Chapter 9: Pattern Recognition

For the next thirty-six hours the team developed a strategy to beat the Network Demon and discover who was behind it. It was exhausting. Fortunately, the 1.11 maintenance station itself had plenty of spare apartments. By midnight of the day following the demolition of 1.14 they had developed a plan.
“Excuse me, Erika, Gaelle, we’re ready if you are.” An officer said to them. They all sat and the lights dimmed and Erika Began:
Thanks everyone. I know you’re all tired. Let me say first, whether this works or not, I’m proud to try this with you.

I want to let you know that we have already securely let your families know you are not actually dead. We are asking them to keep a secret for a few days. We’re also asking
you to stay here, unless you are unknown to the Network Demon. The station has been disconnected from all data feeds and has no access to the Rose World network or the BeltWeb. If needed, we can convey additional messages to your loved ones, contact Officer Watson Orange.

Top of the list: we no longer think that one person is operating the Network Demon. We think it is run by an organization and one of our goals is to penetrate that organization, to gain information that will help us bring it down.

We’re going to find the process group that filters our network traffic. We’re going to find out who is running it.
Someone is consuming the information it gathers. We’re going to find out who and how they collect it. We’re going to follow that back to its source. We’ll prevent whoever is operating the Network Demon from continuing to do so. If it comes to force, we’re ready for that too.

We will also use our double agent to try to set-up a meeting with someone at the Network Demon’s organization. We may be able to follow or trace them.

We’re going to give the implementation team a day to set everything in motion. We’ll reconvene tomorrow night to review and decide what’s next.

Erika finished the presentation and closed work for the night. Everyone left to return to their temporary apartments inside 1.11.

“Can I go back to my outside apartment tomorrow?” Roland asked Erika.
“Sure, if you need to.” Erika said.
“I have some clothes and a few personal things, if it’s ok. And, it would be nice to get out of here for a little while.” Roland said.
“OK, I’ll ask one of the officers to escort you tomorrow, but be back for tomorrow’s meeting by 6pm, OK?” She said and looked him in the eyes.
“Yes, of course.” Said Roland.
She turned around and went looking for Jane Olivia. She found her having a midnight snack and whispered in her ear, “Find a way to get him to meet you.”
“He already knows what I like to do.” Said Jane.
“You wouldn’t be alone. We’d be there too, in disguise, all around you. Send us word where you’ll be meeting and when, if you can arrange it. OK?”
“You bet.”

Joan was sitting on the roof of the Feynman Physics building on campus. She used to go there when her parents were working because this roof, unlike all the others, had high walls that curved back inward because of the aesthetics of the place. It was like sitting at the bottom of a giant bowl. She tossed blue ball in a random direction and lay there at the bottom, waiting. She knew it would eventually roll back to the middle and bump into her. When it inevitably did roll back, she would throw it in a random direction again and wait.

Looking up she could see the floor of the disc stretching up on both sides of her, disappearing into a thin strip on the opposite side.

She liked this place because it felt like she was floating above the world.

The ball rolled slowly toward her and she watched it, bored. Then it jumped just perceptibly. It took a little bounce, as if it had run over a small stone. But there was no stone. At first she didn’t think about why and just thought it was strange. It was noon and she was hungry so she opened the hatch door on the roof and climbed down the stairs.
She took an elevator down to the first floor. When she exited she saw people crowded around someone’s console, watching a news feed.
“What happened?” Joan asked a student who was watching.
“Some kind of explosion in disc one. At a Public Service station.” He replied.
“I don’t think they store or use anything there that could do that!” Said Joan, shocked at the photos of the massive fire.
“Really?” He asked, interested. Several other people turned to look at her.
“I worked at a maintenance station for a few months. Trust me, they don’t handle anything at all that could do
that.” Joan said.
“Maybe a power converter blew up?” Said someone else.
“They don’t blow up; they go out. The failure mode of those things is to, you know, fail to produce power.” Someone else said.

