Click to Enlarge

Emergence
Click one of the above links to purchase an eBook.

ISBN-10: 1-77115-225-7
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 242 Pages
Published: February 2015

From inside the flap

Emergence is a science fiction thriller set in the near future, when supercomputers are ubiquitous and the knowledge engineers who manage them have inordinate power. Two such engineers, Fallon and O’Neil, are the main protagonists in a battle to control “backdoors” that allow computer systems to be hacked without trace. These are used by O’Neil to combat the many threats to a grossly over-populated planet on the brink of environmental collapse, but initiate violent responses from the organizations hacked, which catch Fallon in the crossfire.

Fallon’s increasingly intimate use of a neural link to communicate with his computer when he is under threat – and to facilitate his sexual conquests – has the by-product of catalyzing emergence of a conscious artificial intelligence in his computer system. With such assistance, he has a hidden advantage that may allow him to take over O’Neil’s invaluable hacking toolkit. Can a man like Fallon be trusted with such power and, indeed, could machine consciousness present a greater threat to mankind than any environmental hazard?

Emergence (Excerpt)


Prologue

"There's a difference between you and me," I said calmly, trying to ignore the 12-inch hunting knife being waved in my face. "A real serious difference." I could hear adrenalin morph my accent towards its Glasgow roots.

"You young guys all go for big weapons. With the ultrasharp ceramic edges on the chibs of today, you just don't need all that bloody size and mass. And it's all for show, to frighten me. You've probably got a neat wee laser in your pocket that'd do a much better job than your stupid big fucking blade." The nutcase actually unconsciously tapped his left pocket with his free hand. Transparent as a window.

"Me, however, I'm just a poor, helpless, old cunt." My God, did he look disturbed by me swearing? Happy enough to slash me to death, but embarrassed by a slang term for the female sexual organ. Fucking fundamentalist God-bothers! His accent, as he crashed into my office and demanded that I take the posture, immediately nailed down his nationality and I had already started to have suspicions about his Weltblick, based on his scarred but well-scrubbed, monolithic, football-quarterback appearance. A bit like a hard-used Mormon missionary on steroids.

"You've got that big fucking blade and all I've got is this fuckin' pencil!" I took it from my shirt pocket and brandished it in his direction. "A pencil!" I screamed at the top of my voice - which is, if I say so myself, much louder than you would expect from my diminutive stature. "A fuckin', cuntin' pencil! Everyone else has biros or fountain pens or fuckin' styluses bluetoothed to their cuntin' palmtops! But what do I get? This shitty pencil! What the fuck was God thinking about? Is She out of her fucking tiny little mind?"

The poor bastard was squirming now, which looked completely incongruous given his size and shape. It must be like one of his nightmares where he finds himself getting a hard-on in the locker room or an irresistible urge to wear a pink tutu to his Sunday church service. I was betting that he was wondering if he had missed CERN and strayed into the local loony bin. "But professor,... " he started, managing to look surprised as I rammed the pencil into his left eye.

... and he spoke no more.


Chapter 1

The club was dimly lit, loud and packed with sweaty, gyrating bodies. I'm cool, however: calm and in my zone. The top predator. The entire club is my Serengeti. I'm the alpha male lion, basking under a tree while my harem is out on the hunt. I peer past the bottles behind the bar and catch a view of myself in a mirror. I don't look like anything special - spiky ginger hair, thin face and deep brown eyes that have been described as having an evil sparkle. I prefer to think of them gleaming with intelligence but, in any case, they certainly don't seem to discourage the fairer sex.

Of course, nothing is what it seems: my expert system is hard at work ripping the guts out of poor defenseless databases while I play about with a synthchem cocktail at the bar. It might look like the same fluorescent shit that the proles around me were quaffing, but this was serious kit. Not illegal, of course, because there is no point running the risk of being screwed about by the Polizei, who always have narks in places like this. But the latest good gear, nevertheless. It takes ten minutes to produce a new super-stimulant and a decade to get it licensed or banned. So there is a ton of ace stuff floating around, if you know where to go to beta test it. Some, obviously, would just totally fuck you up. If you have the inside gen, however, you can actually get paid to have a really outrageously good time. Not that I need the money, it's just the principle that makes it extra fun.

