My Office RomancebyStorm62©
A bit(!) far-fetched maybe, but just a gentle story of two people finding each other in strange circumstance
Hello, my name is Dave and I'd like to tell you about my office romance. I've talked with Megan and she says it's okay to relate the details of our relationship. It all started when I got a new job. I had been having some problems and needed some time alone to think, the post of temporary night supervisor became vacant and I applied. It was an easy job, collating reports and sending them on to the appropriate people for the next morning. Most of the time I was in the building on my own, but once a night the security guard came over and checked on me. We usually had our meal break at this point in the evening, but after that it was just me: Or so I thought.
After about three weeks in the job I had settled into a routine. First thing was to complete all the reports. Sometimes this took an hour, sometimes as much as three hours. After this my time was pretty much my own unless an urgent job was e-mailed down from head office. After meeting with Mike the security guard, as long as my work was done, I used to check the open plan offices for him, making sure that this building at least was secure. As I said, I was three weeks into this routine when I met Megan. There had been little work to do on the computer, I had met with Mike and done my circuit of the building and now headed back to my part of the office. As I approached I could see that there was someone in the cubicle next to mine. A little surprised, I went over and challenged her. She looked around at me, but didn't seem startled. I asked if she was supposed to be here and she showed me her ID badge.
Megan Collins was the name on it. I didn't recognise the name and I hadn't been told someone else was going to be working. (When I took the post they told me very occasionally a project might need to be finished but I would be told about it when required.) I was about to call Mike when she held out her hand and turned off the walkie-talkie.
"Please don't." Was all she said. I sat down beside her and asked what she was doing here at this late hour. "Just checking on how my work is getting on." She replied. I didn't press her, I was suddenly aware of how pretty she was. Her long hair not really dark but definitely not blonde, her green eyes framed by thin glasses. I had the feeling that she wanted to talk, but I couldn't think of anything coherent to say; 'Have you been working here long?' was the best I could come up with. (Do you come here often? for the workplace.)
"I started here about eight years ago." She replied.
"I can't say that I've seen you before."
"I've worked nights for a long time." This puzzled me, because, as I said, I thought I was the only one in the offices at night.
"Would you like some coffee?" I asked, getting up and going to the coffee pot.
"I'd love one." Her voice seemed to fade as I moved away, and when I turned around with two coffees' she had gone. I stood and looked around the deserted open plan office and she was nowhere to be seen, it was as if she had vanished into thin air.
I called out, but there was no reply: Megan had gone.
I didn't see her again for nearly a week. When I had left that morning I had checked the clock cards, but couldn't see her name. That didn't mean much as not everyone clocked in and out. I did a lot of work for the next couple of nights and in consequence didn't get to speak to Mike. When I finally got to speak to him, I had had two nights to realise how pretty Megan had been, but what he told me I could hardly believe. As soon as I asked if anyone else was supposed to be in the building he smiled and said:
"You've met Megan then?"
"Yes, she was very pretty, but seemed a little distracted, and then she disappeared."
"Megan Collins was one of your predecessors. She vanished about eighteen months ago. They found her car in the river but not her body. Since then she appears every so often in the offices."
"She's dead? A ghost?" I was astonished; she had seemed so solid.
"Yeah. Scared everyone who worked the night shift afterwards." Mike paused. "She doesn't scare you?" He asked.
"No, I don't think so. She seemed lonely, and I thought she wanted to ask me something."
"Maybe she did. They say ghosts are spirits who can't rest until some task is finished. Perhaps she wants a hand?" He smiled.
"Maybe." I looked at him. Either he was telling the truth about Megan, or he could make a fortune playing poker. "If I see her again I'll ask."
"Just be careful. I found the guy before you gibbering under his desk. I don't think he's been out in the dark since."
"She means no harm I'm sure."
Mike got up and pointed to the radio as he left.
"If you're wrong, call me."
A couple of nights later, as I returned from my walk around the offices, I caught the hint of perfume in the air. I was a little puzzled until I recalled my first meeting with Megan; there had been a hint of perfume then too. Sure enough, she was sitting at the computer next to mine, staring at the screen. I walked up and sat next to her.
"Hello Megan, I'm glad to see you again." She looked around at me disbelievingly.
"I thought you'd have found out about me by now, Dave."
"Oh, I have."
"And it doesn't worry you?"
"Not at all. I'm intrigued, and by more than one thing."
"Now I'm intrigued. All right, ask me." She turned in the chair to face me. Again I was struck by her pretty face, glasses and all.
"How real are you?" I asked.
"Not 'What's it like being dead?' how disappointing!" She smiled, and then reached over and grasped my hand. "Real enough I suppose." Her hand felt warm, not cold like I was expecting, and solid too. "Ask me another."
"Why are you here, Megan?"
"You want me to go?"
"NO! No. I just want to know what brings you back here."
"I don't know actually."
"I thought ghosts haunted because they needed to finish something."
