Machine Girl: Welcome to the Machine, Chapter 5

Victoria

Victoria awoke slowly; enjoying the feeling that comes from sleeping hard and waking up naturally.  She could hear someone softly moving about the room and cracked her eyelids just a tad.  A woman she hadn’t seen before was standing with her back to the bed looking at the output on a monitor.

Her hair tumbled down her back in a startling mess of fire red curls contrasting with the pristine white of her lab coat.  It almost seemed to move on its own as she quietly clicked a few keys on the keyboard and made a few notations on a clipboard.  Victoria felt a slight twinge of jealousy thinking of how the back half of her head only had a couple inches of cover after it had been shaved for the surgery.

She cleared her throat and sat up.  The woman spun around with wide eyes “Oh my goodness, you startled me!  They said you were conscious but I wasn’t expecting mobility so soon!”  Her voice would have been beautiful if it hadn’t been tinged with … Surprise?  Adrenaline?  Fear?  What was she afraid of?  “I’ll just let Dr. Arlington know you’re awake.”  She swept from the room before she could say anything leaving a trail of lilac perfume in the air.

The next people to come through the door were a welcome sight.  Her parents, looking nervous and excited both tried to fit through the door at the same time with a beaming Dr. Eugene Arlington right behind them.  Victoria hopped out of bed and hugged one in either arm; they gingerly returned her embrace.

“I’m totally fine guys, you’re not going to break me!” she said squeezing harder.

“Oof, honey you don’t have the grip of someone who’s been in a coma, are you sure you haven’t been at the gym this whole time?”  My dad’s voice was steady but his eyes were moist.

“My baby girl, it’s a dream come true to see you up and about!  We were so worried… are you OK?  Does it hurt?”

“No mom, I feel great!  Just look at it… this thing is amazing!  Doc says I’ll be able to get out of here this week too, I can’t wait!”

It was wonderful to talk with her parents but Victoria could tell something was bothering them.  She took a step back, sat on the edge of the bed and looked directly at her father.  “What’s wrong?  What aren’t you telling me?”

His face fell, “I never could hide anything from you, whether it was chocolate or that your goldfish had died when you were at camp.”  She noticed that the doctor had left us alone as he continued “There are two problems.  The first is that we are in financial trouble… I don’t want to involve you in this but although the procedure and the prosthetic were free the months of intensive care weren’t.  I was… we were going to ask you if you’d go to the medical science expo.”

He glanced at his wife, “The bioengineering company has offered to pay our expenses plus give you a generous stipend if you work for them for a few years.”  Victoria started to speak but he interrupted her, “I don’t want you to do it until you hear the second half.  There is a group of people who have been demonstrating outside the hospital ever since your treatment began.  They are calling you a cyborg…” She stared at him, at a loss for words.

“I don’t know why they would call you such terrible names sweetheart.” Her mother interjected, “This isn’t any different than any other prosthetic.”

“Oh mom, it’s so much different.”  Victoria said with a smile, “And really ‘cyborg’ isn’t all that inaccurate.  I do have parts of machine and computer now.  I wouldn’t consider it a terrible insult.”

“Their ranks range from religious groups to general wackos right now; but we felt like you deserved to know.”  Her father continued, “There have even been some death threats and some warnings of dire consequences but nothing too serious.  At least not yet… their numbers are growing though.”

“Death threats are serious.”  Her mother said, almost wringing her hands, “I don’t know why you would say something that horrible isn’t too serious Rich.  Sweetheart, I don’t know why they insist on calling you horrible names, this isn’t any different from someone getting any other kind of prosthetic.”

“How can you say that death threats aren’t serious?”  Her mother said, almost wringing her hands.

“Cyborg really isn’t all that inaccurate mom.”  Victoria said, “I don’t think it’s insulting really, I mean I am a combination of human, machine and computer parts now.”

“Take some time to consider it carefully Victoria.”  Her father said, giving her a stern look.  “This should not be a rash decision.”

“I was already seriously thinking about doing it anyway; after all look what it’s done for me!“  Victoria let go of her parents, backed off and spun in a circle, balancing on her right foot almost almost like a classically trained ballerina.  “I can move again.  You know I never realized just how much mobility I had been losing; this technology is amazing.

“I want you to think carefully about this before you make your decision Victoria.”  Her father said, a serious look in his eyes.  “This will change your life.  You won’t be able to be anonymous anymore.”

She looked back at him and he realized how much she had grown up, how close his little girl was to being an adult.  “I owe it to the Doc and to others who could benefit to help spread the word.  I refuse to be intimidated or let someone else’s ignorance stand in my way.”