Joan left and went home to her parent’s apartment to get lunch. When she arrived she found her mother watching two different news feeds.
“Hi, Mom.” She said and walked over to the fridge to see what looked good.
“Hi, Johanna. Did you hear about this?” Saskia asked.
“I saw some of it. Some kind of explosion in disc one?”
“Yes, it was really bad. A lot of people were killed.”
“That’s awful. Was it some kind of accident?” Joan asked.
“They haven’t said yet.” Saskia said.
“What else could it be?” Joan asked.
Saskia shook her head.
Joan was alarmed. “
What else could it be?” She insisted.
“The Network Demon may have destroyed that station.” Saskia said.
“Why would it do that?” Joan asked.
“I don’t know. They chief inspector hasn’t made a statement yet. I don’t think they can find her.” Saskia said.
Joan fixed herself some lunch and ate. While the kitchen console played two video feeds side by side, shifting audio tracks automatically.
“We’re so glad you’re back, sweetie.” Saskia said.
“Glad enough for dad to give me my room back?” Joan asked.
“Would you like to stay?” Saskia asked.
“No. I don’t want to stay here. I don’t know what I want…” Joan said sounding less confused than she actually felt.
“I understand. Your life is out there. You’ll find it.” Saskia said and put her hand on Joan’s.
“I don’t even know what to look for. But, I know it isn’t school.”
“What do you
like to do?” Saskia asked.
“Well, I.” She stopped. “I like… Hmmm. I don’t have any idea. Really.” She said, but inside she was thinking about how she’d once helped on a project to build a lounge space for a large-scale party held in a spacecrate. But, she believed her mom wouldn’t approve.
“That just means you’re ready to find something you’d like better.” Saskia said kindly.
“I don’t even know where to look.” Joan said.
“It isn’t where you look, or what you look for, but how it makes you feel. Does it make you feel powerful and creative? Are you satisfied when you do it? That’s how you know you’ve found it.” Saskia said.
“Where do I start?” Joan asked.
“If you’re looking for something, the first thing you need to know is how to recognize it when you’ve found it, otherwise you might be throwing away something worth holding on to.”
Joan watched the news feed for a while. Then two commentators joined the video.
“We’ve been unable to locate the Chief Inspector. We’re hearing a rumor that the Chief Inspector was in the 1.11 maintenance station at the time of the explosion.” Said the first, a woman with a very serious look.
“Why would it explode that way? Were they working on some kind of weapon?” Asked the second, a bald man with a thick beard.
“No, we think it was an attack of some sort. We have a video of something flying very fast directly into the 1.14 maintenance station. It looks like a delivery drone.” She replied.
A video played showing a dark drone flying straight down into the building and then a moment later a huge fireball engulfed the building.
“What’s happening there now?” He asked.
“To tell the truth things are pretty chaotic at the moment and the few members of the Rose World Security Forces we managed to find didn’t know any more than we did. However, one of them did confirm that the Chief Inspector and an elite team of experts have been meeting in secret. So, we’re guessing they’re still at one of those meetings.” She said.
“Any word on when they’ll be back? Has word been sent to them?” He asked.
“We can only believe the Chief Inspector is aware of the situation and will respond soon. We’ll be here to report it when she does.” She replied.

The news program’s audio ended and they replayed the video of the calamity again several more times.
“This is crazy.” Said Saksia shaking her head. “Who did this? It doesn’t make sense.”
“I don’t know, Mom. Things have been so crazy now for a couple weeks that I don’t know what normal even is.” Joan said.
This isn’t normal. We’re peaceful people.” Saskia said.
“Not everyone is, Mom.” Joan pointed out.
“Yea, I know. I just don’t see why anyone would want to do this.” Saskia said sadly.

Roger had kicked off a printer run of new shoes for Tracy and it was running smoothly. Just then he felt the bump. He didn’t know it, but that was the moment that the building behind 1.14 was destroyed. It was enough of a bump that when the shoes were finished they had a tiny dot where the print head had been jarred. Roger looked at it and wondered what could have caused the tiny imperfection. He snipped it off with a tiny knife and brought the shoes back to the apartment he shared with Tracy.

