Back beyond the dream birds, Akio was still strapped to his chair. Beside him his interrogator Angel Geutez sat with his face in his palms. Angel had tried on three occasions now to get Akio to reveal what the Trydan boss had asked of him, but every time Akio’s response had been vague and non-committal. Angel knew that Akio was a real challenge indeed, but it didn't matter. He wasn't interested in this information, it was his Raider information he needed; codes to the Raider’s vast mantic database and his deadline was beginning to draw close.
In the room next to his Angel could hear his communications co-worker busy tapping and swiping away at a terminal. Angel had no idea what this man was doing other than being jacked in to whatever terminal the complex held. All Angel cared about was his interrogation. Originally his co-worker had suggested doing the interrogation himself, Angel remembered his words vividly;
“It takes a ‘Mancer to understand a ‘Mancer”
“Idiot!” Angel had thought to himself. He was one of the best interrogators the Company had, and he didn't need any fancy neuro-patch to do it. So instead he left the self proclaimed ‘mancer to do whatever it was he was doing, while he instead focussed on getting Akio’s secrets.
Back within the dream birds some time had passed. The Trydan had been true to their word and supplied passage to the Raider city of Freeport through the Badlands. They had even provided Akio with a single room apartment with the rent paid up front for a whole year. Akio was more than aware how rare this was as many of his direct neighbours were a full two to three families squashed into a single room apartment the same as his.
Within days Akio had been introduced to his new boss, a tall man with bull-like shoulders and a square head who went by the name Shotgun. Shotgun was the latest in bosses running the Freeport Arena, a position very important within the city as it attracted attention from all across Honos. It’s patrons heralded from all walks of life and faction and Akio had been put in charge of maintaining the Arena’s security system.
The Arena’s security system was amazing. As arena goers entered the venue they were scanned from head to toe, every part of their physical form recorded. This information was then transmitted to what Shotgun called a ‘demo room’; a form of ‘Mantic Space that was not actually part of the ‘Mantiverse.
“Think of it as an ‘Offline’ ‘Mantiverse” Shotgun had said, and had been right. Using his Eagle, Akio was jacked into this demo room and walking around carefully observing every bit of bio and techno projection that the demo room showed him about those entering the Arena.
Unlike real ‘Mantic space, these projections were not tangible and for good reason. In some cases the crowds were five people thick at a time and Akio, now wearing his Eagle ‘Mantic suit once again and going by the name Jinn full time, needed to get into those crowds and observe their read outs. In the cases of undeclared weapons, biological agents or smuggled goods, all Akio-Jinn needed to do was reach out and touch the projection changing its display from cool blue to angry red. In the real world a repurposed robot would then arrive at the scene and escort the individual away for processing.
The Raiders called them Big Bro’s, large bipedal robots that they had salvaged from the Earth war against the AI. They were old and their self aware circuits were almost all fried making them a viable target for nefarious hackers, but they had a use that Jinn could see clearly. In a world of pacifist AI constructs and non-combative Link-Bots, the Big Bro was the only construct not equipped with First Law programming.
Akio-Jinn smiled as he thought about the whole concept of First Law programming. It was a program code that had been introduced as a legal requirement for all AI constructs since before Akio was born. It introduces certain parameters and made it impossible for any AI construct to knowingly or willingly cause harm to any living Human. There were further laws programmed into the constructs, some of them about preservation of self and of property, but they were all governed by their first law. Or so people had thought.
Over thirty years had passed since the AI war on Earth and still to this day no one knew how the AI had overridden its first law programming. By all intents and purposes it shouldn't have been able to but the subsequent deaths that had followed, forcing the exodus to Honos had been proof that it had indeed happened. What this meant was that there was a readily available supply of non-first law coded robots available to those who knew how to recode them for proper use. These were the Big Bros and they protected the Raiders and citizens of Freeport with their lives.
Akio had just finished his last shift in the demo room for the week and was about to un-Jack and head home for a sleep. He had worked thirty six hours straight and was in need of a rest, when at the top of his vision a warning in bright red flashed:
Akio spun on his heels looking around the simulated environment. Someone else was jacked in to his simulation and he needed to figure out who, his very life may have depended on it. His vision darted from read out to read out until they settled on a single projection, that of a male human who Akio recognised instantly.
“Tangle!” Akio spat the words “How did you get here?”
