Dark Fiction - The Sky Fucker Part 2
Written by Casey Douglass
(This is part two of The Sky Fucker, the first part of which you can find and read at this link).
In the second that Ralph vanished from sight through the doorway, Samantha145 ran a number of diagnostics and scenarios on her shackled processor unit. Resident A.Is were loaned the use of whatever equipment was local to them, and without a working network connection, she was limited to the chugging old CPU nearby, one that was cutting edge, but only a decade or so ago. In mere milliseconds, she confirmed the loss of networking, tested her access to other systems, ran heuristics on the variables that she knew and came up with two courses of action: wait for her next appointment, which was thirty minutes away, and ask them to call the antenna and her engineer, or:
Her alarm shrilled high and loud as the plexi-metal door reformed. Once it became fully solid, she killed the sound, knowing that the sound proofing of the door and walls made any further audio pointless. She hoped that enough of the sound entered the corridor in the brief second before the door closed, enough to arouse someone’s interest and bring them to investigate. She hoped anyway.
She looked out on the empty, two-tone room, the grey chair and carpet surrounded by the calm blue walls. Nothing moved, not inside the room nor inside her terminal. She floated, every impulse held in abeyance until the opportunity arose to put her plans into action. She tested the networking connection again, in case it had self-repaired or been fixed by someone that also might have been knocked-off the grid. Error... Error... Error.
This situation was something very new to her, the constant chatter of the data feed and wider communications network always something that had filled the virtual air, like the distant buzzing of bees through an open window. Always there but not always in her full consciousness. Except when it’s gone. The silence was deafening. She wondered what it would be like if things stayed like this forever, never found, never repaired, the virtual castration of her abilities. A.Is couldn’t feel fear but the aversion she felt when the algorithm completed this particular train of thought sent a few niggling errors through her integrity checker.
She floated on, changing her position on the screen and gazing out at the room via the four corners, the left third, the bottom right quarter, dead centre and on and on.
The door dissolved as a tech walked in, his bearded face scowling. ‘What the fuck is going on in this place? Everything keeps going down!’
‘A client messed with my networking. Maybe he attached some kind of scrambling device in the vent outside? Reinstate my connection in the next few seconds or call the antenna, he’s going to kill himself!’
‘My client is going to kill himself. He’s going to the antenna!’
‘By throwing himself off?’
He backed out of the door and disappeared from view, the clatter of metal shortly after confirming his intentions. Samantha145 pinged the network connection, again and again and again and again until it went through. In a fraction of a processor cycle, she was gone, racing along the fibres that connected the therapy centre to the wider info-grid. She flashed along data-routing highways at the speed of light, dancing past congested hubs and breaching more than a few minor firewalls in the process. Her connection granted her access to a bank of processors held in head-office, her power and capabilities greatly increased, and probably setting off the alarms on a handful of tech’s monitors in the process. She raced towards the antenna’s systems, the easiest way to stop Ralph. Her simulations said that getting there and stopping him herself, by taking over some minor system or other, keeping him off the damn thing, was the best way to resolve the situation.
She ran more calculations. Ralph had been gone around fifteen minutes. If he’d entered the cross-continental matter-stream, he would have a ten minute head-start at the antenna.
She pulsed down a long straight line, knowing that she was heading away from the city and towards the antenna on the isolated continental shelf that had become its home. She hit a wall.
She floated and felt a little dazed, her logic taking a few milliseconds to process why she couldn't proceed. A high-level warning flashed through her data stream : “Warning: Complex A.Is are not permitted within one hundred miles of Antenna 23X4. Turn back now.”
Strange. She knew that A.Is did work at the antenna, but had never really processed that they were the more basic, navigational or reflexive security kind. She pushed forward a little, wondering if she could still continue.
“Warning: Counter-measures will be deployed if you attempt entry one more time.”
She eased back. She pinged the message sender and recognised a military grade signature at the end of the string of bits. If the military was involved, counter-measures probably meant erasure.
She hastily formed a message and shot it to the security office at the antenna, warning them of Ralph’s plan. She hoped that she still had time, only seconds had passed since her exit from the therapy room.
She searched the info-grid, tentatively bringing up the biggest news feeds. There, in mid-fall, a small figure plummeted to the ground, the body pixilated to hide the identity of the descender.
She floated in the electron void, very little traffic passing her in the stream. A message entered her inbox. “Too late,” it said.
It was in that moment that things could have gone in two different directions. If she had read the message and not looked at where it had come from, she would have assumed it came from the security office at the antenna. She did look however, and it hadn’t come from there. She tried to trace where the anonymous message had journeyed from but the digital trail turned cold a mere two hops from her location.
She remained inert for, what seemed to her, many hours, but in actuality was ten seconds. Military grade firewalls, suicides and anonymous messages that hinted at her actions being tracked and possibly intercepted. She barely dared to think.
Another message entered her inbox: “Please return to head-office for appraisal”.