“This is a what?” The TSA agent had only glanced at the papers Eugene had proffered and was now staring at the back of Victoria’s head. He grabbed the radio transmitter at his shoulder, “I’m going to need a female officer here.”
“What’s the problem Sir? Didn’t you read the medical release form? My patient has a prosthetic spinal column and needs to be exempted from normal scanning procedures.” Eugene was annoyed, but in this case Victoria knew compliance was the fastest way to get through security. They had their protocols after all.
“No problem, I’ll take the papers and your female officer can compare the notes on the waiver application to my prosthetic. I appreciate your concern for the safety of your passengers.” She smiled at the TSA agent and saw him relax. “I know it looks weird but it’s really a medical miracle.”
“Victoria, this isn’t necessary. We have all our paperwork in order you don’t need an additional screening.” Eugene frowned at her with a look that included the officer behind her.
“Don’t worry Doc, it’s fine. I just want to get through security in a timely manner so we don’t miss our flight. I’m sure they won’t mind if you wait outside the screening room.” A side door opened and a bored looking woman in TSA blues and medical gloves stood there.
“Miss Scott, this way please.” Victoria patted Eugene’s arm and walked into the room with the woman. “My name is Geraldine and I’ll be doing your screening. I just need you to answer some questions and then we’re going to do a physical search. I’ll need you to initial on this privacy form that says we won’t share your information with any non-governmental agencies.” Her voice was monotone; it was obvious she did this all day.
“Geraldine? That’s my middle name!” Victoria took the waiver sheet from her and scanned it. “What’s this about reporting any unusual behavior to Homeland Security? Aren’t these extended searches automatically reported to them?”
“Huh? Well I think it just means we report any suspicious stuff. I don’t know, we never had anyone actually read the thing before.” Geraldine’s brow creased as she looked at Victoria’s sheet, “Suspicion of carrying contraband? What’s going on here hon?”
“Well it’s like this Geraldine, I have a prosthetic spine. See I got cancer and had to have my old one replaced.” Victoria turned to show her back.
“Holy Mary Mother of God, what on Earth child!” Geraldine sounded less shocked than her outburst would have indicated; more scandalized than anything else. Well I guess they replace everything these days.”
“Actually it’s the first and only of its kind. I think that’s why we’re running into so much trouble. Do you need me to take off my shirt?”
“Uh, I need to get an expert in here.” Geraldine said, “I have no idea what this is.”
“No problem, I can actually explain the technical specifications to you if you’d like.” Victoria smiled, “Or I can help to explain it to anyone you want to have come take a second look if you’d prefer.”
“Only problem is our only bomb expert on duty today is a man.” Geraldine frowned, “I don’t know enough about what I’m looking at here to authorize you to fly.”
“So send him in.” Victoria shrugged, “I don’t really care one way or another.”
“What? Honey, I don’t know if you understand what I’m saying here. Since that … thing is on your back it’s gonna require you to disrobe.”
“It’s just flesh; I don’t have anything to be ashamed of.” Victoria knew she should be worried about being naked in front of other people but for some reason it didn’t bother her; this was the fastest way to get through security short of breaking the law, and that was generally counterproductive long term.
“Well, if I could get you to sign a release form I’ll call him in I guess. I ain’t never had this happen before; hopefully we got something that will work.” Geraldine wandered off through a side door still muttering unbelievingly to herself. It seemed that she was more shocked by Victoria’s lack of modesty than her prosthetic.
Victoria looked around the room surreptitiously, and easily spotted no less than three cameras and two microphones. Damn, there wasn’t any way out of it, oh well. It was the most logical decision based on the situation. The door opened and Geraldine came back in with a man in his early forties. Shit he could have been her dad.
“Hello, I’m David. Geraldine tells me she needs a consult, can I see the item in question?” Victoria turned her back and lifted her camisole. “Sweet Christ in heaven what the hell is that?”
“Didn’t Geraldine show you the whitepaper?” Victoria turned to face him. “It’s a robotic spinal replacement. They give it the acronym ADAM, short for Artificial Directed Autonomous cerebruM which I think is kind of silly but nonetheless is a pretty accurate description.”
He averted his eyes until she pulled her shirt back over her head “I’m going to have to do some checks here; I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He left the room with his clipboard clutched to his chest. Well shit, what now?
