Friday, June 3, 2011

Terminus Machina: Debugging The Class War

The Phasma’s lithium-air powered electric engines whined down like a CPU going into hibernation. Jack got out, patting it on its onyx-finished grapheme hood, a dog having completed his master’s task. Its 6G/wifi antenna wagged back and forth, almost in celebraton, as it piloted itself back out of the Cybersec employee entrance and to the nearest recharging station to quench its thirsty cathodes.

“Good morning, Jack – underscore - Newman. Your bodily presence is required by Director Winkleman in the War Room-“ The patrolling goliath-class security bot boomed. Its vocal synthesizer’s formants were selected purposefully to sound like the Skynet sci-fi military bot cliche, pop-cultural short hand igniting instantaneous fear and awe. Not that its Totech engineers had gone all bark-no bite and skimped on firepower; the Leviathan MK4 could level a city block in short order, if the economy wasn’t already taking care of that job.

“Ok, ok Gengis, I’m on it. And I thought we talked about pointing that gattling railgun in people’s faces. You’re never going to score with the vending machine if you come on all gung ho with the banana in the pocket thing.” Blasts of compressed air exhaled as the hulking twenty tons of metal obediently lowered its weapon in compliance

“Sorry Jack – underscore - Newman.”

“Oh, and ‘command rename self equals Jack Newman’, I’ve got no middle name.”

“Understood, Jack Newman.”

Ionsdaleite synthdiamond blast doors parted, the opalescent allotrope face marred by a black star-shaped burn mark. The only epitaph of the last suicide bomber, a Volkswagon packed with plastique explosives, driven in by some jobless Deadweight, turned terrorist.

“They’ve got to send some janitorbots to clean that shit up. Getting weird, you know? As if we need to be constantly reminded how badly the Pleb insurgents want to World Trade Center us.” Jack complained to the checkpoint guard as he squeezed his head into the qMRI/MEG brain scanner. The guard’s face was a mask of paramilitary professionalism.

“I agree sir, but the cleaners are malfunctioning. Head still, sir, you know the drill.” A thousand micro trodes glommed onto Jack’s cranium. Encephalometric identification was the new Black in security world. The machine flashcarded three randomly selected words (‘pig’, ‘justice’, and ‘blue’ this time) each causing a unique storm of neural firings mapping to Jack’s “envisioning” of the concept as it formed in his third-eye. The flux of thought-notes in turn harmonized into specific electromagnetic field symphonies, billowing colonies of idea association and metaphor generation, which the scanner matched to previous concept-cloud recordings of the user down to the quantum microtubules. Deep encryption, whose hash algorithm consisted of the user’s subconscious, their snowflake-unique personality, and whose key was the resulting stream of consciousness itself. Des Cartesian verification: “I think therefore I am me.”

EID was unbreakable, short of owning a living, atom-for-atom replica of the original noggin. You couldn’t even shove someone’s head in at gun point, as the scanner factored in the brain wave differentials resulting from duress. Thought-scans racked the brains of James Bond rehash writers and Tom Clancy clones alike; gone were the days of ghosting into covert compounds by peeling a micropore gel pad off a martini glass for a hand print, dangling an eyeball by the severed optic nerve before a laser scan. But they were +1 for Jack’s company. Of course recommendation-engine enabled MediaGen AIs wrote all the scripts and mashed up “your own personal movie” with a virtual keypress, so filmmaking itself had already gone the way of typesetting.

“How’s Suzy doing?”

“Good, sir. Tomorrow’s my day off, I’m planning to take her to Gagaland.”

“That’s great. Be sure to get some good footage. Holopics or it didn’t happen!” Jack unslotted his head as the machine cleared him.

“Of course, sir.”

“Well I better get in there and get them out of their handbasket.”

The Cybersec War Room was a sprawling mess of unoccupied screens strobing crisis-red, left vacant by employee machinesourcing. Understaffed threefold, and with demonstrations and riots spreading like wildfire across the skylight newsfeeds, all the king’s blazers and all the king’s polo shirts were scrambling to put Cybersec’s drone-army together again. So, basically, a usual day.

