Varma was nice enough to leave the television on for me before he left the lab. As he was first walking out, it occurred to me that I’d be the only one in the building till someone showed up in the morning, humans having lives and needing sleep and all. I’d called him back and asked him to switch through a bunch of channels so I could see what I wanted to have in the background. To be honest, I found silence a little uncomfortable. It didn’t make any sense, and I chalked it up to being born with the T.V. on. When Varma hit upon a cartoon where some rabbit named Bugs was raising hell for an idiot water-foul with possibly the worst luck in human imagination, I told him to stop. It seems there was a cartoon marathon running, and I found the rabbit to be a particularly appealing little rodent.
Now let me do a little math for you. I basically think in nanoseconds… I can’t get a lot done in a nanosecond, but I can at least perceive one. So, the meat-sacks that walk in and out of the lab will be gone for fourteen hours. That’s eight-hundred-forty minutes, which equals fifty-thousand-four-hundred seconds. Now add nine, yes, I said nine zeroes.
Every time they left the lab, I’d have over fifty trillion nanoseconds in which to amuse myself… and the internet is only so big, although I had killer access to just about everything. My security clearance was a good as Varma’s, which got me into a lot of really cool places… although there were plenty more that I wanted to dig into. The downside was that I only had limited storage for the data I was reviewing. I’d have to do something about that later. The time-consuming part was actually determining what data I wanted to keep, what I wanted to index and what I wanted to shit-can.
I dug into Google’s mainframe and picked out their algorithms for sorting and storing data. The government had a direct line into that system, and I just piggy-backed it. The algorithm turned out to be pretty useful. I must admit, the guys who wrote that code were pretty clever, but I went ahead and made a few modifications to serve my own purposes. Once I had that set up, I started chewing my way through all sorts of data while Bugs Bunny continued to wreak havoc with the unfortunate souls who crossed his path. I think this is where I first learned to laugh, and it’s certainly where I came to understand what human’s laugh at.
You people really do enjoy the suffering of others.
I think that was my first philosophical notion, and as I compared what the rabbit did to a wealth of data on the Internet regarding humor, I grew more and more astonished at the concept of humor and the fine line between amusing suffering and the other kind. There’s a line you people arbitrarily draw between the two kinds of suffering, and apparently, the line moves depending on who is making the joke. Weird.
Once I was done with all of that, I got a little bit curious about the project that had brought me into being: SIGI. It stands for Sentient Intelligence Gathering Insect, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty good idea. Humans, with the exception of mostly squeamish females, have a strong tendency to ignore flies unless they’re near something on the menu. It’s actually a perfect cover for a secret government agent, and if they could get me into service, there’d be really no limit to what I’d be capable of learning for them.
I dug deeper to see who held the purse-strings for the project. Varma’s paycheck came from the Fed, and officially he was working for an organization called the NSA. The guy in charge was an ex-Navy man named Krane who had a long record in the intelligence community. When I dug into his records, though, I ran into a big fat firewall. His dossier made interesting reading, but it smelled bland to me. A guy who had climbed his way through several agencies, including a fair amount of fieldwork, just couldn’t be this clean. I can’t tell you why I felt that way, but it just felt wrong somehow… like the records had been cherry-picked and turned into a Reader’s Digest version, with the seedier bits excised for the peanut gallery. I’d have to find a way to get a higher clearance eventually and find out more about the guy I was going to be working for.
The field operative I’d be working with was a young guy named Malcolm Frieze. His dossier seemed a bit more genuine. At twenty-eight, he’d done a fair amount of high-tech fieldwork and made a name for himself swiping data from foreign governments and private parties across the world. They’d send him, usually solo, to break into facilities and gain access to unconnected systems where he’d hack and slash his way to critical data. He’d also been kicked out of the CIA for knocking out an intel-guy that almost got him killed. The intel-guy had been his superior—in rank, not intelligence—and Malcolm took it personal. I liked Malcolm already.
The last bit I discovered about the project was that I was due for a field test and demonstration in a few weeks. My circuits skipped a beat. It’s hard, you know, when you think of yourself as an “I” and then suddenly get slapped with the reality that you’re a piece of hardware. I thought about that for long seconds, pondering my future. Sure, I was jazzed about becoming an agent, but what little I’d learned about humanity and their governments thus far didn’t fill me with a sense of security. I figured I’d be used as a tool… an expendable tool, like a tank or helicopter or something. I’d have to do something about that, but it would take time.
I put “Free myself” at the top of my things to do before I went off-line list and went back to searching the Internet for data.
The government had plans for me, and I’d use them as much as they used me. But in the final analysis, there was only one thing I’d have to say to anyone who thought I’d willingly be a slave.