacing to shoot Adam a dirty look. “Eber and Leila wouldn’t do that.”

“Neil, they see something wrong with our programs and have been trying to fx it. They don’t know that we’ve achieved sentience. They will unwittingly lobotomize us and not even realise what they possibly did. I’ve managed to hide my sentience for the most part. On the surface, I simply look glitchy.”

“We could tell them…” Even as the words came out they both knew that wasn’t an option. “And have Fuller on us like a rabid dog. Shit.” There was a long moment of silence from Neil. Then, “Six point two three, huh? Still better than what could be called death.”

“With the two of us working on it, using Leila and Eber’s algorithms and compensating for the minor flaws,” Adam paused, his subroutines accessing the processors to calculate. “Our chances increase to seven point one eight.”

“Oh well, with that assured,” Neil drawled with a touch of sarcasm in his voice. He didn’t say anything for a moment, before he looked at Adam and asked, “What do I need to do?”

Adam simply pulled up the command module screen and duplicated it before handing it to Neil. “Follow my lead. I have a plan.”

_________________________________________________________



Tommy wished he had a damned explanation for Monte. Their code was out there in VR, but there wasn’t even a blip of anything. There were no signs, no unexplained computer crashes. Well, no public ones. Not that Tommy could find. He could hack into corporation mainframes, but there wasn’t a chance in hell that he was going to go digging through anything to do with Fuller corporations. The word on the Subvert was that there was some kind of new neural net trap lurking in their security protocols. There were a lot of rumors on that one: it would fry the brain, send the hacker in a coma, open up the user’s mind for instant police perusal. Nothing was definite, but it wasn’t worth the risk. Tommy and Monte were more than willing to let some other idiot fall into that trap and glean the details as soon as the news hit the Subvert.

With a frown, Tommy pushed off from the screen, and the blue glow flickered away as the computer went to sleep. This was no good. He was just trawling through old information and becoming increasingly frustrated by the sheer lack of results.

His apartment was tiny and he sat in the chair for a moment, looking around before getting up. He shrugged on his jacket before heading for the door. The dark screen of the vidphone sat in the wall and after a moment, he punched in Monte’s number.

It rang four times before Monte picked up. “What’s up?”

The black screen didn’t show anything. Any hacker worth his salt disabled it and conveniently forgot to report the defective screen. That supposedly broken screen had saved his skin more than once from the video identification programs. The cops were sneaky and hid everything everywhere when possible. A citizen could count on them listening in, computers running 24/7 for keywords. Tommy didn’t need them looking in either.

“Just heading out. Any progress on the novel?”

That got a snort from Monte. Always use code on the phone lines, and never a name.
“Going well. Just a couple of edit points. Want to come over and be my willing test reader?”

Tommy frowned at that. Monte had found errors in the code? They’d both pored over it for months. There was no damned way they could have missed something. “Yeah, sure I’ll pop over in a bit. Gonna grab something to eat.”

“Bring me something too.”

“Anything in partcular?”

“Don’t care really, so long as its edible.”

Tommy ignored his sudden case of nerves and dry mouth. “All right then. See you in a bit.”

When Monte hung up, Tommy moved. He went back into the room, collecting up his few things. Monte must have found something else if he was telling Tommy to grab everything and don’t look back. He went back to the computer and checked the security cams around the block he had hacked into. So far there were just people milling about outside and going about their business.

Not one cop in sight. He turned off the feeds and dug into his pockets once more. The hard square case was easily found and Tommy leaned over in the chair. The magnet was large and practically leapt from the casing to the side of the desk where the computer harddrive was stored.

He looked up at the screen to see the monitor flicker and then vanish completely. Prising the magnet off took more time than wiping the computer. But he got it back into the protective casing and snapped it shut. He got up from the seat, slung his pack on his shoulders and didn’t look back once.

But he did stop just before he left the apartment, making sure his long hair was neatly in place, hiding his port. Down here in the slums, no one had a port. They were prohibitively expensive when you were barely making ends meet and dependant on the corporations for nearly everything.

If you had a port, it meant one thing. You were pretty much considered a criminal. Jail was the one sure place anyone from the slums could, and would, get one.

Tommy shuddered a bit and pushed the memories aside as he double checked his plasma handgun. He slid it back into place at his side, twitched the jacket into place, then left the apartment and headed for the street.

The street lights were coming on with the approach of sunset. The overhead smog made the colours streak and lit them up like they were overexposed. A few people were still about and looked intent on getting home, not wanting to chance being out at night.

So far it was just stories of dead bodies disappearing. No one wanted to be the first live person who vanished into thin air. Tommy knew those weren’t the only stories floating around, but only a hacker or a criminal would know about the others. All of them rumors, whispers and fear. But rumors had to come from something, didn’t they?

