tagSci-Fi & FantasyGhost in the Machine Ch. 07

Ghost in the Machine Ch. 07

byBlind_Justice©

As always, huge thanks to bikoukumori, for squashing bugs and asking uncomfortable questions that make me work even harder.

There's only adults playing here, and no artificial intelligences were harmed.


#7: Cat in the crosshairs

Even after more than two weeks, Dad was still furious with Rich and me. He revoked online access for the both of us and changed the combination on the lock to his office, so we couldn't even use his computer. I could easily have taken a car and visited one of several 'Net-enabled places in town but, if the mess I made of myself last time was any indication, meeting with Catgirl would at least lead to some soaked briefs and I didn't want to completely humiliate myself in public.

So instead, I tried to relieve the mounting pressure in other ways. Molly tried her best, sometimes even enlisting the aid of her friend, but no matter what they tried, it all felt stale. Watching the hot maid make out with her friend wasn't turning me on like it used to and even their hot mouths on my balls and dick seldom elicited more than a feeble twitch from it. It was infuriating. I even couldn't bring myself off, no matter how long and hard I tried. And the worst part? Rich didn't seem to have any such problems. While I sat at home and tried to find a solution to my sudden lack of enthusiasm, he was busy doing the club circuit and fucking his brains out. I was glad his and my rooms weren't adjacient to one another or I might have gone mad with jealousy. Going by his wide grin every morning, he must be enjoying himself tremendously.

I was actually looking towards the next semester at college. Finally I would be able to access the 'Net freely and no one could stand in the way of me finding Catgirl. Musing over these thoughts, I padded from my room towards the kitchen. It was around 10 a.m., Dad had left around 5, as was his custom, Rich would no doubt be in his rooms, getting in a quick good-bye fuck with his latest conquests, so that left me alone down here. Normally, Molly would have woken me, with a platter of breakfast and maybe her lips around my dick, but ever since that Catgirl incident and my apparent lack of arousal, she had dialled her advances down quite some bit. I was just crossing the foyer as the main double doors were opened. A woman entered, and my god, what a looker she was! Copper-red hair flowed down almost to her slender waist, she sported a nice handful of tits and had a gorgeous, unmarred face, her grey-blue eyes slightly slanted, her lips smiling mischievously. Accompanying her was Wilkes, our driver.

"Hey Wilkes, who's she? Your new girlfriend," I quipped, pulling my bathrobe tight around me. No need to make a bad first impression, after all, especially since I was only wearing boxers underneath it.

"Parker, that's quite enough! Don't you recognize me anymore," the woman asked indignantly. Even her voice sounded young, vibrant, and quite poncy.

"Normally I don't forget a face, especially one such as gorgeous as yours, babe, but I'm at a loss here. Who're you?"

"Parker!" she snapped, and the way she said that, like her voice being some kind of whip or lash, spurred my imagination. I felt myself going scarlet.

"M-Mom?!"

"Nice to see you too, dearest. Where's your brother," she asked, strutting into the foyer as if she owned it. Well, technically, she did, but I found it hard to associate my fourty-nine year old mother with this supermodel sashaying into our home.

"Wilkes, be so kind and hit me. Is this really Saphire Squier," I asked the driver who smirked my way. I noticed the jacket of his livery was askew and his shirt was only half-tucked. Well, obviously "Mom" had given him a welcome-back present already. Dutifully, the powerfully built man punched my upper arm, causing me to take a quick step sideways or lose my balance.

"She's your mom alright, only hot," he chuckled.

My head spun. I knew Mom was somewhat obsessed with her looks but going from beautiful, regal wife to supermodel slash slut must have taken quite the bodysculpting. No wonder she was away for more than three months.

"Is it really you," I asked her, now only about arm's length away from me. Up close, I could recognize her, especially her eyes. They looked ancient in her doll-like face and the stern line between her eyes didn't suit her face either.

"What? Did I ruin my makeup somehow," she asked, slightly irritated at my searching stare.

"No, I'm just trying to find my mother in there, that's all," I replied. Suddenly, I wasn't very hungry anymore. I half-heartedly hugged her and welcomed her back home but then I turned and went back to my rooms.

