Information Retrieval

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One - Recce

Time spent in recce is seldom wasted. That’s a quote from an old army field manual from centuries ago, when wars were still fought between countries, not corporations. I live by it. I’d invested three days on this job and my scouting was about to come to fruition as I sat in front of the office work-screen, blinds drawn and door locked.

I’ve been in the information market for fifteen years, first as a field operative for the Trading Council. I started young and flourished under the guidance of “The Club” as we knew TC. I quickly rose to become a field agent and was infiltrating multi-nationals before I was twenty-five. That job kept me on the crest of an adrenaline wave for ten years. I lost count of the tight squeezes I scraped through but, finally, I realized that I was the last of my generation left alive. I’ve no interest in management or flying a desk but that level of intensity was going to cost me my life soon and I was no Kamikaze either. So, five years ago I quit. It was no simple feat to make a clean break from the clinging tentacles of knowledge and mistrust but I did it somehow and now here I am. Freelance.

I’m still a professional, both in needing the credits and in my methods, but I only work for private individuals now. I’d run a mile rather than get under the skin of a big corporate entity and I’ll turn down any job involving figures with more than seven zeros. It’s just not worth the risk to my quiet life. There are plenty of little people with retrieval or deletion needs. My favourite are jobs ransacking the crumbling governmental bureaucracies. They are still hidebound by their own laws, unable to take any action that’s a serious deterrent, and so ponderous that I’ll be long retired before any of my blatant privacy breaches, frauds and hacks come to light.

This job was a little more challenging. My client, I’ll leave her details aside for obvious reasons, had been involved in a small property deal that would present innovative opportunities if the vendor’s records of sale could become “lost”. A simple electronic attack on the vendor would make short work of his computer systems, albeit with massive collateral data destruction, easily disguised as a vicious and crude anarchist hack-attack. I had this lined up and ready to launch but I’d been holding off, as there was the more delicate matter of their solicitors’ records to be dealt with.

The company was small and privately run; I’ll call it Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd for want of a better pseudonym. Their financial resources, and therefore, their ability to protect themselves against the likes of me, were limited. However the flip side of this was that they would quickly smell a rat if alarmed. I didn’t want to advertise my actions, unnoticed intervention is more my style, so I’d put in the full nine yards on my attack preparation.

The first phase had been careful research. I’d googled out their client list and applied my own meta-crawlers to mine the links, news articles, office floor plan, employee history and a thousand other trivial details looking for my “in”. They had seven employees listed, the three partners; middle aged clean professional men, two employed legal types; I’ll call them Charlie and Mary, again no discernible dirt other than Mary being on the rocks with her fourth husband, and two secretaries; job sharing young women, lets say Lisa and Annie. Lisa looked particularly promising when I unearthed some especially risqué pictures and film of her second job. I didn’t think Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd would take kindly to having their sensitive files handled by a very enthusiastic prostitute come porn starlet. I spent half an, admittedly educational, day building the blackmail door through Lisa into the company but decided to put it on hold pending evidence that she had access to the material I required.

Riding on the Police Service contractors intranet I located a building surveillance monitor close to the offices of interest, in fact right outside their door, and slaved it to my control. I ran the feed through a speciality facial mapping system and let my desktop run the stakeout for me. It would register the movements of recognized and new faces and automatically draw out patterns and conclusions to save me the skull sweat.

With nothing firm yet to go on so I’d gone to phase two: physical area reconnaissance. I donned my alternate biometrics, aided by some surgical adjustments left over from my time with the big boys, and did the classic “janitor gambit”. In my disguise of baggy coveralls and a different face I was able to shamble through the co-operative office complex and gather the intelligence I needed. I visited the thirty-second floor and passed by the office door twice, checked out the Block Control Room, service areas and basement. Finally I scouted out the utility systems and departed.

