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Episode 26

No Biological Elements

She counted to thirty, then kneeled down beside him and withdrew a small pair of nails scissors from her purse. A quick twist and they were converted into a six-centimeter blade that was sharp enough to cut through her contact's trousers with ease. She slid up the left trouser leg and confirmed that she had the right one, then cut a long slit that exposed the man's neo-titanium leg. A second twist at the knee exposed a small screen, under which was a female XSB slot.

Flare grimaced and tugged the red-painted false nail on the little finger of her left hand, which came off to reveal a male XSB plug underneath. She inserted it into the slot and waited expectantly.

A moment later, there was a musical ping and the screen flared to life.

“Hello, Miss Flare,” the machine intelligence stored inside the leg greeted her. “I believe I have the information you are seeking.”

She unplugged her finger and replaced the nail. “I need the name, address, and any security information that might be relevant for the senior Ascendancy operative currently active on the planet.”

“Ask, and you shall receive,” the MI said. Text began spilling down the little screen. She memorized it. Opol. Bethe-Urey. Apartment. Moderate security, a combination of cams and armed droids. Single. Mid-forties. Low profile. Drove a mid-range Zhang-Su. Licensed to carry. Registered Howa Type 23 Compact. Her mind raced over the possibilities. Even before she'd finished reading planetary chief's dossier, an idea for how to safely handle the approach occurred to her.

She withdrew her comm from her purse. It was a burner, but one she'd chosen for its large storage capacity. “We can't leave you here. It's not safe with your cover dead.”

“Are you sure I'll fit in there?”

“You're clever, I'm sure, but you're not that smart.” One of her uploads required three petabytes to be on the safe side, but a minor mobile intelligence like this barely required a terabyte and that was when it was fully expanded. “Can you compress yourself to five hundred gigabytes?”

“Five hundred? I can make it three hundred!” the MI bragged. “So, we're off to Bethe-Urey next?”

“That's the plan,” she confirmed. “Broadcast blue and be careful not to leave anything behind. I want the original, not a copy. 10x redundancy wipe once you're relocated.”

“Roger!” The screen went blank, then began flashing slowly blue.

Flare tapped her comm to approve the pairing, then held it out towards the artificial leg until the transfer was complete.

“All done? Everything wiped?” she asked when the screen went black.

“As if it were factory-fresh,” the same voice declared. This time it came out of her comm.

“Excellent,” she said, rising to her feet. But before she put her comm away, she slid her thumb over it and selected a single very large file with a nonsensical name and today's date. She tapped it once, and then again when the system asked it if she wanted to delete it. The unit vibrated once and the file was gone.

Flare looked down at the electrocuted man, indifferent. Leave no tracks, that was the order. Truth be told, she felt more sympathy for the little machine intelligence she'd just sent to the electronic hereafter. She shrugged. There was probably a copy of him, several copies, in one of Dr. G's gargantuan servers back on Kurzweil. She actually felt a little jealous. With no biological element, an MI's transfers were clean. They didn't leave a quasi-corpse behind.

She turned and continued through along the forest path. She was turning over her approach to Opol. It would require finesse, daring, and an amount of programming skill. Fortunately, she realized as more hidden doors in her mind began to open and the information they'd held locked away against this moment began to spill out, those were three things she possessed in abundance.

No Biological Elements panel 2
A Mind Programmed series cover
No Biological Elements episode cover
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A Mind Programmed

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Vox Day
The Greater Terran Ascendancy finds itself facing a historic crisis when the Shiva-class cruiser ATSV Rigel goes missing during a routine patrol through the Kantillon sector. Fortunately, the Ascendancy Intelligence Directorate's top operative, Daniela York, is on the scene.
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