Alexander Jablokov - Brain Thief

Alexander Jablokov - Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov

Book: Alexander Jablokov - Brain Thief by Alexander Jablokov Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alexander Jablokov
most of the other buildings were either shuttered or housed startups trying to get in touch with the area’s last economic heyday, which had been some time in the 1950s.
    Charis, dressed in painter’s pants and a worn jean jacket, poured concrete into a hole in the ground. Below her, a toppled chain-link fence straggled down a slope to a drainage ditch. Charis had already levered out the old concrete anchors. Poles and a new coil of fencing lay next to her Hummer. It was still early, but she had clearly been busy for some time.
    “What the hell are you doing here?” she said, as he got out of his van.
    “What about, ‘Hey, good morning’? We went through shared danger last night. Isn’t that supposed to be a bonding experience?”
    “I’ve got nothing for you, Bernal.” She didn’t sound angry with him, just tired. “We’ve both been skunked, according to our own fashions, and we should just cut our losses. We’re no good for each other.”
    “I need to talk to you. I have to find Muriel.”
    She said something he didn’t hear.
    “What?”
    “I said, you’re pretty sure she wants to be found!”
    “Of course, I’m .. . what are you getting at?”
    “I’m getting at a missing AI researcher, a missing funder, and a remote-controlled decoy that almost killed us both.”
    They must have looked pretty funny, he thought: a skinny vaguely Asian guy facing off against a gigantic vaguely Afro/Hispanic/West Asian woman, both with' poorly kept hair. He was still suspicious of her motives, but she knew things that could be useful to him.
    “I can help you true that, if you let me.” He got out of his car. “I worked for my uncle’s yard company a few summers. We did a lot of fences. What happened, by the way?”
    “What happened? The usual shit happened. I’m a terrorist, you ever hear that? A lunatic who wants to drag humanity back to the Stone Age. Aside from the stupid-ass e-mails I get every day, people key my car, mail me dog shit, fun stuff like that. And, last night, in addition to trying to blow me up, someone came in here and knocked over my fence. The landlord will be on the rampage if I don’t get it fixed.”
    Bernal looked down at the fallen fence. Something had hit the center pole, bending it almost double, and then pulled the rest of the fence right off its supports. A Bobcat lay on its side in the drainage ditch. Looked like someone had gotten it started and used it as a battering ram.
    She didn’t say anything else, but she didn’t stop him from helping her, either. She was strong, stronger than he was, but she had a casual attitude toward fenceposts. They had to do more than look straight—they had to be straight. The previous fence had not been the best quality, so perhaps her standards had been encouraged to slip. He measured carefully. Maybe the next fence could hold back a rampaging Bobcat.
    “At one time I worked in cognitive research,” Bernal said. “And I have to admit, I’ve never heard of Social Protection.”
    “Yeah, we’ve had some positioning problems. You know, your messaging goes too far one way, you’re a homicidal terrorist, the other, just an ineffective viewer-with-alarm. We hired a marketing consultant, she charged us a lot, designed a logo, wrote a few press releases no one picked up, and cashed her check.”
    “I searched for your name.” All he’d had to go on was the logo on her travel map, but he’d finally found it.
    “I hope that was informative.”
    “Informative. Sure. I found some kind of retro ska band, a homelessness advocacy organization, a dance club, a homemade deodorant, some kind of pyramid scheme where you sell home-security equipment to homeowners, a designer condom, and a dog-walking service. The dog-walking service had by far the best-designed Web site, by the way. Some nice Flash animations about proper leash technique.”
    “We neglected to trademark our name. Those lawyers have been fired.”
    “When I tried to tie Social

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