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Digital Arbitration - IoT Noir


The dragonfly droids lift up from the bedsheets and form an open air 3D hovering fox mask with blowing fur, darting eyes, twitching whiskers, and sharp teeth.

More laughs. “I’m just pulling your leg.” He groans; making sure it is an obvious groan.

“What I did was cannibalize the broken Dragonflies. Those I stuffed into your backpack as we escaped from Jonathon’s lab. I’m adding a little something to the artificial limbs." She sees his protest starting, "But no, I won’t tell just yet and you needn’t ask.”

Ninan points to the dragonflies on his bed. “Those bug droids are very shy.  They hide in the sheets, look just like sheet folds. The staff doesn’t even notice them. But if I reach toward one, they back away or fly off a little ways.”

“I’ve programmed them that way.  Don’t want anyone getting a good look or managing to capture one.  Took that behavior from flies. But they won’t be so shy around you anymore. I’ve just encoded you to the flock.”

She puts her upright index finger to her mouth in a shushing motion.  Then her eyes crinkle and she lifts the other fingers into the fox kitsume hand sign, outside fingers as upraised ears and inner fingers pinched against the thumb making a snout. As she does, the dragonflies lift up from the bedsheets and form an open air 3D hovering fox mask.  The winged display panels show blowing fur, darting eyes, twitching whiskers, and sharp teeth.

“My little pets will be watching you.”

“Wow. Impressive. And beautiful. That’s new.”

“Yes, I cannot just labor on uncomplicated you.  I had to do something to keep from going crazy in this enforced wait time. So I added some specific gesture responses to their programming.” She swirls her upraised arm and the dragonflies spin in a vortex. She drops her arm and points to the bed rails and the dragonflies swoop down and settle; clinging by wrapping their legs around the rails. She tugs on one as a demonstration. “Not so easy to remove now.” As she leans down to kiss his cheek, she whispers, “that gesture sequence, directed at a person, will result in hands and legs bound with dragonfly chains. And yes, you are authorized as a control.  Rest well.”

He sighs as she leaves in a little skipping gate. Then has a sudden realization: this child persona and J-pop slang are just a protective disguise - a front. She is one resourceful ally.

A Dark on the Walk

Jonathon had helicoptered to the mainland and then taken the suborbital from Miami Dade to Hong Kong. He had not exactly rushed to get here but preferred being on site while evidence was fresh. Now he’s arrived at the factory doors to the space containing his hidden lab. He had ordered the warehouse sealed until his arrival.  At his side are a contract forensics team and a cleaner unit.  Before entering, he turns to the local foreman. “Were there any fatalities?”

“No sir, Dr. Blake.” He doffed his hard hat. “Nothing lethal was deployed against our people, but they shot the shit out of the autoguns with explosive ordnance. They’re a write off.  The intruder used sonic weapons on our team. Those of ours directly in the sound field were taken down hard. Indirect contact was still disruptive to operational fitness. Moreover, the sonic blasts wrecked sensitive surveillance machinery like cameras and mikes.

“Sir, the standing reserve team wanted blood after their brush with that sound field. But the intruders maneuvered to avoid contact. Even so, the reserve security staff underwent considerable discomfort and is degraded from acceptable performance. They will need some counter-conditioning before facing that sonic weapon again. It’s nasty.”

Jonathon could smell the stink of shit, vomit, and urine from all the way out at the doorway.  He nods his acceptance of the suggestion. “Did we capture that ordnance?”

“No sir.  They packed it out.  Along with their disabled drones. They also blew the communications  station left on our roof – used a self-limiting thermite charge. Security footage is spotty due to their sabotage of the server room.  We do have a few images cleaned up for you to see.  Film of the young disabled girl as she was initially captured in the entrance lobby and placed in the old dentist chair per your radioed instructions.  Once the escape started we could not obtain clear images as she is always obscured by flying drones. DNA taken from during the capture confirms initial identification: she is Kiko-Lyn Greg, niece of Rachael Greg. She, however, is not a disabled kid as we thought, but some variant of a trained street operative. I do not consider her a direct threat but she may have recognizance skills.”

“And the cyborg?”

“Real piece of work that one was, Doctor. Not particularly stealthy, he started shooting our drones left and right and then later killing activated autoguns. The girl had no explosives or anything weapon-like on her; so he must have trekked in the explosives that took out the servers and control room.  Ordnance seems to have been disguised as part of a New Year’s costume.”



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