Jackdaw

Part V — Moirai Games

The cryptic words dissolved with a swipe of his hand as streaks of light replaced each letter. A left-to-right motion and two seconds brought an emptiness he welcomed. Two years’ worth of data, wrong. Corbin had it correct this time.

He spent the last 34 hours finally piecing the facts together and creating a code worth trying. Lack of sleep pulled at the delicate skin below his eyes like an anchor on a vessel. Questioning the code was no longer a factor, delivery was the problem. With a finger, he transferred the painstaking notes from the smaller screen onto the larger space now available. Corbin stepped back to view his work, filling his lungs with relief. His eyes followed up the screen, proud of the thousands of black letters that outlined his future and many after him.

Panic set in for a moment as he rushed to check the filter he installed on the writing screen. Forgetfulness was not normal, but a minor mistake could end him. A small green light blinked, assuring him of its promise.

The wall remained a single illumination for days. His work showering each corner of his home. It required a powerful name. A name all humankind would remember. A name to fill each Kyrios with an emotion that needs teaching, fear.

Jackdaw. He whispered to himself. The name sent empowerment through each fragile vein in his human body. A name that will survive the rebirth of humankind. He stared until his eyes burned. Corbin used his index finger, tracing three invisible circles on a corner of the screen. Shimmers of light followed his touch as the screen fell silent and dark. The work remained, but his home could now sleep. The previous illumination was a constant reminder for years that his work was incomplete. It was now ready for delivery.

Corbin rubbed the back of his neck as he slipped through the black void of his home. Once he found his desk, he positioned himself in the hovering chair, easing the tension that throbbed along his back. His desk was a good working size. Just enough to scatter the mess of articles, test reports, and an enormous pile of pens in all shades forbidden. One could never have enough pens. A good pen and piece of paper were a hard commodity. Having one meant you either stashed the illegal items from 2113, or you purchased them from the dark market. A market he found to belong. A place for human secrets in practice without control of the Moirai. There were two items in his home worth his life, it was his pen and paper.

The Kyrios didn’t waste time once Moirai were in full force. A memory of streets lit for 89 nights with scorching fire pits danced like a mocking child through his head. All items deemed unnecessary for human use were burned out of disgust and business protection. These items included all pens, paper, and books.

The Moirai required all activities that involved writing to remain on the ExPose. A strategic method for tracking every word, thought, conversation, and emotion of the human. They prohibit human imagination and creative actions. Creativity is bad for business. A crippling reality of artificial intelligence.

Corbin grasped his favorite pen. The black one with slivers of silver and metallic blue along the edge and a daringly sharp point. He saved this pen for the most important writing. As he rolled the pen in his hand, he pictured life without Moirai. A life worth imagination and empathy.

A vibration shook the silent dream from his mind as the ExPose demanded his attention. Corbin rolled his eyes closed and straightened in his chair, ignoring the caller. A number unrecognized but most likely one that he needed. The call meant money.

“Jackdaw,” said Corbin. His deep voice echoing the bare walls of his dark apartment.

“I need your help.” A young man’s raspy tone filled the air.

Corbin scanned the details of the caller. Social score of 43 and health score of 51. Corbin felt pity grow in his neck. It was a previous customer, only known as Nohv.

“What do you need?”

“I have to go to Moirai in seven days. Can you change my age?”

“You can’t avoid it forever, man.”

“I know. But I’m willing to do this as many times as it takes.”

“If you get caught, you know what will happen, right?”

“Yes.”

Nohv’s voice cracked. Corbin could feel terror penetrate through the ExPose. Terror rising his arm to find a deep pit worth hiding, somewhere between the fleshy layers of his heart.

“It’s worth the risk, just another two years man, please.”

“It’ll cost 300 bits.”

“Okay. That’s less than the last time. Thanks, man.”

“Returning customer discount,” laughed Corbin.

Corbin was eager to share his mission for a change and let Nohv know he wouldn’t need another installment. Instead, he shook the idea from his head and rubbed the back of his stinging neck.

“When can we do this?” Nohv’s voice beamed. A weight lifting from his fragile life, one more time.

Corbin weighed the opportunity. A body without sleep will only sink deeper.

“Meet me in 30 minutes, I’ll have my apartment ready.”

“Sounds great, I just sent the money.”

A second vibration moved through Corbin’s ExPose as he studied the alert. Payment received. Corbin continued to spin the pen on top of his desk. The money was good, but risk was high.

“Stay away from the Kyrios. If you’re followed, do not enter my complex.” Corbin pressed two fingers against his eyelids. “You know what I’ll do.”

“I won’t cause trouble.”

The ExPose disconnected. His mind wandered through scenarios of exposure. The Moirai would end his life if they discovered the research. Corbin pushed the chair out from under him and moved back toward the dark screen that masked his weapon. Although he rarely had visitors, one slip in secrecy could end his plan.

He collected the pens and paper from the desk, stuffed them in a lockbox hidden on the floor, and pressed ‘shield’. The box was small and gun metal gray but activated quickly into invisibility. Corbin purposely used a box with unreflective paint. The Kyrios were always more active around objects that shine.

Corbin walked to the clothing rack in the opposite corner of his loft apartment. He chose a new black t-shirt with sleeve creases that would slice. Most of his clothing was dark. Dark clothing created a sense of death while in public. Kyrios attention was dangerous. Black was always best and brought out the vengeance in his eyes. A single feature he still liked about himself.

As an engineer, Corbin developed many projects over the years. They strengthened his skills and destroyed his trust while working under the Moirai Corporation. The one project he was most proud of was the Scalar. This small device was the only option for reprogramming the NeK with false information. Creating a web of untraceable lies that the Moirai would struggle to clean up.

The Scalar was a dangerous but brilliant tool Corbin continued to learn without bringing notice to himself. Although he engineered the device, he still continued to learn more of its true functionality. Each day, the Scalar grows dangerously intelligent. One slip or faulty code could send the Scalar into defense, and Corbin wasn’t sure how dark it would be. If the Moirai Corporation caught on to the Scalar’s capability and the misuse, Corbin’s life would end. An end that is wished upon him by an old backstabbing friend, Trax.

Hidden in plain sight, Corbin carefully picked up the Scalar and placed it on the edge of his bed. The small black oval carries power much greater than the Moirai. As a smirk lifted the corners of his mouth, a tap echoed on the front door. Corbin ran a hand along his back for a familiar pistol and checked the ExPose video feed. It was Nohv, and he was alone. One last reset, then he would sleep.


Thanks for reading!

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