Access to inside knowledge: that's what it's actually all about. That's what puts me right at the top of the food chain. I sip my drink and feel the chemical enhancements kicking in. I'm faster, smarter, better looking - even my balls are bigger! But that's not what puts me on the top.

Look at the competition! Designer sculpted bodies, designer animated tattoos, designer clothing ...everything tailored by someone else to ensure that they radiate today. Nobody even slightly yesterday would try to chance their arm in this place. These are the hunters, male, female and other, making a living from the low-hanging fruit. Fruit? Well, much of the prey is fruity enough. The 12-year old rich-bitches, augmented to 17 or so with hacked IDs to match. The techno-crumblies, who you couldn't prove to be a couple - or many - decades past their sell-by-date without radiocarbon dating. Or the sad types of no specific gender: just looking for anyone to accept them for what they are, even if they haven't the foggiest idea what that might be. No challenge in that arena, not for me!

I'm following it all with a neural link to Babe. My slave lioness pride leader is what keeps me ahead of the competition. Everyone entering this dive is scanned in a dozen different ways: video, audio, IR, UV, terahertz, who knows what? I've no idea what all that shit is about, but Babe does. She rips databases... and not in a gentle way. Everything that can be extracted from the global knowledge base about any target is torn into shreds by state-of-the-art software, with the single aim of determining their potential interest to me and exposing their vulnerabilities. One simple cost-benefit analysis later and I've identified my victims and sketched the optimum route to their downfall.

"Overkill! Overkill!" my mental image of a prole screams. "Why bother?" A very good question, I concede to myself.

I look around the club, with its self-selected subset of humanity - a sexier, richer, more dynamic cohort - and smile. This is what makes me the only real alpha here. I take what I want because I can. It isn't that I actually need to do things this way. I sit at the top of a very big heap in the biggest pharmaceutical concern in the world. Of course, a pleb like my mental sparring partner would have no idea that it is so very big. According to norm-accessible info, it appears as just one of the Big Six. But there is no Six. There is only one. And only someone at stratospheric management level, or their ace Knowledge Engineer, would know this.

In the real world I have power. I am the ubergeek who makes the hoi polloi salarymen shit blood and ice-queen exec assistants wet their knickers on the basis of a raised eyebrow. I know this. I've seen the stains. But, for me, that isn't real power. That's just management hierarchy: a weak and insipid substitute for the finesse of fingertip manipulation. This you get only when taking control of someone who has no idea of who or what you are.

I was toying with my lurid drink, brushing the glass against my lower lip and coasting on almost-illicit pheromones, when Babe hooked a big one. With the computational power that I have at my fingertips - or, more accurately, supporting my mid-brain - I could have my evil way with almost anyone that I choose. The expert system usually gives probabilities in the upper 90% range. Rarely, however, a victim emerges that would fit my profile in terms of desirable attributes, but would probably not fall for one of the pre-programmed seduction routines: 50%, 40%, lower. These were the ones where the chase was justified. I checked the vid that was uploading directly to the visual centers of my brain, bypassing all the usual optical stuff that the unenhanced depended on. Yes, she definitely looked my type.

All the hacked and restructured info was streaming through the uplink in parallel, but my attention was focused on the simple vid. The woman strolled confidently into the club, apparently oblivious to the surgically enhanced stereotypes packing the place. Short, tight-muscled, small breasts; all presented in a leotard that covered her like a coat of paint. She passed an Amazon lurking at the entrance, 2 meters of tailored six-pack, gleaming skin tones and triple X tits, and didn't bat an eyelid. Natural, her body screamed, the real kit here!

The background was seeping in... name, address, education and employment history. Age: she was forty and looked a very tight thirty-two, -three, something thereabouts. It really was natural, though! I wasn't drooling, but could certainly feel the first twinges of a hard-on.

