by Alex Rieneck
Copyright (C) Alex Rieneck 2018 All Rights reserved
<BNote; This story is free to you, the reader to read and hopefully enjoy. You may not repost this story anywhere else, in any form, without the prior written consent of the author No other evil shit is allowed either; If you are in any doubt send me an email and I’ll try to set your mind at rest. Within reason, of course
It was a gift. Looked at another way, it was Christmas. Either way, it was payday. I watched the ambulance grow smaller as it made its way down the driveway. By the time it got to the gates it looked like a highly detailed toy. The kind I had grown up with. When it got to the road and turned towards town it put on a impressive display of needlepoint lights. Its siren was the tiny hysterical scream of a distant old lady. After awhile I noticed I was breathing again.
It was probably her heart again – she’d looked pretty grey on the stretcher; not a panic attack, they don’t take you to hospital for a panic attack, no matter how rich you are. I’d find out soon enough. And it didn’t matter much. But I had to maintain a certain demeanour on the way back to my room. Servants do talk. One way or the other, even robot ones do. Three, the Butler, was fussing with the knick-knacks on the dresser just down the hall when I came out of the library. The yellow shaded wall lights reflected on his smooth cream enamel head. I was struck by how good it looked silhouetted against the Burgundy brocade wallpaper. It turned and regarded me blandly with its round black eyes. I felt a momentary flush of guilt, even though I hadn’t actually done anything.Yet.
“How is my Grandmother?” Three held my gaze for almost long enough for me to feel it was being insolent.
“Your grandmother is on the way to hospital in an ambulance Master Praester.”
“I know that Three, I asked *how* she was, not where. Did the Ambulance people say what the matter was?”
“No, young Master, the Ambulance officers were not forthcoming on the subject, but I have the direct contact numbers for the ambulance and the hospital if you’d like.” With a faint whirr a small card protruded from the slot in the centre of its chest; I pulled the card away fro the slight grip of the rubber rollers and examined it. Standard blank white plastic. A faintly embossed flower pattern that was slightly more gloss than the surrounds. A gold reader chip.
“Thank you Three, I will ring directly.” I could see convex images of the yellow shaded lamp reflected in Three’s black button eyes.
“Master” with a faint complexity of servo motors Three turned away from me, to continue to dust knick-knacks on a table no-one ever looked at.
My room is tiny and has only one window looking out over the overgrown wasteland that was once farmland, then a bomber airfield in World War Two and which was now under enforceable reclamation by nature. The rotting control tower showed up as a black smudge against the pale moonlit fields of weeds. Two skeletal hangars hulked against the deep purple of the sky, black-and silver in the competing light sources. I liked moonless nights best, when the stars were so bright it seemed you could grab them by the handful.
I dragged myself away from my window and engaged with my machine. First I activated the cloaking applications to their maximum power; now it would appear to outside watchers that I didn’t exist – or if they knew contrary to that, and they certainly wouldn’t see my face pressed into the visor-bowl lit in the strange corpse light of the reader lenses – if they tried that, their best efforts would just bounce off, and I would be notified by a discreet message. My cloaking is based on freely available warez, but I have substantially re-written and strengthened it. I knew I could rely on it. I had to be sure of that. I was entrusting it with my life.
In a matter of moments it appeared that “I” was a Point-of-sale terminal at a small privately-owned paint-shop in Helsinki, Finland. The foundations laid, I started to build my Byzantine edifice. I became a public access terminal in a book-library in Bremen, in the process bouncing one of the librarians, a sandy-blonde woman on the brink of menopause out of her search for erotic Graffitti in Pompeii” into an apparent system crash due to an ethics oversight intervention. She was terrified. Still, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. It was a pity about her though, the sight of her face remained burnt into my mind, an afterimage caused by emotion rather than by light. I, too, sat back from my face reader, my eyes popping slightly as they left the slight suction of the socket cups. At some time in the future I’d probably look her up, see what I could find out about her. If she proved promising I might even pay a visit.(**) But first things first; first I became an Admin machine in a largely derelict air-base that formed a remnant of the military posturing of the old Russian republic. The machine was seriously obsolete, packed with payroll and assignment information from January through October, 2049 – information that might have been of interest to some historian type – I don’t know; I wasn’t as soon as I realised that the machine was also the main controller for the flight simulator system. I was lost, well, not literately, but I performed several airstrikes on some place called Syria, at mach 3 and zero height. It was a very good system, on one pass I even heard rubble bouncing off the airframe as I flew through a debris cloud.
It was hard to stop. By the time I dragged myself away and jumped to an old quantum machine in Pasadena and from there to the St Maddenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, they’d already stabilised her and she was prepped for surgery.The Maddenbrooke system was quite new, only a matter of two years, but the security wall was old and its placement was badly conceived. Using a chunk of code from the Russian flight simulator was easy enough; to me it appeared that I’d flown through a tunnel into an irridescent city but to the security ware I appeared as “Huh?Whazzat?”. The system itself, once I was in, was simple enough, a standard Meditech Surgical Physician with full licensing to registrar level. She’d already been diagnosed as having suffered a mild heart attack, with mid to severe blockage in one artery. The DocBot was going to sedate her, slow her heart and insert a stent via the best availableartery in her groin. Perfect. One quick glom over her medical records changed her from”allergic to procaine [yes]”to allergic to procaine [no]”. In short order the DocBot anaesthetised the stent insertion point with procaine – and thendidn’t react quickly enough when her heart went into spasm and stopped, ten seconds later. The human re-sus team happened to be busy with another coronary in the geriatric wing, and were unable to run the length of the hospital to get to her in time.
She was vegetative by the time they arrived, and all I had left to do was decide whether I wanted to change bedrooms now that I owned the house, and was very, very much richer, even if nobody knew it yet. I pulled my face out of the reader mask with a slight wet pop and the thousands of pinpoint scanning L.E.Ds went out in a pattern that has never made sense to me. In the silence, far off downstairs, someone was knocking at the front door.