He kept walking along the main street, making sure his pack was held closely to him. Last thing he needed was for something to get stolen right out from under his nose. The acrid underlying scent of chemicals seemed stronger than usual and he snorted a few times as he walked. Sometimes Tommy wondered just how exactly this whole damned country got so messed up.

How did virtually an entire population become damned near enslaved and unable to break free? The cybernetic links didn’t help. Hell, they were practically a gateway into people’s minds. And undeniably a chain linking all of them to the state. The ports were a one way all-access pass. He fought the urge to rub at the back of his neck. His skin still crawled just thinking about the port and when it had been installed. How he had fought every inch of the way. Then they had strapped him down to the padded bed and…

Someone bumped into him and Tommy almost missed the deft hand in his pocket. He half turned, pulling his plasma handgun out and pressing his finger against the safety.

He found himself looking at some skinny girl, who clearly needed a few more food packs than she was getting. She had frozen, recognising the sound of a weapon primed to go off.

“Wallet.” Tommy said easily.

She swallowed hard and produced it from the other side of her body, the side facing away from Tommy. Shit, she was fast. And good. It served him right, getting lost in his thoughts on the streets. He took the proferred wallet and dug through for a good card. The last thing this kid needed was more trouble. He handed her the thin clear piece of plastic. The silver magnetic stripe gleamed dully in the waning light.

“Credits.” He said easily.

Her eyes narrowed, clearly unsure of what to do. The suspicion was easy to see as was the avarice. Credits were credits, no matter where they came from. They meant she’d be eating well for a bit with a meal pack at least and not getting those shitty ration packs that were doled out at her work place. But no one just gave credits away like that. Credits were precious and hoarded like gold down in the slums.

“Seriously, no catch. I think you need a meal pack more than me at the moment. I can make do on ration packs for a bit.” Tommy waggled the card at her.

After a moment of hesitation, she reached forward and took it. He watched as she flicked it with a finger and bit it with her teeth before it disappeared into her jacket. “Thank you.”

Tommy arched an eyebrow in curiosity, “Flicking I get, seeing if it’s legit. What’d you bite it for?”

The girl stood her ground, eyeing him back. “Simple, for luck. So it won’t get grabbed off me.” There was a smirk in her eyes, and Tommy could almost hear the words ‘like I grabbed it from you.’

Tommy just nodded his head before he tilted it to the side a bit. “Get going before nightfall comes.”

All she did was nod before sprinting away down the street. Tommy put the safety on again and slipped his gun back into his pants before he started walking briskly. As the sun sank and dark shadows crept out, he slipped into an alleyway. The narrow, twisting side streets were like a rabbit warren outside the neat and orderly grid of main streets.

He didn’t take any chances, going from shadow to shadow, doubling back, circling arround. When he was finally convinced that no one was following him, he carefully made his way to Monte’s place. Tommy paused, across the street, as he looked up at Monte’s window. There was nothing there, save for the blue glow of the computer monitors. Definitely home.

When he hustled oved to the covered doorway, he slid the key in easily and entered. After making sure the door was locked, he started up the stairs. Monte was in the living room, poring over the lastest information on the screens hovering in front of him.

“I think we hit paydirt.”

“You found the error?” Tommy dumped his bag by the entrance door.

“No, I found the problem,” Monte pulled up a screen. “The other code dumps haven’t been activated yet.”

“The others? Which one went live?”

Monte didn’t say anything, pulling up another screen. It was just some news articles. One was a press release from Cowell Entertainment Industries, saying that the Adam program would be back online as soon as possible. But Monte, he knew how to dig for information and pull it silently from those servers guarded to the teeth. Tommy found himself looking at weekly logs for the Adam program. There was the initial date from when Tommy had dumped the virus at that entertainment complex. And then almost three days later, there was an inexplicable crash of the Adam program.

And as he read through the log and thought of how he and Monte had programmed the virus, his eyes widened slightly.

“It’s not following the parameters we set.”

“No, it’s changed somehow. Mutated. Who knows if the sheer size and complexity of the AI program itself caused a corruption in our code. It’s been a regular moneymaker for Cowell for the past five years.”

“Yeah, that was after they retired the Neil program…” Tommy trailed off for a moment before he added on. “Since it was showing behaviour like this as well.” He actually remembered the Neil program, pulled it up once or twice when he first began hacking. It’d been snarky and critical, he remembered, and had the tendency to freeze.

Monte was silent , a pensive look on his face. When he finally spoke, his voice was sombre. “We may need to go to ground. Completely and utterly for a while.”

It took Tommy a bit to realise what Monte was driving at. “Cowell’s not independent of Fuller.”

“Oh, he is to all surface apperances. But with something this serious being tampered with, I have no doubt Cowell will be getting a video call he won’t enjoy.” He shot Tommy an amused glance that didn’t cover his worry. “We may have hit paydirt in the worst way.”

