Life Mated with Death, In the Service of a Sentience that was Neither

Excerpt from the novel Infiltrator icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Infiltrator" book cover. [Formatted]


     Serena was alerted in the morning, during her rest cycle. She had a computer that was always on-line, searching the Internet for mention of Sarah Connor. Given the sheer size of the Web, the thousands upon thousands of requests for information of all kinds, worldwide, every day, the relay of that information was often far from instantaneous. But when, eventually, mention of the Connors was made, the Internet search engine sent a message directly to the computer part of Serena’s brain.
     In this case, the request for information about the Sarah Connor case had come from a Jeffrey Goldberg. Subsequent research indicated that he was an employee of a covert—extremely covert—antiterrorist group known as the Sector.
     Serena considered the information as data scrolled across the inside of her eyelids, casting a ghostly blue flicker over her eyes, without disturbing the motionless perfection of her face.
     The request for Connor’s file might have been the result of some sort of bureaucratic housecleaning. Some decade-overdue review of terrorists-at-large. She checked. Goldberg’s session log showed that he asked only for Connor and her son and any known information about their adult male accomplice.
     That would seem to indicate that he had a specific reason for inquiring. Goldberg was stationed in Vienna, which implied that Connor might have been sighted in Austria. Or, given whom Goldberg worked for, one of their remote outstation operatives might have sighted them.
     She set the computer to search Goldberg’s phone and e-mail records for calls and messages over the previous twenty-four hours. The phone log would reveal the numbers of those who called in, which would at least give her some locations. She had higher hopes for the e-mail, which would carry much more in the way of details. As an afterthought she also directed the computer to check his home phone.
     Then she composed herself for sleep. There was nothing inherently untoward about someone from Sector requesting information on a known terrorist. Dealing with terrorists was Sector’s raison d’être. But it was promising. Serena resolved to continue monitoring Goldberg for the next several weeks.
     Perhaps I should set up a Connor site of my own on the Web, she mused. Make herself out to be some sort of advocate, one of those people who see government conspiracies in every arrest and conviction.
     In the case of Sarah Connor there was the bonus of the conspiracy actually existing. Even if the organizing force behind that conspiracy didn’t quite exist yet.
     There might well be people out there who would respond if there was something to respond to. And if it’s a good enough site it might even get the attention of the Connors themselves. A cheering thought.
     But it would be a delicate line to walk. Knowing what she did about the case, she would need to avoid inadvertently revealing information dangerous to Skynet. Or, just as bad, information that only the Connors and Skynet should have.
     Thinking about he future parent/creator, Serena smiled. It was barely in its infancy just now. Little more than a very capable computer, with no hint of awareness. But the potential was there and the engineers were rapidly closing in on the essential elements that would give life to Skynet.
     She’d met Kurt Viemeister and had been charmed to realize that his was the voice that Skynet would use when it spoke. It was the voice of all the T-101s who had taught her, and she coludn’t get enough of it or the wark, secure feelings it aroused.
     Perhaps she should be troubled to notice a weakness like this in herself. The last thing she would have expected was to be homesick. Perhaps not so much homesick as bereft of Skynet’s eternal presence. It was hard, very hard to be completely alone here.
     Still, unless it was of benefit to the project, she really shouldn’t spend to omuch time with Viemeister. Other humans didn’t seem to like him, though it was obvious they respected him. But she knew that much of her mission’s success would depend on her being liked and trusted. If an association with Viemeister would imperil that, then she would just have to sacrifice her developing friendship with the human.
     Skynet comes first, she reminded herself, then smiled. In this case, I guess I come first and Skynet follows me.
     And, this time, they would win.

Serena tugged at the stringy pink tissue gently, her hand deep in the viscous, faintly salt-smelling goo of the underground vat. Bonding nicely, she thought as it resisted her pull. Threads of the cultured human muscle were weaving themselves into the porous ceramic that coated the metallic bones.
     A soundless blip interrupted her. Ah, she thought, drying her hands on a towel as she moved over to the computer workstation. Transmission.
     Goldberg was relaying a part of the dossier he had acquired on the Connor case to an e-mail address in Paraguay.
     The silicon-and-metal part of Serena’s brain connected her to the remote computer that was monitoring Goldberg, data trickling in through electrodes finer than a human hair knitted into the organic neural nets. The picture that came up on her eyes was of the Terminator that Skynet had sent to eliminate Sarah Connor. Even boosted by her superior processor, the picture was grainy. She supposed that was why Goldberg had sent it by e-mail. There was nothing else, though. A quick check showed a call-in-progress from Goldberg to a phone number in Paraguay. She had forgotten to check the fax lines, but she was sure that if she did look, there would be one to Paraguay. She ran a check on the address belonging to the phone number.
     Dieter von Rossbach, rancher. Oh, really? And why would a rancher in Paraguay happen to need information on the Connors? Because he thinks he’s found them.
     She ordered the computer to search for information on this Dieter. Who would undoubtedly turn out to be more than a mere cow herder, she was sure. Meanwhile she would seek permission to send someone down to South America to look into this situation. Without hesitation she called Paul Warren.
     Behind her, the liquid in the vat gurgled, and the metal and ceramic of the Terminator’s structure gradually disappeared beneath the spreading web of pink and pulsing crimson. Life mated with death, in the service of a sentience that was neither.

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