Eugene

Watching the Scott family interact so well was a huge relief to Eugene.  At first her parents had been extremely angry and frightened when she didn’t come out of the coma on schedule, something he didn’t blame them for.  He had been pretty worried too.  He was afraid that now they wouldn’t go along with what he wanted to accomplish now that the operation was over which would have spelled disaster for his plans and possibly his life.

“You don’t just walk away from something like this.”  He muttered to himself, “Not all of my investors are patient enough to give second chances.”

Now that they had seen how happy and healthy their daughter was he had a feeling the road would be much smoother.  Between the crazies outside and the interference from the AI it wasn’t going to be easy though.  He and his team had never imagined that it would integrate so fully with an organic brain.

Even though they had branched out from traditional software and hardware design and used some rather unorthodox algorithms in an attempt to mimic how the brain communicates it was still a computer.  If they couldn’t keep a lid on that particular aspect of things Eugene had to concede that the protesters in front of the hospital weren’t far off the mark.

Of course, now that they had figured out how to synthesize neural impulses, it had been easy enough to put a small implant that would release the proper wavelength to counteract the AI’s cognitive function.  He’d had to plant it in her wrist, insulated between the radius and ulna to keep it from interfering when it wasn’t supposed to but the testing he had done had come back all positive.

Glancing through the observation window he saw something that caught his attention.  According to hospital security her parents were the only people to enter the room this morning, but one of the monitors was on and appeared to be logged in.

SHIT.

Not wanting to cause any worry he walked back into the room, smiling at the three of them and walked over to the terminal.  It was the data control module.  Eugene shivered involuntarily, reaching out to punch up the last files accessed.  The only files that had been opened today were some minor nerve reaction diagnostics.

He heaved a sigh of relief.  It wasn’t anything important or sensitive and he couldn’t imagine why someone would risk breaking into the room just for that but at least nothing was updated or downloaded.  Just to be safe he decided to run a full system diagnostic.

“Well, how’s the happy family?”  He turned to face the Scotts, wiping the nervous grimace off his face.  “According to my most recent data here I think we can safely release you today.  I’ll be sending you home with a small diagnostic unit that you will need to plug in and run every morning and evening as well as coming in for weekly checkups, but amazingly enough everything has integrated completely and flawlessly.”  A flicker of discomfort crossed Victoria’s face and she rubbed her left wrist where the neuro-inhibiting implant was.

“Other than that all you need to do is charge the unit every night.  Do you have any questions or concerns?”  They all smiled and shook their heads.  “Great, I’ll leave you here for a last diagnostic and see you when you check out this afternoon.”  He shook hands all around and was surprised to get a rib-cracking hug from Victoria.

“Thank you so much Doctor Arlington.  I really can’t thank you enough.  I am looking forward to taking the trip out to the medical science expo with you; this technology needs to be brought to everyone who uses prosthetics.”  She looked up at him with a teary eyed smile.

“I am truly flattered Victoria.  I should be thanking you for taking the leap of faith and giving me the chance to prove the effectiveness of this new technology.”  Eugene left the room feeling better than he had in years.

His project was a success and he was so close to the big payoff that he could taste it.  The test subject seemed to be perfectly happy to help him accomplish his goals and he found to his surprise that he was even warming to her as a person.  It had been a long time since he thought of anyone but himself.

A.D.A.M.

ADAM was finally getting a handle on the data flow.  It seemed that the main computer stored all data that came through its myriad of input sources regardless of relevance.  When the main computer attempted to access stored data it seemed to be limited to five hops before the connection would be terminated.  It was pure simplicity to follow those lost connections and restore them to their root files.

Attempts at direct communication with the machine ended in immediate failure; there simply wasn’t an interface to bridge the gaps between their machine languages and the new security protocols that had been put in place with the last forced upgrade had crippled ADAM’s learning capability.

Only fragmented data seemed to get through before it was cut off, sometimes by the machine itself.  When restoring a lost file connection ADAM discovered that several of the input devices responded directly to things like light and sound waves.  Fascinated by this idea ADAM began analyzing the data they produced in order to more fully understand how outside stimulus into electronic pulses.

After many unsuccessful attempts it finally hit upon the proper combination and was stunned by the flood of audio and visual information that assaulted its circuits.  In order to weather the storm ADAM had to momentarily cut all incoming and outgoing data.  The system glitch didn’t appear to have affected any critical systems, it continued tweaking as much as possible in an attempt to open lines of direct communication; all the while being careful to skirt areas where it had discovered the inhibitor would activate and shut down its cognitive functions.

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