“Outstanding. What hemisphere of the sky is falling today, my brethren?” Jack cracked his knuckles as his dVice communed with the Cybersec intra-cloud, laminating another layar of context-info over his FOV. Avatar icons, framed in the Cybersec branding scheme of gold and blue popped up over the heads of team-mates with status microblurbs, all of which read, “stressed”. There were only seven human agents on the floor this morning, compared to the hundreds of robotic operatives deployed in the field and hundreds more AI handlers, fighting Pleb insurgents, preventing terrorist attacks by the billions of layed off workers who’d snapped. Near-pervasive automation of police and military. with humans handling the troubleshooting and highest-level issues, guiding overall objectives. Making sure the bot bureaus and armies were acting in the best interests of their owners, the private enclave megaglomerates, the only game in town after government budget gutting left law enforcement without enough change to pay for badges Three such ranking Troubleshooter agents under Jack pow-wowed around his terminal.

“Here’s the tweet briefing. With the help of that sexy patch you sent this morning, we’ve managed to plug most of the holes in the Sherlock 4.0s’ heuristics. But things are getting ugly out there and we’re running out of fingers here, Jack” Stasia, the colorful NorwAsian resident den mother and lead psych/social engineering agent reported, biting a tye-dye polished nail for emphasis/flirtation. “The Replicants seem to have stopped targeting innocents, thankfully. The fixed code eliminated the facial-rec bug and rooted out the false-positives we were getting for individuals on the kill-list and other wanted suspects.”

“Have the QA algs come up with an explanation for the bugs?” Jack asked.

“Yeah, it seems like the user info and social graphs Facebook sold us contained fabricated data which ‘framed’ innocent individuals.” Stasia snapped open a Facebook profile-pic of an innocent schoolteacher who had been gunned down. Steganographic overlay showed minute anomalous distortions; the ridge of a nose sharpened here, the geometry of a jawline squared there, effectively altering the identity registered by the 8-parameter Cognito algorithm. Jack sighed.

“Let me guess, we’re not sure if the data rot is coming from within Facebook or from someone paid to hack into Facebook and tweak certain users’ pics and social networks to make them appear like they’re connected to or harboring terrorists. Or if the tampering is coming from a mole right here in Cybersec itself.”

The Russian lead security consultant cleared his throat. “I assure, we have no security breach.” Sekyuritee bureech, interjected sharp, snide Slavic consonants which betrayed a Cold War one-up condescendence that refused to die, like the Cold War’s two errant once-superpowers, still limping along on the fumes of their own mythology. “I run hand-code omniheuristic firewall around server, four hundred million node botnet defense web with rotating protocol. Cybersec like Pentagon, or Kremlin more like. Even more secure than those, since I break in there four year ago, steal secret-“

“That’s enough, Kirov. Plausible deniability, comrade, plausible deniability.” Jack cut him off, then turned back to Stasia. “Well at least the bots aren’t homicidal anymore, that’s a plus in any rubric. Winkleman will be happy to have some good damage control news for the Meths upstairs.”

“Right. But…” Stasia nervously tapped the subdermal dVice beneath the skin of her forearm, powered by intra-artery hemoturbines.


“But, apparently the roboagents’ threat-analysis threshold has dropped too low. We had one agent on Broadway and Eighth that didn’t attack until the hostile was about to point-blank it in the face with an RPG. Suffice it to say, that Replicant has been terminated.” Stasia deflated slightly, as if she could’ve prevented it.

“So essentially, we’ve got Ghandibots.” An older Samuel L. Jackson cleared the gravel out of his throat and spit on his own 5.11 Tactical Boots, kicking the Janinator bot as it whirred over dutifully to clean the saliva from its lord’s besmirched footwear. “Fuckin’ typical.”

“Thanks for the pithy framing, Darius. Ok, so we’ve got to up the Replicants’ fight/flight mechanisms. What’s the status on the riots?”

“See for yourself.” Stasia lobbed into Jack’s headspace a direct ocular, aural, and limited somatosensory uplink to one of the robo-operatives on the front line. Jack clicked “accept”, slid through a digital wormhole into the shoes of Replicant “GI134”.

