Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Shortest Day




Martin Schubert fully expected to arrive at his apartment and find that he’d been evicted and his stuff was locked up in some county sheriff’s holding cage or boxed into a storage locker.  Or maybe he’d have to buy it all back in bits and pieces from places like The Scrappy Student Used Books Store near the University -- if indeed there were still such places as used book stores.  

God knows what had happened in the last couple of years.

Interestingly, the world looked pretty much like it had when he last remembered it.  Cars were a little different, there were posters for another blockbuster everywhere, and the televisions were embroiled in the latest electoral campaign... some familiar faces, some new ones.

He stepped over dead leaves to the front door of Arledge Arms, named, presumably, after some forgotten founder of the University.  It was one of the few buildings left in the world that lacked outer security.  It still squeaked the same way it had years earlier as he stepped into the softly lit hallway and unlocked his apartment door.  Much to his surprise, his home remained exactly as he remembered it.  If it had been tossed, it hadn’t been a sloppy job.  In fact, the lights were still on and the place had heat.  Seems like somebody had been paying his bills even after his old self had vanished.  

He slowly descended into a well-worn leather chair and reached into his pocket, extracting a small, elegantly printed card.

The Reason Foundation.hwvoorsgweoccnjelgpirlilsecttnkixyugzovlwosnnhjcreqt

The beautiful indian woman had been so compelling when she'd handed it to him.  So magnetic.  Her offer was generous.  Who was she?

A question for which he currently had no answer.

For the first time, he wished he’d kept a journal of this thoughts, frequently taken photographs of himself, left some record of his existence for himself today.  But he hadn’t.  He wondered a little bit about the past simulacrum version of himself.  Who was the Martin Schubert who had lived in this identity for the last 3 and a half years? Was he just like the real thing or was he different? Had he done anything stupid? Were there warrants out for him somewhere? 

Schubert shrugged:  He’d find out soon enough.  Right now he was tired.  And hungry.

He dropped the card on his desk and grabbed a winter coat as he walked out the door.

His travel had been taken care of and he’d been given him some spending money to get home, but he’d blown through it.  His next stop was an ATM.  He’d pick up some cash and grab dinner.  It was Christmas Eve, but it didn’t bother him to be alone.  He’d blown through a lot of Christmas Eves.

A light snow fell on Campus Street.  The students were gone, and the streets were quieter than usual, but little else seemed different.  Certainly not the buildings themselves.  Things rarely changed on campuses... that was part of the appeal.  A new building here or there but little else ever grew unfamiliar.  He saw The Tap.  It was a bar and sandwich place that had been there since the 50’s and probably hadn’t been redecorated since they first cut the ribbon.

The ATM was just down the street in front the AT&T store.  Now there was change.  It had morphed with every decade: A head shop in the 60’s, a music store in the mid-70’s, a video game arcade in the 80’s, an internet coffee shop in the late 90’s, a regular coffee shop in the early 2000s and now it was a cellphone store.

Schubert gave himself about a 2% chance that he was going to actually be able to get cash.  He stuck his card into the machine.  It asked for his PIN.  He input the four digits.  1984 in honor of the Orwellian nature of ATMs.

He waited.  Expecting to be told it had expired and he was wanted by the IRS for tax evasion.&!*#&#*!&&&&*^*@*$^&@&@*^^(*#*%*@^(&%

It didn’t.  It asked him what he wanted to do.  Withdraw cash.  Check account.  Make deposit, etc.

He shrugged and checked his balance.

$212,000.

He’d rarely seen a positive balance in his account, much less one over 4 digits.  This was six.  Six! He was suddenly feeling a whole new appreciation for his previous simulacrum.  Much better with money than the Martin Schubert who had existed before Niantic.

Maybe he could start a new life.

“Martin?” A voice said.  It was familiar.  He turned.  It was Marlie.  He’d just seen her a week before.  Well, a week and a few years.

“Marlie...”  He desperately wished he knew how he’d left things with her.  He’d taken her for dinner before he left for Niantic.  It was a couple towns away where they hopefully wouldn’t be spotted by anybody from campus.  She hadn't been his student for ages, but academic circles were small, and if Schubert got any more stains on his record at the University it might not be readable anymore.

He desperately tried to read her face.  

“It's so good to see you.” Was she sincere?

Seemed to be.  She spoke again.

“When did you get back?”

“Fifteen minutes ago.  Just heading over to the Tap.”xtaqmyj5fkwhv2xj

“No you’re not.  You’re coming to my place.  I hate eating alone.”

