Vi woke up to the sound of Miriam disassembling the scout's control system.

"Please tell me you're not scuttling our ride home," said Vi.

"I'm not scuttling our ride home. Vaccinate yourself in case this leads to another Z-Day," said Miriam.

The suitcase was labeled with an orthonormal cube Vi recognized from her training as the Mark of Pandora. Vi opened the suitcase. One half contained vials, syringes and needles. The other half contained a nest of wires, circuitboards and heatsinks wrapped around a slab of computronium. She injected the vaccine into her upper arm muscle.

"You didn't tell me what you're doing," said Vi.

Miriam tossed Vi a sphere the size of a golf ball. It was coated in depleted uranium. "This is a neutrino beacon. It can be remotely activated. Well, technically it's an anti-neutrino beacon. But we call them neutrino beacons. It's not like matter neutrinos are used in your microwave oven."

"We've been flying around with an antimatter bomb?" said Vi.

"We've been flying around with a harmless antimatter bomb. Neutrinos barely interact with regular matter. Covert Bayeswatch teams use these to signal for rescue from hostile territory. Bayeswatch's sensor array could detect us if they chose to remotely activate it," said Miriam.

"Just Bayeswatch?" said Vi.

"A global neutrino triangulator sensitive enough to detect one of these is beyond the purchasing power of mere nation-states," said Miriam.

"Speaking of countries, do you have any idea who or where our enemy is?" said Vi.

"They can't be anywhere with a Bayeswatch-backed police state. They're not from China, Russia, Western Europe, the United States or anyone else in the Alliance. Our enemy has to be somewhere with significant high-tech industrial capacity. We can cross out the Philippines, Mozambique and Vietnam," said Miriam.

"Taiwan then? Or Singapore?" said Vi.

"Maybe. They could be based out of Argentina, Brazil or South Africa. We just don't have enough information," said Miriam.

"We'll have to get some more," said Vi.

Miriam called a taxi. The taxi carried them 20 miles before poachers shot out its tires. The taxi was Three Laws Compliant. It could flee humans but it was forbidden from fighting back. The poachers used a heavy duty diamond-cut saw to extract the computronium core from car's navcomputer. They left the taxi for dead. Miriam and Vi hitchhiked with the poachers to the edge of the wasteland. The bus ride to Juba took another four days.

The young soldier at the security checkpoint into Juba checked them for drugs and weapons. When he saw the pistol he gave Vi an empathic look, patted her on the shoulder and quietly ushered her through.

Miriam and Vi found a pawn shop. It resold lead bricks, solar panels, prosthetic limbs, unsanitary wetlab gear, a display case of used corneas and a freezer full of fetuses and used body parts. It was just like any other pawn shop.

"How much can I get for this?" said Miriam. She placed the bundle of electronics with its computronium heart on the desk. The merchant's eyes widened.

"If this is real you can have the whole shop. I just need to test it," said the merchant. He plugged the Z-Day AI into his laptop. He looked at the screen. He didn't unplug the AI, "How many credits do you want?"

"Cash only please," said Miriam.

"I only have a few thousand credits in the register. I can pay you that right now. I'll require a few hours to get more from the bank," said the merchant. His eyes remained glued to the screen.

"A few thousand credits is fine. We're in a rush," said Miriam. The Merchant didn't ask questions. He just opened the cash register and dumped out its contents.

Miriam walked in front of a decrepit human-operated car coming down the street. She held up the wad of cash. "I'll pay you half of this to drive us to Ez Zeraf but we have to leave. Right. Now," Miriam said through her translator app.

A division of the New World Government marched through the burning city of Juba to Ground Zero, a pawn shop. They wrapped the entire building in Faraday foil and loaded it into a wide load turboprop transport. When the device reached its destination, the neutrino beacon hidden inside silently activated.

Miriam checked Bayeswatch's passive sensor array. "They're in the mountains outside Natanz," she said.

Vi activated the scout's active camouflage well before entering Iranian airspace. She landed in the desert well outside the Natanz mountain fortress.

"I can get us an e-bomb, but it won't do much good. Magnetic waves don't penetrate well through solid rock. We'll need to place it over the computers ourselves," said Miriam.

"Can't you order two e-bombs? Use the first to knock out their defenses. Then we waltz in and place the second one on their computers," said Vi.

"Iran doesn't have a big robotics industry. They're terrified of adversaries installing hardware exploits. Their security is likely to be entirely biological. Human, I mean," said Miriam.

"Get us that e-bomb. I was a hacker before I joined Bayeswatch. I'll have their security down in twelve hours. Set a timer," said Vi.

New to LessWrong?

New Comment
6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:58 AM

The briefcase was a "mystery cliffhanger". Now there's a second cliffhanger with an unresolved plan afoot.

I like the series, and I can see how this could increase the readability for some, and this could cause more of what you want in the world I bet <3

Separately, liked the early ones ending on "the beat with the dramatic payoff". Those earlier isolated episodes were like perfect little rings, with a big jewel, and everything in the ring organized to call attention to that jewel? The jewel being the central idea? Such ideas are a large part of what I seek in fiction like this, and which is wonderfully dense in your writing.

Thirdly: I love that you pushed out episode 9 so fast, because... cliffhanger!!! Arrgh!

"quietly ushered her though" -> "[...] through"

He plugged the Z-Day AI it into his laptop.

Something with this sentence (above) is wrong.

(Probably the unnecessary "it".)

Fixed. Thanks.

"translater" -> "translator"?

"An division" -> "A division"

Fixed. Thanks.