This is the fourth section of the eighth chapter of Sonnets from a Proton. The novel starts here.
The next section is here.
Pounding at the door clearly wasn’t working. She tried again with a more polite knock. “Come on” she shouted “I know you’re in there”
“Yes” replied the tones of the drone “But you weren’t invited.”
The door opened to reveal the drone hovering its usual two meters or so above the ground “You could have called ahead”
“Sorry” Iz pushed her way past the drone. “I just had something on my mind. Ever been unable to sleep because you were thinking something through” she paused for a moment realising what she had said and to who. “Well you know what I mean.”
“This can’t wait until morning then?”
“Yes, well no, well look, do you mind?”
“It’s not as if I sleep, what is it?”
“It’s not actually you I was after, but George.”
“What do you want from him?”
“Oh just something I was thinking about. Is he awake?”
“I think his usual sleeping patterns are part of his problem, I think they’re part of the cause, but that’s just me observing humans.”
“Right. George!” she shouted.
George stumbled into the room half dressed, with a dressing gown open to reveal himself “Ah you again. Wondered what the noise was. What do you want?”
“Can I pick your brains?”
“Nothing better to do tonight. He’s taken all my toys away.” He glared at the drone.
“Sorry?” she asked turning to the drone.
“Ah yes” it replied. “After today’s little demonstration it seemed prudent, negative reinforcement I believe is the term.”
“Well anyway” carried on Iz turning back to George “Tell me about your crimes here.”
“You’re not supposed to ask about my past.” he said with something like glee in his voice.
“Yes but wouldn’t that annoy the drone?”
“Yes and also get you in a heap of trouble and I’m sure he’d have some new punishment ready for me.”
“Okay then no specifics. You’ve committed crimes here before, or at least you know people who have how did you do it?”
“Why do you want to know? Someone you want to annoy?”
“Not at all, let’s just say I’m trying to figure out how this place works around the fringes of society”
“Which explains what you were doing there today.”
“Same as it works everywhere, you just got to play by the rules of the game.”
“Oh come on, total observation, how do you get away with any crime if you’re always observed.”
“You never said anything about getting away with it, just committing it. Anyway what do you want to do? Murder, that’s easy to do, hard to get away with as old shiny over there attests to, but easy to do. Crimes of passion still happen all the time.”
“Yes but not putting too fine a point on it you’ve made a life out of breaking the rules. You’re not a one off.”
“Hey I am now thanks to that thing.” He glared at the hovering sphere of the droid, but since it just reflected him back it left him staring at a distortion of himself.
“So what about other crimes? Thief, let’s say a good mugging.”
“To get away with it?”
“Yes, you spot someone with a bauble you fancy. How do you get it?”
“Ohh that’s a different problem. You do want to get away with it don’t you?”
“Then you have to anonymize yourself. You can’t pull that off for long so you need to be quick that means getting someone specific is hard. Seeing something you fancy and going for it and getting away with it are not possible.”
“How do you anonymize yourself? Everywhere is covered.”
“Not at all. Some private residences choose to be clear.”
“Yes but you know who goes in and out.”
“Eventually yes, but there’s a window of opportunity. For example if you come out wearing a balaclava then you could make a good guess from body build and walk analysis who it was since you know who went in. Also if you had a squib on the inside who says who it was who went out, then you’re toast, but if you can find enough friends of a similar build who stick together and watch your gait then as long as you stick together nothing can be proved. But that doesn’t work for crimes of the moment, it takes a lot of planning.”
“Sounds like you’ve planned this out”
“Yeah, it didn’t work though. We had the perfect crime planned but the bloody Habitat managed to prove it was me.”
“Surveillance outside the pub was also audio, it noted everyone’s voice print from outside the pub. Mine was the only one not there during my little robbery.”
“Is that even allowed?”
“It only has surveillance in public areas. The audio was sampled in a public place.”
“Live and learn. We tried the same trick once in the orchard upstairs; turned out there were observation drones hidden in the foliage. So much for being alone with nature.”
“Anything else I should know?”
“Not that I know, but I’m kind of out of commission for that gig these days, the Habitat knows all that I know since it caught me, and old shiny ball over there now now means I can’t try anything new. No the thing I’m trying to figure out is how to get away with stuff while under full observation, if street hustlers and magicians can manage it over the centuries I’m sure i can come up with something.”
“Distraction is the key I believe.”
“Indeed, the point is that these drones seem to think fundamentally different to the human mind. With a human mind that can only pay attention to one thing at once then distracting them is quite easy. I’ve seen master magicians fail with their tricks in front of drones everytime because they are able to pay attention to dozens of things at once and replay what they saw. It’s a real pain.”
“So you need to never be caught.”
“Or convince them that you have turned over a new leaf, but I’ve never heard of anyone pulling that off. And you’d better watch out, you’re all innocent now, but if you carry on like you are going then you’ll end up attracting attention. Trust me, you now know all I know, think about it but don’t actually do anything about it until you need to act.” He indicated towards the door. “I suggest you go.”
“Are you serious?”
“You know what you need to know. Act on it or don’t but i can do no more for you.”