Machine Girl: Hard Times Call For Hardwre – Chapter 18


Everything about the building they were entering seemed to be either extraneous or dangerous to Adam.  The confusion of scents, colors and the sheer number of places for enemies to lurk unseen had him on edge, but in spite of all that Victoria seemed excited and eager.  She was so happy to be there that he kept his concerns quiet and merely stayed vigilant.

What could it be about this place that made her so relaxed?  It certainly couldn’t be the company; she had been warned about Dmitri and about Ivanov and knew they were dangerous individuals.  Especially Dmitri, he exhibited characteristics that did not fit with normal human behavior.

Adam continued to monitor Victoria’s different systems, logging but not altering the spikes in different chemicals that her brain was manufacturing and releasing as well as their resulting impact on her activity.  Although some of these things seemed completely irrational, he also found them to be fascinating.

Although it had been more than an hour, the time seemed to have flown by.  This was troubling to Adam as he was very well aware that time was a logical constant.  He was just about to run a diagnostic on his internal clock program when a message pinged.  There was a response from the search program he and Kai Yuen-Ja had written.

Feeling excited, he began scrolling through the lines of code, following the convoluted series of IP address hops from ISP to ISP that his clever opponents had used to mask their trail.  If he hadn’t written the code himself and if he didn’t have the immense processing power of Victoria’s mind at his disposal, he might not have been fast enough to catch them.  As the jumps became shorter a feeling of apprehension began to come over him.  The signal originated from North Korea and it appeared to be trying to filter information about Eugene, Victoria and Yuen-Ja.  He had written a program that was targeting his family.

He pulled diagnostic files and researched connections, frantically trying to find the information his enemies were gathering and what use it might be to them.  Most of it was totally extraneous, but the extent of data that had been gathered was astounding.  They had everything from Victoria’s internet browsing history to medical records she had stored on her personal laptop.

One of the threads had led him back to data that was very familiar.  A moment’s inspection showed him that it was real time streaming data from the very connection he was using at that very moment.  He slammed his firewall safeguards down just before a massive brute force back hack smashed into them.  Adam didn’t even dare open a Bluetooth connection to send out an SOS to Kai Yuen-Ja.  The war he waged now was as real a threat to his existence as any he had ever faced and it took every possible ounce of processing power he could muster to keep it at bay.


“That looks absolutely lovely.”  Dmitri said, looking Victoria over with a smile on his lips.  She spun in a circle, enjoying the way the long skirt of the dress flared out.

“I can’t believe how well it fits.”  She said, smoothing the silk over her hips.  “It’s almost like it was made for me.”

“Then it must have been made just for you.”  Dimitri replied, “Come now, let us go and enjoy a little sushi and a bit of quiet relaxation in surroundings that are suitably elegant for your beauty.”

Victoria fought the urge to giggle that came from nowhere followed quickly by a wave of dizziness.  She swayed slightly and wobbled as her mechanical legs momentarily failed to compensate for her light headedness.  “That’s strange.  I feel… odd.”

Dmitri was at her side in an instant, putting a steadying arm behind her back.  “Your prosthetic is hot to the touch, is something wrong?”  He said, a touch of concern in his voice.

“What?  We’re fine.  I’m sure we’re just fine, probably just low blood sugar and too long on my feet.”  She said in an airy, unconcerned tone.  “I demand sashimi!”

Dmitri looked at her for a few heartbeats and Victoria leaned into his arm.  The dress slid over her skin and the sensation made her shiver.  She knew something wasn’t quite right but she just didn’t care.  This was enjoyable, her new dress was beautiful, she looked stunning in it and Dmitri had always been a perfect gentleman.

“Of course Miss Victoria.”  He said, tucking her hand into his arm and leading her out of La Belle.

Ivanov opened the door to the limousine and they slid inside.  Something about him seemed odd or wrong to Victoria but it wasn’t until they were well on their way that she realized what it was.  Adam hadn’t identified him as dangerous.  There was no orange outline around him and no warning message.

Idly, Victoria reached out to tap into her phone’s Bluetooth; just to send Eugene a quick text and ask him to check the logs, but found the connection had been severed.  Frowning slightly, she took her phone from her purse and swiped it awake.  It only took a few moments to text him.

“Is something the matter?”  Dmitri asked, not making any effort to see what she was doing.  He leaned back on the suede of his seat and watched her eyes.

“Probably nothing, I’m just sending a text to Eugene.  I just wanted him to look over a log file that’s all.”  A slight scraping sound made her look down.  Her left foot was twitching ever so slightly underneath the long skirt.  She focused on it and it quieted but now she was getting slightly more concerned.

Her phone buzzed with a message from Eugene.  ‘Can’t connect to log files.  Can you send manually?’

She texted back, ‘Out on date.  Will send later.  Why can’t you connect?’

‘Connection denied.’ He replied.

‘Should I worry?’ She asked, biting her lower lip.

‘If you are with Dmitri you will be fine.’

“Well.  I guess that’s a mark in your favor.”  Victoria said, giving Dmitri a speculative look.

“Something positive from the good Doctor?”  Dmitri asked, his voice completely level and calm.

“He seems to trust you, and since I trust him and you have given me no reason not to trust you.  Well except for that Ivanov is probably some kind of ‘hired killer’ or something.”  She put air quotes around ‘hired killer’ and giggled.

“What makes you say that?”  Dmitri’s voice was still careful and even.

“Oh.  Well.”  She wasn’t so sure she wanted to tell him about Adam’s programs.  Sighing in satisfaction, Victoria leaned back on the plush seat and gave Dmitri her best secret smile.  “Nothing.”

Dmitri gave her a level look, “You are not acting like your usual self.  This silly, random version of you is quite a change.”

“I’m no different than normal, I just want a night to enjoy myself.  I can relax around you Dmitri, is that so bad?”  She tried not to glare at him, but ended up failing miserably.  “Maybe I should just go home.”

“Or perhaps I should bring you to Doctor Arlington.”  Dmitri said, frowning.

“I was really looking forward to talking with you Dmitri.”  She said, giving him an inscrutable look, “What did you have in mind?”

“Yes.  Definitely straight to Eugene.”  He said, “Ivanov, if you please take us home.  Dr. Arlington should be in his apartment.”

“Damn it Dmitri, I’m not letting you take me to your place!”  Victoria said, knowing she wasn’t being fair. “I’m not your-“  Before she finished speaking, instinct took hold.  She opened the door, and dove out of the moving car.  Moments later gunfire erupted from both sides of the street, bullets ricocheting off the armored plating of the limousine.

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