There were no hidden extras to this building, what you see is what you get with these mass work blocks. Using the same disguise, more to hide my real identity than to blend in, I called in to one of the many agencies that provide muscle for the right price in this city. I gave careful instructions along with a generous fee to the gorilla who was for immediate hire. The yarn I spun him: busting a jewel filled vault in the basement, was so rich that for a moment I thought even his sluggish thought process would smell a rat but it was not to be. He would follow my instructions to the letter in faithful expectation of further reward and begin to disrupt the utilities in the specified order tomorrow morning at ten.

Phase three was close reconnaissance. After a good night’s sleep I now sat at my office screen, coffee in hand and watched my machinations unfold. My renta-thug was right on time, ex national forces; drilled to perfection but not good enough to work for businesses. He blew the air-con system at one minute past ten and I called in the cops at precisely the same time. They would be in plenty of time to catch him going for the electricity main and stop him causing any real harm, the last thing I wanted was my target’s IT to close down!

I monitored the thirty-second floor air temperature and humidity as it climbed slowly up to, then past the outside conditions. It didn’t take long for Allen and Chisholm to call it a day and leave their staff to swelter it out alone. They were gone by ten forty, Charlie and Mary not too long after them. I opened the stakeout application to check on Bates. He had not been in that morning so was also accounted for. I also noticed some unusual movement trends that brought a smile to my face.

Amongst the people coming and going were the employees at morning, evening and lunch times, occasionally leaving, presumably to meetings elsewhere. A number of clients came and went, some two or three times during the surveillance period, but two individuals caught my attention. Two women, one early twenties and one early thirties didn’t fit the pattern. The younger had left for about fifty minutes yesterday and, after her return hadn’t been seen again. The elder had left for varying periods, sometimes in company with one or other partner but, critically, neither appeared to have a home to go to. I had my way in, now to find out how to use it.

I flipped back to the current surveillance and saw that the oppressive heat had finally pierced Lisa’s disinterested mind. She had opened the tiny windows at the back of the reception office and had now propped the front door open to the corridor, letting a trickle of a breeze flow through the room. I now had a clear view in through the doorway and smugly sat down to watch events from afar.

Lisa was perspiring heavily, her thin blouse stretched taught and damp over her bulging breasts as she sat working sulkily at the curved front desk. She stopped regularly to press a half empty bottle of mineral water to her forehead and to wipe her damp palms on her cream skirt. Beside her was the younger of the two misfit females. She was a petit and pretty redhead, crisp and graceful beside Lisa’s shiny voluptuous curves. She was focused on her work-screen and a palmtop as she spoke into a voice-com clipped to her ear. She looked calm and collected in the heat and showed none of her companions’ discomfort. I watched the pair for some time going about their routine office tasks, noting little details, still with an open mind as to my attack strategy. Finally the money shot came.

There were six private offices on the plan I had. The three partners were off a common foyer to the left and the two juniors to the right along with the sixth office. The middle door on the right of the secretaries opened and the other mystery woman entered my eyeshot. She got my full attention immediately. I’d guess at about thirty-two years old with deep dark brown, shoulder length hair hanging straight and glossy. She was slender and a picture of cool health in a smart grey business suit, skirt cut just above the knee showing firm sculpted calves rising from her conservative court shoes. In deference to the heat she had discarded her jacket and was covered by a crisp white cotton sleeveless blouse, fitting her trim figure well. She made to speak to the other girls in the room but, realising both were speaking on the voice-com, thought better and crossed the room herself to a bookshelf. There she paused to look carefully then reached and selected a weighty volume from a high shelf, pulled it down and retired again to her office. As her bare arm extended and took the weight of the old, paper book her muscles showed, moving under the lightly tanned skin, her back and legs poised, balancing in a graceful controlled movement. She made the gesture look effortless. She was cool, beautiful, senior and, beyond question, my target.

