Jay slumped into his chair. “Chameleon, what is protocol in these The situations?”
“Disconnecting from A-NET for any reason is illegal. My database is suggesting the probability of arrest and confiscation of all assets as a ninety-nine percent probability, as well as possible jail time.”
He took a long sip of his beer. He needed to get out, to somewhere safe. Not his parents, and not Abby’s. He needed to sleep, he needed to dream. If his hunch was correct tonight he would be able to land in a stranger’s dream, his holy grail.
“How much time before ISEC arrives?” Jay could only hope that Chameleon, although he was an AI, had nothing to do with the nest of senior AIs that he now suspected were deeply involved in this mess. He knew he had to confront the AI on this topic but now was not the time. He had no choice but to trust Chameleon for now.
“One hour at best.” He looked at his watch, that would be about 11:30pm so he needed to be gone by 11:15pm; but where too.
While his thoughts crowded with many anxieties, the one about Marcus had bubbled to the top. This had to be the connection to ISEC, and who was trying to get into his systems his life but why? Was is dad somehow in on it all. Panic gripped him but he steadied himself just as the door chimed and panic consumed him again. He spilled his beer. Without Chameleon plugged into the A-NET there was no holo to show who it was. He got up and walked to the door. “Chameleon,” he said, “dump all data from my lab machines into core storage and begin a level-one destruction of all other CPU processes and files.”
He peered through the one-way glass in his door and was relieved to see Abby standing there looking cold and worried. He manually opened the door, practically yanked her in, and slammed the door shut behind her.
“Fuck Jay, what is going on?” she said, poking his chest. “I tried a million times to get in touch with you to tell you I was on my way, and then the AI told me you were unreachable, not DND.”
“Listen, some bad shit has gone down here tonight, and I have no idea who to trust I’m scared your even here right now people are on their way I am sure.”
“I am not scared of your spooks Jay, but why didn’t call me. Last I knew, you went off with Max over some personal problem, and now your electronic signature is dead, it’s like you’ve disconnected from A-NET.”
“I am disconnected from A-NET.” Jay said solemnly.
She took the beer from him. Her hands were shaking. “You can’t
“I know, and I’ll explain everything, but if you’re going to be here you should know that I’m in deeper trouble than I thought Abby. I don’t know if I can protect us.”
“I’m the one who protects you, little brother,” she said, giving him a playful shove. “Besides, my hopper was parked on the roof before it auto-routed to the basement parking and my face will be on the security cameras. I am part of this, if you’re being that closelywatched then they will know about us too. They could easily out us to Mom and Dad. If I wanted to avoid trouble Jay I wouldn’t be here. So why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
Jay felt a flood of relief.
“Look, Max was telling me that there’s something weird going on with my DNA, you know most of it, but today he discovered that someone has been hiding parts of my base DNA code stored in central,Max and I were exchanging messages online about it, and we obviously triggered some sleep-bots somehow because we got cyber-sacked big time tonight. From A-NET, Abby.” He paused for breath and there was that Abby steel underneath cutting through he could see her mind racing.
“First we need to get out of here with Chameleon and a few other things. We need to buy some time to think. Your place won’t work, as you say they will know our relationship for sure if they are this tucked into our lives, It’s not like we hide it much recently and we’re on public camera everywhere we go these days. ManchesterCentral AI will have it all on immediate demand I am sure.” He almost spat the last sentence as his distrust for AI had grown so much.
“Why don’t you just call the police and explain?” she asked. He hadn’t told her the Marcus stuff from earlier as he had promised Max for now he would not.
“In part, because of what we’re discovering daily, I’ve discovered some things about AI Abby, some terrible things, and I’m worried ISEC has something to do with it too. There are also some more detailed things about what I’ve been up to in the dreaming void we probably need to have a longer chat about.” He could not bear to tell her about the cover-up on her parents’ deaths yet, not until he’d gotten confirmation. He was pushing closer too it but his own insecurities about its disruption to their relationship also kept surfacing, which made him feel cheap and selfish.
