Tom couldn’t stand being in the unit. Dead or not, Jack was always present. Ruining it.
So he walked. He always walked.
Just like back in the day, with the crew. Except now it’s day and sticking to the shade trails.
He needed to see things he hadn’t seen, with non-anonymised faces and places. He passed shop windows with manikins moving from pose to pose in synchronised presentation. A park shaded by enormous shade sails was filled with plugged-in people playing augmented sports or sitting on benches consuming some entertainment or lying motionless on big towels. A sculpture stood at one end of the park, of a woman cast in bronze, holding an oar and a sack filled with seeds, or grain.
He followed a hoarding wall, scabbed with lichen and wounded with holes; big enough for him to peek through. Tom walked around the boundary, looking for an opening but saw only more evidence of abandonment; a washing line where clothes had been left to turn hard and crisp, dirty with months left in the haze.
It led to a gate, chained up with a large sign that read ‘Hazardous. Do Not Enter.’ A drone guard hovered closer when he stopped to examine the chains. He moved along.
What happened to make them close this off? Not even giving people time to take in their laundry.
It was only a few days since the non-valids had barricaded this tunnel. Over thirty had died and, besides the portable plastic barricades that were yet to be collected, the authorities had done a remarkable job cleaning away any trace of the slaughter.
There were sirens every night. Dogs barked. The air purifiers blew like a waterfall. Everything else stayed quiet and pretended to sleep.
The screen before him was playing Cyber Warriors. He was rewatching the series before the grand conclusion was released and the gangs would have their final battle.
Tom was watching by himself, the video overlaid into his eyes. A thousand EX2s had surrounded Juarez and his gang—he decided to message his brother. They’d spent hours watching this series together.
In this very room.
I’m watching CW again before the remake.
He waited a few minutes but Patrick didn’t reply.
Israel utilities hack traced to fringe group
Killbot outbreak across China
In a co-ordinated release, tens of thousands of LAWs were spawned out of the commercial zone.
An analysis of the K-list reveals no targeting pattern except for “humans in general”. Citizens have been instructed to remain indoors while authorities try to control the situation. As many as 50,000 are suspected dead.
Satellites reveal multiple air strikes on Chinese factories which experts suggest to be the actions of the Chinese government attempting to halt the production of more killbots.
International offers of aid remain unacknowledged.
ICSC to ‘yield the ground.’
This is not a fight that can be won. The disputed territory is not worth the cost of retaking it.’
Tom had spent so many hot days walking around they all blended into one endless walk; under street lights, the moon, through mask days and clear and sunlight hard enough to bleach his cool wear.
When the weather permitted he took the skyway through the city, a wandering path of covered bridges between corporate buildings that had been opened to the public. It was decked out with potted plants and benches. Small vendors worked from carts when the people were about.
He often stopped at one place that served espressos with a small glass of mineral water. Tom folded the crema into the shot and sipped, tasting notes of green leaves, chocolate and white pepper while listening in to the people nearby.
An ibis with a bleeding beak and a swollen eye stood on a rubbish bin, dunking it’s head in and out.
The woman next to him answered a phone call. ‘Yep, okay, I’m just around the corner having coffee with a friend. Yep. I’ll be right back.’
She disconnected and said to the man with her, ‘I have to go. There is a siege or something and they need me for a roll call.’
‘Oh, really? I was going to Hunter Street. Will I still be able to get through?’
‘We can go the long way around.’
Tom hurried home, into a sweet and potent smoke that washed up over the air bridge. He had to push through rioters with black Xs painted over their faces to anonymise them; as if crossing out their identities. They threw Molotov’s off the air walk, targeting the Mammoth Enterprises building.
He pulled the neck of his shirt over his mouth to block the smoke and began rushing towards home.
The tunnel under Central station was bisected by a wall of gates. Heavy plasticised teeth that opened and closed for people to pass through. Those allowed through, those who had the proper inoculations, received a green light and open gates. Those who didn’t, invalids, were blocked and shown the red. If they didn’t turn away, guards would move in.
‘You got credit? Give me credit,’ cried out an unregistered homeless man.
Tom hurried past, the barriers opened for Tom automatically. Ten steps inside, he looked back to see the beggar blocked on the other side. The blocks had come down and guards with stun sticks were hurrying to shoo the man away.
No immunity, no entry!
Pope flees Rome
Following a precision killbot incursion, the Pontifical Swiss Guard have removed his Holiness to an undisclosed location.
No matter what he did in life, no matter where he went, every day started with going to the bathroom. His progression through life could be remembered by the bathroom he had to use.
His parents had two bathrooms. One for mum and dad, and one for him and his brother. His parents had an ensuite behind a sliding door in the wardrobe. The bathroom for the boys—and every guest who passed through the house—was at the end of the corridor. It had a separate toilet in a very small room and a plastic seat.
Then there was the perpetually broken ones at junior school. A cold seat with a busted hinge and a door that didn’t want to lock. He always sat leaning forward, one hand out ready to push it closed if intruders tried to enter.
The camp toilets were plastic sheets atop a deep tub of shit and piss that baked in the sun everyday. It stank and everyone was having trouble with their bowels. Shitting was more like turning on a fire hose and holding yourself down to keep your bum aimed at the hole.
