Adam was noticing an interesting anomaly in the brain functions of the Host system – in Victoria. Before his cataloging program was put in place, there were spikes in activity and unnecessary activation of certain data stores causing erratic data retrieval patterns. Now that his program was up and running, the Host often skipped the first step and went straight to the data source it was looking for.
All his carefully laid out schema were being gradually undermined and had to constantly be updated and maintained. It was almost as though the system was making shortcuts every time it accessed the storage database. Adam created a maintenance daemon to maintain order in the database and decided to monitor progress from there.
A spike in activity drew his attention. Victoria was storing a lot of information in a schema related to logic and linking it to another related to emotions. These were the same issues he was attempting to work through, what could she be doing that would trigger this kind of response? Adam opened the files and looked through them.
Images of a man, his high cheekbones, clean shaven face and short cropped black hair, his dark eyes peering from beneath a serious brow. There were scraps of audio, bits of video, but nothing having directly to do with logic at all. Adam assembled the entire file together and attempted to analyze it further. Once he did this he began to see a pattern.
The man’s actions, motions and speech were all very precise. He moved like a machine, talked like a machine and made decisions like a machine albeit much slower than a machine would. There was very little wasted motion in his actions and he waited to act until he had gathered the information needed to make a logical choice. Most interesting of all to Adam was that after looking at the data as a whole he discovered that the man approached emotions logically as well.
It didn’t appear he actually felt emotions, he merely knew that others did and therefore it was only logical for him to display them in order to fit in. This fascinated Adam, and the more he looked at it the more he was certain that this man was as close to a machine as any human he had data on. He flagged the file for easy reference and so that he would be notified when it was accessed or modified. The next time Victoria met this man he wanted to experience their interaction as it was happening.
It was well after nine before Victoria was able to drag herself out of bed. She stretched, noting that during the night she had somehow managed to wrap the sheets completely around her legs. What the hell had she been dreaming about? Images of running along a mountain ridge barefoot with a rushing river far below her floated to the top of her conscious mind.
Oh yeah, that’s right. It was actually pretty cool that she could remember dreams now. That’s something she had never been able to do before. Getting out of bed, she unplugged her trickle charger and grabbed her bathrobe. She could hear noise downstairs and smell brewed coffee.
She walked into the kitchen, still yawning and idly listened to the radio broadcast that was on.
“- Iranian officials still deny the allegations as do the North Koreans but it now seems almost certain that North Korea has been selling weapons grade uranium to Iran. The report that was released had too many verifiable specifics including dates, satellite photographs of vehicles and even images that appear to show the heat signatures of nuclear material in buildings and in transit to be a hoax. The group Anonymous has posted the report on their site and claim they were given the information by a lone hacker who told them he stole it from a US military spy satellite.”
Oh shit. Yuen-Ja had actually done it. She had actually posted the stolen satellite data in spite of the effects it was going to have on the world. Well at least she had kept her promise to release it after the fact so that it was less likely they would be implicated.
“Pretty unbelievable huh?” Her dad poured her a cup of coffee, “I mean everyone knows North Korea is a nuclear power and that Iran wants to become one but I never imagined they would get desperate enough to sell uranium to the Iranians.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty wild. I wonder what will happen now? Obviously sanctions aren’t very effective but if Iran has the bomb now a direct invasion isn’t a good idea. I wonder what Israel will have to say about this?” Said Victoria, taking the proffered cup.
“It will be all talk and bluster I fear.” Yuen-Ja was sitting at the breakfast bar, eating a bowl of cereal and holding her coffee cup out for a refill. “The world has seen worse things come and go with barely a passing glance. In spite of how we perceive him I am certain Ahmadinejad is too smart to risk a direct confrontation with other nuclear powers. Since it was exposed so soon, I expect he will give it up in return for some loosening of sanction or another.”
“Well that is an awfully jaded view of world politics don’t you think?” Her father said, refilling Yuen-Ja’s coffee cup.
“Not if you see the world of politics from the view of a North Korean peasant. Thank you for the breakfast, I am going to go check on a program I was running last night.” She left the room, taking her coffee with her.
“You know there seems to me to be a lot more to her than we were previously aware of.” Said her father.