The mention of ISEC made Abby’s face harden. “Well,” she said, “my friend Katie is away for two weeks, and she gave me her access codes so I can feed her cat. Ten one-time codes, because she already gave away all the palm access codes, so no one will know we are there.” Abby sounded slightly put upon. Jay knew that Katie was a close friend of hers.
“Fantastic,” Jay said, feeling a stab of guilt in his chest. If he got Abby in trouble with ISEC or with the police, which seemed highly likely at this stage, who knows what they’d do to her? Worse, if his growing suspicions about parts of ISEC and the Nest were true,the implications for society at large were huge. But “something” at that level, whether it was rogue AI, a secret ISEC agency or the whole dam lot of them had now clearly committed two major violations of the moral and ethical codes put in pace to protect against rouge AI use or manipulation.
“Where does she live?”
“She lives in B Block, about two miles from here.”
“Do me a favor and get your hopper prepped to take someequipment, please. It is not a huge amount of stuff, is there space in the hopper storage pods? I’ll start moving it to the turbo lift.” With every turn of events Jay was expecting things like the lifts to stop working, or lights to go out. If it was ISEC and the NEST behind this, surely, they didn’t need to wait to send in old school MPD to catch him.
Kissing him on the cheek, she ran out. His mind was racing, but something told him he was doing the right thing, and he’d come aninch or so closer to telling Abby the full extent about what went on in the dreaming void.
“Chameleon. How long?”
“I am done. We can leave the data destruction routines running, but I have everything we need.”
The only unlicensed equipment he needed was the DNA sequencer, which he grabbed and moved to the turbo-lift doors. He went back for Chameleon, and grabbed his own laptop. He checked his watch, it was 11:10pm time to go. Hygiene was routine not a pleasure for Jay so his toothbrush, razor and few other products fit into one small bag, which he threw into a larger bag, shouldered it then made for the doors. Abby was there when he got there and had already loaded the rest of the stuff, so he dragged his AI by the handles on the top into the elevator and hit “Basement” The single blue LED light on the front of Chameleon’s box turned itself on and off like a heartbeat.
Abby stood there, her cheeks pink from the wind and her party dress blowing around, exposing her knees and thighs. He loved her with a fierceness that nothing could touch. She stood aside and the hopper door hissed open.
“We have to get Chameleon there in an hour, before the batteries die,” Jay said.
“No problem, that should be easy.”
As they hit the exit and ascended into the traffic patterns, he looked out of the window to see a large, black, unmarked hopper pull silently to a stop in-front of the building up high exactly level with the windows in his POD.
Abby shivered. “This is real,” she said. “Shit. Oh, shit.”
Jay reached out to rub her shoulder. “We’ll figure it out,” he said and hoped he was right.
With the collapse of his firewalls and the uncertainty of the last 36 hours he wanted to be very sure who his enemies were. The NEST was involved, he knew they were liars, or at least had the capacity to lie and because they had deliberately hidden his DNA from him. Trust in AI and ISEC eradicated overnight. The thought of it still made him catch his breath in life threatening fear. He had to believe that only some of ISEC was corrupt, and hope the rest of it was trying to do right by earth and all the humans on it. But it was clear that, atthe top, the NEST and ISEC symbiotically linked. Just like it was clear humans and AI were, at least the ones who undertook the oath to merge. Before he made his next move, he needed to know who was who.
Just a few more fragments of Abby’s nightmare were all he needed now.The last sliver of dreams would cement so many things for him. He would know for sure who in ISEC was, captain evil from the Abby Dreams, he would confirm who at the top of ISEC was corrupt. Then, due to the Marcus news it was a matter of whether his father and his immediate chain of command could be in on it all, he was so close. He needed Max’s injections to work, he needed to enter Marcus’s dreams directly, Marcus must know something. Jay was Abby’s only hope at finding answers, but not just Abby now, the Dream vigilante was alive inside him, and now he had a sense of purpose.