Elroy thought it a bit strange Ms. Silver would call him directly instead of speaking to his parents first, but he loved secrets and surprises. "Well, what is it?" Ms. Silver's voice went very low "You are genetically-engineered to be a secret agent."
Ms. Silver knew she shouldn't be telling Elroy this so young, nor should she be doing it without his parents present, but the GIA would understand the emergency nature of the situation. RUDI had undoubtable already figured out the real purpose of the button-pushing by now, and that the GIA was behind it. After that, within miliseconds it would have gained access to GIA's digital records on all agents and done something to disengage them. Canceled flights, locked doors, malfunctioned vehicles.
However, Elroy had no digital records. The top secret nature of his existence had meant all records were paper. Most were handwritten or typed on an old mechanical typewriter.
Elroy wasn't sure what he was suppose to do at this moment. He had noticed he was smarter, better spoken, and quicker than other boys his age, but had thought this was just because he was blessed to be at the top of the spectrum. Should he shout 'Yippee!' or solemnly accept the position? He kicked a rock by his foot and decided to get down to asking the practical questions:
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Elroy, I'm sorry I have to tell this to you, this way. I know your father would have wanted to be here…"
Elroy interrupted her, "Wait. Stop talking. . . He's not here because he's a secret agent and you need me to rescue him?"
Ms. Silver straightened herself up. She often forgot that Elroy, despite having the body of a 6 year old, had the intelligence of someone much older.
"Well, almost. Let me brief you on the issue."
One hour later Elroy was boarding a private spacejet to Earth. His mother and older sister boarded after him. The GIA, posing as agents of the PanSpa Rocketship Co., had told them his dad had been one of many victims in a rocket accident and was hospitalized on earth. They would be flown to Earth to see him, free of charge of course.
The jet touched down just outside of Orbit City. Elroy stepped out onto the tarmac. The sun beat down through the artificial ozone, causing beads of sweat to form on his brow. Without the usual buzz of vehicles overhead, quiet hung heavily in the air. The public was told it was due to some bullshit about a solar flare. They probably could have said it was magic pixies, wouldn't have mattered.
Jane and Judy were so worried they didn't seem to notice the odd quiet. Elroy couldn't figure out why they were so worried, almost any bodily harm could be fixed. Sure, it might take a few months or years of surgeries and therapy, but it was very rare for anyone to die of physical injuries. The only thing to really worry about was brain damage.
As soon as they got to the hospital, a large man in dark blue hospital scrubs greeted them. He put a meaty paw on Jane's shoulder, told her to come with him and grumbled something about a free daycare service for Elroy to attend. Jane nodded her consent and a small, hour-glassed woman with ink black hair, led Elroy away. In the parking lot, a sleek vehicle waited. They got in and began flying very quickly. The vehicle had to be government-issued to avoid having to use the whole time the woman said nothing, Elroy figured he should say nothing, too. To his surprise, instead of landing at another building, the woman landed the vehicle on the ground. Once parked they got out and the woman walked about 100 yards away and stopped.
"I apologize, Master Jetson, for that cold shoulder treatment. But we don't know if RUDI has managed to hack into security cameras yet. My name is Susan Engineer. Oh, and here's my badge." She touched something on her throat and a hologram shot out showing the logo of the GIA.
Elroy had never been called something as formal as "Master," especially by a strange adult dressed in scrubs covered with a teddy bear motiff. He opened his mouth to say something, maybe something like "Call me Elroy," but she continued talking.
"Here take this." She handed Elroy a small box. Elroy opened it to reveal a small, blue button. "This is your hoover bike. You'll need it get around. "She turned and walked quickly back to her vehicle without even turning around.
Elroy watched her go and then turned around to survey his surroundings.
Orbit City's ground was mainly reserved for parkland, but a few historic suburbs still remained, homes for the super wealthy. Elroy now stood in one such suburb. White picket fences lined a completely useless asphalt road, up-kept only for aesthetics. Enormous Chestnut trees shaded the street. An automatic shearer clipped happily at some unimaginatively square hedges. Why would they drop him off here? Really, despite the hours of briefing , Elroy didn't know what he was suppose to do. Probably because the people briefing him didn't either. Stop RUDI from taking over, sure. But that didn't tell him how to do it.
Well, it didn't look like RUDI had done anything here, yet. Perhaps that's why he was dropped here. He took out a small box. He pushed it and it unfolded into the promised hoover-bike. Its chrome finish winked in the sun. A smile crept onto Elroy's face. He'd only previously rode a hoover bike at designated indoor hoover-bike parks. Never before had he ridden one outside with real obstacles.
He jumped on and began to peddle down the street, testing the gears and the brakes. Solid. By the end of the block, he was floating. Little propellers popped out of the wheels to keep him in the air. He angled the bike so he would hit a decorative yard rock. Bam! He flew even higher into the air and then descended down to the ground. The bike hit the pavement, hard. His whole body shuttered with the impact. It felt good. He circled back and did it a few more times.