I wasted no time in pulling up the vision files from the rolling buffer. I saved them and went to work. First I zoomed in on the book in question, some legal tome from ages gone by that still bore weight in the backward national courtrooms. I noted the title and searched for further information. Have you ever tried to establish the weight of a book over the net? It’s not easy but eventually I arrived at 1.2 kilograms by a combination of investigation, estimation and calculation. Good enough. Next I captured three clear images, the beautiful woman stretching up high, taking the weight in her hand and stepping back with the book held, arm bent at the elbow. I mapped the joints and extrapolated each of the skeletal poses, making the reasonable assumption that there would be no structural defects, that all her limbs would be even, symmetrical and perfect.

It was late that night when I had the raw data for the product performance search and much later still by the time I had my answer. I was eighty seven percent certain that this beautiful creature was in fact an android. Not just any android but an AndroDell series 4.3r. The “r” in their range stands for realistic. Coming from a company with pretty high standards this means all but indistinguishable from a real woman. This was no cheap secretary-bot like the red headed front office appliance but a fully-fledged professional lady who just happened to be a machine.

I’d had no clew as to her nature, or even existence from my initial searches. Clearly Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd had gone some way to protect her identity, probably using paper records to avoid the concerns of their more conservative clients. I have no doubt that she brought a boost to business with her particular charms as well as all the talent she could be programmed with. Now that I knew what, exactly, she was I was able to tackle the issue from another perspective. Tapping into AndroDell’s records it was a simple task to find the transaction records. I copied the files of specifications and was suitably impressed by the price. She had been in service from new with the current owners for a little over a year and had recently been fully serviced by the manufacturer. Perfect.

Two – Attack

With a new set of alternate biometrics in place and wearing the smartest suit the shrift store could supply (it doesn’t pay to leave trace evidence) I arrived for my appointment with Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd. I had insisted on dealing with “Charlotte Hurst” whose recommendation I claimed to have been given by an associate. My briefcase contained papers for a pretty thin cover story: some property details and a false account, my palm-top and a rather special relic of my old employment.

I had judiciously waited for the air-con to be fixed before paying my final call on the company but even so I felt warm and prickly with excitement. As I entered Lisa was engaged in a deep and apparently utterly un-work related conversation on the video-link. I couldn’t help but think of her sexual gymnastics, which I had downloaded and studied in depth, as I saw her now in the (ample) flesh for the first time. Her companion greeted me warmly and took my details with cool polite efficiency. Close to and in person she had the familiar but hard to define robotic emptiness that most people believe is the telltale sign of an android. She was a standard off the shelf unit, reliable and cost effective but not designed to maintain more than a cosmetic deception. I felt a twinge of sympathy for the flesh and blood woman sharing her office, no wonder there had seemed so little life between them as I had watched them both.

“Ms Hurst is expecting you sir. If you’d like to go through here, would you like anything; tea, coffee, cola….?”

“No thank you,” I smiled warmly and touched her elbow lightly in a gesture of thanks. She returned my smile and giggled a little shyly as she returned to her desk, queued into response by my actions. I could play this unit like a violin if I wanted to…

I turned into the office and closed the door behind me. My target was a different matter. This android was as intelligent as I am, sophisticated and programmed with top of the range software to do her job well and to emulate human response perfectly. She would quickly notice any crude signs that I knew her nature and act defensively, locking files and calling for help. My first weapon was surprise; she would assume I believed she was human until I showed some sign that I knew otherwise, confident in the perfection of her womanlike body and programming. She had some excellent social analysis software, almost a walking lie detector, but my self-control was good too.

“Good morning Mr Smith, welcome to Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd. I’m Ms Hurst, I believe you were recommended by one of our other clients…” She was seated behind her dark wood desk; immaculate in the same grey suit I’d seen her in the day before.