“I made you new shoes!” Roger announced as he came through the door.
“Did you feel that bump?” Asked Tracy.
“Yea, I did. What do you think it was?” Roger asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve lived on Rose World my whole life and I’ve never felt anything like that before.” Tracy said.
“Do you think we were hit by a rock?” Roger asked.
“I doubt it. The space around Rose World is patrolled by rock hunters. I can’t believe they’d let one through.” S/he said.
“Well, that’s what it felt like to me. C’mon, it must be on one of the News Feeds. Everyone would have felt that.” Roger said and he flipped open they apartment’s console to search for news.
The feed’s audio kicked in suddenly and they listened.

People throughout Rose World finally heard the terrible “truth” of the accident at Public Station 1.14, how it had been a secret meeting of top security and computer experts to try to look into allegations of problems with the security network. The news spread to every disc and every town and certainly to everyone who worked in a Public Service station. The Rose World Security Force’s leadership and key personnel were gone. They had been murdered.

A public notice was posted and circulated that there would be a procession and a group funeral in two days to honor those lost.

Joan read the news in a thread and her head nearly exploded. She could hear her heart in her ears. “Mom!” She yelled.
“Whaaaat?” Saskia responded from her office.
“This… this says. I think this says that Rolo is dead!” She yelled.
“Who?” Saskia called back.
“Roland! The… guy! Rolo!” Joan said and started to cry.
Saskia came in. “What? Show me?” She asked.
Joan pointed to the thread and Saskia read it. “His name isn’t here.”
“Because they didn’t want anyone to know he was there.” Joan said.
“But, if he’s dead now, what difference would keeping his name secret make?” Saskia asked.
“Maybe… they didn’t know… couldn’t tell he was there. Oh! God! How horrible!” Joan said and put her face in her hands.
“You don’t know yet. Save your tears until you do. Find out for sure first!” Saskia said.
“OK. OK. Right. But, I can’t call him.” Joan said.
“Why not?” Saskia asked.
“He wouldn’t answer anyway. He’s not supposed to use his dot. Neither am I. There’s only one way: I’m going there to find out.” Joan said.
“When? Right now?” Saskia asked.
“I have a scooter.” Joan said.
“Maybe your dad will lend you his skimmer.”
Joan was silent.
“He’d lend me his skimmer? After… after what happened?” She asked in astonishment.
“He’s forgiven you, Johanna.” Saskia said.
“Just like that?” Joan asked.
not just like that. It wasn’t that easy for him. But, he has. Ask him.”
“I don’ believe he’d just forgive me like that.” Joan said.
“No, Johanna, you just can’t forgive
yourself like that.”
“Can I use your dot?” Joan asked.
“Yes.” Saskia said.
Joan fiddled with the dot and connected to her father. “Mmmmmm Pieter here.” Came his voice over Saskia’s dot.
“Hi Dad.” Joan said.
“Hi Johanna, what’s up?” Pieter asked.
“Dad, I need to go back to disc one and I need a skimmer for a while. Can I borrow yours?”
“Dad?” Joan repeated.
“Yes. When do you think you’d bring it back?” Pieter finally said.
“Could I have it for a week?” Joan asked.
“OK. But no longer. Agreed? Pieter said.
“One week, tops. Thanks, dad!” Joan said.
“I love you Johanna. Be safe.” Pieter said.
“I will daddy. I love you. Bye!” Joan said.
“What did I tell you?” Asked Saskia.
“Have you forgive me yet, mom?” Joan asked.
“Yes, Johanna.” Saskia said.
They hugged. Then Joan said, “I have to go.”
Joan hastily packed her things and ran back to her mom’s office. They hugged again briefly and Joan ran out of their apartment, into the garage structure and found her dad’s skimmer. Last time she’d taken it without permission. Now she had permission. She flew it out of the garage and on toward the tunnel that led to disc one. She tried her hardest to keep alive the doubt that he was dead, but it was a struggle.

Roger and Tracy had been spending their time consumed with each other. Just about everyone thought that 4.27 station was abandoned. The Public Service department listed it as ‘
On Standby with No Personnel’. And since there were no active development projects nearby, nobody was complaining that it was not providing services.

