Messenger of the Náströnd. Chapter III

Spanish version here.

The hotel door opened. Martin pointed with his phaser to the figure that came in. There was no need to shoot. It was Sandra, who looked at him indifferently, as she connected the computer in the room and examined something. After a few seconds, Martin commented:

“How was the meeting with … those friends “? Sandra, without turning, replied:

-All right. I’m going to work for them.”

“You can’t do that, Sandra.”

“Why not?”

“You’re going to have to kill some people. Your programming …”

Portada nastrond eng

“My programming tells me to weigh my actions based on the number of lives saved. Helping this mafia will allow me to know better its structure, and that will give me information to be able to dismantle it. The final result is more lives saved in the long run than short-term losses. My computer’s equations of ethics consider it balanced. What I do not know what I’m going to do is with you. I am involved in this, but you are nothing but a hindrance.”

“Sandra, I-” She interrupted him.

“There are three options: or you remain hidden and armed, and waiting for no one to make a hole in your head, or you return to Earth in the first ship hoping to get alive, or I will finish with you to avoid that you can create more problems to me and Jan. That is also feasible and balanced and can save lives. This last option has the advantage of showing me as a cold and hard being against this mafia group and the other groups, and that I am capable of anything to achieve my purposes, as you reminded me before.” Martin was silent for a moment. Then he commented:

“I wish I had not presented you with the option.” I feel like a jerk.

-You are a man. Therefore, you are.

“How funny you are, Sandra. And what have you calculated as the most feasible equations in your computer?”

“I’ve calculated a fourth option.”

“Oh yeah? Are you going to throw me into the atmosphere of Titan, to serve as an example, as in the movies of mobsters?”

“Not really. I’m going to be your girlfriend.” Martin raised his eyebrows.

“My girlfriend?” Sandra sighed, and replied,

-Yes. You are fully committed. All mafias know who you are: a dead duck. A corpse still breathing waiting for the shot of grace. All the mafias have you located. They can blow your head off in a second, any moment, anytime.

“Indeed, Sandra. So…”

“You’re going to show everyone that you do not mind bouncing around the hallways and hotel rooms, or at the space station where the Math Combat Challenge is held.”

“And why should I do that?” Martin asked curiously. Sandra quickly clarified.

“For two reasons. The first: if you do that, they will think that you are crazy, or that you have a special level of protection, or that you have a godfather with a great power behind that deals with your security, to the point that you do not fear anything or anyone. They will not be sure of any of these options, they’ll believe that all of them are possible, and they’ll think that there is a possibility that everything is a bluff. But they will not take any risk. At least, not at first. The fact that you are alive is already a sign of that power that you seem to have.”

“Great. And the second reason?”

“The second reason is very simple: if you don’t do what I´m telling you, I’ll blow your head off myself.”

“I understand.”

“Besides, I’m sick of the insinuations of the men who come here to see the math competition, and have left their women in their houses. That’s when they decide to whoop it up, and I am of course a priority objective. If they see me with you they’ll slow them down. At least, some of them. Also, you signed up for the Gamma team, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but that was just a cover”

“You won’t resign.”

“Won’t I?”

“You won’t. Haven’t you washed your ears? I am also registered. In the Delta team.” Martin was surprised at this statement.

“You are registered? But the lists were already closed, and you were not…”

“I have influential friends,” Sandra said.

“I see. They have to be very influential.”

“They are. You can be sure of that.”

“And, about that story that you’re going to be my girlfriend, how realistic is it going to be? They can check my testosterone and dopamine levels. Should not…?” Sandra looked at Martin earnestly for a few seconds.

“Do not get any illusions for a moment.”

“I said it … for realism. If you have to sacrifice yourself for the mission…”

“I said, men are skinheads.” Ok, we’re going now.”

“Where?”

“Where is it going to be? To show your face through the main hall. You can grab my waist to give it more realism.” Martin walked over to her and put his arm around her.

“I said by the waist. That’s not the waist. Or I will have to break your arm.”

“If we’re lovers we’ll have to look it up.”

“Yes, yes. But without passing.”

Martin and Sandra came out of the room smiling, and walked down the hall. They reached the hotel lounge, and headed to the ticket booths of the Titan Deep Space Company’s transportation system.

“I don’t know what the hell we’re doing in this circus,” Martin whispered. “What good is this ride?”

“Shut up,” Sandra said. “This walk is used to buy tickets for the space station.”

“I’ve got the ticket for days.”

“Then we buy other tickets, with other names. Also, it serves me to control those who are controlling us, be they people, drones, cameras, or central tracking systems. Now, we go to the box office, and buy the ticket as if you were the typical idiot who goes with his lover to the championship.”

They both approached the lady in charge of the ticketing system. Martin looked at her smiling, and said,

“I’d like two tickets for the tournament at the space station, please.”

“Of course sir, here you have the ticket machines. You only have to place your arm with the GSA’s integrated identification chip, and the system will issue the ticket and discount the amount. First choose the type of seat you wish to transport to the space station.”

