"Boss?" Sven spoke on the phone in a voice between reassuring and anxious.
"Sv...Why HAVEN'T you told me about the dead guy!?" Elzm's voiced yelled at the other end of the line.
Damm, she found out through a third party. He was going to tell her... one of these days, when the time was right. His grandmother always told him that it was polite to give bad news together with good news. And he always tried to be polite with his bosses, "Well, I'm sorry boss, it must've slipped my mind. But not to worry, the man was closed like a oyster covered in concrete, nothing would get any useful information out of him. There's good news, though," he singsonged the last sentence.
Her curiosity momentarily spiked above her anger, Elzm asked, "What news?"
Smiling inside, Sven said, "Remember what we talked a while ago? Iqbal met with a chick very recently, I checked with the local government's databases, I'm sending the results...now...recognize her? The name's different but..."
"Polquin's cousin? Damm, I knew that woman would bring trouble," Elzm said, her voice regaining a tone of anger, that Sven thankfully knew was not directed at his person.
"Well, don't look at me. I only got in charge of security after the Polquin incident," in fact, his predecessor was fired for his sloppy handling of the matter, "Anyways, Iqbal called you about thirty minutes after finding her. He didn't mention her, did he?"
There was silence at the other end of the line.
"As I thought. Requesting permission to take some extreme security measures," he said, holding his crossed legs, his "Buddha position", as his subordinates called it, since he always assumed it when he need to sound calm.
"You have permission to do anything it takes. If Iqbal's got her and didn't tell me, then he's probably taking her to whoever we were trying to stop in the first place. Shit! And be fast about it. If we can get access to her findings on her brother's work, we might even be able to finish up Polquin's research, and I have various bidders for that research."
"Sure ma'am," Sven turned the phone off and stood from the chair, forgetting his other work. He picked up the desk phone and dialed a number.
Iqbal noticed the dark-blue car following them. It was just an ordinary car driving at ordinary speed, and he couldn't see the drivers very well. But he knew Razar's security personnel's modus operandi. And all kinds of tiny details that no one unfamiliar would see were there. He worked alongside them many times. It was this that encouraged him to try and beat Razar. This and the possibly multitrillionaire fortune he would amass in a single operation.
But now the game was on and it wasn't a matter of good guys versus the bad guys, because the good guys were nowhere to be seen. Like in all great conflicts in the history of humanity it was a matter of who was the best and brightest selfish bastard, the one that'd win their little battle and get magnificent wealth and then go on to proclaim to the world retroactively they deserved winning for some reason or another. Probably moral reasons.
He looked again at the pursuers. Both of them had sunglasses. One on the lapel of his floral tourist shirt and the other on his face. He knew those sunglasses had tiny little communication devices in the frames that connected to a socket in their right ears through a wire. This socket was directly linked to the cybernetic mix of alarm clock, phone and hearing amplifier, which was in turn, in direct interface with their brain.
Those were the sniffers that the security of Razar sent against those it didn't want to eliminate immediately or grossly. They probably had orders to capture them at worst, or to watch and wait for further instructions at best. Good. All Iqbal needed was to get the girl to the train, and they probably didn't know that. Only ten or twenty more minutes (thirty, if the traffic was bad today), and he would get her to the train.
Sometimes he lost them in the chaos of the other cars, but knew they were still following. He turned the volume dial for his radio up. It was playing "(Gonna Fuck Your Brains) Out!" by the Pistons of Love, a loud, mildly danceable Technofunk tune with badly written worsely performed lyrics. But the poor quality of the loud music was perhaps a bonus to foil cyber-enhanced hearing of the sniffers.
"We're being followed. Don't freak out. Don't look freaked out. They shouldn't even try to take us out where everybody can see it," better telling her now than letting her find it out later and show them he knew what they were doing. He manoeuvred the car, needlessly taking turns. He didn't trust his ability to take them out of his trail, and he didn't need to, but he wasn't about to give them an easy time.
The colourful sea of steel and smoke and dust from the cars around him, and their habit to change lanes, made it hard for him to keep an eye on the pursuers, but he had a fair idea of their location, and it didn't matter anyway. All he had to do was get to the train. He could make it. Elzm was a giantess and he was a mouse...no, he was a rat, smart little quick rat that started kilometres ahead. There was no way for her to catch up before he got his cheese. No way.
Then he noticed it. The pursuers were right on front of him, and the red light was on for more time than it was common. They were fast, before he could see it, they were out of the car and casually put a compressed air syringe on his left arm, as the other one did the same with the girl...
Iqbal was still angry when he sat down across from Sven. He should of figured it out faster than he did, and he was sure Sven knew enough to kill. The car got to him in no time, and when he came to, he was in the back of another one. Oh well, he could probably sell out his back hand exchanges and get off with a lost customer and reputation.
"You honestly thought we wouldn't figure you out?" Sven never did talking over a table, hassle to leap over.
"You know me, few extra bucks is all I want. Figured I'd take a little risk, squeeze a few pennies out. In the end, it'd end the same." Iqbal was trying to keep the situation calm. He'd talked a couple times to Sven and it always left him feeling cold.
"It'd end the same? This little Polquin theft group is making use of that data every hour, use which we need to stop. You think it will end the same?" Sven was leaning over Iqbal, who was trying to hide his obvious anxiety.
"They gave me a line and everything, you want the info?" Iqbal knew he couldn't worm himself out, he'd have to rat himself out.
