By Another Name
Error I: Unauthorized Access
A number you can track.
You can stop it, see where it's going and, if you so wished, push it down another path. You are the police of the digital highway, deciding which data lives and which dies. Invisible, silent, and at the speed of light...
...But these streets, off the grid, under the mainframe... In these streets, I am the ultimate virus.
There's better things to steal than information.
Standing above it all, watching the world of cells busily transferring and transporting data of one kind or another was a figure in the darkness. Out of sight, but outlined hazily as an obstruction of the stars, the figure slowly and calmly stepped down from the building ledge.
"I Am Glad You Didn't Fall, None." said a half-human voice.
"For the last time, Kanto," replied a sullen, ambiguous voice in the darkness. "I told you not to call me that." A small light lit up the dark rooftop and shined against the pale blue skin of the lizardian boy.
"My Records Show That This IS Your Name, None. Would You Rather I Refer To You As User?"
'None' sighed a disgruntled sigh, and began towards the roof access entrance. There was no point in arguing with computers; No matter what your point is, they'll find some way of logically being correct. "That's the problem with today's world," The frustrated lizard muttered to himself as he descended the metallic staircase of the tallest building he could find, his once-white robe flapping against his speed. "Nobody seems to want to know the real you. They only understand what you present as being yourself. Fear of knowing has stunted us."
Once again, a light besides his eye lit to attention. "Oh, I Disagree, None. I Believe People Are Seen As They Are. To Present Yourself As Otherwise Would Be Illogical, And Anything You Wish To Know I Can Inform You Upon."
"Yeah? Well with all due respect, Kanto, I prefer to learn the old fashioned way. Kapa çeneni." A smile skitted across his face like a mayfly for a moment of malice.
"That's Not Fair. You Know My Translative Functions Are Not Currently Available."
"Are they not? Well, you'll just have to look into fixing that." He had to stop himself from giggling. Making fun of pseudo-sentient beings was, sometimes, worth the hassle of having them as constant companions.
Almost a hundred years have passed since the first helping-agent, pseudo-sentience was born into mobile devices. Of course, back then they were all rather difficult to use, easily lost, and of course, physically unattached. There's some lore that a few groups liked it that way; tech that they could leave behind, that wouldn't track them where they didn't want it to... such thoughts in this era were flights of fancy.
Personalization came to the world. Then hyper-personalization - the ability to not only have your personal A.I.A, Artificially intelligent assistant, but also have it implanted as a micro-biometric chip. The world marvelled at it's own genius; fueled by arrogance like an unstoppable force of nature, they continued and maximized production almost as quickly as technology advanced. Nobody noticed that somewhere down the line, the technology began to design itself... with users needed only as an interface.
"You Have A New Message, None."
...and just as he was enjoying some peace of mind. Typical. He tapped the light being emitted from the corner of his eye, and it blinked out. Preferring the darkness, the robed lizard darted from one shadow to the next. From building alleyway to camera blind spot, he slowly made his way back into the heart of the bright, glistening city.
"Siri enterprizes again?" he muttered while stepping out of an alleyway and into a brightly lit street. Hood down, lights glaring against his contact-lense-protected eyes, he felt naked. No, more than that. Violated.
"Yes, None. They Wish To Let You Know That Your Recent Package Has Been Found And Properly Disposed Of. They Also Respectfully Request That You No Longer Break Into Their Facility." Another grin flashed across his face, this time attracting the attention of nearby windows, which glimmered for a moment to capture unauthorized emotive responses.
"Oh? Which one?"
Walking through the city at night was almost the same as walking through it during the day. From the fluorescent roads and light-up curbs to the unnervingly 'innovative and interactive' ads posted on every flat surface, this damned place had more power than the sun. One greeted None as he passed, trying to persuade him that, for whatever reason, his smile could definitely be improved by some SolCil lip and maw treatment. The figure pushing it's product was shockingly rough looking; the paws of a smooth, well-treated lupin, but the head of a grizzled bear with scars criss-crossing over his masculine face.
"Kanto." The blue light flared to attention like an old fashioned fire given oxygen.
"Seven psychopaths simultaneously sans surreptitiously order a side of frozen fog."
A short whirring noise began to sound. The blue light turned red, and the smooth practiced voice of the digital assistant was replaced with a somewhat rougher, canine one.
"Ya finally managed to say it without fuckin' up, eh?"
"Yes," said None, this time smiling genuinely as he sat down on a luminous plastic bench. "Lip and maw treatment, really?"
"Well yer only just popped back onto the grid, kid. Had to grab yer eyes somehow." said the voice.
"Still keeping track of your kids, eh?" None chuckled,staring up at the criminally blank sky.
"Yeah, keepin' you alive has my paws full, and Seron just got her ass thrown inna S.D, didn't she?"
None sighed at the rhetorical question. The R-RAM movement, if you could even call it that, had very few members as it was. Keeping those who were still active out of Suspended Detention was pretty much the prime derivative.
