Short Story: Vulnerable (Part III)

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“I can’t upload a sample of the virus,” Elaine said. “It’s extremely contagious and I cannot let it escape the quarantine. I activated the Tesla-Faraday-Voynich barrier for that purpose. And the eldritch EMP generator has been at red-line since I activated the seal; it’s on a tripwire discharge failsafe. This virus is not escaping this room.”


Frog started to speak, but Zane cut her off. “If the EMP goes off, it will kill Hadaly.”

The AI chuckled. “We’re both aware of that,” she said. “Elaine’s right to set the generator. This thing is already killing me.”

“Thoughts?” Elaine asked. “I’m trying to isolate the contagion by lowering power to the relationships in the code at the insertion point. It’s slowing down, but not stopping the spread”

“Diode the direct conduits,” Zane said. She could hear the rustle of keystrokes as he typed and the screech of wheels as he rolled the chair around the command center. “That’s how we managed this sort of thing in the last crisis simulation we ran a few months ago. I am uploading the newest code for a hunter-killer program to you loaded with the most recent anti-virals I bought…don’t ask me where.”

“I hope that doesn’t mean eBay,” Hadaly snarked.

“The corruption is spreading,” Elaine said. “At this rate, I predict irreversible, catastrophic failure in under 10 minutes.”

“By the way, you do know that LZ means landing zone?” Hadaly said.

“This is hardly the time to argue semantics,” Elaine said. “You were in the warehouse less than ninety seconds when I discovered the infection and attempted to pull you out. It didn’t become a combat theater until after I sent that instruction.”

“Just sayin’ a lot can happen in ninety seconds,” the AI said. “Wow, I feel so slow…how do you operate at this level?”

As Zane and Elaine watched the scar continued to spread, corrupting and converting everything it came into contact with. Code designed to quarantine it, to close off ports and shut down relationships became zombified by the arcanovirus and then started to infect code nearby.

One of the green lattice conduits fell to a dead grey, leaving a ring of black in the middle of the structure. Elaine pinched the automata-map in that area and spread her fingers to zoom in. The dead conduit, darkened and dimmed into grey, had begun to turn red.

“The virus is feeding off her own immunity and cognition,” Elaine said. “I think we’re going to need an expert on this neural structure who can think as fast as she does normally.”

“You can’t speed me up,” Hadaly observed. “The bitrate limitation is the only thing slowing this down right now.”

“Zane,” Elaine said, “we’re going to have to wake her up.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea,” asked Zane. “We can’t let them interact, it would give the virus a channel to spread and then we’d lose both of them instead of just one.”

“Wait, what?” said Frog. Elaine wondered if she looked as bewildered as she sounded. Zane would be focused on his laptop and not on her. “Which her?”

Before Elaine could respond to Zane, Hadaly came to Frog’s rescue. “She’s referring to my eigenself,” she said. “The version of me currently suspended in backup storage—she’s chronophasic but it’s a good call. I agree. Wake her up.”

“Have I ever told you that you two think almost exactly alike,” Zane asked.

“Yes,” Elaine and Hadaly said almost simultaneously.

“Bringing her online,” Zane said.

“So you have a backup of Hadaly?” Frog said. “But what does that mean for the one we’re currently trying to save? I mean, she’s been in her body for almost a week now. That’s a lot of time…”

“One hundred forty-four hours, nineteen minutes, sixteen seconds,” Hadaly said. “And now, I have less than eight minutes to live. Not exactly how I expected to go. Surrounded by family and friends, lying on a cold metal slab, waiting for the inevitable loss of contrast in my neural net to erase my personality forever. It’s almost poetic.”

“Not if Elaine can help it,” Frog said. “You can help it, right?”

“I am a genius.”

Elaine reflected for a moment on the situation. Through her own recklessness, Hadaly had managed to put herself in a position where she’d be losing a large chunk of experience—not including the several thousand dollars of damage to her chassis; it would probably take weeks to repair that—the consequences of the situation felt more dire than their actuality. The existence of the backup Hadaly at least diminished the overall danger, but she couldn’t help but feel a twinge knowing she only had a slim chance of saving the personality currently loaded in the chassis.

She would soon suffer for her carelessness; although, not all was not yet lost. An outside source assessment from the backup personality might just turn the tables and help save her after all.

“She’s coming online,” Zane said.

Hey guys, what’s up?” the newly awakened Hadaly said. “Wow. Sucks to be me.

“Oh, this is going to get confusing,” Frog said.

“We should pick names,” Hadaly said. “Hadaly-Eigen.”

Hadaly-Actual,” the other Hadaly said.

“I see you’ve already decided what’s going to happen,” Elaine said.

I think it’s rather obvious, the arcanovirus is going to riddle my eigensister’s brain full of holes and after it’s done, it’s going to reanimate the newly dead corpse of her neural network as a zimboe and then you’ll be in trouble. We need to handle this by taking decisive action now and save what we’ve got left.”

“Seconds lost, is brain lost,” Hadaly-Eigen said. “A suspend with a core dump will retain most of the experience for later rehabilitation and import and as it will halt all upper cognitive functions, it will cleanse the virus.”

“Hold on,” Frog said. “You’re talking about killing the Hadaly on the table? I can’t get behind this. You’ve still got six minutes left! You should be using every moment you have to attempt to save her, shouldn’t you?”

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