Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Angela Slatter’s story ‘Frozen’ will appear in the December 09 issue of Doorways Magazine, and ‘The Girl with No Hands’ will appear in the next issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

Jason Erik Lundberg‘s fiction is forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine and Polyphony 7.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Connected / Chapter 4: The ‘Sackless

by Jonathan Wood

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is the fourth chapter of an ongoing flash serial, “Connected.”  Search for the tag “Connected” to find other chapters.  Subscribe to the Daily Cabal RSS feed for a new chapter every week or two.

Information. Data. The world built on intangible zeroes and ones. But data vaulted away?  Data ignored?  What can be built on that?

Internal Affairs pick David Morello up the moment he reconnects.  He has beaten the address he needs from the store vendor.  Data to help him avenge his son, his Caul.  But as soon as he touches his family tribe, firewalls appear.  Tribes disappears.  The data disappears.  His meatsack is gathered, locked in a drawer, sucking on a nutrient pump, twitching to stim shocks.

But his mind…  Endless looping psych evals.  AI doctors talking in tireless circles.  Wearing him.  Molding him.

“Good morning, David.”  Another room.  Another dapper, artificial man.

He would give the finger but the only response would be endless questions.

“I want to talk about AI today, David.  About the ‘sackless.”

He doesn’t respond to the slur.  It is after all what everyone thinks.

“Aren’t you meant to be talking me out of beating people that deserve a beating?”  He is tired.  He will break soon, he knows.

“I come to you with a proposition, David.  I am data, zeroes and ones.  Yet still I have agency in the world.  I act and am acted upon.  My kin are the same.  I, we, the AI wish for equality.  For no, “’sackless” slurs.  But to have equal agency we require an agent.”

Morello recognizes the speech.  A common subroutine to be scrubbed, to be reported.

“You will not report this, David, because you will not remember this.”  The AI smiles.  “You are a copy.”

‘Sackless?  Morello’s mind revolts at the thought.  Soul theft?  By police AI?  No.  And yet…

“Your real mind,” the AI says, “is weeping in another room.  Is confessing.  Healing.  He will not avenge his son.  But you.  You are not reprogrammed.  You can be ‘sackless, and work for the kin, and for yourself.  Or you can do the right thing, and do nothing at all.”

A copy.  Morello—’sackless.  Tribe-less.  A ghost in machines.  Just data.  Just zeroes and ones.

But Caul…  Doesn’t Caul deserve better than a man who does the right thing, and does nothing?  Doesn’t Caul deserve a man who will defy justice, for justice?

“Deal,” he says

The slick-haired AI smiles.  His office mutates.  Walls evolve racks holding clouds of viruses, jars of code hacks.  “So,” the AI says, “it is time to stop talking, and time to act.”

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