She ducked low, mentally directing her feet to form wheels as she leapt from the door and allowed the momentum from the car’s motion to carry her out of harm’s way. Once in the alley, she skidded to a halt and reverted her wheels to feet again.
“Neat trick.” A voice from a doorway startled her and she spun to face it. “Too bad you behaved exactly as we thought you would.”
Turing in horror, Victoria saw a ring of hard eyed men with heavy looking pistols in their hands step from the shadows, completely surrounding her. “Just give up, we don’t want to damage the merchandise.”
For a moment, Victoria panicked. She whipped her head around, frantically searching for an exit and didn’t find one. Then a feeling of calm fell over her and she had to keep her face smooth lest she give away her surprise. Apparently she didn’t have the best poker face though, the men all hesitated and leveled their firearms at her.
A series of metallic clicks released the safety catches in her legs and she crouched slightly. David had told her not to use this function yet, but it was this or die. Trying to access the data on how the leaping mechanism worked failed, but Victoria didn’t have the luxury of waiting around.
“What was that sound? What are you doing? Stop it at once!”
“I give up.” She said, raising her hands. “Just don’t shoot.”
Only about half the men fell for her ruse and lowered their guns, but it didn’t matter. A mental nudge released the last catch that contained the power of the molecularly aligned titanium cables and Nanomuscle fibers all at once and Victoria sprang ten stories straight up and crash landed on top of one of the nearby buildings. A wild surge of anger at ruining her new dress and astonishment at the ridiculous nature of such a thought made her feel like laughing hysterically.
The gunfire from the men below was likely reflexive as all the shots went wide. The sheer exhilaration of leaping through the air left her gasping and breathless which was just as well since she couldn’t have stood. Since she hadn’t landed on her feet or from any real height the springs hadn’t been able to retract on their own and it would take a few minutes for the tiny motors integrated into the legs to crank them back down.
Victoria attempted to tap into her phone and found the connection unavailable; Adam wasn’t responding. Pulling it from the stylish purse that matched her dress, she almost cut her fingers on the shattered glass of the screen. She had landed on it, completely destroying it. Damn, she was here alone without any way to contact anyone.
She took a moment to look down at her legs and saw large cracks on both thighs; the carbon fiber had splintered from the release of potential energy. A series of sharp clicks announced the retraction process had finished. Victoria queried Adam for a status report and got a strange series of panicked impressions. Something terrible was happening to him and if she didn’t help him right now he might die.
The realization hit her like a bucket of ice water. No matter what was happening in the real world, she couldn’t hesitate to help her friend, companion, and symbiont. It would be the death of them both and she owed Adam.
Closing her eyes, Victoria pulled her knees up against her chest and leaned back against the brick wall and opened herself to Adam as completely as she knew how. Chaotic images flashed past her consciousness too fast to follow. Her head began to ache with the precursor to a migraine but she ignored it and forced the things she was experiencing to come into focus.
She was standing on a graphical line drawing of the building where her physical body sat. A swarm of tiny shapes flew around her body so swiftly that she couldn’t see what they were, only it wasn’t her body at all. It was what she would imagine the boy Adam had been when she first rescued him would grow into as a man.
The tiny shapes were flying through him and tearing pieces of him apart with every passage. He was defending himself as best he could, but there were just too many. A cry that spoke of pain and fear came from Adam. Even though she couldn’t understand the words, Victoria felt anger burning within her.
She focused, knowing that this was her mind and that imagination was her best and only weapon. Looking down at her body, she watched an exoskeleton of liquid metal flow over it. Electricity began to crackle in her left hand and her right hand became a long, slender sword blade. It was time to do battle.
He was fighting but it was a losing battle. They were eating his code and with every bite bytes of him were vanishing. His carefully constructed safeguards dissolved under the onslaught and even the clever tricks Kai Yuen-Ja had taught him were useless. Small jolts of controlled code managed to deflect some of the attacks on his core systems but there were too many of the things for him to properly defend himself.
Frantically, Adam tried again to contact Victoria and to his immense relief he felt her respond. Reaching out for the resources she could provide he felt something unbelievable. Victoria wasn’t just granting him resources. She was actually there.
“You cannot do this!” He shouted, trying to move towards her. “You must leave! Victoria you can’t be here!”
She stood in front of him, wearing the garment she had been in the physical world. Her eyes flashed with fire and her body became a thing of absolute beauty, all steel and technological prowess. Moving with fluid grace, she danced among the flying forms of destructive code. The lightning from her left hand incinerated them and the blade in her right slashed them, she floated like a leaf on the wind and destruction followed in her wake.
Despite her power and grace, there were millions of enemies and she was surrounded in an instant their bodies obscuring her from his view. “No! Victoria!”
Adam surged forward, letting go of his defenses in favor of an all-out attack. The electricity that arced from his outstretched hand mirrored what he had seen Victoria use moments ago. He felt a solid connection, a hand clasping his, the fading power he still merging with something far greater. An explosion of white light overwhelmed the digital landscape as a pure force of electronic will reformatted it into something else.
Victoria sat on the grass, leaning against a plant (tree, weeping willow) wearing a white cotton dress and sun hat. A pond with birds (ducks, mallards) swimming in it was not far away. Adam sat next to her wearing shorts and a crisp linen shirt. It was the place he had first met Kai Yuen-Ja. Where he had first realized what and who he was.
“What happened Adam?” She asked, looking at him with a bemused expression on her face.
“I think you managed to purge the virus.” He said, “Your algorithms were not very elegant but the sheer overwhelming force of your program seems to have removed the hostile code.”
“Is that really how you see yourself?” Victoria was still staring (looking, observing, studying, ogling) at him.
“I do not ‘see’ myself as anything.” He replied, “Is that really what you believe your current physical representation to be?”
Victoria looked at herself and sadly shook her head. “No. Look, there aren’t any robotics at all.”
“I do not find this memory in any of your storage archives.” Adam continued, “Is this a construction of your conscious processing then?” He didn’t know how Victoria had accessed these files, but this was yet another sign of just how reliant on her he was.
“I owe you an apology Adam.” She said softly, “I know I was not paying attention before when you needed me. It won’t happen again.”
Something made Adam feel as though he were a guitar string that had just been plucked. A feeling, a real, true feeling washed over him and he smiled shyly at her. “Apology accepted.”
“Oh no.” Victoria gasped, “Oh NO! Adam, how do I get out? I need to get out they’re going to kill me how do I-“
She vanished and Adam got to work. If they were going to survive and her physical vessel was in danger, he absolutely had to get the core systems online again as quickly as possible. Bypassing the safety and security protocols he had painstakingly built, Adam put Victoria in full on war mode. It was indeed time to do battle.