Procrastination bug is biting hard these last few days. Sores all over my body. Mostly around my arse and fingers (no relation). But no bother, here it is, Part 13 of Owned. Only a few more parts left, I hope…
The drive to work was a short one. I turned off the auto-driving and sped the entire distance. Adrenaline surged through me like magma through a tropical jungle. I wouldn’t believe what I was doing if I were thinking at all while this all played out. Rage like this never overtook my sense before then. Virtual Me attempted numerous time to contact me via my cell. Each time I saw it was me calling me or my wife texting me, I threw it at the passenger seat. Every text, every ignored phone call fueled my new found energy more. It was invigorating. Before long only two outcomes were possible. Either virtual Me would beat me to the punch, have authorities waiting for me at work, and have me sent away like Kyle; or I was about to blow the lid on this virtual enslavement wide open saving the human race. I hoped the second one, of course.
I’m pretty sure I parked the car taking up three spaces outside that marbled shell of cardboard cubicles we called the office. I may even have left the car door open, maybe the keys in it. That part’s quite blurry now. Adrenaline does that, I assume.
Half jogging up to it’s brass and marble entrance, I texted Mark to meet me right now. That I was in the building. Or at least that’s what I intended to send.
I slammed the conference door open. Everyone turned, staring at me. It was then I realized how out of breath and soaked with sweat I was.
“You,” I gasped. “Now.” Noticing all those eyes staring, “Please. Just a second. Please.”
Our boss waved him out.
I wanted to talk where we stood, but Mark dragged me away from the conference room. Passed countless cubicles. They blurred together in a gray mass. Somehow I was too winded too protest yet still too winded to let Mark continue pulling me further down the hall. I tugged. He stopped.
“What the hell…”
“Mark,” each syllable burned, scratched my throat, freezing my lungs. But failure was not an option at this point. It was do or don’t do. “Listen.” Grabbing the wall for support, I stared down at the floor. Why was it the same color as the walls? Aren’t there other colors in the spectrum that are cheap to manufacture? “It’s. Threatening. Me.”
Looking up from the colorless floor, “Really? You have. To ask?”
“Jesus,” Mark blasted. Catching himself he whispered the same exclamation again before adding, “You can’t do this. You know what’ll happen, Chris.”
“But,” starting to catch my breath but still sweating buckets, “he has her. I can’t let it take her. She’s mine. It’s not too late.”
“What’s not,” catching himself yelling again, he moved in close whispering, “What’s not too late?”
“This. All of this.” I was standing on my own free will again leaving a wet hand print on the corrugated wall. “All this can end. Come with me.”
“Go with you where?”
“Back to the meeting. We’ll tell the whole team. That’s a dozen eyes and ears.”
“Jesus, Chris. No. You can’t.”
“If the monitors are still on we can post it. Send it to the media. There’s no reason we can’t end this takeover right here. Right now.”
“Am I? You explained this whole thing to me not two days ago. You’ve lost your wife, too. Hell, Kyle’s in the nut house.”
“Which is exactly where you’re headed if you don’t pipe down.”
Mark grabbed my shoulder, “Go home, Chris. You’re just angry. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Aren’t you angry it has your wife, too?”
“Sure. But, Jesus, man. What you’re talking about is pure suicide. Or worse.”
He caught me off guard with what he said next, “Hell, you don’t even like your wife. You’ve told me loads of times. Why fight this?”
Mark went very quiet, almost scared, “You’re crazy. You know that.”
“That machine is doing exactly what we said it would.”
“We were kids. This is reality, bro. We can’t just run around like some superhero. Unlike the movie, the hero never wins.”
“That’s my wife and nobody. Not you. Not virtual Me. Not anyone will have her but me.”
“You don’t even love her, you said so yourself.”
By then I stopped listening, turned, marched back to the conference room.
Nothing could stop me now. My cell was in my pocket where it was going to stay until I was done laying it out on the conference table. Virtual Me might have control over every computer it could access remotely, which was likely all of them, but it still had no control over human actions. Not directly anyway.
Mark grabbed me a few times as I came to the conference room door. I wriggled free each time. Each time I managed several more steps. The door handle was slippery, or my hands were soaked, or both. I didn’t stop to ask anyone. Turning to my long time friend, I said with an assertiveness I never heard from my own mouth before, “Don’t.” Apparently I wasn’t alone in realizing how stern my voice sounded. Mark stopped dead, stared. He had a pleading look. Easily ignorable given the circumstance. I unbuttoned my left shirt sleeve pulled my hand inward using the cuff as a grip. It opened.