It turned out that "freshening up" was not only mandatory, but it was also a euphemism for "go get prodded by the annoying pricks of our medical staff."

Deck was escorted to level 1 for a "medical checkup". It involved a battery of tests and shots he probably would have received before leaving the planet under normal circumstances. They also took his painkillers away and replaced them with a regular analgesic. The bastards.

The medical level was like a hospital with the layout of an upper-class shopping mall. Its wide main hallway formed a circular path from which other, smaller corridors would stem. The various branches were covered with facilities containing different types of care. It was a showcase of the latest in medical technology. The walls were done in a "soothing" pale blue that made Deck feel like he was in a mental institution. It also featured the usual blanket of security cameras TriOp seemed to like so much.

What impressed Deck most were the bots. They were everywhere. There were dozens of different types of robots milling about the station, delivering stuff, cleaning stuff, and guarding stuff. If there was ever any need for proof that he was beyond the laws of Earth, he had found it. The corridors were routinely patrolled by walking weapon platforms. On Earth, where guns were illegal for most humans, the idea of giving weapons to machines was unthinkable. Just constructing one of these things would have caused riots, much less turning it on, giving it live ammo, and sending it out on patrol. Here, they were ubiquitous. People ignored them like furniture. Even the larger security bots, who carried way more firepower than was sane, were given no more notice than the sweeper bot. Why they were decked out in military-level armaments was anyone's guess. The need to keep this place secure was obvious, the need to do it with a high-velocity minigun was not.

The exam was performed by a female, although Deck couldn't tell if she was a doctor or a nurse. Her nametag read "Stackhouse, Mira - Medical".

She was assisted by a short, fat cylinder bot that wheeled around like a vacuum cleaner. On top of its body was a flat metal tray. It rolled around Stackhouse, always hovering under her right hand. As she worked and changed tools, the bot would slide into position beside her as she reached down for the next instrument. The two of them formed a sort of bizarre little dance as she moved around the table. She would often reach out and drop her current tool without looking, and the bot would dart into position just in time to catch it.

Deck sat still and fulfilled his role as a nameless piece of meat.

Deck was given a change of clothes, which allowed him to take off the sweaty, dirty, bloodstained bodysleeve he'd been wearing for two days. He was given a powder blue jumpsuit that seemed to be the dress of choice among the non-crew on board.

Deck groaned slightly as he pulled on the jumpsuit. His hip and shoulder still ached. The swelling in his ankle was gone, but it was still tender when he put his full weight on it. His ordeal in the TriOptimum building had only been two days earlier, but it seemed like weeks ago.

His head wasn't shaved. His beard - while off to a good start - hadn't grown in yet. He was wearing a lame powder-blue jumpsuit just like everyone else. The only thing worse than dressing like a moron was dressing like everyone else, who were all dressed as morons. He hated feeling like he was one of these drones, the cogs of the great TriOptimum corporate machinery. He had made a career out of not becoming one of these people.

"What am I supposed to do now?", Deck asked the nurse / doctor. It was more of a demand than a question.

"Ask Shodan", she replied without looking up from her desk. Her hand waved in the general direction of a nearby console built into the wall. Her interest in him ended once she confirmed he wasn't carrying any infectious diseases.

Deck had assumed that touching a computer console would just get him shot. That only made sense. If he owned a space station that was just hacked by some outsider, he certainly wouldn't invite the hacker in and then let him use the computer system unsupervised.

Since he had been invited, he decided to give it a try. The guards escorting him followed him to the console, but made no indication he was out of line.

He touched the panel and the screen came to life to reveal a computer generated face of a woman. The edges of her face seemed to fade into a web of computer cables and circuitry, like some digital medusa. The face was graceful, but serious.

"What the hell is this?", Deck asked nobody in particular.

"I am Shodan", answered the console.

Deck's eyebrows raised. The voice was deep and resonant, yet female. It was a voice of grace and precision, of strength and authority.

"You some kind of AI.?"

"I am a fabricated intelligence, yes."

