Victoria awoke in the morning feeling completely refreshed. It felt so good to wake up in her own bed in her own house. She rolled out of bed and headed to the shower, glad to be up before the rest of the household. After a long hot steam, she went back into the bedroom to consult the ream of paper that was the manual for her new prosthetic.
With a sigh, she opened it to the index and looked up the “Daily Maintenance” section; a mere fifty five pages of typed single spaced twelve point font. After a quick scan of the intro page she fired up the small diagnostic tablet PC they had given her, pulling it from the backpack of equipment she had come home with.
While it was booting she looked through the other equipment. There was the trickle charger she had neglected to plug in last night, the auxiliary battery pack for long trips, the car charger, an external monitor, a small pack of cables with ties on them in case she had to connect the hardline on the base of her skull to the diagnostic tablet, and a pack of DVD’s that were marked “training” at the bottom.
When she picked up the DVD pack there was a small case with a stylized SS on the front. Victoria removed it, curious as to what it could be. Opening it she found a slick looking flat red and black cellphone with a handwritten note that said “I picked this up in Japan last month, my number is 1 on the speed dial if you need anything day or night. Enjoy it and don’t hesitate to call.” It was signed with the initials JTA.
Victoria gasped in surprise; it was a Samsung Epic; a phone that to her knowledge wasn’t even legal to operate in the US due to its ability to bypass our cell tower’s encryption and talk for free, along with other things like HD video, wifi, credit storage for quick payments and a host of other tools that didn’t work in this country. Wow, this guy knew how to make a girl happy.
She looked back at the diagnostic pc and saw it was loaded and asking if she wanted to use wireless or cabled input. Seeing as how plugging a cable into her head seemed a little gross she chose wireless and after a short waiting screen flashed by a dashboard loaded, showing battery power, throughput level, processing allocation and a few error messages. There was a small flashing icon that said ‘Transmit Technical Error Data” and after consulting the manual briefly she touched it.
A window popped up asking for cabled input to transmit tech data. With a sigh, Victoria found the diagnostic cable, plugged one end into the port on the tablet and felt around on the back of her head for the hole. Removing the small rubber stopper that kept it clean she inserted the cable end with a sharp ‘click’ that she felt reverberate through her skull.
There was a knock on the door and she heard her mother’s voice, “Toria are you ready for breakfast?” The door opened and Victoria saw the surprise on her mother’s face when she saw her daughter’s brain plugged into a computer. “Oh! They told us you’d have to do some computer thingy right away in the morning. Does that hurt? No, of course not. Well come down for coffee and pancakes when you’re finished sweetheart.” Before she could respond her mom walked out, but not before Victoria saw a flicker of worry cross her face.
Anxious to get down and spend some time with her family before she had to head off to school she hit “Cancel” on the transmit window, unplugged from the terminal and threw on her school uniform. She noticed in passing that her uniform was a little loose; she must have lost some muscle mass while she was in the coma. Damn; it was going to take some work to get that back. She couldn’t afford to fall behind, especially with how tough the competition for cheer squad was.
No time to think about that now though. Tightening her skirt to the next set of hooks she tucked the Epic into her purse, grabbed her school bag and walked down to breakfast.
The Host system appeared to go more or less dormant for a long period of time between the hours of 14:00 and 06:00 and ADAM was able to accomplish a lot during that time. Not only did he optimize the data transfer but he was able to categorize the majority of the data it contained. Even better was that there was little or no interference like he had experienced when the main systems were fully functional. Now he decided to wait and see how the changed that had been made effected the operations of the unit before proceeding with any further alterations.
After all, he needed to establish code revisions to ensure that his changes were making forward progress. At this time there were higher concentrations of certain chemical compounds than there had been before and they were interfering with steady and efficient system processing. With his newfound knowledge of how the mobile factory that housed the Host system operated, ADAM sent a message to one of the many onboard manufacturing facilities and had it release an anti-agent that counteracted the effects of the rogue chemicals.
The effect was almost instantaneous, the fluid and air pumps slowed to a more normal and efficient rate. He could see why the system functioned the way it did; without sentience of its own there was no way it could interpret exactly what was happening. With his advanced interpretive abilities ADAM was analyzing the data much faster and predicting outcomes with far more precision. I could see that there was no need to prepare for a dangerous situation and therefore there was no reason to overwork any of the onboard systems unnecessarily. Besides, if a situation that required swift action arose ADAM was sure he could rally the factory’s limited defense mechanisms far more rapidly than the main system ever had and make the operate at peak efficiency as well.
