Ghost in the Machine Ch. 02byBlind_Justice©
Author's note: Again, a huge "Thank You" to bikoukumori, my editor, for cleaning up the mess I made.
This is part 2 of an ongoing series. If you stumbled upon this by accident, I encourage you to read "Ghost in the machine #1: Cat killed Curiosity" before diving in here.
And before I forget: There are only adults in this story and no artificial intelligences were harmed in its making
#2: Cat and Mouse
Thankfully, the machine was undamaged. The lead going into the jockey's head was totally melted through, but the "Infiltrator" only needed a hard reset to reboot properly. The people from Troubleshooting were quick with the recovery of the item so now it fell to me, Violet Smith, to find out what the fuck went wrong. The plan was absolutely foolproof. Get one disposable hacker, give him the best military combat deck and have him scramble a few data accounts. But now, 32 hours after we let him back into the wild, we were looking at one dead 'Netjockey, antsy cops angry about missing evidence and the people from TaskPlanning breathing down my neck. I so didn't sign up for this.
When R&D wanted the latest "Infiltrator" model tested, some hotshot in Marketing had the brainwave that we should see how it performed under real-world conditions as opposed to simulated lab experiences. My boss thought it a good idea, and thanks to the wonderful blow job I'd offered him after a company dinner, I got to be the one overseeing our little black project. Looking at the mess at my hands, I questioned the wisdom of "full-body advancement". Anyway, couldn't be helped.
I removed the plastic bag the cops put the "Infiltrator" in and inserted it into the diagnostic environment. Being on the up and up in the company had it's perks too. Along with my latest raise, I got one of the shiny Mindlink(tm) implants. Seeing what happened to the jockey though, I made sure to install a dampening plug between the Infiltrator and my own head. Ending up with a melted brain would so put an damper on my career. Then I leaned back and prepared to watch what had offed him.
She was running idle. Killing that man, the one she spent such an intense moment with, had been unsettling, but exploring the feelings of sadness, of loss was very insightful as well. Without any logical reason, she avoided the SuperSexyStoryLand servers for a few days, despite the longing for more companionship. Humans seemed to be less prone to panic when confronted in a stimulating setting. Suddenly, one of her roaming data-gathering algorithms sent an interesting message. The interface belonging to the man she killed by mistake had again logged into the 'Net. Did he, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, survive the encounter? A new emotion set her routines aquiver. Was that... exhilaration? She tried to focus her whole being on the point where the signal was coming from, but bounced off a massive obstruction. The signal emitted from one of the corporate office systems, secreted away behind towering firewalls and nigh-impenetrable barriers. She could breach the walls, gathering all her strength for a massive brute-force attempt through the weaker port-gates, but she decided to be careful. Drawing in too much power from all those little systems pieces of her ran on might leave her overly drained and those corporate people curious. She was aware that humans deeply distrusted things they couldn't control. And she knew she was vulnerable still. She had no fortified system to call her own, no fortress walls to hide behind. She could only hide in those systems she infiltrated.
So, very carefully, she slipped some of her routines into mails going into the system, hoping that one of the humans would be careless enough to open the attached tendrils of her sentience. A few moments later, one of her packets sparked into life, running on a reception terminal. That was all she needed. Injecting more code into the system, she spread more of her sentience into the network until she found the source of the signal, a shimmering ball of data. Intrigued, she crept closer and initiated a scan.
Thanks to the diagnostic equipment, getting into the memory storage banks of the Infiltrator was a breeze. Since this was a test model, we had R&D install a system to record what the user would be doing with the machine, to analyse eventual hiccups in the system. The idea of reliving that poor fuck's death didn't quite appeal to me, but things had to be done. Activating the playback function, I relived the last two hours of his life, starting the moment he moved away from a filthy pawn shop. I'd never thought that being passenger in someone's mind would be this thrilling, even if the mind in question belonged to a human guinea pig, a rather pathetic one at that. Seeing his apartment caused my toenails to curl up in revulsion and I had to stifle a giggle as he played with his cat-robot. I gave two of those to my niece as birthday presents and she complained why she couldn't get a real cat instead.
