Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Jodie climbed into the passenger seat of the big sedan, the door closing itself with enough force to remind her never to leave anything in its way too long.

Jacko was already behind the wheel, flipping switches and bringing the old turbine engine to life, mumbling the startup sequence under his breath.

She twisted the rearview mirror to make sure her facemask was still in place and caught a glimpse of B sitting in the back seat. She blinked, then reached and tried to hold the mirror steady, but everything was vibrating and trying to focus on him made her nearly vomit.

She pushed the mirror back towards Jacko and opened the window, breathing the cold morning air and the thick smell of aviation exhaust.

“What’s the deal with him?”, she waved a thumb back over her shoulder, not taking her eyes of the horizon, “he creeps me out.”

Jacko, having gotten the massive engine settled into a steady throbbing squared himself in the seat and pushed both throttle sticks forward before answering. The carbon fiber giant lurched into motion on a cushion of air towards the city.

“B’s not a he, it’s an it,” he corrected her, “just because it’s built on a bipedal biochassis, doesn’t mean it’s human.”

They reached the end of the long driveway, leaving the decrepit barns and old farmhouse behind. They drove in silence along the regional road, then the interstate, then finally exiting into the maze of inner city roadways that would lead them to the office tower they’d been studying for the last few weeks.

Jacko pulled along the curb at the intersection of Fifth and Twenty Seventh streets, stopping just long enough for B to climb out of the back seat before continuing to a midrise car park a half block further on.

Jodie risked a look in the side view as they glided away, watching as B disappeared into a crowd of pedestrians, a blur she could only almost see if she looked away from him. It. Looked away from It. When she tried to look directly at where B should be, she found it impossible to hold her gaze there.

She turned back, her eyes and head aching from the strain as they turned into the skyward cover offered by the old parking garage.

B followed the pack of pedestrians as it was programmed to do. Beside, never in front, and vibrating at a range of frequencies from head to foot so as to be virtually impossible to look directly at.

Cameras and sensors along the pedestrian walkways would pick B up as merely a blur, but with no electronic signature, no alarms would be raised. It would only be after, should they review the recordings, and only if it were to be flagged up for human attention that B may be noticed. By then it would be too late.

At the banking tower, B followed the lunch crowd through the detection panels without incident, lost in the flood of staff returning to their offices.

B resonated through every bandwidth, echolocating and triggering passkeys and code fobs, and storing the respondent code in memory cells grown just for this purpose within its chassis.

In the elevator, one fidgety intern looked B directly in the eyes for a moment, instantly regretting it as he convulsed into a mild seizure. The elevator cleared as his coworkers, concerned, hustled him back out into the lobby, leaving B alone.

This simplified things, as B now had the elevator car to itself. It thumbed the datacenter level, oscillated an extended digit in response to the passkey challenge, and the car descended without complaint.

The data center itself presented another series of doors, each unlocked with a previously stored key, vibrated through the hardware without contact.

Once inside, B walked slowly between the rows of racks, soaking up the electronic traffic as barely perceptible oscillations in the atoms around it until it located the specific server it was sent to find.

It then pinched the network cable between two fingers, synchronized with the host and uploaded its code payload directly into the wire.

Its job complete, B walked to one of the large exhaust vents at the end of the aisle, stood on top of the grating and vibrated itself into dust.

From Jacko’s vantage point at the garage up the street, he could see the sudden gust of black dust blow up from the sidewalk grating before it was lost in the early afternoon bustle.

“We’re done,” he turned and climbed back into the sedan, “Vatican dot local has chosen a new benefactor. Funds should be fully diverted by the time the markets close.”

“What about B?”, Jodie asked as they pulled back into the street, heading away from the bank.

“Don’t you worry, after today, I’ll grow you an army of Bs”