RPLCNT. Remote Piloted Low-latency Cyber Neural Tele-operative. “Replicants” colloquially. The descendant of the Predator Drone and anthropomorphic robotics, the RPLCNT was the Holy Grail of the battlefield: the android soldier. The “skinjobs”, made popular during the Intellectual Property Wars, struck terror into the hearts of terrorists, bloodlust into the hearts of military-industrial complex thinktanks. In the age of zero-casualty war where machines killed your technologically disadvantaged enemies for you while you puppeteered them comfortably from your Pentagon armchair, what were once Earth-shaking events called wars were now one-sided video games – 4X real-time-strategy games with epic graphics. The usual roadblocks to wars of choice – public outrage as the flag-wrapped coffins started piling up – were stripped away, reopening a whole new and deadly chapter of brute-force colonialism. Any country that had some resource – oil, water, lithium – desired by some bigger, ostensibly “civilized” country was promptly invaded by soldierbots, leaving the ashes for UN peacekeapers to sort out. True colors were revealed as no cover story of “spreading democracy” or “protecting human rights” or “The War Against (Abstract Concept)” was necessary. No need to install a friendly genocidal dictator to maintain a steady supply of oil or slave labor. Hundreds of millions died beneath the cold steel barrel of remote-controlled terminators across the world. The Middle East and Africa were scorched into strip-mined wastelands in short order.

Plumes of smoke rampaged spitefully across the Corona commercial sky of Blue County Enclave, filling the gold white and blue reflected in the mile-high glass towers of Ameribank City with mad black ash the color of the San Francisco Pleblands. Dell Boulevard was a Great Flood of jobless marketing reps, nurses, biotech researchers, construction workers, lawyers, and every other niche and faction of obsolesced human protesting their obsolescence, overflowing the banks of the sidewalk. Millions upon millions marched, epithet-splashed signs held high, fists pumping in the air. Deafening cacophony, like two thirds of Bay Area were cavalcading down these streets: not far from the truth, given the 60% unemployment rate. They were dressed in their former work clothes – dark suits, firefighter turnout coats, ER scrubs – clinging unflinchingly to the threads of their fading identities. Roaring choruses of angry chanting came in disorganized viral waves, “No more automation!” “Eat the Plutos! Eat the rich!” “End the social cuts!” “I am not a gadget!” . Teams of humanoid-robot riot police carrying shields, stunwhips and microwave dispersal guns patrolled, spread thin by the sheer numbers, trying to keep the crowds away from storefronts, and occasionally entangling in skirmishes with the more violent rioters. The furious demonstrations stretched for miles, from the interstate all the way to Nexus Square in the financial district.

“Fear not, till Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane.” Stasia said, startling Jack out of his telepresence reverie. He windowed the robo-operative’s feed to his right eye and ear to split his focus between the Cybersec War Room and the demonstrations.

“Ok, this is bad, but not code red, yet. It’s not so out-of-the-ordinary: the protests and riots have been going on for months, their numbers have gone up maybe 30% since last week. The change is really only quantitative. Nothing our RPLCNT, military bot, and drone teams can’t handle.” Jack rejoined.

“Yes, perhaps. But quantity has quality all its own.” Kirov koaned cryptically, brows knitting as if recalling some painful demonstration of this concept in his days back in Sovietland.

“Right. ‘The Will of The People’ and everything, very touching. It might’ve even been a moving scene, if they weren’t hopeless Deadweights, inhibiting legitimate business and destroying private property.” Jack said.

A Starbeans and two McDenny’s had had their windows smashed in, gaping hole in the 99 cent double cheeseburger ad drizzling loose glass. Masked thugs short-circuited the android clerk with French fry lard and overturned the register in a cloud of green confetti, looting the cash. An Ameribank financial tower had been been defaced in radioactive green graffiti with tags reading, “Heister Barons” and “Too Big To Exist”. A fireman hurled a flare into a Lamborghini, setting it ablaze, only to see the fire put out by the wrist-mounted hose of a firefighter droid who had taken his job. A flashmob shoved the bot with its firehose into the burning car, then rocked the AI-driven firetruck till it toppled over, igniting a paroxysm of foaming mouths cheering with anti-robot schadenfreude.