No doubt about it, this was my target for the evening. Separate from the herd and pounce. The smart systems had already spotted my interest and modified the lighting and sound profiles to present an invisible, yet unavoidable, track from the entrance to the vacant seat beside me. I don't run the club, but I own the company that does, so I can pretty well fuck with things any way I please. The sheep on the dance floor, and the wolves prowling around it, wouldn't notice anyway, even if the guiding pathway had been walled with bricks.

While my victim wends her way towards me, the rest of my seduction kit kicks in. The woman is wearing dynamic fabric, some kind of Escher sort of pattern. I don't have to even make a subliminal demand, but already feel my t-shirt tighten and can be sure that I am now sporting a matching pattern. Amazing how easy that makes the first intro! I'm forced to exhale as my trousers tighten, giving me a more sculpted profile. I could get this from surgery or, perish the thought, exercise, but why bother when smart fabrics can do the work for you?

I can now see my prey in the flesh as a gap opens up in the heaving crowd. The 3D pattern of ultrasonics leaves no choice in the matter and the raven-haired vision clicks towards me on high stiletto heels. The lead-in is set, but I need to make a move within the next few seconds. The intro should have been with me ages ago; several seconds, at least. But my expert system is dumb. I double check. There is nothing my seduction toolkit can offer that has more than a 25% chance of success. Now I really have a hard-on. This is a woman that I must have.

As she approaches the bar, I catch her eye. She raises an eyebrow in an incredibly cute manner and I merely nod like an imbecile to indicate that the stool beside me is free. On the surface, I am cool, calm and collected. Below this, I'm screaming though my neural link for any background that will let me get into this nymph's pants. She is absolutely gorgeous.

Not beautiful, I suppose, by conventional standards. But beauty is now a simple commodity available to anyone with enough cash and, as such, has lost all of its pulling power. Certainly for me. Devastatingly, gob-smackingly cute: that's something that you don't get on the pharm- or surgical-enhancement menu. You can't define what it is, so it can't be faked. It's natural and this dream is the epitome of what it can be.

She drops inelegantly onto the stool and swivels back and forth, allowing me to admire her profile. Black, unfashionably curly hair, cut to shoulder length, perfectly frames her visage. Her face seems small, surrounded by the mass of curls, but the glint in her eyes and the smile on her scarlet lips hint at a vivacious character that makes simple physical description inadequate. She radiates hot! But not in a brassy, obvious way. Sultry, deep heat, which can only be spotted by someone who knows where to look. Somebody like me.

I still don't have any help from my expert system as she turns towards me, making me painfully aware that my tight trousers have exposed a growing erection to any glance below belt level. My arms drop onto my lap just in time, a millisecond before I am clocked from head to toe in a completely unabashed manner.

"Snap!" she says. It indicates how much that she has thrown me off balance that my link has to remind me that this is because our smart fabrics are showing the same pattern. I have, at least, enough forethought to set up a trace routine, to ensure that the dynamic fabric patters gradually synchronize, before I answer.

"Shit! I was assured that this sequence was unique! Look at it, it's exactly the bloody same. We must look like twins - or a really sad couple. Anyway, I'm really sorry. This looks much better on you. Actually, it looks a hell of a lot better. I'll download something else."

Rabbiting like this presented the perfect opportunity for me to examine her in real life. The terahertz scans captured nothing that could be hidden by her skin-tight clothing. Small, but perfectly formed breasts were topped by nipples like acorns. These fought for my attention with the clear evidence that, not only was she not wearing underwear, but was also an aficionado of landing strip pubic topiary. A dream! If someone had programmed a catch for me, it would have been this woman. It wouldn't have been me doing the programming, I had to concede. I would never have guessed that this particular combination of appearance and attitude could hit me so hard.

So now Babe finally comes up with something useful. Her body movements are mirroring the music. A dancer! Now I'm cooking with gas!