***

I couldn't wait until the summer holidays were finally over. Mom was, somehow, scaring me shitless and she seemed to have found not only new looks, but a new sex drive while she was in Southeast Asia as well. Dad was surprisingly happy at how she looked and I stumbled upon them fucking each other's brain out one evening when I wanted to get a VidChip from the living room. And there they were, Dad happily drilling Mom on the expensive leather sofa. By the noises they were making, they were happier together than the last ten or so years. It felt seriously awkward. And Mom didn't stop there. She and Molly became practically inseparable, often stealing gropes and kisses in full view of me or Rich.

I was more than happy to get away and back to college. Dad had bought a nice double flat for Rich and me when we enrolled, ample space for each of us, and furnished with the latest in luxury. He reasoned we could rent out the property once done with college, make a little extra on the side with it. It also meant we had privacy, which I craved badly right now.

I threw my bags onto the bed, deciding that "later" would be soon enough to sort out the stuff I brought back from home. Then I ripped my deck from its protective padding and set it up. I had waited long enough. After changing into something comfortable, I pulled a massive beanbag chair next to the desk, sat down into it and jacked in. Impatiently, I flicked the switch to "ON".

***

I felt alive again. The slight breeze coming in through the open shoji doors gently pulled at the sashes holding my ninja garb together, bringing with it the soft smell of cherry blossoms. I shifted my weight, and the laquered floor boards underneath me shifted, barely perceptable. But my senses, boosted by amplifying programs, registered it. I opened my eyes. I was comfortably sitting on my heels in the middle of an octagonal shrine, the shadow of a dragon statue looming overhead. Three of the eight shoji doors were opened, allowing a wonderful view into a classical Japanese garden. An old man was gently raking gravel into a wave pattern, the breeze was causing the surface of the koi pond to ripple. It felt even more life-like, more "real" than usual. Maybe that was the case because I hadn't been online for nearly a month now. But now that I was online again, I decided to stop dawdling and start trying to find Catgirl again.

I got to my feet and made my way over to the base of the dragon statue behind me. On the pedestal, laid out in neat rows, were my tools. I took several straps of throwing blades and tied them around my thighs. The weapons on each strap were coated with a unique poison, some causing blindness, others nausea, others were laced with deadly venom. I hid several scrolls with magic incantations on my person and finally, reverently, I took my ninja-to from its resting place. The blade hummed gently before I placed it into the scabbard on my back. Even though I only wanted to search for another avatar, I preferred to be prepared for any eventuality.

Stepping outside, I raised my fist. A moment later, huge wings beat the air. A large falcon alighted on my fist and screeched in greeting. I patted its head and placed a hood over its eyes. Having an autonomous seeker program would surely be of use. Then I strode across the gravel, nodding towards the gardener who deeply bowed.

"Where are you going, master," he asked.

"SuperSexyStoryLand, I guess."

The gateway to the garden opened, the black void of the 'Net yawning like a giant maw. Quickening my steps, I jumped into the blackness. My feet easily found the glowing neon trail connecting my deck to the rest of the 'Net, and I enjoyed the airflow whipping around my cowl as I sped towards my destination.

***

Finding SuperSexyStoryLand was easy enough, the huge pink art-deco heart glowing brightly. I retraced my steps from last time, and sure enough, I found the secret back door again. Only this time, it didn't open for me. Maybe I needed the script that led Rich and me here the last time? Worth a try.

I pulled out a map from my belt sash and pointed at the address of my father's home office computer. I hoped that he only locked the door to his office and didn't bother to delete the accounts Rich and I had on that machine. Then I jumped onto a neon trail that would take me there.

Within moments, I landed at the front gate of Squier Mansion, every bit as impressive on the outside than it was on the inside. Nothing short of a lifelike representation of our real-life mansion would please my Dad. Under the watchful gaze of two bald, suit-wearing people with earpieces, sunglasses and not very subtle bulges under their armpits I produced my keycard and fed it to the reader next to the door. Obediently, the doors opened.

