It was well after midnight when I decided that I had enough. I bought back my clothes, so that I could leave, but I chose to sit in the main room for one last drink. I wanted to process how things had gone.
In looking back I felt that I had achieved my main goal in that I acted very ‘human’. I looked at the three remaining players. I felt as though I knew everything possible about Vlad, but nothing about the other two. Everyone in the club except me seemed to know them somewhat at least. It was proof that I didn’t spend as much time in the club as I had planned.
The cloak and dagger, as I had expected that it would, had somehow become the Ex-pat club for soldiers in the undeclared war. I was determined that the struggles from the real world would not invade the club. It was the number one rule, even higher than the no hanging of weapons on the wall, that no geopolitical discussions enter from outside. When one started, it was the obligation of the other members to remind the transgressor of the rule.
I hoped that it would be gently administered, but the directors never specified that it had to be. They did make it known that there was zero tolerance for such crap. All that is why I always felt safe in the Cloak. I had just gotten busy and when I got busy I tended to forget that I was supposed to have a little fun.
Fun is one of the driving forces for all humans. That thought came from outside my own head. I was being monitored again by the farm. I didn’t mind at that moment.
Okay you Cont, I thought. Tell me who those two playing poker with me for the last four hours were.
Very well you Cunt, the man is Stephan Berger. Steven was the kind of spy that Vlad would call Leon. Stephan would ingratiate himself into a group of diplomats by doing them favors, then he would blackmail them. Stephan sold the information to the highest bidder in most cases.
How in the world did a sissy pimp and his chick make it here? I wondered.
Oh the woman is not connected to him at all. But to answer your question Stephan got involved with an prominent middle eastern family whose son died under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter a drug gang in London Disappeared. The whole gang just vanished, along with all their holdings.
Several days later Stephan Berger showed up in Aster with a very large bank account. No one can trace the money, but ten years in the espionage game would teach him a few tricks, even from the outside looking in.
So do we think he dirtied his hands or just reaped the rewards? I wondered.
We think he helped to arranged a rather complicated assassination pulled off by a very, very organized group with military precision. We also think his reward was the holdings of the gang. At least those liquid enough to dispose of without leaving a trace. We are sure he did not get the drugs, but likely got the cash, cars, and property which could easily be converted to cash.
And we suspect this why?”
Because even with the best laid assassination plan involving so many people, some one slips away, or one of the hit squad talks. That isn’t really a bad thing. It is good to sometimes remind the bad guys, that there is a day of reckoning.
So if the chick isn’t with him, who is she?
She is a gift from the Russian Special Forces, Spetsnaz.
So what is her story?
Some Russian rocket parts went missing. Someone found out where they were and who had them. A local girl didn’t want to see terrorist with Russian missiles, so she helped the Septsnaz recover them. She hid them and helped them locate the storage facility. Many of her fellow countrymen died, and not too pleasantly, so she was persona non grata at home. Unfortunately the Russians don’t pay well, so the best they would do was send her here and buy her a small condo unit. Vlad got her into the community college’s nursing school. She will graduate in the spring, not this year but next, and she will surely have a job waiting for her. She is also working hard to improve her very basic English.
So who did she come here with?
She came alone and will leave alone or with anyone who has a hundred dollars for a simple roll in the hay. You would know about her, and the others as well, if you were here a little more often. You come in and breeze out like the queen of the manor. Which you sort of are of course.
I hope you aren’t going to be my regular controller. You have a nasty disposition. I thought it in the open just to be sure he or she and their boss knew what I thought of him or her. It was just a guess as the the sex of the controllers.
I didn’t wait for Vlad or his friend to finish playing, I walked over to the Downtown House. From habit I reviewed the surveillance tape, even though the controller should have alerted me, if there had been a change since I left. Everything looked fine so I went inside.
I undressed completely then lay on the hard bed. The purpose of the bed was simply to give me a flat place to store the body. I was beginning to think of myself differently. The new definition of comfort was the absence of discomfort. One flat surface was as good as another to keep the parts in line while in storage, I thought.
I realized, with something of a shock, that the thoughts I was having were not my own. I was thinking like the geeks who built me. Somewhere they were hiding in the wiring of the new me.
