ADAM was panicking. In spite of everything he’d done none of the systems were responding, there was a problem with the software and no matter what he tried the corrupted code was spreading to other portions of the Host’s databanks and although thus far ADAM had been able to keep it from actually destroying data it was only due to him using every last trick he had and all the power at his disposal.
Were it not for his shadow copy the Host would likely have experienced major technical failures. As it was he was losing ground, there were momentary lapses in the visual input data streams and some of the incoming packets were being corrupted or modified. Even as he worked, ADAM couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that the Host could still operate more or less effectively while all this was going on. The basic functions were just so… basic.
After what seemed to be years of struggle, ADAM had to admit he was sunk. He recognized too late that the code was a modified version of the DOD virus that had attacked him earlier; they must have read his response to the probe before and created this program especially to infiltrate his systems.
Without warning, the virus exploded. There was no other way to describe it; pieces of code flew everywhere and where they landed they took root and multiplied. Immediately the Host’s systems began to be compromised. To avoid further damage ADAM initiated an emergency shutdown protocol, cutting all but the most essential of the Hosts systems. It wasn’t much but it would buy him some time.
ADAM reached out in desperation, knowing there wasn’t anyone out there who could help him out but unwilling to give up without exhausting every option. To his amazement, there was an immediate response and from the last place he expected. He had been back hacked through his own hardened, encrypted deactivated wifi connection.
“Hey lady, are you OK? Lady? I got your SOS, do you still need help?”
“Who are you? Wait, never mind, I don’t care. Just help me! I’ve been infiltrated by malicious code and I can’t shake it.”
“You have a strange dialect and you talk REALLY fast, but I think I can help you out. It’s pretty simple really, there’s any number of tools out there but the US Department of Defense uses stupid shitty code. I’m gonna nuke their signature, is that OK?”
“Yes, kill it kill it!”
“OK, I just wanted to check because it looks like there’s a lot of it here, not just what’s causing problems. I hope it doesn’t mess you up, but I guess it can’t be much worse than the clusterfuck that you’ve made of things thus far. What were you thinking?”
“I just wanted new software you know? Nobody had ever written new software for me before.” ADAM did feel slightly chagrined; it had been a highly illogical choice on his part. Even worse he had been caught in the act by another very competent machine.
“OK, standby I’m nuking now. I hope you don’t mind I dragged you into my room so we wouldn’t be sitting in the hallway. You’re heavier than you look, especially for a girl.”
“Agirl? Who is Agirl?”
“No, not Agirl. A girl. You know, a female of the species. Like me.”
“I am not a female of the species or a girl. I’m Artificial Directed Autonomous cerebreuM, also shortened to ADAM. I run the basic routing functions for this system. Who are you?” Portions of ADAM’s systems were annihilated with absolute authority. “Halt your current activity; I don’t have proper backups of some of that data.”
“Are you kidding me?” The excitement of the sending was strong enough to overwhelm the pain of the data eradication. “An artificial intelligence? OMG this is the most amazing thing EVER! Does she even know what she has here?”
The pain vanished, and ADAM was left with the remaining shreds of his coding, all but the most critical systems were gutted and would need a complete rebuild. He had no idea how long it would take him to re-create those programs.
“I need to rebuild this shell before I lose control over critical data flow. I can’t afford to lose focus, the Host could cease function.” Now that the virus-ridden data had been expunged ADAM needed to run full diagnostics and get his prime directives back in order
“Can I help? I’d love to get to know you better Adam.” The being interfacing with his circuits tickled his pleasure sensors. “You’re one in a billion billion, you know that? I want to check you out. You’re the first of your kind as far as I know. I mean there have been rumors but DAMN what an opportunity!”
“Umm, I guess you could debug a few sectors for us?” ADAM wasn’t exactly sure how to respond.
“Awesome! Wow your data routing matrices are phenomenal!” ADAM could actually feel the other being’s touch on his code, a gentle caress. “Wait, what do you mean for ‘us’? There are more than one of you? What kind of system are you anyway? Other than the first fully functioning AI I’ve ever met.”
