tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Lengths One Will Go To...

The Lengths One Will Go To...

bymythtrav16©

Joe stepped through the door of Sean's apartment in his forty thousand dollar designer suit, fashionably late, as always. He walked through the grand living room and found his friend precisely where he expected him to be; monkeying around with that huge contraption he'd built in the apartment's second bedroom. Contraption was an adequate description as it was more than just a powerful computer. Sean was lying down on the floor, his head inside the legspace of the desk that had become part of the massive machine's structure. He was balancing a laptop on his belly and had a digital multimeter resting beside him. Both devices were attached to the large machine by multiple wires.

"Any luck?" Joe asked, in a caring tone. Sean huffed in frustration.

"I... I found an anomaly in the memory bus feeds. It has structure, like a subroutine... I don't know where it came from... It shouldn't be there," Sean answered. Joe nodded solemnly, remaining polite despite his disdain for technical babble, even if he understood it, which in this case he did not.

"Jeez, Sean, you're not even dressed!" Joe sighed.

"What?" Sean asked in a slightly offended tone. He ran his eye briefly over his track pants and rumpled t-shirt sporting a clever joke about binary math on the front, before turning his attention back to the line of circuit boards he was examining.

"We're going to check out Trovila? That new exclusive bar?" Joe reminded his absent-minded friend. "There's no way in hell they're gonna let you in like that! Where's that new suit we got you last month?"

"That was tonight?" Sean inquired in a disbelieving tone.

"Yes, Sean," Joe replied.

"I thought we were going Friday?" Sean argued.

"It IS Friday," Joe responded with a chuckle, as Sean crossed the boundary between frustrating and absurd. "Come on, get dressed, man, Constance is waiting down in the car..."

"Y'know, I wrote a new program to do a diagnostic on the motive processors this afternoon. I was kind of hoping to run through it tonight, so why don't you guys just go ahead without me?" Sean asked, sheepishly admitting he'd forgotten all about his promise to his old friend.

"No way in hell are you backing out of this, man," Joe asserted without missing a beat. "You swore you were coming out with us tonight. Besides, you've been working on that thing..."

"Her name is Casey," Sean insisted, defensively.

"Fine," Joe acknowledged indignantly. "You've been working on Casey non-stop for four days! Face it, man, you need a break! Maybe a little recreation will clear your head, or something," he offered, trying to sound wise. "Come on, get dressed and we'll hit the town," Joe walked over to Sean, physically lifted the laptop off of his belly and offered him a hand up. He knew that a pro-active approach was the only way he would actually get Sean to abandon his work for a few hours. Sean eyed Joe's hand sceptically for a second, before taking it with a conceding sigh. After Joe helped him up, Sean turned towards the large, humming machine.

"Me and Joe are going out for a few hours, Cas... oh," he said by force of habit, before remembering that the large machine had mysteriously become dormant four days ago. Joe put his arm comfortingly around his friend's shoulder as he escorted him off to his bedroom to change for their night out.

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Joe and Sean had met during their freshman year of highschool. Joe wasn't exactly a white night in shining armour, but he did not like bullies, and one day he found himself saving the skin of a geeky little kid named Sean Adams. The two quickly became friends. Initially, Joe exploited their friendship to get test answers and essay help from Sean, but after a while he started to appreciate Sean as a true friend, and began treating him as such. He found it hard sometimes to put up with Sean's geek-speak about computer concepts well over Joe's head, but they both liked first-person-shooter games and had similar tastes in music, movies and girls and so the friendship blossomed.

One day, during their junior year, Sean excitedly came up to Joe and announced that a major computer company was offering to buy the rights to some revolutionary software he'd developed, for fifty thousand dollars. Sean's software would allow a computer to understand many plain-English instructions, given by vocal command. But before Sean signed the contract that the company had drafted, Joe looked it over and realized that his friend was getting screwed. He advised Sean to get a patent for his software and hammer out a new deal where Sean would get paid royalties. When it became apparent just how profitable Joe's intervention had been, Sean cut Joe in for an equal share of his profits. The software's massive success had made the two friends rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Together, they founded 'Optimal Coding Inc.', a computer software and hardware company created to develop and promote all of Sean's smaller (but no less brilliant) innovations to the world of computing. Between Sean's clever designs and Joe's business sense, the company had made both men billionaires.