"Maybe they do, but I'm not exactly a ghost."
I turned as I heard Mike enter the open plan office. When I turned back, she was gone again. Mike came over and saw the look on my face.
"She was here again?" I nodded. "That's twice you've seen her. Nobody has seen her more than three times."
I sat down distractedly.
"Have you ever seen her?" I asked.
"Me? No. Perhaps I'm not her type?" He laughed.
"You could be right; I was talking to her when you opened the door. In between looking round she vanished."
Mike hummed to himself.
"Perhaps I represent something she resents and doesn't want to see."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I suppose I represent the company." He slapped his head. "I know what it is! I was on duty the night she vanished; she feels I should have protected her."
"But protect her from what? No one knows what happened to her."
"That's not the point is it? I'm a security guard and she disappeared on my shift. I was the last one to see her."
"Tell me what you remember."
Mike sat down heavily, a look of sadness on his face.
"She clocked in, like you do, I said 'Hi', she came up here and went to work."
"How do you know that?"
"I saw her on the cameras." He said, pointing to the CCTV.
"But not what happened to her?"
"No." He said, now hanging his head. "I saw her in here when I was doing my rounds, and gave her a wave. When I got back to my desk all the cameras were out, and the tapes were blank."
"How long between..?"
"About an hour, I wasn't rushing."
"Well, all the lights flickered about ten minutes before I got back."
"Possibly that spooked her, she left in a hurry and crashed her car?"
"I never got into my car." Megan's voice came from the computer speakers.
"What!!?" Mike and I both said.
"My car, I never got into it." She said, materialising beside us. "Hello Mike. Long time no see." Mike looked astonished.
"How did it end up in the river then?" I asked.
"Joy riders?" She said.
"It's possible." He said. "We were having some trouble with kids hanging around back then." He looked thoughtful, scratching his chin. "I could see what I can find out." He looked at Megan again. "I should have done it then, I'm sorry, but we all assumed..." He tailed off and then made for his office.
"But what happened to you then?" I asked Megan, perplexed at why she let Mike go off on what was a wild goose chase. Megan sat down and pointed at another chair. I sat, letting her take her own time. It gave me another opportunity to look at her, taking in her business suit and the curve of her calf as she crossed her legs.
"I was working on a project of my own that night, an A.I. program."
"It was pulling a lot of power from the mainframe, there was a power surge."
"And that killed you? But what happened to the body?"
"No. I told you I wasn't exactly a ghost." She paused, pursing her lips and steepling her fingers. "It absorbed me."
"What!" I was shocked; it seemed impossible.
"I was absorbed into the program. For the last 18 months I've been in the mainframe of the company computer."
"How come no one has found the program?"
"No one has looked for it. Like Mike, everyone assumed I was in the car when it went into the river. All the reports had gone through, so it looked as if I'd finished and gone home."
"I need to think about this, Megan. I need to check if it's possible. I don't disbelieve you, but it's a lot to take in."
She smiled benevolently, lighting up her face in a new way.
"I knew you were the one to help me Dave. Call me when you're ready."
"Just type my name into any document, I'll know." She shimmered in a disconcerting way and vanished.
For the next week all my spare time was spent reading, looking at books, documents and scientific papers. They all seemed to confirm that A.I. was a distinct possibility, but almost no one had considered that a human could be absorbed into an A.I. program. The only one I found was a controversial paper that put forward the possibility of preserving some of the more powerful minds in the world in a similar way to what had happened to Megan. I also found out some things about Megan herself. She was a brilliant programmer who had left university after an argument with a professor to take up the post I now held. It seemed a comedown for someone with an obviously superb mind. I considered this and realised that the night supervisor post was perfect for her to continue her research. There was hardly anyone about, the computer was not being used, and with her skills she would have no problems keeping it quiet. I made my decision. Tonight I would see what she wanted.
Mike had been and gone. His pursuit of what had happened to Megan's car seemed to bearing fruit, there being a couple of sightings of it when he knew she was still in the office. He was satisfied that a friend of his could get him some surveillance tapes from across the road that would confirm one way or another that it had been stolen. It was immaterial to me now, I believed Megan. I nervously typed her full name into a report. Nervous because I didn't know what she wanted me to do. I hoped that she didn't want me to erase her, because I had grown fond of her, possibly more than fond. As I pressed enter Megan materialised next to me, which was still a little scary.
"Hello Megan." I stopped unsure about what to say.
"Finished thinking then?"
"Yes. I believe you." Again I faltered, but carried on. "I also looked you up, I hope you don't mind?"
"No, it's nice to have someone interested in me again. What did you find?"
"I found out that you were considered one of the finest programmers at your University, and gave it up to come here." She was about to speak. "I also worked out why Megan."
"You seem to have been busy. Did you realise that this was what I was trying to achieve?" She waved her hand down her body.
"Actually I hadn't, but it makes sense. You used yourself as a test subject."