“Do you have any of those …? You know … “Martin suggested.

“Are you referring to personal anatomical seats with sound protection? Perfect for those intimate moments, when you do not want to be disturbed for any reason.”

“Honey, do you think that’s necessary, my love?” -whispered Sandra. Martin replied.

“Of course, cielito, everything for my little honey” …

“How good you are, my love” Sandra said as she stepped on his foot, and he suffered the pain as best as he could. The young lady looked at the data panel, and said:

“You’re lucky. We have a double room. They are just a little more expensive. A dome of graphene gives total privacy, so you can rest without discomfort. The advantages are obvious.” Martin looked at Sandra, and said smilingly,

“Of course they’re obvious, are not they, sweetheart?” While he pinched his bottom.

“Oh, what a fool you are,” Sandra replied, smiling as she took his hand and gave him a small electric shock. Martin gave a small shocked leap, and laughed, saying,

“Honey, I already feel how the energy flows between us, how good you are.” The young lady smiled, and said,

“You are seen very in love, congratulations. I hope you enjoy the flight. And the championship.”

Sandra and Martin walked smiling from the ticket area to a nearby bar. Actually, Sandra was carrying Martin, dragging him practically to a table. They sat down, and Martin asked,

“What happens now? Have not you had enough stepping and electrocuting me?”

“If you did not put the handle where you should not, these things would not happen to you.”

“But Sandra, it’s for the mission.”

“Of course, I would miss more. Putting your hand on my ass should be hard on you. Listen, stop raving and listen. They’re watching us.”

“I know. Two individuals. On the top floor. A woman. And a man. The woman blouse blue. Black pants. Redhead About forty. Man in gray jacket. Custom Tie. Grey trousers. Gray hair. About fifty years.” Sandra nodded slightly.

“Confirmed. I can’t identify them. They’re not connected to the GSA’s global network. I’m going to the bathroom, “Sandra announced.

“To the bathroom? You’re going to the bathroom?”

“Of course. I’m going to change mu batteries. I’ll be right back.”

“I understand-” Sandra was obviously thinking of something. And it would be better if this time nothing did explode. Or there would not be much left of the hotel. And neither of them.

Sandra walked, and entered the ladies’ room. He approached a tap, which began to expel water. She washed her face and hands for a moment. After a couple of minutes, the middle-aged woman entered. She addressed Sandra, and asked her:

“You have to be very sure of yourself to enter here alone. Especially knowing that you are being watched.”

“I was always a very adventurous and daring girl,” Sandra said, still looking in the mirror. That woman drew a gun. Sandra looked at her out of the corner of her eye.

“Well, I see you like antiques.”

“A lot. Especially because they are not detected by GSA surveillance and control systems.”

“On Mars they are,” Sandra said. “Since someone killed someone important three years ago.”

“We’re not on Mars. And this 38 gauge revolver will make a nice hole in your head. But it’s nothing personal.”

“You will not kill me without asking me for something first. You do not waste your time on nonsense. Every death has a purpose. Am I wrong? “That woman nodded.

“You´re not. In general. But now yes. I do not belong to some stupid mob gang. I come in Richard’s name. My orders are to find out why you came to Titan.”

“That’s completely false,” Sandra said. “Richard never works with androids. And much less on critical and vitally important tasks, like selective murder.”

“So you know I’m an android.”

“Model QCS-150 or 160 probably,” Sandra said. “And you know that I’m an android too. And that I am immune to the bullets of a projectile from a weapon like that one.”

“Perfect. That’s what I needed to know. Indeed, I am a QCS-160 search and destroy android model. I have orders to destroy you. But I had to confirm the objective first.”

“Of course. An error in a selective murder is paid dearly. You have now confirmed my identity. And I guess you’re not going to tell me who you actually work for. But I can imagine. In any case, you can proceed to destroy me.”

“With pleasure.”

That droid pulled a phaser and fired, but Sandra had already moved away from the point of impact. She jumped into the QCS-160 android, and that android introduced an invasive nanosonde in the body of Sandra. The nanosonde only had a function: to reach the main computer node of Sandra, and to destroy it, injecting a quantum virus that caused a massive collapse of the information stored in the central computer. That would completely destroy the fuzzy logic system, and cause it to collapse, irreparably destroying it.

Sandra could feel the nanosonde sliding inside her body, trying to penetrate her computer. But only to try would be her certain death. Her computer had been sealed one hundred and six years earlier, for reasons she could not fully understand, but which, in any case, were related to the Operation Fólkvangr she was involved, and to that strange character, Scott. She had to destroy the nanosonde, but she had first to get rid of that QCS-160 model android, which already threatened it with a graphene drill.

In other circumstances, it would not have been difficult. But that droid was better. Sandra had introduced her own nanosonde into that android. And his main logic was too sophisticated. Some of their systems were known, but some were extremely advanced technology. And she had seen that technology before. Not in the solar system, but in the ship where Yvette took refuge three years ago with Robert: the DSS Alice starship. How did that technology come to that droid? The answer was obvious. That droid was not Richard’s accomplice. She didn’t belong to any Mafia, as expected. Only one possible answer remained.

