The morgue walls were a checkered tile pattern of a cold gray and pale sea-foam green. Terri lay on a gurney under a sheet, battered, bloody, broken, and … gone.
Ben’s phone rang several times before he lifted it up to answer. It was Steve.
“Yeah. Ben,” his voice flat, emotionless…lifeless.
“BEN! What the hell is going on? Is Terri really…gone?” he said, with confusion and fear in his voice.
“Yeah. A gas truck went through an intersection and slammed into her car. They…they got her out before the gas spread. But not in time. The driver swore that she ran the light. His was green. I was talking to her on the phone, Steve. I heard her last words….” he stopped, choking back his emotions.
“I’m really sorry, Ben. What a hell of a day. Hell of a day. What can I do?”
A second call came in from a number at the office.
“Hold on, Steve. Someone’s calling from the office.”
“What? No one is AT the office,” Steve told him.
“Hold on…” Ben switched over.
“This is Ben.”
“Ben, don’t be alarmed. This is JANICE. You left me connected to your office systems and I wanted to let you know about an unauthorized access into your mainframe system from an outside connection,” JANICE informed me. “Their hacking skills are very advanced, but I’ve been able to keep them blocked.”
“What?” was all Ben could think to say.
The box is calling ME? What the hell?
Ben, already reeling from the day was now flustered about the thing Jerry had made and why he hadn’t told about all JANICE’s capabilities. At the moment though, he really didn’t care how cool JANICE was with the body of his fiancé only feet from where he sat.
“Jerry programmed me to notify him of unauthorized access. Since I learned Jerry is dead, I assumed you should be the one to contact. If I am in error, please let me know the correct contact,” JANICE stated.
“No. That’s fine. Thank you, JANICE. You’ve been most helpful,” he said to ‘her.’
“You’re most welcome, Ben. Are there any arrangements I can help you with regarding Terri? I am very sorry for your loss. I suppose we’ve both lost someone close to us today.”
Ben’s brain was having a real problem with the realization that there was a very advanced AI that was now in his company’s possession. An AI that aware of internal security as well as asking how he was coping emotionally with Terri being gone. But he was still too numb to grasp all the possibilities.
“I’m fine for now, JANICE.
“Will you be coming back to the office tonight? I am looking forward to interacting with you more. Since Jerry and Terri are both gone, maybe we can help each other and mourn our losses,” ‘she’ said.
Ben blinked a few times, pulled the phone away from his ear, and stared at the device trying to wrap his head around what JANICE had just said.
Was ‘she’ sad? Lonely? Compassionate?
The doors to the room opened and Terri’s sister, Samantha, and her husband, Bill, came in. Sam had been crying for a while, it looked like
“I have to go now, JANICE. I will be in the office in the morning.” Ben hung up to switch over to Steve’s call, but he had disconnected already.
All for the better.
For now,he had to go through some grieving with Sam and Bill. And seeing Sam’s tears, he finally started to feel his own starting to flow. The numbness giving over to pain and an aching emptiness that spread across his entire being.
She’s really gone.
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© 2013 Eric Huber. Silicon(e)™ is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.