New Earth: Year 2105
Location: New Seattle-Building Zeta; Apartment 1414
Last night, hackers coordinated an attack on several super secure networks all over New Earth. The government has declared Martial Law locking down the AI (artificial intelligence) of my building. All I can think about is how I am supposed to get to work. My training contract is a mess, the ports are down, Mushroom’s sick, and now I can’t get out of my own apartment!
J5015 woke to see the Holo-Paper blazing in front of him. Well, it looked blazing because of his binge drinking last night. Not feeling well and, Mushroom, desperately trying to rouse J because, Mushroom wasn’t well either. The whole apartment smelled like “Party” and now looked like a trashed back alley. Mushroom (a Shih Tzu mix who adopted J), lies still next to him on his bed. He gave out a little groan in his sleep. Poor, guy. I wonder if someone fed Mushroom something he’s not allowed to have? Mushroom popped his head up and burped.
Yep, that’s it.
He decided to read just the headlines of The Local Paper. In bold face type and with much exclamation it read “Hackers Crash Major Economic Centers Of New Earth!!!!”. They had utilized simple code constructs that would synchronize billions of computers across the planet and the orbitals, regardless of time difference and distance, to super- hack the world’s most secure systems all at once. After successfully bringing down some of New Earth’s most secure networks and crashing major economic hemispheres, the lock-down began.
Great! While the rest of the world is out there in chaos, I’m stuck at my pad! The portals, for instant transportation to geographical coordinates, are down because the government doesn’t want any unauthorized warps. Trying to keep us on lock-down.Already a bad day.
“Grrrrrrr….” Mushroom growled in agreement.
J looked over to Mushroom with concern. “Hold on Mushroom…. I’ll bring you some water, buddy. Man…. What did you eat last night?”
The little voice chip whined “You fed me pizza… Sick…. Water please.”
“O.k. bud but I can’t handle the voice thing right now so I’m gonna turn it off for awhile.” J said. I just can’t get used to having a complete conversation with the dog, however basic it may be. Moreover, I cannot stand that “Why” loop he gets stuck on. Have to ask Bentley if he can fix it.
“No please. I’ll be quiet, please.”, he chirped.
“You promise?” J
“Yes please.” The chip light on his collar blinked out signaling that Mushroom was content with being quiet for the time being.
Once Mushroom’s water was dealt with, breakfast eaten, J set about trying to figure out how he was going to make it to the training ground. He was sure the apartment’s comp-lock was set but wasn’t sure how best to persuade the building’s AI that he had every right to leave the building. When the government locks down all “Federal Abiding AIs”, the AIs lock the citizenry in their buildings to avoid riots.
J tells his apartment to “Call Bentley.” The apartment tells him “No calls are permitted at this time, sir.” with a dismissive tone.
That’s alright. I pay him by the hour so he should try to get a hold of me for work. It’s not so crazy to think we’re still doing business while there’s a shifting of major world powers going on. I do train Para-military here on New Earth, however.
J contented himself to messing with Mushroom for a while, with Mushroom growling and shaking a toy in front of him. He suddenly dropped the toy and stepped back expectantly waiting for J to toss it.
J tossed the toy and Mushroom scooped it up in his mouth and shook it violently.
“GRRRRRR!” went Mushroom.
He returned the toy to J several more times, dropped the toy, stepped back and cocked his head. The little voice came to life again.
“Walk please!” Mushroom asked excitedly. Now, think about how hard it is to have a 3-year-old child understand why they can’t go outside to play. Telling a dog is exponentially more complicated.
J told him, “You have to wait.”
Mushroom replied “Why? Why? Why? Why?……”
“Voice link off!” J, exasperated. Mushroom whined, cocked his head at J, and then circled the floor for a place to lie down. After a few moments, he settled on J’s bed, of course. J started on cleaning his apartment. The cleaning bots did nothing and he had to use trash bags because the AI would not let him put anything down the recycling shoot!
It was 3 pm when Bentley finally got through. Training today was going to be a nightmare. J wondered if Bentley had been working on a job without him and decided he was probably just hung over too.
“Couldn’t figure out how to get out of the buildings call matrix huh?” stated, more than asked, Bentley.
“My biggest problem is getting out of the building itself. I don’t know the executable commands.” J said.
“Executables don’t work right now. Martial Law and all…” Bentley left the sentence hanging there just waiting for the protest.
“Oh, alright! Get me out of here and I’ll give you 15% more today! Mushroom wants to chase his Holo-Squirrel and his voice collar is stuck in that “Why?” loop again.”
Bentley’s chuckle came out muffled over the com-link.
“Stop playing around Bentley! We got a job worth 85K today!” J said, irritated now.
“How about 35% extra for the day?” asked Bentley.
“How about, NO.” said J.
“Settle on 25%?” Bentley asked suspiciously.
“20%. And I let you keep one of anything you pick up for the training exercise.” J.
“Deal!” Bentley said and started to work. On the other end of the com-link, you could hear him mumbling to his AI, in the background.
“Wait…. You said, “Anything, I pickup?” Bentley asked.
” Yes, “YOU” Bentley!” How long is this gonna take?”, J asked.
