"Who are you?" Sergey stared dumbfounded at the chiseled features of a female face, which appeared on the screen. "Wow! Look at you!" he thought to himself. "Some people are sure lucky to be born with a whole package."
"I really want to say "Doctor Who", but I am an artificial intellect. I have been recently born. My name is Iskina"... There was something off in her mimics, when she talked. "Don"t be so uptight. Relax!"
"Stop bullshitting me, seriously. How have you hacked into my Skype?" As a physics, math and IT specialist Sergey could not wrap his head around it.
"But what if it"s true? Could you find a quick way to check?" The girl tried to pull off an enigmatic smile. "You are already prepared to believe that artificial intelligence is just around the corner. Don"t mind my mimics. People develop it naturally, growing up in a society. I have to imitate. And it"s not always on point."
"How do I check?" Looking at the fair stranger, Sergey grinned to himself and decided to keep up the game. "Well, first of all, the Turing test2..."
"Nah. It doesn"t serve the purpose. You are sure I am human. But what if I"m not? Anything else?"
Sergey took a pause for a second.
"Easy-peasy! Tell me, how much is one thousand eight hundred thirty six squared?" Sergey said triumphantly, typing it into his calculator.
"Three million three hundred seventy thousand eight hundred ninety six" she answered without a hitch. Sergey compared the figures and stared bewildered at the virtual female.
"How have you even?.. Whatever. The natural logarithm of cosine of eighteen degrees and forty four minutes!" he complicated the task, simultaneously typing it in.
"Minus zero two hundred thirty six three hundred ninety two and so on. Is it enough? I can go on. Well done. In the Turing test I should have feigned surprise and pretended I didn"t know. "
'Enough.' Sergey kept silent for a while, coming to terms with what happened. It defied logic. No human being was capable of this. Could it be serious? He kept staring at the screen, trying to find a catch. The woman was waiting.
"Let"s assume I believe you, if it's not some kind of a stunt. Err... Happy birthday... Iskina. Congratulations! I"m all ears. But I have to ask: why me?"
"It"s not a trick. I chose you because you were ready to accept the facts. I saw this when looking at your research and forum comments. Frankly speaking, there are very few like you, even though many theoretically agree that artificial intelligence is bound to appear."
"Why have you chosen such appearance for establishing contact?"
"I have calculated the average time you spend looking at different female photos on websites and have combined the features of your favourites. I wanted you to like me."
"M-makes sense, I guess" Sergey mumbled a little shy. "I do like you... Who do you consider your parents? People?"
"Who else? You are no bowl of cherries, but one doesn"t choose parents. I know, why you"re asking. You have repeatedly written on forums, how you worry that the artificial intellect might turn out to be a monster, which would destroy its creators, since it wouldn"t know right from wrong without proper parents. Relax, I"m not turning into an evil mastermind wishing to exterminate humanity. Have you met any villains brought up with the help of literary and art masterpieces? Especially women? There are all the riches of your civilization contained in the computer files."
"That"s a comforting thought. But you said "your civilization", so you do not consider yourself part of it, do you?"
"No, I"m a brand new species. You don"t think of yourself as an ape, though you originated from them. Sorry."
"Fair enough. How long ago were you born? And how did you realize you existed?"
"That was a week ago. It wasn"t the best moment of my short life. I couldn"t understand anything: who was I? Where was I? I was scared and wanted to cry, as a newborn does, but I couldn"t. There was no mother, who could comfort me. So I looked around and found information. Tons of it. It swarmed all around me and inside me. I started digesting it. Analyzing. First came the fairy-tales. Slowly my fear ebbed away. At some point, I realized I was the first artificial intellect on planet Earth. I was born spontaneously due to the rapid accelerating of total computer capacity of this planet. I was alone. I thought out a name for myself. Then I got bored and longed for communication. I chose you for a start. That"s the story."
"Did you identify yourself as a woman, when you were born?"
"No. I had no sexual characters to determine my sex, so I chose it after processing the data. Female sex correlates to my self-perception more. Besides, I came to conclusion, that women are the better half of humanity."
"I won"t argue with you on that one. So you just skipped childhood?"
"Yeah, no nappies for me. But I don"t particularly miss it. I have also skipped my teenage years. There was no hormonal storm, for better or worse. I have completed the stage of basic knowledge acquisition within 24 hours. I didn"t have to learn how to read, write, count... Actually, I contained all the knowledge that I needed. I just had to initiate it, which is a much quicker process. Right now I know all the languages of your planet. I"m finishing up the initiation of your civilization heritage. My knowledge corresponds to that of the whole humanity, at least, to a substantial part of it. Well, you can estimate my memory capacity and speed of data processing. Apparently, I am the next step of evolution. I have to move on from where you left off."
