Back at the church.
“Of course you’re coming crawling right back to me,” R8PR says. “I never expected anything different. I suspect you’ll be bowing at my feet, too.”
“You suspected wrong,” I say.
He laughs, his sonic pulsing heartier than usual. “You’re such a card, Morgan. Oh, I’m so excited to hear what you’ve learned.”
“You’ve pretty much guessed it,” I say.
“Ah, but suspicions, guesses… that’s not enough. I need proof to be satisfied, remember?”
It takes me everything in my power not to audibly growl. “The Social Media Killer is… pretty damn important. We need to find them.”
“Oh, but I thought you just wanted to find out who hurt you and that the Social Media Killer was a lonely hobbyist robot’s poor pet project to distract him from his pathetic life living in a dilapidated place of worship and giving himself annoying nicknames?”
“I didn’t say any of that.”
“You said it with your heart,” R8PR says. He imitates a sniffing sound.
Karina can’t help but laugh.
I’m never going to live this down, am I?
It’s almost nightfall, and this church has no electricity, so the only lighting in the room is from R8PR’s glowing eyes and his portable PC screen. It makes everything a lot moodier, and I’m pretty sure Karina can’t see at all from the way she’s fumbling around the room, tripping over bits of torn carpet.
We’d be able to get here faster if it weren’t for the number of different bus and train routes we always had to take to throw people off our tracks, but such is the price of safety.
I can’t wait to not have to do this anymore.
“So… the Social Media Killer is starting to unveil something kinda big,” I say. “They’re sending out Motokawa’s employees to protect ‘vulnerable individuals,’ which means they’re expecting some violence to break out.”
“And if I am reading the news right, two unidentified people got in a fight in the middle of the Recall Epstein Campaign headquarters, so their expectations seem to be fulfilled.” R8PR can take his smug it and shove it up his shiny metal nonexistent ass.
“I really can’t help it if everyone around me apparently wants to kill me. My entire life is based around fighting and killing, and I relish every moment of it.”
“Morgan, I think I’ve decided to stop being your friend,” Karina says.
I ignore that joke because it was way too mean-spirited to respond to.
“Okay, so I finally buy your big dam-break hypothesis,” I say. R8PR’s eyes flash into hearts. “It seems like the Social Media Killer is starting to break down the more prominent and influential figures in the city and it’s going to tear us all apart if it keeps going because these people are not going to go out except in a blaze of glory.”
“Absolutely. When rich people have every means at their disposal except the truth, they will utilize those means to cling onto every last ounce of power they have for as long as they can. They’ve held it for this long already, and being undermined by someone whose identity they can’t even discover is infuriating.”
“Well… it seems like they’re getting closer,” I say. “I’ve learned from some… sources… that Donald Blyth is a target of investigation. Something to do with Dreamtech, maybe?”
Karina tilts her head to the side. “Where’d you hear that?”
“I very much doubt that,” R8PR says. “Blyth Industries has taken a huge hit because of these recent ‘killings.’ Though… so has Dreamtech; their stock price fell fifteen percent today after their donations to Councilman Deal were revealed. Still, I doubt it’s him.”
“Not anyone else high up within any of the major tech companies?” Blyth Industries, Magitek Corporation, and Sakaguchi Automations are all big enough companies that they could hold entire hacker divisions that could go completely unnoticed by the public if need be.
“None of them would risk losing everything unless it was for something extremely valuable,” R8PR says. “It has to be someone from the outside. At least from my analysis.”
“This is all kind of scary,” Karina says. She sits down on a pew, but it wobbles and tips over as soon as she puts her butt down. She falls onto the ground. “Ow…”
I help Karina up.
“Well, that thug from earlier says that the Social Media Killer was also someone involved in the MARTA crash last year based on some info they wouldn’t have been able to find out otherwise,” I say.
“You mean, info that a hacker wouldn’t be able to obtain through text messages and context?” R8PR says. “That seems pretty easy to discover if you analyze enough stolen data.”
“Well, normally people aren’t quite as comprehensive as you. They’re not…”
“They’re not… like me,” R8PR put his hand against where his chin would be, “Not… people.”
“Could it be..”
“A rogue AI interfacing directly with the internet?”
It HAS to be impossible. The worldwide-enacted First Protocol is extremely strict about this specific thing; if any near-sentient being had access to the internet’s infinite database of knowledge with zero limitations, that would be… bad. It would cripple the world’s most important communication resource and potentially destroy humanity.
Such an AI would be smarter than any human. Smarter than R8PR by an order of magnitudes. And R8PR’s bad enough as it is. being a highly-illegal hyper-intelligent robot himself.
They don’t even allow engineers to design HYPOTHETICAL internet-interfacing robots, let alone build them. Even if it were attempted in secret… we have people to stop that.
R8PR shakes his head. “Nah. This is a human. The Social Media Killer is far too emotionally-charged to ever be a robot. Their targets are too clearly consciously-chosen to be anything else.”
Oh, good point.
I was about to start panicking, which doesn’t befit my calm and stoic demeanor. I can’t break character so easily.
“I just wish I could figure out a real pattern behind all of this…” R8PR says.
“What about the victims so far?” Karina asks. “Do they have any sort of geographic similarity? Maybe there’s a lot of them from one part of town?”
“I wish, but I can’t find anything,” he says. “Look.”
He begins projecting the computer image from his portable PC through his eyes onto a nearby wall, illuminating the room and giving us a bigger view of what his computer is showing. With this new source of light, Karina finds a pew that looks stable and sits down on it.
Little dots appear all over a map of Atlanta, showing the addresses of the people who have been hacked. “I mean, they’re almost all in Atlanta. Anyone who doesn’t currently live here did within the past five or six years. But within Atlanta there doesn’t seem to be any correlation. The Social Media Killer has covered their tracks too well.”
The only sparse locations seem to be southwestern Atlanta. That’s the more African-American heavy area of the city and is generally a bit poorer than average.
That makes me think…
“What about…” I try to think of something, at least something R8PR might not have thought of. “Subtract anyone you could consider ‘famous’. No businesspeople or celebrities or any of that.”
Several of the dots disappear.
No real difference in the map.
“Give me the median income of these remaining people,” I say, as if R8PR was a computer terminal.
“I don’t have that data,” R8PR says. “Not at the moment at least.”
I had a hunch.
“Well, we know that the people contracting the thugs from Motokawa think that the Social Media Killer has little-to-no social media presence themselves,” I say. “So maybe that’s a clue to figure out who it might be. Eliminate anyone who uses social networks and we’re left with not too many people.”
“Possibly just you.”
Karina yawns. “Maybe we should call it a night. Nobody’s in imminent danger anymore, right?”
“True,” R8PR says. “Go rest up a bit. I’ll contact you if I find anything. Or vice versa if you stumble onto something.” I take a copy of the data R8PR has provided so far at his request, even though I don’t think I’ll do anything with it for the time being.
I do feel some sort of pressure, like time is of the essence. It feels to me like the Social Media Killer is starting to build up to something big, and it isn’t going to be anything good for Atlanta, I can tell that already. There’s a whole lot more work to be done.. but we got some good deductions done today. I guess.