"And I take it this will cost a price?" Sven had a smug look, it made Iqbal feel isolated.
"Well yes, I'd rather like to be ejected from this situation and forgotten about." Iqbal continued on, feeling a ray of hope when Sven nodded inwardly. Then Sven looked at him and the hope escaped. Sven leaned over, supporting himself on the arms of the chair. He couldn't look at the walls behind Sven; he felt cluttered.
"How about we get who's in charge straight here. You won't be buying your freedom from here, you'll be buying your freedom from pain." Iqbal darted his eyes away from Sven's cold eyes. He felt himself caving in, almost ready to snatch at the offer.
"Might I be able to buy myself out of death?" Iqbal felt his stomach shaking.
"Depends, what's the info?" Sven had turned away now, walking back and leaning on the wall. Iqbal sighed, thinking he might actually have a chance with this, and said exactly what Sven wanted to hear.
Polquin's cousin was briefed by Elzm shortly after they brought her in. Razar owned her cousin's research, the expansion she had been doing for quite some time now was severe copyright violation. Copyright violation was an extremely serious crime, "Especially here in China", the CEO added. At the very least she would have to pay a gigantic fine to Razar. And with the right bribes to the right people, Elzm told her, the very least was improbable.
But legal processes were tiresome, and Elzm was prepared to not use that option and let her go basically free, provided she agreed to some conditions, of course. She would work for Razar, and she would finish up her cousin's software; a fair payment would be delivered when she was done, of course. She would have at her disposition all the manpower and funds she needed, as long as she explained where the money and people would be used, and to what goals. She would write weekly reports and deliver them directly to Elzm. She would not, under any circumstances, leave the premises of the company building until her work was done, one of the rooms would be retrofitted as a bedroom, and food would be brought to her.
Once the software was in working condition, she would be allowed to leave, without any strings attached, though (and this was not told to her), the Company would keep a file about her, in case they needed to find her again. She inferred so much though, as she was forced to take up an identity. When asked for what she'd like her name to be, she only said "Polquin."
Without alternatives, she accepted, and was given a disk with all the research Polquin had made until his death, and started to work on it.
Meanwhile, Sven conducted a security group in a seek and survey task, based off Iqbal's information. He had spilled basic information about meeting places and communications channels and where Iqbal was supposed to bring the woman. Nothing very specific, but then again, he admitted that his ties with the group were slight, and he had little knowledge of their activities and goals.
Iqbal was sure it was a group, though, more than once his contact made references to people that tried to infiltrate and obtain information about "this AI thing". He was told that they've been stealing information from all over the world about the specifics of such a software, possibly trying to develop one themselves (which would suggest they had funds for research) but only recently did they find about Polquin's established research on the matter; they've been trying to get their hands on it ever since.
Sven walked around the warehouse, checking the computers and the employees, sipping Indian tea. He could smell a raise in the air, if he did the job right, possibly even get promoted to manager of one of the departments of Razar, preferably one of the Oriental ones, his goal for quite some time.
Then again, he knew his job depended on a mission accomplished, his predecessor on the job never again managed to be employed as anything better than a mall security guard. It wasn't good business to disappoint Elzm. He drank the last half of his cup of tea in one gulp and started to direct his underlings.
"They'll be suspicious now that the cousin missed the train. Get a hold of the train surveillance and figure out who was waiting."
Polquin was a sloppy programmers. His cousin didn't mind; he'd taught her how to code. Razar had a lot of resources, and a lot of good programmers. She was mostly only clarifying the structure of the program along with integrating her branch. At the moment, she was with the programmer who had been spear heading the project, "So you extended the heuristics and added a bunch of discrete theorems to optimize spatial reasoning with graphs, but what about the non terminating stub?" She raised her brow, enough of a gesture between the two for him to continue, "It's this odd part of the program, it seems to prod at every part of the program, yet nothing invokes it. We tried running it, but it just segfaults on a stack overflow." Her brow raised now into one more of excitement, he showed her the code and kept quiet as she spoke "Polquin used recursion in prototypes, anything else got flattened unless it truly needed to be recursive... This seems to be running on an incomplete tree of itself; how were you invoking it?" He caught onto the excitement, "We were passing it itself--" She cut him off, "You were passing it itself, but in reality this is the driver, it's meant to be passed the program!"
Compiled and run, it printed out "Who am I?" She typed "Polquin's work." In response, the two stayed silent for a second reading "You are mistaken, I am the master!" In the following second, the lights went out.
Elzm was sitting at her terminal, reading both reports on the workplace being taken over by a virus and what seemed a rather naive explanation from this so called virus itself. Polquin stood across from her, "You infiltrated our systems with a virus?" Polquin smiled, "In a way, but that's what I was commisioned for. How much has it told you?" Elzm didn't like the indirect answer, but she felt Polquin was being sincere in her odd way "It's sending out copies of itself, except in an obfuscated form. From what I've heard of your cousin's style, that seems redundant." Polquin's eyes gazed off for a moment, slowly returning to Elzm's, "There's enough theorems in it to have a premature understanding of DHTs. By now it's gone through all the information known to those working on the Polquin Algorithms. Self knowledge is good for identity. That'd also let it know that there are those who are working on a branch. Early sentience doesn't like duplicity of identity. It probably recognizes consciousness as a distributed system, similar to a DHT. It's quite probable that it'll set out to distribute itself before your competition can get in the way."