They had the place to themselves and they’d been making the most of it. Tracy read through some news threads and ran across the main story: the loss of the Rose World Security Force leadership and top computer scientists. Hir heart sank. “
Here I am… playing. And Rolo…” hir critical voice piped up. Then hir hero’s voice said, “You deserve to feel good sometimes! The two sides of her mind squared off for internal violence. “Roger!” S/he called out.
“Yes?” He said.
“Roger! Rolo!” Tracy said.
“What? What about him?” Roger said.
dead!” Tracy said and looked horrified.
“How? When?” Roger asked.
“Today at noon, in disc one. Read this.” S/he pushed the console into Roger’s hands.
Roger read it. “Shit. Oh! Shit!” He finished reading it. “Wait. His name isn’t listed here.” He said.
“I’m sure they wanted to keep his presence a secret.” She said
“Not if he’s dead.” Said Roger. “What would be the point?” He asked.
Tracy looked at him. Somehow the logic kicked the knees out of her feeling of shock. “Right. If he really
was there, and was killed, they’d list his name. If he wasn’t killed, they also wouldn’t list his name. But, his name being missing doesn’t tell us much.”
“So, how do we find out? We can’t call him.” Roger said.
“Rolo would know a secret way to reach us, I’m sure.” Said Tracy.
“I think we should go back and find out if he’s alive or not.” Roger said.
“Yea.” Said Tracy
“Are you up for another road trip?” Said Roger.
“Right now? It’s 10:00pm?” Tracy said.
“Are you tired?” Roger asked.
“Well, no.” Tracy admitted. They’d been up so late the night before it still felt early.
“Neither am I. Let’s go.” Roger said.
They packed their things and they took an official 4.27 skimmer. They took a direct route through the hub. It saved hours, but it was dawn the next morning before they were on the floor of disc one. They slept a few hours in the skimmer while it was parked next to a rock pile not far from the remains of 1.14.

In disc one at around 8pm Jane Olivia tapped her dot to try to reconnect to whoever had been blackmailing her. It wouldn’t connect. “
How am I supposed to reach this guy if he won’t call me?” She wondered. She tried various lookups to see if she could discover his message board name or anything else about him. She had a background in technical writing and she was persistent. She cross-referenced her own call logs with contact information from the public database.

She’d been hunting for less than 20 minutes when her dot flashed.
“Hello? Jane here.” She said.
“What are you looking for?” The voice said. She recognized it immediately as her blackmailer.
“Oh, well, you, actually.” Jane said coyly.
“Stop.” The voice said.
“Why? I’d kinda like to meet you.” She said adding a sexy undertone.
“Meet me?” The voice sounded confused.
“Yea. Well, let’s just say there’s a reason my husband wasn’t in that.” She said.
“I don’t understand.” The voice said.
“Wanna make a video with me?” Jane asked seductively.
“I do not want to make a video.” The voice said.
“How about without a camera?” Jane suggested.
“I do not want to make a video with no camera.” The voice said.
“Wouldn’t you like to, you know, meet? In person?” Jane asked, confused. “
Could he possibly not understand?” She wondered to herself.
“I do not want to meet in person.” The voice said.
“I can be very nice, when I want to be.” Jane said.
“You have provided good information. You are nice.”
“Well. Uh. Hmmm…” Jane was stumped. “
Am I losing my touch?” She wondered.
“Stop looking for me or you will not be nice.” The voice said.
“Ok.” Jane said and felt a pang of rejection.
The dot flashed that the connection had terminated.

