He leans against a shop front, massaging his forehead and eyeballing a display of antique brass doorknockers. "Well, if you hadn't shafted them during the late noughties ..." Manfred taps his left heel on the pavement, looking round for a way out of this conversation. They're all zero-sum cannibals." A thought occurs to him.A tourist boat putters by in the canal; the sails of the huge windmill overhead cast long, cool shadows across the road. "Am organization formerly known as KGB dot RU." "I think your translator's broken." He holds the phone to his ear carefully, as if it's made of smoke-thin aerogel, tenuous as the sanity of the being on the other end of the line. Am apologize for we not use commercial translation software.
A couple of punks – maybe local, but more likely drifters lured to Amsterdam by the magnetic field of tolerance the Dutch beam across Europe like a pulsar – are laughing and chatting by a couple of battered mopeds in the far corner.
"I'm Macx," he says, waving the back of his left wrist under her bar-code reader. Manfred turns the box over in his hands: it's a disposable supermarket phone, paid for in cash – cheap, untraceable, and efficient. " The voice at the other end has a heavy Russian accent, almost a parody in this decade of cheap on-line translation services. " "Da, was easy: Spawn billion-node neural network, and download Teletubbies and Sesame Street at maximum speed.
It can even do conference calls, which makes it the tool of choice for spooks and grifters everywhere. Manfred rips the cover open and pulls out the phone, mildly annoyed. Pardon excuse entropy overlay of bad grammar: Am afraid of digital fingerprints steganographically masked into my-our tutorials." Manfred pauses in mid stride, narrowly avoids being mown down by a GPS-guided roller blader.
This is getting weird enough to trip his weird-out meter, and that takes some doing.
Manfred's whole life is lived on the bleeding edge of strangeness, fifteen minutes into everyone else's future, and he's normally in complete control – but at times like this he gets a frisson of fear, a sense that he might just have missed the correct turn on reality's approach road. Let me get this straight, you claim to be some kind of AI, working for KGB dot RU, and you're afraid of a copyright infringement lawsuit over your translator semiotics?