Detective-first-class David Moita Fernandes knew that something wasn’t quite right. There seemed to be a very obvious discrepancy between what he had been told that was happening and what was happening in reality. Everything was normal, but it shouldn’t be.
David had been called to duty during his day off under the pretext of an imminent terrorist threat. According to the memo he’d received from the police station, the Torre de Nossa Senhora’s automatic self-maintenance and vigilance system had suddenly detected the presence of six dangerous terrorists on the top of the building. They were all believed to be members of the dangerous Committee for the Liberation and Emancipation of Synthetic and Modified Organisms, or CLESMO, as it was generally called.
Founded just a little over a decade ago, CLESMO’s proclaimed aim was to secure greater civil and political rights for beings such as artificial general intelligences, animal uplifts and heavily modified humans, which they believed (and perhaps rightfully, although David was most definitely not allowed to entertain thoughts of such nature) were all being viciously and systematically oppressed by the near-baseline human majority in places such as Venus and some of the more backwards parts of Mars and Earth. Secure and completely unafraid of the consequences, CLESMO had pledged to use revolutionary means and whatever force necessary to achieve the goals it deemed righteous. Their recent brutal attacks to the Venusian capital of Nova Brasilia had easily earned them the title of public threat number one and put the whole country in high alert status for them.
However, city-life seemed to be going pretty normally that day. People were certainly not more anxious than they usually were and the news hadn’t reported anything out of the ordinary. It most definitely didn’t seem like a CLESMO attack was happening or about to happen at that moment.
It was possible that the authorities had somehow managed to keep this supposed threat a secret, impeding the news from spreading and informing only a select few of the situation, but David found that somewhat hard to believe. Not even once in his considerably long law-enforcement career did he remember seeing such competence coming out of the Venusian police, much less of its Santo Adrião department.
“Good Afternoon”, he said as he crossed the police stations’ doors.
Dona Francisca, the station’s secretary who was said to have such a warm heart that she could empathise with any human being she crossed her eyes with, even giving devious criminals a shoulder to cry on when she saw they needed one, answered him with a contemptuous shrug followed by a fast turn of her head in the opposite direction. That was very much in line with the kind of greetings she usually offered David, thus reinforcing the idea that everything was normal. Things were getting more and more confusing.
As David headed towards the staircase, however, he did see something that was slightly out of the ordinary. A small teenage boy, whose voice was so squeaky and irritating that he might as well be called a teenage girl, was being pulled down the stairs by a masculine and grotesquely overweight middle-aged woman who kept relentlessly yelling at him with her deep angry voice.
“Just what the hell were you thinking, Tito?!” apparently, it was perfectly fine to use that sort of language with children these days, “Haven’t I told you to leave that Vena girl alone a hundred god-damned times already?!”
“But mom…all my friends we doing it, and… she’s a mechaphile! She’s a freak! She deserves to be taught a lesson!”
“If you say so, Mr. squeaky-voiced pedagogue, but please explain to me just why the fuck should that be any of your business?! That child’s god forsaken parents are the ones who are to blame! They are the ones who allowed her to mutilate her own body and spread those little darned pieces of metal all over it! You stay the fuck away from her, do you hear me, boy?!”
David couldn’t understand the need to use such brutal and profane language with children, but he did realize that the child was probably some sort of bully, and he appeared to have done some serious bullying lately, bad enough get him into trouble with the authorities, as it seemed. He could at least see a clear need for discipline…
“Detective”, said a familiar feminine voice coming from behind him. If David were human and had a heart, it would have started beating faster.
“Oh… Gloria…you’re here, great! Could you please explain me just what on Earth is going on?”
The young woman grinned softly and sweetly at him, her smile as radiant as always.
“Actually, we’re on Venus, detective”, she said.
David found himself forced to interrupt several of his ongoing thought routines so that he could stop to contemplate just how beautiful his partner really was. Officer Gloria Sanchez was 26 years old; she’d been 22 when they’d first partnered her with him, a young woman fresh out of the academy. Once considered to be one of the most talented and promising young officers in the force, she could probably have gone far, had she been partnered with someone else. David had cared for her and taught her all that he knew about police work, but serving under one of the most stigmatized detectives in the city didn’t exactly provide one with much positive visibility.
“Oh…Yeah, right, Venus, that’s where we are, Ahahah”, he felt somewhat embarrassed because of how long it had taken him to say anything. He was seriously starting to lose his professionalism around Gloria.
“Could you tell me what’s going on”, he asked with a smile.
“Sure, just follow me upstairs?”
The B hall of the second floor was the main working place of the anti-terrorism and violent crime division, which was the one to employ both David and Gloria. Normally, the “terrorism” part of the name could be omitted, as they spent most of their time going after thugs and gangsters. The last terrorist attack in Santo Adrião had happened ten years ago and there hadn’t even been any signs of a threat until now. Still, after organisations like CLESMO started sprouting and intensifying and their operations, the parliament had passed a law that forced every city-department to have a specialized division to deal with terrorism. Most of them just ended up merging it with some other division, though.
“Who’s the child?”, asked David, after seeing a little blonde girl sitting in the interrogations room. “Don’t tell me she’s our terrorist”.
“Not quite, but she is in fact the cause behind this whole incident”.
“How so?!” asked David, somewhat surprised despite all strange things he’d seen in life.