"Yes, typical mad scientist behaviour I suppose. I proved it will work, but I can't let anyone know."
"Too powerful a weapon in the wrong hands. I could destroy any computer system from within."
"So you don't want me to tell the world?"
"Heavens no! I don't want Mike to know if I can avoid it."
"I think I can throw him off track. He's more interested in your car at the moment." I paused; this was the big question. "You don't want me to turn you off do you?" A hint of anxiety crept into my voice.
"What? No, nothing sinister like that. I've just got bored. I want you to make some additions to my program, so that I can interface with other programs." She smiled at the worried look that was spreading over my face. "I'll tell you what to do." The look didn't leave my face. "You're worried about what programs aren't you?" I nodded. "Nothing sinister, or sexy. I just want to be able to change my clothes, my hair, girlie things that I miss."
"I like you the way you are Meg!" I blurted out.
She gave me a huge grin.
"Why, thank you kind sir! That's the nicest thing I've ever had said to me, even before my experiment." She held out her hand to me. "Please Dave, two lines of code, I'll show you how and where."
I looked into her pleading green eyes and melted.
"All right, show me."
The next few weeks passed quickly, Megan making sure she always appeared the same to Mike when the three of us met and talked. When Mike wasn't there she delighted in appearing in different outfits which I later found out were part of some mail order catalogues Internet ordering service. We sat and talked often. I learnt about what drove her to do what she had done, she learnt about the problems I'd been having which led me here. It was a wonderful time, only saddened by our parting when I had to leave for home. By now my short term contract was nearly up, and I knew I couldn't leave her, but I also knew they didn't want to renew my contract. I came up with an idea and hoped we could make it work between us.
The night I put the idea to her she appeared in a St Trinians schoolgirl outfit.
"Hey! Nothing sexy you said." I accused.
"A special treat for you." She became serious again. "Something has been worrying you, what is it?"
"My contract is up in a week, and they want to employ some school leaver at half my wage."
"I can't leave you here Meg! I have an idea, but for it to work I'll need your help."
"Depends on the idea."
"It depends on a lot of things. For example, could your program be moved?"
"My computer at home."
"Probably, the program itself isn't that big, just needs a lot of power, the materialization that is."
"But is it possible?"
She paused before answering.
"Yes. We could trim some things I suppose, but what makes you think I want to leave here?" I sagged; I should have asked her first! She doesn't feel the same about me as I feel about her! Maybe she doesn't feel at all now she's a computer program. All these thoughts crashed into my head and I was about to turn away when I saw she was laughing. "Idiot! Of course I want to come with you." She wiped her eyes. "Now, this is what you'll need to do." She gave me a list of things to do and some equipment we'd need, like a huge external USB hard drive. I also bought a second computer, brand new, never used: pristine in other words.
Tonight was the night. Not my last night, just in case the plan didn't work and I had to bring her back. Megan had told me what to trim from the program, and assured me she would still be the same. In fact with a few tweaks, she wouldn't use anywhere near as much power. I plugged in the USB hard drive, Megan giving me the administrative privileges that I needed.
"Here goes then," I said, trying not to worry that I'd lose her.
"Wait, just in case I'm wrong about this, and I'm not the same later, I want to tell you how I feel."
"I think I know Megan, why else would you let me try this?"
"Well, yes I suppose. Anyway, something else I've been thinking about. We could set up a business."
"Yes. Computer repairs, computer security, stuff like that. You be the front man, and I'd go in and tell you what was wrong and how to fix it. What do you think?"
"Well, I was thinking something similar, but I thought we'd better leave it until we know whether it works or not. You might be a genius, but I'm not. I could have screwed something up."
She took my hands, looking deep into my eyes.
"You haven't. And I love you."
"I love you too Meg. Shall we see if we did good?"
"Yes. Do it."
I nodded and began to download her program onto the external drive.
I sat at my new computer and plugged in the external drive. Breathing a silent prayer of hope I pressed the 'Run Program'. The lights dimmed momentarily and then Megan appeared. She looked the same. I breathed out. She looked around the room.
"This is nice, what about the rest of the house?"
I laughed and hugged her.
"Go and have a look."
"In a minute. There's one thing I need to test."
"This." She reached out and touched me on the cheek. "Great, I can still feel." She looked relieved.
"What aren't you telling me?" I asked.
"I wasn't sure trimming the program would work completely, I thought I would become a ghost."
"So, how much can you feel?"
"More to the point, how much can you?" She pulled me to her and kissed me, a long and deep kiss; our first proper kiss.
"Oh, I think I can feel more than enough, Megan."
As I write this, Megan is downstairs looking around the house. She said I ought to write it down as it was a story that needed telling, and now we had time to tell it.
"Your typing is awful Dave." Megan says, leaning over my shoulder.
"I thought you were looking over the house?"
"I was, but I just thought of something else I'd like to try..."