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Archie Phoenix

"Fun With Simantha"

“How can this be?” Archie wondered aloud. “This isn’t what I thought of!”


He was lying on the cushioned platform in the middle of the Aether’s Caress service room, though he wasn’t sure whether he’d fallen back or been pushed back. He was also unaware, in such a dazed state as he was, that Quintessa had already left the room to give demonstrations to the other officers. He was now alone with Samantha.


Only it wasn’t Samantha.


The only way Samantha could appear out of thin air was if she materialized out of a transporter beam, and transportation did not work through Aether‘s energy fields. The possibility that this was someone’s idea of a practical joke seemed distant.


“But it is what you thought of, Archie,” Samantha replied, her hand running up the front of his uniform top. “Isn’t it?”


Archie looked down at Samantha’s hand. He reminded himself that it wasn’t Samantha’s hand. It was light wrapped in a soft layer of force energy and giving off heat. Lots of heat. So much heat, it almost burned. Not Samantha’s hand, certainly not, but the touch somehow excited him. It could be so easy to convince himself that this was really Samantha, in all her glorious flesh.


“I-I … thought of Commander A-Alces,” Archie stammered.


Samantha giggled playfully. “He’s not your type. But I … ” Her hand reached his shoulder and made its way up to his ear. The way it brushed the hair behind his ear was almost too much for him. How could this be Samantha? How could it not be? “I -am- your type, aren’t I, Archie? And you -did- think of me. You think of me … all the time.”


“Something is wrong,” Archie said. That much was obvious. This may have been the Samantha Archie wanted to know, but it wasn’t the Samantha he did know. It took months to even get her to notice him, and that was when they worked together at New Atlantis. Even then, the only looks he solicited from her were ones of her usual curiosity. She never appeared even the least bit interested in him, a fact that Archie was desperate to change. Desperate enough to create this Samantha with his thoughts?


Samantha’s hand wrapped around the back his head. “If this is wrong, then to hell with right.” And then she leaned over him and kissed him.


This time, Archie didn’t bother putting things in perspective. He didn’t remind himself that the lips touching his were simply a softer region of the force membrane surrounding this mass of light, or that the body pressed against his was more of that same membrane, down to every wonderful contour. He didn’t recall Quintessa mentioning that the constructs generate moisture for enhanced realism, an attribute he did not understand at the time, but one that’s benefit was becoming more clear. He didn’t believe that if any of this were real, none of it would be happening, because this only happened in his wildest imagination. He simply allowed himself to enjoy the kiss. His first kiss. With not just any woman, but the woman he was sure he loved.


By the time his mind returned from its euphoria (seconds, minutes, hours later?), Samantha was smiling over him. That same strange smile. Almost … devilish. He never could have imagined that smile on Samantha’s face. So, if this was his creation, why did she have such a smile on her face?


“Would you do anything for me Archie?” She asked. Her other hand was moving across his waist. Such heat! He didn’t realize that his tricorder was gone.


“W… what do you mean?” Archie asked, his senses again sharp enough for suspicion.


Samantha frowned and narrowed her eyes. It was the first time she wasn’t smiling, but somehow this look seemed less alarming. “Wrong answer, Archie.”


Pain. Terrible pain. It pierced his gut. The heat from Samantha’s other hand had turned into a fire that scorched his belly. He yelled out, but the room’s walls blocked out the sound. He looked down to see that the tip of Samantha’s hand had morphed into a shaft of pure energy stabbing into his flesh. As he watched, she withdraw the shaft and morphed it back into a hand. The pain was gone, and there was no sign of injury, though there was a hole in his uniform. The same energy that had burned him had also healed him.


“The correct is answer is ‘yes,’” Samantha continued, her fingers now gently teasing the exposed skin. “You -will- do anything I ask. Or … you will die.”


* * * * * *


Operator Akash noticed the anomaly in the Aether’s Caress mainframe quickly, but he did not report it to Quintessa. He knew that Quintessa was in one of the service rooms personally handling a client and that she preferred not to be disturbed with anything less than significant problems when she was in the service rooms. This problem did not appear significant.


Millions of beams of energy spun around Akash’s work chair in patterns that any trained Aetherian computer technician could decipher. Several Enzens ago, while Quintessa was overseeing the second of her three special clients, some of the beams had stopped moving. A few dijits later, they began moving on new unprogrammed pathways.


A momentary glitch, Akash speculated, for which the system was now attempting to compensate. He watched the errant beams, waiting for the programmed patterns to restore themselves. They did not restore themselves.


They only got worse.


Akash was uncertain about what, exactly, the new patterns revealed. He was sure of this much -- they were tied to the behavioral algorithms of the last construct which Quintessa had manifested, the demonstration she was giving to the first of her three clients, a construct labeled Samantha-Kent. Unfortunately, the behavioral algorithms themselves were kept hidden from the operators, to protect the privacy of Quintessa’s clients. If anything was going wrong, the client would no doubt be observing odd behavior from his construct. But an operator could not determine more without delving deeper into the mainframe, bypassing the privacy safeguards which Quintessa would only authorize bypassing in an extreme emergency.


This was not an emergency yet. At least, not an emergency that Akash was aware of. He was momentarily on the verge of reporting the anomaly to Quintessa, now on the last of her three clients. She would know if something were going wrong with one of the clients. But she would be done with her demonstrations soon, he assured himself, and then he could report the anomaly without any risk of angering her. The mainframe was his area of expertise, after all, and Quintessa did not like being disturbed by her assistants.


He instructed the computer to execute a diagnostic program. It would delve past the privacy safeguards without giving the operator any idea of what was going on in the service rooms (unless something had gone terribly wrong with the Samantha-Kent program, which it would report at once).


Before the diagnostic could be completed, however, things went from bad to worse. More of the beams were having their patterns altered. Quickly glancing over the now errant beams, Akash realized that they were tied to two more of the thirteen currently active constructs. There were now three constructs behaving oddly, including Samantha-Kent. And there were already signs of the trouble with the remaining ten; their lines of code were moving sluggishly.


Akash looked at the status of his diagnostic, only to see that it had failed. Not that it returned no results, but that it had completely failed. It had simply ceased functioning. That had never happened before. He quickly instructed the computer to begin a new one … but the computer did not respond.


Things had gone from worse to crisis.


Before Akash could contact Quintessa, Quintessa contacted him. Apparently she had tried to shut down the Tom-Servo construct after her client reacted badly to its appearance, but the system was not answering her. Akash also tried to shut down Tom-Servo, and even took the initiative to attempt shutting down all thirteen (they could deal with the clients’ complaints later), but the system did not respond to any of the requests.


Five of the constructs were now errant. Further, Akash was noticing a very curious pattern emerging in the beams of data which swirled around him. The lines of code which were tied to the Samantha-Kent construct were replicating themselves … and the replicated code was embedding itself inside the code tied to the other constructs. He guessed that this was the reason the system was not responding to his commands. The Samantha-Kent code was acting as a security barrier against outside intrusion. Further … it seemed to be taking on an administrative role within the system.


“Tell me what is happening, Akash,” Quintessa communicated through their neural interfaces.


Akash replied simply, “… I believe we are losing control of the system.”

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