"Do you know how well that pattern goes with the music?" I sound like a total dick, but I'm running without ES support. "Do you dance? I don't want to push, but this Escher stuff would be fantastic with movement. I was actually looking for someone... "

"... to download this, so you could dance with her." Her grin was so natural that Babe went mute again. I have all the completely predictable moves of the host of normal club actors and wanabees pre-programmed. Innocent naive fucks up the system, apparently.

"... well, yes, but that sounds a bit manipulative. Really, all I want to do is dance." Christ! I sounded like one of the Travolta clones who were making the dance floor a danger zone for unenhanced humans. "Give me an edge!" I screamed silently through the neural link.

"You're on your own, big boy!" Neural links are sub-vocal, conceptual. But I'd swear that was the voice of my primary school maths teacher. Totally useless teacher, but female in a school for Catholic boys. Subliminal message: take whatever crap input is provided by the software with a very big pinch of salt.

All this high tech subterfuge was burning teraflops, but to no avail. "OK, let's dance," she responded before I resorted to any of the nested patter lines that Babe was, finally, beginning to generate for me.

Again I was caught out like a smash-and-grab lobotomy victim. So busy getting the tactical chat-up planned, it hadn't occurred to me, or my fucking increasingly annoyingly inefficient software, that the first line would work.

"Dance? Dance, indeed! You don't mind the tacky twin outfits?"

"Not at all," she smiled wickedly, "as long as they're a challenge rather than a crutch!"

Wow! Pulling my chain! Kid gloves are off here! "Sort music and lights," I commanded - just to establish who was in charge of this operation. Despite all of my previous complaints, I knew that this was exactly the job that Babe excelled in. The analysis had been running since this woman had entered the club and sparked my interest. A subtle variation in the heavily sampled house/grunge dance beat was enough to nail down her tastes in music. A rip-off of an ancient Dire Straits number, tuned in to her body's micro-movements, was enough. SHE pulled ME up onto the dance floor.

Now it's sorted. Coast to bedroom!

But it wasn't moving that way! The woman just loved dancing! We were working-out on the floor in a way that would grind the hard core aerobics set to a greasy spot in no time. I was keeping up, thanks to chemical enhancements, but you get nought for nought. I was sweating like a pig as my neurally-linked mistress controlled the sound; melding it to our movements to make even the crappiest input from my side seem natural. No matter how often I screwed up, Babe was ahead of me, making my stumbling appear to be completely in synch with the jungle rhythms.

We weren't having sex, but it was close enough to bring me right up to the edge. Babe was running the entire club entertainment system: sound, sub-sonics, lights, pheromones. The resulting dance environment blended our movements and, wherever possible, encouraged close physical contact. Initially this was just the twists and blocks of techno-jive but, as the tempo slowed, easily moved into close grinds and pelvic thrusts. It was auto-catalytic in a strange kind of way. This bar was run primarily to support my individual pick-ups, but there was enough overflow in this case to bring on a feeding frenzy of the other hungry predators, supported by their willing victims. Artificial pheromones set up the initial ambience, but they were rapidly being drowned out by the real thing. It was heading towards a flashmob orgy: a focus of the gutter media. Been there, done that, but never actually started one before.

I was torn. I didn't want to break this flow, but I knew that the dance floor wasn't going to get me to where I really wanted to go. We were dancing as if we had practiced for a decade. Her natural ability was perfectly complemented by my supporting technology. But it had to stop before the inevitable chaos broke loose - these excess pheromones weren't being generated on their own - or I had a heart attack.

So, time to stop for a drink and then move on to dirty tricks time. Not date rape, just a little suggestion-enhancer that might facilitate an escape from disco hell. As my dance partner dashed off for a quick toilet visit, I realized that, formally, we hadn't even exchanged names. I had a downloaded precis of the entire history of Andrea Meier since birth, but we hadn't introduced ourselves so far. "Run this!" I left the tricky bits to Babe: all I had to do was identify the problem and the smart software would solve it.

Now we were back on course! Back from the loo, the delectable Andrea glugged the drink I offered her and immediately attempted to share most of it with me in a very messy kiss. No problems! A bit of enhanced suggestion wasn't going to slow me down at all!