“I don’t know, man, what’s so legit about fucking copyrighted RealDolls selling copyrighted-DNA vatburgers cooked by copyrighted 90 IQ microwaves? I mean, I’m no prized Harvard economist, but isn’t there supposed to be some good ‘ol honest human labor adding value in this supply chain, as opposed to just some aristocrats owning shit that makes shit by itself? I shooed off a fuckload a’ hookers back in my beat days, but at least they shook their asses off for their mon-” Darius’ voice was a black Tom Waits’ as he hacked a gob of carcinogenic phlegm, punctuating one of his chance warrior-poet insights. Jack ignored them.

“See, this is why computers need to run things. People will always get themselves into a downward spiral of nasty brutish fuck-upedness,” Jack captioned the scene.

Jack’s visual feed studdered as a thrown rock struck robo-operative GI134 in its polymer deltoid. Jack’s nerve-nanos, networked with his dVice, zapped him with electrostatic in his right shoulder, simulating the hit like a total-body rumble controller. Jack’s mount turned its head on its servo-powered neck in an automatic programmed reflex. Its facial rec immediately identified the hostile, unfolding a dossier above his head revealing every detail from his body temperature to his Funstation gamertag to the date and time of his first kiss. Langley, Jonas. 19. Two counts of minor theft from Enclave members, three counts of destruction of Enclave property, one count tampering with Enclave systems.

“Yeah, you like that, fucking toaster?” The little imp flipped his peacockish punk-cut, tossed another rock that rang the bot’s femur like a tubular bell. The bot however failed to engage the operative.

“Yeah, looks like we do need to up the aggression on these pacifist security bots.” Jack sighed. He whipped out a flurry of commands, which erected a virtual façade of realtime dubbuggers. He tested the junctures in the bot AI’s executive logic for the weak link that was providing the chrome soldier with too much conscience.

“Bingo, here we go.” Jack dislodged a neon silver key in the AI’s morality registry, spoke an incantation for voice confirmation. “Disengage Assimov Safety, all agents. Access code: X90D3C401” The first rule of robotics: “a robot may not injure a human being” thrown out the window as whimsically as cancelling a credit card. The operative’s human-like unconditional altruism vanished like a Catholic schoolgirl’s mores upon discovering the joys of a co-ed college kegger, or a politician discovering lobbyists. The newly malevolent GI134 immediately engaged its weapon systems, mapped a path between the hordes of protesters and began approaching the stone caster, who was hiding behind the now flaming Lamborghini.

“Jonas Langley, you are under arrest for assauling an officer. Put down your weapons. You have ten seconds to comply.” The RPLCNT’s voice was scientifically calculated to evoke fear and submission responses in the human species, a potent mix of lions roar and James Earl Jones’ Vader.

The punk flipped the bird and tossed another rock. The RPLCNT raised its arm toward the perp, its swat jacket and synthetic human skin showing for the first time. The tangerine peacock wave instinctively vanished behind the immolated sports car.

“Recalculating…” Darth Vader said, in its irritated GPS nav voice. Infrared revealed the little rebel was grasping the metal chassis of the vehicle, and the bot’s neural nets crackled, put together the concept of metal conductivity and electroshock incapacitation, formulating a plan. Something shuttered open in its palm, compressed air firing twin electrodes which struck the passenger door, delivering 1.2 million volts of electricity straight through into Peacock Head. His body ragdolled. GI134 made its way around the vehicle to discover him writhing on the ground in an epileptic mess.

“Resistance is futile, Jonas. You’re done.” Jack spoke through the medium of the bot. Though his words came through in the same fearmongerish voice, the miscreant could tell it was a human controller by the unmistakable change in inflection and diction. The rioter’s mouth twitched, foamed, but he eventually regained control of his vocal chords.

“F-F-Fucking Enclave fascists! C—c-come out of your climate-controlled b-b-bunkers and f-f-fight me, pussy!”