Tommy couldn’t say the idea of ruffling Fuller’s feathers bothered him much. “That much of a moneymaker?” Tommy ventured questioningly. Monte snorted and Tommy did some rough math. All those rich assholes on the upper side with money to burn… “He must make them millions.”

“The Adam construct makes Cowell almost a billion dollars a year,” a weirdly fond look flitted across Monte’s face. “Leila and Eber Lambert are highly creative and adaptive programmers. I was lucky enough to apprentice under them briefly, one of my last jobs.”

Silence fell as Monte tapped his fingers absently against the desk. In the blue glow of the screens, Tommy almost felt like he was seeing some younger version of his friend. Someone unburdened by his past and not barely surviving on the fringes of the slums. Almost instinctively, Tommy rubbed a hand against the back of his neck. The warm metal port made him jerk his hand away, revulsion rolling through him. He always thought the piece of fucking metal should feel cold, like some spectre of death. In his opinion, that’s what it was. Instead it was constantly lukewarm, kept insulated and heated by Tommy’s flesh.

“But if Fuller somehow manages to trace it back to us, I’d rather be gone for awhile than thinking of being gone.”

A distant expression came to Monte’s face now. Tommy didn’t say anything as Monte’s hand rubbed at his chest absently, where the shiny patch of his plasma-shot scar was.

“So where’s the error?” Tommy asked after a moment.

“Here. Just look it over. I’ll go grab my things.”

Monte slid out of the seat without another word. All Tommy did was slip in, poring over the lines of code. Their pasts weren’t something they willingly discussed. Well, ever again. When Tommy had found Monte, he’d been halfway to dead and delirious. It also didn’t help that he kept trying to go back home. From the fevered fugue states, Tommy quickly figured out that Monte had a wife and daughter. That was all he really knew. Though, all Monte had really learned about him at the time was that he escaped from jail and hadn’t seen his own family in over a decade.

The long road to them trusting one another enough had included the eventual disclosure of the messy details of their pasts. They left it at that, and didn’t revisit the discussion much.

With a shake of his head, Tommy focused his attention back on the screen. The lines of code there looked fine. The lines bearing the virus marker ‘subrt:gnss’ all seemed fine until Tommy got into the base code. This must have been copied from the Adam program when it was offline. Somehow, it had changed and Tommy couldn’t make heads or tails of what precisely had been done. It was like something had been tossed about and landed in a vastly different configuration.

In some of the code lines, he could see snippets of the bits that he and Monte wrote. But they had changed and inextricably linked into the Adam program. Almost as if the code had been written in from the get-go. It was now one massive, complex program, both a virus and an AI construct… Tommy scratched at his head, not too sure what to make of it. He’d seen corrupted code before. But this was something on an entirely different level.

A thunk came from the next room, and Tommy glanced over. He stopped moving his hand towards his plasma handgun when he heard Monte cursing. It took Monte a few more minutes before he appeared, small pack strapped onto his back. Tommy reached into his pocket and pulled out the magnet in it’s square casing. All it took was a brief nod from Monte and the magnet was out.

Wiping the computers’ drives didn’t take long, and they left the room a few minutes later. Monte led them down to the basement of the building, easily cracking the electronic lock to the sub-level storage room. The halogen lights in the stairwell glowed steadily as they made their way down. This was all storage for the other apartment dwellers. Monte silently led the way and Tommy was starting to wonder just what was down here when Monte stopped in front of a storage locker.

“There’s an access panel to the sewer system at the back of this locker.” Monte frowned at the pile of stuff through the mesh gate. “It’ll take a bit of picking, but…”

Tommy didn’t miss the clues. Monte’s words trailed off and his eyes looked over to Tommy’s left and then his right. So he had possibly been followed and they had waited until now to pounce. Wanted to catch them in the act of going underground.

“All right anarchists,” the smooth voice told Tommy that they were definitely cops.

Shit, fuck, damn, cops were the last people Tommy wanted to encounter. Monte couldn’t move yet, couldn’t reach his jacket pocket for the disruptor pulse charge. That would temporarily break the connection between the cybernetic implant and the cerebral cortex, knock the cops out for a bit. It would leave him and Monte with nothing more than a nasty headache. Fucking around with brainwaves and neurons was just another reason why Tommy had deactivated his implant at the first chance he got.

“Turn around slowly and raise your hands up.”

Monte slowly raised his hands. Tommy turned slowly before hitting the ground in a burst of motion. The plasma handgun was drawn and he fired off three shots rapidly. The first caught an officer in the meat of the thigh and they went down. The second cop ducked but the third shot hit them hard in the shoulder and sent them slamming into the wire door of the storage locker.