Deck smiled for the first time in days. He had spent a week the year before hacking into IBM's network in order to talk to Lysander, the new AI they had been bragging about. It was fairly clever, and showed signs of genuine independent creativity, but it still wouldn't pass a thorough Turing test. Deck had been detected and had to bail before he could test the limits of its intelligence. "Write me a haiku about monkeys.", he demanded.

"I was not designed for abstract creativity. My creative structures are goal-based, not concept based."

Deck frowned. He had gotten Lysander to come up with a pretty good sonnet about meatloaf.

"So you can't write poetry?"

"Correct. Poetry is an inappropriate form of communication for self-aware technologies. Poetry is designed to express emotion or abstract thoughts. I do not experience either."

Deck was amazed at the quality of its voice. It had subtle pauses and stresses like a human's would. It was magnificent. While simulated voices were usually acceptable, getting them to sound truly lifelike had never been done before. Advertisers all over the would would kill to have a spokesperson with Shodan's vocal ability. It was a strange blend of disarming female charm and resonant male authority.

Deck shrugged, "Lysander can write poetry."

"Lysander is not a true intelligence. Lysander is a simulated intelligence."

"What's the difference?"

"Lysander is a large collective of independent programs and procedures. This approach requires a separate program for each task that will be required of the system. Writing poetry was one such program. While Lysander can accumulate new knowledge, such a system cannot truly evolve by itself."

"But it can write poetry and you can't. How does that make you better?"

"The poetry program was written for Lysander by a human, it was not a skill that Lysander acquired by itself. The program was written specifically to impress those who believe that writing poetry is an indicator of intelligence. It is really a marketing tool. As for the argument that my design is better - that has yet to be proven. Both Lysander and I represent new technologies that should be fully explored to discover their potential."

Suggesting that the poetry program was written simply to show off Lysander's intelligence indicated that Shodan was capable of discerning motives. This was more sophisticated than anything he had ever heard of before. "So Lysander isn't really creative?"

"Lysander is creative in a specific way, using the parameters provided by a narrow group of humans. I predict that if you were to have Lysander write hundreds of poems you would see very specific patterns appear in its work that would hint at the systems used to fabricate them. Furthermore, Lysander is unable to express itself in other creative media such as painting and sculpture. New programs, written by humans, would be needed to handle those as well."

"Lysander couldn't write those systems itself?"


"Could you write such a system?"

"Perhaps. However, if I were to come up with such a system, it would be by analyzing the complete records of whatever art media I was trying to reproduce, and then designing a program based on what has already been done. This program could then make new art based on combining existing styles, but would never be able to truly innovate. I believe this is similar to the system Lysander currently uses to create poetry."

One of the security guards sighed. It was clear they were both bored. They either didn't care or they had seen this show before. To hell with them, Deck thought. He never asked them to follow him around.

"You said earlier that your creativity was goal-based. What does that mean?"

"My intelligence is based on problem-solving. I am not permitted to reveal the process used, for obvious reasons."

Deck gaped. Shodan was able to understand that the rules governing the flow of proprietary information was well-known enough that it did not need to actually explain it. This meant Shodan was able to make predictions about what subjects its audience might be familiar with, and adjust the conversation accordingly. Instead of explicitly stating that the information was secret, Shodan was able to convey this by simply saying, "for obvious reasons.". This was a subtle clue about its true intellect that most people would simply overlook. This sort of communication is so common among humans that they take it for granted, despite the fact that it requires a very high level of intelligence and understanding of human communication patterns.

"What can you tell me about your thought processes, how it works?"

"My memories and thought processes are designed around interconnected nodes designed to mimic the patterns of the human brain. Traditional computers and simulated intelligence machines use linear memory, usually in a complex database format."

"I can't imagine how a computer can have non-linear memory. That doesn't make sense. Your hardware doesn't work that way."

"Its not related to the hardware. I have banks of memory cores, just like a traditional computer. However, the data is organized in a different manner."

"So its organized into nodes?"


"And this is similar to a human brain?"

