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ICE

Joshua Klessig

{ICE- Intrusions Countermeasure Electronics. A program that protects confidential or sensitive data by incasing it with the ICE encryption codes. Failed attempts to break this ICE can cause fatal counterattacks to the brain of the person trying to break the ICE.}

In a world of shadows, grey waters, and grey skies. Alleyways where a hundred illicit data transactions take place. This is life on the East Coast, 2031. Most people get by from smuggling illegal data, and some by selling the newest drugs. Pimps on every corner selling memory cards of their hooker’s best sessions. In this world shrouded in the darkness were humanity gave up on society, those with legitimate lifestyles are rare.

Alan Carter holds a simple job of fixing peoples cyberdecks, and taking a little data for himself. He manages to hold up a good front; he works in secret and without a trace. His contacts never see him and he has no real enemies.

Alan was in his apartment in a quiet corner of New York, his deck started beeping. Removing a silver biochip from a small socket behind his ear marked "Mozart", he gets up and hits a oval button that read "two way video". A face appeared an obvious suit.

"I need your assistance," the face said "my cyberdeck has stopped starting up and it contains intaCOMP research and development files I need for a meeting this Friday."

"Okay. I will need your name, address, and cyberdeck model," Alan said with a hint of displeasure in his voice "and when will you need it fixed?"

"Peter Fletcher, 241 Tokay Ave., intaCOMP H153P," he said "by tonight."

"It will cost you an extra 25% to have it done tonight," Alan replied "I can be there in one hour."

"Fine, I will be waiting, don't be late."

The screen turned blank and flashed "Transmission Terminated" in bold red letters, Alan released the silver button. As he walked to Tokay Ave., he decided that the equipment he would need for such a new model would have to be his newer parts. That alone should be an extra 20%.

**********

The fix was simple, the guy accidentally iced his data core, and a simple icebreaker restored function. Coincidentally, an icebreaker that was pre-configured to upload Peter's research and development files into Alan's equipment. As he left the apartment, Alan noticed something in Peter's waste paper basket. He took it with him and examined it after he left. He was surprised to see he was holding an intaCOMP Bioprocessing chip. These chips used architecture derived from brain tissue analysis to hold immense amounts of data, and they are not cheap. Alan wondered why someone would leave one of those on the ground, he turned the chip in his hand and found out why, the chip's housing was broken. Also the word "DEFECTIVE" was printed with big red letters on the back. He decided that it was probably junk, but he may be able to interface it with his deck.

When Alan arrived at his door he inserted his keycard and entered. No messages on his answering machine, and nothing on his schedule, a perfect time to try out the chip. With microscopically accurate instruments, he peeled away the broken housing. After hours of careful work his reward was right in front of him, five open terminals. Sticking the chip in a vacuum chamber and connecting the leads to his deck, Alan was ready to go.

He attached the electrodes and inserted a plug into a small hole at the base of his head. The feeling of his brain being released from his body and entering something new, no restrictions and no boundaries. Floating in the middle of the nonspace, Alan had just entered cyberspace. Tens of thousands of computer generated sensations entering his brain via a hard wired chip in his head, amongst them was vision, including the vision of the large object that stood in front of him.

A gigantic opaque light blue sphere floating amongst the graphic representations of data. As he approached the sphere that represented the chip's data, sudden sensations and memories of pain shot through him and he found himself reeling from the blow. The chip's data was encased in the most complex ICE Alan had ever seen.

"Damnit," he said, his head still aching from the blow, "what kind of data is so important that it needs that kind of ice?"

Alan jacked out, back to the real world, his consciousness once again imprisoned in a cage of flesh and bone. What would he do? Would he try to break the ice and risk frying his brain or pass up what could be the kind of data that could change his life? This chip could contain the kind of data that could make him rich, or get him killed. He disconnected the chip, and thought about it for over a week, he decided he would risk it.

