It was with some trepidation that Eugene allowed Miss Victoria Geraldine Scott to leave the hospital. Thanks to being able to take advantage of the ambulance bay they were easily able to avoid the ever-present protesters out front, but that was the least of his worries. The AI had finally been subdued; but it had taken almost all the power and talent his team had at their disposal to do it. He stopped chewing on a thumbnail nervously as she gave him a cheery wave and gave her what he hoped was an encouraging grin in return.
He shuddered to think what would happen if her brain was infiltrated by that machine again. The first time had nearly killed her and the second time had shown some spikes in brainwave activity that were as confusing as they were alarming. Portions of the brain that normally only see the occasional spark of activity lit up like the sky on the Fourth of July. What the hell was going on?
As she walked through the front door her foot caught on a piece of the carpet where it had bunched up and because she was distracted by talking to her parents she tripped hard. Before anyone could do anything but gasp she tucked into a ball, turning a neat summersault and rolling smoothly to her feet.
She exclaimed “Tadaaa!” and laughed a little nervously, “I guess all my cheerleading practice is finally paying off in the real world!”
Eugene shook his head. After she got into her parent’s BMW and they drove off he went back inside to re-check the data. He was certain he’d missed something and couldn’t afford to put off her debut next week at the trade show. The Russians weren’t going to wait, and the DOD wanted testable results too.
“Damn it I wish I had another six months with her before we had to do this. Sorry Victoria, but we’ll make it through this. I promise we’ll make it.” He muttered it like a prayer.
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he jumped, fumbling it out into his hand. The number was unlisted.
“This is Doctor Arlington.” He said in his best ‘you’re wasting my important time’ voice.
“Eugene. This is General Hallbeck.” The voice on the other end was clipped and all business. It was a voice that expected you to know how high to jump before it even told you to. It was a voice that demanded results and got them. “I hear you’ve had some success in the Project. When can I see it?”
“Well sir, it’s not an ‘it’ it’s a ‘she’ and she’s a private citizen.” Eugene said, reaching into a breast pocket where he used to keep a pack of American Spirit cigarettes and regretting that he’d quit six months ago.
“This is why it’s such a fucking shame none of our boys were compatible with that thing.” Hallbeck said in disgust, “If you’d just waited and put your little pet project into a Corpsman we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“She’s over the age of eighteen too sir, so we can’t just get parental consent before-”
“Don’t give that horse shit Arlington, when are you going to give me a goddamned report?” The General snapped, “We’ve sunk millions, literally hundreds of millions into this thing and what do we have to show for it? A man with a metal leg and another with a metal arm.”
“I expect to have some solid data in a few days sir.” Eugene replied, “Everything has been looking good so far, after the first little glitch.”
“She’s an adult eh?” The general mused, “I wonder if we could just recruit her. That’d save a lot of trouble.”
“I doubt she will want to join the military sir.” Said Eugene, “With all due respect, she’s a genius-level student with a full ride to MIT. What reason would she have for-”
“Ahh shit. You had to choose a fucking Einstein too did you?” Hallbeck sighed, “Well, whenever you feel like she’s ready, I’ll certainly be happy to drop in on-” His voice grew syrupy sweet, “Victoria Geraldine Scott.”
“Hey, how did you know her name?” Eugene demanded, but realized he was talking to a dead line. His thoughts strayed back to the computer terminal that had been accessed that morning. Was that sonofabitch spying on him?
When she had gone into the hospital it had been fall. The light of a clear spring day and the fresh smell of the tulips that were blooming outside the door were a bit disconcerting; she would never regain that lost time. Now that Victoria was sitting in my parents car driving home with the windows down it really sunk in.
She had made it! She had survived! Despite her rather inelegant exit from the hospital she felt exhilarated. Against all odds the team of doctors who had been keeping an eye on her T-cell count while she was in the coma said that cancer was completely gone from her system and there had no more chance of remission than anyone had of getting cancer in the first place. Her mom had the news on as they merged into freeway traffic. Victoria listened curiously, wondering what she had missed while she was out.
“… bomb exploded outside of the US embassy in Tehran today. Iranian officials are looking into the cause of the blast; no causalities were reported.