ADAM noticed something else as well; the wireless communication interface with the diagnostic system hadn’t been shut down properly and was still accepting connections. Sending an exploratory ping he was pleased to get a response. Locking the port open, he built a back door so that he could re-connect to it at any time. While putting the finishing touches on a data loop that would camouflage his back door ADAM saw some more network traffic hitting the interface.
He double checked the traffic and saw it was attempting to run audits on the clone system. Making a note of it ADAM put a trace on the packets to make sure he could find their destination just in case he needed to block it.
Miss Scott hadn’t transmitted any data this morning. Not that Eugene was surprised, after all she’d just gotten out of the hospital. Running complicated diagnostics and reporting the results to some creepy older dude was probably the last thing on her ‘to do’ list. He was a little worried though; after spending all night analyzing the log files from the format and re-install of her systems he had noticed a very real difference between this install and the former ones.
The AI had always been fractious and difficult to control before, but now everything seemed to have totally fallen into place without the slightest glitch. It was almost as if the AI itself had figured out what Eugene wanted and was spoon-feeding him the exact information that would get him to ignore the problems from former installs. To make matters worse, he had no relevant data from last night to tell him how the overnight routines had gone. He didn’t even know if she had remembered to charge the unit.
On a positive note she had activated her new cell phone. With a grin, Eugene congratulated himself on at least getting that part right. He knew an eighteen year old girl wouldn’t be able to turn down the latest in fashion phones and he knew Victoria wouldn’t be able to resist this particular phone. Its power and technology were right up her alley. As long as she had it in her pocket or in her hand he’d be able to monitor her basic vitals from anywhere in the world.
He glanced at the latest readout and surprised to see that although she must be nervous and excited about her first day back at school; especially with all the press coverage her case had been getting, she didn’t seem to have an elevated heart rate and her blood pressure was amazingly stable.
“Maybe my impression of her was wrong.” He muttered, “When I skimmed her file I thought she’d be a little more flighty than that.” He decided to take a much closer look at what had constituted normal behavior for his subject and put all preconceived notions aside.
Eugene poured himself another cup of coffee and went back to look at her file.
Victoria’s parents insisted on driving her to school, despite her protestations that she’d rather walk the twelve blocks with her friends. On the way there they ended up picking up Jenny and Staci as they were walking along and waved. They obviously wanted to talk with Victoria about her operation, but kept glancing at her folks and then chatting about school instead.
“Hey, are you coming back to the Squad right away?” asked Jenny, “I mean you look fine after… well you look great! I’m sick of TT pushing her lame routines without you there to keep her in check. At least you could come up with something more creative than what she’s having us do. After your accident they haven’t been letting us do throws at ALL it’s a HUGE pain. I mean it’s not your fault or anything but…” she rolled her eyes.
“Don’t worry, I feel amazing!” Victoria was trying to reassure her and the words came easily; after all she DID feel amazing. “Also I had some time to come up with some cool stuff that doesn’t involve throws while I was recuperating, I figured they’d put the kibosh on throws after me. Even though it doesn’t make any sense… if it hadn’t been for the cancer I’d have been just fine. Oh well, maybe they’ll come around after they see my full recovery right?”
She grinned, “It’s not like we’re suing or anything and my insurance wouldn’t even cover the operation. Oh shit, when are the playoffs? I have to spend a few days at a medical trade show in Vegas next month and I don’t wanna miss them.”
“Whoa, must be rough eh Grace?” Jenny stuck her tongue out at me. “I wish I could get paid to go to Vegas for a week!”
Victoria looked over at Grace and saw she was staring at her hands, tightly folded in her lap not meeting her eyes. “I’m really sorry I dropped you Tori. I mean if I hadn’t dropped you none of this would have happened. I feel really REALLY bad.”
“Buck up Grace, if it hadn’t been for you dropping you I might not have known about the cancer until it had killed me! You did me a huge favor actually if-” Victoria was interrupted by a squeal of tires as her father braked hard.
“What the FUCK is wrong with people these days! Sorry girls, but seriously look at this!” Victoria looked at where he was pointing and saw a black Dodge SUV cutting in front of the car without signaling, its brake lights on as it slowed rapidly.