The door opened again, way too quickly and a woman in a military uniform slipped in, closing it quietly behind her. “Listen, sorry for all this bullshit but it was the only way I could get in to talk to you. I’m Lieutenant Caarlgard, US Marine Corps. We need your help, is there any way you can do just one thing for us?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Victoria asked, lowering her voice to a dangerous whisper. “What are you doing here and what exactly the fuck do you want?”
ADAM had been ignoring the surface functions of the unit for some time now; they were too complex, seemingly random and interrelated for him to properly decipher their impact on the overall system. He had instead been focusing on making the underlying support systems, making the power delivery and waste management vehicles operate at peak performance.
A direct and almost immediate result was an increase in the Host’s mobility. With the chassis being able to deliver power anywhere it needed to at a moment’s notice, the host’s mobility potential increased by at least a factor of two.
Despite him not paying attention to the nominal inputs other than ensuring proper routing ADAM kept discovering flaws in his code that appeared to have been written there by the Host system itself. He had instituted serious security protocols but the Host system seemed to be either immune or so powerful that it simply ignored them. This was problematic, as the flaws that were impacting his logical systems and there didn’t seem to be anything he could do about it.
Suspect behavior set off an alarm in ADAM’s subroutines and he activated his emergency protocols. There was a department of defense level attack on his systems and he responded with extreme prejudice, crushing it with all the immense power his integration with the Host computer had placed at his disposal.
In spite of the vast power he had available to him and the expertise with which he wielded it, ADAM had to spend the better part of twenty five seconds rooting out the source of the attack. Quite an accomplishment.
ADAM internalized the subroutines that had been used in the attempt to compromise his systems and built countermeasures designed to turn the attacks against themselves using a modified version of his own AI code. A self-contained, intelligent, almost self-aware antiviral program. He took a moment to look at what he’d done and found he’d exceeded even his own expectations.
“What am I doing here? Didn’t you read the message from HQ? This was the only way we could get to you without surveillance.” The woman looked totally confused.
“No, I didn’t get the fucking memo. I want to know exactly what you’re talking about, in plain English please.” Victoria crossed her arms; she wasn’t sure why she was so angry. Some part of her knew it was a gamble to behave like this but she didn’t stop. This person was statistically likely to respond to a direct approach.
“Umm… OK, well we’re on the trail of a super world-class hacker who we believe has compromised Pentagon security and possibly stolen part of the data gathered by one of our satellites and we want your help to find him before he sells it to someone. Is that plain enough for you?”
“What kind of satellite?” Victoria couldn’t control herself, “Listen bitch, I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but if this is serious I expect to be taken seriously.”
“It’s a military surveillance satellite. We’ve been using it over the last couple years to keep an eye on the North Korean’s nuclear program incognito and if they get proof of what we’ve been doing it’s likely to cause a major international incident.” She leaned forward on the table, “Listen, we think you’re our best chance; the hack originated from a casino hotel in Las Vegas. The Bellagio, the same hotel you’re staying in on your business trip with Dr. Arlington.”
“If I agree to try and find this guy you’ll get me through security?” Victoria asked. “You’d better do better than that since you orchestrated this farce in the first place.”
“I guarantee smooth sailing every time you fly as long as you’re helping us out, plus I will double the commission Dr. Arlington is offering you.” Victoria raised an eyebrow, “OK triple, but that’s the best I can do.”
“Lieutenant, you’ve got yourself a deal. I’ll try and find this hacker and recover any data if you get me through security without all this hassle. Well and the payment doesn’t hurt either.” Victoria figured she didn’t have anything to lose, after all she had no possible way of finding their man and even if she could there wasn’t anything she’d be able to do to recover the data.
“Great. I’m giving you a program that was written to integrate with ADAM’s AI. Once it’s loaded it will give you a HUD that overlays the data it gathers onto your eye using a specialized contact lens.” She handed Victoria a small metal case that looked like a makeup compact. “The software and hardware are in here along with a digital instruction book that you can review during your flight. There’s also contact information for extraction when you find him. Thank you Victoria, and good luck.”
With that she ducked back out the same door she had come in. Victoria pocketed the case and sat, wondering if she had done the right thing. Either way she felt a thrill of excitement, new software had so many possibilities. After a couple of minutes Geraldine came back in with a puzzled look on her face.
“Well hon, I guess you are good to go. David got a call from our head of security and he said you have a green light.” She shook her head, “You take care now and have a safe flight.”