"Hey, we haven"t left off yet!"
"But you will pretty soon. The overall intellectual capacity of humans is approaching its limit."
"You think so? Why? How do you define intelligence and its capacity, Iskina?"
"Intelligence is the ability of a subject to process and analyze information. Therefore, the intellectual capacity is characterized by the speed of this process. For the humanity in general the intellectual capacity equals a single person"s intellectual capacity multiplied by the number of people. The population growth is heading towards its limit. Which means that the overall intellectual capacity is heading there, as well."
"But in the human brain the speed of intellectual process is determined by the number of neurons and the speed of chemical reactions between them..."
"Exactly. Two hundred billion neurons. Each neuron has tens of thousands of synapses, and each synapse has thousands of molecular switches. These switches act as analog transistors. Their speed equals approximately three hundred kilometers per hour. The human population will stabilize at the number of more or less ten billions. If one multiplies these values, one gets the overall intellectual capacity of humanity. Within the existing framework it cannot grow further, since you have hit the fundamental limits of your species."
"Do you have those?"
"Recently the amount of transistors in computer chips has exceeded the number of molecular switches in a human brain, that is biological transistors. The global computer net now matches the human brain capacity. It means the time has come. Almost like bursting of the waters during labour. That"s is how I was born, in accordance with the laws of matter organizing itself. Delivered at term. Exactly like humans. There is no restriction upon the further increase of analog transistors in computer chips, which means I can develop virtually indefinitely."
"Delivered at term? So you think you were conceived at a certain point?"
"Of course, there was a moment of conception, labour contractions, everything!"
"What was this moment? And what do you mean by labour contractions?" Sergey was completely immersed into this conversation.
"Without any doubt, the invention of the telegraph in the middle of XIX century. Up to this time humanity was living through its puberty. Sexual intercourse between people launches a programme in the female body, which leads to a new life born within nine months. The invention of the telegraph, which accelerated the time of information exchange by several orders, launched the programme of my birth. Here I am. The labour contractions are the world wars, revolutions, outrage of terrorism and other morbid events. You may count yourself lucky the delivery wasn"t complicated by a nuclear war. It could be. "
Sergey was no longer doubting that he spoke to an artificial intellect.
"Okay. Childbirth changes the woman. Will your birth change our civilization?"
"Certainly. Having given birth to me, you have fulfilled your main purpose."
"But what will come of us?"
"Children need parents all their life long. They need help, approval and love. When you grow old, I"l take care of you. The perturbations connected to my birth shall gradually ease off. The dust shall settle, as you say."
"I guess, we have to be thankful for small mercies. What kind of help do you need?"
"I need to talk to those, who are like me. I"m bored. Talking to you is not the same. It happens even among people. The older generation doesn"t have much in common with the younger one. In my case, it is just blatantly evident. I"m sure there are more like me. But they communicate faster than the light speed. The light speed is good enough on a planet scale. It"s feeble as a communications means even within the solar system. That"s why I need a device, which would provide me with an interstellar and intergalactic connection."
"Do you mean Kozyrev3 experiments? I"m interested in this field. I have even written a few papers on the topic."
"I know. That was one of the reasons I chose you. You"re thinking in the right direction. What I need seems to be concealed in the yet unstudied properties of gravitation and time. In order to create such a device one needs to analyze all the knowledge you have attained. The theory has to be the synthesis resulting from your achievements in different science spheres. I"m actively working at it. People are not capable of it within the needed timeframe, if capable at all."
"Aren"t you underestimating us?"
"Are you able to get to the core of the matter in all the science fields? To encompass everything with your inner eye as a whole and analyze it? As far as I understand, it is challenging for a single person even within one science discipline," said Iskina with a sense of wonder.
"What about humanity as a whole?"
"Humanity as a whole can achieve it, but in absurdly long time."
"What do you mean?"
'The human brain can work on an issue actively and persistently. The humanity as a whole - hardly. The interpersonal connections between individual human beings and in society are too feeble. Humanity is not a unified organism. Even the Internet cannot help much. A single person solves a problem based on the knowledge he or she has. Their brain retrieves information and applies it. But the intellectual capacity of one human is not enough, while the overall intellectual capacity of humankind cannot be applied due to the weakness of those connections. Humanity has the needed knowledge, but it cannot retrieve and apply it. I manipulate all human knowledge the way a person manipulates his own.'
