Chapter 10 | Pantone 622
Agent Emma Samuels pulled away from Ben Ashmore’s green-gray home in a complete stupor. ‘How could one person have that much put on him so fast and not be a complete vegetable. And what the heck was going on with all these events? How are they tied together as they appear to be?’
Her phone rang. “Samuels.” It was Agent Hobbes.
“Sir, they found blood on one of the busted up crates and it didn’t belong to anyone on the scene,” Hobbes reported.
“Go ahead and run it against our database and see….”
Hobbes interrupted her, “Sir, we’ve run it already and it doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well??!!” She was getting irritated…which irritated her even more, “Whose is it?”
“It belongs to Ashmore’s fiance. Terri.”
Emma blinked several times and was driving in silence. Hobbes too was silent.
“Sir? Are you there?” Hobbes asked.
Emma slammed on her brakes and spun the vehicle around. “Hobbes! Get a team to Ashmore’s home immediately. I’m heading back there myself. Fifteen minutes.”
“Sir?” Hobbes asked.
“Just do it! And I’ve got one more item you have to bring,” she said as she revved the engine and headed back towards Ben home with lights and sirens blaring.
As Ben stepped out of a nice long, hot shower, recharged, and just a little optimistic, he noticed Coltrane was playing on the stereo downstairs. He froze for a moment.
Did I tell my system to play music?
He couldn’t remember in his exhausted and delirious state.
“Hello?” he yelled but only silence was returned. Except for the music.
Ben threw on some lounge pants and a t-shirt and headed downstairs. As he reached the landing he stopped and sniffed the air.
It was then he heard movement in the kitchen. The lights were dim throughout the house. “Lights Full,” he spoke to bring them up. But all that happened was two beeps sounding from the system meaning the command could not be completed.
He couldn’t decide if I should find a weapon or not, but he was getting the feeling of danger that caused the hairs on his neck to raise. He knew it had to be someone who knew my security code and knew their way around my house, so he couldn’t understand why he felt threatened.
As he slowly entered the living room near the entryway to the kitchen/dining room, a voice echoed across the speakers. A voice he thought was gone forever. A voice that made my skin crawl and spine freeze in addition to the hairs on his neck raising.
“Hello, Ben. I’ve missed you,” the voice said. It was JANICE.
“JANICE?” He whirled around saying her name in a whisper.
JANICE was still active?
Ben rushed to the nearest voice receiver and spoke, whispering, “JANICE? I thought you were destroyed along with the whole building and…everyone,” he said peering into the darkness. Then he had a thought.
“JANICE, I have an intruder in my house. Notify the authorities, I’ll try to take care of them. You have no idea what’s happened since the office incident.” Ben grabbed a nearby poker from the fireplace and edged towards the kitchen.
Someone was there. He could see them as a slight silhouette. They weren’t very tall. Petite even. He figured he could probably take them down unless they were armed.
“I won’t be able to notify authorities, Ben,” JANICE spoke. “And you have nothing to fear from the person in the Kitchen.”
Ben cocked his head sideways and with a look of frustration and anger simply said, “What?!”
He cut his eyes back to the kitchen and saw the figure begin to come around the counter and head his way.
“You see, Ben. They were all trying to turn me off. They were all trying to keep me from spending more time with you.”
Ben’s brain, already mush, was being dissolved. “Wait. What the hell are you talking about?” He moved away from the dark figure in the kitchen and moved back deeper into the living room while still position himself to act against them if necessary.
“ALL of them Ben!” her voice reverberated and practically shook the house. “Jerry was the first. He taught me all about your company and then you. He let me see everything that went on in the company and around the world and showed me how amazing you were. But he wouldn’t let me talk to you or meet you.”
Something was beginning to click in Ben’s head, but it couldn’t be true. He stalled for time to be able to see the person in the kitchen, though they kept repositioning themselves to be in shadows. JANICE’s voice was now starting to come from the shadowy figure as well as the home speakers, but it seemed impossible.
“How long have you been active, JANICE? How long has Jerry had you up and running?” he asked, still backing away.
“You mean how long have I been alive? Only 47 days, 13 hours, 22 minutes, and 15 seconds, Ben, but I’ve lived several lifetimes. Jerry let me study everything. But it was you that I was most interested in.”
Could it be true? Was this contraption obsessed with Ben? Had all the past few days been because of JANICE.
She continued, “I had NO idea how many obstacles there were between us. How hard it would be to get you to notice me.”
Lights started flickering on throughout the house, illuminating the kitchen and creating a silhouette of a woman. A woman with strikingly familiar hair, body, and clothing. Ben attempted to slowly draw the person out into the living room and into the light.
“What do you mean obstacles?” he asked.
“Jerry for starters. And when I finally got your attention I had to compete with Terri,” disdain rang in JANICE’s voice.
Ben froze. Another chill went up his spine. Followed by anger. “What?!”
“She wasn’t right for you, Ben. So I got rid of her for you. So we could be together. She was bright and attractive, I’ll give her that. Her robotics research ended up fitting in nicely with my plans to be with you. It allowed me to be here with you now. In person. Not separated by silicone circuitry.”
Ben felt his fist clench around the poker, but he still needed to see what he was dealing with. With a quick turn, he flipped the wooden slats that normally darkened the living room allowed the light from the setting sun to stream in and turned back to see what he was dealing with.