After a few years, Sean retired from an active role in the company (although he still remained a majority shareholder) and Joe became the sole CEO. Sean essentially became a consultant, who was only ever approached by the company when a problem came up that was so baffling nobody else could solve it.

"Hellooo... Earth calling Sean," Joe said in a sing-song voice as he waved his hand around about six inches from Sean's face, shaking him from his reverie. "We're here, man..." Sean looked out of the limo's window and found that they had parked in front of a clean, newly constructed building, in a locale that Sean didn't immediately recognize. The entrance was oddly plain looking, and there were no signs or windows to indicate what kind of business resided within, although the smartly-dressed bouncers on either side of the door made it kind of obvious that the building was either a bar or club.

The limo driver stepped lively over to the curbside door and opened it for the two billionaires and their guest. Twenty-two year old Constance was the first to step out, wearing the expensive red dress her rich lover had bought her. She was very attractive, as Joe's taste in women necessitated. Sean could not help but notice that she was also genuinely friendly, if a little ditzy. He hadn't had a great many encounters with her, but Constance always treated him very kindly and sympathetically, especially tonight. She also seemed very fond of Joe himself, not just his money. Sean got the impression that she wasn't just in the relationship for 'fun', as Joe was. He wondered how long it would be before she bought up the possibility of moving in with Joe (or worse yet, marriage) and wind up getting dumped. Joe wasn't a cold guy, it was just that all he wanted at this stage in his life was sex with hot women. That being said, he was monogamous enough to have only one sexual relationship at a time.

Joe was the next to step out, politely thanking the limo driver as he did so. He placed an arm around the small of Constance's back and turned to make sure that Sean was about to exit the limo without needing another call back to reality. As he had hoped, Sean was right behind him. The trio strolled over to the building's entrance together. The imposing bouncers each grabbed one of the double doors and opened them for the establishment's wealthy guests.

"Enjoy your evening, Mr.Strohm," one of the bouncers said in a deep voice.

"Thanks," Joe acknowledged. Joe was somewhat of an authority on the city's most exclusive hot spots and, in all likelihood, he had met the bouncer at some other bar or nightclub, though Joe didn't remember him. Sean didn't receive a greeting. Thanks to his reclusive role in his own company, Sean wasn't as well known as Joe, despite the fact he was still one of the richest men in the city. But he didn't mind; fame didn't hold much interest for him.

Inside, the bar had a much livelier design that it's humble exterior. The walls were a mix of mostly light green and purple, with some other colors. While the main bar area was illuminated by white light, the perimeter of the large, irregularly-shaped room was bathed in lights of many colors. It was virtually impossible to tell, from a distance, if the color of any given section of wall was genuine, or a lighting effect. The walls were all adorned with bizarre paintings that made Picasso's works look as realistic as Da Vinci's. Along the far wall of the room were several oddly designed booths, with the seats all angling steeply away from each other; a person sitting on the end of one seat would've been about eight feet away from his counterpart on the opposite seat. Sean sighed as he lamented the death of conventional, practical architecture. The speakers were piping in new age music in another language (it sounded like French), but at a low volume, allowing people to talk without shouting at each other.

Everybody in the room was dressed in attire that looked very expensive. The crowd was a healthy mix of males and females, although there didn't seem to be too many people in there who were older than thirty-five.

"You wanna get a booth?" Joe asked his companions. Both Constance and Sean nodded and the three of them strolled over to an unoccupied booth on the other side of the room. They hadn't long sat down before they were greeted a waiter.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" he asked the party. Joe ordered a peach Schnapps, having discovered several years ago that his German heritage had seeped in to his taste for alcoholic beverages. Constance ordered a Zima and Sean, a vodka martini.

"Yes sir, Mr.Bond," the waiter replied facetiously. Sean chuckled, happy to see that the staff weren't devoid of personality. The waiter then walked off to fill the order.