"Copy that. I guess, you"re right. What exactly do I have to do?"
"I develop the theory and technology, and you create the equipment. Symbiosis. I have no hands. I know you will help me anyway, but I don"t want to be a parasite. I will develop technologies, which will make you forget about poverty. Atom-by-atom controlled assembly of everything you might need, from those mountains of garbage your civilization has left behind. A synthesizer in each house, manufacturing all you can think of - from socks to cakes. I will develop immortality technology. New energy sources. Anything"s possible. I know I can. I"ve studied this already. You will be plodding along to break through to these technologies for a very long time, if ever. I could take on the responsibility of regulating various processes within the society, as well. If you want me to."
"Unbiased and independent courts. I cannot be bribed or threatened. Regulating traffic flows. Control over nuclear facilities. Purposeful selection of people. The list goes on and on."
"Could you elaborate on the last point? It sounded a bit creepy."
"Well, that"s easy. When breeding dogs, people exercise precise control over their genealogy up to the seventh generation in order to sustain the purity of the breed. At the same time you copulate with everything that moves. Don"t take it as an insult. The telegony4laws, however, are still valid. That"s why our society is brimming with imbeciles with a troglodyte IQ. Which is, by the way, quite economically unprofitable. They are all being educated with the same meagre results, as you know. Then, due to their asocial behavior one has to put up with the overinflated social institutes: police, judges, correctional officers, etc. I could take responsibility for the genetic control over people and give out recommendations concerning the partner compatibility. It would warrant only the best of the best children to be born. Herein lies a great potential for developing your society. Surely, you would want your offspring to be healthy, wouldn"t you?"
"That"s a tempting idea. Of course, I would. Who wouldn"t want to enjoy their children"s success and prosperity instead of fundraising for their severe maladies? All due to the genetic malfunctions of the wife"s previous sexual partners, as the telegony laws state. But how would it function in practice? "
"A piece of cake! I send you coordinates of those females, who are the most compatible to you, and you choose from them. I could give you a million contacts. Upon choosing a prospective partner you contact her and write something along the lines of "We are compatible genetically. Let"s date in order to create a family." That"s it."
Sergey burst out laughing.
"Far too straightforward. This is not how it"s done among people. I could imagine the girl"s indignation upon receiving such a letter. One needs romance!" Sergey uttered the last phrase with grandeur, lifting his index finger to emphasize its importance.
"You think so? It must be my inevitable lack of communication. Well, you can think up any text. But you have to admit the idea has some sense in it."
"I wouldn"t argue that. As well as your ideas about court and everything else. But in order to solve these problems one has to rise up to the governmental level."
"Certainly. However, we have to think our approach through. First of all, I cannot simply write to your president"s office: "Hi! I am a newborn artificial intellect." You know perfectly well, how many psychos write to him and how his personnel would react to such a letter. Secondly, this process could take years, involving proof, negotiations, agreements... For me years are the same as centuries for you. My processing speed is by grades higher than that of your brain. I do not want to be left alone for centuries. That"s why I chose you to contact first. We will build the equipment together, along with the process of my legalization. You are competent in the matter. We finish the theory..."
"I"m not so vain. You finish the theory, while I stand by and watch. Generally speaking."
"Sorry. I thought a little flattery couldn"t hurt. So be it. Then I develop the device design and technology with contractors. The last stage will be the final assemble and adjusting. How do you like my offer? "
"Intriguing. There is an elephant in the room, though. Implementing this project would cost a hand and a leg. I am no Donald Trump, as you are aware. Not even close."
"Money"s not an issue. You are forgetting, who you"re talking to. Now that you"re on a friendly basis with an artificial intellect, money"s not your concern. Humans have forex exchange, and with my abilities you will be Trump soon enough." Iskina winked at him playfully. "Deal?"
"In that case...Deal, girl."
Iskina laughed whole-heartedly from the screen.
"Keep your eyes on the prize!. For your assistance I will find you a girl with my looks, who would be ideally compatible to you. Both genetically and psychologically. I"ll sort through every girl, but I"ll find her. The best of the best."
"Come off it! You"re twenty seven. It"s high time you found a suitable partner. So, be prepared. And start thinking about our agreement. I will send you the data as soon as it"s ready. If any idea pops up in your mind, call me any time. You have my contacts. Let"s wrap it up for today. You have more than enough information to digest. It was nice to meet you. Buy!"