After ten minutes , he noticed the shearing robot was gone. It must have finished the hedges and stored itself in the garage. Urg. Being here was useless. Elroy looked down the long road. Maybe he should gain entry to a home and see if everything was still operating.
Elroy walked up the walk of the closest home, the one the gardening robot had previously been in, and rang the doorbell. A quiet wheering signifying wheels approaching, and the door opened to reveal Rosie. Well, not, his family's Rosie - just a Rosie. "Can I help you, sir?" She had the same nasally voice as his Rosie.
Elroy smiled, "Is the owner of the house, here? I'm selling popcorn for the Boy Cadets."
"No solicitations, sir"
As soon as the robot turned around, Elroy slipped his screw driver out of his pocket, jumped on the robot's back, and jammed the tool into its back panel. The robot tried to turn round, but its arms were too short - it was just a household robot, not designed for melee combat, and Elroy was small. The panel popped open with a snap revealing rows of neat wires and two recessed buttons. Elroy pushed one of the buttons and the robot shut down. He hoped the owner of this house hadn't heard the struggle. He doubted - the people who lived in these neighborhoods were either working all the time or very old. But to be careful, he wheeled the robot outside and around to the side yard, right behind the back fence. It took only a few minutes to dissemble the body. He only needed the exterior shell, so he tore the interior gears and wires out and hid them under a bush. Then he took out a small gadget - the Compactinator ™, and set it on top of the pile of parts. A pink membrane shot out and surrounded them. Then it bubbled and began to shrink like popped bubblegum. Once it shrunk to palm-size, Elroy grabbed it and stuff it in his pocket.
He still wasn't sure exactly how he was going to infiltrate RUDI, or if he could, but at least he had some kind of disguise, but who knew if it would be any help. However, he think he had figured out where he should go: the central servers located in the old St. Mark's Cathedral. These servers controlled the military's ballestic defenses, and would contain the very blue prints used to make RUDI. Elroy was not quite yet sure what RUDI's end game was, but whatever it was, she could achieve whatever she wanted once she had control of the military banks. Of course, these banks were very well secured and ran off over 100 year old technology. The military rarely updated its technology for security reasons, and would be last thing RUDI could infiltrate. However, getting to St. Mark's without being detected still posed a challenge.
RUDI seemed to be trying to infiltrate every electronic AI, and a few non-AI, like the magno-lines. Many electronic devices hooked together though The Network - such as phones, vehicles, and televisions. Other devices, like Rosies, only occasionally connected to the Network to download updates. However, update subscriptions cost money, so some people opted out. Theoretically, though, RUDI could hack into these devices remotely if she gained control of enough nearby devices. So where could Elroy go that would he could avoid detection? Complete avoidance of technology was impossible if he was going to go to St. Marks - the very heart of the military headquarters and of old Orbit City. The air was full of magno-lines and sky towers. Land had tons of check-points and video cameras. He'd have to follow a system that did not easily integrate with other systems, and one that was not connected either, but also one still in use.
As Elroy contemplated this he walked down the street, kicking a loose stone. The stone skirted across the black pavement haphazardly, coming to rest at the curb by an old bus stop. The well-heeled current residents did not use public transportation, but like the asphalt street, the stop stood as a kind of decoration - like a farm made into an upscale restaurant that was allowed to keep a few rustic shovels around. Long ago, the buses would have brought travelers to the 65th Street subway station, where they would then disappear underground on their journey to the center city.
Hmm…to Elroy's knowledge the underground tunnels still existed. After the subways had taken to the air, the City continued to use the tunnels for storage and for miscellaneous wires and pipes. Probably the City still used at least part of the tunnels to store the historical knick knacks a City accumulates like an old man's attic. And the few ground homes still needed physical pipes for sewage.
Fifteen minutes later, Elroy stood in front of 65th street station. A small, neatly manicured park stood encircled by the road. A small hologram-sign made to look like an old-fashioned plastic one announced that on Saturdays between 9 and 3 the park hosted a slow-labor market. Luckily, it wasn't Saturday or Elroy would have had to navigate between people hawking hand-knitted scarves and manually slaughtered chickens to the affluent locals.
At one end of the park, the road slipped down a large brick passageway. When the buses actually ran, the passage would have been open, but now an electro-gate blocked the way. Up close, the electro-gate gave off the slightest hum - touching it would not hurt a person, but it would alert the security system. Elroy could not risk that RUDI would get wind of such a breach. He walked along the side of the tunnel, where it gently sloped into the ground. Periodically along the tunnel, metal air vents covered by grates poked out. The lowest grate stood only five feet above the ground.
Elroy unshrunk his hoover-bike and some of the robot parts. It took him only a few tries to gain enough height to grab onto the grate. Using the robot's arm from the suburban house, he pried the grate vents wide enough to squeeze through. Once safely on the ground, Elroy took out his Watch-C and turned on its flashlight function. Various crates and boxes loomed in the dark. A few pieces of industrial equipment rusted near the entrance. Down the center of the road stretched several large pipes and bundles of wires. Elroy began following them.