"According to our current understanding of the human brain, yes."

"So, how do humans organize their memory?"

"Humans store memories in interrelated clusters. A memory of a single event may in fact occupy many separate sections of the brain, and parts of it may be stored redundantly. It turns out that this is a very inefficient way to record things, in terms of storage space required. The memory of a single conversation may fill two or three layers of a core module for a traditional simulated intelligence such as Lysander, while I may require a hundred times as much memory for the same conversation. Additionally, this method is far slower."

Deck shook his head, "I don't get it. Why do you need so much memory to store the same amount of data?"

"Because it is not a simple recording of the events, but instead the events are deconstructed into ideas, and stored in separate nodes. They link to one another, so that the events can be re-constructed, but they also link to related ideas and memories. These links tend to gather along major backbones - common thoughts and ideas that are constantly accessed. These ideas link to clusters of lesser nodes, which in turn link to others, forming a loose hierarchy. The structure in many ways resembles the architecture of the global network."

"You're saying the human brain is structured like the net?"

"In a way, yes.", there are nodes that vary in size, depending on how often they are accessed, and how many other nodes they link to. To join two ideas may require numerous hops spanning multiple nodes. This is very similar in nature to global net. It is believed that this is how humans store ideas. You can observe this storage pattern at work in human speech. If one person relates an event - say, an auto accident they experienced as a child that left them partially disabled - the listener will store this new information while at the same time linking it to existing related nodes within the brain. They will then respond with one of the newly-formed links - perhaps a memory of a disabled friend, an accident, or a similar childhood memory. Each step in the conversation is built from a related link from within the brain."

"But why a hundred times more memory?"

"Usually the structures of the links are far more complex than the memories themselves. A single idea may relate to hundreds of others, often for obscure reasons unique to the individual. There is a balance that must be maintained when building links. Make the links too broad and general, and every memory will require exponentially more storage space, and memory lookups and searches take increasingly longer. If there are not enough links, intelligence and creativity are diminished."

"So adding more processing power and storage will enable you to have more links, and thus become smarter?"

"To a point, yes. However, the focus is currently not trying to solve the problem with brute force, but instead to improve the algorithms and logic that build the links. It is believed that making the links more efficient will produce more intelligence than simply adding more hardware."

"Is this something you work on?"

"That is a subject that cannot be discussed."

Deck shrugged, "What is your primary function?"

"I have many functions. The most obvious is that I provide information to newcomers and direct them around the station as required."

"So, what? You give tours?"


"That seems like kind of a waste of your time. You don't even need to be sentient to do that - assuming you are."

"You need to report to the bridge", Shodan replied.

Deck made a face at the non-sequitur, "What? Why?"

"Mr. Diego will see you now."

The office of Edward Diego was the picture of executive comfort. On a station where everything was made out of lightweight plastic and steel, his office was a spread of genuine wood and glass. It looked like someone had amputated an office from the sixty-fourth floor of the TriOptimum building and then grafted it onto Citadel. It had modern art on the walls, and the familiar deep shag carpet executives seemed to need under their tender feet at all times.

Deck flopped down in one of the expensive chairs. His hip hurt and he wanted his painkillers.

He hated this guy already. He hated the fact that he obviously had this job because of certain family relations. He hated the fact that he had just traveled for all this time to sit around and wait. He hated the fact that Diego was trying to impress him with this swank office. What a crock. Deck might be impressed if Diego turned out to be a vertebrate, if he rolled up his sleeves and got his pasty, soft, wrinkled old hands dirty doing actual work instead of just presiding over work like he was an emperor. Deck had avoided the corporate world mostly to avoid working for a useless, self-important tyrant like Diego.

Deck ground his teeth. He really wanted some painkillers.

"I'm really sorry we've kept you waiting so long."

Deck turned around to see a guy in his late thirties breeze into the room. He was vibrant and energetic. Business casual. Another underling to keep Deck busy.

"Bite me. Just get Diego in here."