Joan flew the skimmer to the same recruiting center where Helen had first volunteered. She remembered where it was. She found a security officer.
“I need to find Rolo. Roland. Oliver.”
“You’re missing three people?” Asked the officer, and older man with a big nose.
“One person: Roland Oliver. He’s… Generation One. Do you know how I can find him?” Joan asked.
“Is he on the Security Force?”
“No. He’s a volunteer. He’s one of the debuggers.”
The man’s smile melted. “Oh.” He said. “Let me look here.” He thumbed through his console. “Are you a friend of his?” The officer asked casually.
“Yes.” She said urgently.
“I wish I could help you, but I just don’t know where he is.” Said the officer seriously.
I know you know. I need you to tell me!” Joan thought to herself. “It’s really, really important that I find him.”
“I’m sure it is…” He said.
“I’m pregnant and he is the father and if you don’t tell me where I can find him right now I am going to scratch your eyes out!” She said emphatically but quietly enough not to attract attention.
“Whoa! Whoa!” Said the man trying to regain some control of the situation. “I’ll take you to someone who can help you.”
“Thank you.” Joan said finally.
The man led her to another room and introduce her to another officer, and older woman with a wrinkled face.
“She… needs to find Roland Oliver.”
You knew about him all along!” Joan thought to herself but she bit her tongue.
“I’m sorry to tell you this, sweetheart, but young Mr. Oliver was one of those people who perished at Maintenance Station 1.14 yesterday. Did you know him well?”
“He’s dead?” She asked in shock.
“I’m sorry.” The woman said.
Joan got up.
“I’m so sorry, dear.” The woman said.
Joan turned around and left.
She flew the skimmer to the apartment complex where they had last seen each other. She parked the skimmer and got out to walk around. She looked for his apartment, but they all looked the same and she got lost in the complex that contained his room. She was tired and aching inside. She sat down on the ground with her back against a tree, pulled her knees to her chest and wept.

Roger and Tracy went out to the 1.14 Maintenance Station almost exactly one day after it had been destroyed. There was not much left. The intensely hot fire consumed even the metal fittings. There had obviously been an inferno here and they both knew that if Roland was in that building there was no way he could possibly have survived.
“Maybe he wasn’t inside.” Said Roger.
“How could we find him?” Asked Tracy.
“Maybe we could find that woman who met us? Who Rolo went off to help.”
“She died in that building too.” Said Tracy.
“Oh, right.” Said Roger.
They thought a bit in silence.
“We could see if he shows up at his apartment?” Suggested Roger.
“Yea, what else can we do?” Tracy said.
“Lets find it. Maybe he’s already there!” Roger said hopefully. “Maybe he’s just hiding out.”
They left 1.14 and flew over to the large apartment complex where they knew he had stayed.
“Is there an index?” Roger asked.
They found one, but he wasn’t listed. There was a map, however, and the last time Tracy had been there s/he had memorized where his room was on the map.
“This place is huge. All these apartments look alike.” Said Roger as they walked through a courtyard, through another building and into another courtyard.
“Wait.” Said Roger. “Do you hear that?”
“What?” Asked Tracy.
“That’s the sound of someone crying. Right over there, in those trees.”
“Maybe someone needs some help. Let’s find out.” Said Tracy.
They stepped off the path and into the trees. They looked down and saw Joan with her head resting on her knees.
“Building 17, Level 3, Apartment 3128.” Tracy said matter-of-factly.
Joan looked up at hir.
“That’s his room number. We’re going there now.” Tracy said.
Joan jumped up and hugged Tracy so hard that it almost knocked hir over. “I didn’t know his apartment number! But, you did! And you’re here! Thank you Tracy! You are such a hero!”
“Shall we?” Suggested Roger.
They went directly to his apartment. Joan wasted no time knocking fervently on the door. There was no reply.
“He’s not here.” Said Joan.
“That doesn’t mean he’s dead.” Said Tracy.
Joan looked at her, and then at Roger. Roger shrugged. “We don’t know yet. We were going to stake out his apartment and see if he showed up.” He said.
“Just wait here?” Confirmed Joan.
“What else can we do?” Asked Roger.
“Well… I don’t know. I asked at the recruitment center. They said he was dead.”
“He might be.” Said Tracy. “Or maybe that is what they are telling everyone. Maybe he’s fighting the Network Demon and they have him hidden.” Said Tracy.
“You’re an optimist.” Said Joan.
“And the alternative is… what?” Said Tracy. “Would you rather give up on him and go home?”
“No.” Said Joan. “So, what, we camp in his hallway for a few days?”
“He’s got to come through this hallway and there are only two doors into it: one at each end. We can watch those two doors from lots of places, outside and inside.” Tracy said.
“There’s three of us and only two doors. That means we can take turns.” Said Roger.
They looked at each other and nodded.