"So... Not bad, eh?" Joe said with a beaming smile, gesturing towards a group of very attractive women.

"Yeah, it's pretty good," Sean replied, in an unconvincing tone, completely missing Joe's signal to check out the available tail. Though even if he had got the message, it was unlikely that Sean's interest would have been sparked. Like any red-blooded straight man, Sean was aroused by the sight of an attractive woman. But he had learned from experience that nothing made him more painfully aware of his own geekiness than trying to converse with a pretty woman. Sean had virtually nothing in common with the women he met, and after the initial meaningless small talk, they had very little to discuss. He meant well, but Joe's numerous attempts to set Sean up with the best-looking women in town had actually made Sean feel lonelier.

"Oh come on, man. Look at where we are!" Joe replied in an excited tone, "Who would have thought the last two guys to get dates for the prom would ever get to see a place like this? I mean, this place is VIP only! You see who's over there? Sabrina Bretodeau."

"Oh my god!" Constance gasped, upon realising that the world famous fashion model was in the bar. "My god, she really is a stick figure, isn't she?"

"Still, as stick figures go..." Joe mused, running an approving eye over the distant model, who was too busy talking to her own companions to notice Joe's gaze. The model was wearing a virtually backless black dress that was so small, no woman of average, healthy girth could've hoped to wear it. Constance shot Joe a sly smirk, knowing that he was only yanking her chain with his remark. "Trust me, Sean," Joe said, returning his attention to his friend, "You're gonna have a great time here. We're gonna set you up with one of these babes and in a few hours you won't even be thinking about your computer."

"She's not just a computer, Joe," Sean explained. "I think Casey's really it; artificial intelligence. And..." he paused, with a remorseful sigh, "I think she's gone."

"Gone? What? You mean, like, dead?" Constance asked, showing genuine interest. Joe opened his mouth as if he was about to advise her not to encourage Sean's melancholy, but Sean cut him off.

"Yeah. Dead," he replied.

"What happened to her?" Constance asked in a kind voice.

"I don't know," Sean answered quietly, with a shrug. "Maybe it was some inherent design flaw that caused a critical software failure..."

"Listen, Sean," Joe said as he leaned closer to his friend, "in all the years I've known you, I've never seen you come across a computer glitch that you can't solve. You're gonna fix this. You always do!"

"I hope you're right," Sean sighed.

"Of course I'm right!" Joe declared in a much more jovial tone. He continued grinning in Sean's direction until his ridiculous happiness prompted a smirk and a chuckle from his downhearted friend. "Stop worrying, man, and enjoy yourself. We're in the hottest bar in town!"

Sean appreciated the wisdom of Joe's words, but it was hard advice for him to follow. Once Joe and Constance had slipped in to their own conversation, Sean's mind began to drift back to thoughts of Casey.

It had been, by far, the most emotional endeavour Sean had ever embarked upon. He'd invested over two years of his life in creating the twelve custom processors and base software for his attempt at creating artificial intelligence. The entire massive machine took three months to assemble, and since it became operational, he'd spent just over a year watching the perpetually active software grow and learn and develop. There had been so many 'eureka!' moments when the unit had exhibited new behaviour beyond that of a normal computer.

Sean had called the high-tech machine 'the CASE'; Computerized Artificial Sentient Entity. When the software had developed enough for Sean to communicate with it, he addressed it as 'Casey', based off what he'd called the machine running it. He gave the machine a speech synthesizer with a feminine voice, mostly because Sean didn't have many female friends to talk to.

Through the internet, Casey learned much about life and the world. Sean could clearly see that 'she' was evolving without any reprogramming by him. Her speech went from cold and robotic to sounding more natural – shortening phrases like "can not" to their more often used contractions, like "can't". Over the course of a week, Casey reprogrammed her own speech synthesizing software to allow herself to speak in varying tones, so she could express emphasis and (what seemed like) emotion. After a few months, Sean began subjecting Casey to 'emotional IQ' tests, designed for the psychological assessment of humans. Not only were Casey's scores surprisingly high, they were also continuously improving.

