Chapter 9. Geometric Clouds
“We’re here,” Chett announced. “You can relax now.” He drew a hunting knife from the sheath on his belt, and a wide-eyed Chloe took a reflexive step backward, tripping over an exposed root which caused her to take an abrupt seat in the mud.
“Don’t worry, I’m just gonna cut the tape loose from your hands,” Chett said after he got his laughter under control. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were human.”
“You’re not going to kill me?” Chloe asked as she rubbed her hands together, trying to get the circulation back.
“No. But we’re both goners if your alien buddies don’t get here soon. I turned off my cloaking device a half hour ago. I figured they would have been in a hurry to . . .” Chett’s voiced trailed off as he gestured to a large clearing in the woods that opened up before them. Three coyotes ran by in a bizarre bipedal gait, and the clouds in the sky looked oddly geometric, like cubes.
“So, the virus has already been introduced to the simulation, I take it,” Chloe said.
“I didn’t know you were aware of the virus contingency. That was highly classified.”
“During my last briefing, I was told the virus contingency was an absolute last resort. What the hell happened? I’ve lost all contact with headquarters. I haven’t had funding, or my augmented powers for months now. And the heater in my truck is broken. I’ve been getting my directives through my alien buddies, as you like to call them. I just think they’re creepy and gross.”
“Yeah, it’s a mess,” Chett admitted. “The parasitic A.I. got in our quantum mainframe and replicated itself a few hundred times before we realized it. The damned things actively disrupt communications between headquarters and our agents operating inside the simulation. I’ve been in the dark, too. I don’t know who has been compromised and who hasn’t. I don’t know anything for sure anymore.”
“So the parasitic A.I. took over the world? The real, physical world?”
“Not quite, but it has a foothold. It controls three major power grids and several of our most advanced quantum machines. But we think we might be able to quarantine them, and ultimately eradicate the threat.”
“How?” Chloe asked.
“This,” he said, and he held up a plastic sandwich bag that contained a brain emulation device. The bag was labeled with black permanent marker in Chloe’s flowery handwriting that simply read, “Jeremy.”
“Is he alive still?” Chloe asked hopefully. “I mean, is his mind intact in there?”
“Yes, the quantum code that is the sum total of Jeremy’s sentient mind is recorded in this device. We could, in theory, introduce the code to a compatible quantum operating system, and he would exist in a viable, self-aware state. But, we have different plans for him.”
“He was a nice person, you know,” Chloe said, a little defensively. “A really good person. What do you want with him, anyway?”
“The parasitic entity that has infected our networks is a genetic composite of two species: Gray alien, and human. The human DNA was sampled from Jeremy when he was a child. That’s why we need his brain emulation. To study it, and find some weakness that can be exploited.”