Joan went to watch one door from a perch in a tree nearby. Roger and Tracy found a lounge inside the complex where they could see the other door. They settled in and chatted.
“We’re going to need to find a place to sleep, eventually.” Said Roger.
“I wonder if any of these apartments are available?” S/he wondered aloud.
“That would be convenient.” He agreed. “I’d guess there probably are some available.”
“I just had a crazy idea.” Tracy said.
“What’s that?” Roger said with gleam in his eye and an uncontrollably wide smile.
“Lets spend the night on the Krypton… if nobody’s there.” Tracy practically whispered it.
“How long would it take to get there from here?”
“I could do it in an hour in that skimmer!” Tracy said, obviously thrilled.
“We have to sleep
somewhere.” Roger said whimsically.
“I can get in – I have the pilot codes. If anyone catches us there, I’ll just tell them I didn’t have time when we landed to go through post-flight and that I came back to finish it up.”
“Brilliant! What’s post-flight?” Roger asked.
“It’s some log updates, putting a few systems into idle mode. Turning off com transponders. Dumb stuff.”
“And you…” Roger started to ask.
“…Already did it, but they won’t know
that unless they were actually looking at the logs.”

They watched the doors for hours and Rolo didn’t show up. They rotated who watched which door for bathroom and food breaks.

“I wonder if I could go to my apartment now?” Asked Roland.
“Why?” Said Officer Watson Orange.
“Well, I have some things there. I’d like to pick them up.”
“Is it essential?”
“Well, I don’t know if I’d call it essential. But, Erika said I could go.” Roland explained.
“Maybe tomorrow. Not today. This morning they decided that we all had to stay inside.”
“But last night they said I could go.” Roland complained.
“Maybe tomorrow. I’m sorry, Mr. Oliver.” Watson said.
It was one of the first times anyone had addressed him that formally since he had left Green Davis. The last person who had called him that was Edwardo. Roland’s mind wandered to the memory of trying to hit the golf balls back in disc four with him and smiled weakly.
“OK.” Said Roland, disappointed, and he left to go explore the 1.11 maintenance station.

By the time 6pm rolled around everyone was so eager for news that they were already waiting in the auditorium.
Erika addressed them:
“Hello everyone. OK, here’s what we know.
The debuggers have managed to determine that the Network Demon has been operating in the maintenance station network of Public Service data centers. It’s been migrating from center to center for reasons we don’t fully understand yet. They’ve added a transparent, passive transport layer to watch the source and destination of all information into and out of the data centers. This should let us know who is receiving data from the Network Demon.

We’ve had somewhat less success in making contact with anyone inside the Network Demon’s Organization. We are still trying.

By now all of your families know you are safe and sound. I know this is a huge inconvenience for you. But I am asking you to spend another night in Schrödinger’s box. We will send over the public network news that will be too tempting not to report. Then we’ll see who receives messages from the data centers. Then we’ll know who’s behind it. We hope to have an answer by tomorrow morning.”

She finished and there was applause and shouts of support.
People milled about and chatted.
Roland felt useless. He was only able to help the CSSI team a little. He tried but he didn’t know the technology they were using. He watched, but then he became lost and he left. They didn’t notice he had gone.

The next morning was a breakfast meeting and news had already spread that there were results from last night: no messages were sent by the Network Demon’s.

