“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ghenn said. Robaire’s words, the accusation behind them, didn’t faze her in the slightest. She registered them, and in some distant space in the back of her mind she thought, “Wait, what?” but they wouldn’t sway her from her course. Robaire had to be stopped. He had to be made to answer for Kyle and Jando’s deaths. There would be time for questions, time for an investigation later. Now there was only those cruel eyes, that arrogant sneer, the porcine face, and what she was going to do about it.
Robaire’s eyes locked onto Ghenn’s. He was silent, his brows furrowed in concentration as he studied her. “Get him,” the voice whispered. “Wrap your fingers around his throat. Do it.”
“They offered you freedom. They told you, ‘Do our dirty work and we’ll grant you three wishes.’ Is that it?”
“Your words won’t save you, Robaire.”
Robaire sniffed. “Save me from what?”
Robaire stared at Ghenn, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open in disbelief. And then he laughed, the sound sharp and harsh and loud. It echoed off the bulkhead in the tiny room, and doubtless it could be heard ringing all throughout the station. They’d all hear Robaire laughing at her. “Oh, that’s too good,” he said. “That is just fucking hilarious. The murderer thinks that she’s going to serve me ‘justice.’” Robaire frowned, his flabby face hardening into stone. “Well, whatever you’re going to do, get it over with. They told me I’d be spending the rest of my life up here, anyway. I’d rather it be another minute than another century.”
Confusion and anger cut through Ghenn’s cold determination. “What are you talking about? You’re the murderer! You hacked into Daddy Dearest’s systems and sabotaged them! You poisoned Kyle! You suffocated Jando! You–” The look on Robaire’s face stopped Ghenn mid-sentence. She saw something there she’d never seen before. Fear.
“How could I possibly hack Daddy Dearest? The goddamn machine’s impenetrable! It’d take every AI down on Earth a hundred years to do it!”
“You got in when I cracked Daddy Dearest. You got in and you killed them,” Ghenn said. Her voice was little more than a whisper, and already the thoughts were creeping back into her head to eliminate Robaire before he could do more harm.
“Bullshit you cracked Daddy Dearest. Friendulate did social networking nonsense, not cybersecurity.”
“They gave me a program. It left a vulnerability you exploited! I know it was you! I saw outside activity in the network!”
Robaire blinked in confusion. His eyes went wide and he buried his face in his hands. “Hundreds of years ago, the Agency spent millions of dollars trying to figure out how to control people’s minds, and all they had to do was wait for the day when we’d be desperate and stupid enough to let them in ourselves.” Robaire shook his head. “It was the Agency, Ghenn, not me. You let them in, and they went right to their bloody work. They gave you a list of names, didn’t they?”
“Eliminate him!” the voice hissed. “Silence him now!” But Ghenn ignored it. The growing unease in the pit of her stomach was too strong to ignore. “How did you know that?”
“They gave me one, too, when I was sent up here. They give every would-be recruit a list of names, and they watch and they wait. I’m sure they were watching you through Daddy Dearest’s own eyes, once you let them into the system, and I’m sure that as soon as they found you… too sensitive for their work, they decided to go ahead without you.”
“How do you know that?”
Robaire smiled. There was a sadness to it instead of his characteristic smugness. “Simple. Your company didn’t do cybersecurity or government work. Mine did. I know how these people think, and if I’m right, they’ve been jumping up and down with glee because you finally handed them the one thing they couldn’t get otherwise, the one thing no one could construct in operate in secret, that already existed but that no one could claim. Just think about it. Daddy Dearest’s stations house humans, but we’re not necessary. Hell, removing us would probably simplify things. Without us, Daddy Dearest could collect the junk floating around out here and recycle it into something more useful. The factories on-board each station could be programmed to make most anything you wanted. It’d be trivial to make something simple, something like a steel rod twenty feet long and two feet across, one with a simple propulsion system. ” Robaire chuckled. “Ghenn, you’ve given them the keys to a fully automated orbital weapons platform. You— are you even listening to me?”
The BiOS window covered Robaire’s face, data flowing over and around him. “I can’t reset it,” Ghenn muttered. “I can’t restore Daddy Dearest’s systems to before I installed the program.”
Robaire sighed. “That makes sense,” he said. “Of course they thought of disabling that. Trust isn’t in an Agent’s vocabulary.”
The voice was screaming for her to strangle the life out of Robaire right this instant. That must have been the Agency, too. The program had made changes to her BiOS, after all. Robaire had been right. She’d let them into her own mind. “What are we going to do?”
“Die horribly, probably.” Robaire shrugged. “This conversation’s been recorded, I’m sure. They probably don’t have anyone watching at this particular moment, otherwise Daddy Dearest would have sealed the doors and drained the oxygen, but they’ll find out soon enough. A day, an hour, a week. And then they’ll find a way to eliminate us.” Robaire thought about it. “Probably everyone. I’m sure the whole system would run a lot smoother without prisoners trying to muck it up.”
“That’s it? We’re doomed?”
“Correction: We’re all doomed, and the Agency gets a shiny new weapons system they can use anywhere on the planet with no warning. It’s win-win.”
Ghenn walked out of Robaire’s room feeling nothing. The weight of what she’d done, of all that Robaire had revealed to her had crushed her and left her remains numb and broken. “I’m dead,” she thought. “No matter what, I’m dead. If he’s telling the truth, the Agency will kill me as soon as they go through Daddy Dearest’s security footage. If he’s lying and he’s an Agent, he’ll report me and they’ll kill me anyway.”
She looked out a viewport at the MDCU’s scouring the debris fields for material. They should be in their hangars, she realized. The shift was over and there was no one piloting them, but still they gathered materials for some inscrutable purpose.
“Well, if we’re all dead, anyway,” Ghenn muttered. She opened up a BiOS window and started a secure session, for whatever good that would do her. She went through Daddy Dearest’s systems one by one to see what options were available to her. She’d been locked out of resetting everything, of course. Communications were all down. Shutting down the recycling plants and the factories wasn’t an option. She could still control the MDCU’s, for whatever reason. She could remotely pilot them for a few seconds, but a signal from Daddy Dearest overrode her control before she could do anything useful. She looked at the code controlling the MDCU’s and as a test put in a command for one of the machines to cease all operations.
It did. She counted out thirty seconds in her head. Daddy Dearest didn’t issue it any new orders.
Ghenn opened up another secure session and began running calculations. Orbits and trajectories, angles of interception. She could ram an MDCU right through each of the station. It’d be completely irreparable by automation. Maintenance crews would have to be sent up, and they’d see that someone had been in Daddy Dearest’s systems. They’d reset everything. They’d lock the Agency out. There’d be no kinetic projectiles raining hell down on the Agency’s enemies, no slow asphyxiation or drug overdose or starvation as she and the rest of the DCC floated helplessly in space. It’d be quick, painless. Preferable, all things considered.
Out beyond the debris fields Ghenn had come to call home, the moon rose behind the Earth. She watched with a smile on her face as she saw it, just like the first time, just like every time.
New flash fiction on Wednesday! Thank you for reading!