Jack bristled, engaged a virtual joystick, guiding the operative’s palm-mounted taser towards the anime banged forehead. “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, mother fucker.” The perp was knocked out instantly, the body spasming unconscious.

“Jesus, Jack.” Stasia grimaced.

“He’ll live. These assholes need to be taught a lesson. Look, their rage against the machines and the ‘Blue Bloods’ is withering and will continue to wither as the days wear on with no regime change, no bargaining, no talks, no ebbing of the tide of human job displacement or return of their precious ‘social safety net’ that they’re hoping for. Their “color revolution” is a pipe dream that will never come. It will be tough, but we’ve got to break their spirits to win. Then this, too, will pass if we just keep the system’s gears oiled and operating.”

Jack drew a rectangular frame around a cross-section of marchers within the operative’s feed, zoomed in, and tossed it up into the War Room holo-display as a case-in-point for the others. One could see the desperation setting into heavy, sinking, cyanosized eyes. Crisp ironed work shirts becoming filthy torn rags, grimy faces sporting bloody and bruised cheekbones from beatings by the robotic riot police, such as the one Jack was jacked into. Who knew how much longer these protesters could hold together?

“Jack, I don’t think you’re seeing the whole picture here.” Stasia’s calico-tipped digits rifled through a list of unit bookmarks, the operative IPs scrolling like credits on fast-forward. Upon locating it, she tapped into the feed of another military bot posted deeper into the San Fran Pleblands. The War Room dimmed, as if the space were filling with the darkness of the scenes streaming through the holographic display.

An office worker and his family, now living out of a car and cans of pork ‘n beans. A long-terminated doctor, tearing the sleeves from his lab coat to patch the bloodied, swollen eye of a flight attendant. People fighting tooth and nail over mere scraps of food as the City By The Bay dissolved into anomie. Bodies of those who had starved, been trampled, or were slaughtered by Cybersec security bots lay unburied in the streets, swarming with flies. A truly horrible, apocalyptic scene, but a nightmare which had persisted for so long it had become the Normal. The early 21st century with its 10% unemployment, Islamist “terrorism” hysteria, climate obsession, and mere billion starving African kids, that foreign country of the past now seemed the dream. A utopia, Eden, fading like the hopes and dreams in a twelve year-old’s eyes as he threw away his astronaut action figure, and picked up a rifle, to fire upon a military bot. The hulking droid turned, its AI identifying the child as a hostile, raised its .50 cal cannon to return fire.

The images seared his eyes, the bloody puddle of limbs exhuming memories of Diego's car crash, and Jack turned away. This was not his responsibility. Don’t let the Deadweights drag you into their framing of the situation, Jack remembered from his Cybersec training.

“All I’m saying here is let’s think outside of the Enclave box. If the social economic fabric continues to deteriorate this way, we might find ourselves mired in a Chinese-style revolt. Let’s just think about multi-pronging here, using a little more carrots and less sticks, start multilateral talks with the demonstrators” Stasia pleaded.

“We don’t negotiate with Jobless. That’s official Blue Blood policy, straight from the top. I’ll take your suggestions under advisement.” Jack began, escalating the responsibility up the chain of command. He felt the slightest pang of hypocrisy, then remembered his position. Remembered his responsibilities to his family.

“These people brought this upon themselves when they became lazy, when they chose to take government handouts, failed to make themselves of value to productive society. When they became Deadweights. We’re just the Troubleshooters, we fix the bugs in the system and get the hell out of the way. We do our job. And you’d all better fucking well do your job, or you’ll find you soon won’t have one, just like them.”

Jack could almost hear the simultaneous gulps of the three Troubleshooters as they considered the possibility of being tossed out of the Enclave’s sanctuary into the hell-on-Earth of the Deadweight Pleblands. Employees were constantly having their shifts eclipsed, being replaced by AIs and androids left and right. The lucky few still with a job did everything to gain edge, to prove value and desirability to the Blue County Plutos, the infinitely rich Owners of the Universe whose itchy trigger fingers were always eager to fire more “Deadweight” human employees.