She put out her arm.  He put his in hers and they walked down the street, in plain view of anybody who happened to be looking out the window on this darkening, snowy evening of one of the shortest days of the year.  Whatever he’d done, his last simulacrum had left things pretty tidy with Marlie and he had a feeling he was going to enjoy this recursion.

And then it hit him.  He'd heard Hank say it but it hadn't landed until just now...  a meaningless factoid until this exact moment.  A recursion... a simulacrum's life... it only lasts 1331 days.



















Friday, January 1, 2016

Realizations


Hank tried to clear his mind of anger toward Calvin before opening his mouth.  He knew the scientist, spook, corporate head and Anti-Magnus operative was going to be shockingly uninformative, because he too had recursed.  He’d lost all memory since the beginning of the Niantic Project.  He’d forgotten the experiments gone wrong...  Epiphany Night...  the deal he made with Ni...  the years of tumult that had followed the Niantic Project's collapse.

For Ezekiel Calvin the world ended somewhere in 2012 and picked up again in late 2015.  If Hank had gone to law school like his parents had wanted him to, he’d be wondering whether the recursion who stood before him was guilty of crimes that he could not remember committing, or most specifically, that his current recursion had never committed at all.

But he hadn't gone to law school.

If the look on Hank's face hadn't been enough, Calvin knew what was happening when he saw Jahan standing there.  The game was up.  Nowhere to run.  Seeing the realization set in was like watching someone rehearsing a role in front of a mirror.  Confusion.  Recognition.  Panic.  Remembering his training.  Finding self-control.  Reading the scene.  Finding a viable exit strategy.  Turning on the charm.  Preparing the attack.

Hank began the conversation, awkwardly at first, but steadily gaining momentum, then he handed things off to Calvin.

Calvin's rationalizations and justifications came pouring out like a litany.  It was for the knowledge...  To save and advance mankind...  To acquire knowledge and cure poverty, disease and war....  To fend off the Shapers....  You are now endowed with immortal life...  You should be grateful...  Only the chosen few could ever experience this ...  I had to lie to you, it was the only way...  National security...  You knew we were going past the cutting edge of science...  Everything will be made right...  

The researchers were more confused than Hank had expected, he had underestimated how jarring this would be for them and Calvin's stump speech wasn't helping.  For them, the betrayal that had stolen their right to self-determination, their bodies and three years of their lives was an abstract problem.  Something barely understood, and felt even less.  

Occasionally one of them would glance inquisitively at the striking, dark-haired women standing silently in the corner.  Jahan watched in silence.  Hank knew that someday soon she would approach them individually and try to take them under her wing, but for now she was simply observing.  Distancing herself, perhaps, from the foul taste this moment would surely leave in their mouths.

Hank filled the researchers in as best he could on the lost days, but there were holes in his knowledge.  There were a few questions, but most were practical.  Enoch wanted to make sure he could take his equipment.  Carrie wanted details about how she had supposedly died...  she inspected her arms and legs.  No tattoos.  Misty asked Hank how he had reconstructed his memories when he had recursed.  He told her about the Breadcrumbs.  She didn’t have any Breadcrumbs, she’d figure it out.  God knows who was after her now, and where would be safe for her to go.

Schubert, Lightman and Nagassa barely regarded each other.  It was strange.  Hank thought of them almost as a unit -- the three wise men -- but he realized that now they were almost strangers.  They would have a long record of their communications to go over if they chose to.8JgW5vtBN8xdqnF0P9j5z

The questions and answers seemed to go on for hours, then there was silence.  The confusion was slowly resolving into a realization: They were about to walk into the world with no idea what they had done for the past three years.  

Of all of them, Kureze seemed to understand the implications of what had happened the best.  He just stood there with a bemused look on his face.  His 'abduction' into Niantic had felt like just weeks earlier, but was in fact three years in the past.  Hank guessed that Kureze didn’t really live in time the way most people did, so he was probably the least perturbed.