“Her name is Verónica Nascimento, but she prefers to be called Vena. She’s thirteen years old and a student at Thiago Fernandes High School. It seems that she was being beaten up badly by some bullies and decided to call for our help”.
“By faking a terrorist attack? That makes no sense, couldn’t she just have called the emergency number or something?”
“She hacked into the building’s self-maintenance system and got the computer to identify her bullies as terrorists. That way, they were immediately restrained by the security robots and then the police came quickly, because we all got mobilized in a minute since we thought this was a terrorist attack. If she had called the emergency number, it could have taken time before anyone got there.”
“I see…” it was certainly frustrating that a teenager had ended up causing that much panic because of such a “trivial” matter, but David could understand that the girl’s actions had been sound, at least to a point. Bullying was becoming an increasingly worrying problem these days, and the youth was undoubtedly in distress. However, there was something about this story that still didn’t make sense…
How could a teenager have managed to do something like that? The amount of computational power needed was certainly far beyond that which is provided by any commercial personal computer and, besides that, how could she have typed into the computer while being bullied?
…Oh, I see.
It was obvious, wasn’t it? The only reason why David hadn’t seen it sooner was simply because he didn’t want to believe it.
“But mom…all my friends we doing it, and… she’s a mechaphile! She’s a freak”
At such a young age! And with such an innocent appearance!
No little girl, you don’t want to be a machine, you really don’t. Please trust me on this.
“She has had neural augmentations, hasn’t she?”
“How extreme are they?”
“Very. They include a cranial VN unit, neural nanobots and a whole grid of para-neurons”
“Did you call her family?” Asked David, thinking of what kind of people might have done that do a child.
“Yes, her step-parents are on their way here right now.”
“Step-parents, what happened to her real ones?”
“Lost custody of her for being nuts.”
“Yes, from what we’ve been able to figure out they were both devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Holy Tao. Ultimately, the authorities came to understand that their devotion was just too much for a child to bear.”
If David had a spine, he would certainly have felt a shiver coming down through it. Empathy for the girl spread throughout the entirety of his ANN. Thousands and thousands of thought equations ended with pity as their result. Poor thing, indeed, he could barely imagine the horrors she might have been through.
“You’ve dealt with this before, haven’t you, detective?”
“Yeah…it was one of my first cases. It happened long time ago.”
“I’m sorry if I’m being intrusive or anything, but I’m curious about them. They’re one these new crazy synthetic religions, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, they take most of their lunacies from Christian (mainly protestant) and eastern religions. Their primary concern is to uphold what they consider to be the “natural law of the universe”, thereby rejecting virtually any kind of modification to living beings, as well the creation of any form of artificial life.”
Venusian society was generally considered to be technophobic by outsiders, as its people strived towards a certain sense of authenticity and harmony with nature. This led them to naturally shy away from many of the things that the Church of Jesus Christ and the Holy Tao deemed sinful, but they were certainly not radicals! No one on Venus questioned that embryos should be screened for genetic anomalies and that those anomalies should be corrected through genetic engineering and the vast majority of the population had already come to agree that certain improvements to a person’s genome were nothing but desirable. Few children these days were born without an eidetic memory and increased reasoning skills.
But the Church of Jesus Christ and the Holy Tao, those murderers, those maniacs, those lunatics, those child abusers, rejected even the simplest of these things, and they cared not about the consequences. For them, it was irrelevant whether a child was healthy or unhealthy, happy or unhappy, the important thing was for her to be a “natural child”, approved to live by the grace of God Almighty.
Vena had probably been born a baseline. Even assuming that luck had smiled upon her and spared her the suffering of having to deal with any serious diseases and deficiencies, she had certainly still been born a handicap. Arguably inferior to her peers in most ways one could count.
As much as David wouldn’t like to admit it, this provided a pretty good justification for what her parents had done. Those neural modifications had probably changed Vena’s life for the better, even if by taking away part of her humanity.
“I hope her parents arrive soon. This child needs a shoulder to cry on”, David said, right after he’d finished telling Gloria about the inner workings of the CJCHT.
“And so do you…”, she answered, looking into his eyes.
What did she mean?
“DMF-47!”, called an authoritarian voice coming from an office nearby.
David turned around to face his superior. Has much as he would have preferred to continue looking at Gloria, his respect for authority came first.
“Yes, sir, how can I be of service?”
“Go see Francisca downstairs, DMF. There are a few papers we need you sign so we can put this whole joke of case behind us. “
“I’m going right away, sir.”
“His name is David, sir”, murmured Gloria with disdain in her voice, just loud enough so that he could hear her, but not so loud that she couldn’t deny having said anything in case the man decided to fill a report on her “insubordination”.
It was a sad and sickening fact that a sentient being like her partner, even after having diligently served in the force for so long, was still so frequently referred to by his “robot name”, a heartless and meaningless designation he’d only used to describe himself in the days before he attained sentience. He didn’t seem to mind it much, though, sometimes it seemed that he just accepted the way others treated him as natural and even somewhat justified. Gloria really wished he could start taking himself in higher regard. She was worried about him, he seemed so lonely. And he didn’t deserve that. He was a good man. Yes! He was good, and he was a man. It was terrible that other people couldn’t see that, but he didn’t work that to prove it anyway…