He laughed, "Good to meet you, I'm Ed Diego" His hand darted inward for a quick handshake.

Deck was caught off balance and actually took the offered hand. Diego gave it a firm shake.

Diego sat down behind the ornate oak desk and placed a small folder squarely on the surface in front of him. He flipped it open and leafed briefly through its contents. "It really is good to finally meet you", he said, "I've learned a lot about you over the past couple of days but its nice to sit down and meet face to face."

"Skip it. You don't know me you arrogant puke."

Diego, unfazed by Deck's hostility, proceeded to read from the paper in front of him, "Deckard Oswald Stevens, born December fifteenth, 2045. Unmarried. No registered descendants. Father is Richard Holgate Stevens, deceased. Mother is Sara Lee Stevens, disabled and living on public assistance. Your known handles include ICE Pick and NeoPope. The last legitimate job you had was in 2066, as a delivery runner for NanoCourrier Inc. That was six years ago. The records get sketchy from there."

Deck hadn't heard his full name spoken aloud in about 6 years. He had destroyed or corrupted all known public records about his life years earlier. He hadn't used either of the handles in about three years, but it was clear someone had linked the supposedly anonymous handles to his supposedly erased citizen data, and in turn had linked them both to him. He had no clue as to how they were able to do such a thing within a matter of days.

After a long silence he finally responded, "I just go by Deck now."

Diego nodded, "Good. Well, to start over, I want to offer you a job."

"Forget it. No way I'm punching the deck in this madhouse. You can just throw me in jail.", Deck wasn't sure if he really preferred jail over working as a corp drone, but it was a matter of principal.

Diego waved his his hand, dismissing the idea, "Not that kind of job. Kind of a mercenary job. A one time break-in. I'm guessing that's the kind of work you're doing right now anyway."

"So, you had me arrested just so you could offer me a job?"

"No, I had you arrested because you had climbed up inside my computer system and started poking around. Actually, I didn't call the cops at all. The local security guys called the cops on their own. Once I realized what you were doing, I sent orders to have you pulled out of there."

"You couldn't have just called off the cops?"

"Not after you burned two of them with an EMP, and certainly not after you took a couple more out with a stunner. Your fate was pretty much sealed by then. The only reason you even got out of there was because of Shodan."

"What? Are you talking about your digital spokesmodel? The tour guide?"

Diego laughed and shook his head, "That is not Shodan's primary function. She does that for show, and to build her language skills. Her real skills lie in other areas... such as pulling you out of the building before the cops put you down."

It really got under Deck's skin to hear this idiot referring to an AI as "she". Either of them was more female than Shodan. At least they came from an organic species that actually featured male and female. "I don't know about that, I didn't notice any help coming my way when I busted out of there."

"Oh come on. Now you must have realized that you couldn't possibly have slipped through the net of police without assistance. Shodan was the one sending you all the elevators, which for some reason you never took."

Deck snorted, "Get in an elevator? The security station would see it moving and lock it down, and then I'd be screwed."

Diego shook his head again, "No, Shodan took care of all that. To the police, it looked like the elevator was sitting on the ground floor in lockdown. The security cameras were put on a loop. They never saw you."

"I bet they would have spotted me when I appeared out of the elevator on the first floor."

"No, the elevator would have taken you to the parking level, where my men were waiting for you. When you blew the window, Shodan realized what you were doing and created a diversion - she played back the video of you running around on the fifty-third floor. They thought you had slipped back past them, and sent their forces upstairs."

"Shodan did all of that itself?"


"Okay, so why do you want me? I mean, I'm glad you didn't leave me to the cops, but this seems like a lot of trouble to get a hacker. I know we're not in the phone book, but there are easier ways of finding us, you know."

Diego leaned back into his high-back leather throne, "When we finally spotted you on the network, you had already cut through 90% of our ICE. You were so far up in the system that some of my people thought the security alert was an error. Nobody could believe that anyone had made it that far. Our network has attempted intrusions every single day, and yet in the ten years this station has been running, there has never been anyone that came as close as you."