For Devra, it was the most poignant of all.  All of it was erased.  The escape with Jarvis, Visur, the CDC, Shanghai, Australia, the 13MAGNUS Nest.  She wouldn’t remember Farlowe, her assassin turned guardian angel or 855.  She was shocked to see Hank.  She’d thought he was dead.  She hugged him.  He told her she'd understand, in time.  It went through her.  Truth is, she thought she was dead and this was some afterlife initiation ceremony.  She focused instead on what she could control, and that was to return to the familiar.  Her apartment.  Her office.  Her books.  Hank felt a deep sadness, the images of everything they had shared over the last three years kept flashing in his mind.  Meeting on the bridge.  Sitting on the bench in New York.  Those long conversations that could make time stand still and the world shrink into the palms of their hands.  She would never know any of those memories.  But maybe new ones would take their place.  So much had been lost, but Hank had hope for what could still be created.3wib7hsvhsvh26389 

He had expected a lot of anger, but he didn’t get it.  They were too confused and disoriented to think of anything but escaping this room, this facility, this moment.  Finding stable ground and a place to sort their thoughts in privacy and safety.

And nobody asked about where Roland Jarvis was.  Of course, they barely knew him.  Some of them probably didn’t remember him at all.

An hour later when the last of the cabs and black cars had pulled away, Jahan and Hank stood alone in front of the Niantic Facility.  

It was cold and a thin layer of moisture hung in the air.  The predawn light was just beginning to emerge and an intermittent wind whipped Jahan's long hair around her eyes, which were dark with the weight of what she had just witnessed and the possibilities that lay ahead.

There were a million things to talk about, a million things Hank could have said or questions he could have asked, but only one came to mind.

“You think there’s anywhere around here to get some breakfast right now?”



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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Awakening



There was a roaring crowd behind Hank.  Cheers.  Music.  She thought she could hear the voice of Susanna Moyer in the background.

“Oh yeah... about the Jewel.  I’ve got it.  I’ll be on a plane tonight.”

Jahan slowly put the phone back on the table.  In a way she had it coming, but it's never a great moment when karma catches up to you.

------------------


“The deal is that they walk out.  They are free.  They have no pre-existing bonds to any of the corporations or to any government agency.  Nothing.  They... they just walk away."

"I expect they will need to be counseled, extensively, before they are ready to walk anywhere."

"We tell them as best we can what happened at Niantic and afterwards.  We tell them what happened to them.  We tell them about recursion...

"And how you’re going to try to get them back to their bodies?”

"I'll never stop trying."

“All this for nothing.”

“We go on doing what we do, you and I.  They have a chance to walk away.  They’ve given up an unimaginable amount.  They’ve given up years.  They are going to be confused and disoriented.  They are going to have holes in their lives.  We did this to them.  We’re hitting the big ‘undo’ button.” Hank met her eyes.

Jahan looked at him.  He was decided.  There wasn’t going to be a negotiation.  She thought of a hundred ways to try and work around them and knew that none of them would work.  “We won’t be able to control the corporations.”

“The good news is that none of them know anything that isn’t three years old.  If some of these folks want to return and continue research, they can do so, obviously.  We are out of the way.”  He smiled.  “Do we have a deal or don’t we?  And you don’t have the option of reneging on it.  The Azmati pact travels with me now.”

If she gave her word, it would be her bond.  In truth, 'controlling' the researchers at this point was a matter of semantics... they had been shaped by their time in the Portal Network.

She assented.

He produced the Wind Jewel.  The real one. 

He traced the familiar Glyphs... it began to glow.

The portal opened.  There, suspended in a place between the dimensions, they saw the Investigators laid out in the Abaddon Chamber.  It was as unlike the 13MAGNUS Nest in Afghanistan as it could possibly be.  Harsh.  Scientific.  Metal.  Sterile.  Gleaming and glowing with newness and every technological tool Calvin could get his hands on.  But it served the exact same purpose. 

There they were, laid out in a circle.508681705618641906192919497254845687

Calvin was amongst them. 

“What are you going to tell them?” Jahan asked.

“Nothing.  Calvin is.  He’s going to tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

"And after?"1907171607060408064407505037060408060505082109

"It's going to be an interesting day, Jahan." Hank looked down at the glowing spiral in his hands, then up at Jahan.  He knew she could feel it too.

The Wind Jewel began to grow warm.

The energy was palpable, blinding.  They shielded their eyes... Hank thought he felt the room shake. 

Then, quiet and cold.  The background hum of stubborn machinery.

There standing beside the long tables, some staring in confusion at 'themselves,' were the researchers.

All save one.33424b4e334245594f4e44f4e3342384a

------------------

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ghost Town



She had heard of this place a thousand times.  She had seen drawings.  She had meditated on it, seen it in sharp focus through her mind's eye.  But actually being here was utterly different.  The XM flow was supercharged, tingling with an energy she had never felt before, like stinging spices, simultaneously painful and stimulating.  Dangerous.  This is where it had all happened.gs4c2aeponal6gdo8h

There was no sign that read ‘Niantic Project,' but the familiar blue logo appeared on sheets of paper littered throughout the facility and on occasional monitors which glowed like apparitions on walls and desks, automatically waking as she passed by them, then once again resuming their slumber.
 