Jack’s bathroom had a water heater that made alarming pops, as if it had just punctured and boiling water was about to spray out. It never happened but once every few days he would freeze at the sound of that metal pop.
Jack’s towels were still on the rack, fraying and stringy on the sides. They were thinned and scratchy and looked permanently stained.
Pope rejects holy war
From a secure location, his Holiness has urged Catholics not to retaliate and add fuel to the violence.
I’d like new towels. I’ve never had new towels.
Canada beginS Project ‘Antibody’
Following a six month freeze on personal drone and robot registration, the Canadian Special Police today revealed the second part of their strategy to eliminate the Killbot infestation.
Live press conference
A woman stands at a podium. Hair in a tight bun, a neat navy blue uniform with bands of merit bars stood before a line of red and white quadrupedal robots waiting for the room to settle. Below her on the screen read: Commissioner Dana Sturges.
‘Today we begin fighting fire with fire. In coordination with the national guard we are announcing the commencement of Project Antibody which begins with the ignition of this squad of 2000 anti lethal automated weapon hunters.
The commissioner turned to the bots behind her. They had a flattened torso of white, with four jointed legs. On each torso of the bots was a glass bubble with spinning 3D cameras.
‘Activate Project Antibody.’
The robots began moving, sounding like a herd of metal ladders had been startled.
A message popped out from the side of his screen, from his brother, Patrick.
Are you awake?
Tom hesitated. He didn’t normally answer when in the bathroom.
In the bathroom?
On the toilet?
It’s the most comfortable seat. What’s happening?
Nothing much. Just mega storms in Greece and Turkey.
Refresh and you’ll get my links.
Patrick sent him a bunch of click-tos. One by one, each chiming pim pim pim.
Windows opened on videos showing different views of three massive cyclones smashing up the Aegean coastline and tearing across farmland.
As yet none of the cyclones had reached a town or city so there had only been a few casualties. But they were immense. They darkened all that was beneath them and carved up the land as if a churlish god was dragging its invisible fingers through the earth.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
Not near you?
Miles away. Other end of the continent.
I was just checking, you might have been on holiday or something.
When the storms stretch from Greece to Belgium, I’ll head underground.
Tom didn’t have more to say. He didn’t feel like live communications right now.
I should go.
You should come here when you can.
I’m thinking about it. It would be nice to see you. And finally meet Zizi.
Then come. Never a better time than now. While it’s safe.
I should go. The gigs will ramp up soon. I need to catch a few to save up for that transfer.
I can pay for you.
It’s okay. Talk soon.
Tom flicked back to the browser window and clicked through more of the storm pictures. The live feed said the intensity was abating but there had already been billions of euros in damage. Power grids were out and roads and train lines were cut in many places.
No longer feeling like reading he washed his hands and dressed. Tom stood on the little balcony and looked out at the stars – the few he could see through the glow. The outside air was cool and thick, a dead acacia rattled in the breeze. He was so tired. His eyes could barely recognise the difference between ground and sky, and even that distinction faded as quick clouds pushed over and it began to rain. Thick heavy drops slapped his cheek, rung off the metal railing and patterned the concrete two storeys below.
Nigerian cyber defence army reaches Abuja city limits
One storey below was a suffering hedge, branches shivering.
Is that bush moving?
Three killed in Louisiana Killbot attack
Jove popped his head up. ‘There is a communication request from Rachel. Do you want to accept the call?’
! I’d almost forgotten about the cadets.
‘Of course, Jove. Put her on.’
Commune Unveils Response Units
In coordination with Canandian Special Police, the California AI Council, Commune, shared plans for what it calls an ‘annihilator unit’. Quick-learning machines that can self-program attack strategies for new strains of killbots that appear.
To avoid breaching the newly minted ban on autonomous weaponry, the Mach 1 Annihilator uses existing infantry exo units that carry a human operator who retains target and firing control. Once targets are acquired, the pilot approves for the machine to fire at its strategic discretion until the target is eliminated. The Mach 1 can fire up to 10,000 laser shots per minute of 959 watts – enough to damage or destroy sensitive navigation and targeting equipment. Commune officials claim a single shot will disable 99 percent of known killbot varieties. For demonstration footage, follow this link>>.
AUs will begin appearing in the United States, Britain, Australia, China and the European Union by the end of the week.
In other countries, including India, Japan and Korea, authorities are using enhanced surveillance and police-operated drones to find and remove threats. The United Russian territories continue their policy of severe retribution for all creators of autonomous weaponry – barring state sanctioned weapons.
Meanwhile Cyberpol and Chinese-operated Red Fist continue to pursue software based solutions.
Rachel appeared on screen, curly hair and face overjoyed.
‘Are you watching?’
‘Watching what?’ he asked.
‘The war. It’s over!’
‘Over? How can it be over?’
‘I don’t care, it just is.’ She sent him a link.
‘I can’t believe you’re not here. Look at everyone.’
She panned the camera around to show the camp, blazing with lights and blaring with music, soldiers and cybers dancing and toasting, drinking and singing.
‘Me either. I miss you!’
‘I miss you too, Tommy. As soon as they let me out, I’ll be down to see you.’
She kissed the camera and clicked off. He stared at a dull screen.