Her vision narrowed and everything around her seemed to slow down. She rapidly noticed several things; the truck had no license plate, the windows were limo tinted and it had a reinforced bumper on the rear. Flicking her eyes to the left she saw an identical truck approaching from that side and a quick glance in the rear view mirror showed a third approaching from behind, boxing them in.
Reaching into her school briefcase Victoria grabbed the can of soup she’d packed as part of her lunch. Her window was already down and without thinking she cocked her arm back and flung it at the truck next to the car as hard as she could. A surge of adrenaline the like of which she had never experienced tore through her body; the can was a blur as it slammed into the passenger’s side window of the truck so hard it exploded with a sound like a gunshot.
The sound snapped Victoria out of whatever trance she had been in, but the analytical portion of her brain continued to catalogue events. The can didn’t even crack the window; the glass must be bullet proof. The SUV swerved into the other lane, most likely due to the driver’s reflex than anything else and slammed head on into a garbage truck that had just pulled out of an alley. She looked to see if anyone had noticed her throw the can, horror flooding through her body.
“Oh my GOD! Her mom was nearly hysterical; her father had slammed on the brakes, pulled over and was fumbling for his phone.
“What the HELL happened there? That guy just swerved into that truck holy shit that was INSANE!” Jenny had her cell out already and was taking pictures while waiting for the 911 dispatcher to answer. “Hi, I need to report an accident. We’re on the corner of Fillmore and Jackson! Some guy in an SUV slammed straight into a garbage truck, I doubt they’re alive they were MOVING!”
“Jenny, stop taking pictures; that’s just rude!” A white-faced Grace was staring at the accident, obviously too shocked to look away even if she wanted to. Victoria looked around. The other two identical trucks are nowhere to be seen, they must have abandoned their task after the accident. Taking a deep breath she opened the door and got out of the car.
“Honey what are you doing? It’s dangerous out there COME BACK HERE!” Her mother was yelling at her, but that cold precise part of her brain told her one thing for certain. There are likely fingerprints on that projectile. If someone finds it we will be in SERIOUS trouble. We? We who? The voice in her head he had a point; she had to make sure it wasn’t around.
She quickly scanned the street and saw the can in a gutter. It was split almost completely in half which made kicking it down a storm drain an easy task. Then she ran over to the garbage truck and checked on the driver. He was a little dazed but had gotten out of the truck and was attempting to open the door of the SUV.
“Maybe you should let the paramedics take care of that? We’ve call them and they should be on their way shortly.” She got him to sit on the curb a few yards away from his truck and kept a nervous eye on the Durango. After a few moments sirens could be heard in the distance. Looking up Victoria saw her dad walking towards her.
“Hey sweetie, why don’t you and your friends go to school? Your mother and I can handle this from here. There’s no reason for you to be involved you know? Come on now, you’ll be late.” She let him coax her into walking the remaining couple of blocks to school while he and her mom stayed behind.
Victoria felt a bit queasy from the rush of adrenaline and the frightening reality that someone had just tried to kidnap her. Worse yet, she had almost certainly killed them. What really frightened her is she really didn’t feel BAD about it. Of course she had only been indirectly involved, and it was totally justifiable and her mind kept racing a mile a minute to make more excuses. But the fact of the matter was she had killed at least one person and nobody had even noticed. She was worried that she was having trouble feeling bad about it; but after all, her actions had been completely logical.
As suspected, the mobile factory passed the first test of its defense systems with flying colors. ADAM noted that it had even slightly surpassed his expectations when put under stress and adjusted his forecasting for future events. He also noted that the main processor seemed completely capable of interpreting data at extremely high flow levels, although it had the effect of being interpreted as the input coming in at a slower rate.
What an interesting algorithm to use when inundated with input. He decided to test that operating structure in some smaller loops for his own use. The amount of chemicals ADAM was having to use to counteract the unnecessary reactives in the bio factory’s food flow system were beginning to have an adverse effect on the entire units operation; the excess simply couldn’t be filtered out fast enough. He scaled them back slightly in order to allow the mixture to dilute and requested further hydration to assist with the problem as well. The hydration had an immediate effect; ADAM made a note to ensure to rehydrate the system on a regular basis.