The chair beneath him feels real. That bothers him. It means he’s in, at least, a level 6 GR, or Generated Reality. That means there’s a problem. Otherwise, he would be waking up in his own body right now. He sighs, a twelve hour shift being uploaded into a communications satellite, debugging the system had wore him down. He hopes it’s something simple, a bad connector, or faulty Kirlian Actualizer. If not, well, he may be stuck waiting on Bio-Services to grow him a new body. Happened last year to Simmons, three months stuck on a hard drive in long term storage. He shivers as the door opens. His stomach drops. It’s worse than he thought.
Nell, his Tech Supervisor comes in first. A combination of engineer and nurse, she monitors his body, and provides him with the virtual tools he needs while uploaded. Her friendly smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes as she greets him. Mr. Newman, their boss, follows. He doesn’t try to hide his discomfort, and annoyance. This is probably cutting into his golfing time. He’s followed by Cassandra Solis, the company founder, inventor of the process that allows him to do his job. He swallows nervously, a reflex from his meatware, as she glares at him.
Mr. Newman clears his throat as they sit. “So,uh,Julian, uh, First off great job on that ErnaComm satellite. They’re, uh very pleased with your work.”
Nell smiles. Mrs. Solis just stares.
Mr. Newman coughs, “We, however, have a problem, and feel we need to make you aware of it.” He holds his hands up, “Don’t panic! We have our best people working on it. We, uh, we hope to have it resolved today. Tomorrow at the latest.”
“Oh for Gods sake!” Mr. Solis smacks the table. “Mr.Davenport your wife stole a very valuable piece of software from this company, and used your body to smuggle it out! Why? Who is she working for?”
“Uh,” he stammers, looking at Nell incredulously. She won’t look at him. “What are you talking about?” He looks at Mrs. Solis, then Mr. Newman. Nothing. “Seriously, what’s going on? Kate…stole my body?”
“Technically it’s kidnapping,” Mr. Newman shrugs. “She did steal the program she was working on though, and we need to know why, Julian.”
“We know why,” Nell hisses.
“Hush,” Newman stares at her. He turns to Mrs. Solis, “It’s obvious he doesn’t know anything.”
“Because he’s a backup they created to slow us down!” Cassandra Solis jabs a finger in Julian’s face, “Mark my words, I will find you, the real you, and your wife, and make you pay for stealing from me!” She looks at Nell, “Find out what you can, then wipe him. We need the space for actual employees.” In a blink she disappears, exiting the GR to reclaim her body.
Mr. Newman turns to him, “Don’t worry, we’re not wiping you. I know you had nothing to do with this.” He turns to Nell, “Hide him somewhere until she calms down. I’ll try to reason with her.” He exits through the door, maintaining the illusion.
Julian shakes his head, running his fingers through his hair. What the hell is going on? Nell says something. He looks at her, “What?”
“I said I have a spot to keep you for now,” she smiles. “It’s a test server where I’ve been practicing my coding.” She pulls out her phone, and starts fiddling with it. “Hold on, just a second…There.” The meeting room fades, replaced by a rustic style living area in a log cabin. Through the sliding glass doors is a lake, with mountains in the distance. Julian jumps as deer suddenly bolt through the yard, and into the woods. It’s amazing. The cabin engages all of his senses. It’s better than reality. It’s a Level 8 at least.
Nell shrugs, “This is my pet project.” She blushes slightly, “I’m hoping, once it’s finished, it’ll be enough to get me into Product Development.”
Julian doesn’t let the new surroundings distract him for long. “What’s going on? Honestly. You said you knew why Kate stole my body.”
“It’s complicated,” Nell sighs. She points to a chair, “Sit down.”
He drops into the overstuffed chair. He sinks in, the cushions providing the right amount of resistance. Programs like this are usually the work of an entire team of people. He gains a whole new level of respect for Nell. She’s definitely slumming it working as his Tech Supervisor.
“So,” Nell sits across from him, “Kate’s A.I. research has progressed much farther than she had let on.”
“Yeah, it’s not just sentient, it’s sapient. There’s, uh, even a case being made for it being classified as a full sophont, with rights and privileges under the law.”
Julian’s stunned. He stares at Nell for several seconds, unable to wrap his head around the news. He shakes his head to clear it. “That’s amazing! What,” he laughs. “What test, or benchmark, are they using to make the case.”
Nell gives him a look of pity. “It’s been having an affair with Kate for the past six months.”
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