Meanwhile, that was a tie situation. She herself had improvements based on the DSS Alice computer. Technology from other worlds, extremely sophisticated. She could understand it. But not combat it effectively.

Suddenly, there was a dry noise coming from the back of the bathroom. Instantly, that QCS-160 model droid fell with the head open. Sandra looked, and saw Martin, who had just fired his phaser at full power. At that moment the white-haired man came in with a gun in his hand. The man was going to shoot, but Sandra pulled the phaser from her arm, and instantly knocked him down. The man was organic. But he was one of those beings cultivated, and controlled by an artificial intelligence.

Sandra looked down at the man’s fallen body. Then he looked at Martin, and snapped at him,

“How do you come into the ladies’ room?”

“I’ve always been a voyeur.” Martin walked over to the droid. He examined it with a hand instrument, and commented:

“An android. Model QCS-160. But with improvements that the system cannot identify.”

“Yes,” Sandra agreed. “That Android is certainly a box of surprises. The nanosonde she introduced in me was extremely sophisticated, but fortunately your timely intervention freeing me allowed me to control it in time.”

“Well, okay, do I detect a distant touch of gratitude in your voice?”

“Yes, but don’t get too excited.”

“I will not do it. Sandra, this droid is very sophisticated, even for the most powerful mob we can find here. These models are only used by government agencies like the GSA, and only in critical situations. But the identification number of this android is erased, then stolen and manipulated by someone. And that level of manipulation is above the capabilities of any gambling mafia.

“Do not believe it,” Sandra said. “They are very powerful.”

“You think I’m stupid? Maybe they caught me on the first day, and maybe I’m a fucking wuss. But I have brains, even though it may seem incredible. Are you going to tell me what’s really going on? That meeting with that mafia, in an abandoned station … That’s not the mafia style.”

“When did you come up with such nonsense?”

“Half a second after you told me the location of the meeting. The mafias don’t act like that. They don’t set up meeting rooms in the middle of nowhere. They use the hotel’s most important facilities, the most impressive suites, the most sophisticated settings. It is part of their style of work, always trying to impress. An abandoned base in the middle of the surface of Titan … Absurd. And they don’t organize meetings. They never let themselves be seen physically. Only his puppets are visible. And they never send a notice that can be detected; The warning is always by voice, and with an intermediary that is then often sacrificed. And this android is very out of reach, much more the manipulation that has suffered. So don’t sell me stories, Sandra. Because I do not believe anything.”

“You’re delirious, Martin.” He came slowly to look at her with a serious face, and said,

“If I’m going to put my life at risk, as I’ve been doing since I got here, and if I’m going to be your partner in this operation, you’ll have to tell me the truth.”

“I can’t. I would have to kill you.”

“Then do it. Because, on a mission of this level, going blind is the insurance to die soon. Better now than later. I will not allow my own companion in this investigation to conceal things from me. I work as a team. And team means confidence.”

“I cannot trust you, Martin. Not up to that point. I´ve just met you. You could be a double agent”.

“Double agent? That does not sound like mafia either. Rather, some kind of more complex organization. And able to have sophisticated androids, like the one on the floor, and erase their identification number. Not to mention some modifications I had never seen”. Sandra sighed. He looked at Martin, who was looking at her coldly. And finally he said:

“It’s okay. You win. I’m going to trust you. I need support on this. And I hope I’m not wrong.”

“That’s better, Sandra. -She shook her head.”

“No, it is not. You simply don’t understand. What I’m going to tell you means you cannot return to Earth.2

“What stupid idea is that?”

“You won´t be able to go back. The knowledge of what is happening here implies that no human being who acquires it can return to Earth. Are you willing to do that?”

“I have no family on Earth or anywhere. But I still do not believe that nonsense you’re saying.”

“Ok. I think it´s clear. Look, Martin. Three years ago the Earth, in fact, all of humanity, almost died, sacrificed in a massive planetary bombardment to extinguish all life on the planet. And, what I am going to tell you, misused, could provoke that situation again.”

“Are you crazy, Sandra? Have you drunk too much? Or do you have a short on the head?”

“No, Martin. What I have here, what we have at hand, is not a mafia game. It’s the destiny of humanity. And, at this moment, only you and I can stop this. We cannot count on anyone else. Informing you of this is already excessive. We have to do this alone. Without help, or Jan, or any other. Do you understand?”

“Are we going to save the Earth, Sandra? Do you want me to believe that nonsense seriously? Is that what you’re telling me?”

-No, this is not what I´m telling you. What I’m telling you is that Earth is already doomed. It has been since the twentieth century, when it was understood that the end was inevitable. What we are doing here, Martin, is, simply, delaying that sentence.”

“I’m going to call the psychiatrist. You’re missing it, Sandra.”

“I know, Martin. I know. I’m really missing …”

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