“Yes, that’s right, you were very helpful with Geoff’s office relocation. It was at short notice and I’m now in a similar situation.” I’d researched just enough of an old conveyance job of hers to get me in the door. I gave here a suitably furtive leer as I fished the papers out of my case; I hoped she would think that “Geoff” had recommended her for more than her talents at property transaction…

“Here is my current holding, it’s let to a number of import / export merchants but I must free the capital by mid month…”

I pushed the untidy sheaf of papers across the desk towards her clumsily with both hands. Underneath was my stolen, illegal and recently re-configured LAN-buster, another relic of the old job. Charlotte maintained an open link to the office net while she was here; at least she was configured to do so at her last service, my most recent insight to her status. It was a small gamble but I was confident that the LAN buster would win the power battle from about fifty centimetres from her antenna (her chest), always assuming the building plan had accurately placed the WLAN links. Once it dominated the external signal it would substitute my own pre-programmed instructions. I had had the little flat grey box turned off when I arrived. If I’d blown the front office robot I’d never have made it in here at all, so now I fumbled with the papers to hide my thumb sliding the switch on.

Nothing happened. The subtle approach is a good thing but it doesn’t cut any slack for my nerves. I just had to hope that my input was getting through as I sat back in my seat, leaving the outlawed technology under the property papers on my target’s desk to do it’s work.

“If you’d care to read the top brochure I think you’ll understand why there’s such a rush.” My thin cover story was running out since I had no hard facts or property to buy or sell. I wished I’d prepared more thoroughly as I watched her study the top papers with careful attention. Surely she would detect the illegal signal? What if her wireless port was closed? What if she picked up more of the papers and saw the flat grey box? Would she block my way out? I sweated for the longest minute of my life since my last job, and the one before… and I guess every one before that!

Charlotte blew out a long breath, blowing her hair away from her face, looking up from the brochure into my eyes. A little flush spread up her soft throat and she pushed her hair back slowly. “It’s a little warm in here, just a moment…” I was home and dry!

Letting the papers fall she stood, turned and slid her jacket from her shoulders. She walked behind her chair and hung it carefully on a single hanger on the coat stand in the corner beside an immaculate grey raincoat, her perfect behind filling the taught cloth of her skirt with two firm globes, her legs apart. Shit! The office LAN would pick her up again… Her system would register the discrepancy! Why couldn’t she have stayed put? Panic flashed through me behind my serene façade. I knew there were risks but on balance she should re-acquire my signal once initiated. I always think the worst on a job.

She gracefully took her seat again, looking a little warm, and brushed her hair away again, her hand lingering at the side of her beautiful face for a long second as she stretched against the back of her chair. Her toned bare arms reached down behind her and her back arched in the chair in a graceful cat-like stretch. As the crisp cotton drew tight over her chest I could clearly see the hard outlines of her nipples thrusting through the cloth.

“Mmmmmmm…….” She moaned softly and let out a deep sigh, “I’m sorry. Where were we?” I was in, literally! I had thoroughly reviewed her systems architecture and found the optimal attack point. As a 4.3r, especially “r”, Charlotte had a comprehensive sexual system. Not routinely employed it was, nevertheless, maintained and functioning. By dint of simple instructions, aided by hacked authorisation codes, my LAN-buster was tying her resources up in the one system that was best suited to the job. The LAN allowed her owners to feed her opinions and decisions while she had a client in her office. These were seamlessly assimilated into her programming without any external sign, guiding her decisions and actions secretly as required. In the same way I was feeding the stunning female a string of sexual urges, desires, feelings and sensations that she accepted as authorised responses by opening and running sexual applications over and over. She was becoming highly aroused and saw nothing wrong in her self at all.

“Ohh….” She picked up my brochure again but merely glanced at it before biting her lip and stifling a louder moan, “Nnnnnmm…. Sorry…. Oh! My….” She pushed her legs wide and ran her hand slowly down her body, eyes half closing.

“Are you okay Charlotte, would you like a glass of water?” I kept up a halfhearted act; pretty sure that she was little threat to me now. “Here, let me help you… you look very hot…”

I got up and walked around her desk to kneel at her side, putting my case and palmtop in her in-tray. “Mr Smith I’m feeling very…. Ohhhh, Mr Sm…. Mmmmm….” Close up she was even more perfect. I traced her hairline with my finger; thick dark locks springing from the lightly tanned flesh. Her face was beautiful, even and delicate, complete with little lines, freckles and the marks that made her human to all appearances. I traced my finger along her clean jaw line with its little brown mole and down her down to the collar of her blouse making her shudder at the light touch. “Ohhhh… Mr Smith… Mr… What are you… Ohh please Mr Smi… Ohh.” My input was updating her system with a fresh sexual response command once every second. Enough to keep her system resources fully occupied without crashing her, which would risk alerting the office server, blowing the operation.