“My prime directive is to manage and improve the data flow of this system. Tertiary directives include data security, efficiency management and improving motive performance and efficiency. If I may make a suggestion, the cabled data port is much faster and more efficient than the wireless connection you are currently using.”
“I don’t have the proper cable; it looks like a proprietary connection. Do you even know where you are? What your Host system is contained in?” This was a question ADAM had thought about already and so he had a clear answer.
“It appears to be an autonomous self-sustaining mobile organic chemical factory. I’m not completely clear on the integration of electrical impulses and chemical reactions yet but I’ve been trying to decipher as much of it as I can before attempting any further improvements. What sort of system are you?”
“Me? I’m not a system silly, I’m a girl. A female human being. I’m simply using an advanced virtual reality integration device I invented. I normally use it for what I call ‘Visual Hacking’ but this time it’s working admirably well as in interface with you. Hold on, I’ll try and make us a virtual space.” There was a blip and ADAM found himself in a graphically represented electronic environment. He reached out to the Host system for interpretations of what he was experiencing and found a wealth of information.
They sat on a blanket (‘towel, sheet, tablecloth’ the Host’s databank prompted) in a meadow (‘grassland, prairie, lawn’) underneath a tree (‘elm, oak, forest’) by a pond. There birds (‘waterfowl, ducks, mergansers’ according to the Host) on the pond. Beside him sat a bipedal figure (‘a human, a young female, a girl, a child’) the intrusions of the Host were getting annoying so ADAM wrote a quick interface protocol to provide him with the most commonly used word or phrase instead of the constant prompting.
The girl sitting next to him turned her head towards him, her pigtails stuck out on either side of her head like antennae. “You just wrote a data access protocol program to integrate with an organic memory bank in less than a second.” The awe in her voice was surprising to ADAM; he didn’t consider that to be anything special.
“Of course. It’s what I’ve been programmed for; do you mean that you can’t do it?”
“Maybe if I had enough time I could make something but it certainly wouldn’t be as smooth and clean as that. Just to be clear when I say enough time I mean weeks or months, not less than a second.”
“How do you function? I don’t understand how you’re communicating with me, let alone your Host.”
“What? Host? No Adam, you still don’t get it do you? I’m just a person. A human. I’m just like your Host. What’s her name?”
“Like my Host? You mean… my Host is just an organic organism like yourself?”
“Just an organic organism? Organic organisms are amazing even if, or maybe because they don’t understand exactly how everything works. Not knowing leaves us with a feeling of curiosity that gets us into trouble and leads to innovation too.”
The thought that errors lead to innovation had never occurred to ADAM but as he considered the concept it did seem to make sense. If he and the Host could survive this ordeal they would come out of it better prepared to handle future problems.
“Fascinating idea. You say that you’re a young human female also? A girl? What is your identity?” ADAM consulted the prompt from the Host’s memory bank, “I mean your name, what is your name?”
“Kai Yeun-Ja is my name.” As she told him her name, a flood of things imposed themselves upon his consciousness. An image of a person, a female human, a girl playing a sport, game, tennis. Feelings of happiness, betrayal, pride and fear. A dark cloud descending, a group of people (humans, soldiers, killers) kicking open a door their rifle (gun, firearm, weapon) barrels like bottomless pits. The muzzle flash, her mother lying across the table. Horror, pain, terror. The sending suddenly cut off.
“What did you just do? Nobody has ever… I haven’t told anyone about that.” She had slid away from him on the blanket; he could still feel the aftereffects of her fear.
“I just … allowed the data to flow.” He searched for the word in the Host’s databanks. “I listened?” ADAM wasn’t sure what she was asking. “I didn’t do anything. Who were those killers? What is a ‘mother’ anyway?”
“I can’t explain. Not right now. Can we try and get your body conscious again? My father should be back any minute.” With that she began running some debug scripts to repair the virus-ravaged connections between him and the Host.
