The perimeter was secure.
Arachnoid sentinels patrolled the grounds of the estate. Vollenweider effortlessly transferred his attention from one spider guard to the next, scanning along with each one for any hint of unplanned motion. Inferential graphics routines piped their output through wireless links and fiberoptic conduit to Vollenweider, providing hints from which his pattern-making brain could construct more realistic images at a much higher rate than a direct video feed, despite the IG channel's relatively low bandwidth.
The fences around the estate all bore signs insisting that they were electrified, but Vollenweider had turned off the power to the metal mesh, as a wise invader could deduce from the absence of small corpses at the base. It would have to be an invader from far away, of course; Vollenweider had pretty much hunted out the local hoodlums.
When his internal biomon noted a full bladder, Vollenweider relinquished the arachnoids to the control of the house automon and came up for air.
The perimeter was secure.
* * *
Lily stretched and rolled over on satin sheets as Vollenweider felt his way back into the dimly-lit bedroom. Lily Vollenweider, once the heiress Leilani Milken, was exceptionally beautiful. Hard to believe she was in her second century, unless one had access to the sealed medical records regarding the expensive retroviral somatic optimization she had recently undergone.
Willard Vollenweider, of course, affected a somewhat more "mature" outlook, with graying temples and the faintest hint of jowls. Though his chronological age was only half that of his wife, he looked twice as old.
They'd been married for seventy years.
"Will? Are you coming to bed?"
"In a moment, Lily. I want to make sure..."
Vollenweider's voice trailed off as he turned his attention back to the spider's data stream.
Unsurprised and, truly, not disappointed, Lily adjusted her own IG rig and sprawled back loosely on the bed, as the hard-muscled drifter of her imagination wandered into Madison County. Today she'd picked an ancient lead, a smooth-skinned swimmer named Weissmuller. She'd always had a fondness for long German names.
"Johnny," she gasped from the back of her throat. Vollenweider ignored her. She was always crying out someone else's name, but as long as he could audit her IG trail and find out that the actor she was accessing was long dead, he didn't mind. All the more time for him to patrol the perimeter.
Lily's hands had stolen inside her peignoir, and she began grunting. Apparently this inferential incarnation was randier than most. Vollenweider knew he would have plenty of uninterrupted night to complete his scourge of the town that supported his estate.
Vollenweider slipped the IG rig back on his head and took control of the biggest arachnoid from the automon. He sent it stepping daintily out of the preprogrammed chaotic security pattern, knowing the automon would compensate with the other units, adjusting the perimeter patrol pattern so the remaining arachnoids could cover the territory while remaining effectively unpredictable in their movements.
He maneuvered delicately to the front gate, which began sliding aside automatically as it sensed the approach of the spider. Vollenweider, in the body of the arachnoid, stepped out through the gate, which closed swiftly and silently behind him.
But there were several seconds during which a stealthy and watchful intruder could pass through the open gate in the opposite direction, heading for the house. Under cover of darkness, such an intruder could make his way up the dark green lawn and hide among the topiary army that delineated one corner of the formal garden next to the house. And, while Vollenweider's attention was elsewhere, a particularly resourceful and well-equipped thief could attach a certain device to the automon's front door sensor, a device that could persuade the automon to open the door without interrupting either Vollenweider's dreams, especially if the house systems had already been compromised.
* * *
I attached the IG shunt to Lily's rig first. She was much less likely, in her postorgasmic glow, to notice small glitches in her simulation as the shunt calibrated itself. Then, I grabbed Willard and dragged him over to the bed, laying him down so his head, IG rig attached, was next to Lily's. Then I attached the shunt to Willard's head and began merging the feeds.
I'd disconnected myself from the house's senses just before disabling the automon, so I can only imagine what they saw as the giant spider's sensorium combined with the barnyard antics of Lily's simulated romance. Both of them screamed; their eyes opened, unseeing, and rolled back in their heads; their hands clenched and opened spasmodically. Fortunately, neither of them went into fibrillation. When their breathing calmed down and became synchronized, I plugged in the Skinner feed and began giving them instructions.
When I was through with them, Will and Lily Vollenweider got up as one, shut off their IG rigs, and began the arduous work of liquidating almost all their financial holdings, transferring the funds thus liberated into my personal anonymous electronic lockbox.
* * *
When they were done, hours later, I sent them back to their IGs and set them to repairing their lost relationship. Through her IG rig, I persuaded Lily that Will was pursuing her, as if he were one of her flat-film heroes.
Will was harder. I finally ended up giving Lily spiderlike characteristics in Will's sensorium; he had gone so far into his home-defender persona that only the most blatant of stimuli could con him into relating to another human being. When I left, though, they were caressing each other's naked flesh. I counted it as another public service, another job well done.
And the financial outlook was not bad... I'd left the Vollenweiders with a tenth of their fortune, enough for them to maintain their estate until they could sell it and settle into the new careers I'd chosen for them. The other ninety percent was mine, free and clear. Even if the Vollenweiders somehow came to regret what I'd made them want to do, their fortune was mine now, unassailably stored in a Swiss database in geosynchronous orbit.
* * *
A good night's work, so to speak, but it's still not enough. I sometimes doubt I'll ever have enough for the project. (I refuse even to capitalize my name for my work... "the project" is enough title for me.) Even the Vollenweiders' fortune will mean only another few months of operations.
My research has already given me control over the simplest fractally- programmed systems, house automons and IG rigs, but that's not my goal... those are merely means to an end, as I continue trying to decipher the universal fractal that will allow me to predict the future.
It's possible in principle; unless all the math is incorrect, the universe can only be a single unfolding fractal, integral, topologically equivalent to an n-sphere... the problem being to determine the governing equation in less time than the universe takes to oscillate. If I can find that, I will know - will control - the future.
And once I can do that, my success will have been inevitable.
Original content on this page © Alan P. Scott. All rights reserved.