"At least she might finally calm the fuck down. Last time I was on a job with her--"
"Aye, she blew a smart window out, so what?"
There was a moment of hesitation before None, leaning forward to emphasize his point to someone who wasn't even present, spoke again.
"Diz, she fired a twelve-foot harpoon at the side of a high-priority building because it 'looked at her funny'. Ram knows what she'd do if we were on an important mission."
"Aye," Diz considered, "But ya can't deny the lass finds fun where she can. The same can't be said fer you, moping around in those old serving rooms..."
"Ser-VER rooms, Diz. Servers." Sighing despondently, None listened as the old bear rattled off some other news. Two other un-named members had managed to black out all of the Alt-15 type window cameras for an hour, which would have been impressive a year ago when they were still in use. Another (a techanic) had tried to hotwire a security drone, and--
Turning his head away, None listened to the graphic after-scene report. The impression he got is that it didn't end well for the techanic. ...Or his neighbors who were situated five floors away.
"Diz, I have to go. My keepers are expecting me back."
"Yer still call 'em keepers? That's kinda harsh, boy." Diz replied, with genuine concern. Nievety had no age limit, None pondered as he strolled down another brightly-lit, bustling street.
The red light faded, a whisp of smoke from a dying ember, and as sure as the power flowing, the blue light returned. "I Apologise, None, My System Temporarily Faulted."
"I won't hold it against you this time, Kanto." His voice barely audible over the noise of the street.
The noise was his main problem. The dependency... well, a lot of people are helped by this technology, y'know? Doctors were told as soon as people were sick, police were warned before any actual incidents, and fire suppression systems made heroism practically obsolete. His main issue was the fact that everybody, from childbirth, was taught to speak. Normally this wouldn't be an issue - back in the days before R-RAM was needed, if you said something stupid, you were ridiculed and you learned to keep that fantasy of you fucking your teacher to yourself.
Everybody on the street was speaking; anything and everything that passed through their brain also passed through their mouths. There's no restraint here, None thought to himself. Nothing can be heard over one another's opinions flooding the streets worse than a river of snaking wires.
Finally, the lizard steps onto his somewhat dilapidated front step. Pressing his thumb against the middle of his door, he mutters some anti-A.I comments under his breath. It was more for Kanto's sake than his own, he reasoned. The door slid open, and he stepped inside.
"Oh, you're home." said an older lizardian woman, sitting in a chair.
"Yeah, no need to look up or anything." None muttered, taking off his work belt; computer parts and wires rustled as he hung it up by the door on a presenting hook.
Finally looking up from her obviously digital reading, None is treated to a familiar smile, followed by an also familiar eye-roll. "Are you still wearing that old thing? People are gonna start talking, you know."
"Let them talk." None said, slouching down into his favourite seat in the common space. He locked eyes with the aging woman; at least, as aging as can be expected for a seventy-five year old. Her skin was slightly paler than None's own, though the family resemblance was still there - the two blunt dorsal horns jutting out from the back of her hairline, with the ceremonial marriage ring tightly wrapped around one of them. Then there's the somewhat rose-coloured eyes, barely visible under the flickering contacts... He was definitely his mother's son.
"Don't get all preachy again, it's a matter of practicality."
Listening to his mother rant on about how it's not "proper societal wear", he couldn't help but wonder how many of her words were formed in her own head. He could see the contacts flashing and changing as data shifted around, providing her with examples of modern fashion - at least, what machines considered 'fashion'.
"Look, Ranath, I'm fifty years old!" None cut off the woman, with a noticeable finch coming from a first-name basis. "I haven't cared what people thought before, and I'm hardly going to start now. I have bigger things on my mind."
The silence was tangible. For a few solid seconds, they both sat in silence, before the gentle tap of claw-against-head was heard. Now both mother and son, for whatever that was worth, were actually seeing one another.
"It's about her again, isn't it."
It was not a question. It was barely a statement; they both knew who 'she' was, and in truth, Ranath was exactly right.
Not that None was going to admit that.
"Where's George?" He asked, a desperate attempt to change the subject.
A tap lit up the older woman's head as she smiled, glad to get away from the topic. "Your -father- is at his workstation. You can go up and say hello if you have ti--"
By the time she'd gotten that far, 'None' was halfway out the door. She quickly stood up and rushed over as he began walking down the lit streets. "None!" She yelled, to no response.
Sighing frustratedly, she called again. "Fine... Jasper!"
This time, Jasper stopped in his tracks. A smile spread across his maw as he turned around and took a few steps back toward her, eventually standing in front of her, beaming like headlights. "Yes, mother?"
"Two things. First, promise me you will stay away from that horrid building."
"I promise not to go near the whore-id building." Jasper replied, his smile unflinching. "And second?"
This time, the woman simply smiled and turned her head. Sighing faux-furiously, Jasper leaned in and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. "Don't wait up." he muttered, and once again returned to his roaming. Somewhere out there, he thought to himself, was the only thing that would fill the void left in his mind. A void left by the Company, by the people who had started all of this… by those who had taken her away from him.
They would pay.