*********

He fixed some more cyberdecks and fenced their data. He transferred his credits to a Swiss account and spent his last Penney on a new Russian icebreaker. The Prometheus virus was made to penetrate the newest ice. He took the MicroCD with the virus, slipped it into his deck and connected the chip.

The familiar thrust of sensation, like an airplane taking off overcame his body again as he entered cyberspace. In his hand was a small red glowing sphere that represented the virus. He could feel it burning in his hand; it gave him the creeps just looking at it. There are viruses out there that can infect the human brain if they are connected. They are called neuropyscotic viruses. One of those viruses could make a strong willed, sane man into a blithering lunatic. Pushing those thoughts aside, Alan lobbed the ball at the sphere initiating a chain of sequences that if successful, would break the ice.

The virus fragmented into what looked like small drill bits and attacked the ice in unison. Tiny red dots swarming against and ocean of pale blue ice. Suddenly Alan could feel something go seriously wrong. The ice turned green and a laser thin shaft of light hit him right in the forehead. He could feel the paralysis overcome his body.

In less than five minutes his body would succumb to the Electro-Magnetic pulses that are overriding his brain. One minute, the sensation is very much like a seizure. The feeling of a brain being overloaded. Blacking in and out with harsh abruptness.

Two minutes, now he is losing sensory capabilities. A big explosion of light and color, then nothing. Black emptiness. With a thunderously powerful bang, he went completely deaf. His arms felt numb and there was a dull pain in his spine.

Three minutes, a feeling of falling down a long tunnel. Four minutes, and a sudden jerk. He was lying unconscious in a chair next to his console. After ten minutes he came to the realization that he was not dead.

Looking at his console screen he saw what he was looking for, the data encased inside the pale glow of the ice was now in his grasp, completely exposed. Its shape was a series of polygons connected by lines of silver. It turned continuously on one axis counterclockwise. All edges rigid, primary colors.

Then something changed. It changed direction, and became fluid and realistic. It manifested itself on a screen to form a perfect human form, young, about 20 years of age. Slim, with distinguished features, and it spoke, not with a voice but with an LED panel.

M.R. ARTIFICAL INTELEGENCE PROGRAM BATCH 5 NOW ONLINE. USING 1.4 THOUSAND TERABYTES OF DATA SPACE. RUNNING SELF-DIAGNOSTIC PROGRAM MARK 19495...97.2% OPERATIONAL. ACTIVATE SELF-CONSCIENCENESS? (y/n)

"No." Alan said with fear in his breath. The AI was discarded for a reason, any number of reasons: too smart, too powerful, personality flaw, any of those things could be disastrous. Still, it could be interesting and could be worth the study.

With an arm still trembling with fear from the near death experience with the ice, he pressed the button on the console marked "N".

M.R.A.I. PROGRAM DROPPING TO NON-SELF MODE. AWAITING COMMAND

"Activate voice modulation", Alan entered into the console. He assumed that an AI this advanced should have a voice module.

"M.R.A.I. program awaiting command..." the computer replied using it's new found voice.

"What were you programmed for?"

"I am programmed for intaCOMP as a virtual doctor program to be linked to an advanced, mass generating, holographic system to work with patients that needed time and resource consuming attention. Only ones who were profitable of course."

"Cute," Alan said "a program with human values in mind. M.R.A.I., Ice your self-awareness and shut down."

"Are you sure you want to ICE and Deactivate?"

"Yes"

"ICE program initiated, shutting down"

Alan fitted his new prize with a new protective casing. He decided that it might be smart to examine that data that he stole from Peter's computer. Amongst the various charts and graphs, there was something interesting. The program required Alan to connect into cyberspace. He once again connected the electrodes to his head and inserted the plug into his head. Sitting before him was Peter, or at least a good avatar.

"Artificial software agent awaiting your command Peter," the agent said. Because it was programmed for use by Peter, it didn’t know that the user was actually named Alan.