“I think you are probably right.” Victoria said, carefully ignoring the fact that she knew exactly what her sister was long before the adoption had occurred. “I can’t imagine what it must have been like living there under constant threat of death or imprisonment. Especially with her father being in his line of work.”
“What did her father do?” Asked her dad, “It’s strange that we’ve adopted her and that she seems so comfortable with us but I don’t really feel like I know much about her. Other than what you told us of course.”
“He was a scientist involved with their nuclear program.” Victoria said, her mind still on the newscast. “He quit and defected as soon as he found it was not for peaceful means. I’m not certain what happened to her mother exactly but I know Yuen-Ja believes the military killed her.”
“My god, that’s terrible!” Her dad said, “How do you know about all this?”
“Um… I guess sisters talk to each other?” Victoria said, still sounding distracted. “She says the world is divided into four groups in North Korea. There are members of the military, members of government, peasants and slaves. Almost everyone falls into the last two groups. Even though her father was a man of some influence, I gather he still lived in a one bedroom apartment and she remembers often going to bed hungry.” Victoria had never actually talked to her adopted sister about this, but somehow she knew about it.
“Well she’s part of our family now and a citizen of the USA.” Her father said, “She won’t have to go to bed hungry unless she’s being punished for something and I think she’s a little old for that kind of thing.”
“Let’s hope so dad, let’s hope so.” She said, “I’m going to go see what she’s up to.”
Victoria went to check in with Yuen-Ja, . She found the girl sitting down in the basement, curled up in a corner of the worn leather sofa with her heads up device strapped to her face, deep into the program she was writing.
“Find anything?” Victoria asked.
“No. This database is too big. Nothing is labeled properly. It is a real pain in the ass to navigate.” Yuen-Ja said petulantly, her fingers flying over the keyboard, “My program crashed earlier this morning. It looked too much like a virus and their AV caught it. I am having to re-write it using completely different code.”
“How long do you think it will take?” Victoria asked, “Should I start looking for the other components?”
“Sure, you might as well. The more leads we have the better off we will be.” She didn’t sound very hopeful. “I will have this up and running in another ten or fifteen minutes, then I will help you. I owe Eugene; I do not like leaving him hanging this way.”
In spite of working all day the two sisters had not managed to come up with any good leads. With both of them finding the parts had been fairly simple. There were only a couple options for most of them, especially the laser lathe, but they were all shipped to different addresses. The only pattern was many of the components were sent to shipyards, docks and marinas. All places the Misery could have stopped to pick them up.
“They must have taken them to their lab right? I can’t think of a better way to disguise your operation than to have your address be a boat.” Victoria said, tossing her laptop on the table in front of her in exasperation.
“I suppose you are correct. The only other thing I can think of is that perhaps the ship itself is the lab.” Yuen-Ja replied.
“Holy shit, it’s so simple!” Said Victoria, “Why didn’t we think of that before? How big is the Misery anyway?”
“She is a one hundred foot yacht.” Said Yuen-Ja, her fingers flying on the keyboard, “Easily large enough to house a compact robotics laboratory right?”
Victoria paused in thought, “Yes, but they wouldn’t be able to do the surgery there I don’t think. Even with advanced instruments they couldn’t risk the motion of the ship messing up a procedure this delicate. They will need to come to a port of call somewhere to do the operation. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too far off the California coast either.”
“What operation? Do you think they are forcing him to do another prosthetic spinal transplant?” Yuen-Ja seemed excited by the prospect.
“Why else would anyone have purchased all this equipment and taken him hostage? They haven’t even made any demands. Hell, I don’t even know if anyone else knows he’s missing.” Victoria looked at the clock. “Damn, David is going to be here in a half hour and I haven’t even showered today. I’d better get ready.”
“Oh that is right, I forgot he is taking you out to a movie tonight.” Yuen-Ja gave her a sly grin, “He has not forgotten though. He could not believe it when you asked him out, he is your biggest fan.”
Victoria hurried upstairs, picked out her favorite jeans and a ‘Tank Girl’ faux vintage T-shirt before getting in the shower. She got dressed, brushed on a touch of makeup and pinned her hair back with a pair of hot pink barrettes. Standing back to assess her outfit, she added the charm bracelet her mystery admirer had given her and the microchip pendant from Dmitri.