I gently unbuttoned the android’s top as she squirmed slowly in her chair. She brushed at my hands and body and several times looked me full in the eyes with an ”O” of surprise on her face, an expression somewhere between a lover’s and shock. She still seemed to me in every way a perfect simulation of a woman writhing in gentle ecstasy and I won’t claim to have been unmoved by the spectacle. Parting the cloth over her chest I placed my hands over her bra, nipples digging into my palms, and pressed my fingers upwards and inwards over her sternum.

“Aiii!” She gave a sharp squeak as I pressed against her swollen breasts and convulsed back in her chair, legs twitching up and her mouth gaping wide for air, unable to make any further noise for an instant as she was gripped in a body surging orgasm. I hadn’t wanted to push her this far. If she was over stimulated she would crash too soon but I had to leave my hack running to tie up her system. I guess I’d neglected to factor in the sexual input of my manual handling, the situation, even my handsome self when I set up the input protocols. Hindsight is wonderful thing! I tried, against all natural feelings, to stimulate her as little as possible as I popped the access cover free from her chest.

It was only a small rectangle of flesh, quite thick, that hinged down from the hard bony area above her cleavage. Inside were her hard ports, one power and two data. I hooked up a hard link between her and her desk workstation and another from her to my palmtop. I had loaded AndroDell’s latest maintenance software and used it to control Charlotte’s system, using her as a Trojan horse to ransack Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd’s files.

After ten minutes of fraught searching I found what I wanted, copied it to my drive for “safekeeping” and deleted all trace from the company’s information systems, including Charlotte. Job done. All the while the stunning woman had been writhing in her chair, teased to the point of helplessness by my constant demands to run sexual applications. She moaned softly and traced her hands up and down her burning body, lingering at her straining nipples and on the inside of her firm, smooth thighs. She lacked any programming for masturbation; if she had her systems would have collapsed long ago. Her fingers brushed the cable connectors in her chest, puzzling her through the sexual haze, “Mr Smith what are you…. Ohhh… Wh… Oh…. What are you d doing to m… aaah…. aaah…. aaah!” At no time did she progress beyond her first realisation of wrongness before she was swamped with further stimulation to draw her limited resources away from self-determined actions.

I took a moment to admire her as I disconnected her links. She looked at me in another moment of clarity, stunningly flustered with a tiny hint of anger, or was that my imagination? “What…? Wha…”

“You seem to be malfunctioning, here see.” She touched my had as I plucked the cables from her chest, looking down at them then up at me in confusion. “No, not authori… You’re not…” I felt a twinge of guilt as I packed my things, less the LAN buster into my case. She was so close to a real person that I had to get a real grip of myself. She’s only a robot, a machine and a means to my end. She’ll be repaired.

I had to cover my tracks, obviously Charlotte hadn’t backed up while her wireless port was tied up by my data but her internal memory would reveal my actions if examined. I needed to crash her system quite spectacularly to prevent recovery and also to cover my exit strategy. This would a simple pleasure to achieve.

“I’m sorry Charlotte,” I said, surprised at my own sincerity. I pushed her, now slightly disarrayed, hair out of her face and tilted her face back to kiss her deeply. She responded eagerly, grasping at my waist and chest, her perfect robotic body pulsing against me, warm and soft; helplessly aroused, opening program after program without question on instructions to her unprotected data port.