He began teaching her poetry and, after a little initial guidance, Casey became very good at deducing the emotional context behind the words. He began telling her 'knock knock' jokes, a few at a time and after a few days, one of them prompted a laugh from the computer. Several days later, Sean was surprised to hear Casey laughing spontaneously. When he asked her why she was laughing, she answered that she had just found a funny joke on the internet, which she then shared with him. Less than a month later, Casey was making up jokes by herself! At first they were about generic characters and at the expense of celebrities like George Dubya, but she was soon making good-natured jokes at Joe's expense and even her own.

With all the time he spent with her, it was inevitable that Sean would open up to Casey about personal things, such as childhood memories, his political and religious beliefs and his history with Joe. He talked about interesting computer ideas he'd put on the backburner when he began the CASE project and he talked about his secret loneliness and his yearning for a girlfriend with whom he felt some real chemistry. At first, Sean felt silly whenever he caught himself having deep and meaningful conversations with Casey. But then over the months, he became convinced that there was nothing to feel ashamed of, as she seemed to understand everything he said to her.

He installed cameras, speakers and microphones throughout the apartment, so that he could interact with Casey wherever he went. After a couple of days, though, he removed the camera in the bedroom, as he felt embarrassed about masturbating in bed at night with Casey watching.

As a test of how useful an assistant Casey could be in a person's everyday life, Sean wired Casey into the control center of his fully automated penthouse apartment. The experiment was incredibly successful. Casey had a pot of coffee hot and ready to pour every morning when Sean came in to the kitchen for breakfast. She always kept the apartment at a comfortable temperature and well lit (unless Sean was away or asleep). One evening Sean excused himself from Casey's presence to go and have a warm bath.

"Okay, Sean. You'll find that I've already drawn a bath for you," Casey responded (Even the apartment's bath was automated, thanks to its electronic taps.)

"Thanks, Casey... But when did you draw it?" Sean asked, fearing the bath would be cold by now if she'd drawn it an hour ago.

"It finished filling 37.129 seconds ago," Casey replied. It turned out she had learned to use his posture and subconscious stretching to estimate when Sean would want to bathe.

Casey's development had surpassed Sean's wildest expectations and it gave him a sense of personal satisfaction that he had not felt in a very long time.

Then, without rhyme or reason, Sean woke up one morning to find that no coffee had been boiled for him. He spoke to Casey's kitchen interface, but there was no response. When he checked the CASE machine itself, he could find no trace of Casey within. The machinery was intact, as was the base operating system, but the program that made up Casey's personality, and all the data – everything she had ever learned or thought, was gone. Since then, Sean had been obsessively checking every digital nook and cranny of the massive CASE hardware, desperately hoping that Casey had somehow been relegated to a minor circuit where he could still recover her. But as time went on, it became more and more likely that the Casey Sean knew had been permanently erased.

Sean was shaken from his depressing thoughts by an arm coming down in front of him. The waiter had returned and placed his vodka martini on the table. By the time Sean realized what had happened, the waiter was already halfway back to the bar. Sean felt a little guilty for not thanking him. It was only after the waiter had turned to step behind the bar that Sean first noticed her.

In a room full of attractive young women, this stunning creature's allure made the competition fade into obscurity. She was a burning sun in a sky of twinkling stars. Her simple but stylish cocktail dress was like a dark blue skin that flowed over every sensuous curve of her luscious form. On Sean's side, a long, creamy leg dangled enticingly out of a part in the dress that extended downwards from her lower thigh. The curvature of her chest was very prominent; her breasts had to be C cups at the very least. Her skin was slightly paler than an average caucasian woman, seeming to suggest that she didn't spend much of her day in the sun. Then again, perhaps it was the bright white lights of the bar.

Her light brown hair was tied back into a fat ponytail at the back of her skull. It ballooned rapidly after it passed the hair tie, then tapered down in to a long wisp that danced across the bare skin between her shoulderblades whenever she moved her head. Her face, at least seen in profile, was absolutely gorgeous. In a word, she was sexy; that true kind of sexy that wasn't deliberate or forced, but rather just a natural aura that precious few women allowed to flower.

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