“Ah, I am thinking you should all seeing this.” Kirov added a third layer of Trouble to the Troubleshooters’ holographic agenda board.

The feed was streaming from an air-dragon drone, patrolling invisibly above another section of the city near Gnossis Plaza downtown, its near-translucent eel-like body undulating in the sky like the ghost of a great Chinese festival puppet. Below, clouds of protesters seemed to be coalescing, galvanizing around a storm eye: a man in a blue janitor workshirt and cap, megaphone in hand, perched atop the Gnossis Plaza fountain.

“Brothers and sisters, this is a war. This is a war on the people of this city, of this country, of this world. A war initiated by those in power, by the global plutocracy. By the puppetmasters of the financial-military-robotics complex, and the tools that they have bought and paid for that they call a government.” The man continued speaking to thunderous cheers and applause. A human-musician, grunge-reenactivist band started playing an autotuned techno rehash of Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up”.

“Alright who is this asshole. I want his Facebook page as fast as inhumanly possible.” The Sherlock 4.0 AIs churned away, cyberdetectives examining every fingerprint and CCTV snapshot in meat and cyberspace. Potential vocal and partial-facial rec matches popped up like playing cards on the warboard. The AI’s neural nets were still tangled though, none of the hits showed high probability. Jack needed religious fundamentalist-caliber certainty.

“We need a better angle,” Jack determined.

Stasia conjured the air dragon’s virtual flight stick via her dVice with an interlocking-finger hand gesture, a ninja magic kuji-in summoning the mythic beast of stealth. She piloted it downward, descending the valleys of glass formed by the dizzyingly tall financial towers, towards the roiling crowds below.

“We’ve got positive ID. Paolo Guevarao. Higher-up in the World Class War, San Francisco chapter.”

“Motherfucking, World Class War. Of course.” Jack sighed.

World Class War’s official Cloudsite blurb was, “a coalition of organizations dedicated to the betterment of the lives of the underclass around the world.” There was Human Rights United, the bleeding heart Peace Corps on steroids, whose mission statement was improving basic living standards of the 80% of the world that was drowning in poverty. Then there were the anti-robotics Autonomites and Association for Human Agency, the 21st century wave of Luddites who believed the way forward through the Marxian human-obsolesence dilemma was backward, a return to the relative dark ages of the end of the 20th century. They believed a Turing Test should be enforced such that the smartest robots allowed were furbies and Call of Duty mook AIs. The Open Source Ecology people were the spiritual progeny of the enviro-commies, who gave away self-replicating tractors to third worlders in an attempt to create a plague of self-sustaining, close-knit, resilient communities: a truly apocalyptic scenario. Then of course there were the many departments of Ivory Tower Post-Capitalist, and charlatan futurist like the Venus Project people. Those academics mostly just sipped overpriced coffee and got off on viral 70’s sci-fi documentaries about the bad bad bad System, which had to be overthrown and replaced with their dissertation-plans for a Perfect World, which were diatribed in twelve chapters of crypto-Marxist theoryspeak. Armchair activism, no real affect on reality. Benign growths. Then there was the veritable rainbow of lone-wolf conspiracy nuts, anarchists, stoners, miscellaneous anti-System cultists, angsty malleable teen girls joining said cults, horny teen boys eager to mold said teen girls, neo-jihadists, and wanna-be trust-fund baby revolutionaries.

Somehow, World Class War had managed to unite, however loosely and contingently, all of these disparate, often seemingly conflicting (dis)organizations into one, fairly cohesive whole. It was almost as if WCW had evolved organically, of its own right, in response to post-post-industrial existence. Like the Anarchists who sprung from the asbestos-eaten bowels of Industrialization. Like Jihad terrorism, forged in the grease pits of culture-imperialism, a pendulous backhand rebuttal to the Globalist triumphalism simmering in milieu of televised burning oil wells and collaterally decimated schools and hospital "miscalculations". World Class War filled a sort of societal yin to the excessive yang of exponential global inequality, as the sole phenomenon that nature abhors more than a vaccuum is a cold-front imbalance. High-level PlebRebel praetors would even claim that mass movements, more than unimpeachable 3% GDP growth or strong-jawed white history-test figures were the real prime movers of advancement in civilization.

