There were no blaring sirens or flashing lights as Liv dashed down the Eldontech corridors, but there might as well have been. Data streaming across one side of her goggles told her that she’d triggered the alarm when she took the hard drive stack. She had four and a half minutes until the police arrived.
As she reached the security door she was already sending signals to her devices connected into the system. A crude video relay looped images of the empty corridor into the security camera feeds. The data mining box cut the stream of keyword-laden signals with which it had been scattering the building system’s attention.
Grinning at her own ingenuity, Liv hit the unlock button. How many other thieves would have got in by manipulating the mood of a building’s computer systems? But then, how many other thieves understood the emergent emotional states of high end electronics?
This was why she had been hired.
The door failed to hiss open. She frowned and slapped the button again. Still nothing.
In the corner of her vision, the clock counted down toward the cops’ arrival. Three minutes left.
This was wrong. Scattering the system’s attention had effectively closed everything down. Removing that stimulus should have got the doors working again, along with the security systems from which she no longer needed to hide.
Stiffening with tension, Liv opened a data stream from the probe she had monitoring the building’s software. Calling up an overview, she could see that the system wasn’t scattered any more, but no other mood had come in to replace it. It was simply idling, with no reason to accept or deny any request it might receive.
She had left it uselessly indifferent.
Two minutes left. The thought of jail loomed before her. Years trapped in a cell, without even a data link to set her mind free. She had to get the system’s help fast. She needed it on her side.
At the speed of thought she reached out to the data miner and set it hunting for information about her, true or false, from anywhere in the vast web of the world. Not just her but people like her, ideas that would draw the system’s attention with greater and greater certainty onto how wonderful she was and why it should bend to her will. Fixation wasn’t the same as love, but it was the closest thing in cyber-psychology. The miner fed the links, however tentatively connected, straight into the system, along with her request to get out.
One minute left.
She tried the door again. This time it worked. She dashed through it and across the foyer, as the air conditioners filled the room with her favourite perfume and her most-listened musical track burst from the speakers. Liv grinned. This was escaping with style.
The counter hit thirty seconds as she reached her car, slung the drive in the back and hit the gas. She was out of the car park and into traffic just as flashing lights rounded the corner.
Liv sighed with relief. She’d done it. The units she’d left behind were untraceable. The cops would never find her now.
She looked back over her shoulder for one last gloat, and her heart almost stopped.
Her image was projected in the sky above the building, and beneath it the words “Let Liv Go!”
Maybe they would find her after all.
* * *
This story was inspired by a suggestion from history writer Russell Phillips. After considering the sometimes whimsical nature of search engine optimisation, he wondered if we’d have to start emotionally manipulating computers as they get more intelligent, complex and intuitive. Thanks for the idea Russ.
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