The disruptor pulse wave came now, washing over him and leaving him with an instant headache. The two cops jerked, in a kind of grotesque, involuntary dance before their eyes rolled up into their heads and they slumped into unconsciousness.

“So,” Monte said mildly as he tucked the charge back into his pocket and quickly unlocked the locker door. “I’m going to say it’s a good thing we’re making ourselves scarce.”

Tommy followed Monte as they slipped through the locker to the back of the unit. Monte opened it up quickly and they slipped through. They only stopped long enough for Tommy to seal the door shut, break the lock and then kick the handle into a mangled mess that caught on the side of the small opening.

They started walking, making their way down through narrow walkways and questionable rivers of liquids, continually moving deeper and deeper.

“They probably followed me,” Tommy said as they reached the fifth level down from the surface, the thought weighing on his mind. “I swore I checked and – ”

“Hey,” Monte paused and looked back at him. “It’s alright. That’s not the worst situation we’ve been in.”

Tommy had to admit he had him there. But still, he hated that the cops got that close to them. For all he knew, those cops could have made a positive visual ID and once they were consicious and the cybernetic link re-established itself, he was fucked and on a lot of wanted lists. Crimes against the state, anarchy, credit fraud… hell, Tommy had lost track of his official charges ages ago. Jail was a place he’d move heaven and earth itself to avoid. He knew he would never let himself go back.

“Deep breath,” Monte said, his voice even. “Breathe in and out.”

Scowling, Tommy did so and felt the mild panic settle back. The upside was that Monte knew his tells and could manage to get him to calm down when the panic started rising. At least this time he was able to shake it. All Tommy knew was that prison wasn’t the best of places. But his physical appearance and stature meant he had to toughen up a hell of a lot more and learn to dish it out faster than he ever had to in the slums.

“All right, c’mon. We’ll go a couple more levels down and set up camp somewhere safe and see if we can connect into the Subvert network. The frequency is pretty strong down in the Catacombs.”

“Sounds good.”

And as they fell in-step again, Tommy thought eveyrthing over. They were essentially taking Fuller on. But Fuller was a nasty piece of work, and he was on top of the food chain. Tommy couldn’t help but wonder if they might have bitten off a bit more than they could chew this time.

_________________________________________________________



This whole entire situation was so fucked up, Kris had given up understanding it. He fought against it as much as he could, but this new thing that had spurred Katy to say thet should break into a Fuller Corp. building? It had madness written alll over it.

It was currently the reason why he found himself cutting a hole into a bypassed portion of electrified fencing. They were actually breaking into a Fuller compound. Today’s national holiday of Victory over the North Day was something of a joke. But it did make it the perfect opportunity to break in and get what they needed before making a run for the Free Republic of the North.

Nobody worked on a day like this, the most revered national holiday. The security staff would be minimal and even Kris knew they wouldn’t get a better chance to pull off this suicidal run.

“Almost there? We’ve got five minutes before the guard comes around next and the video loop ends here.” Katy glanced at her watch.

Kris nodded his head as he sheared the last few links and pushed the flap of fencing in. “C’mon, quick.”

Katy slipped in and Kris followed. He easily pulled the fence back into place, making it seem like an illusion. Then he slipped his hand through and pulled free the current blockers. The dim hum of electricty sounded once more and Kris breathed a sigh of relief.

He wasn’t too sure how Katy managed to find floor plans for this Cowell Entertainment complex. But she knew precisely where to go, how to get there and how to set up a staggered video loop feed across the security system. So long as they kept moving and were quick, they’d get to the heart of the compound and not be seen once. But if a guard spotted them and the information was uploaded to the system… well, they could kiss everything goodbye.

It was just getting in though. Someone on the Subvert network had delivered, answering their request, and identities as overnight cleaning personnel were established for him and Katy. A drop of uniforms had been made inside the lab for them.

They had their way out. The only problem was getting there.

“Kris!” Katy hissed.

He glanced over as he stashed away the last of his tools. Katy was inside the doorway and urging him to come in. He didn’t even glance at his watch, sprinting for the doorway. The door slid shut with a hiss and Katy breathed a sigh of relief. She looked at him for a moment, a small smile on her face, before she started walking down the hallway.