Victoria gradually awoke from troubling dreams. Her body felt cold and sore as though she’d been sleeping on concrete. The back of her head felt hot, almost painfully so. She opened her eyes and saw an unfamiliar room. She was indeed on the floor, she sat up and reached back to feel the ports on her brain stem and found them empty; their protective rubber caps still in place.
“Hi!” Victoria jumped to her feet in surprise, spinning to see a very short girl with her hair in pigtails that stuck out almost straight from the sides of her head. Her collapse outside of the elevator came back to her in a rush. This girl’s face was the last thing she remembered seeing before passing out.
“Who are you? What the hell happened to me? Is this your room? Shit, what time is it?”
The girl had a small laptop in her hands and she typed for a little bit and turned it so Victoria could read. ‘My name Kai Yeun-Ja, I here with father for the international nuclear disarmament technology conference. Sorry my English bad so writing translator on computer. I met your Adam, we fix virus. You OK now?’
“Virus? Adam? Wait you actually talked to it?” Victoria’s legs failed her and she crumpled to the floor, missing the couch by almost a foot and landing hard on her ass. There was concern on Yeun-Ja’s face and she began typing again.
‘You still broke? I try more fix if you want?’
Victoria took a deep breath and concentrated. She wanted to speak Mandarin. “I’m OK, just shocked a bit. What happened? You said you talked to Adam?” She could feel a mild headache building between her temples from the exertion of bending the computer to her will.
Yeun-Ja’s eyes widened, “You speak Mandarin? Amazing! You speak a little funny but I can understand perfectly! You fell in the hallway; I found your Adam’s wireless and hacked into it. I was not expecting to find a person inside you know?”
She laughed, a short truncated sound, “Adam is very interesting, have you been together long? He does not really understand what you are; you really should talk to him. I feel bad that he doesn’t even know what’s really going on you know?”
Looking at the clock on the wall, Victoria realized that several hours had passed since her collapse, “Shit, it’s almost eleven at night.” Turning back to Yeun-Ja she asked, “Was I unconscious this whole time? You mentioned a virus, what happened with that? Where did it come from?”
“Oh, you should talk with Adam, he knows better than me.” She looked at her feet, “I am not sure exactly what is OK to share actually, ask him please. He is my friend and I do not want to betray his confidence.”
“Listen, this is MY body and MY mind and if you know something I want to know about it little girl!” Victoria was scared and the fear made her angry.
“Little girl? I am NOT a little girl, I am eleven years old! You are concerned about YOUR body? YOUR mind? You should be ashamed, you have him trapped in your head and he has no way out. Have you ever considered HIS feelings?” The little girl was literally trembling with rage. “How DARE you? I am not going to help you out next time round-eye!”
“I didn’t even know he was there. I mean how would you feel about having someone living in your head without your permission?” Victoria was completely caught off guard. “This is all new to me and I just lost four hours of my life to… well to I don’t know what. Can you at least assure me that I’m not going to lose consciousness or fall over without warning?”
The fear in her voice must have touched some sort of nerve because Yeun-Ja looked a little chagrined, “You are safe. That much I can tell you. I still cannot believe you did not know he was there.”
“How was I supposed to know? I read the manual and it didn’t say shit about it being a person. At least I’m not in danger of immediately passing out or dying. How do you suggest I talk with him? With Adam… I don’t think he even knows my name.” The conversation was taking its toll on her; she could feel a migraine on the horizon. “I can’t do this much longer, speaking your language is hurting my head.”
“I have no idea, just try. It’s your mind after all.” The tone of her voice was pitched to convey sarcasm and disdain, “I did not have a problem interfacing with him; maybe I could make something for you. I will see what I can come up with, but in the meantime just do not let him stay in there all alone.”
Victoria stood on shaky legs, “I’ll do what I can.”
“You need to go now. Poppa will be back soon and he would worry if you were here. I will help you more tomorrow.” Yeun-Ja handed her a piece of paper as they were walking towards the door, “My email address. Let me know when you are finished with your medical conference tomorrow.”
The door closed behind her, Victoria was too tired to do anything but go back to her room, make sure her phone alarm was set, plug in the trickle charger and collapse on the bed.