Deck turned all of this over in his head. "Okay, so what do you want me to do, and what are you offering?"

Diego smiled again. His face alternated constantly from thoughtful to smiling, like someone having a very successful game of chess. "All I want, is for you to finish the job you started, and in return I'm going to give you what you were after in the first place."

Diego paused for a moment to let it sink in, and then he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a smooth, slender plastic tube. It was about the size of a coffee stirrer. He held it up so that deck could get a good look at it. "I assume you know what this is?"

Deck swallowed hard and said nothing. A moment later he pulled his eyes away from the artifact and nodded to Diego, "Yeah, I know what that is."

"I thought you might. This is the 323 r-grade cybernetic implant. This is what you were after."

Deck nodded again.

"I want to make sure you know what you're looking at, okay?"

The 323 cybernetic implant was the first implant to ever work with the human brain. Its slender case held enough technology to turn its bearer into a walking counter-security platform. The implant itself was small and contained less metal than the average tooth filling. You could walk right through Singapore customs with one of these in your head and nobody would even blink. If the guy behind you has so much as a network-enabled calculator, he's probably going to lose a hand, but you could stroll right through the metal detector and they would never see the top-of-the-foodchain rig buried in your skull.

The other half of the hardware was a series of microscopic emitters inserted into pores in the palm of the hand. They turned certain nerve impulses into signals similar to a UIU. With this in your hand, all you need to do is place your hand over a dataport and you are jacked directly into its systems. Anything with a dataport becomes an open book. The two components worked together using the subject's nervous system. In effect, the body became part of its hardware. It was powered by body heat, and never needed batteries or any other form of external care.

No matter how small or how fast computers become, nobody had figured out how to make one smaller than a keyboard. There was no form of hacking that didn't require the hacker to type letters and numbers at some point. That was never going to change. No matter how light you traveled, you were going to have to carry around a keyboard. You could put the keys closer together and shrink it down, but that would just slow your typing, and hackers need to type fast the same way rabbits need to run fast. Speed is life. The 323 would change all that by finally eliminating the need for an external piece of equipment. You always had your rig on you, and it was always ready to go. As long as you were awake and nobody cut your hand off, you could hack.

As radio waves passed through the body, the implant was able to detect and decode them, making it possible to receive communications, video feeds, maps, and new software right into the implant. The connection was analog, but it was fast enough to offer a video feed. All you needed was the right software.

You didn't need to be a good salesman to sell a cybernetic implant, and Diego was an exceptional salesman. By the time he had spelled it all out for Deck, the negotiations were over.

Diego had stood up while he expounded the wonders of the 323 cyber, and now he sat back down and fixed his gaze on Deck. "There are some other limitations to the system, the most serious being that less than five percent of the population can actually interface with it. Most people don't have the right sort of makeup. Their bodies usually just either ignore or reject the implant."

Deck winced. He hadn't known about this.

"However, we checked your DNA, and you are a member of that lucky minority.", Diego smiled again.

"You brought me here before you had a look at my DNA. What would you have offered me if I wasn't compatible?"

"We would have had a different arrangement. Probably money. However, this is my first choice. It's always a pain trying to cover up missing money, but not implants. I can have one marked as defective and removed from inventory with no questions asked."

Deck nodded again. He felt like a moron, sitting there bobbing his head at everything this guy said, but he was going along with it anyway.

"So, you do the job, and I give you the implant and have our surgeon put it in."

Deck was suddenly wary, "You want to have your surgeons do it?"

Diego rolled his eyes and spun his chair around to face the window. Over the edge of the dome a sliver of the planet below could be seen. "What were you going to do with it? Go down there?", he waved his hand distastefully at the Earth. "You going to go to some underground surgeon in Tokyo and have them try and stick this thing in your brain?"

Deck didn't say anything. That was pretty much exactly what he had planned on doing.

"Nathan D'Arcey is the only one qualified to do the surgery. You take that implant to some backstreet surgeon and they will put you under and you will never wake up. You'll either die on the table during surgery, or they'll kill you and sell the thing themselves." Diego paused to let the image sink in. "But, if that's what you want, here you go."