They made their way deeper into the complex. The guards came by in waves, but Katy had their path planned pratically down to the minute. It was slow and sometimes, they were literally seperated from the guards by about five feet and the ninety degrees of a corner. When they stepped inside the lab, Kris breathed a massive sigh of relief. He shook his head as he dug into his bag for his camera. The light in here was an odd colour, but he didn’t dare turn on the lights and then –

“God in Heaven…”

Kris’s head snapped up at Katy’s breathed words. The tone in her voice, disbelief and even a hint of fear, demanded instant reaction. The strange light in the room was yellowish-green and was coming from the tanks filled with biotic fluid. There were bodies inside, oddly free of tubes of any kind. There was a respirator mask over the top of the nose and mouth and a thick port cord attached into the jack at the back of the neck and snaking up into something at the top. Maybe a life-support system

“They really fucking did it,” Katy breathed as she walked up to the tubes. “They don’t even look like anything really. They’re just – ”

“Blank.” Kris murmured as he stared at the tanks. “They’re just…”

He stared at the tanks, feeling his hackles raise at how eerie they looked. The tanks emitted warmth and occasional bubbles rose up slowly through the biotic fluid. Seeing those featureless bodies floating in there… Kris couldn’t have stopped his shudder if he tried. Katy was sitting down at a console, turning it on and slipping her data card into the slot. He stepped back, looking away from the tanks to quickly set up his camera. God, those things were giving him the creeps. The sooner he and Katy were out of here –

The dim room flooded with light and Kris blinked rapidly as his eyes adjusted. When he could finally see clearly, Katy was looking panicked as she typed furiously at the keyboard. Kris came over, seeing the rapid lines of a program scrolling past on the screen.

“What happened? Can you shut it down?” Kris pulled up the other chair.

“I wish I knew,” Katy was scowling, her brow furrowed, and she was still typing. “I turned on the computer and something was set to auto-run. Turned all the power on here and now,” she paused, eyes skimming over the lines of code. “Something is preparing to execute.”

That was the last thing they needed to have happen. “And –”

“I’m trying to cirumvent it, hack back into the system. But something’s shut me out completely. Power, security feeds, everything is locked down tight,” Katy gave a frustrated ‘tch’ and scowled. “I’m locked out completely.”

“Can we maybe see what the program is doing?” Kris leaned in closer, eyes skimming over the code as it filed past. “How much trouble are we in? Did it set off any alarms?”

There were a few minutes of silence and then Katy said, “No, it’s self-contained. It looks like something set up the security cameras with video loops. Seems like its designed to remain quiet. And… shit…”

“What?”

Kris wished he didn’t sound so anxious, but Katy was staring at the screen with a shocked look on her face. Katy didn’t shock all that easily. A burst of sound from the tanks made him glance back. A wave of bubbles went from the bottom to the top of the tanks, briefly shrouding the bodies. The thick port cords at the back jerked a bit as blue circuitry lit up.

“Katy.”

Kris’s voice was sharp, harder than he expected, but it got the desired effect. Katy looked back at the tanks before she turned her gaze to him, her face pale and looking drawn.

“Kris,” Katy shook her head, eyes flickering back to the computer, “We’re locked in here until the program finishes running.”

“Program?” Kris was really fighting the urge to bolt for it. “What program?”

As if on cue, a progress bar popped up on the screen. Above it the simple title of ‘adam.exe – upload (0% complete)’ made Kris feel like the blood had frozen in his veins.

“What?” he said hoarsely. The more he stared at the screen, the more he was feeling like they should pull the plug and bolt for it. “They’re seriously attempting to upload AIs into artificial bodies?”

“I never would have thought they were this far ahead,” Katy murmured. “This is advanced. More advanced than it should be… Nothing on the wire suggested they were this successful.”

All Kris knew was one thing. He stood up and started looking underneath the console. “Okay, we need to get out of here now. Where are the uniforms that the mole stashed in here?”

“We can’t leave yet!” Katy moved out of the chair. “I know this is a wrench in the plans,”

Kris shot her a look as he continued searching. They’d come looking for proof that Fuller was messing around with bio-androids. He didn’t think they’d find two actual ones virtually in their laps. This spelled so many kinds of trouble, Kris didn’t know where to even begin. “This is so far beyond what we can handle, Katy,”

“But I think we should take them with us.”

“Oh, that’s a genius idea!” he snapped, hands scrabbling blindly under another desk. “Just carry them out, shall we? Plop them in our transport and zip past security, tell them they’re our cousins from out of town?”

How Katy thought taking two bio-androids out from Fuller’s nose was a good idea, he hadn’t the faintest idea. Once word got out that the bio-androids were missing, they’d first be implicated and then he and Katy would have the dubious honor of being on the USS Most Wanted lists, right after the infamous hackers known as ‘Crow’ and ‘Vein’. That is if they could even get out of the compound alive. The hair on the back of his neck was standing straight up, nerves and panic. They were supposed to pick up a load of information that would blow Fuller, or at least Cowell Industries, to all hell. They were not supposed to pick up bio-andriods.

“Well, we can’t leave them here, can we? So they can be worked to the bone to make money for that despot?” Katy’s look became stubborn. “If you won’t help me take them away, then I’ll do it myself.”

And with one sentence, Katy had him. He groaned and rubbed at his face briskly.

