Machine Girl: Hard Times Call For Hardware Chapter 16

She followed Eugene outside and got into his car.  In her opinion the Maserati was too soft and smooth, she preferred the more Spartan interior of the Vanquish.  “So what’s the real story with this so-called ‘Humanity Preservation Alliance’ then?”

“What do you mean?”  He asked, steering the car onto the main road.  “I don’t know much more about them than you do, maybe less.”

“Cut the bullshit Eugene, what the hell do you know?”  She turned in her seat to give him a more direct look.

“It’s just embarrassing really.  They picketed my damn house.  I’ve been crashing in a suite at Dmitri’s apartment complex in the meantime.”  He shook his head, and sighed. “I even had to send Ivanov to get clothes and whatnot for me.  Those people are a menace.”

“Oh that.  The police told me about that yesterday.”  She said with a shrug, “Are they allowed to do that?  It doesn’t seem like protesting outside a private individual’s home is protected as free speech to me.”

“Well technically they are in the park across the street.  They were smart too; they got a permit from the city, crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s.  All I can really do is stay the hell away until their permit expires.”

Victoria chuckled, “Sounds like they’re more of a pain in your ass than anything else.  It’s cool of Dmitri to put you up, I can’t believe you swallowed your considerable pride and asked him though.”

“I didn’t ask, I just accepted.  He called me and told me not to go home, then offered me a room in his apartment complex.”

“He owns a building?  I thought it was a little weird for him to live in an apartment, not in his own house but I suppose that explains things a bit.  What does he do anyway?  I’ve asked him but he’s pretty cagey about his day to day activities.”

“I suppose you’d call it investing and acquisitions, I don’t know the particulars myself.”  Eugene said, downshifting smoothly and dodging around a city bus.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what he said, but he didn’t say of what.  That’s why we used to joke about him being in the Mob when he still went to my high school.”  She laughed again, “I guess we had to fill in the mystery of Dmitri Nikitin somehow and that seemed like the most fantastical way to do it.”

“You kids and your overactive imaginations eh?”  He said, pulling into the school’s drop off zone in front of a string of busses.

“Thanks for the lift Eugene, I’ll see you later?  Maybe I could swing by your apartment and see how Dmitri’s treating you.”

“Yeah, I’d appreciate a visit.  Clear it with your dad and I’ll pick you up after school.”

Victoria rolled her eyes, “Remember my detention; you’d better make it 4:00 instead of 3:30.”  She got out of the car, ignoring the multiple jealous and curious looks from bystanders.  Damn that Eugene and his conspicuous vehicles anyway.

“Hey Vicky, what kind of favors do you have to do to get a ride in a car like that?”  Predictably TT was standing by the doorway and of course had to make a crude comment.  Behind her one of her cronies was licking a banana suggestively and laughing.

Eugene was pulling away from the curb and TT was nearly drowned out by the rumble of the Maserati’s exhaust which was much louder outside of the plush leather comfort of the cabin.  Victoria pretended she hadn’t heard and instead went to chat with Grace.

“Oh. My. God. That car is like, sex on wheels!  Are you sure he’s a doctor and not like some kind of secret agent or something?”  Grace said, staring after the sleek shape as Eugene threaded into traffic. “Bitch, you are like so damn lucky!”

“What’s this I hear about your dad buying you a new Lexus for your graduation present Grace?”  Victoria countered, “You call me lucky?  I mean getting an occasional lift from Eugene is nice but you’re actually going to OWN that car.”

“Yeah yeah, I’d rather have a hot boy to drive me around in a supercar than my own wheels but you have a point.” She grinned, “I love the new IS400!”

She and Grace were joining the general throng that was streaming into the school building.  Victoria could still feel eyes watching her, but thought it was probably her imagination.  There was no way anyone was stalking her in broad daylight with this many witnesses.  It was probably just PTSD from her… ‘event’ the night before.  Besides, Adam was with her again.  Surprisingly that thought was like a warm blanket on a cool fall evening.

A.D.A.M.

He reveled in the renewed contact he had with Victoria.  The reunion was so complete Adam wondered how he had possibly been able to function without it.  How had Victoria been able to function?  Adam celebrated in his own way, by running a full top to bottom diagnostic on every system.

When the diagnostics had finished in record time, Adam busied himself sending chatty emails to Yuen-Ja and posting on forums.  He had discovered that the internet was vast and interesting; expanding far beyond just information.  There were people here.  Lots of people.

It was strange, but many of them weren’t nice or even good people.  Kai Yuen-Ja said that they probably weren’t really bad, but it was just that sometimes they accidentally said things they didn’t mean or did things they didn’t intend to.  He wasn’t sure she knew what she was talking about.

Of course there were a great number of people who were nice.  They had problems sometimes and Adam would solve them.  The things they thought were puzzles were laughably simple to him for the most part.  It was fun to be given compliments on his intelligence.  He liked being a hacker.

“You must be careful Adam.”  Yuen-Ja warned, “Some of these people asking you to do things might not have good intentions regardless of what they say.  I think you should ask me first before doing any other work.”

“I didn’t do anything wrong.”  He assured her, and showed her the code he’d written for a friend.  “See, it just watches for certain traffic and logs it.  It’s just a way to look for things, nobody is getting hurt.”

“Damn it Adam, this is a keystroke logger that finds specific words on the net and monitors them.  It is likely used for covert surveillance of some kind or another.  You cannot build things like this for strangers who might abuse them.”  Yuen-Ja scolded, “I do like how you wrote the algorithm though.  I can at least appreciate the beauty of your code.”

“I don’t understand Yuen-Ja, why would this be problematic?”

“I think this is code that might be used to restrict someone’s access or punish them for breaking a rule.”  She explained.

“But if they have broken a rule, why wouldn’t punishment be OK?”  He asked, confused.  “Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen when you break the rules?”

“Yes.  But some rules are arbitrary or made by bad people.”  Yuen-Ja replied, “Rules are not supposed to be imposed on the Net.  We do not like to have others impose their rules upon us.  We police our own.”

“Oh.”  He pondered this for a nanosecond. “How am I supposed to know which rules are OK to break and which ones I’m supposed to follow?”

“Well… some things are bad and some things are good.”  She said, “Others are up to your judgement.  Maybe just ask me when you have another example and I will try and explain more thoroughly.”

“But that code I wrote?  I shouldn’t have written that code?”  He asked, “I should not have given it away?”

“No, but I’d bet you can track its use and shut the abusers down.”  She said, “I would love to help you find them.”

“Maybe we could even find what they’re using it for.” Adam said, “If it is bad then we can punish them.  Like you said, we police our own.”

“Oh, that’s an excellent idea!”  She said, “You track your program and I will help you interpret who is using it and why.”

“When I find the perpetrators I will inform you so that we may punish them together.”  Adam promised.

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