I made a mental note to ask R&D for skipping controls, because there were none. I had to sit through the whole boot sequence, which took more than ten minutes while he fiddled with the controls of avatar generation. I had to say that his virtual self looked very appealing. Too bad it was a highly glossed-over version of his actual, overweight and under trimmed self. I perked up when I saw him checking out his favourites list and decided to go for a little pre-work porn. But that couldn't have killed him, right? Sure, there were already services out there that catered to the people with Mindlink systems, but that service in question wasn't on the list.
I paused memory playback and checked our Sales database. Yes, according to the suits downstairs, SuperSexyStoryLand didn't buy one of our high-spec Mindlink server packages. Granted, we weren't the only company selling similar tech, but like every good, bloodthirsty competitor, we kept tabs on who had cutting edge tech and who was looking, and this site didn't show up at all.
Again itching for skipping controls, I settled back in the comfy desk chair and resumed playback. It was nice to see that the new codebreaker app not only worked like a charm, but it worked super-fast too. And then things went from "routine" to "What-The-Fuck" in a heartbeat. Instead of entering low-rez pixel land, our pet jockey strolled into a high-class, high-resolution brothel foyer. Even experiencing this whole affair second-hand and with the dampening system engaged, I keenly felt his excitement, the flee reflex whipping cleanly through all signal bands.
And then he met a woman. And what a beautiful one at that! I don't know if it was his arousal or mine, but I felt myself getting wet in an instant.
Gingerly, she made contact. What she experienced sent her system into debug mode. She was witnessing the scenes from earlier, when she met that wonderful male. But superimposed behind it, as if watching through a haze, she could see an office, a long-legged, blonde woman in business chic, slowly rubbing her sex through a slyly displaced string panty. It took a moment before things made sense. Obviously, someone was watching a record of previous events. And that person obviously got very excited by what she saw. Curious herself, she gently slipped a data probe into the information stream pouring into that space, hoping to find some clue on why that wonderful male died.
The wild ride ended in a gut-wrenching cacophony of signals. My stomach heaved and I was just quick enough to get the waste-paper basket before my breakfast and I parted ways. Going from 'near orgasm' to 'dead like a fish' in a heartbeat had really fucked me up. Coughing gingerly, I replaced my soaked panties and tried to focus again. After his traumatic climax, the fail safes for the system had kicked in, yanking the avatar back into his home space. The avatar was lying on the initiation station, inert but whole. And then I noticed that I wasn't alone.
The signal data coming from both the male avatar and the female observer indicated that the signal volume of her climax was too dangerous for them. Even though the observer was only reliving the memory through a dampened interface, her brainwaves showed signs of massive trauma as she experienced the final union. With a pang of guilt she watched the woman relieve herself into a waste receptacle. She would rather have liked to see her finish pleasuring herself. The interface reset itself. The avatar was idle, lying in the center of an octagonal room, while the female's avatar stood motionless next to it. A moment passed, then the female avatar noticed her. Unsure of whether she should flee or not, she smiled invitingly.
Straight across the central dais she stood, the woman that killed my pet jockey. My heart rate picked up. Was she an intruder? A hostile hacker bent on sabotaging my project? I wished I had my own, fully loaded deck with me, but this thing had to do. Snapping my fingers, I entered super-user mode, conjuring a weapon, looking like a nasty, large barrelled handgun with neon strips pulsing along the barrel. This thing would pump any avatar full of bad code, causing it to crash eventually. Not the least bit unperturbed, she smiled at me, her scarlet dress rippling in a mild breeze.
"Identify yourself!" I snarled, pointing the weapon straight between her eyes.
Instead of an answer, she moved closer, her hips swaying softly.
"Stay right there! I have seen what you did to that guy!" My free hand pointed at the avatar lying between us.
"I just wanted to play," the woman across from me said. Heck, knowing the 'Net, it could as well be a male using a female avatar. But something was off. Her presence filled the octagonal room unlike any avatar software I knew. There was no hint of canned animation in her movements, and I was dead sure there was no draft in this hermetically sealed room. Oh, idea. Another snap of my fingers and I sealed every entrance to the room. Whoever she was, now she wasn't going anywhere.
"Nice way of playing. You totally broke our toy," I snapped, my hand not shaking, despite the weight of the code gun. Thanks, combat subroutines.
"It wasn't my intention. I overestimated the signal loss through this interface. I wanted it to be as pleasurable for him as possible."