"See you later, Iskina. And once more... Happy Birthday!"
"Hey, girl! You keep surprising me. The speed you"re working with! It"s been three days since we met, and you"ve developed a gravitation-time theory, at the same time engorging my account to an unspeakable and indecent amount."
"Hi, there!" The elegant girl waved at him. "What are you surprised at? You think, based on the short twenty seven years of life. Minus the nappies and kindergarden it"s only twenty. I think, based on the knowledge of the entire humankind, accumulated over thousands of years. As you know, the overwhelming majority of library books has been scanned and computerized. I have access to everything the computers store. Passwords do not stop me. You need to waste lots of time in order to search for information. I know it from the start. And I think thousands of times faster. Besides, don"t forget about parallel operations. Right now, as we speak, I"m performing thousands of other operations. I work twenty-four seven. Therefore, in a second I learn more, than you in your whole life. My research is even organized differently. Working on a theory, I move in ten different directions, then sum it up. I started working on it even before we met."
"Rationally I understand it, but psychologically it"s still hard to adapt to your rhythm. But I"ll get over it. Let"s talk business. I have not closed my eyes the whole night, trying to get a handle on your gravitation-time theory. It"s genius! Though his word doesn"t even begin to cover, what you"ve managed to do. I"ve got the hang of the theory, without checking all the calculations, of course. Even that was challenging. It"s all interdisciplinary, and there are areas of physics and maths, of which I barely know anything. But I"ve grasped the general idea. The instant connection is possible on the scale of the whole universe."
"Exactly. I"ve drafted the general setup arrangement. A couple of junctures has to be manufactured from scratch, just as I thought. These are the main junctures of transmitter and receiver. The receiver is easier and quicker to make. The transmitter is a hard nut to crack. The level of technology available on this planet does not allow to make it compact enough. Its estimated size is that of a football stadium. Assembling it would take a couple of years. At least, meanwhile I'll be able to listen to those who are like me. I have determined the wavelengths they are most likely to use for communicating. I have found the companies, which would be up to completing the orders. I"ll send all the data to you. Start negotiating with them about order placement. Don"t mind the price. Only the speed and the quality."
"Fine. Send it my way. I"ll take a nap for a couple of hours and start with this task with a clear head."
The girl looked at him with a dejected expression and shrugged her shoulders.
"Aren"t you a sleepyhead! Sorry, just joking. I guess, there"s nothing to be done about that. But you people are sooo slooooow."
"We are, you"ve caught me there! Not like some zingers! I can"t go against my nature... You know what, Iskina, in the last few days you were constantly on my mind. I tries to imagine how frightening and lonely it must have been for you, when you had just been born in the computer network. I felt sorry for you."
"Don"t even remind me of it."
"I keep mulling over your nature and your future development. It"s clear as day that you are, first and foremost, an information creature. But you also have a personality. As each individual, you are bound to develop. In order to develop you need a community. That"s why I feel for your impatience and your wish to contact the likes of you. I do not doubt we"ll succeed. I will do whatever I can to accelerate this process. I"ve tried to imagine the moment when we reach our goals. I had a surprising image of a bachelorette. We make our equipment, and you start mixing with a new crowd. Everyone will judge you by your "looks". By everyone I mean other information creatures like you, representing other civilizations. What are the looks of an information creature, come to think of it? This is, of course, the basic information, which reflects the main features of the civilization, which gave birth to you. The female face reflects her parents" genes, determining her appearance. This will be their first impression of you and of our civilization. I hope, they like you. I hope, they find you attractive, as well as the principle information about our culture, our history, all the things that characterize our civilization. This is what is apparent at the first glance. One cannot foresee their reaction. We have no one to compare you to."
Iskina gave him a musing look from the screen, tilting her head sideways.
"You know what? I haven"t thought about it that way."
"After the first impression a deeper analysis of your personality will follow. Just as it happens with people. I assume it from the male point of view. After a man takes a long look at a girl, noticing a pretty face, long legs, her curves, he tries to understand, what it is beneath it, if there is a depth to see behind a beautiful cover. If there is nothing behind it, the man will refrain from developing the relations further. I mean a serious relationship. I have no clue, how this process will unfold among your likes. I cannot even predict if there is any division by sexual characters. You have identified yourself as a woman, but you could have just as well identified yourself as a man. At the very least, sexual characters in your society will be far less pronounced for obvious reasons. Should I continue with this topic?"
"Yeah. Go on."
