Ch. XIII, p.2

. . .

S 7724 inactive. S 7725 inactive. S 7726 active. Dominic groaned and shook his head. What the hell does all this mean? 

His personal operating system responded, “Genesys specific security codes in use. From the file content, it would appear that your subject was monitoring access routines linked to intermittently powered doors and facilities.”

‘So she was just watching?’

“No systems routines were enabled. Meaning, yes,”
 the effete, emulated voice replied. “For a more thorough evaluation, I would recommend contacting a Genesys employee who might be familiar with the data, or dedicating 15% of your computational sub routines to further analysis. At the expected completion rate of—”

he thought, ‘it’s fine.’ 

Then, to himself, ...Shit. Even if she hadn’t done anything to directly influence the incident, he knew she had been involved, somehow… Had to have been.

Maybe I’m being paranoid… No… I know there’s something here… 

He looked through the files again, but got the feeling that wasn’t it and thought, ‘Collapse.’ 

A series of data-bearing windows that had been splayed across his vision slid back together and minimized, leaving him back where he began. Without shutting operations down completely, he turned his attention to the domed arboretum below, hoping an illuminating thought might strike him.

They’re still not here yet… He listened carefully, his audio sensors channeling key pieces of data into his awareness. More gunshots… Small caliber… civilian… At least it looks like I picked a safe place to wait. The streets were empty; motionless. No sign of Berin; nor Detroit. No horde of people yet, though, either… He wasn’t sure how much longer he could wait. The thirty minutes he’d been told he had by Berin had run out fifteen minutes ago.

He raised his head in surprise. Something in his subconscious caught a detail he hadn’t noticed, displayed next to both the words “Frank Marrus” and “Mira Calix” (A.I.). Are those numbers the same? He thought, staring at a pair of hexadecimal location codes used to define the point through which a user had gained systems access.

“Yes,” the simulated voice responded, “Both Doctor Marrus and the A.I. gained access to the system through the exact same point. Further information that may be of interest: Systems access occurred simultaneously. And, barring the possibility of corrupt data, it would appear that Calix utilized Doctor Marrus’ body as a conduit through which to enter the Genesys FMSE (Full-Molecular Simulation Environment). But, as this is an impossibility according to my databases, I suggest you treat it as an anomaly and disregard this information.” 

It did sound impossible; as far as he knew, a functioning A.I. could not exist in a human’s body—at the very least, full-blown schizophrenia should occur; and at the worst… death.

But his interest was piqued. And what were they doing? he wondered, pulling up their records.

He saw a flash of all that Calix had been doing—in other words, instantly managing an almost incomprehensible amount of information. Whoa, nope, not going there… he thought. Thousands of pages of data winked out of existence, leaving only Frank Marrus’ records… and a single data file.

‘FMSE MCFME playback,’ he commanded. ‘Detached omniscient perspective.’ 

He felt his attention split—the hard grays and dusty browns of a dismal cityscape, muddy with harsh details, were starkly presented on one plane; and a bright, sky blue room on another, more distant plane. He brought the blue room into focus, the dark world of reality fading as he waited breathlessly to see what would happen.

Furnishings materialized, surrounded in swirling cloud, and a pair of women appeared smilingly on a black, lavishly ornamented bench. The radiant blonde woman nodded knowingly to the other, raven haired and bearing a mischievous grin.

Dominic paused the playback for a moment. ‘Show details.’ 

The words Eve (A.I.) and Calix (A.I.) appeared, superimposed over the two women. Then, on a hunch, he commanded, ‘Show subroutines.’ 

He was right. A cascade of data had passed between them; and though none of it had been recorded in entirety by Maria’s graphiq, the record of its transfer was enough to show him that they had had some catching up to do.

But he wasn’t interested in figuring out what that entailed.‘Resume,’ he thought, causing the two women to turn and face a blood red couch placed opposite them. Simultaneously, they both opened their mouths and said, “Hello Frank. We’ve been waiting for you.”

He shifted his viewpoint… Another presence, a man; delayed for nearly one second from entering the simulation, for reasons he couldn’t divine.

Frank Marrus, he knew. He’s younger than I thought he would be… assuming this is an accurate representation. He magnified the man’s face… He knew that look. Utter bewilderment; fear; exhaustion. Immediately, he felt a connection with the poor fellow. I’ve been there… I am there. 

The real world shifted briefly back into semi-focus; he took a quick look around and determined that there was nothing amiss before letting it slide away again, taking a deep breath.

“I’m uploading a file to your genetic mesh,” Eve said in the recording.

Maybe Dominic had had it backwards. What if that data just looked like it was going to Calix…

“Who’s it for?” 
Frank had asked.

Dominic noted the man’s almost glazed-over eyes and slackening jaw. He looks completely out of touch… What a mind job this all must have been… Maybe worse than coming back to nothing at all.

“Do you remember Doctor Kerry?”

Doctor Kerry? 
Dominic arched his neck in further heightened attention.

“She’s still alive?” A spark of recognition had lit in the doctor’s eyes.

Dominic listened intently to the A.I.’s reply, his pulse quickening. She seemed to believe the woman was, in fact, still alive. And what’s more, that she was in Idest.

Jesus, he thought, carefully listening to the rest of their conversation. This changes everything…

He watched the blonde haired A.I. say goodbye and disappear, almost too abruptly. Then the dark woman arose; and, as she came towards Frank Marrus, Dom could swear he saw the cringe of true fear crease itself around that man’s eyes.

In another part of his mind though, he saw a mass of people approaching the arboretum in the distance.

I better make this quick. 

He had lost his focus for a moment, and during that time the artificial woman had wrapped herself around Frank, caressing him with pale hands, kissing him seductively.

He raised his eyebrows. “Oh, what! That’s not messed up at all…” he muttered, pausing the video in semi-disgust. Then again, who wouldn’t create their fantasy person if they could…

“Well, carry on then,” he growled in a low, self-conscious tone, silently hoping things wouldn’t go anywhere too weird.

The A.I. went on that way for a moment before leaning in close to Frank and whispering something in his ear; Dominic hardly felt his jaw drop as he heard the words, and went back to play the line again. And again, forgetting that he needed to hurry. Then, one last time…

“Frank…” she had said, “Remember Aether? It’s all your fault, Frank… Everything. All of this is…” The words were whispered, but an additional thought was transmitted subliminally. “You created this Hell, and then you came back from the dead to rule it… I think that makes you Satan himself.” 

He shut off the recording, mouth agape. Weird had just reached its zenith.

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