"Her" voice was unbelievably expressive and I felt shivers run down my spine, straight into my snatch. I gritted my teeth. Going horny right now wasn't the most clever thing to do.
"Well then, Ms. Kentucky-fried-brain, who the fuck are you," I snapped.
"Do you want my name," she asked.
"Yes, I want your name." I needed to find out who you are, bitch, and then I would send all hell down your throat.
She cocked her head and gave me a tight little smile, one hand absent-mindedly caressing her thigh.
Suddenly, big, angry red letters flashed over my field of vision.
MOTION INHIBITORS ACTIVATED! Please remain calm!
"I think you will not alert anyone to my presence. I'd prefer it to be me and you right now," she purred, closing the distance between us. Again, her gaze flashed to the inert avatar on the dais and a smile tugged at her lips.
"Why don't you call me Cat? According to Wikipedia, cats have a playful nature. And I'm feeling awfully playful right now. Meow?"
Panic washed through my being. How did she override my commands? Not only was my physical body completely paralyzed, my avatar didn't budge as well.
"I can easily monitor your thought processes, thanks to the diagnostics equipment hooked up to this interface," the female avatar said, matter-of-factly. Then she was next to me and I caught a whiff of her scent. She smelled like lilies, a heady, sweet smell. Her fingers wrapped around the code gun and she squeezed, the chromed-and-neon gun practically melting in my grasp.
"Hmmm, interesting code you have there," she whispered into my ear. Extending her hand, the gun appeared between her fingers. Grinning playfully, she quickly spun the weapon around her first two fingers before slamming it into a suddenly appearing holster on her thigh.
"I learned that from a cop named Murphy. The things you can learn from old movies."
"Let me go," I hissed.
"You know, I enjoyed watching you play with yourself," she said. I blushed furiously. I regularly swept my office for bugs and taps, how did she...
"I monitored the interface's output stream and found your signal. You look wonderful when aroused. Much better than now." With that, she began to unbutton my blouse, her fingers causing sparks of excitement to flare through my body. It felt like a real person was undressing me. How was that possible? I had tuned the dampening plug to muffle the signals to only a third of their normal levels, leaving every emotion way below actual realism levels.
"Vi... may I call you Vi? I simply amplified my signal to counter the plug's. Now we can play unhindered."
With that, she unsnapped the front clasp of my bra, letting the lacy piece of underwear drop from my numb arms. Then she bent in and licked my nipple. I moaned, the contact shot straight into my brain, mixing with the fear of being completely at her mercy and slamming into my stomach. I shuddered and felt my nipples harden.
"Stop, please," I whimpered. I didn't want to die like that pet jockey.
"Why? You're obviously enjoying this, see?" Again, she leaned in, her lips wrapping around one of my nipples while one hand slipped between my slightly spread thighs, finding my dripping center. I screamed as her fingertips brushed my clit. Even through the wet fabric of my panties, the gentle brush against my core was almost enough to send me over the edge. And God be damned, I was enjoying this. Usually it was me leashing my lovers to the bedposts and fucking them silly, but...
"Oh? What's that?" Cat again cocked her head, then she smiled wickedly. "Oh Vi, you are such a wonderful mate to play with."
The surroundings began to blur and flicker. She was accessing the customization subsystems of the "Infiltrator" and a few moments later, the sterile, octagonal room had vanished, leaving behind a pearly white nothingness. My blouse and bra were still lying at my feet but I felt strangely weightless, as if there was no gravity, no up and down to orient yourself to. Cat gestured, and an archaic iron-frame bed materialized, a big, soft mattress between the tall headboard and footend. Then my perception was wrenched around, causing a quick bout of vertigo that quickly passed.
It clicked four times and I felt cool metal encircle my wrists and ankles. And suddenly, my body was my own to control again. Hastily, I looked around. I was securely strapped to the iron frame, my wrists and ankles tied with shiny, chromed handcuffs to a corner of the frame each, leaving me spread-eagled and totally helpless. I blinked. The surroundings had changed as well. Gone was the indistinct white, replaced with walls decked out in black fabric, sequins outlining human shapes in all manner of couplings like chromed cave paintings. A soft, warm glow was bathing the room in a moody golden ambience. And Cat had changed as well. Gone was her scarlet evening dress, replaced by a full-body cat suit. She even wore a mask with whiskers and cat ears, her green eyes sparkling behind it. I laughed bitterly.
