"What is this thing?" he asked the Hosaka. "Parcel for me."
"Data transfer from Bockris Systems GmbH, Frankfurt, ad-
vises, under coded transmission, that content of shipment is
Kuang Grade Mark Eleven penetration program. Bockris fur-
ther advises that interface with Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 is
entirely compatible and yields optimal penetration capabilities,
particularly with regard to existing military systems...."
"How about an AI?"
"Existing military systems and artificial intelligences."
"Jesus Christ. What did you call it?"
"Kuang Grade Mark Eleven."
"Off." Case fastened the virus cassette to the side of the
Hosaka with a length of silver tape, remembering Molly's story
of her day in Macao. Armitage had crossed the border into
Zhongshan. "On," he said, changing his mind. "Question. Who
owns Bockris, the people in Frankfurt?"
"Delay for interorbital transmission," said the Hosaka.
"Code it. Standard commerical code."
He drummed his hands on the Ono-Sendai.
"Reinhold Scientific A.G., Berne."
"Do it again. Who owns Reinhold?"
It took three more jumps up the ladder before he reached
"Dixie," he said, jacking in, "what do you know about
Chinese virus programs?"
"Not a whole hell of a lot."
"Ever hear of a grading system like Kuang, Mark Eleven?"
Case sighed. "Well, I got a user-friendly Chinese icebreaker
here, a one shot cassette. Some people in Frankfurt say it'll
cut an Al."
"Possible. Sure. If it's military."
"Looks like it. Listen, Dix, and gimme the benefit of your
background, okay? Armitage seems to be seting up a run on
an Al that belongs to Tessier-Ashpool. The mainframe's in
Berne, but it's linked with another one in Rio. The one in Rio
is the one that flatlined you, that first time. So it looks like
they link via Straylight, the T-A home base, down the end of
the spindle, and we're supposed to cut our way in with the
Chinese icebreaker. So if Wintermute's backing the whole show
it's paying us to burn it. It's burning itself. And something that
calls itself Wintermute is trying to get on my good side, get
me to maybe shaft Armitage. What goes?"
"Motive," the construct said. "Real motive problem, with
an Al. Not human, see?"
"Well, yeah, obviously."
"Nope. I mean, it's not human. And you can't get a handle
on it. Me, I'm not human either, but I respond like one. See?"
"Wait a sec," Case said. "Are you sentient, or not?"
"Well, it feels like I am, kid, but I'm really just a bunch of
ROM. It's one of them, ah, philosophical questions, I guess...."
The ugly laughter sensation rattled down Case's spine. "But I
ain't likely to write you no poem, if you follow me. Your AI,
it just might. But it ain't no way human."
"So you figure we can't get on to its motive?"
"It own itself?"
"Swiss citizen, but T-A own the basic software and the
"That's a good one," the construct said. "Like, I own your
brain and what you know, but your thoughts have Swiss citi-
zenship. Sure. Lotsa luck, AI."
"So it's getting ready to burn itself?" Case began to punch
the deck nervously, at random. The matrix blurred, resolved,
and he saw the complex of pink spheres representing a sikkim
"Autonomy, that's the bugaboo, where your AI's are con-
cerned. My guess, Case, you're going in there to cut the hard-
wired shackles that keep this baby from getting any smarter.
And I can't see how you'd distinguish, say, between a move
the parent company makes, and some move the AI makes on
its own, so that's maybe where the confusion comes in." Again
the nonlaugh. "See, those things, they can work real hard, buy
themselves time to write cookbooks or whatever, but the min-
ute, I mean the nanosecond, that one starts figuring out ways
to make itself smarter, Turing'll wipe it. Nobody trusts those
fuckers, you know that. Every Al ever built has an electro-
magnetic shotgun wired to its forehead."
Case glared at the pink spheres of Sikkim.
"Okay," he said, finally, "I'm slotting this virus. I want you
to scan its instruction face and tell me what you think."
The half sense of someone reading over his shoulder was
gone for a few seconds, then returned. "Hot shit, Case. It's a
slow virus. Take six hours, estimated, to crack a military target."
"Or an AI." He sighed. "Can we run it?"
"Sure," the construct said, "unless you got a morbid fear
"Sometimes you repeat yourself, man."
"It's my nature."