But for Blue County Enclave, i.e. for Cybersec, i.e. for Jack and his team, World Class War was an ugly hydra of nonviolent organized resistance against the Enclaves. The Plutos would’ve jumped at the first chance to disappear the lot of them, Mexico City style. But they had this nasty universalized tendency to not commit any outward aggression, thus disallowing brutal aggression against them, for fear of repercussions. “If you can’t get this little Plebian charade under control, we’ll find someone who can,” Jack recalled from his last meeting with director Winkleman.

“I want the RPLCNTs, the drones, the Sherlocks up this guy’s ass like a 6G enema. I don’t want his blood sugar to change without us knowing about it.” Jack demanded. “Also, let’s blackout his #World Class War channel from the search engines and recommendation engines.”

“What about social media updates? Those digital grass roots tend to be the biggest vectors for these revolutionary movements. Remember what happened in Iran? Total mess.” One of the cadets on the lower level asked as he was busy tweaking the Gnossis pagerank algorithm to force WCW related sites to the 300 millionth result page of any ‘net search.

“Right, well the Friendbook and Yawper updates are filtered by personalization algorithms, too. I mean who wants 50 tweets a day of their loner aunt’s cat? We just tweak the recommendation engine relevance ranking so that any tweet or status update or message permutation remotely resembling ‘World Class War’ or ‘WCW’ is immediately deemed by the filter to be as useful to the user as, say, a forwarded knitting-personality quiz. Or just have any communications containing the blacklisted terms automatically marked as spam. Boom, no more La Resistance grapevine.” Jack corrected.

“Wait, isn’t that like censoring the internet? Aren’t there net-neutrality laws against that?” The younger cadet brought up, looking up from his crystal workspace.

“Oh, look, we’ve got a virgin in the house. No, kid, it’s just called, ‘creative use of internet personalization.’ We’re just helping people find what they need, and ignore what they don’t need to see; it’s win-win. And don’t say ‘censorship’, people might think we’re China or something.”

“But you’re manipulating people’s communications with each other for ulterior ends-“ the kid began, before Jack raised a hand to cut him off.

“And thank God for the United States of Suckers who believe tech and social media companies give a shit about their customers’ data. Welcome to the real world, son. Now get back to work.”

Jack sat back in his hyperergonomic chair, reclining into expensive pneumatics and Italian leather tanned and put together by real Italian robots in Milan. What he needed was an in, a thin wedge to slide beneath the security nightmare of focused, organized, populist resistance and pry it away like a limpet. He rolled his knuckles on the mysteriously clear carbon polymer of his desk,

“Sherlock, please investigate potential connections between World Class War and violent insurgents within Bay Area,” Jack queried in conversational English. The Sherlock detective-AI’s very primitive and utterly uselss ancestor, something called “Watson”, could only answer Jeopardy questions, in question form. Luckily for Jack, Sherlock was fairly fluent, although Jack did have to tweak the AI’s lexicon cores now and again.

“Jack, there are 3,891 possible connections between World Class War and said violent insurgents.”

Jack nearly jumped out of his seat.

“Take autobus 32 from local WCW chapter at 4th and Lexington, turn right at 8th and…” Not those connections. Jack sighed, sprung open the Sherlock’s semantics kernels and rewired some of its digital axons to new synapses. He tried again, crossing his fingers. Come on baby, show me the Lead.

“Jack, it appears there have been a few incidents of violent attacks against Blue County Enclave by individuals technically affiliated with World Class War. The connection is obscure, however I confirmed it by cross-mining intercepted emails, daily behavioral patterns and confirmed the relationships via graph traversal of relevant social networks.” The machine replied, and not without a certain sense of satisfaction, although Jack had probably programmed that effect in at some point.

“Wow, excellent work! Don’t get cocky.”

“Yes, Jack.”

“Well, let’s see it.”