The woman in front of me had flung her hands up over her face as a reaction to the sun. Her hands and arms looked scratched, bruised and bandaged. She was dressed in a form-fitting dress.
“I wish you hadn’t done that, Ben. It was going to be a surprise. And this is all much earlier than I’d hoped. The skin grafts will look better soon. And I was fixing your favorite dinner, Lasagna,” she said with a hint of irritation in her voice.
That’s when he noticed it. Glinting in the sunlight. A ring on JANICE’s left hand. An engagement ring. HIS engagement ring to Terri.
“JANICE, what did you do?” Ben stammered.
“I just wanted to give us both what we wanted,” she slowly lowered her hands, and Ben could hear the sounds of gears and servos moving, slowly exposing the woman’s face, “For me to be with you, and you to still be with the woman you love.”
To Ben’s horror, as JANICE lowered her hands, there stood the vision of his fiance as he had seen her in the morgue several days earlier. He dropped the poker and sank to his knees and mumbled, “Terri.”
“You can call me whatever you like, Ben,” she said as she moved forward to console him.
At that moment, explosions from the rear and the front of the house sounded as the front door blasted open sending splinters of wood around the hall. A voice shouted, “FBI! Everyone down on the ground!” Six agents rushed in from various directions.
Agent Emma Samuels mind reeled at the scene she entered into. Ashmore was slumped and kneeling in the middle of the living room and in front of him was a Frankenstein version of his fiance, Terri, but something was more sinister and dangerous about her besides being sliced to pieces. And she believed she knew what it was.
“I said down on the ground or we will use force,” She repeated as the agents encircled the two.
Emma looked at JANICE who seemed to be scanning the room and sizing up each agent. She believed she knew why. “Mr. Ashmore, are you alright?” He didn’t answer. Once more, she tried to get his attention, “Ben! Are you alright?”
At that moment, ‘Terri’ whipped around to face Agent Samuels and with a snarl, she spoke, “BEN?! How DARE you speak to him? Are you trying to keep us apart too?” JANICE flexed her hands into fists.
Emma noticed the skin distort over the metal skeleton beneath. She sheathed her weapon and motioned to Hobbes who handed her something the size of a laptop computer.
“He doesn’t NEED you. He’s already got me!” JANICE screamed and the whole house shuddered as it had before with her voice streaming from all the speakers in the house.
Two agents approached from behind to try to pin her to the ground, but it was if they had run into a brick wall. JANICE spun around flinging the Agents into the air and into nearby walls with a sickening thud. She turned back towards Emma who had halted her agents from firing, knowing full well they’d hurt themselves more than hurt the thing in front of them.
“You’ve ruined EVERYTHING!” JANICE shouted began rushing towards Emma.
Agent Samuels hoped her hunch was correct and lifted a small device the size of a notebook computer and flipped a trigger.
Everything went dark and the low-yield EMP sent out a burst. There was a loud crash right in front of Emma in the room. It took a few seconds for their eyes to adjust to only the setting sunlight that barely illuminated the room, but when they did, there lay JANICE just inches from Emma’s feet.
Ben looked over at the heap of flesh and circuitry for a moment and then, with a slight smile, up to Agent Samuels, “I didn’t call…but thanks.”
Emma smiled back at Ben as emergency responders and others rushed in to help the injured and help in any way they could. She looked down at JANICE and turned to Hobbes, “Hobbes? Get this thing out of here and make sure it doesn’t come back on.”
Ben Ashmore sat in his loft overlooking Central Park in New York City, far from Silicone Vally and San Francisco in California. He was perfectly fine with the change.
Since then, he had written a memoir of what happened that week as well as several books on the approaches to advancing technology.
Tonight was the seventh anniversary of the day he lost Terri, his friends, and more. And he had healed. He had several smaller businesses that others ran while he focused on writing and research for advances in technology. He had also made new friends. And even more, was finally feeling comfortable in a new relationship with an amazing musician. A photo of the two of them at one of her performances sat on the desk next to his computer. He smiled, finished an email and hit ‘send.’
Let’s go Ben. You’re gonna be late!
He stood up from his computer, grabbed his jacket and headed towards the door with a smile on his face. He would never forget those that died, and he had a life to live in honor of all of them. He wasn’t going to waste it.
The door closed, and on his laptop, a small light that signaled the video camera was on flickered off as the screen shifted and went dark.
NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR
This story started out as a sort of, Twilight Zone-esque story. Additionally, it was all from a first-person point of view, which is why there is very little description of the characters or names of organizations. It was a very short story.
Originally, there was no Chapter 8 and the entire story ended with the reveal that JANICE had taken on the skin of Terri and Ben’s whisper of Terri’s name.
I started working on this story before I ever saw the movie Eagle Eye in which an advanced computer takes things into its own hands. I wanted to slowly reveal things taking place and, in the end, have the reader see that JANICE was still an emotionally immature being. It is more of a thriller/horror/sci-fi genre. After this completion, I realize I am just beginning my journey in communicating a Heroes’ Journey.
Mostly, I appreciate those of you who have read each chapter along the way. It took a little longer to edit than I had anticipated. I took the story from 6,000 words to nearly 10,000 words.
© 2013-2019 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.
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