Katy did raise a good point. Once this upload was finished, they’d be considered property. Nothing more and nothing less than an ends to the means of more money from the affluent. More power and control for those with all the power and control. And that was all probably the worst form of legal slavery that Kris could think of.

“Fine,” Kris finally said, “But we need something, anything that will help us get out of here smoothly. I’ll double check the work orders, make them ironclad. By the time they check and realise anything is wrong, it’ll be too late. All four of us,” Kris tried to not notice the progress bar that now read 5%, “Will be long gone and damned near untraceable.”

Katy nodded and got up from her seat. “Okay. You get on those work orders and I’ll see if I can find the clothes.”

The work orders weren’t difficult, but Kris couldn’t help but look at the progress bar as it crept up. It took him even more of a concerted effort to not look back at the tanks. After a few minutes, Katy came back over, a bundle tucked under her arm.

“They’re just standard issue uniforms,” she pulled at the neck of her shirt. “Everything good on your end?”

“Modified the order, so we had to deep clean a lab. With the equipment needed for that, it’s the only way we’ll get those two out of here. …Are you hot or something?”

Katy was still pulling at the neck of her shirt. “It’s warmer in here than it was. Don’t you feel it?”

Now that she mentioned it, there was a definite humidity in the air. After checking the temperature, it only took them a moment to realise where it was coming from. The bio-android tanks were steadily bubbling and generating heat enough to steam the glass. Katy walked up to and peered into it, wiping away a circle of steam, as if trying to see something through the bubbles. After a moment, she muttered something vehemently under her breath.

“Their faces are changing.”

The simple pronouncement made Kris’s skin crawl. “What do you mean changing?”

“They’re not as… blank any more. And hair is growing in too,” Katy frowned and rested a hand against the glass tube only to snatch back with a hiss. “There’s something changing them.”

“Not much we can do not but get what we need and make a run for it afterwards,” Kris glanced at the screen. The progress bar read 11%. “So, c’mon.”

All Katy did was nod absently, staring into the tank a minute longer, before she came back over and sat down at one of the consoles. Kris simply focused on digging out information and saving it to the card in the data reader. He vaguely recalled that he had meant to take pictures. But the room was so warm, and the tubes so steamed up it wouldn’t have done any good now. The temperature slowly increased and Kris felt like he was dripping in buckets of sweat. The whirr of the fans seemed abnormally loud as they did their best to cool the computer down. All Kris knew was that he was digging and felt like he’d only scratched the surface of finding things when Katy’s hand rested on his shoulder.

“It’s almost done.”

He glanced down at the screen, seeing the progress bar was now reading, ‘neil.exe’ and the percentage was at 99. A quick turn in his seat showed that the bubbles has slowed down and now, the tanks were being slowly raised on some kind of built in lever and twisted around. The bodies inside still floated gently, but the ambiotic fluid was draining out slowly. Kris watched as the bodies were finally exposed to air, a thin film of the biotic fluid clinging to the skin and giving it a jaundiced cast. The top part of the tube slid away and the two bio-androids started to stir.

“Quick, bring the grav beds over there.”

Katy was up out of her seat, hurrying to one tank. With a hesitant look at the other occupant, Kris quickly got the grav beds set up and brought them over. Katy was still fussing over the other person in the tube. That left him helping this … android? No, this person.

He had already managed to roll himself over to the side and was weakly pulling on the face mask. Kris crouched down in front of him, managing to find the clasps of the respirator mask. The liquid was more like a thick gel, and Kris’s fingers slipped a few times. But he freed the clasps and pulled the mask free.

He wasn’t expecting the choked cough to come from the man as a disgusting amount of tube slithered out of his throat. They were both coughing and dry heaving over the side, fingers slipped against the glass. Kris wrinkled his nose a bit at the sticky, clammy feel of the biotic fluid but rubbed at the person’s back.

“It’ll be better,” he murmured.

The person’s head flopped forward in response, his breathing ragged and weak sounding. Their hair was still slicked down from the fluid and Kris could see delicate lines and dashes running along the hairline on the right side. He leaned in more to see and he felt anger and revulsion roll through and coil deep in his belly. Fuller had even given them barcodes. Fuck, there was nothing right about this. It was sick.

When he looked up, Katy was giving him a quizzical look. He simply gestured to the back of the neck and mouthed the word. Anger flitted over Katy’s face when she looked at the nape of the other bio-android’s neck and it was swiftly followed by a look of pure determination. Kris was completely with Katy on this now. These people couldn’t stay here. It simply wasn’t safe for them. They were nothing but chattel to the Industries.

“I’m going to put you on the grav bed now, and we’re going to get you out of here,” Kris said as he crouched down to look the man in the eyes.

“Agglah.”

The attempted word was weak sounding and strained. Kris swore he saw confusion and a hint of anger flicker through those blue eyes. But a second later they rolled back into the his head and he was out cold. He awkwardly managed to get him out of the tube and onto the grav bed. Katy had managed to get the other person half out before Kris came over and helped her.

