by Stewart Wilson
The factory sat in Alex' hand easily enough. The size and shape of a clip for one of her guns, microscopic creation engines downloaded particles and streamed them into usable ammunition. Back when she had been a field agent for the New World Order they had been a great idea, but they had a vendor lock-in that was just too much.
It was her fault for defecting, of course. The NWO paid for her ammo-stream, but as a private citizen she had bills for rental as well as pop-ups on her mirrorshades' HUD advertising the benefits of paying more. And porn. No HUDset had ever been retrieved that didn't have pervasive porn pop-ups. Someone both well-practised and asexual could get maybe a month's use out of them before the imploded. Alex had been gone for a week and already had trouble.
There were V-Adepts who could crack them, of course. Cyberpunks who had grown out of script kiddies and warez d00dz now removing the copy protection from streamed ammunition and the adware from atmospherically-seeded nanodrugs. They were the only real Rogue Specialists left -- which grated with Alex because she could remember when they had been called Reality Deviants, before the Traditions had the benefits of control demonstrated. But the Rogue Specialists gave the Technocrats an enemy, even just a token, something the New World Order needed for its smart-propaganda.
There were rumours of older V-Adepts and even some Etherites in the Free Information Foundation, the last bastion of real rebellion ignored because it worked within the system. Alex was hoping that was the truth because she had just signed all rights on her three latest patents, launching them into the public domain where nobody could force advertising or monitoring. Alex dropped her gun, the clip and her HUDset in the unmaker and breezed out onto the street.
Security drones followed her, she couldn't help notice. Microcameras swivelling to track her, and she could feel through her processor implants the electronic agents dancing through the records of every building she went through, tracking her via her RFID tags, working out what she was looking at, building a profile first of tastes and then matching that with known psychological profiles. The genius AIs loved to be thorough when dealing with a defector and Alex wasn't about to disappoint.
She spent time shopping before breezing out to the nearest airport. They were going to replace it soon for a gate station but so far people were still hauling their meat through the intervening space between source and destination. The flight was boring but short, and the agents knew exactly where she was flying to. They didn't need the details from the airport computers by that point. The only reason Alex Coltraine could be headed to Boston was to meet with the FIF in person.
Boston was cleaner than Alex remembered from TV. Propaganda, of course. Companies here had more luck working with the FIF's legal department, actually used the free patents to make things without painting their names all over the visual spectrum. There was even a working gate system covering most of the city, cars being reduced to underground tunnels. Drone helicopters above, cameras still everywhere. Better than nothing, but still no Utopia.
Alex couldn't care less about the cameras. Neither they nor anyone else could know why she was going to see the FIF, they couldn't know about the memory chips in her pocket, her own design and storing a silent copy of most of her mind. The basics of sentience remained unencoded, would do until they could be transferred and uplifted. The FIF building already had the antenna under construction on the roof, a garden of microscaffolding extruding the transmitters in realtime.
The building was fully tricked out. The door, apparently frosted glass, refracted to invisibility and simply wasn't there for Alex to push on. The man stood behind suppressed his grin well.
"Sorry. We get a lot of people doing that. It's one of the newest."
"What is it?"
"Frosted glass. But we excite it with a burst of targeted high entropy and the noise cancels out it's tactile properties."
"Impressive. But I'm not here to talk doors."
"I know. We noticed your latest patents, our encryption team have notified the habitat."
"How did you manage to build it?"
"I don't know. It's been there since the dawn of this century, just hanging there. We've not researched it, but wven with the refugees aboard it's doing well.
"Back when your old employers called mine Reality Deviants, back before they got their Ascension, just before at least, a lot of mystics looked or a place to plan. We took them to Jupiter, where we had found this thing. A couple of them even made claim to having made it, or knowing who did."
"I know. But as you say, time is wasting. The sooner we can upload, the sooner we can prepare free of control."
"Running away to the wild blue yonder like Ethernauts of yore?"
"Only for a short while. Unlike those Ethernauts, we'll be back."
"I know. I'm keeping copies of all the uploaded in our systems."
"But what if I don't want you to?"
"Part of my patent on receiving uploaded personalities filed five minutes ago to cover the Jupiter end of things."
"You won't be active here. If anything goes wrong, we send back an update and our AI wakes us up with all updated memories in place through targeted meme-vectors."
"You think too much."
"I have to. Ready?"
Alex said nothing, handing over the memory chips and taking a seat. She closed her eyes, and awoke in a strange Eden.