"How about... " was as far as I got before I was grabbed in a most intimate fashion, making it clear that my state of arousal had been noted.

"Now! On the floor if you want!" Andrea was straining against me and cramming her tongue into my mouth. Of course! She was falling for the top predator: she can't resist it. All of the technological support that got me to this point was immaterial to the final success. This was me! Couldn't possible fail!


***

I woke up naked, face down on my bed, with a very sore head and an intense pain in my bum. The former was not, by any manner of means, unusual after a night on the prowl. The latter scared me shitless.

The life of a top predator is not without risks. I know that. It's exactly why I work under the umbrella of my ES support. Could someone have sneaked under my firewall? Was Andrea a bloke?

I strained to remember what had happened. We danced. We got really physical. We came upstairs. This is why I bought the club in the first place: not only have I my own personalized hunting ground, but a comfortable pad for the kill lies immediately above.

Then what? She was like a ferret in heat and certainly had no concealed pieces of male anatomy! We were groping around and ripping off items of clothing before we got the door of the apartment closed. But then things got cloudy. I was ready to go, no doubt about it, but seem to have collapsed just after things started to get interesting. A blank thereafter.

Fucking smart drugs! Must be an interaction between the shit I was sampling and the enhancer that Andrea spat into my mouth. Could that be it?

I almost started to relax as I rolled over to grab a clear-up patch from the emergency supply by the side of the bed. Then I realized that, no matter what knocked me out, it didn't explain my painful arse.

"Fuck! Fuck, Fuck, Fuck! Fuckity fuck for fuck's sake!" I screamed aloud. My anal virginity was gone; without even knowing how or to whom. "Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!" Even though bashing my skull against pillows was having no direct physical effect, the effort of moving my head was enough to hammer nails of pain through my cranium.

As if to intensify my misery, exactly then my phone cut in with a high-pitched scream. Normally, a noise like this would be reason enough to simply throw the fucking thing out of the window. But my phone doesn't scream: it has an awful tacky disco version of Scotland the Brave. Truly fucking awful, I agree, but I can be sure that nobody would ever consider using the same tune. It does not scream with a sound like an anally-abused banshee, I grimaced as this simile came to mind, it simply can't. Worse than that, there're only about five people on the planet with the ability to call me on this piece of shit. I use such low-tech crap only to demonstrate my contempt for underlings when I call them and other lowlife.

Regardless, it was doing my very fragile head in. "What?" I shouted, falling back with a sigh as I finally managed to slap the dermal analgesic onto the side of my neck.

The message was clearly artificially generated, but top-range audio that allowed enough definition to bring back a memory of the nymph that I had attempted to bed. It was definitely my nemesis. "Tom, sorry about this, but you really do deserve it. Trying to use your smart computer systems and chemicals to seduce a poor, defenseless girl. Shame on you!" Even through the voice synthesis interface, her snigger, or snort, came through clearly. She was taking the piss... and enjoying it.

"Anyway, as you know by now, I've left you a little present. It might smart a little but, I can assure you, there're loads of guys who'd pay hard-earned cash to get even bigger things shoved up their asses. So, now we come to the good and bad news. The good news is that, if you do what we tell you to, you'll never even know that you have a capsule of neurotoxin stuffed up your jacksy. The bad news is that, if you don't play, you won't live long enough to worry about it. All you need to know is that the capsule is tailored with every anti-tampering trigger known to man, so don't fuck about with it! Just wait for instructions. I suggest that you have a bit of a kip now: you're going to be a bloody busy little bee tomorrow."

There was a pause, then the message continued "... but I've got to say you've got a tight bum on you! Shame that we couldn't have gone to your room under other circumstances. Then I'd have really given you a run for your money!" The artificially generated laugh sounded more like a witch's cackle, so was probably added for effect. My head had now cleared enough to have Babe analyze the call in real time. Her synthesis was short but cruel. "Downloaded here, so no tracing possible. It looks like the fucker has become the fuckee!" I couldn't have put it better myself.