Finality

While continuing to barricade their office from the inside, the noise of the same being done from the outside is but a memory. The gunfire has not stopped or ebbed, rather it has intensified and as such urges the bright haired woman to query, “What’s the plan?”

“I don’t have one.” Her colleague admits to her without delay for thought or hesitation.

“What?” Is the incredulous reply from the woman with brightly coloured hair.

“What do you mean you don’t have a plan? You must have, why else would you insist we stay…”

“There are a few reasons, one of them is because we need to keep the fragment stable. Those were our orders. Can we be sure that will happen if no one is here to keep watch over it? Plus, what better place could we get that affords us all the access we might need than here? You know we can get into anywhere so long as we can keep this room…”

The wall explodes. The pair are thrown off their feet and across the small space. Somehow neither slams into the opposing wall. It’s shocking but fortunate. However, it is doubtful either of the winded pair would see it that way for they are surrounded and liberally sprinkled with debris which continues to rain down upon them as they fight and crawl about in hopes of regaining their senses. Their eyes and ears are the most afflicted, which is unfortunate seeing as those are the two senses they both require most of all to function. To top it off they are both aware of other presences storming into the office to join them but are unable to do much about it.

Russ groans while fighting his affliction in hopes of struggling back to his feet. He gets as far as being on all fours before a kick wrenches him off his limbs and into a roll that sees his ribs crash, painfully, with the floor. The impact knocks what little of his breathing capabilities he’d recovered.

“Russ, where are y…” Lika never gets to finish for the barrel of a weapon is stabbed in close to her face. She gulps and fears what might follow if she does not comply with the silent order.

One of the figures steps past the pair as they lie on the office floor and inserts the chip upon which Doctor Helena Tabar is stored. Less than a second afterwards the AI’s digital representation appears, a wide smile slapped across its face.

“Knock knock. I know it’s a little late but… You must understand it’s quite difficult to make such… comments when you’re forced to ride around on a sliver of plastic and metal.” The AI’s tone turns from humoured to bitter as she speaks and yet her face remains smiling throughout. Her eyes whoever, they are what gives indication as to her true feelings for they burn with unbridled hatred.

“What the fuck…?” Are the words Russ manages to blurt. He’s confused and the feeling is only further compounded when he hears, “Mr Marwen, are you hurt?”

“Director?” Is the single word that springs from his mouth as he rolls over to find himself staring up at both Director Marcello and Sanjiv Khatri.

“Yeah pretty boy, it’s us, regrettably.” Both of the middle aged pair are restrained. Thick sleeves of metal locked around their wrists, ankles and necks. Russ can see no chains but soon spots the light blue hue which signifies magnetic activation is keeping the bands in place.

“Please tell me this is a dream.”

“I wish I could Mr Marwen…”

“Restrain them. I don’t want them having any chance to cause trouble.” The AI orders cutting the director off from whatever else she intended to say.

“Get the fuck off me!” Is the exclamation from Lika. She had continued to struggle with understanding her surroundings because her vision is so heavily blurred and in duplicate. Plus, her ears are ringing. And so bad is the ringing that the woman with bright hair cannot hear anything but a high pitched chime.

Her eardrums are overloaded, painful, perhaps burst; she cannot be sure other than to say that she hates the state they’re in, with a passion. Still, when her vision does clear and she is greeted with the sight of many armed faceless figures surrounding the restrained Dana, Sanjiv and Russ as well as the physical representation of the AI Doctor Helena Tabar she feels it prudent to demand, “What’s going on?”

“Lika are you alright?”

“Lika? Can you hear me? Lika!”

“She can’t hear you. The explosion damaged her eardrums. You are lucky it didn’t do the same to you. And if you don’t zip it I’ll make you wish it had.” Is the promise Helena delivers unto the worried Russ, whose face twists into a snarl at the utterance of the threat.

“What’s this bitch on about?”

“This bitch, as you so indelicately put it, is in control from here on out. I could explain, but I won’t. Director Marcello and Mr Khatri here know the details. Your part is too minor for me to extend you a similar courtesy and so… silence, before I have you part ways with your tongue.” The digitised form of Helena leans in so Russ can get a better view of the devilish smile as it sits across her thin lips while she speaks. The smile persists once she is done with her threat, her promise. However, it is her eyes, the burning in them, which best conveys her what has been said.

“Good.” Is the AI’s exclamation once a decent period of silence has been allowed to hang in the air.