I blocked the transmission of that thought, and especially the next one, ‘that has to change’. Yes I had learned to block my thoughts. I hooked myself to the wall where I lay quietly. While I charged, no thoughts were transmitted. That was because I wasn’t supposed to be capable of thinking while I charged. That was something different about me they hadn’t expected. It was something I realized early on.
My guess was, that my control over the body was more than any of the earlier ‘man made’ intelligence models. They obviously had been able to exert no independent control. I could make the new model do a lot more, because somehow my memories were more in tune with the body. In other words I could actually learn from the body. The fake brain of Maxine was supposed to be able to teach itself, but they really had no idea how well it would work. Simple learning was all they had expected. I don’t think they even dreamed that there were learning nuances. Nuances which I was capable of mastering.
I got the alert that I was close to being fully charged, which meant I might be overheard by the bitch controller. That being the case I switched back to thoughts that were harmless, more or less.
Back at the farm they never got the complete meaning of my thoughts. They could interpret only the broad strokes. Evidently I thought at a level not capable of being totally understood. So even when I broadcast if I really wanted them to help me, I had to concentrate my thoughts.
So if the chick with Vlad was going to school and turning tricks which did she consider her future. It wasn’t all that important unless she was planning to run a network somehow. She was most likely not capable of that though, but most likely Vlad was thinking it. Maybe not creating a new network, but making sure she didn’t.
You never did tell me the chicks name, I thought in the open,
Everyone calls her Silvia. Her ethnic name is difficult to pronounce.
All those names are difficult to pronounce. So how are Silvia’s finances?
She should be fine until she graduates. She has no house payment or any really large living expenses. That being the case she does quite well with the money she makes turning tricks. The Russians and the men from the Baltic states love her. It isn’t just the sex, she can also talk to them about home. She misses it as much as they do, I suppose.
Probably not if they want to kill her back there, I thought. I dropped my interrogation of the controller and just went into power save until morning. Since it was impossible for me to oversleep, I left the house at exactly the right time to finish my breakfast charade, and then my tuneup walk, by noon.
Check on Sylvia’s schedule and tell me if she will be home now, I demanded of the controller.
She had one early class, she should be home now. Do you want her address?
Of course I want her address, idiot.
Now who has the nasty disposition? the controller asked.
I kept my mind blank as I listened. When the address popped into my mind, I realized that Sylvia had been deposited into an inexpensive townhouse converted from an apartment near the downtown. I knew that they were small one bedroom units with nothing at all to recommend them. Well they were inexpensive to buy, which would have made them very attractive to the penny pinching Ruskies.
It was in a totally different direction from my place, but I chose to ride the bike over there anyway. When I got to the building, which held Sylvia’s unit, I left the bike chained to a signpost outside while I went in search of her.
I knocked on her door. I planned to leave her a note, if she was not home. I was a little surprised when she answered her door. I hadn’t really expected her to be home.
“Yes,” she said through the cracked door.
“Hello, are you Sylvia?” I asked.
“Yes they call me Sylvia in this country,” she answered in a heavy accented voice.
“I understand you attend the community college,” I suggested.
“I do indeed,” she replied. “Who are you and why do you ask?”
“My name is Maxine Stone. I would like to talk to you about a job.”
“I recognize you, come inside please,” she said stepping back away from the door.
“Thank you,” I said. Once inside I realize what a neat clean home she had. “This is a very nice place.”
“Thank you, it is small but I like it.” she said.
“And what do you think of America?” I asked.
“So far, my worst day here, has been better than my best day in Serbia,” she said.
“Good, I understand you are in school, thanks to my friend Vlad.”
“Yes he has helped me a great deal. I have no idea what I would have done without him.” she said.
“I am sure you would have done fine. You seem to me to be the kind of person who can manage on her own.”
“I like to think so. What kind of job do you have?” she asked.
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. What can you do. I mean what are your skills?”
“You do know I have been earning money as a prostitute while I go to school.” she looked at me without any shame or defiance. In her mind it was as if she had just told me that it had rained last week. Just a simple fact, not at all a judgmental thing.
“Yes I did know that, and it is of no importance. Except that it did convince me that you are a survivor and worth helping.” She simply nodded her agreement. “So, Sylvia what worthwhile thing can you do for me?”
I was in effect allowing her to make up her own job. I could hardly wait to see what she would choose to do.