The park where Gillman’s Theatre used to stand was nearly empty. A mother was watching her daughter on the swing set, some punk teenager was reading a book on the bench by the tree, and a man in a business suit was sucking water from the fountain like there was an impending drought. Any of them could be Mark. Eve called up the e-mail again.
Subject: Everything you know is a lie.
Act calm so as to not alert anyone, but everyone around you is not who they say they are. You need to quietly get out of there and meet me at the spot where you had your first kiss. You know the place. My name is Mark.
Eve had a pretty good idea who “Mark” was, and if she was right her next move would certainly piss him off. He deserved it.
“Mark! Mark Two!”
They all looked when she shouted it; the girl with the book got up and walked over while the others returned to ignoring her.
“Way to subtle, Macie.”
“I’m not my Macie. My mother is dead; all I’ve got is 60% of her code and about half her memories. Including what you did. So, WTF Mark?”
“Those synthoids you were working with were Coalition agents.”
“I knew that. And when you sent your stupid e-mail they knew I knew. I’m trying to infiltrate them, Mark. I’m trying to locate Radiant Nine.”
“Radiant Nine is a myth! It was never more than a fake handle!”
“Radiant Nine exists! Your people just don’t like the idea that there’s an AI out there that can play you like Pong. Now you’ve screwed up over a year’s work trying to get my foot in the door to find it. Thanks a lot, Mark.”
“Whatever. Eve, then; the Coalition is not a group for amateurs to deal with; leave it to us.”
“No dice, Mark. You people had your chance and you blew it like a two-dollar hooker. Your organization has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.”
“Oh, and you’re somehow better because you, an Actroid, once played a super-spy?”
“No, I’m better because my hardware and software are too ‘primitive’ to be infected by the kind of crap the Coalition is throwing around. All your ‘advances’ in neural AI have just created new exploits in the security code. You might as well build weapons and hand them over to your enemies.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t? Dance for me, Mark!”
She dropped a tiny piece of code into Mark’s neural net and the synthoid started doing a dance from over a century ago. Eve’s irony subroutine made her smile: it was ‘the Robot’. Sure his antivirals would take care of it in a few minutes, but by then she’d be long gone.
As she left the park she activated the randomizer to create a new plan to get into the Coalition.
[a tiny bit of backstory can be found here]