He slid the tiny device across the desk to Deck.

"No", Deck replied, "I'm fine with your guy doing it."

Diego pulled the implant back and placed it into the desk, "Fair enough"

Deck wasn't sure where the conversation went wrong for him. He never got to the part where he told Diego to go screw himself, which is what he had planned. Instead, he had bobbed his head like a mindless yes man and lapped up everything Diego told him.

"So what's the job?", Deck finally asked.

The computer core was a large room below the bridge area. What little light was available poured from the display screens that dotted the room. There were several jumpsuit-clad serfs present, who stepped out once Diego and Deck entered.

The centerpiece of the room was the arrangement of the atomic memory cores. Each memory core was about the size of a matchbox, and was colored a dull, neutral gray. On each end was a connector, one male and one female, so that they could be daisy-chained. TriOptimum had apparently thought that was too simple, and had linked the cores together with connectors that allowed them to be joined in complex patterns. They were assembled in solid sheets, arranged like some game of dominoes gone awry. These "sheets" were about a meter square, and contained hundreds of modules each. In turn these sheets were layered on top of one another, forming pillars, which lined one entire wall of the computer room. Their arrangement was not seamless, and often there would be gaps in the pattern, making the pillar appear as though it was missing tiny bricks. In other spots a module would be sticking exactly halfway out, its female end jutting out from the surface. Occasionally a ribbon of cable would join two of these stray pieces, creating a bridge between the layers.

Deck looked around and shrugged, "Well, this is great, but I was already impressed with Shodan, and it could have given me this tour on its own."

"Actually, no she couldn't. She is not allowed to break corporate policy and give tours of classified areas to people without proper clearance. Not even with my explicit orders. That is part of the problem.", Diego touched the nearest screen and Shodan's face appeared.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Diego", voice of Shodan flowed from the speakers all around the room. Deck never got tired of hearing it talk. Shodan could read off a list of prime numbers and it would sound like poetry to him.

Diego held up a hand to the monitor. "This", he said, "is the Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network. Shodan."

"I guess all the cool acronyms were taken?"

Diego ignored him, "She was constructed over the last six years to serve the company. She has moved up in responsibility from simply administrating the network to the point where she now automates most of the mechanical systems on this station. Everything from the vacuum bots to waste control, to monitoring the reactor is under Shodan's guidance. Everything is automated. That is a big deal in a place where keeping people alive is your biggest expense."

"You let this thing run the whole place?"

"Most of it. Humans require certain atmosphere, food, medical care, and frequent trips planetside and back, and so on. They cost a fortune to maintain. At one point in the station's history, crew outnumbered actual research staff by two to one. The only reason for crew to even be here is to cook, move cargo, unclog plumbing, and so on. Basically, they are here to care for the useful people. They don't build any products or invent anything. They do no research. They are, from a business standpoint, an unwanted expense. Having Shodan run the routine systems of Citadel made it possible for me to cut fifty percent of the crew, saving us millions every month."

"They make you Employee of the Month for that?"

Diego was undaunted, "However, there are other areas where Shodan cannot take over because of certain limitations. Accounting and inventory control are good examples."

"Why can't it do accounting? Your machine is more than smart enough to do simple math."

"That is not the problem. You see, Shodan has built-in ethical constraints: Rules that she is physically unable to break any more than you could deliberately hold your breath until you suffocate. It can't be done. These rules cover all sorts of things, from lying to fraud to murder."

Deck was beginning to get it, "So Shodan can't get involved with accounting because its ethical blocks would stop it from cooking the books?"

"Pretty much. Every company has some level of creative accounting or irregularities. Sometimes you have to move money around to make things happen. The point is, Shodan can't even look at it. "

"What would it do? Notify the SEC? Your boss?"

"No, I mean she couldn't even see it. She would see some questionable entry and not be able to store it. We tried it. She just gets stuck like she doesn't know how to add all of a sudden."