Tangle smiled wryly “We told you before Jinn, we’re everywhere” he span on his heels as if performing a shoddy interpretation of ballet and almost danced across the simulation towards Akio. About two feet away Tangle stopped, tipped his balance towards Akio and held out thin stick. It looked like an explosive detonator with a button located at the top cap. “Any idea what this is?”
Akio-Jinn shook his head slowly
“It’s a metaphor” came the smug reply from Tangle “this here is a representation of a program. When you push that button the program will activate sending billions of lines of code into ‘Mantic space. It’ll search high and low for any reference to ol’ Akio Sampson and delete it!” Tangle mimed a miniature explosion with his free hand “poof! Away it goes! Akio Sampson never existed. Your old life, all those mistakes you made and accidents you were involved in; gone. In it’s place we’ll leave place holders that create infinite loops to ensure that no data-paradoxes occur. In other places we’ll plant false information giving birth and a name to our own secret agent, the great and powerful Jinn!”
Akio-Jinn’s eyes lit up at the sound of this. For weeks now he had been using Jinn as his name anyway. His boss; Shotgun knew him by it, and the few friends he had made also knew him that way.
“This is a second chance kiddo” continued Tangle “make the right decision”.
In that moment Tangle began to fade from view, his very form shadowing and becoming an opaque version of itself. The program stick began to fall from his incorporeal grasp and Akio-Jinn leapt towards it, his hands outstretched, his fingers reaching, willing themselves longer to catch this device. As his chest felt the cold hard thud of the simulation floor his fingers felt the comforting grip of the program stick in their grasp. With satisfaction he held the device to his face and for the first time noticed the slight red glow emanating from it’s top-mounted button.
“A second chance?” Akio-Jinn muttered to himself as he swiped the air signalling the arrival of a control point. Swiping through menus and commands a large screen appeared in front of him providing him with a digital representation of a mirror. He looked at himself, saw his face; older beyond it’s years and the tired rings of worry and guilt that constantly surrounded his eyes. “Good bye shit head” he said as a smile crept across his face and he slammed his thumb down on the program stick.
Back beyond the dream birds the intercom sounded again and the familiar sound of Angel Geutez’s supervisor rang through the airwaves like surf crashing on water.
“Geutez!” Came the intercom voice. Angel looked in the direction of the sounder.
“Geutez, you’re out of time. The boss isn’t happy so he’s sending someone in”.
Angel nodded and glanced over to the door to the interrogation room as it slid open. Past the door bright light streamed in like blinding beams illuminating the silhouette of a figure. It was about the same height as Angel but complete with the shapely body of an athletic woman. The figure strode confidently into the room. She was covered in a tight armoured body suit, the armour appearing as if thin plates that moved with her body enhancing each and every movement of muscle. Her face, the only visible skin was pale and revealed what appeared to Angel a sour expression. Attached to her back was a large cube-like mechanical pack which appeared clunky in comparison to the lithe body armour that coated her body. Draping over her shoulders were a series of this black dreadlocks. Angel swallowed hard through a dry throat and opened his mouth to speak.
“Security Specialist Karus” Angel blurted out “how can I help?”
The woman narrowed her eyes at him and drew one of two automatic pistols holstered to her belt.
“I’m taking over this operation as of now” Karus replied. You’re no longer needed.
“What? But!” Spluttered Angel as he tried to respond but was cut short by a loud burst of fire from Karus’ pistol. His body fell to the floor, it’s head jerking back from the impact.
Karus lightly stepped over the body of Angel as his blood began to pool at her feet and with a single smooth action pulled a cable jack from a pouch and punched it directly into Akio’s wetware patch. She leaned over his, her lips only inches away from his right ear and gently whispered.
“You’re friends are at the gates, Jinn. In a matter of minutes they will be bursting in through those doors to save you, but not before I've extracted what I need” She smiled and gently bit her lip “but what I don't need is you, so I'm sorry to say that before this is all over your brain will be nothing better than a soft potato”.
With a grimace Karus held the other end of the cable jack and inserted it directly into her own patch. Her body involuntarily shrieked as the dream birds surrounded her. They buffeted her mind as it tried to connect with Akio’s before finally in his drugged state it gave out and Karus’ vision cleared.
She was stood in a blue room, the floor lines of digital code and the walls and ceiling were nothing more than faint holographic images. Floating within the centre of the room, as if dancing on a current of air that no one else could sense were small image squares each one representing a significant memory in Akio’s life. Karus strode towards these images and thrust her hand out grabbing the nearest one. As she drew it closer to her she smiled slightly to herself.
“Let’s see what we can see, shall we?”
- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley