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Ghale (H minus One Month, 15 Days)
I sat down after the final floating hologram had ended. Across our table, Martin steepled his fingers. We both let out a breath.
"No investigation." I repeated the last line the UN Security Council had said to us. "That's... Better than we could've hoped for."
Martin frowned. "Everything we do is some sort of slimy dodge from morality."
"Martin, we don't them deciding to change how we run Pygmalion." Or worse, have them learn one of the monsters is my daughter. A genetic descendant of mine, altered to be a war machine.
"EpicVentures suggests they don't press for a investigation. Even though it involves terrorism at the highest levels." Martin shook his head.
"You aren't conflating your opinion on corporations with this?" I asked. "We aren't their oversight."
"The UN Security Council cleared everyone we've hired here." Martin said. "They've filtered our employees. And done whatever they could to make sure no one within Pygmalion could do something like this. Every preventive measure went through them. Yet it still happened."
"And they are covering their asses." I pointed out. "They have all the relevant information. They don't need to have a investigation here."
Martin closed his eyes. "No investigation."
"There is going to be something." I insisted. "Just not here."
"No." Martin shook his head. "They aren't going to even let it surface to the public. Stifle it in the crib. The UN Sec Daemon already is maneuvering. Social media is watched. People are being tracked. If anybody here tries to whistle on it, they'll disappear first."
I blanched. Pygmalion allowed anything. Anything. Civil liberties disintegrated in the face of it. When pushed to the wall, humanity didn't care about its morals. Some might claim even the illusion of that would drive us to forsake our ideals for feeling secure.
"Ugh. We've always known that never works." I said.
"Daemons and machines do what they're told." Martin observed. "The technology serves us. If we choose to walk that path, it'll pull out the chair for us."
"And we aren't supposed to use them that openly either."
"They do. What's worse, we keep pretending that the tech handles it. We distance ourselves and don't embrace it." Martin leaned back in his chair.
"You're drifting." I said. "We should be happy about this."
"We deal with less interference, that's a plus." Martin nodded. "But it's epidemic of something bigger going on. I worry that Nicky and this... this religious extremism is part of something bigger. We have to go public in a month."
I tapped my fingers on the desk for a moment. Public. Each of Miri's monsters streamed across the globe. Humanity's last attempt to save themselves. Well. Not the last attempt to save themselves, if you believed the Joiners.
"Yes. We need to expand our internal security then." I said. "I'll reassign some AI to work out different predictions."
Martin grunted. "EpicVentures leaves a nasty taste in my mouth."
I smirked. "They've helped us so far. That greedy old SOB Rick Whyte died. His nephew is markedly better than he ever was."
Martin fingered his hands for a moment. He sighed. "Tactically, I'd prefer the fool who lacks subtlety. Rick kept revealing his hand. Davyd is better than him. They were up to something, and Davyd isn't even showing any hint of it."
"He's defended us more often than anyone else at the UN Security Council." I pointed out.
"He's ten times smarter than his uncle ever was. Respectable. Dedicated." Martin shook his head. "I don't know what is going on. But I smell something."
"That isn't our job, Martin."
"Yes. I know." Martin said. "We tend to the gates to where they keep the monsters. I think we're allowed to point out the monsters that should be behind our gate."
After the meeting I went home. The incident with Nicky had been jarring. The girl seemed close to Charlie and the others at the facility.
Charlie. Thoughts about her drifted into my head again. Morgan had a point on that. I used to dream about what she'd be like if she lived.
She did live, though. I could see her. I could talk with my daughter.
I prepared a simple meal. Potatoes. Meat had gone up in price again. As much as I'd like to indulge my position, I couldn't stomach the means to get requisitions for steak. Potatoes would be fine.
What did Charlie eat? I wondered.
"No." I told myself. I tried to enjoy my meal. But thoughts repeated themselves through my head. My large apartment, in the middle of nowhere seemed more vacant of life than anything else. I never had bothered to decorate it.
I worked out of the living room most days. Comfort and simplicity. Most days I'd avoided thinking it. A nearby cage rattled. I blinked. All this thinking about Charlie had distracted me from Folly and Molly.
"Sorry guys. Guess I sort of forgot about you." Guilt riddled me. That was unfair for the two of them. The two of them deserved better.
I walked over to their massive cage. One of the distractions I'd enjoyed most of my life had been some sort of pet or family to be part of. I needed someone to have in my life. Somebody who'd be there for me.
I lifted the blanket off their cage. The two albino ferrets clawed at the side of their massive cage. Of course they wanted to be out and about. That's the trick to ferrets. Always need some trouble to get into. To climb over or find.
I let them out to play. Molly and Folly outpoured with chuckling, dooking sounds as they tumbled about. I smiled watching their antics.
Melampus had been a tangential bit of technology. A heuristic AI would analyze and use brain patterns from my two pets to create speech for them. That seemed silly, but for most mammals it turned out to be remarkable accurate. Subtle, anthropocentric things sometimes couldn't come across. But for most species you could hold conversations of a sort.
Dolphins and others had used Melampus as part of a ongoing motion to gain recognition as citizens. The United Nations continued to put off a serious discussion on it in the face of the enemy. But even little creatures like my two ferrets could communicate with humans through Melampus.
It didn't translate anything for the animal, though. There were BrainSys implants for some animals. The BrainSys would help convey one or two concepts and their context. But it couldn't convey everything. It didn't make them super-intelligent. Then again, animals like ferrets were far smarter than most people expect.
"Hi!" Both tumbled in unison at me. Of course both of them had a basic BrainSys. Enough to allow some conversation. Enough they could activate a automated feeder and some other things. Enough that I had been on a constant vigil on the net to keep the two of them from trouble. The two proved apt at hacking their way into all sorts of places.
"Hi." I grabbed at both of them. They tumbled around me, pleased to be out of their cage.
The three of us played. The one thing the two of excelled at was making the world seem worth waking up to. They didn't know something was coming to destroy everything. They just were themselves. Curious and troublesome.
And it kept Charlie out of my mind for a little while, at least.