VirilMail - Chapter 14Edit
Briana said, "I think it makes sense."
Erin had never met Briana. "What makes sense? And who are you, anyway?"
Anthony said, "This is my daughter, Briana. But do explain yourself, how does it make sense that the Lockback chips fried themselves?"
Briana went to the wet bar and picked up the alien communications device from where Anthony had set it. Briana explained, "Okay, I assume that someone planted this circuit board in our server array and they have been monitoring the entire VirileMail project. By now, they know as much about our system as we do. So when Chloe pulled out this board, they knew that their espionage had been discovered and they pulled the plug....they purposefully destroyed the Lockback modules, crippling our network."
Erin asked, "But who is 'they', how could they shut down the coolant system and over-ride the power controls on the Lockback modules?"
Brad said, "It might be possible. The coolant system is fully computer controllable. Its designed to automatically switch from the main lines to one of the two backups if there is a problem. All the valves of the coolant system can be controlled through the computer, which is part of our network."
I added, "And there is an over-ride instruction for the Lockback power down routines that will keep those chips at full power."
Anthony's cell phone rang. He opened the connection, "Geisler." He listened for twenty seconds, then turned and looked at Chloe. "She's right here in this room. Yes, my office. Are you sure? You've personally seen the tape? Okay." He put his phone away. "Well, my father's instincts were true, as usual. He insisted that we boost security and one of the new video cameras got images of the person who shut off the coolant system." He was still looking at Chloe.
The head of security came into Anthony's office. When he saw Chloe he took out his handcuffs and tried to chain himself to Chloe. I jumped forward and threw a shoulder block into him. He tripped over Erin and they both tumbled on top of one of the antique tables, smashing it to bits. I grabbed for Chloe's arm and pulled her out the door, "Run!"
We ran to a stair well, down to the first floor and out into the parking lot. By the time I got outside Chloe was already at her car. I raced a security guard to Chloe's car. She had the car running and was moving towards me. I got into her car just before the guard could grab for me. Ten seconds later we were out on the street in traffic. The hand cuff dangled from Chloe's arm. I caught my breath and said, "Sorry, I did not know about the new security cameras."
Chloe laughed, giddy with the rush from adrenalin in her system. "I did not know that they had a camera on the liquid nitrogen tanks. But it does not matter. I would have crippled Janek even had I known I would get caught."
I sighed. "Well, we've done all we can do. Its up to the resistance now to come through with production of the vaccine."
We stopped at a bank and withdrew large amounts of cash. We caught a train out of town and reached the coast the next day. Chloe and I moved into a beach cottage and went on vacation. I did not allow myself to think about the possibility that we might be caught. I enjoyed our long walks on the beach. I was with Chloe all the time except when she went for her even longer runs on the beach. When she was out running, I would walk up the road from our cottage to a little General Store and do our shopping. I'd usually have dinner waiting when she got back from her run. After running seemed to be the only time when Chloe really ate much. I soon decided that I as very happy with nothing to do but study the little quirks and habits of Chloe.
About a week after the start of our "vacation" I entered the General Store on my usual shopping trip. A small knot of shoppers was gathered around the owner's TV. I went over to see what the attraction was. It was hard for me to make sense of what I was seeing at first. Eventually I realized that the alien-resistance had flooded the internet and the conventional media with a warning about the alien nanobots. They announced that production of the vaccine was underway. There was a follow-up report about Antler Network Services and a claim from the alien-resistance that an alien artificial life form had been constructed in the Antler server array. "Dr. Meade" was described as an heroic employee who had crippled the alien AI. Her face was flashed on the news report. The owner of the store looked at me and I could tell that she recognized Chloe.
I finished my shopping and approached the owner to pay. The owner said, "Your girl, she's the one they showed on the TV? She zapped the alien?"
I admitted that it was true. The store owner would not let me pay. She said, "Dinner's on me. So are you trying to hide from, the aliens? Its not going to work, not with her running down the beach every day. Half the people on the coast are going to match her face to the picture they showed on the news. She's famous."
That evening, Chloe got back from her run latter than usual. I sat there in our cottage, trying to keep dinner warm and trying not to worry. I was just walking out onto the beach, ready to start searching, when I saw her. She ran up to the steps at the back of the cottage and caught her breath in about thirty seconds. She said, "People have been stopping me on the beach. I guess the resistance broke the news about the aliens."
I nodded. "And you were on TV. You're a celebrity, the girl who defeated the alien AI." During dinner we decided that our vacation was over, it was time to go home.
Late the next day we reached Chloe's house. After a long day of travel we were tired and ready for bed. Chloe was in the shower when the door bell rang. I was not very surprised to see that it was Briana. I opened the door to let her in. "I hope you have not been on stakeout duty here all week."
"No, not really. I put a little gizmo in the circuit box on the side of the house. It alerted me when power consumption increased. Since the resistance did their big news release I've been watching your storage shed."
"Well, come in."
Briana looked back over her shoulder and I could see someone standing by the limo. She said. "I brought someone who wants to talk to you."
Chloe was out of the shower. She called from the bedroom, "Is someone at the door?"
I replied, "Its Briana. She's being mysterious."
Chloe joined us at the front door, just dressed in a silk robe. "Hi, Briana. Come in. Tell us the news from Antler."
Briana said, "There is nothing new at Antler. I came here because Dr. Redes wants to talk with you." She pointed out to the waiting figure by the limo.