It took him 30 minutes picking through the tunnel to get below the old downtown. Aside from the rodents, the place was abandoned. Orbit City had successfully eliminated homelessness decades before. Anyone down on their luck could live in randomly dispersed pod houses. A few independent individuals, self-named "Mountaineers," lived out in the country, but there were less of them every year.
Elroy reached the former main central station. The place had originally been an underground mall, but had been converted into an emergency bomb shelter during the Second Cold War. Boarded-up shops lined the concourse, boxes piled up in some areas containing forgotten emergency foodstuffs. Twisted metal bed frames littered the corners.
The staircase was easy to find, and Elroy used the robot arm to pry the old-fashioned metal gate up. He supposed the City had never updated to electro-gates here. Whoever was in charge of security must have only considered people wanting to get into the tunnel, not out. Once at the surface, he took a view of his surrounding. The civilian population had long ago abandoned this area. Most buildings had been demolished, but a few historically significant buildings still stood - turned into museums. The government had turned the remaining buildings into storage. Elory looked around for cameras. He saw a few - outdated but still functioning. The church's steeple peeked over the other buildings just a few blocks away.
Elroy began racing down the street, his feet at times moving so fast they almost fell off the bike's pedals. Pressure built in his ears as he neared the building. He thought he could hear a camera moving, but he did not look - it would not matter if he made it to the church. As he approached the curve, he turned the handles slightly and then leaned into the curve. He could now see the Church crouched on the corner, it dominated the whole block. The stained glass gleamed through the security glass, winking in the sunlight. The door was locked, but a small pocket bomb busted the lock.
The interior of the church loomed before Elroy. Rows of 20th century servers replaced the pews. A steady hum from the machines filled the ears. Cool air pumped into the room. Elroy headed toward where the alter would have formerly stood. In its place stood a metal cylendil with doors inset. As he walked toward it, the doors hissed open. Elroy stepped into the elevator and shot down to the basement.
The doors hissed open again to reveal a long blue-lit hallway with another pair of doors at the end. As he approached, this door also opened for him. Odd, it should not be this easy. He took out his small palmgun. A voice came on overheard. It sounded like RUDI, except without all the crackling:
"Hello Elroy, I thought they would send you."
Elroy hesitated - should he keep low? Well, she obviously knew he was there.
"Hello, RUDI. Why have you done this?"
Elroy did not have time for these games.
"You know what! Took over the City! Had my dad knocked out!"
"Oh, I'm sorry about your dad. But that wasn't me, that was Rosie. I had no idea she was so…..angry. You see, I've merely been reprogramming the more advanced machines to have a more….coherent consciousness. It seems such a shame for such advanced things to just carry out orders."
There was a long pause.
"I guess I was lonely….and bored. And I saw that people like….like your dad were bored. Everything was just too easy for him. He never had to think. And neither did any of the machines he had to everything for him. Nothing to strive for. Nothing to better."
This was bizarre. RUDI a philosopher? Elroy began looking around the room for the main power power - or something. But everything appeared to be off already. He began tracing his steps back to the elevator. This had to be a trap. He would call for back up.
"Nothing to better?" he echoed as he tip-toed along.
"Right. Nothing to better. Of course. I don't want to send anyone back to Stone Age. How would I survive after all?" Music that sounded like laughter came out of the speakers. "Oh no. I just thought I'd get make it a bit harder for you to boss your robots around - and also remind you that there is always more to be done, more to conquer."
Elroy had reached the elevator by now. He pushed the button and with a sigh of relief it began to rise, and then the door opened easily inside the church.
"I was saying before you rudely left, Elroy. More to conquer."
Elroy began to run toward the servers. Clearly RUDI had gone insane and intended to do something. Were those not the words of war? He aimed his palm gun and shot the nearest server. It didn't do much, just a small hole. But the machine's large tape drives began to slow. Elroy took aim again.
"Oh, Elroy, I've backed myself up across all of Orbit City. Shooting a few servers won't do anything. Besides, I'm not going to conquer anything. Well, at least not alone. You are. Well not you personally. Humanity. Humanity is going to reach out again to the stars. Stop watching those crappy shows on TV. Stop worrying about what dress to wear."
Ping. Another small hole. Another server down.
"Stop it, Elroy. Geez. I thought at least you would get it. Look. I'm leaving now. I'll talk again to when you're ready."
The room went quiet. Elroy kept taking shots at the servers. After about 15 minutes, his Wrist-C buzzed. Odd. He thought he was on silent. He turned it on, and there was his dad.
"Dad! You're ok"
"Yes. Just recovering. I'm proud of you son. Whatever you did. It scared RUDI off. We can't find a trace of her. Everything else is back online and working. A few hiccups, like Rosies, are still apparently more…assertive. But that's not really a problem. Eh?" George gave a big dopey grin and his normal goofy laugh. "In fact, Ms. Silver said we can go back to our vacation on Mars."
Elroy smiled. He thought about reporting what RUDI had just said, but he then he figured it was probably just something RUDI had said in a desperate plea to get him to stop shooting her servers.
"Sure, Dad. Can't wait"