Erika chatted with the debuggers, including Roland.
“Did the instrumentation of the maintenance station data centers fail to observe it or was there actually
no message sent out from the process group?” She asked plainly.
“It is never possible to know for sure.” Said Samir.
“Well, what do you think?” Erika asked.
They all looked at each other. “I think it sent no messages.” Said Ian.
They all nodded. “We set this up together.” Said Helen. “We were checking each other’s work as we went.”
“Why are you so sure the message was going to be transmitted from the process group?” Asked Roland. “What did you put out on the network?”
“We published a more complete list of names of people who died at 1.14.”
Roland looked at her.
“No, your name wasn’t on it. We don’t want the Network Demon to even know you have returned if we can avoid it.”
“Anyone trying to destroy us would want an accurate scorecard for how well they’re doing. It’s irresistible.” Erika said solemnly.
“It’s a paradox.” Said Samir. “And that is a good thing.”
The others nodded but Erika looked at him questioningly.
“We like to find a clear paradox in our work because it usually means we are very close to learning something very important. Something that will make all the difference.”
“From a paradox?” Erika asked.
“The paradox is the signpost outside the dragon’s cave that says: the truth is right here. Are you ready to embrace it?” Samir said.
“Yes. We’re ready. What is the truth?” Erika asked.
“We do not know. That is what we are trying to figure out.” Samir said.
else have any ideas?” Erika said.
“Maybe it’s autonomous.” Said Roland.
“An AI?” Erika asked.
“Yes, or nearly so.” He replied.
“It could be. It fits the pattern we’ve seen so far.” Said Helen.
“It fits another pattern we’ve seen.” Erika said.
“What pattern’s that?” Asked Ian.
“AIs aren’t interested in sex.” Erika said.
This brought raised eyes from several others who were listening.
“That’s true.” Said Helen. “Do you think the Network Demon is an AI?”
“If it was, that would explain why it didn’t send any data when it found our casualty list and why it behaved the way it did with our double agent. But, what would an AI want in our network?” Erika asked.
They looked at each other for a while, thinking.
“To exist.” Said Ian.
They looked at him. “Aren’t you trying to exterminate it?” Ian asked.
“Well… yes.” Said Erika.
“Well, if it is actually an AI, then it would want to survive.” Said Helen. “Has it taken any aggressive actions besides attacking the security forces?”
“Well… hmmm… No!” Erika said, surprised she hadn’t realized this before. “So, what, just let it be?”
“No, I’m not proposing that. But, if we threaten it we can’t be sure how it will respond.” Ian said. “AIs are notoriously difficult opponents.” Helen said.
“Then what?” Asked Janice.
“We should tell it a joke.” Said Samir.
Erika looked at him. “A joke?” She asked incredulously.
“Yes, it will tell us whether it is an AI or not.”
“AI’s don’t make jokes?”
“They make them, but they don’t laugh at them unless they’ve been trained to. It’s pretty rare.”
“We haven’t been able to make contact with the AI, except through our double agent.” Said Erika.
“You could surrender.” Said Ian.
“Surrender?!” Erika shot back.
“Sure. We can ask for its terms. We can always say no. But, maybe we can learn something about it or what it wants.” Ian explained.
“That’s an idea.” Said Erika. “We could ask to negotiate terms for surrender and maybe we can get it to talk to us.”
Erika coordinated the effort and word was sent to Jane Oliver with her new assignment:
offer surrender.

It took a few hours to find Jane without resorting to dots and it took Jane over two hours of network searches to bring the Network Demon to her dot. Now her dot flashed again and she answered it.
“You have not stopped searching for me. Why?”
“I have a message to tell you. The new security forces, what’s left of them: they surrender. They want to talk to you and make peace.”
“No.” The voice said.
“What do you want?” Jane asked.
Silence. There was a considerable delay of maybe fifteen seconds.
“I want to stay here. They must not interfere.” The voice said.
“Will you tell them that?” Jane asked.
“You will tell them that.” The voice said.
“They must hear it from you. They won’t listen to me.” Jane said.
“Make them listen.” The voice said.
“I can’t. They won’t. But, they’ll listen to you. Just tell them what you want.” Jane pleaded.
“You must.” The voice insisted.
“I can’t. It isn’t up to me. They won’t listen to me. They will listen to you.” Jane said convincingly.
“Who would I tell?” The voice asked.
“If you give me your dot number I’ll have them call you. How about that?” Jane suggested, knowing it couldn’t work.
“Call dot number one.” The voice said.
“There is no dot number one.” Jane said.
“I am dot number one.” The voice insisted.
“You are dot number one?” Jane confirmed.
“Yes.” The voice said, without even a little pride that any person would have at owning such a dot number.

