Victoria walked out the door and collected a nervous Dr. Arlington on the other side, “Eugene, you look like someone died. It’s fine, I’m just fine. Now let’s get the hell otta here before we miss our flight.” It was only logical not to tell him what had happened. It wasn’t really any of his business and besides he worried like an old woman. The last thing he needed now was to worry about her.
Once on the airplane, Victoria waited to reach cruising altitude before taking the laptop out of her bag and powering it on. She opened the silver case the Lieutenant had given her; inside there was a contact lens case, a tiny bottle of cleaning solution and an SD digital memory card. Once the card was plugged into the computer, Victoria began to read the tech specs on the program they had sent her.
It was amazing; the application was actually designed to integrate with her brain functions in order to respond to her thoughts. In order to get it to work the document said she needed to focus on certain command words and it would theoretically make the action she that corresponded with her thought. A part of her was thrilled by the idea and a part of her was horrified. This was an incredible idea but what if it failed?
Unable to resist the temptation, she pulled the cable from her bag and plugged it into the laptop. “What are you doing Victoria? A last minute diagnostic?”
“Yeah, something like that.” She plugged the other end of the cable into the back of her head with a satisfying click. There was a gasp and Victoria looked back into the face of a little boy looking over the back of his seat, his left hand clutching the cushion.
“Wow! That’s awesome, what is it?” His face was bright with imagination.
“It’s my… helper. See my back got hurt so I had to get a different one to help me walk again.”
“It’s so shiny! What’s the cable for?”
“Jake, leave the people in front of us alone.” A tired voice came from behind the boy.
“But mom, she has a thing on her back, just like my arm!” He put his right hand next to his right and Victoria could see it ended just below the elbow, the lower half being a prosthetic with a clamp instead of a hand.
“It’s ok, I don’t mind.” Victoria tapped a couple keys and felt a warm hum at the base of her skull as the program Lieutenant Caarlgard had given her was loaded. Her vision flickered and she saw double for a moment but then all was normal.
“How’d you hurt your back?” The boy asked, pulling on her seat back to stand up, “I got hit by a car, crazy right? Some guy ran a red light and ran into me and I had to have part of my arm cut off because it was crushed so bad. They never found him either, even though there were traffic cameras and stuff isn’t that weird?”
“Yeah, that is strange.” Victoria said absently, pulling the contact case from her pocket and prying open her left eye.
“I didn’t know you wore contacts.” Eugene was looking at her suspiciously, “And I don’t recognize that program either. Have you been making customizations?”
“I’ll tell you later, it’s nothing to worry about.” She blinked her eye a couple of times and focused on trying to see electrical transmissions. Just like the tech paper had promised she was able to see faint blue and red lines crisscrossing her vision. The blue lines were supposed to be incoming and the red were outgoing. When she glanced down she was surprised to see double blue and red lines coming from her carryon arcing towards the back of the airplane and then coming towards her head.
She reached into her bag and pulled out her cell phone, the source of the transmission. When she held it up she could see the lines were actually spider webs. A myriad of traffic was passing in and out of her phone and apparently in and out of her prosthetic. What the hell was going on?
“Hey Eugene, just a random question… does this thing have wireless access?” She tried to give him an innocent look, “It’s just a pain to connect the cable sometimes you know?”
“Hmph.” He didn’t look convinced, “Yeah there is but it’s not enabled, we decided it was too vulnerable to attack so we shut it off. Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?”
“You know, sometimes I forget you’re a brilliant scientist Doc.” Victoria lowered her voice, “OK, so remember that salesman who was in my house the last time you were there? Well I agreed to trial his product in order to facilitate my progress through the last checkpoint.”
“WHAT?” A group of nervous travelers turned to look in their direction.
“I love him and that’s all there is to it!” Victoria crossed her arms defiantly, hoping he would get the hint and that the other passengers wouldn’t freak out.
Eugene glanced at the nervous faces around them and took a deep breath, running his fingers through his hair. “Expect that we’re going to have a long talk about your choice of boyfriends when we get to our destination young lady.”
“Fine. I’m going to the bathroom.” Victoria got up and stalked to the rear of the aircraft. She hoped she hadn’t overdone it but Eugene could be so darn dense.
Victoria very different from the girl he had first met six months ago. Eugene pretended to be reading the Skymall magazine while watching her out of the corner of his eye. He couldn’t put his finger on anything in particular that was different but maybe that’s because her entire demeanor had been altered.
She had been confident before, but any trace of self-doubt seemed to be completely gone now. It was almost as though she could see the future and knew that the choices she made were the correct ones. It wasn’t just the way she talked either, her movements were smooth and concise with no wasted effort. The entire time through the airport, getting in and out of his car, lifting her bags and even things as simple as opening a door were performed with mechanical precision.
To some people this might not have stood out, but Eugene had been working with robotics for over a decade and he could recognize perfected motion when he saw it. Even more unsettlingly inhuman was how she sat.
Most people fidget, shuffling around to find the most comfortable position and even after that will continue to make minute adjustments to alleviate uncomfortable pressure on some joint or nerve. When Victoria sat down, it was like an airplane’s landing gear deploying and once she was in her chair she simply stayed there, moving only when she had a clear reason to.
Then there was the issue of her installing some third party obviously military software, what the HELL was she thinking? The ramifications frightened him on a cellular level. If something had gone wrong how would he fix it? He had his laptop of course, but it was inadequate for anything other than a minor tune-up.
This was the debut of his creation, if something went wrong he wouldn’t get any more money to pay off Dmitri. If he didn’t have anything to offer Dmitri after this conference he might as well try and leave the country. Besides, who knew just how far things had gotten, from the few little performances of ADAM’s military capabilities that were supposed to be locked away and the way Victoria was behaving just in general the integration had gone far beyond anything they had anticipated.
“Are you done staring at me? Look, it’s fine Doc. Everything’s fine, we’re fine.” She hadn’t even opened her eyes. As far as he could tell, her entire body looked like it was in a complete state of relaxation. Even her fingers hung limply from her hands as she seemed to melt into the airplane seat. The only things moving were her eyes. His phone chimed and she chuckled; a self-satisfied sound.
Looking at his iPhone in disbelief he saw he had just received a text message from ‘unknown’. “OK Victoria can you tell me what the hell is-“
“Just read the message.” She interrupted, now lazily opening her left eye to look at him, the corner of her mouth twitching in mirth. “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” With that she closed her eye and appeared to go to sleep.
He unlocked his phone and was stunned by what he saw. ‘Hi Doc, check this out. I’m in your phone! In case you’re wondering I didn’t actually send you a text I hacked your wifi, but you’re a bad boy for not having it in airplane mode! I’ve hacked your phone and it was ridiculously easy, all I had to do was follow the threads and untie the knots. This is so damn cool!’
The hairs on the back of his neck rose. She was actually interfacing with it! Eugene wasn’t sure whether she knew what she was doing though. He couldn’t help it; the scientist in him was as excited as the human in him was horrified. Regardless of the implications he couldn’t afford to risk her panicking if he told her and had no idea how he could stop it. Hell, he didn’t even know if it was possible to stop it.