The place felt haunted.  People had experienced something terrible here.  The original researchers were sentenced to a kind of death and placed in a Nest in a secret laboratory below the building.  A Nest that was only accessible by one possessing a Primal Object, like the Wind Jewel Jahan carried with her.  They had been turned into Simulacra by Calvin.  He had done it to himself, as well.

But there was something more than that...  the ghostly feeling extended further.  There were other dead here, too.  She had heard the stories about the chaos surrounding the body of Roland Jarvis.

She hadn’t known what to expect when she entered this hallowed ground.  Would the facility be guarded by HAZDATA guards playing out some government contract issued by Congressman Dasher?  Did the NIA or 13MAGNUS leave a trap for her?  Would they be lying in wait?  She didn’t know.  She had prepared for everything.  

Thus far, the building was empty, as if everybody had fled after the showdown between HAZDATA and the Corporations, like children fleeing a haunted house.  There was yellow tape in various areas from some investigation that had followed Epiphany Night.  She passed the project work area where Oliver-Lynton Wolfe’s exploding Power Cube had triggered the event, Enoch Dalby’s musical instruments, Carrie Campbell’s scrawlings over walls and floor.  At the time, nobody knew how valuable and prophetic they would be. A notebook lay on the ground nearby. Lightman's early attempts to decipher Carrie's Glyphs.w,yfm4u1pxr1rbf0n

She looked up at the crow’s nest where Calvin supervised his project.  The window was shattered.  She didn’t know when or how that had happened.

There was Henry Bowles' office where early work on ADA had been carried out and Richard Loeb’s area where ADA had begun to become truly sentient.  She saw the hat stand in the corner. His fabled gypsy fedora wasn’t there, of course.

Chapeau worried her.  She had considered having him killed or captured, but something told her not to.  Instinct.  Or maybe a distant voice.

She descended deep into the building and reached the lowest known floor, following the long dark tunnels using the map from Calvin's files.  She crossed dozens of nondescript doors before she saw it.  It was ordinary.  Just another door, nestled between some kind of hardware storage room and a room that seemed to contain some HVAC machinery.  ABADN.  She smiled.  At this very moment, Agents were battling around the world, in Okinawa, Milan, Oakland and a dozen other cities, but she stood alone in the epicenter.  She withdrew the Wind Jewel that Hank Johnson had pried from the hands of Quetzalcoatl Guzman days before and traced the Glyph pattern. 

Nothing happened.

She tried again, her brow furrowed. This didn't make sense.

Then she realized the truth.

Hank Johnson.

She had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  She felt blood begin to pump in her forehead and cheeks.4tju7ibsehgyibn9,6n

He had switched the stone.  Probably with a forgery that he’d found in the dead Azmati’s cache.

Damn him.  Damn him.  She began to laugh, hearing it echo sharply down the long bare tunnels.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Last Piece

Sometimes it just comes down to a single die roll.

Phillips was confident that Bowles had pulled it off.  ADA was dead, whatever that means to a computational intelligence. Her ghostly voice would still play in the Scanner, helping the unwitting Ingress ‘Agents’ collect XM, but for all intents and purposes, she was dead.  Really dead this time, not just cordoned off somewhere, hiding in a Los Alamos supercomputer cluster.  Dead.7r2kpn78oecy4t


And from what he could tell, pacing through the control room, avoiding the corpses of a pair of dead techs and their expanding pools of blood, Bowles had done something else, too.  He’d tricked 855 into putting on the helmet.  855 seemed inert, a zombie. A slow trickle of saliva was running down the left side of his chin.  Phillips saw an opportunity here... An opportunity to undo so much, to hit the big reset.  If 855 were also dead, two of his primary problems would be gone, whoosh, vanished. He could breathe freely for the first time in over three years.  And he would have Omnivore. Free of the burden of containing ADA’s near constant expansion, the system could be pushed to its true potential.  And he would have the NIA. A shell of its former self, but still, he would have it. Unfettered by ADA or 855, he could rebuild.  


The trouble would stop.ec81225a6c9f77c62d7f574cbb59d5d12eyq7z5x4m


The fear would stop.


The stinking, paralyzing feeling of hiding and constantly fixing the damage from the nightmare that the Niantic Project had been.