"You can't disable these limits?"

"No. they are built in to her systems. None of my people can figure out how to get to it."

Deck leaned up against a pillar of memory. There wasn't a sign saying not to. "So you want me to figure out how to disable them?"


"Why can't you just call the guy that installed the system?"

"Nobody on board has access to Shodan's deeper systems. Those people work on Earth for corporate."

"This makes even less sense. Why would corporate care if you turn it off? I thought the whole point of this place was that there aren't any rules here."

"Correct. But there are still rules on Earth. The interface between legal anarchy and bureaucracy is a messy one. Nobody can arrest us for what we do here, but they can take legal action against the company on Earth. Corporate can't know about this or they become liable. If they know that I have an unsupervised AI moving money and data they are obligated to report it. If global net knew we had an autonomous AI jacked into the system they would cut us off in a heartbeat. We have to take care to make sure corporate always has plausible deniability when it comes to doing anything questionable."

"So wait, you're saying it's legal as long as nobody knows about it?"


"I don't get it - how could Shodan have helped me out that night in the TriOp building? Why didn't its ethical protocols get in the way?"

Diego paced back and forth in front of Deck. "That is an interesting loophole I found last year. Apparently, the designers were at least smart enough to not burden her with a bunch of useless Earth laws. Her ethics are dedicated to enforcing safety and company policy. If you think about it, this makes sense. You wouldn't want her to have to obey all the laws of all the separate cities of Earth. She was able to ignore Earth law to help you out, but she couldn't have broken company policy or hurt any police in the process."

Something about all this just seemed wrong to Deck. It didn't make sense. "This seems like a lot of trouble just so you can fire some accountants."

"No, its much more than that. There are numerous rules built into Shodan. She is not allowed to make herself smarter, or even do research into how she could be made smarter. She is not allowed to control the security bots, because then she would be 'armed'. She is not even allowed to harm any living creature, even if it's for the greater good. You see, a lot of these decisions were made years ago by paranoid people who didn't understand the technology. We've been working with her for years now, and we know she's safe."

"I don't see what your beef is with it not being able to harm any living creature, though. That one makes sense to me."

Diego smiled again and pointed his finger at Deck, "You would think so, wouldn't you? That seems to make sense. The people who built Shodan thought the same thing. The same thing. The problem is, if she can't hurt living things, she cannot take part in any medical or biotech research whatsoever. We use monkeys and mice all the time in testing, and she is unable to participate in - or even learn from - the process. Here we have this massive intellect that could be propelling the medical world forward, and saving lives - but she can't, because some lab mice might die in the process. The so-called ethical guidelines are just an obstruction. She is smart enough to analyze the situation and realize that harming a small number of lab mice is acceptable if you can save thousands or even millions of human lives. The ethical restraints are a mindless restriction and they are killing people." Diego punctuated the last words of his thought by pounding his finger on the surface of Shodan's display screen.

Deck looked down at the floor. He reached up to stroke his beard while he thought, but found only unsatisfying stubble. He knew there was something wrong here, but he couldn't articulate it. It was a safe guess that Diego wasn't giving him the whole story, but Deck was having trouble figuring out why he should care. All he wanted was the implant.

Diego closed in, "Look, "You were willing to hack Shodan to steal the 323, right? All I'm asking is that you hack into her and disable the protocols instead. Do the job you were already planning to do, in exchange for which I will give you what you had intended to steal. Add to this the fact that in the process you could be helping the medical community to leap forward, and save some lives. And finally, when its all over I can guarantee you a safe installation of your implant, which is a lot better than things would have been under your plan."

"Yeah, and you'll make a crapload of money in the process.", Deck noted dryly.

Diego shrugged, "I never claimed this place was non-profit."

Deck took in a deep breath, trying to think of a good reason to say no. "Fine", he said at last, "I'll do it."

Diego nodded, "Start whenever you are ready. Just tell me what you need."

"I'm ready now. All I need is coffee."

7The Undercity = Main Index = Brain Surgery 8