And after, enjoy the song that my car pulled from my phone four times last week, while I was working on this. Oddly, it fit perfectly with this piece. I do believe "Pardon Me" has become my theme song for Domino.
Remember, this is a rough draft or, as I like to call it, "Take One." Doubtless, there will be many more drafts to come before publication. I'm pretty excited about embarking on this new world. Then again, it's always exciting when the Spirit introduces you to these new characters and worlds to create.
Enjoy, and have a great week!
Kasei silently closed the door to the darkened lab behind her. She thought about calling out, but she knew there was no need. The rest of the team had left several hours ago, and she disabled the cameras and app that would alert them to an after-hours presence in the chamber.
She rushed to the testing chamber at the back of the lab and booted up the program, disentangling the neural nodes from the careless knot that Brianna left after the last test subject left. What a slob. It’s no wonder the university was preparing to pull the plug on the experiment. It’s bad enough that their success was clouded by ethical questions, but the careless handling of equipment and data didn’t help matters. Perhaps it wouldn’t be necessary to take drastic measures if the others had been more diligent about proper procedure.
As if she wouldn’t have tried this already. Kasei intended to integrate with Domino from the beginning. Her family’s money and influence guaranteed her a spot on the research team, and generous donations to the university kept prying eyes out of the way, at least until recently. It didn’t matter. Nothing would stop her from fulfilling her legacy. Not the university. Not the safety officials. Not even her own research team. She would pick up where her father and grandfather left off. She would follow in their footsteps, all the way to that final vision that had eluded them for two generations. She refused to give up as quickly as everybody else did. She would succeed where they failed.
Kasei stuck the nodules on various points of her forehead and scalp underneath her long, blonde hair. Removing the nodes would take out chunks of that hair, but it was alright. She could get a haircut to hide the damage once this was done. It was a small price to pay to save the project.
Kasei dropped her slender body in the chair in front of the main computer screen. Her fingers flew across the keyboard entering the encryption codes that would unlock the system.
NEURAL CONNECTIONS CONFIRMED. INITIATE DOMINO?
She clicked “yes” and rushed to lie on the examination table connected to the back of the computer. She had approximately two minutes to connect the biological monitors before Domino would induce a beta wave brain pattern to connect her with the program.
Kasei’s heard raced as she completed the connections and laid on the table. All of the test subjects experienced heightened anxiety states when they initialized Domino. Her readings were high, but within acceptable parameters. They would drop off as the beta wave pattern took over.
The computer beeped, causing Kasei to jolt. What was that? She couldn’t see the monitor. Crap, she should have turned the work station toward her so she could see if any prompts needed attention before she went under. Better yet, she should have brought somebody from the team with her. The problem was that they all agreed to do this, but now that the time had come, they were hesitating. She couldn’t get them out of talking and into doing something about their stalled experiment.
More alerts rang out of the computer. She saw the reflection of a red flash against the opposite wall. Kasei tried to rise from the table, but found herself unable to move. A wave of drowsiness rolled over her, giving her a small sense of relief. Good, it seemed the program was working. The system was probably going haywire because she was outside of the parameters of their typical test subject.
Yes, by about 80 years! She thought as her consciousness drifted from the darkened lab to the tunnels of glistening light guiding her into Domino. Kasei felt a sense of release, as if she rose from her body.
She was in the Domino system.
Kasei willed herself to swim through the connections and nodes of the Internet, overwhelmed by the mass of data bombarding her consciousness. Tendrils of light touched her, connecting with her neural signals to build a profile of herself online. A skeletal light form of her body formed as the data processed, building her online “body” to navigate across the web.
A alarm pierced Kasei’s consciousness. A window opened, giving her a view of the camera in the lab focused on her body convulsing on the table.
That’s impossible! Domino worked. Besides, I disabled the cameras and security apps in the lab.
You did before, but it’s been reopened.
What? Who are you?
Kasei turned from the scene in front of her to see a large, dark form standing over her. What are you?
It’s over, Kasei. Domino is no more. It’s dead. Just like you.
Kasei studied the form, looking for a signature. It didn’t take long for the binary code to connect with her neural code, revealing the source.
It was from inside the system. And it had their fingerprints all over it.
“Traitors!” Kasei screamed, but the sound was swallowed up in the silence of the web. After all, code doesn’t scream.
Kasei swam through the light, fleeing the scene of her body’s final convulsion dropping her flatlined form on the table in the lab. The darkness pursued, scattering her signals across the web. She saw a doorway in the distance with a line of red code running across it’s frame.
The link to the web! The virus chasing her was confined to take Domino down. Could it survive on the web? Probably not. She was clever, but she wasn’t insidious enough to develop a virus that would get out of control. It would be targeted to this system. After all, we don’t want to hurt anybody, do we? So she had to get out of the system.
Kasei took one last look at her crumpled body on the examination table through the camera. There was no going back to that body. It was too damaged it to save. She had to find another way.
The darkness touched her, causing binary code to scatter through the system. She tried to scream again as she rushed toward the portal, as flashes of light and code were ripped from her digital form. Desperation fueled her energy to swim toward the door even as the darkness continued to rip parts off of her. She didn’t need all of herself. Anything would do. She just had to get to that door!
The darkness overtook the outer reaches of the system, spreading a blanket in front of her. Still, Kasei was undeterred. She girded up her energy and rushed straight through the middle of the darkness, where the center point was stretched thin. More light and code ripped off her, causing her to perceive agonizing pain. She burned as she rushed through the red doorway, collapsing on the other side opening up to the flashing lights and rushing code of the Internet. She turned to see the darkness behind her reaching toward her, it’s form dissipating against the security protocols of the doorway.
Kasei stilled herself, looking around at the bright world surrounding her. She made it. Most of her was scattered in the system, but the small part that survived was all she needed. It’s the Internet, after all, and she had been connected to it her whole life. There was more than enough out here to rebuild herself.
There was only one person who could write this program. And one other person who could talk her into doing it. And
both of them would pay. She saw it so clearly now. They wanted the experiment to fail. They never intended to join her on this journey. At best, their plan was to abandon her. At worst, it was to trap her in the system.
She would show them. She would make them pay. She knew them as well as they knew themselves. She would line them all up, and one by one, they would fall.