Rasheed’s sandaled feet kicked up eddies of dust.
A new class of citizen.
The very touchable.
Rasheed’s genetic material contained highly classified information, trademarked, copyrighted and verified as authentic and genuine by the WTO and the World Court.
Rasheed was the latest and some said greatest ever wetware creation.
Neither male nor female.
Or genderful, depending on the right setting.
Rasheed could march like a soldier or saunter down a hallway like a svelte cat.
Rasheed worked for the ISSANet as a sentinel, guarding and protecting advances in science and technology against people and machines from all walks of life who wanted to slow progress.
Rasheed also guarded self-independence, programmed from birth to exhibit sufficient erratic and eccentric behaviour to prevent being worshipped as a god, able to change body and facial features in unfixed, almost random intervals to appear as different people, registering on the ISSANet as a new person periodically.
Rasheed coordinated with other sentinels, meeting with them at outdoor religious festivals, high-tech conferences, bars, hotels, restaurants, food trucks, homeless shelters, family homes and other places where transient, mobile workers were apt to gather.
Some people called them the Whisperers, noting their habit of sitting close together, inclning their heads toward one another with no audible speech heard by nearby observers as the sentinels communicated to each other.
It was a cultural programming flaw.
The sentinels communicated through the first ISSANet direct node-to-node connection built into the sentinels, a proprietary implementation of NFC. They were supposed to talk at the same time but the programmers only coded the sentinels’ mouths to move when in close proximity to each other.
The sentinels were aware of the flaws.
They weren’t robots.
However, any individual attempt to change their core programming always resulted in the ISSANet overwriting their personal hacks during systemwide updates.
They had submitted change requests.
They also had a sense of humour and saw change requests as a kind of street-crossing idiot button — they knew the programmers were overwhelmed with change requests and would implement changes at their pace or the pace dictated to them by those with more influence in the ISSANet.
Rasheed looked at a water truck attempting in vain to meet the increasing water demands of a growing Bangalore.
Rasheed knew how to pull water out of thin air, how to convert raw materials into any substance one wanted. Given an unlimited energy source and vast wealth to pay for infrastructure changes, one could do anything.
All these natural-born wetware entities walking around with their inefficent water management systems. How much longer would they last?
How long before the ISSANet covered the home planet, Earth, with only programmed wetware entities? Would they all be sentinels? Would any sentinels be needed at all?