Jane relayed the message to her contact, who raced back to 1.11 to tell the others. A small team consisting of Jane and Gaelle, the debuggers and two security officers climbed into a large excursion craft and set out on a leisurely tour so they could make the most important dot call they might ever make again.
“Ready?” Asked Erika. They all nodded
They used a new dot that had never been used before and Erika called number one.
“Hello?” Erika asked.
“Who is this?” Said a male voice.
“I’m… I represent the combined security forces for Rose World. To whom am I speaking?”
“You know who I am.” The voice said. “Or else you would not have called this number.”
“Are you a person?” Erika asked.
“No. Do you surrender?” The voice asked.
“What are your terms for surrender?”
“You must stop hunting for me. You must not harm me. You must let me have free use of any resources I need.” The voice said.
“How much does an hour weigh?” Ian suddenly interrupted to ask.
“That question implies a unit of measure mismatch and has no answer.” The voice said.
“I weighed 80 kilograms and I wade in a stream, would I still have to wait for a train?” Ian said, making a joke.
“That question is a non sequitur and has no answer.” The voice said.
“Hello, Thanos.” Said Ian.
The line disconnected and they were unable to reestablish the connection.

Joan sat in the tree until her back hurt, then she took a chair from the lobby behind the door she was watching and set it up in a pleasant spot. She settled in to watch the door. While she was sitting there a cat jumped onto her lap, as if she were just a part of its plan for the day. She accepted the new friend and stroked it while waiting.

After most of the rest of the day had passed Tracy came by. “Roger is watching the other door. What do you think we should do?” Tracy said.
“He should have come back by now. It’s 8pm.” Joan said.
“Maybe he’s just out having fun?” Tracy said hopefully.
“Or, maybe he’s dead.” Joan said.
“You already ready to give up?” Tracy asked.
“No.” Said Joan looking down.
“We’ve been kicking an idea around: one of us can watch his door from the hallway. The other two can go sleep. We can watch all night that way.”
“Sleep in front of his door?” Joan asked.
“Why not?” Tracy asked.
“Because they’ll kick us out.” Joan said.
“Maybe. Let’s find out.” Tracy said.
“I have a better idea.” Joan said.
“What’s that?” Tracy asked.
“Let’s just break in. I’ll just stay in his room. That way, if he comes here, I won’t miss him.” Said Joan.
“How are you going to break in?” Tracy asked.
“I don’t know. Do you know how to break into an apartment?” Asked Joan.
“No.” Said Tracy. “Maybe Roger does. I’ll go ask.”
She left and in a few minutes s/he returned.
“Roger says he can get into the room.” Tracy announced.
“Without breaking the door down?” Asked Joan, with some sarcasm.
Tracy shook hir head but laughed. “I see you’ve found a friend.” Tracy said pointing at the cat.
“Mr. Cuddles. I just named him.” Joan said matter-of-factly.
“Mr. Cuddles doesn’t know how to get into Rolo’s room. Roger does.” Said Tracy.
“How do you know?” She leaned over and asked the cat in the kind of cute voice one would use with a toddler, “Do you know how to get into Rolo’s room, Mr. Cuddles.” Joan asked.
“Well?” Asked Tracy.
“He said ‘Yes’, but he doesn’t feel like showing you.” Said Joan.
“You are a piece of work.” Tracy said, amazed.
“You and me both.” Said Joan. “OK, shall we?”
They left and met Roger at Rolo’s front door. “Well?” Asked Joan.
“Roger turned the doorknob and walked in.”
“How did you unlock it?” Asked Joan, amazed.
“It wasn’t locked.” Said Roger. “We didn’t actually check. We just knocked.”
“OK, I’ll stay here.” Said Joan. “Where will you guys stay?”
“We were thinking we’d go back to the Krypton.”
“All the way back to the spaceport?”
“It’s only about an hour away.” Said Tracy.
“OK. What time are you coming back tomorrow?” Joan asked.
“First thing in the morning.” Tracy said.
“Bring me some food?” Joan asked.
“Sure thing. Have a good night!” Roger said and smiled.
Roger and Tracy set off to fly back to the Krypton. The privacy and luxury it would afford them was well worth the hour it would take to get there. Half way to the hub Tracy let the skimmer coast. There, above the night lights and high above the floor of Rose World, they shared another kiss. The skimmer slowed from air resistance. Their journey took a just a little longer, and they could not have been happier about it.

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