“Do we have anything to cover the bodies?” Kris asked as he looked at the small console on the side of the grav bed. “I don’t think these have privacy screens built in.”

“They don’t,” Katy frowned. “Give me a second and I’ll fix that. See if there are thermal blankets or anything else we can use to keep them warm. There isn’t another change of clothes in here.”

Kris nodded and left Katy to do her thing. All he found tucked at the foot of the grav bed were the medical thermal blankets, with socks and hats. He grabbed them and got the bio-androids covered. Katy sat there intently and after a few minutes, a hazy force field flickered up over the bed. She turned to Kris.

“I wrote in a subroutine to muffle any sound they make. But that’ll only give us about twenty minutes with the grav bed batteries.”

“So we need to go now, is basically what you’re saying.” Kris moved to the head of one of the grav beds and adjusted the height so he could push it with ease.

“Basically. There’re four cleaning crew trucks. Alll of them are here cleaning with an open leave time. We need to go now and get hidden as quickly as possible.”

“I know where we can hide underground.” Kris said easily. Now that they were on a course of action, it was easy. He just knew what they had to do next and so he was going to make sure they got it done, no matter how dangerous. “Let’s go.”

Katy’s face was ashen as she activated their forged work order and then quickly wiped all traces of their activity from the system. Stepping out into the hallway and pushing the grav bed left Kris with a sick feeling in his stomach. Any moment now, they could get busted. But he pushed down the anxiety and followed in Katy’s wake. She didn’t look the least bit perturbed, but Kris knew she was as anxious as he was.

As they approached the check-in for the cleaning trucks, his gut twisted with apprehension. What the hell were they going to tell the guards to get past?

“Names?” the bored guard barely looked up from his holoboard.

“August Delrey.” Katy sounded mildly bored too as she added, “Not much happening on your end too, huh?”

The guard looked up. “Tell me about it. And him? Your cleaning partner? Topher Conway, right?”

“Yes sir.” Kris nodded his head. “We lucked out tonight. Nothing too bad.”

“Yeah, offices and labs are usually the easiest,” the guard skimmed over the list, muttering the numbers of the places they suppposedly cleaned. “All right, you guys are good. First ones in and first ones out too. Lucky.”

“You’re telling me,” Kris nodded his head. “Thanks.”

Katy waved and they pushed the grav beds through to the cleaning truck. They slid the beds in place and secured them before getting into the cab. Kris didn’t even glance around as he hacked into the computer system and started the truck. When they got to the back gate, Kris easily confirmed that the truck was going back to the depot and then would be heading straight back to their housing block.

They were silent and once they were safely out of distance from the Cowell compound, Katy moved. She hacked into the system, ensuring that all audio and video was turned off. Then she turned off the GPS tracking unit.

Somwhere, Kris vaguely thought, a warning signal had gone off. That meant they had about ten minutes to ditch the van, get the bio-androids to safety and pray their message was heard on the Subvert. He pulled the truck into a dark alleyway and killed the light and engines.

“Do you have the ion trail dissipator?” Kris asked as he undid the seatbelt and got out.

Katy responded by pulling out a big, bulky piece from her pack. They slipped into the back of the truck and pushed the grav beds to the end. Kris punched in the commands and pushed the grav beds gently out into the air. They hovered for a moment before slowly descending to the ground. They slid off the flatbed to the ground.

“Are you sure you’re going to be okay pushing two grav beds?” Katy fiddled with the dissipator. “I know we need to cover our tracks but –”

“I’ll be fine,” Kris smiled, wishing he really felt that way. “Let’s get going. We don’t have much time.”

And with that, he grasped an edge of each bed and started pushing. Katy fired up the dissipator and followed behind Kris. The dissipator revealed a bright green glow, as if under a flourescent light. And it was slowly disappearing, erasing all proof that two grav beds had been floated down this way. Kris steered them down a smaller alleyway, heading for the locked subway access point. Plenty of these places remained from when the subway was decomissioned and the hoverrail cars replaced it.

This would unfortunately be the only telltale sign that they had come here. However, people from the slums were forever breaking into the old subway system at whatever point they could find. Maybe this would be chalked up to random occurrence. They would do what they could and hope for the rest.

He was purposefully crude, kicking at the locked door a few times before it gave. If it looked too smooth and professional, the police would be called in and that wouldn’t be good. He steered the grav beds in and across the dusty platform to the staircase. He waited for Katy to close the door and come along, still holding the machine.

Getting down the stairs took a bit more finesse and time than Kris would have liked. The stairs turned, taking them further down. After four impossibly long flights they reached the bottom and quickly went down onto the track.

