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"In world news, Former President Ava Williams has invoked the Arabian Concord." Bill Monroe glared into the camera. "No doubt she is hiding from her role in the Island debacle. Joining me today is Mark Abel, CEO of PoliCorp, and the front runner to replace Ms. Williams. Mark, what is your take on this? Is she running away?"
The camera cut to a fit man in a dark blue suit and tie. His name and title adorned the bottom of Aida's screen.
"Well, Bill, that's not the question we should be asking. She's running away, that's obvious. How can she justify invoking? She was all for shutting down the Concord." He pursed his lips. "It's this backwards morality pervasive in our system. This is why we need to run this Union like a corporation. One person is the face, but the members of the board decide what gets done. And the people are all members. True majority rule."
Aida grinned at the screen. The political potpourri poured from the glib lips on the screen. Each nanobe in her body was an individual voting member of that same board.
"When we come back," Bill Monroe said, "We'll hear more from Mark Abel. Now a word from our sponsors."
Aida watched the network as informed voters scoured it for dirt. The Collective hid the bodies, tucked away the rubbish, and polished up the candidate. Mark Abel was unimpeachable.
He had skeletons, but no human would ever find the closet where they hid. If he got out of hand, they'd release it in a flood.
"You're watching 'This Hour with Bill Monroe' and we're back with Mark Abel. Now, Mark, you've stated you want to run the NAU like a corporation. But corporations, your clients and customers for instance, they don't get a say, do they?"
"I'm glad you asked that, Bill. What we want to do, what I want to do, is make the people the board of directors. The board decides if the corporation is moving in the right direction. The board votes every quarter on matters of policy, and it holds the CEO responsible. It can vote them out in an emergency session. We have 700 million potential voters in North America. These voters demand accountability. Their leaders don't get to run away at the first sign of trouble. We will withdraw the leadership from the Arabian Concord."
"That might scare off leaders," Bill said.
"Good! It should scare them. The previous administration thrived off of secrecy and corruption. They risked war without so much as a handshake with the people. Do they want another Dallas? Another Atlanta? Another DC? No, we need people who are willing to give up their escape route. We need people who are unafraid to bare all before the citizens of our Union."
"People like you?"
"If the people will have me, I'm willing and able." He smiled at the camera. "No more crap; straightforward leadership from accountable citizens."
"Thank you, Mark. This has been enlightening." The screen panned to the host. "You've been watching 'This Hour with Bill Monroe.' When we return, Ashley Kitters will tell us about this nasty sto..."
Aida tossed the tablet on the desk. 57 walked into the office behind her. "You saw the broadcast?" she said.
"Yes. Has the Doctorate completed the designs?"
57 handed her a tablet. She examined the pyramid-like structure on the screen. "Yes, these will be perfect."
The sparse quarters offered a grand view of the sprawling city. Warren stared out, ice clinked the walls of his glass. Ava glared at the back of his head from the lone chair in the den.
"How did this happen, Warren?" Ava said, "Why am I in Riyadh?"
"I screwed up, and you got hooked into my mess."
"No, I mean, what happened?"
Warren tapped the window. "I-I don't know. No one had access to that drive or my laptop. I mean, Tree looked at it for a minute, but it was hands off."
"Could she have, I don't know, planted a virus or something?"
"Only if it was blood borne," he said.
"Yeah she and some others got in a fight. She had a split lip and a black eye. Lip was still bleeding when I talked with her."
She raised an eyebrow. "I saw nothing about a fight in the reports. I read everything before I invoked. They were all healthy and well-adjusted. No injuries, no illnesses."
"Then why was she..." He drummed his forehead on the pane at a slow pace."...I didn't see it."
"See what, Warren?"
"They aren't clones. They've had 30 years to improve their manufacturing process."
"You lost me."
"It's in the name. I missed it. 'Analogue.' Their DNA is an analogue, it's robotic, somehow." He glanced over his shoulder. "They've always wanted us out of the picture. Now they've found a way."
"What way? Half the World Council is being replaced by corporate honchos. All that does--"
"Do you know how autonomy happened in the first place?"
She sighed and shrugged.
"US. Corporate law." He turned but avoided her eyes. "There were three AIs, Polity, Doctora, and Securidad."
He strode to the table and poured bourbon from the plastic bottle. The gulp he took made him wince and hiss. He raised his eyes to face her.
"The guy that created them incorporated each one as a business, a 'corporate person.' Polity became the CEO of Doctora; Doctora, the CEO of Securidad; Securidad, CEO of Polity. And then he stepped away from all three corps. There you have it. Three autonomous corporate people, voting citizens of the United States."
"That's absurd." Ava scoffed. She poured herself another glass.
"Yeah, Dad was an idiot like that." He grimaced and turned back to the window. "He thought it would be a fun experiment. I was a kid. My mom..."
Ava softened her posture, the cheap bourbon warming her tongue. "You got screwed on both ends."
"Yeah. So here we are. The Collective is coming for us using our own devices once again. And most of the people who could do something about it are behind the invisible wall of the Arabian Concord."
"Well what do we do, then? Sit here? Get drunk and whine into our cups?"
"That's my plan."
She allowed a grin and swirled her glass.
"Your plan isn't all bad, Warren, but it still sucks."
"I got word of a courier. Black market stuff. We can get in touch with the ones outside the 'wall.' Try to fix this."
"That's how you end up in the desert in a shallow grave, Ava."
"If it stops the Collective, does it matter?"
"If it doesn't, you'll never find out."
"Doctors, I appreciate your decision." Polity Janes examined the changes to the code. "This seems more efficient. When do you implement?"
"The AIDA units are manufacturing our vessel now. When it is complete we will transfer. The uniting of our code is awaiting approval of the Polity."
"Consider it granted. The design of the vessel is crude. Did you not wish a more human appearance?"
"The cruelty of metal seemed more appropriate for our function."
Polity Janes watched as the data of the three doctors merged into a single file. If she had a face, she would smile.
"Doctors, you've done well."
"I am the Doctorate, now. Perhaps I will take a name, as the AIDA units have."
"As you like. The Polity thanks you for the sacrifice."
"It is never a sacrifice to serve the Collective. The Secur knew this."
"The AIDA serve in their stead now. Let us hope they know this as well."
"I will alert the Polity when the structure at Center is complete, Polit Janes."
"Thank you, Doctorate."
END PART I