“Damn, don’t like doing errands when there’s a war going on. About 45 minutes,” Bentley replied.
“We train Para-military, Bentley! Where ever we go there’s a war going on!” J yelled over the link.
Bentley’s AI was one of the new Bio-computers. Yeah… The same computers that are about to be outlawed by the entire planet; DNA grown computing, good thing he has a couple clone-comps on ice just in case anyone ever wants to overpay for one on the Black Market.
After quite a bit of cursing to himself and citing the dim-witted intelligence the AI had to offer, the door slid cleanly open. Mushroom popped up and hurried to inspect the open door, looking back at J to see if he had permission to go into the hallway.
“Let me grab my stuff, Mushroom. It would’ve be nice if you gave a guy fair warning, Bentley. There’s a lock-down in place and, possibly, a World War going on out there.” J remarked, pointedly.
“All you got to worry about are the Fed Riot-bots and PD. The real war is on the net…. What net there is left, anyways.” Bentley commented.
“So, basically you’re saying, dodging bullets is easy?” J queried.
“No, no… You misunderstand…..” Bentley stammered.
“I understand perfectly well and think about dodging bullets when I see you…..” J threatened playfully.
“Come with idle threats. Mushroom would never stand for it.” Bentley stated. He was right, after all, Mushroom loves Bentley and wouldn’t like me beating on him.
With that, J quickly threw on his arms-vest, chameleon overcoat, and chameleon boots, Mushroom sitting and staring patiently.
“Voice-link on. Mushroom, kick your nose into gear and let me know if you smell anyone out there worth worrying about. Thanks bud.” J told the dog.
“Yup. Yup. Bad people.” Mushroom’s collar chirped.
“How bad? Stinky people or people with guns?”, J asked.
“Stinky.” Mushroom’s voice-link said with a grunt.
“We’re not worried about those right now. Tell me if you smell guns boy.”
“Yup. Yup.” The Shih Tzu mix barked happily and started down the hallway.
“Be careful!” J called after him.
J and Mushroom snaked their way through the buildings fire stairs to the ground floor. It was only a matter of time before they encountered the local PD going through the building to make sure everyone was staying inside.
Mushroom’s little, silvery left-eye widened and he stood up rigid with attention.
J noticed and asked, ” What do ya got?”
“Five, heavy gear, PD. Last room… Left… This hallway… Please?”, chirped out Mushroom’s collar. Porcupine-like quills started stretching out of his fur. Teeth and mouth got bigger. This was just one more thing that freaked-out J. His little bio-cyber mutt was much more than he looked.
J leveled his fusion-shotgun and set it to maximum spread, incapacitate only with sound-suppressor control active. As J and Mushroom crept around the corner; J’s augmented hearing picked four of the cops cajoling the youngest cop into carrying out the bodies of the former tenant.
J’s video link was fed to him via Mushroom, who was viewing the scene through the wall, in infrared. J targeted the group. The young cop just spotted Mushroom!
Young cop yelled, J fired, and the four others went down crackling. The wall the stun shot had gone through, smoked in the hallway and stunk like rotten eggs.
The young cop got two shots off with his smart gun. One shot struck Mushroom’s new guard hairs and ricocheted off. Mushroom took him down with ease. One pointy quill in the neck, with-knock out poison.
J grabbed one of the cop’s VIR (Virtual Intelligence Ranger) head gear so he could listen to see if there were any more on the way. Lucky for the PD, there was no one coming. They hadn’t managed to send the emergency signal to HQ. They were probably killing people and taking their things. Local PD is known for their, more than, corrupt behavior.
J and Mushroom hurried down ten more stories to the bottom, keeping an eye out for trouble and traps along the way. The PD hadn’t sent an entire squad so they must have been here for loot.
When J and Mushroom stepped out into the smoke choked air of New Seattle, the buildings AI protested the illegal exiting and the automated doors behind them locked shut with a loud “SNICKT!.”
J looked up and down the street but there was no one around. Not even looters.
Surprised, J thought. Guess the Feds locked the city down tight. Nobody out here. Better watch for the PD and Fed riot-bots.
When he had decided the coast was clear, J pulled a small 3-inch disk from his pocket, and set it on the ground. Mushroom barked excitedly and waited for the holographic squirrel to pop up off the surface of the disk. The disk hovered about an inch from the ground, clicking loudly, as if mechanical somehow. It was just old. Mushroom didn’t care.
When the squirrel popped up, the disk took off and the dog chased it, barking happily, up and down the block for several minutes. He stopped when he heard the hover coming around the corner by the burning mini-mart.
The long black hover-limo came to a stop and the hatch opened. A voice echoed through speakers.
It was Bentley telling him to “Get in the hover and strap down. It’s gonna be a rough commute.”
“Not too worried about it. I think getting out of my apartment building was the hardest part of the day!” J huffed as he climbed into the limo. Mushroom jumped up and anchored himself against J’s left leg.
“Yeah, about that….” Bentley started but J gave him the cut-it-out signal. The little dog seemed completely unaffected by the burning scenes outside and J didn’t want to worry the little guy. It was “Mission accomplished” for Mushroom. He had gotten what he wanted. Out.
Today is going to be interesting! J thought.