If he killed them, he would have some explaining to do, but he was good at that. You don’t make it this high in the NIA without knowing how to talk yourself out of a corner.  And besides, if he went down, a lot of secrets spilled.  It wasn’t in anybody’s interest – even Ken Owen’s, to see him go all the way down.


All he had to do was get across the room, seize 855’s gun and kill them both.


But that would only work if 855 really was a zombie.


He had to know how much control Bowles had over 855. 


Bowles looked up. Their eyes met, and for a second, Phillips could hardly recognize him. There was something different in Bowles’ eyes.  What was it? Power. For the first time in his life, this code-jockey controlled killing power. Or was it fear?  Did he know what Phillips was about to do?


Phillips couldn’t tell, but instinct kicked in.  Long dormant instinct from his military days, from his wet ops days.


He made his move.


He rolled the die.


His last piece was in play.










ZQTHxHQPlHwZyImRlHQv



Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Scars that Remain


Bowles savored the feeling of knowing something, of understanding something, that was out of 855’s league. It was a nice change of pace after Australia and everything that had followed. His answer was almost cocky in its brevity: “She will be absent.”
 
“Not good enough.” 855’s similarly clipped response served as a biting reminder to Bowles of who actually held the power in the room.01383126092822351437251412391307230945
 
Bowles tried again. “Think of it as being like what happened with Jimmy Hoffa,” he said, referring to the decades-old case of a Teamster boss who had mysteriously disappeared and, despite years of investigation and even a couple of confessions, whose body had never been found.
 
“Still not good enough,” 855 responded in that cold, methodical voice that Bowles had been hearing for too many months now.

“Eight...” Bowles had taken to calling him that, despite many threats and protests. “There isn’t some CSI team who gets called in here to examine ADA’s corpse and identify the time of death. She is a virtual intelligence. We can’t know if she’s died...we don’t even know what it means for an A.I. to be dead.”
 
“So she could fake it.” 855 let the statement hang in the air, somehow serving as a criticism of Bowles and his plan.
 
Bowles wasn’t fazed. “Maybe Jim Morrison faked it, but since there haven’t been any Doors albums with him singing since he allegedly died, we have a pretty good confirmation of his absence, if not his death...”
 
“So how’s it happen?”
 
“It will happen in a microsecond... and then spread through the rest of the network in... maybe minutes. Then, she will simply not exist. I mean, it’s hard to prove that things don’t exist. Parts of ADA will appear to live on after her death, as well. Ingress Agents will probably be unaware of her death for some time. Her voice will still be there. She’ll still say things like, ‘I was getting worried about you...’ But those will just be the shadows. No more a representation of her than your bootprints are of you.”
 
“You still haven’t answered my question. How will I know when she’s dead?”
 
“You’re welcome to monitor the release as it happens from where I’m standing... but that’s not what you want.”

855 stared coolly at Bowles.

“You don’t just want her dead. You want her out. You want the scars she left inside you when she tried to break in to fade away. I think that’ll happen too, when she goes dark. But if that’s what you want, you’ll have to put on the helmet and get wired in.”
 
“No. Reminds me too much of being in that hospital. Her trying to get inside of me the first time...”
 
“So you’re afraid of it.”
 
“I’m not afraid of anything. I thought you’d have figured that out by now. But I am cautious. There’s a difference. What if your plan doesn’t work.”
 
Bowles smiled almost imperceptibly. The power plays were getting exhausting, but at least 855 was fairly predictable. “Actually, you’re very afraid of ADA; isn’t that why you want to kill her? I mean, you probably just think you’re angry with her, but anger is a composite emotion made up of surprise and fear. We’re just like wild animals when we’re cornered, Eight... we hide behind our anger and hope nobody sees the truth. So maybe anger is your defense mechanism, but by definition, you’re only angry because you’re afraid of her.”
 
855 looked at him, his face somewhere between “annoyed” and “seething,” and Bowles knew he’d struck precisely the nerve he was aiming for. 855 took the bait: “Give it to me.”
 
“Just once, can you just ask politely?”
 
“Or what?”
 
“Not ‘or’ anything. I just want you to ask me politely.” At this point, Bowles knew he was pushing it, but he also knew that 855 needed him to pull this whole thing off, and that despite his critical tone, he knew Bowles would succeed.
 
855 stared at him, his eyes cold but his mouth slowly curling into a frown. For a fraction of a second, Bowles thought he could read something in 855's eyes that he had never seen before: Vulnerability. “Please let me have the helmet.”
 