I broke free and her head fell back, mouth wide in a silent cry as my hands slid down over her chest and rested on her still thrusting nipples. I popped the cover back into place above her white bra where it blended seamlessly into her flushed skin. Caressing her breasts firmly, I fastened her top with my free hand and turned my attention to her gently thrusting groin. As I ran my hand up her thigh inside her skirt to touch the seam of her smooth panties she jerked again with a strong full body convulsion. Fortunately she didn’t seem able to make more than the smallest breathless little noises, too soft to be heard beyond the office door. I slipped a finger into her underwear running it slowly over her realistic pubic hair to find her lips damp and warm.

The android woman emitted a sharp beep from inside her chest making me jump, the first overt sign of artificiality since I had arrived. She moaned again, twitching and grinding her simulated sex against my hand inside her skirt. “Oh yessss… Mr Smith… Ohhh… Please!” Not slow to oblige I began to flick at her swollen clitoris, eliciting an instant, programmed response. Bucking and moaning with her arms waving uselessly out to her sides, wrists limp, head twitching she emitted a number of further warning beeps.

I carried on regardless as her movements became less fluid. “Error.” Her normal speech was now incoherent. “Error. Please shut down.” Just a few seconds more as I upped my finger speed into a final sprint. “Error. Please shut down. Error. Error. Errrrrr…. Plsss…. Shurrrrrrrt.” Click.

She just stopped speaking, mouth moving in utter silence as her voice system cut out. Her head jerked violently to the right, face now confused. Her sexual programs closed abruptly, her body stopping it’s grinding and writhing action and becoming still. She looked up at me, her system no longer tied up with sexual response and sensation she was free to think. Our eyes locked as she realized what I had done to her, furious accusation suffused her lovely face and she drew breath to exclaim but nothing came. Her forehead creased and, puzzled she tried again, mouth gaping silently, arms twitching, still flung akimbo, legs not moving at all. She made one last determined effort to accuse me, and so doing, sealed her fate. A final beep sounded from inside her chest and her soundless mouth began to loose the shape of her silent words, decaying to spastic gaping as the expression locked into vacant confusion, icy eyes wide and fixed in her increasingly violently jerking head.

As I watched Charlotte rapidly descended to a twitching remnant of her former perfect self. All poise lost, her body and limbs now jerking to the purposeless commands of conflicting programs as her top-level application, her “self” crashed. She went through coherent seeming moments as sequences re-played on her body, an instant at a time. Once I was certain the android’s memory files were wholly corrupted it was time for me to leave. My last view of my lovely victim was to see her arching backwards over her chair, arms flailing and face, by chance turned to me in puzzled intelligence. Her blouse had ridden up to show a sliver of smooth flat belly and the edge of a square opening above her navel, opened by accident or design I could not tell. I glimpsed a flicker of blue inside her as some doomed hardware sparked out of service and smelled sharp metal heat as I turned out of the office.

I gave Lisa and the red haired robot girl a stern piece of my mind as I swept out of Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd. “I don’t expect to be deceived. Absolute disgrace. Blah blah blah…” I didn’t hang about though, leaving the real and the fake girl to shut down their boss. I wondered if they were in for a surprise themselves.

Its six months or so ago now and the effect of witnessing the smart and classy Charlotte’s defeat and, I imagined, humiliation at my hands still lingers in my mind. Driven to curiosity I re-visit the AndroDell files and call up her recent service history. It’s all here: investigation into malfunction, damage assessment, program recovery options, hardware replacement, and repair estimate. The report concluded, “unknown input caused over demand on operating system leading to cascade failure of control functions.” The estimate was steep and it seems she was returned to the production plant for six weeks before any decision could be reached. The lovely androids’ repair costs had been beyond the means of Allen, Bates and Chisholm Ltd, especially in light of their disappointing insurance claim. It seem they were no longer quite as confident in technology as they had been.

Charlotte’s file showed that she had remained in storage at AndroDell for a further three months with only three work entries; one for further investigation and two more for removal of her power system and an actuation set for use in other units. The final entry read, “CX 3755 deemed non viable for re-sale. Unit terminated for reclamation of serviceable systems. Primary operating systems are to be destroyed due to unknown faults. Record closed.”

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