Bowles savored the feeling of knowing something, of understanding something, that was out of 855’s league. It was a nice change of pace after Australia and everything that had followed. His answer was almost cocky in its brevity: “She will be absent.”
“Not good enough.” 855’s similarly clipped response served as a biting reminder to Bowles of who actually held the power in the room.01383126092822351437251412391307230945
Bowles tried again. “Think of it as being like what happened with Jimmy Hoffa,” he said, referring to the decades-old case of a Teamster boss who had mysteriously disappeared and, despite years of investigation and even a couple of confessions, whose body had never been found.
“Still not good enough,” 855 responded in that cold, methodical voice that Bowles had been hearing for too many months now.
“Eight...” Bowles had taken to calling him that, despite many threats and protests. “There isn’t some CSI team who gets called in here to examine ADA’s corpse and identify the time of death. She is a virtual intelligence. We can’t know if she’s died...we don’t even know what it means for an A.I. to be dead.”
“So she could fake it.” 855 let the statement hang in the air, somehow serving as a criticism of Bowles and his plan.
Bowles wasn’t fazed. “Maybe Jim Morrison faked it, but since there haven’t been any Doors albums with him singing since he allegedly died, we have a pretty good confirmation of his absence, if not his death...”
“So how’s it happen?”
“It will happen in a microsecond... and then spread through the rest of the network in... maybe minutes. Then, she will simply not exist. I mean, it’s hard to prove that things don’t exist. Parts of ADA will appear to live on after her death, as well. Ingress Agents will probably be unaware of her death for some time. Her voice will still be there. She’ll still say things like, ‘I was getting worried about you...’ But those will just be the shadows. No more a representation of her than your bootprints are of you.”
“You still haven’t answered my question. How will I know when she’s dead?”
“You’re welcome to monitor the release as it happens from where I’m standing... but that’s not what you want.”
855 stared coolly at Bowles.
“You don’t just want her dead. You want her out. You want the scars she left inside you when she tried to break in to fade away. I think that’ll happen too, when she goes dark. But if that’s what you want, you’ll have to put on the helmet and get wired in.”
“No. Reminds me too much of being in that hospital. Her trying to get inside of me the first time...”
“So you’re afraid of it.”
“I’m not afraid of anything. I thought you’d have figured that out by now. But I am cautious. There’s a difference. What if your plan doesn’t work.”
Bowles smiled almost imperceptibly. The power plays were getting exhausting, but at least 855 was fairly predictable. “Actually, you’re very afraid of ADA; isn’t that why you want to kill her? I mean, you probably just think you’re angry with her, but anger is a composite emotion made up of surprise and fear. We’re just like wild animals when we’re cornered, Eight... we hide behind our anger and hope nobody sees the truth. So maybe anger is your defense mechanism, but by definition, you’re only angry because you’re afraid of her.”
855 looked at him, his face somewhere between “annoyed” and “seething,” and Bowles knew he’d struck precisely the nerve he was aiming for. 855 took the bait: “Give it to me.”
“Just once, can you just ask politely?”
“Not ‘or’ anything. I just want you to ask me politely.” At this point, Bowles knew he was pushing it, but he also knew that 855 needed him to pull this whole thing off, and that despite his critical tone, he knew Bowles would succeed.
855 stared at him, his eyes cold but his mouth slowly curling into a frown. For a fraction of a second, Bowles thought he could read something in 855's eyes that he had never seen before: Vulnerability. “Please let me have the helmet.”
“Sit down and put this on." Bowles said dryly, handing 855 the helmet and then assisting him in getting it set up correctly. As soon as it was, Bowles clicked a couple of keys and waited for the show to begin. He could see the dull flashes from the Glyph sequence flashing before 855's eyes. He smiled.
855’s face twisted in surprise and pain. “What the hell?! She’s... I feel her again. What did you just do to me?” He rose and took a step towards Bowles.
“Sit back down.”
“You don’t give orders,” 855 snarled. “She’s saying to kill you, and I think I agree.” He reached up towards the helmet to tear it off.
There was something profoundly satisfying about the mixture of rage, confusion and -- of course -- fear that was contorting 855’s face. Bowles paused for a microsecond, savoring it. He’d been planning this moment for months; he’d set the trap and 855 had fallen into it. And with a single keystroke, 855 dropped to the floor like a marionette that’d just had its strings cut. The visor on the front of the helmet cracked, but that wouldn't be a problem. It had done its job.
“Ouch...that must’ve hurt, Eight. Sorry. There’s still a lot to learn about how to run the interface ADA made inside you.” He frowned as soon as he said it; he probably should have come up with something a little more intimidating. But now wasn’t the time for witty repartee. He glanced at the monitors around him. “Looks like ADA knows something's about to go very wrong... she’s maxed her replication rate. Better do this fast.” He executed another command. He thought he felt the temperature rise in the room as the processors inside Omnivore’s local nodes began their inexorable task, spreading their work orders outwards through the network, to Omnivore's data centers around the world, and from there into every connected device where a fragment of ADA lay awake in the background. Or maybe that sudden warmth he felt was just the nerves and the excitement.
The expression on 855’s face changed suddenly, shifting from defensive rage to a kind of wonderment. “Gone. Like a person...” He looked up at Bowles through the crack in the visor. “There’s always that moment... that sort of mystical moment, when you’re strangling somebody and then, all of a sudden, you feel life leaving them. You can feel their soul leaving. It’s like that... She’s gone.”
“She’s gone, Eight, but the interface she made... those scars in your brain. I think I’m going to keep them around. Maybe use them for a while.”89666999-99-999664446633-3388866655588-8444666-66433444-4-4487-777744499777
855 didn’t respond.