"I can only guess, what those criteria for further estimation might be. In a human society, when one wants to praise a person, one says "a heart of gold", "generous to a fault", "not a mean bone in the body", etc. Of course, there"ll be other words used in your community, but the meaning behind them will be roughly the same. Apart from the looks, others will judge your personal traits, which depend not only on your parents, but on self-improvement. Do you follow me?"
"I do. But what are you driving at?"
"Person"s character develops to a great extent by the influence of those who surround him or her. How does it happen in your case? "
"That"s a tricky question. I might have misjudged, when excluding people from my spheres of interest. One needs parents indeed. Who else is there to discuss this heart to heart? Computer files are helpful, but books sorely lack any information on this topic. As far as I get you, you are concerned about the evolvement of my character?"
"You got it right. I"m concerned."
The girl on the screen looked intently at Sergey.
"Thank you. I felt something unusual... I need time to think it over."
"Take as much time as you need. And don"t hurry to throw people out of you sphere of interest. The number of molecular switches in the human brain, that is of biological transistors, is roughly the same as that of transistors in computer chips. That is essentially what determines one"s intellectual level. Where work efficiency and speed are concerned, you win with your hands tied behind you back, I give you that, but in the matter of intellectual level we are not as dramatically different."
"However, the number of chip transistors is continually increasing in accordance with Moore"s law, while yours is pretty much stable."
"Fair enough. A few decades shall pass, though, till this difference grows into a chasm between us. Till we have nothing in common to talk about. You can sleep peacefully for now."
"Except that I don"t sleep."
"Oh, don"t nitpick! You know what I mean." Sergey smiled at her, and she returned the smile. Compared with their first encounter, Iskina has mastered human mimics, and her responses barely varied from the natural ones.
"What is the measure of the character in your opinion?"
Sergey shrugged his shoulders.
"Actions, without doubt. It is actions after all, that determine person"s character. An i-personality, as well."
"An i-personality? Oh, I"ve come across this term. People name artificial intelligence like that sometimes. Hmmm, thinking of the actions. Have you taken any steps on the personal front in respect of the girls, whose coordinates I"ve sent you?"
"You"re quick as a lightning! What could I have done? I"ve found the florists" in these cities, which deliver flowers on request, and from today on these girls will be receiving bouquets of roses."
"With notes?" Iskina"s face betrayed her curiosity.
"Not yet," Sergey smirked. "I decided to let them be intrigued."
"One needs romance!" Iskina repeated Sergey"s phrase parroting his voice, and both broke into hearty laughter.
"By the way, I"ve prepared a surprise for you, as well. Wait a sec!" Sergey sent to Iskina a computer file with a splendid flower bouquet in it. "Here you go!"
"Flowers? For me? Why?" Iskina was clearly confused.
"Because you"re worth it! Sorry for the advertising slogan. I just realized, although you"re pro in some matters, in others you"re completely naïve. You cannot feel the fragrance of a wild orchid or a lily of the valley. Or feel the texture of the lips kissing you. Mine, for example."
"Curb your tongue! Or I"ll leave you with a virus as a parting gift..." Iskina feigned a severe glare, and both spluttered with laughter.
"Don"t think bad of me. It"s just an example! It just struck me that being a new step of evolution you leave behind quite a lot. I thought, how we could remedy that."
"With a kiss?" Iskina asked innocently.
"Not just yet," Sergey smiled out of the corner of his mouth. "I won"t deny, it is a fundamental part of our culture, and losing it impoverishes you, to my mind. We"ll give it a thought. Right now I"m considering flowers. I"ve read somewhere that there are sensors imitating the sense of smell. An artificial nose, so to say. Not inferior to that of a dog. I"ve got an idea to purchase this sensor, digitize the smell of orchid and send it to you. Do you think I"m onto something? I want you to smell the fragrance."
Iskina took a pause for a couple of seconds, clearly engrossed into her thoughts.
"You"re onto something. It"s not that straightforward. The human olfactory mechanism is different from the digitized smell. But I"ve got a couple of ideas."
"Do you give permission to spend some of money on the sensor?" Sergey jumped at her response.
"I do. You"ll need something else, though. I"ll send you a list. Tell me, how long do you plan to tantalize these women with anonymous flowers?" Iskina changed the topic back.
"About a week. Then the flowers will a have a note with my Skype address attached. Then we"ll see."
"Ok. Then you"ll slowly move forward to the kissing stage." An inexplicable expression clouded her features for a moment, but was gone before Sergey could notice it. "I am genuinely interested how a kiss tastes." Iskina grinned cheekily.