Chloe said, "Dr. Redes? who is that?"
I said, "Head of research at Conceptions Organiques."
Chloe asked, "Where Janek wanted you to deliver the virus?"
I decided I might as well talk to Redes. I said, "I'll go out and-"
Chloe said, "No its okay. I'll get dressed."
Dr. Redes came in and Briana performed introductions. Dr. Redes was a petite French woman in her fifties who spoke good English. She said, "Actually, Briana has only done half of the introductions. I am Dr. Redes, but I am also Janek."
All I could say was, "I thought Janek was a guy from the Czech Republic."
Dr. Redes shook her head, "Not that Janek, the AI." She pointed to her head. "Janek is in here, with me."
Suddenly I realized what must have happened. "You tested the virus on yourself!"
Dr. Redes nodded. "After Briana delivered the virus, I knew I could not test it on anyone but myself."
I looked at Briana. "Briana delivered the virus?"
Briana replied, "Janek knew you were up to something with the resistance and had me on standby in France to make the virus delivery."
I asked Briana, "So you are not really part of the resistance?"
Briana shrugged, "I'm a card-carrying member of the resistance, but I also do favors for the aliens. They really are not as bad as you like to imagine."
Chloe said, "Let me see if I understand this. I thought I turned Janek back into a bumbling AI program that could never pass a Turing test, but you are telling us that the fully conscious and diabolical Janek AI is now inside your brain?"
Dr. Redes said, "It is not that hard to understand. The Badhesin virus works well with the NAOs. I infected myself with both the virus and Nf23, now nanorobots can fully integrate with my brain. The "Janek AI" always existed as a distributed system, both in the Antler server array and also scattered around in nanobot form. Chloe, when you destroyed all those Lockback modules, Janek also existed in other places, as many nanorobotic replicas of what was in the Antler server array. The goal has always been to put the 'Janek AI' into efficient contact with people, and the Badhesin/NAO interface was designed to help alien minds efficiently connect to human minds. It has been a really remarkable experience, integrating the thoughts of Redes the human with those of 'Janek' the alien."
I thought of something that only Janek and I knew. "What was the last thing you told me before I got off the spaceship?"
Dr. Redes spoke, but in a different sort of voice, "I offered to take you to Chloe and I promised to remove her nanobots if you would deliver the virus to Dr. Redes."
I said to Chloe, "I think it is true, Janek lives again."
Dr. Redes, still speaking for Janek, said, "It is only in your limited way of thinking that I died and then was resurrected. But let's not talk about me. I came here to talk about you. I still want you to come back to Mars and become an Observer."
I asked, "What would be the point of that? Isn't the game over? All Earth now knows about nanobots and aliens. The anti-Badhesin vaccine is being mass-produced."
Janek made the shoulders of Dr. Redes shrug. "Not much of importance has changed. An excellent human-nanobot interface now exists, which was our long-term goal. Now the people of Earth know about nanobots, but they will find little evidence of them. Aliens? Even less evidence. In a few years only scattered conspiracy mongers will still be talking about aliens. The anti-Badhesin vaccine is of little importance. According to our code of ethics, we must make available a means to remove nanobots from human brains, a method that humans can use at will. We have met that obligation. Everything else continues as before. I can tell you this, you will now be bored on Earth. You might as well come back to Mars."
Chloe said, "Bored on Earth? We now have the means to make true AI systems. I'm sure Anthony is working to re-build the Antler server array. Joe and I have talked about giving him a dose of the anti-Badhesin vaccine and getting back to work."
Janek nodded. "Yes, yes, that path is open to you, but remember, I will not be in the Antler server array anymore. Even if you connect up a fresh batch of Lockback modules, you will not magically have a system that will pass a Turing test. No, all you will prove is that you do not know how to program a human-like AI. Human progress along those lines will continue most rapidly on Mars, with the team that made the VirileMail software."
I realized that I had been a fool to imagine I could save Earth from the aliens. First of all, the aliens did not even want Earth. I laughed. "So, Janek, all this mind control and pushing for technological advances on Earth...it was just to improve human-alien communication?"
Janek replied, "Why else? Oh, with time you humans will grow up and want to join the galactic community, but there is no rush. And, of course, when that does start to happen it will almost certainly happen first at the Mars base, not on Earth."
Janek continued, "Well, I've had my say. My offer stands, for both of you. Joe, at least bring Chloe to Mars for a visit, let her see for herself that the Varna software project is far ahead of anything on Earth. Enough said." Dr. Redes said goodbye and gave both Chloe and I hugs, then she and Briana headed out the front door.
Chloe and I followed along. Briana paused in the drive way and said to me, "You know the routine. When you are ready to go, just let me know. I'll fly you up the camp and load you onto the spaceship." Briana and Dr. Redes got into the limo and drove away down the street.
Chloe pointed up at Mars, "You know, I've been wondering what it would be like to run on Mars."
There are a few parallel versions of the epilogue happening in parallel universes to this story. Some of them are very short though.
- VirileMail/END-1 - Joe and Chloe go to Mars
- VirileMail/END-2 - Joe and Chloe stay on Earth
- VirileMail/END-3 - Janek "gets the last word"
The basic plot is complete, but there is need for further editing of the story, particularly for character development and fuller description of things like the underground city. Feel free to create more parallel endings!
If you want to contribute to the story, be sure to read VirileMail:meta.