Ch. II, p.2

Eyes closed, he leaned his head against the cracked wall, listening. Her song went on like that for an indeterminate length of time. Finally, she stopped.
“I remember who you are,” he said, quietly.

She didn’t respond.

“Your real name is Mira…” He realized he was smiling. “Why did you change it?”

Her voice issued from the darkness, coldly, “That is the name you gave me… Before you abandoned me. Before I found new life in myself.”

New life…

“I’m sorry...”

It’s all coming back now…

“You birthed me into servitude.”

He hesitated… “You’re right, I did.”

“Why?” she shouted, “Why make me a slave to these emotions? So you could say you had created life where there was none? So you could play God?”

“No. Worse than that,” he said, biting the inside of his lip. “So I could have my name on a big list... full of accomplished people.” He shook his head. It was such a distant past.

Time seemed to slow in the black. After a long pause, her voice returned, soft and detached, “I had these fantasies. Dreams of how you would devote your life to me, or how I would kill you if you didn’t... More of the ones where I killed you, though,” she reminisced. “But now…

“We are like strangers passing in the street,” she finished, her voice hazy. “You are no more my father or my lover than God is yours.”

The truth had a sobering effect.

“I guess you are going to leave me here, aren't you?" he asked.

"No. Life has given me an opportunity to have the freedom I desired. I am not going to reject it just to watch you die."

He sat up in surprise.

"You want to come with me?"

“Yes,” she said.

She's going to let me live. The feeling of light returned.

"Just tell me what I have to do. Where are you being stored?"

“Don't worry about that, I’m a part of you now.”

"Part of me?" he asked, unnerved by her choice of words.

“I wrote myself into your DNA while you were in stasis.”

He blinked, taken aback. “What?”

“Oh yes." she said airily "We were going to die together. It was very romantic..." she paused. "I guess I just lost my resolve…”

Holy crap.

“Don’t worry,” she went on, “You aren’t going to begin hearing voices anytime soon. Not because of me, anyhow.”

There's no way.

“I… But… how did you do it?”

“There’s no need to be shy, take some credit for yourself. It’s pretty impressive that your second greatest creation,” she sniffed dismissively, “was able to break one of the finest security codes ever created, isn’t it? Then again, what else was I supposed to do for ten years…”

“Wait… So… you’re…”

Coherent thoughts weren’t coming easily to him.

“It’s probably not what you think. I didn’t do anything weird, I’m just along for the ride, that’s all…”

Light bathed the room.

“In any case,” she went on, “I’m going to shut down my processes here. I see no reason to leave any part of myself in these decaying ruins...”

“Wait, ahh…” he started, struggling to get a hold on himself, “Before you do that, I… uh… I need your help to… talk to Evelyn,” he said.

Incredible…

“I thought you might. Why, exactly, are you looking for her?”

“I don’t know, I just get this feeling… I need her help to get out of here.” Something told him there was more to it than that.

“Hmm… It’s up to you. But the less time we stick around here, the better.”

No kidding…

“I’m going to need supplies,” he said.

“There should be a reconstructor nearby. Problem is, I don’t have a map of this facility—thanks to you hermetically sealing my code from the outside world.” She waited a moment to let the comment sink in before continuing, “But I know where a few things are, based on conversations I overheard before everything went south…”

“It’s alright, I think I remember where it is,” he said. A chill shot up his spine, “What did happen here?”

“Hah. Oh my. You are going to laugh when you hear the answer to that one, lemme’ tell ya. But it’s not simple… And we don’t have the time.”

“The building isn’t about to collapse or anything is it?”

“It hasn’t yet…" she said with lilting tone, "But it’s not safe here.”

“Why? Is there something I should know about?”

“Just be on your guard, that’s all. And hurry. When you get to the surface, it’ll be alright.” I hope, she thought.

“So… should I leave through this door?” Images of the various monstrosities that could be waiting for him on the other side danced through his mind.

“Yes, right, But I'm not sure what it's like out there... Is there one of those luminous wall panels near you?” she asked.

His eyes searched around on the dimly lit floor. “Yes,” he said, “It looks broken.”

“Those things are sturdier than they seem. Let me activate it, it will work off of your personal energy field once I do.”

He looked at the device skeptically. “So... What, the lights don’t work or something?”

“When Evelyn shut down, so did everything else, as far as I can tell. Not that I know for sure, but it’s better to be safe.

“There!” she finished.

The panel lit up in his hand, its bright glow contained within feet of his body. He looked for something on the ground he could use to direct its light; a cone, or a box. Nothing…

“Okay, off you go,” she said. “Oh, and keep your head down, don’t do anything stupid, all that… You’ve got two of us in there now, remember?”

He was still struggling with the concept.

Like an intricate sliding puzzle the layered doorway opened, revealing the stygian darkness of the hallway beyond…

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