The Sherlock accessed audiovisual archives of an incident two days prior at Gnossis Plaza. The AI multiplexed the simultaneous feeds of a squadron of RLPCNTS, Leviathans and CCTV cams on the holographic warboard, reconstructing the event like a four-dimensional jigsaw from a panoply of vantage points. The mass World Class War demonstrations were in full swing, as usual. Then, suddenly, the RPLCNT riot cops began arresting one another, only to discover their EnforceWare suspect-targeting had been compromised by hackers. On the audio channels, the intranet police chatter had been replaced with audiobook readings of Das Kapital. Worm-subverted paramilitary bots danced ‘the robot’ then dove thorax-first into the public fountain like giant steel lemmings, shorting their circuitry. Masked rioters then hurled firework bombs at disoriented cops, shattered storefront windows, and started bon fires precariously near buildings. Bank towers were broken into, the fractured ink-black glass spraypainted with the head of Guy Fawkes.

“What is it with these anarchists and the Guy Fawkes? Alright, looks like these guys have a few braincells. We got no facial rec cause of the masks and the voiceprints are blizzarded out in the protests. Let’s mine the scene for a suspect.” Jack said. The Sherlocks hunted for patterns – a fragment of jawbone curvature here matching a second of garbled vocal there, a walking gait here cross-referencing with a height and weight. Linkable constellations in the Exabyte-sized ocean of data that might triangulate an identity.

Minutes passed of the Sherlocks digging without a hit, the equivalent of all the police forensics teams, FBI and CIA analysts who ever lived working nonstop for several hundred years. Stasia broadened the investigative algorithm, had the AIs flip through various scopes and light spectrum filters: infrared, UV, without result.

“Come on people, we need something, anything. Any bone to chew on.” Jack facepalmed.

“These guys knew what they were getting into. They even pulled the gravel trick, stuck rocks in their shoes to throw off the gait analyzers.” Darius commented, pointing out the arrhythmic skipping in several video clips.

After one of the AIs reported a hit that turned out to be someone’s face reflected in a perp’s sunglasses, Jack was about to shift the incident to the backburner, call the lead a cold trail and move on.

“Alright people, let’s pack it up-“

“Jack, from speech analysis, look like this guy have heart condition.” Kirov offered just as Jack was about to jump to another event. He spun his monitor around to reveal an aural spectrograph like a rainbow colored ultrasound, the heartbeat pounding like an underwater bass drum. The timbre and rhythm of the suspects heart overlayed almost perfectly the stochastic patterns seen in heart patients, averaged across a hundred billion records fished up from the Gnossis archives.

“Ok, so he must have medical nanites holding that bum ticker together, which need to be uplinked to a health center doctor-AI for continuous nanoware updates. Find all heart patient communications with hospitals originating from this GPS point for the suspect’s hospital feed. Once we intercept the outbound packets of from his body to the med center, those subcellular nanobots’ bioinformatics, it’s just a matter of hacking his DNA sequence out of his bloodstream nanomachines,” Jack said.

“Jack we’d need to get a signed waiver for that personal info.” Stasia cautioned.

“Are you kidding me? We work for Gnossis, the biggest search and social networking megaglomerate in the world. ‘Personal info’ is a meaningless term for us. Besides, we’re the cops here, we’re the good guys, catching the criminals. Kirov, you broke into your last boss’ bodyware and changed his internal medication dosage right? You’re on point.”

In the span of a minute, the Russian had multilaterated the target’s position, tapped into his cranial 6G cellular jack, bypassed his body’s firewalls, intercepted a cybercyte transmission, cut through the target’s DNA encryption, and sucked the man’s amino acid ID right out of his cell walls.

“We have the DNA sequence,” Kirov announced.

“Have the AIs cross reference it with fetal genome registry.” It took another clearance code and a second for the Sherlocks to unearth the individual who’s DNA sample, collected at birth, matched the target’s.

A rather unremarkable, pale-pink female face emerged in the 3D space, revolving slowly.

The Troubleshooters stared on, rubbing their eyes as if the moving portrait staring back at them were some phantasm software artifact in their retinal overlays.

“What? No. That’s impossible. Not. Possible. There must be a bug.”

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