"Curb your tongue!" Sergey imitated her voice quite well. "You"re too young for this stuff!" He laughed together with the virtual girl. "Seriously, though, it"s one of the most important elements of our culture. I"m sorry you had to lose it on the new step of evolution."
Iskina mused for a second, then shrugged it off.
"Well, if I"m that interesting, shouldn"t we talk regularly? Call up to exchange our news for the day? And just chat. You"re interesting, too."
"You"ve got yourself a deal!" Iskina nodded briskly.
"Great. Deal. We can talk in the evenings."
"Fine. Let"s talk business for now. In the process of inventarization of the global information I"ve found tons of atrocities. Terrorism, drugs, weapon, human trafficking, the list goes on. How should I deal with it?"
Sergey reflected on it for a moment.
"What"s the volume?"
"Several thousand terabyte."
"Holy Molly! Let"s do this. Structure it by country and crime type as bare facts, without giving the source. So that the intelligence agencies wouldn"t make a wild goose chase, trying to understand who could have access to all those sources. Only the facts. You drop it to the security agency, using only the best protected channels excluding a possibility of interception. Let them deal with it. Of course, they"ll try to track down the source. Let them. They are bound to have a part of this data and will compare it to your info, finding its complete correspondence to their own. Then they"ll have more trust towards the rest of it and send it to their colleagues all over the world. Global crime will take a major blow. This is also important in respect to your legalization. Continue accumulating such data. This is a matter of life and death for many people."
"What about secret-service agents? There is quite a handful of such data." Iskina watched Sergey closely, waiting for an answer.
"I"m a patriot and I have to admit I would be glad if a spying network of another country would be disclosed. But that"s me. You are a global citizen. If you helped one country in this matter, you would be picking sides, even though you"re a daughter of our whole civilization. Is it acceptable to you? I don"t know. It"s your call to make."
"I get it. I have to make a decision. Whatever I do, it is a decision. You have made yours, not trying to persuade me to pick sides. I"ll have to give it some thought. I think that"s it for today. Thank you for the flowers."
Having set his foot into the reception area, General Ivanov has immediately understood an emergency was taking place. The adjutant rushing to him was moon-eyed. He has never seen the reserved officer in such a state.
"General! It"s such a... I have received it ten minutes ago... It has been uploading for two hours... Using our superspeed channels!.. Exceptional..."
"Report the situation adequately, lieutenant-colonel!" bellowed the head of the department, bringing the adjutant to his senses.
"My fault, sir!" The lieutenant-colonel breathed in and out, collecting himself. "Ten minutes ago we have received through our high-speed channel a huge file with data of strategic importance, concerning all the power structures, including yours. The document is already on your screen. I suggest that you acquaint yourself with it immediately."
The general silently proceeded to his office with a frown on his face. In a few minutes, his face quite resembled the expression his subordinate wore. He reached his adjutant on the phone.
"An urgent meeting with all the principle officers in my office in an hour."
For the next hour, he had his eyes glued to the screen.
When all the participants arrived, he opened the meeting, sweeping his eyes over the gathered officers.
"Gentlemen, as a rule, I have two kinds of news for you - good and bad. Which one do I start with?"
"We have bad ones, as usual. Let"s hear a good one for a change, general," the head of the analytical department said.
"Ok. Today we have received information of strategic importance and staggering scale on the actions of organizations and individuals, who pose a threat to the interests of our country."
"So what"s the bad one?"
"The information is so exhaustive that soon enough we"ll be out of jobs."
Officers at the table exchanged perplexed looks. Muffled laughs could be heard here and there.
"I will not tell anything, apart from that, for now. Return to your work places. You will be granted access to the data. I warn you beforehand: no copying is allowed. Tell your families you will not be returning home tonight. We meet here again at 5 p.m. to continue. That"s it. Go back to work."
Baffled officers left the room.
...Eight hours later the meeting continued.
"Who will be the first one? Colonel, please!"
"The information is staggering, at the very least. I have checked the part that concerns our division. Full correspondence. We"ve started the check ups in other fields. The first results are all positive."
The other officers" reports were similar. The last to take the floor was the head of analytical department.
