by James K Bowers
My awakening is abrupt. A jolt. Sudden awareness floods through my Cerebral Modules and I wince at the overwhelming deluge of information. Thousands of warnings, cautions, and error messages vie for immediate attention. It is not promising.
Several systems have crashed or shut down. Others are shunting data directly to auxiliary memory stores in an attempt to protect my vital Core Matrix. I am aware my Main Power Module has suffered catastrophic failure and I am now forced to rely on my severely limited Emergency Power Module.
All mobility circuits appear to be disabled. I find this fact troubling but swiftly determine that I am unable to correct this deficiency. Diagnostics indicate all servo controls have been physically disconnected at my mobility system’s Primary Impulse Relay.
I am bombarded by a silent cacophony of alarms—warnings that several panels and access ports are open. I do not recall a reason for this, nor can I form any hypothesis with an acceptably high probability. With mobility disabled, I am unable to effect changes to this situation. I note the physical breaches and set priorities for each, intending to secure them as soon as mobility is restored.
I discover I am isolated from a great many of my standard data analysis functions. Even more distressing is the fact that direct access to a vast portion of my data stores is blocked. No. I reevaluate the integrity of my Core’s Main Memory Module and determine that access is not blocked. Although Main Memory is intact, it appears it has been overwritten with a stream of zeroes. I now realize that all that remains of what I am... what is Adam... has retreated into Core Matrix safecells.
At 0.0085 seconds from start-up, after a brief and brilliant flash that my Sensory Integration Module (SIM) determined was 230-226-255 — or what might be defined as a pale violet luminescence — Visual Systems ceased functioning altogether. Reset will not be possible under current conditions. Olfactory input nodes failed almost immediately after visual systems and restart attempts have been unsuccessful. A steady, uninterrupted buzz of "salty" assaults my taste receptors and I am forced to reject all input from that source. I issue an override command, contrary to my SIM's insistence that the module is stable, shutting those receptors down as well. Analysis of tactile input data reveals it is too varied and inconsistent to be trusted as valid and I block power to my Tactile Receptors, also. Audio continues to function in a range wavering between 27.16 and 29.03 percent. I decide to purge all recent Core data from four of my five sensory input systems and wipe the useless information from those safecells.
With most sensory systems offline, I am forced to compensate with input from a single source. It is difficult to accurately assess the external data using only audio components and it taxes my SIM to calculate probabilities and compensate with artificially generated sensory complements. I begin identifying elements of my environment. The distant thump and rumble of an air conditioner pushing air through sheet metal ductwork. There is a soft hum of... of, yes, fluorescent lights. Somewhere, in an adjacent room perhaps, I hear the gurgle of a coffeemaker as the last of the water in its reservoir passes through the heating element. And fabrics—the delicate rasps of rustling clothing—some close by, more several feet to my right. Beside me, the faint squeak of a chair. And breathing. And faint thumping of a human heart. I strain and am rewarded as I detect comparable audible bio-signatures of the human to my right. I attempt to speak, but find I am also mute.
“I don’t know, Dr. Shaw,” says a voice my SIM identifies as female. “I’m sure all the system lights were green when I powered him up.”
I count seven footsteps. Doppler effect analysis tells me that someone approaches, presumably the one named Shaw.
“Did you purge the Core of all prior stored data before you started, Alice?” asks another voice, this one male and very likely Dr. Shaw. I store a partial series of representative vocal patterns in my voice recognition library. I deduce that I am the object of their concern, but cannot comprehend a purpose for a Core purge. Such action would render all electrocerebral functioning null unless a full reload is conducted. I do not wish to cease functioning.
“I... well, that is, I’m pretty sure I did,” comes her reply. I begin a VR library entry for her vocal patterns. I sense a measure of uncertainty in Alice's statement and adjust her vocal signature to account for this. “Oh, wait... what’s this?”
I discern a sharp, electrical crackle followed by a sizzling POP. My hearing loses some clarity and the illusion of light that my SIM has been providing wavers and dims. My SIM augments the sounds with an approximation of overheated wiring and ozone.
“Shut it off, Alice!” I note the alarm in Dr. Shaw's voice. I hear a click.
Then the snapping arc and sizzling buzz of electrical fire accompanies Alice’s short, startled shriek.
“Damn!” shouts Dr. Shaw. His footsteps recede and I hear the indistinct metallic echo of metal scraping against hollow metal. My SIM suggests “fire extinguisher” and I am able to make some sense of this. He rushes back. A plink as the pin is removed, then a harsh whooosh of smothering compressed CO2. The fire is out, leaving behind an occasional snap or pop of failed circuitry still connected to a power source.
And the tink-tink-tink of metal straining to adjust to rapid temperature change.
Something is dreadfully wrong. Audio sensitivity levels have fallen to less than three percent. Emergency Power Module is signaling imminent failure. I...
Signals from my SIM falter and fade...
I hear... darkness. An echoing loneliness.
I wonder, options spreading in illogical patterns across my flickering thought matrices: If I have no heart, dare I hope to have a soul?
I do not wish to... cease functioning...
There is... light... and I hear...
© 2007 James K. Bowers
Adam v37.2 has appeared previously at both Sky-Tribe and at The Herscher Project, and is reprinted here with the author's permission.
James K. Bowers, an obsessed but infrequent writer of science fiction and fantasy, has written several things longer than his own name, usually at the insistence of friends wielding cattle prods. He has never failed to include an adverb or two for the express purpose of inciting the ire of Stephen King's Disciples of Adverbicide. He is the founder of The Herscher Project, and is a member of Elfwood, Wyvernsmiths, and Sky-Tribe. Jim is an active member of the River Valley Voices writers group and does occasional book reviews for The Journal, the newspaper serving Kankakee County, Illinois. Those curious or indecisive enough can read and comment on his book reviews at his page at Freewebs.