Grinning behind my mask, I made my way through our home system, until I was at the door to the office. I heard voices from within. Snaking a fiberoptic cable under the door, I used a small monitor on my bracer to view the room beyond that door. My father was holding court, a few other avatars were with him. Every signature was visible to me, and I noticed that these were all people from Mindlink. Some were from 'NetSecurity, some from R&D, and I even spotted Violet Smith, Dad's personal assistant, fidgeting at the edge of the room. And I saw the runic scroll, the link, the object of my desires, floating in mid-air above the table. What the fuck was going on in there? I needed to know. Just waltzing in would be a bad idea, so I pulled a stealth program, shaped like a gauzy cloak, from one of my pockets. I draped it over myself, then I invoked a little bit of system magic and teleported from shadow to shadow, ending up hidden behind a curtain, with a splendid view of Ms. Smith's virtual backside.

"So, any ideas yet," Dad asked.

One of the R&D guys, his signature said he was called "KentClark05" leaned closer, using an archaic magnifying glass to look at the scroll.

"It's more complex than any code we have on our systems, and much more advanced," he said, brushing a cowlick out of his face.

"And what exactly does it do? I nearly lost my lunch when I had to jack out as this thing hijacked my avatar," Dad growled.

"Basically, it's just a link. But the whole thing is packaged with commands I've never seen before," KentClark gushed.

"And it's these commands that worry me. The whole Mindlink system runs on my code, and this is NOT my code," Dad snarled.

"True, sir. This is extremely low-level, almost completely circumventing the usual OS APIs for avatar control. Remarkable!" KentClark was still browsing the code through his lens when Ms. Smith stepped up to him.

"Freeze it there," she snapped.

"Hey, I'm working here," the scientist complained, but shut his mouth when Dad glowered at him. I knew Dad was concerned. Normally, he would never bother to call his subordinates to a virtual meeting. He preferred a much more hands-on approach.

"What is it, Violet," Dad asked, his voice suddenly very gentle. That was new to me. I knew they worked closely together, but this was the tone reserved for a lover.

"I can't read much of the code but this bit," her finger pointed out a line of plain text, "this bit I know damn well. It's from her, Richard."

Obediently, KentClark magnified the lines in question. Most of the surrounding blocks of code were gibberish to me, but the clear string reading "Motion inhibitors activated" was obvious enough. Maybe this was one instruction to suppress the tell-tale warning?

"Are you sure," Dad asked. For a moment, it looked like he might touch her hand but he got the impulse under control remarkably quickly.

"Believe me, I'll never forget these words. Maybe she has learned by now. Maybe I'm just getting paranoid. But if I were you, I'd be careful from now on. This Cat is dangerous."

"Well, when I caught my sons, they exhibited behaviour not unlike your own. Maybe you're right.

Okay, gentlemen, I want this deck investigated. Leave no stone unturned. And you," he pointed at a sleek man wearing a suit made from black glass, "you will begin to analyze our codebase for weaknesses. I want this hijacking of avatars stopped at once. If need be, issue a patch for all latest releases. Throw in one or two new functions, so we can call it a 'feature update' instead of a bugfix. And don't tell anyone what we talked about today, understood?"

Everyone present nodded and Dad rose from his office chair.

"Well then. I'll shut down the machine in ninety seconds and bring it into the lab. I want this sorted out before the weekend and, if you have to, have everyone pull double shifts. See you on the other side soon."

They poured out of the office while Dad typed some commands into his desktop computer. Then he raised his hand, invoking the logout procedure. A moment later I was alone. Ninety seconds were a small eternity, especially if you only needed to download a tiny piece of code. So, after I made sure I was alone in the room, I left my hiding place and pulled a copy off the scroll still suspended in midair above the table. It took three long seconds until that piece of code was safely stored in my deck's memory bank. Then I pulled a small paper bag from my suit and upended it onto the table. Five mice and a tangle of insects fell onto the polished wood of the desk. These little pests would erase all traces of me from the logfiles. Then I invoked my own logout sequence and vanished in a puff of smoke while Dad's deck shut down.