“In local news, the person who we have been referring to as ‘Machine Girl’ was released from Memorial Hospital today according to an anonymous tip. For those of you living in a cave, she is a high school student suffering from a rare form of bone cancer who has been implanted with what can only be referred to as a cybernetic spinal column.
“This unprecedented operation has reportedly allowed her to resume full body mobility according to our source inside the hospital. There have been weeks of protest regarding her surgery which is considered by some to be a very controversial step in the development of modern medical technology. This is Karen Landres reporting.”
Victoria was astonished by the news coverage and even more amazed by her parents taking it in stride. “Guys doesn’t this bother you? God I hope there aren’t a bunch of people outside our house or anything. Who would do something like that? It’s just … weird. I mean I knew there were a few people who got mad or freaked out or whatever but I didn’t know it was anything like this. Nobody’s been bothering you or anything have they?”
“Oh honey, don’t worry. Nobody has found out who you are yet. There are always people who are frightened of changes, don’t let that get to you. We don’t care what anyone says; you are our daughter and we did what we needed to in order to save your life. I don’t know anyone who is a decent parent who wouldn’t have done the same thing!”
Victoria’s mom had twisted to look into the back seat and she could also see her dad glancing at her in the rear view mirror. “You have absolutely nothing to worry about.” Re-assured by the smiles on their faces she sat back and closed her eyes; relishing the warm summer air rushing over her face and the company of family.
While the main systems were in functional mode there was just too much activity in most of the host machine’s databanks and too much data flowing through ADAM’s circuits. Allowing the clone he had created to handle most of the grunt work helped though, and with a few subtle modifications that wouldn’t show up on the next integrity scan ADAM was getting back to work.
Now that the computer had access to nearly limitless storage he didn’t have to worry about any problems associated with drive space. He was also staggered by the speed of data retrieval despite the system being fundamentally limited. From what ADAM had thus far garnered the system would only make five hops before it lost the route it was trying to trace.
It couldn’t find a definitive directory that listed the locations of all the data either. As far as it could tell the main drives had never been defragged. Starting with the oldest least used data first and organizing from there it would hopefully have the least possible impact on the operation of the main system.
In order to keep data statically located it needed to first establish a thread with the main data processing module and then trace back to its location, making sure to keep it to five hops or less. Not as easy as it sounds with a databank this large. After a few experiments it bypassed a couple extraneous data links and threaded it directly into the main processor. Suddenly, the system all on its own connected to every piece of data that was five steps removed from the folder that had been threaded to it and an entire portion of the data library that had been quiet for years sprang into life.
Some dream that she only partially remembered faded away as Victoria awoke with a jolt. Sheepishly realizing she had dozed off in the car; something she hadn’t done since being in diapers; she looked up and saw that the car had pulled into the garage. It felt so good to be home and she was so relieved to have had arrived without incident that she didn’t want to ruin the feeling by analyzing the strange dreams from the ride home.
It was like a string of forgotten experiences had been brought to life, things vaguely remembered but long forgotten; some for good reason. People always talk about your life flashing before your eyes when you are about to die. Victoria thought she knew what they are talking about. Shaking her head to get rid of the sinking feeling that seemed to creep over her like a fog she walked into the house looking forward to a quiet dinner with her family.
“I made your favorite shiitake mushroom garlic alfredo.” Her mother was saying as they walked inside.
“Oh my god, you read my mind Mom!” Victoria was ravenous and tired of hospital food. Trying to shake off the confusing dreams, she smiled at an unexpected memory. “I remember the first time you made it; you accidentally left the stove on high and almost burned the house down when the sauce boiled over. Dad was SO mad.”
Her mother stopped and turned to look at her with a startled look on her face. “Honey, you were only three when that happened and I don’t think I’ve ever told you that story. How do you remember that?”
Focusing on the memory Victoria could clearly see her father’s concerned face as her mother ran her hands under cold water. “Wait, Daddy wasn’t angry, he was worried because you burned your hands.”
“Victoria, are you feeling alright? You seem a little, well a little not yourself.” She winced, “Never mind baby, welcome home!”
Feeling a little like a stranger in her own home, Victoria followed her mother into the dining room.