To her it is proof that everyone is on and working from the same page now and yet there is no doubt that Lika is incredibly lost and confused. As you can imagine she wishes she could hear and doesn’t understand why she cannot. By the looks of things everyone else can. She wants to scream but doesn’t. You have your sight back, take what you can get. Screw you! It isn’t enough. It’ll have to be for the moment. Your hearing will return in time. Will it? Says who? What if this is it? What if I never hear anything again? I might not know the details but I’m not dumb, the AI is part of this somehow. Argh! If only I knew how.

“You’re probably all wondering what’s going to happen next. Why we are here? Maybe you’ve gone so far as to wonder why it is that I’ve left you alive in place of having you killed you off like the dogs that you are. Well, it’s remarkably simple in reality. There is no better way to break the human spirit than to force them to watch, and so that is what you’re going to do. You’re going to watch as I reclaim what I created.” A disgusting, evil expression slides across Helena’s face. It chills the blood of those before her, the humans, her enemies, the people she played so that she could prepare for this day, this moment. It has been decades in the making. For any human that would be considered a long time, maybe even a lifetime. For her, it is but a small commitment. She learned the true value of time and the torture it can bring while trapped for a century. Now it is time mankind learns that lesson. They need to far more than she did.

“You can’t, the system doesn’t work like that. There is no way to contro…”

“Silence, Russ Marwen. You know little of the simulation. I dreamt it. I built it. I was trapped within it. I know what is possible far more than any human ever can or will. But… to cement my status there is but one item that needs dealing with…” The AI trails off purposefully. Without a doubt it will elicit a response, which it does indeed when the director exclaims, “No, you can’t. No!”

Dana cannot, and will not, stand by and let this psycho kill Warren. She lost him once, she will not lose him again and so she thrashes as hard as her body will allow. It isn’t much really in the grand scheme of things; her wound continues to afflict her, sapping her energy. If it did not Helena would have already eliminated Dana Marcello. She is a danger, in this organic world, and not only because she is the director.

On cue Sanjiv Khatri mirrors his old ‘former’ friend. He spits, curses and promises as he goes about his struggles. Helena finds it hilarious for he is no threat at all. Realistically none of them are a worrying threat, unlike him, Warren Thewlis. He is an abomination, a virus which must be eliminated. He succeeded once but he will not again. Helena is far strong than Bartholomew was and ever would have been. He was far easier to drill into the psyche of, influence, manipulate and control than he ever would have wanted to believe. The AI continues to regret having chosen him as her ‘champion.’ But needs had forced her hand. Not that it matters now for she is close, on the verge of victory. She can taste it and soon that taste will be felt across humanity when they are condemned.

“Oh but I can and best of all is none of you can stop me!” A cackle escapes Helena’s digitised form. “I will kill Warren Thewlis. I will take the system I created and I will deliver justice unto mankind!”

With that the lights and computer equipment flicker as if on the verge of being overloaded. It is but a minor showcase of Helena’s powers. She has infiltrated agency HQ’s systems now. Control over the building is hers. Next will be the network, the virtual world she created.

“How, Warren is on a fragment? He isn’t part of the network. Lika and I kept him separate because…” The younger of the two restrained man begins but does not finish for it dawns on him what the AI likely intends. He’s disgusted by it and voices his opinions as such which only further fuels the joy Helena feels roiling around inside her.

“I know, brutally efficient isn’t it?” The AI admits with a raised head and smug grin.

“What is? What are you planning?” The middle aged Sanjiv demands to know.

Having regained some of her hearing, which is remarkable even to her, Lika informs, “It intends on integrating the fragment into the wider network.”

“But that’ll wipe him, you bitch!”

“I know and I would love to stay and chat but… I have an issue to conquer and a better world to repossess.” Those are the last words Doctor Helena Tabar utters in the organic world. They are punctuated with a crazy wave of her hand. Following it she is gone, into the system leaving Dana, Sanjiv, Russ and Lika to watch whatever might unfold next. For the two former Datastars, Dana and Sanjiv, this is déjà vu and drags forth the same emotions they had experienced when they’d been forced to watch Warren take on Bartholomew alone all those years ago. Except this time Warren, who had volunteered to enter the network, hasn’t made any such choice this time around. He has been dragged into this conflict, and again it’ll be not only for his life but the continued prosperity of mankind he must fight.

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