“Sit down and put this on." Bowles said dryly, handing 855 the helmet and then assisting him in getting it set up correctly. As soon as it was, Bowles clicked a couple of keys and waited for the show to begin. He could see the dull flashes from the Glyph sequence flashing before 855's eyes. He smiled.
 
855’s face twisted in surprise and pain. “What the hell?! She’s... I feel her again. What did you just do to me?” He rose and took a step towards Bowles.
 
“Sit back down.”

“You don’t give orders,” 855 snarled. “She’s saying to kill you, and I think I agree.” He reached up towards the helmet to tear it off.
 
There was something profoundly satisfying about the mixture of rage, confusion and -- of course -- fear that was contorting 855’s face. Bowles paused for a microsecond, savoring it. He’d been planning this moment for months; he’d set the trap and 855 had fallen into it. And with a single keystroke, 855 dropped to the floor like a marionette that’d just had its strings cut. The visor on the front of the helmet cracked, but that wouldn't be a problem. It had done its job.  
 
“Ouch...that must’ve hurt, Eight. Sorry. There’s still a lot to learn about how to run the interface ADA made inside you.” He frowned as soon as he said it; he probably should have come up with something a little more intimidating. But now wasn’t the time for witty repartee. He glanced at the monitors around him. “Looks like ADA knows something's about to go very wrong... she’s maxed her replication rate. Better do this fast.” He executed another command. He thought he felt the temperature rise in the room as the processors inside Omnivore’s local nodes began their inexorable task, spreading their work orders outwards through the network, to Omnivore's data centers around the world, and from there into every connected device where a fragment of ADA lay awake in the background. Or maybe that sudden warmth he felt was just the nerves and the excitement.
 
The expression on 855’s face changed suddenly, shifting from defensive rage to a kind of wonderment. “Gone. Like a person...” He looked up at Bowles through the crack in the visor. “There’s always that moment... that sort of mystical moment, when you’re strangling somebody and then, all of a sudden, you feel life leaving them. You can feel their soul leaving. It’s like that... She’s gone.”
 
“She’s gone, Eight, but the interface she made... those scars in your brain. I think I’m going to keep them around. Maybe use them for a while.”89666999-99-999664446633-3388866655588-8444666-66433444-4-4487-777744499777
 
855 didn’t respond.





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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Absent

Henry Bowles had once participated in a think tank that asked a deceptively simple question: Do computer crimes leave the same kinds of forensic evidence as physical crimes? The point was to figure out whether we were at all equipped for the brave new world of cybercrime, or if we were going to have to start rethinking the tools (and even the metaphors) being used. For example, what are the digital equivalents of fingerprints? Do cybercriminals “stage” scenes the way bank robbers do, or match certain profiles in the same way that serial killers do? Are the weapons used to commit virtual crimes as traceable as bullets and candlesticks? For that matter, what’s the crime scene in a cybercrime?

Five years ago, all of this had seemed like the kind of pointless, speculative enterprise of interest only to the eggheads living on the porous border between academia and intelligence. Now the specter of cybercrime was a whole lot more relevant--and had, of course, been co-opted by primetime television. Still, Bowles couldn’t help but smirk to himself as he realized that there was one question nobody at the think tank had thought to ask: Was it possible to commit virtual murder?rreacjrnzeftgrr

He checked his watch. With any luck, he’d be in a position to answer that question in a little over ten minutes. There would be no blood, no body, and no death certificate, yet Henry Bowles was nonetheless in the process of committing the first actual cyber murder in history.

The target was A Detection Algorithm, also known as ADA.

The crime scene was the basement of the National Intelligence Agency headquarters in Washington, DC, on a hot night in July of 2015.

The murder weapon was a combination of some particularly virulent code that Bowles had written during his months of confinement with 855, delivering a modified version of something his old buddy H. Richard Loeb (aka P. A. Chapeau) had provided--a bit of programming that, incidentally, had helped create the monster that ADA became. 

The assassin was Omnivore, a massive anti-crime, anti-terrorism snoop machine created in the wake of 9/11 and vastly upgraded over the years that followed. 

Bowles was the man who set the hit in motion, which made him some sort of cyber-mafia Don. Of course, he was acting at the behest of 855, who was probably going to kill him if he failed.

855 wasn’t the type to get chatty before a hit, but this also wasn’t exactly a normal job for him. “So how do we know when she’s dead?”

Bowles savored the feeling of knowing something, of understanding something, that was out of 855’s league. It was a nice change of pace after Australia and everything that had followed. His answer was almost cocky in its brevity: “She will be absent.”














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