***

A few moments later, I was again staring at the simple concrete backside of the Literotica servers. Since I knew what happened the last time, I had brought another of the phoenix scrolls, to keep the link from hijacking my avatar. I unfurled the link again, but instead of yanking my avatar through the wall like last time, it morphed into a shiny golden key. I held it up to the light. The handle of the key looked like a stylized cat. Smirking, I looked for a keyhole to put it in and found none. Out of obvious option, I tapped the end of the key against the concrete. With a high, chiming noise, the key vibrated in my fingers and, a moment later, a piece of the wall slid aside, revealing a simple staircase. Storing the key on my person, I entered the stairwell and followed it downwards. Behind me, the concrete wall rumbled shut. Despite the ominous sounds, I didn't feel threatened. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, a simple wooden door awaited me. No keyhole, just a normal handle. I turned it, slowly, for a silent entry. The hinges moved without a sound and, a moment later, I was in a small, carpeted hallway, with three doors going in three directions. One was open and leading into what looked like a comfortable living room. I took a quick peek inside. A comfy sofa, the low glass table cluttered with what looked like school utensils, several binders and an archaic laptop. A huge flatscreen adorned one wall, an impressive fireplace the other, complete with a rumpled shag carpet. The wall opposite me was made seemingly of glass panels, showing the dizzyingly chaotic tangles of neon, chrome and glass which seemed to make up most of the 'Net around this system.

The second door was closed. I again used my fiberoptic cable. Behind this door was a bedroom. On the large futon, two naked forms were lying. To my surprise, I knew them. One was Kung-Fu-Dude, the other one was Hibiko, the two "schoolkids" which were so eager to please Rich and me at Catgirl's behest last time.

The third door was slightly ajar, and as I approached it, I heard voices coming from it. Giggling, sighs, the occasional moan.

"Damn, Cat, keep going like that and you'll turn me into your little lesbian sex slave." This voice had a decidedly German accent.

"You make it sound as if that would be a bad thing," the other voice purred.

Goosebumps travelled down my spine and I noticed that I was getting hard. Yup. Catgirl. Her voice alone made me horny. And it sounded as if she had company. Playful company, by her giggling.

"I dunno, until very recently I considered myself pretty straight. But being with you just makes me so incredibly horny."

"So I have noticed. You could hardly keep your hands to yourself during today's lesson."

"Now you make it sound like it was something bad. You certainly didn't protest when I 'played' with you on the sofa."

"Why should I? But you broke the usual sequence. First, I teach you something about the 'Net, afterwards we play together."

"You know how it is. Rules are made to be broken," the other voice said, then there was the sound of two people kissing hotly, wetly.

"This has to be a human thing," Cat said, seemingly out of breath. "I need order. What would the 'Net be without order?"

"You know what I need? A long hard dick would be nice," the other voice said in a stage whisper.

"You need only to ask, I can alter my shape..." Cat began.

"Uhh... no, thank you, Cat. That reminds me too much of our first meeting and I frankly don't want to be reminded, okay?"

"I understand. Let me get Forrest then," Cat said, accompanied by the rustle of sheets.

"Didn't you tell me he's just a puppet to you," the other voice queried, doubting.

"Yes, I did. But here, in this system, he is as real as I want him to be. I'll be-"

She pulled the door fully open. Our eyes met and I had to fight the urge to bolt. I felt like a kid with a hand in the cookie jar.

Through the open door I could see another bedroom, this one extremely lush and comfy. A massive king-size bed took up most of it and on the bed another gorgeous avatar lounged. Her flesh was made from chrome that was so shiny, it looked almost wet. Maybe it was wet, going by Cat's smell of arousal. Her hair looked like fire, a long, thick plait coiling along her side. She was laying on her belly, her face on her forearm, a peaceful, contented smile playing around her ruby lips.

Cat looked different today. Gone was her catgirl appearance, instead, she looked like the epitome of a vampire fanboy's wet dream. Pale skin, shockingly red lips, the barest hint of fangs, mesmerizing green eyes, a lustrous mane of charcoal hair. The nipples topping off her breasts were erect and her mound was as bare as ever. My dick was again painfully straining against its bulletproof protection piece and the view offered to me made it even worse.

Cat blinked twice, then her lips curled in a surprised smile. Instead of accusing me of snooping around, she wrapped me in a crushing hug.

"Ninja-san! What a wonderful surprise! What are you doing here?"

"Hey, nice to see you too. So your name is Cat," I asked, curious. We didn't exactly exchange contact info the last time.

"Yes! And you are Parker Squier, right? I don't know many ninja with access to this system..."

Cat's hands travelled down my garb, effortlessly pulling apart sashes and undoing straps. Within moments, I was naked and Cat teased my painfully erect dick with her fingertips.

"I assume you're not too angry about me sneaking up on you like this," I asked, wrapping my arms around her. God, her hand on me felt so awesome! Like I was whole again.

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