Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spy Games

"I wish this program hadn’t been used in such an invasive way." All of Alex’s hardware was clean except for the two programs that had been running surreptitiously in his Amp. From what they had been able to determine so far, the ARGUS program used a low level AI and his microphone network to collect information passively. When it had been run in a separate instance of his Amp’s OS he hadn’t been able to take advantage of it, but now... "Because this is actually kind of cool."

Really.” Carbon was sitting at the table beside him and was less than enthusiastic about that description. She didn’t look up from the tablet that was hooked up to one of Alex’s near-field connectors. ARGUS had been thorough, collecting several terabytes of data that Carbon was sifting through, growing more and more irate as she went.

“What does that mean, cool?” Eleya took a sip of tea, set her cup down and leaned on the table towards Alex. She was taking a cue from Carbon and already disapproving of what he had said, the hint of a scowl on her brow.

“It’s slang, just means that something is good.” He held up his hands and shook his head. Probably should have seen that coming.  “Let me rephrase that. I can see how this would be very useful in some situations. Like, just off the top of my head, mine.”

That got a gruff noise from Carbon but Eleya seemed intrigued. She rested her chin on  an open palm, eyebrow cocked. “Do not leave me wondering, dear nephew.”

“This thing absorbs names, birthdates, political affiliations, ranks, squads... I’m pretty good at remembering stuff like that when I meet someone one-on-one. But you roll twenty or thirty people past me at one dinner and I’ll be lucky to keep their names straight. Their weird, alien names.”

“Yes, we have covered that.” Despite her interest, the Empress was getting curt. It had been a long night for everyone.

We have. You disappeared when we went over the visual overlay.” He wasn’t sure why she had skipped out halfway through the initial rundown of their findings. Might have been for some sort of actual government business or a meal, maybe because his back had started bleeding. The conference room was almost empty by the time that had gotten under control. “That is really what makes it useful. Everything its accumulated just spills out into my vision, as needed.”

“That would be beneficial.” Eleya was placated by his explanation. She sipped her tea and stared through the wall, lost in thought.

“Exactly. It would be good if it didn’t collect quite as much information or maybe wasn’t set up to run all the time without the user knowing.” There was a discomfort to how clinically it noted links between individuals. Neya’s listing was populated with explicit connections, several of which were linked to him, though many items were flagged as hypothetical. “Just, you know, as a suggestion.”

“There are times when it would be best to leave no traces.”

Alex was pretty sure she was agreeing with him there, if not for the same reason. “Yeah, little bit of personal privacy never hurt.”

Carbon slammed the table to the table and stood with a snarl, her stool skittering away across the room. “I - I require a break.” She stalked out the door, jaw clenched in barely contained rage, the sound of a table being flipped over ringing clear before the door slid closed.

“Curious.” Eleya reached for the tablet, moving her tea out of the way before she started to review what had set Carbon off. “I usually have to go out of my way to provoke that sort- oh.” She tapped a few times, arching an eyebrow at the screen but never looking away. “Oh, this is very educational.”

“Educational?” He twisted his focus around to the data stream feeding the tablet and duplicated it for himself. Alex blushed when he saw the playback Eleya was scrolling through, a delicate moment that he would prefer remain between him and Carbon. He slammed the stream closed and cleared his throat. “Like I said, more privacy.”

Eleya glanced up with a devilish smile and tsked at him. “There is nothing to be ashamed of, dearest nephew. I had hoped you would be able to fully satisfy her needs and you seem to be doing so with some aplomb. Such confidence is-”

“It is not your business what he does.” Carbon returned, cooled down but still roiling. She righted her stool and took her place beside Alex again.

“Desirable.” Eleya did not miss a beat. “You should know well by now that everything is my business and I will compliment the young prince as I see fit.”

Carbon grunted and pulled the tablet from Eleya’s hands, ignoring both her reply and protestation.

“So.” Alex announced that too loud, eager to move on to something a little less intimate as he opened the data stream for Carbon. ”Once she’s done looking this over, I’m going to delete the database and uploader. Start from scratch with just information that is helpful for me to get around with.”

“No. No, that will not do.” Eleya sipped her tea, face devoid of emotion as she again seemed to stare through the wall.

“Excuse me? This is at least a third private stuff and bunch of state secrets. Your state secrets!”

“I am aware. But there are expectations to be met and you must meet them, even if they are undesirable.”

“No. Hell no, I’m not letting all of this get uploaded to... who the fuck knows where.” He looked to Carbon, expecting backup and not getting any. She had her nose buried in the tablet still, lip curled up in disgust.

“You will. When we first acquired your hardware designs I arranged for two companies of miltech specialists to speed adaptation. They are still en route, but will have access to the programs we have uncovered now.” She sharpened, back in the moment as her eyes focused on him.

“Great, and?” He assumed that she was going somewhere that wasn’t completely objectionable.

“They will do everything they can to make our loss into a gain. This will be distasteful to you, Alex, but it is something that must be done. They will know it has been compromised if an upload is not completed next time you have access to a public connection.”

That was still objectionable. “Fine, they can know that we made their game.”

“They can not and will not, Alex.” There was a remarkable amount of force in her words, but no anger. She actually wanted him to agree with her. “As this violates your privacy, it also violates our treaties and amounts to an act of war. I am sure you are aware that we are in no position to go to war with the humans right now.”

Being excluded from his race rubbed him the wrong way, but he was distracted by the larger picture he hadn’t seen until now. “Obviously, we’re not. That’d be insane.”

“It warms me to know you understand that. I will not oversee the subjugation or  extermination of my people, not after the hardship they have already endured. I ask that you give of yourself so that we might defend ourselves from this. So that we might find who did brought this upon us and reverse their fortunes.”

Revenge sounded particularly sweet right now, after the bitterness of what was probably betrayal by his own government. He was up for that. “I’ll do it... but whatever you have planned better be good.”

She smiled, eyes dark and deadly in the bright lights. “I assure you, prince, it will be.”

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