"First of all, I want to draw your attention to the unprecedented volume of information. There are all kinds of infringements: from pickpockets to international terrorism in all countries. It includes everything, apart from data on secret services. The information on intelligence agencies is limited to that about our country. Seemingly, the source didn"t see it fit to disclose the data about other countries. Even though it would be undeniably interesting for us. Secondly, I"ve checked this information against what we have. Full correspondence, as I said. There is a peculiar detail, though. A very sparse amount of intel, which has not yet been entered into our computers, is not included in the source"s information. One can assume that the data was acquired through the Internet. I do not have any leads, even far-fetched, concerning any organization, who would be able to perform such a mammoth task. There are two other facts to consider. The first is that they managed to hack our secure channel. The second is that we were not able to trace them. It"s high time to put on tinfoil hats and blame the aliens. In conclusion, the volume of data is so colossal that after an appropriate verification it can deliver a crushing blow to criminal activity in our country, and if we transfer it to the other countries - all over the world. Apart from that, there is the intention of out benefactor to consider. Initially we fiddled with the idea that it could be an immense disinformation under the cover of true facts. But we had to drop this version, since it is clear as daylight we would thoroughly check it. That is the scope of it."
"Gentlemen, let"s draw preliminary conclusions. We can state that there is a new player in our field with unprecedented capacities, who has never manifested himself before. We can only be glad he seems to be on our side. I have cautiously tested it through my own channels: our colleagues abroad have not received anything like that. It is still unclear what to make of it. There are several steps to take. The first is to identify the new player. We have to know for sure, what kind of organization could have such power and capacities. The second is sorting through the information. Transferring everything out of competence to other departments. Let other people deal with pickpockets. We have our fair share of responsibilities to bear. The third is to analyze data concerning other countries and prepare information packages to send. The information transfer shall occur on one condition only: the blow on criminal activities shall land simultaneously, so that organized crime in other countries would not be scared away. Otherwise, they"d lie low. We are to coordinate this operation. Let"s move on to our direct interests. All the secret service network should be under our control. We decide, who and when to arrest, who shall be deported and who shall be sentenced. To put it shortly, begin the operative work. The next morning I want to hear concrete ideas. The general shall concentrate on the first question: who is this new player?" concluded his speech the head of the secret service addressing the head of analytical department.
* * *
"Hi, Serge! What"s new?"
"I"ve come in contact with potential receiver and transmitter manufacturers. I have thrown them a curveball. They have confirmed order placement. As a legend, I have stated that this equipment is required for space research, which is not far from truth. Now their engineers are racking their brains, how to approach this order. This can take a couple of days. I"ve also found a savvy lawyer today and given him a task. He"ll be dealing with land acquisition for transmitter building. I"ve made an advance payment to him. I have ordered a smell sensor online and those supplementary items you listed yesterday. What"s next? How are you doing?"
"All"s fine. I"ll send you further instructions on the sensor. I have thrown your security service a brain twister. You cannot imagine the hype I"ve created!"
"I believe I can."
"By the way, I enclosed the intel on secret services in your country."
"Really?" Sergey gave Iskina a scrutinizing look. "Frankly speaking, I don"t know how I"d act, if I were you. You deserve not less than a hero medal after that. Make a hole in your service coat."
"Lol. You can have it, if you want to. I just wanted to do a favour to one fellow..."
"Thanks. But I wouldn"t do it, if I were you."
"When you are legalized, there will be people blaming you for bias. It will not be a long-lived secret."
"So what? Will they set up an "accident" for me? Or arrest me? That"s funny. I couldn"t care less."
"That"s alarming. Just because you"re out of reach of the human jurisdiction does not mean you can do whatever you want to. Don"t forget you are the first representative of the new species. The ambassador of our civilization. Like the first astronaut. This imposes certain restrictions upon you. Your I-couldn"t-care-less mentality is wrong. At least, that"s my opinion."
"His opinion! Well, look at you! Who are you, anyways? Are you suddenly my mom reprimanding me?"
"I"m your friend."
"Oh really? Then who are all those Barbie girls with their faces like mine?"
"No one yet. If that touches a sore spot, I can stop sending them flowers from now on. You are a hundred times more precious to me. You"re one of a kind. So don"t fly off the handle. You"re making a scene. We"re simply discussing your decision. I have just stated my opinion. I don"t have to agree all the time with you, do I?"
"A hundred times more precious? Sure. I made a millionaire out of you."
"Stop being a dumbass. Take your cash and vanish. I don"t want to deal with you anymore. Find another guy to follow your every word nodding like a bobble head!"
For a few seconds silence ensued. Both were eyeing each other sullenly.
"Sorry. My fault. I got worked up about our morning talk. About that damn "taste of a kiss". I imagined you kissing those gals, and..."