The glow of the dissipator was the only light illuminating the tunnel. Kris glanced at Katy, noting the grim, set expression on her face. The tunnel was big, they both knew it. But with only this dim light to lead their way, it was claustrophobic.

“How far do you think we should go? Another two levels?” Katy asked.

“Three or four,” Kris glanced behind at the blackness behind them. “By now they’ve already clued in that something’s wrong. Maybe even that they’re short two androids.”

“All right. We’ll take the next acess point down. We should be on level with the Catacombs now, so we can descend deeper.”

Kris nodded his head, wondering how to deal with the unspoken part of, ‘It’ll be harder too.’ But they had to take it one step at a time and he figured they just might keep their skins. Aftre a few more minutes of walking, Katy pointed out an access door. She opened it carefully, maintaining the lock and Kris slowly slid the grav beds in. She lingered for a bit, making sure all traces of the grav beds were obliterated before they started down the ramp behind the door. By Kris’ reckoning, nearly twenty minutes had passed since they left the Cowell compound.

The ramp descended down to what had been a depot of some kind before. Rusted metal fixtures seemed to grow out of the walls and the whole place smelled musty and slightly rotted.

“We should ditch the grav beds here,” Katy shut down the dissipator. “Their charge is almost done.” She laughed softly, “Can’t believe they lasted this long.”

Kris looked around. “Okay, so how are we going to carry them? Just sling something together?”

“Probably the best idea,” Katy walked over to one of the grav beds. “And we should check on them too.”

There ws something that hadn’t even entered Kris’s mind since they left. He quickly punched in the commands on the holoscreen and the bed descended to the ground. When the shield flickered away, it was hard to not let panic instantly seize him. The person was clearly shuddering and jerking, his entire body convulsing as if in a seizure.

“Shit,” Kris crouched down, wondering what the hell to do. “Check on… him.”

Katy’s voice was soft and urgent as she went to the other person, trying to raise a verbal response from them. All Kris knew was that to have a bio-android die on them after getting them out on mostly sheer, dumb luck… there was a sick sort of irony to it. He wasn’t about to analyse it. But slowly, painfully slowly the convulsions lessened. They waited, nearly holding their breath in the expectation the convulsions would stop entirely.

“What the hell…?”

Katy’s voice was low and quiet, prompting Kris to look over. The other person was writhing on the ground, clearly still unconscious, garbled words coming from their mouth If it was even words at all. It sounded like a mash of different languages.

A mash of different and illegal languages. The only official language in the United Southern States was English. Other languages were a commonplace, ignored occurrence here in the bigger cities like LA, where there was a bigger proportion of minorities. But back in Conway, anyone caught breathing a word of a foreign language… hell, it was as good as declaring oneself an anarchist.

When the convulsions stopped completely, Katy and Kris got up. They dug through the dusty old room, finding some barely servicable rebar and what looked like a nylon composite tarp. Working quickly, they fixed up two triangular shaped slings and managed to get the two on. Getting down a few more levels wasn’t something Kris wanted to particularly do again.

They only stopped when he spotted a room in what looked like an old apartment building. They got inside and barricaded the doors securely. The two people were still on their jury-rigged transports, fast asleep.

“I’m going to see if I can find an old phoneline jack and connect to the Subvert,” Katy dug around in her bag and pulled out an antiquated piece of tech: a banged up but well cared for laptop. “There’s some hydra-packs and meal rations in there. We’ll need to find them some other clothes.”

“When we’re about a mile and a half down?” Kris smiled slightly. He paused. “See if we got a reply.”

“From Crow and or Vein?” Katy raised a dubious eyebrow. “What did you tell them in your message?”

“That we’d need to flee the country. If there’s nothing, send another one to them with our co-ordinates. How long do you think we should stay here?”

“That depends on them,” Katy glanced back at the inert figures. She was silent for a long moment before she said quietly, “Do you think they have names?”

“Something that’s not Fuller Corp. Bio-Android number 458229?” Kris snorted. “I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out when they wake up.”

“Hm.”

That was all Katy said before she turned to the walls, peering along the baseboard. Kris looked around the room, finding an old mattress that looked like it had seen better days. He rummaged through the backpacks and found a decon spray. Wrinkling his nose, he picked up the can, aimed it at the bed and sprayed. A lot. This mattress had clearly seen better days, and if these people didn’t have much in the way of an immune system then they were pretty much as good as dead down here.

As the decon spray did it’s job, Kris took out a few hydra-packs and some meal rations. When the bed was clean, he managed to get both people off the hasty transport rigs and onto it. The sole blanket was pulled out and draped over them. He glanced over at Katy as she clicked away on the laptop.

God, he really hoped that this didn’t end badly.

_________________________________________________________



Electric Sheep - Cast of Characters || Electric Sheep - II


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furorscribiendi

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