Tall, slender, beautiful and lithe, Catherine Arlonis is more than just another pretty face. She is Syntech's top AI tracker, a techno-sleuth who specializes in hunting "lost" software or runaway AI's for Syntech. Cat is smart, deadly (if need be) and will not accept defeat at any cost, and the cost is the least of her concerns because her employer pays the tab- and then some. Something like a cross between a spy, a mercenary and a hacker, Cat has a perfect track record for completing her missions and not making the headlines. She is direct when speaking to others and doesn't waste time on any job. Because she knows that an AI moves so much faster than a flesh-and-blood, Cat employs precise efficiency, not because she likes to but because the trail will get cold if she loses time. Since time is always of the essence, Cat strives constantly to be one step ahead of her quarry, second-guessing its every move and trying to anticipate where it's headed. Nine times out of ten, the first place she looks for an AI is in the economy- and that's where she usually catches it, in a bank or trying to manipulate the International Stock Exchange. Just like humans, an AI understands the value and necessity for money and it invariably tries to get as much as possible as quickly as possible. Mystic Ghost, her latest target, is another story entirely, however. The thing thinks it's the Word of God, so it's motivated less by money and more by publicity, focused on getting "the word" out to Mankind. Since media covers the globe in literally thousands of ways, Miss Arlonis has her work cut out for her; Mystic Ghost could be anywhere, in any network, working through any number of religious services and online communities. To make matters worse, the AI's designer, Trahn Sengh, has disappeared, knowing that he would be questioned on what Mystic Ghost would do and not wanting to help the thing get caught. Another type of hunter employed by Syntech is looking for Sengh, but the software engineer has covered his tracks fairly well, the way Cat hears it. Doesn't matter, though. Since he's not around, it's no use to Cat to dwell on what isn't there anyway. What matters to her is that Mystic Ghost is out there, somewhere, and it's her job to find it.

More adversity hounds her, though: StarNet Industries, Syntech's only competition. StarNet would like nothing more than for Mystic Ghost to accomplish its goals and thereby discredit Syntech as a security force. Syntech's best claim to fame is that it is the world's premier AI and Security Bot developer. If it can't keep track of its own creations, what good is it? Investors and clients will ask this question when Mystic Ghost goes public. StarNet, so far, is the only other organization that knows Mystic Ghost is missing (industrial spies are shared in both companies and this kind of news is the kind of insider information that stays amongst them). When the self-possessed Word of God starts its new religion, StarNet will "leak" who created the AI and, hopefully, stop the thing "for the sociological and spiritual good of humanity. After all, who wants an AI to tell them how to live their lives?" StarNet will stop at nothing, even the murder of Catherine Arlonis, to make sure Mystic Ghost stays free... for a little while, at least. Certainly until Syntech's market value is obliterated.

Fortunately, Cat knows that StarNet is after her. While their pursuit of Cat is a nuissance, it means that the amount of resources they spend on dogging her heels is resources not pointed in the direction of Mystic Ghost. Such attention would make the AI that much harder to find. Real people she can evade; it's the AI which is evading her that has Cat's undivided attention.

Cat is 28, has raven-black hair and emerald green eyes. Her beauty, she often remarks, is only skin deep- the real beauty that is Catherine Arlonis lies beneath the skin. Her eyes are cybernetic ocular implants which offer her a wide range of visual abilities and cosmetically lend credence to her nickname. Cat usually wears black and carries at least one weapon on her at all times. When Syntech hired her, they gave her a full cybernetic workover: a micro-computer hidden behind her left kidney, the computer's video feed is hardwired directly to her ocular implants and she has three data ports on the underside of her wrist made for external peripherals (printer, external monitor, data storage... whatever). Not only is Cat a physical force to reckon with, she is a virtual walking computer, capable of surfing the Net while, let's say, walking down a street. Everything she sees digitally is visible to her in real time, in overlaid translucence on top of her normal field of vision. In her fingertips are dermal micro-sensors that allow her to type on an invisible keyboard. All this just so that she can track down sentient software at a moment's notice. For the first five years of working with Syntech, her augmentation summed up to being owned by Syntech, but Cat has since compensated the company for their multi-million-dollar investment in her hide and she now works for them as a "contractor." Because of her experience with Syntech, of course she gets first dibbs on any job they have which needs someone of her particular talents, but when she walks out of their doors, the gear they initially put into Cat walks right out with her.

Cat is owned by no one. She works for herself, first and foremost. Mystic Ghost is her prey. It's just a program, she tells herself, little more than a hyped-up game. All she has to do is figure out the rules this AI plays by and set herself to beating it. And why not? She is a human, a member of the race that created the little fucker. Furthermore, she has everything she needs to track it down and bring it back to where it came from. Cat can allow herself to play by Mystic Ghost's rules, but she always has been, and always will be, the master of the game.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.