The line buzzed. “The first agent you must recruit is the late Dr. Zariquanna Fox. She was instrumental in developing the security systems I need you to bypass, and I believe she may have even left herself a back door, if you can get her to agree to use it. Which I suggest you do.”

“Hang on a moment,” said Sexton. “The late Dr. Zariquanna Fox?”

“That is correct,” said Fairburn. “My psychological and personality profile indicates that she is not fond of her given name, so do be sure to call her Dr. Fox when you meet.”

“I feel like you’re leaving out a pretty important piece of information, Fairburn,” Sexton said. “How ca I recruit her if she’s dead?”

“Ah yes. A tragedy, that. The operation would be so much easier if she were still alive in the traditional sense. But no matter. How familiar are you, Mr. Sexton, with the fields of emergent intelligence, neural nets, holography for data storage, and quantum encryption?”

“They sound like things that save the day just before the credits roll on Star Trek.”

“Well, luckily you were recruited for your interpersonal skills rather than your technical knowhow, Mr. Sexton. Dr. Fox used herself as a model for an early and experimental computational matrix based on a full neural scan of a living subject. The system is still active at her previous place of employment, the Summers Institute of Computing. You will retrieve it.”

“And I’m just supposed to walk out with a computer on my back, am I?” Sexton said.

“If necessary. Be sure to lift with your back.” Fairburn waited a beat, presumably for Sexton to chuckle at his joke, before resuming. “But it is my belief that her program is considerably more portable than that, luckily for you.”

“Bullshit,” Sexton said. “If they could miniaturize technology like that, I’d be using it right now.”

“They’ve been able to do it for years, Mr. Sexton. Decades, perhaps. But the cost is simply too high for consumer applications; if you’re looking at a billion dollars per unit, that simply doesn’t scale. Believe me, in the future everyone will have one , assuming they are able to solve the insanity problem.”

“The what?”

“On your way, then,” said Fairburn. “I will upload detailed instructions and schematics when you arrive.”

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