Chapter 2 – Spider in a Jar
by Paul du Preez
Through December and January I’ll be serializing this YA novella. Enjoy! (Its available in stores right now – scroll down to the ‘announcements’ panel for retailer links.)
Likes are great, but TBH what I’d really love is some feedback.
Jordan kicked off from the wall, on his feet, ready to rap. The front yard was kind of small though, just a square of concrete slab with room for tenants’ dustbins. He was right in Lela’s face. Simone’s too. Hardly room to cock an imaginary mic. He opened his mouth, poised to drop rhymes. And realised he was going to be saying, “Baby, baby, baby…” while looking straight into Simone’s beetle black eye-wear.
A strangled gargling emerged from his throat.
He took a deep, shaky breath.
And gargled some more.
Lela’s brow creased above her AR glasses. Concern. Pity even, and she put on her ‘Jamaican roots’ voice, all faux gravel and sweetness. “Jordy, mon, now you go chill wit Liam an de men-dem an stop big-eyein Simone an me like you be de los calf.”
Yeah, good idea, thought Jordan, feeling a growing need to talk to Liam. Maybe he can help me get into the Ice Pick Friday night. He gets in all the time. Suddenly it seemed urgent: It’s his big brother, Sean fixed it. That’s what he said…
“Oi sprat, mind who you’re shoving,” growled Sean, pushing back, skewering Jordan with a haughty glare.
“OK,” croaked Jordan, and then, turning on his heel, slipping out the front gate, he sped rapidly away.
Simone wiggled her fingers in the air and called after him, “Bye, Jordy.”
Jordan jetted for Liam’s, text-messaging as he went. Except there was no access. The group icon had changed – the back end of a ‘moo’. Captioned, ‘Udder-sucker’? Had he been un-friended? Nah, can’t be.
“Jemima,” he said, summoning his personal cyber-nanny. “I can’t connect Liam.”
Her icon appeared upper left in his glasses, brunette, spectacled, stern. “I shall investigate. But, possibly, he is off-line, Master Jordan.”
Way long! Grumbled Jordan, but he felt comforted.
Though not about his rap-disaster in front of Simone.
As he flew for Liam’s front door, he imagined that all and everyone knew about his embarrassment. Visible for miles around, like smoke billowing from a fighter-plane going down. Burning, crashing.
He bounded up the steps and ra-ta-tatted the knocker. Liam’s young, pretty mom opened.
“Hi Mrs Davidson. Is Liam around?”
“Hey, Jordan.” She raised an eyebrow in a vampish way. “He’s upstairs. Come in.” She turned and sashayed down the hallway, Jordan’s eyes tracking her.
Seemed she didn’t know about his wipe-out. That was…reassuring.
Brain reconnected to his legs, he met Liam halfway up the stairs. “You don’t answer my messages, blud.” Jordan tapped the side of his glasses.
“Busy. Sean’s prank-hacking,” replied Liam, eyes piggy-blank. “C’mon.” And looking over his shoulder, “Turn off your v-dress: hackers’ rules. What’s with that naff droid holo you wearing anyway? Get it from a charity shop?”
Jordan stopped to turn it off. It was a freebie, downloaded from an old game site past its sell-by, but he would never admit that. Then he followed Liam up the stairs and into his brother’s room.
The curtains were partly open and sunlight spilled across a crumpled duvet on a narrow bed. Sean and his mate, Ten were packed into the gloomy far corner. They and Liam were blocking his view of the twin computer monitors. He had to edge his way in.
Not much to see really, just a few red words flickering across the display:
‘Sale suspended: credit off-line. In the meanwhile, sir, may I recommend the following: people who bought Love Songs of the Naughty Nought-ies also bought Nought-y Slow Jams, ….’
“Oi sprat, mind who you’re shoving,” growled Sean, pushing back, skewering Jordan with a haughty glare. He was a larger version of his brother, Liam, narrow-faced and pasty with straggling black hair, and fancied himself a ‘commanding’ personality and plump-faced, spiky-haired Ten as his inscrutable but loyal Chinese lieutenant.
A smile curled slyly on Sean’s face. “It’s a soft v’gent.”
Jordan added things up: v’gent, the words on-screen… Whoa, a virtual music marketing agent. “A beat sales bot, right? What you doing?”
“Only making it full AI.”
“Like, a person? No way! No one’s ever done real artificial intelligence. Where’s your Nobel prize then?”
“Yeah they have,” Sean growled back. “Just no one’s saying…” He gave Jordan a sharp look, weighing him up. “OK, look, maybe I’m not going to make it AI, but it’s a laugh.”
Sean sighed – and with that half-breath managed to suggest both his enormous patience, and the mind-numbing burden of having to explain things to lower life forms, like Jordan. “Listen, I captured the whole v’-gent – it’s in here, off-line: no uplink to the net.” He gestured towards his computer and waited, his hand drifting. “You don’t get it, do you?”
Sean framed his face with both hands, thumbs under his chin and twiddled his eight fingers. “Imagine finding a spider, a really big one, under a rock. All you see is long hairy legs sticking out from under.”
“Eeugh!” recoiled Jordan. “I’ll mash it.”
“Dong! That’s why you’ll never be an evil computer genius.”
“Do-o-ong.” Chimed Ten and Liam.
“Listen. What happens if you grab hold of one of those legs?” asked Sean. “It’ll just break off, see – wriggle and twitch. Like this!” He lunged, poking at Jordan’s face with a rubber-tentacled pencil-tip snatched from his worktop.
Jordan stood his ground though.
And, after the happy-yapping and snapping, Sean picked up: “But if you lift the rock and put down a jam jar, quickly like – then you’ve got the whole spider. These software ‘gents are centrally hosted on big corporate servers. Unless you get the root code – the whole thing – all you’ve got is a few bits that jiggle for a bit.”
Jordan took this in. “But you’ve…”
“Yeah. I’ve got the root code. It’s alive. Off-line. Alone, in this jam jar.” Sean pointed to his computer again. “I’m gonna leave it like that, all night, just a couple of billion years in virtual ‘gent-time. And because Mr Spider is going to get really, really hungry… I’ll pop in a live fly for it to eat.” Sean’s fingers rattled on the keyboard, typing:
‘I am, because I am.’
With a flourish, he finished: c:\unity.exe
“What’s that for?”
“Something for the v’gent to think about – a stimulus, like. Dunno how it will turn out, but it could be quirky.”
“And that’s going to turn it into an AI?” gawped Jordan.
“Nooo. Twit! I already said not. Mostly they just freeze and die. Junk code’s all that’s left. But sometimes…” Sean tilted his head for emphasis. “Sometimes, they come out drooling idiots, like. When that happens it’s a laugh.” Then, weighing Jordan, judging the moment right, Sean pounced, “You’ve got Grumpet. For geography, haven’t you?”
Jordan admitted he had.
Nooo. Twit! by Paul du Preez
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Will & Jordan: Cyberhunt is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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