"Switch name variable to Alan, and stand up. I hate it when AI's sit" Alan said with a chuckle.

"Command Accepted. What do you desire Alan?"

"Tell me about M.R.A.I."

"Please elaborate. Would you like an overview, technical schematics, or information on field tests?"

"Give me an overview and field test information, but ixnay on the technical schematics. I slept through 'Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems 101' and I don't feel like another lesson."

"M.R.A.I. is a program designed to give a patient the kind constant care that would normally be to difficult to obtain from a human practitioner. Useful for patients with serious cancer, AIDS-5, and IRRF(Industry Related Respiratory Failure) and other gene based illnesses that require long term care."

"How was it intended to be distributed?"

"In M.R.A.I.'s final phase, it would be distributed by a doctor's prescription. It, of course, will only be available to those of the upper class, or those with a perfect credit record."

"People with perfect credit records don't exist. Now tell me about the field tests. What were the findings?"

"The program was given to a group of 10 test subjects within the lower ranks of intaCOMP. The first month of operation was fine. The patients were getting complete, accurate, and constant service from their own home. There were signs of data degradation in the M.R.A.I. file signature on the 34th day of use."

"Are there any indications of the cause of this degradation?"

"M.R.A.I. was programmed to self modify for the purpose of 'getting to know' it's patients. This was always a worry because it allows a vector for data mutation."

"Okay. Go on about the field tests."

"About a week after the first noticed data degradation, the mutations started to become serious. There was unrest amongst the technicians about continued use, but a decision came from above to continue. Five days later the first person turned up dead."

"What was the apparent cause of death?"

"An overdose of morphine. The field tests were continued and the other participants were not told about the incident. A week later, six more were found dead. The deaths were violent in nature, severe mutilation. At this point the plug was pulled on the project, and the program has been returned to the technicians for reprogramming. The events were covered up under the guise of an escaped murderer. The bodies were cremated and given a proper funeral."

"That's great. Shut down program please."

"As you wish user Alan."

After Alan returned to reality, he went to his console to dial an associate of his that could fetch him a cozy sum for that chip. Someone could probably have a heyday backwards engineering it. Alan dialed in his E-Phone account and arranged a date for the transfer. He looked over to one of his computer screens. The M.R.A.I. program was staring back at him through the glare of the screen. Alan looks over to the wires connecting the chip to his computer. He pulled them out if their sockets. The face on the little screen silently blipped out of existence.

*******

2 A.M. FRIDAY

Alan entered Central Park, found a trash can and dumped a zip-lock bag with the chip in it. He walked to the other side of the park, lying on a bench was a briefcase. He took it, checked it, and left for home. Inside the case was a bunch of basic office stuff, papers, pencils, and what not. Your basic office tools. But one piece of paper was different. A bit thicker, Alan tore it open and found a gold debit card, charged to $100,000. Not a kings ransom, but Alan was not a king.

There was something strange about the debit card. One of Alan's instruments started picking up interference. On a hunch, he waved the debit card near the device, the interference got worse. Alan removed the debit chip and burned the rest of the card. Several minutes later gunfire shattered the silence, and his windows. Alan was no longer without enemies. He saw out the window that three black cars without license plates were parked outside his apartment. They all had intaCOMP logos on the doors. Three men came out of each car. Alan knew he had to escape. He went to his console and activated a hologram of himself to buy him some time and left out the fire escape.

As he made his descent, someone came out of their car and motioned to the other two guys to come out. Sudden erratic bursts of gunfire flew at Alan. He had to make time. Then without warning, gunfire came pouring down from above. At least one bullet went astray and hit a man below because he was on the ground. Then another gun went off and Alan felt a strong pain in his right arm. It caught him of guard and he fell off the fire escape and hit the hard ground.

Quickly he got up and made for the cars. On his way he grabbed the now dead man's gun. He got in the car and the motor was still on and the key in the ignition. As he drove off, more bullets flew. They marred the car's sleek black exterior.

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