In the last chapter, Milton miniaturized and swallowed Bill’s program, hiding it inside him, whilst the Feds banged on the door…
Milton stood in front of the door. If his avatar could have perspired, it would have. He rubbed his hands against the seat of his pants, like he was wiping something sticky from his palms. He repeated the action, over and over, even though there was nothing on his hands, and there was no sensation of touch inside v-space. If anybody had seen it, they would have thought Miltonâ€™s avatar had stopped responding to his command, and was stuck in an endless loop.
â€œOpen up, Mr. Oâ€™Connor. We know youâ€™re inside.â€
Milton knew she was bluffing, of course. There was no way the Internal Revenueâ€™s spy programs could see inside the villa.
â€œI can see you, Mr. Oâ€™Connor. Through the frosted glass.â€
Ah, she had a point there. Whilst Milton had underglazed all the plain glass windows, he may have forgotten to protect the narrow strips of frosted glass in the front door. The shorter of the two agents pressed her face against that glass, peering in. Milton waved his hand in front of her. She waved straight back, but not in a nice way.
Forgetting to underglaze the door was a slip by Milton, but not a major one. The entrance hall was always empty, apart from when Milton stood there. Most of the house was empty. He kept rubbing his hands on the seat of his pants. Bill had designed the villa; Milton just worked there. And rested there. If Milton had designed it, he would have designed it as an opaque box, and then used internal screens to simulate the effect of windows. The effect would have looked the same, but the programming would have been totally different.
â€œMr. Oâ€™Connor! I wonâ€™t ask again: let us inside, right this minute, or I will signal my colleagues in the real world to apprehend your body, at your apartment in… where is it?â€
The taller woman spoke. â€œHrefnugata, Reykjavik, Iceland.â€
â€œDo you have a warrant?â€ Milton had never seen a warrant, but he knew they had no right to enter, unless they had one.
â€œReally?â€ He had not expected that. â€œHow do I know?â€ This was a genuine question. Milton had never dealt with government goons who actually had paperwork. Normally they just barged into places, exploiting lax security. Everywhere had lax security, compared to this villa.
â€œIt was emailed to you. Last week.â€
â€œLast week?â€ Milton had no recollection of receiving an email like that. â€œHold on, one moment.â€ He placed his hands together in front of him, and opened his personal interface. Quickly checking through his spam folders, he found the relevant email.
From: Internal Revenue Federation Special Agent Holly Ryder
To: Milton Oâ€™Connor
Subject: Notice of a Mandatory Tax Inspection to be Conducted on 24th September 2023
Dear Mr. Oâ€™Connor,
It has come to our attention that...
â€œMr. Oâ€™Connor! Open this door or Iâ€™ll be forced to…â€
Milton was not fooled, and stopped listening. The ability to tune out and to stop listening was one of Miltonâ€™s great strengths, allowing him to keep coding however noisy his flatmates and neighbours had been. But that was in the bad old days. Everything was peaceful, now that he spent all his time in v-space. He just had to be calm, and work out the optimal solution that would not compromise security any more than necessary. If he opened the door, the house would be flooded full of creepy crawly spyware. And if he revealed the passkeys that allowed programs to resolve inside, the villa would be instantly infested. But he had to let the two Feds inside. The email linked to a permit which checked out as authentic government freedom-repressing b/s. He did not like it, but he had to let them in. Or the cops would come, and cart his real body to HegningarhÃºsiÃ° detention centre, in downtown Reykjavik. It was a very nice jail, compared to others that Milton had been inside. And Miltonâ€™s lawyer would get him out in a few days at most. But it still meant spending an extended period in his real body, in the real world. And that was unthinkable.
â€œWhatâ€™s your email address?â€ shouted Milton.
â€œMr. Oâ€™Connor! Let us in!â€
Milton smacked himself on the forehead. The frosted glass was flawed, but the soundproofing still worked. He pulled out his interface and replied to the email from Special Agent Holly Ryder. Meanwhile, the two women had turned away from the door, and looked at each other, as if they were contemplating their next move.
From: Milton Oâ€™Connor
To: Internal Revenue Federation Special Agent Holly Ryder
Subject: Re: Notice of a Mandatory Tax Inspection to be Conducted on 24th September 2023
Very sorry â€“ the door is just cosmetic and does not open. Also, you cannot hear me because I like to practice drums and have soundproofed the building. Please use the attached links, one for you, and one for your partner.
Two encrypted single-use hyperlinks meant Milton could be sure the agentâ€™s programs were allowed inside the villa, but nothing else could follow them through. Milton waited for them on the observation deck. First through was the mob, a six foot tall, supermodel-thin blonde in the figure-hugging black dress. And then came the PC, in grey three-piece trouser suit. She was a five-foot forty-something redhead, stern and severe in appearance. This was unlikely to be fun.
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