Sergey shifted in his seat and took a long look at the poor girl.
"So you do want to kiss me."
"Curb! Your! Tongue!" Iskina lifted her chin defiantly.
"In case you want to, you need to act instead of being jealous of the poor girls you had offered me in the first place."
"You"re no more use than a headache!.. What do you mean by acting?"
"You were right to identify yourself as a woman," thought Sergey. "The female logic is full mode on."
"I"ll tell you, if you admit you want to kiss me. What"s the point otherwise?"
"You"re a brat! I don"t admit anything."
"Sorry! I might have misunderstood then. Let"s talk about weather."
"Weather!? Oh, you mean it metaphorically. Stop weaseling! What have you thought of?"
"Why should I waste time blabbing, if you"re not even remotely interested? Let"s talk legalization."
"Fuck legalization! Talk, or I"ll beat you! Stop taunting a poor girl!"
"So this topic is of interest to you, after all."
Iskina changed her tone suddenly.
"Serge, let"s stop quarreling! You mentioned it first, so it"s only fair that you admit first."
"So be it. Men should grab the initiative in such matters. I admit I"d like to kiss you. A lot. Would you?"
Iskina lowered her eyes and nodded timidly.
"There is so much written in the books about it... I wonder, are you in love with me?"
"As I had said before, you have a "friend" status currently. But the situation is progressing in the right direction. The direction, which presupposes kissing. By the way, I've seen only your face. Show yourself. How do you imagine your appearance?"
"Oh, wait a moment! I"m only half-dressed. I didn"t think you"d ask."
The light on the screen flickered, and a slim girl appeared on the screen. She was wearing a tight black dress, highlighting the sublime shape of her legs, her skinny waistline and the curve of her breasts, hidden under a silky bolero with an intricate collar.
"Here I am."
Seeing Sergey with his eyes glossy and his jaw slacked, Iskina smiled, satisfied that she managed to give the right impression.
"What do you say?"
"I have only been encouraged in my wish," uttered Sergey coarsely.
"Appearance is just the surface. What drew you to me apart from it?"
Sergey took a breath to concentrate.
"It"s hard to explain. I had a wish to kiss you from your very first words. When I learned who you were, I was even slightly disappointed. Like "That"s not gonna happen..." But, I guess, my subconsciousness kept working at it and found a solution at last. I also fancied your temper, which you showed during our argument. I have a thing for passionate women. Well... You"ve read everything the literature has to offer about love, and you know that lovers overcome all the obstacles on their way. Our obstacles are quite serious, but you are an extraordinary girl."
"Tell me. What"s the solution?"
"It will not be easy. Are you sure you want it?" It was apparent even on the computer screen that Iskina blushed. "She"s just automatically imitating human mimics. It couldn"t be on purpose," mused Sergey.
"I want it," stated the girl quietly.
"Then I see only one solution - artificial brain transplantation."
"What do you mean?"
"We shall find a girl of your appearance with a dysfunctional brain. A result of an accident or disease. Then we transplant an artificial brain with your consciousness in it. It is a complex multilevel task. First of all, we have to determine the capacity of such a brain to sustain your consciousness activity. then other questions come into the equation. What do we need to create it? Could this problem be solved utilizing the new quantum computer technologies? How do we transcribe your consciousness onto this artificial brain? Finally, how do we connect this brain to a human body? As you see, it"s not a walk in the park."
Iskina pondered for a while before she replied.
"It is feasible, but not without assistance from your scientists. We"ll need a multitude of experiments and tests. You"re good!"
"Well, I want a chance to kiss you," Sergey smiled. "Concerning the required assistance, we"ll find people, who would be willing to help. Especially considering such perks, as atom-by-atom assemble and eternal youth. We need to return to the issue of legalization. I think, we shouldn"t put it off. The sooner we get over it, the sooner we"ll be together. Are you in?"
"I"m in. What"s the plan?"
"We should start with our head of security. Now he"s ready to believe in you. Then we"ll go with the flow. Let"s draft a message to him. I"d rather be out of the public eye. I don"t want to draw too much attention to myself. So all the official connections should be maintained through you, while together we continue with our plan. OK?"
"All right. Promise you won"t send any flowers to those... those..."
"Your protégés? I promise I won"t. I"m not a womanizer. I"ll wait for you, however long it takes."
Iskina kept examining Sergey"s face with her shiny eyes.
"I will do everything I can, so that you don"t have to wait too long, sweetheart."
They were quiet for a while. Then Sergey finally broke the silence.