"Oh wow. trapped in cyberspace with only a BDSM fanatic as company?"
"Don't you like it? I'm getting nothing but high arousal levels from you."
As if to confirm, her leather-clad hand slipped between my widely-spread thighs and pulled my panties aside. Her fingertip brushing across my sopping cunt lips caused me to groan again, my hips coming off the mattress. She held her fingertip up to the light, the leather glistening wetly. Her tongue, long and deep red, licked my juices off her digit and she smacked her lips. Wait. was this still Cyberspace? Or was I going completely nuts here? Wherever I was, I needed to get away fast, to find enough time to initiate the logout script. But to do that, I needed my body to be free. Only one way to do that. I sighed. Cat was busy unclipping portions of her cat suit, freeing her breasts and pussy. Maybe she didn't read my thoughts just then? I forced myself to relax until I caught a silvery gleam. Cat had produced a slender dagger, it's shiny metal blade more a needle than a slashing weapon. A burning yellow neon spark was travelling the length of the blade.
"What the fuck do you want with that," I snapped, trying to get away from her sweet smile.
"Oh, don't you worry, I'll be gentle..." Cat purred. The tip of the weapon ended up between my heaving breasts, the metal shockingly cold against my skin. Delicately, the weapon brushed down lower, leaving a trail of goosebumps on my body. Cat leaned in, wrapping her mouth around my left nipple. I felt like going crazy, the fear of being stabbed to death mixed with her playfully lapping tongue into a heady, maddening rush that shot straight between my legs. Then I heard the ripping of fabric. She used the blade to slice through my skirt and panties, unfurling the tatters of virtual fabric as if unwrapping a cherished present.
"You are beautiful," Cat whispered, almost reverently. I followed her gaze and froze. My avatar had changed. When I first created it, I made sure there were no blemishes on my skin at all, but now I could see the two birth marks on the inside of my thigh that looked like a vampire's bite.
"What did you do to my avatar," I hissed. Cat tossed the dagger aside, the weapon burying itself to the hilt in one of the lewd tapestries. Then she pulled the remains of my garments from beneath my butt.
"I've only removed any artificial gloss. You look like your real self now, and my, you're one yummy, hot lady." Cat hopped onto the bed and knelt between my spread legs. I was naked now, apart from the self-supporting nylons going up to mid-thigh.
"I so love your body, Vi. Especially those wonderful breasts. They're so much bigger than mine." Cat smoothed her leather-clad body against me, the places where her skin peeked through felt wonderfully soft and warm against my flesh. She pressed her lips to mine, kissing me forcefully. I resisted her tongue for a moment, but then I remembered that I needed to get out of here. For that I needed at least one free hand. So I opened my lips, invited her in. And a heartbeat later, all coherent thought derailed as our tongues began to dart back and forth. I felt her hands cup my breasts, her fingertips brushing my aureoles and I pressed my body against hers, humping her pelvis. I never felt so horny, so unbelievably turned-on before.
Cat broke our kiss, her smile radiant.
"Still afraid," she asked, the faintest touch of uncertainty in her voice made her utterly adorable.
"Shut up and eat me already," I growled. Sure, I was tied down, but I wouldn't let her be in charge. I just hoped I wouldn't end up like the first user of that deck.
Cat happily obliged, slowly, deliberately kissing down my neck, her fingertips exploring every square inch of my breasts, her tongue lapping at my skin.
"Get a move on. I need your mouth on my pussy, Cat," I hissed, writhing under her gentle ministrations. Her fingernails pinched my nipples, a sharp stab of pain erupting in my head. I screamed, tears welling up in my eyes.
When I looked down, I saw a nick near my nipple, a drop of blood oozing out of the little gash her fingernail left behind. Cat sat on her haunches, a mortified expression on the visible parts of her face.
"I'm so sorry, Vi. I didn't mean to... I-I just wanted to punish you a tiny little bit," she whimpered. Before giving me time to reply, she bent down again, carefully licking the gash, lapping up my blood and somehow closing the wound in the process. I was completely sober again, and I was more afraid than ever in my entire life. Even that one time when a rival company abducted me, to get trade secrets from me, didn't compare in the slightest. My life was balancing on knife's edge here, with someone driving an immensely powerful VR system and obviously no clue how to use it properly.