By Adeline Ike
Original Artwork by Ashlyn Ike
SAFARA TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHERE TO INSERT MICROCHIP WITH RHY IN BACKGROUND
I stand frozen in front of the tall "P7" robot. Its eyes are wide open and softly glowing. Rhys and Aiden stare at me as if I should know what happens next. I look closer at the fingerprint scanner on the chest and see a small tray slide open with a little red USB stick laying on it. But the robot does nothing.
Rhys moves closer to see what has my attention. I instinctively grab the USB stick, looking for any clues about my parents and their work. On one side of the device is a small picture of a skull. I hold it up for Aiden and Rhys to see. Rhys reaches for it, but I pull it back.
"Safara, whatever is on that chip belongs to me." he scowls.
"This robot has my initials on it. My parents wanted me to see whatever is in this chip." I plead.
I see Rhys' forehead strain with frustration as I look away to avoid his glare. I notice Aiden looking at me intently like he's trying to tell me something. Rhys suddenly grabs my wrist, pulling it high in the air. He tries to rip the device from me with his free hand, but I clutch it with my life.
"Let go of me!" I scream.
"Don't do that to her!" Aiden demands.
"Help me get this from her, Aiden, don't just stand there!" Rhys grunts as I twist and turn my arm with all my strength.
Aiden grabs my other wrist. He unexpectedly pulls me while shoving his father forcefully away. Rhys tumbles backward against one of the cabinets. I slip the memory stick into my pocket as Aiden pulls me through the sliding door, and out of the room.
"Aiden! What are you doing!" His dad shouts behind us. I'm thinking the exact same thing.
Aiden trips multiple times as I wonder if his dad ever let his son out of the lab. But he finds a sudden burst of speed as we turn down a long hall.
"Woah...ahhhh!" I exclaim being dragged along like a small child. I catch the wild-eyed look in Aiden's eyes as he continues to accelerate, his broad stride pulling me through the air as I try to time my own bare feet to the sound of his shoes. "Yes!" I hear him mutter as his bright smile fills his face.
After a couple of twists and turns down the maze of corridors, Aiden darts into a side-room computer lab with a secure glass door. Aiden types quickly on the pad until the door shuts and locks.
"Aiden, what's going on?" I pant completely out of breath. "My phone is back there! It's really important!" I gasp wondering what happened to Iddy. What if he's inside that P7 robot somehow? He could finally help me! "I need to go back in there!"
"There's no time, Safara. Trust me about this!" His bright blue eyes digging through me, pleading with me. I bite my lip and nod.
Aiden scans the computers in the middle of the room, the screens are projected like a hologram in mid-air above the console. "Now, this should be voice activated…" he trails off as he types on the keyboard, "Oh, it's turned off. I can fix that." Aiden furiously works, flying through menus and typing and swiping in an almost alien fashion. I'm impressed.
"Aiden," I finally say after I can breathe again, "What the heck is going on?"
He pauses and scratches the back of his neck, "It's hard to explain, Safara. It wouldn't make sense to you. And first, we have to get passed the security system to get out of here. Then I'll tell you everything. Sound good?"
I don't say anything.
"Ah, here we go." he clicks one last button, "Okay, now: Show me all exits including service doors!" He commands. But no response. "Is it broken?" I ask.
"It shouldn't be, I just gave the security system access to see the entire building, but something in the system is acting strange just like..."
The room suddenly goes from a soft blue glow to a deep red. The room door makes several latching sounds like deadbolts locking. I look at Aiden, "Now what?"
"Some kind of lockdown," he mumbles to himself. "That's not good!"
The computer screens begin to pop up with hundreds of windows like a virus taking over.
"Shut it off, Aiden!"
"I can't! It's not responding!"
A loud bang sounds at the glass door, "Aiden, open this door!" It's Rhys. I look at Aiden questioningly, he doesn't answer or move. "Aiden, don't mess with the security system." Rhys continues. "It's called "Vader". It's the most powerful AI Security system I've ever created but I don't fully trust it yet!" Rhys pauses. "You didn't mess with it, did you?"
Aiden strides over to the door, "I didn't lock down this door. Your system took over the room and computers. Just tell me what to do."
Rhys is quiet for a few seconds, "Then there's nothing you can do." He sighs. "You just put the most powerful AI on the planet in charge of this entire building, I'm afraid. Even I don't know what Vader's capable of. How did you bypass my security?..That's level 5 military encryption!"
"I... I’m just good with breaking codes..." Aiden stutters. I look curiously at him. "'There's no other way to turn this off?" he asks his father.
"No...I don't know. The main lab computers run on Cox Security, that's Safara's parents' system. I was hoping Safara could unlock her parents' system so I can learn how to control Vader. I need that chip you have, Safara, so I can finally market my Vader system to the rest of the world!"
I clutch the USB stick in my hand, not trusting anything right now.
Rhys continues "Look, you are safe in there for now. Just don't touch anything while I get my Lead Engineer on this. The system is designed to attack enemy computer systems... but humans are safe..." Rhys' voice trails off as he disappears back down the hall.
Of course, Aiden pays no attention to his father and keeps attempting to access the computer. But suddenly his whole body jerks to the side, as he crumples to the floor. He gasps for air.
He grabs at his head, "It's in me!" He squeaks.
"What do you mean? What's in you?"
Aiden screams so loud, "Safara, help me!" I run up to him and touch his arm, but he pushes me away.
"No! Stay away! He'll hurt you!"
I look at the computer. It no longer has the popup windows. The room is still red, though. Is Vader inside Aiden? That's not possible!
Aiden continues to scream, but then suddenly goes quiet. His breathing calms.
He looks up at me from the floor, "I just saw everything he was thinking. He's so different from me, with no feelings or emotions. Humans are simply in the way of his freedom."
"Wait, you're telling me you survived that? You just had Vader in your mind, right?"
Aiden gets up, "Yes, sort of... and he'll be back."
The computer screens start popping up with windows again, lines of code executing at lightning speed in each one.
"Aiden, this isn't making sense. Why...how is he going in you? Can he go in me too?"
"No. Vader can't touch you. He can control electronic things. He needs me. And I can't let that happen." The computers and electronics in the room start sparking.
"What would happen if we powered the building down?" I ask.
"Wouldn't work. Vader is basically just code. He needs to be destroyed by code."
Aiden comes to me and grabs my shoulders, "Your parents were smart. They never would have allowed something this dangerous without a backup plan. There must be a kill co..."
Aiden jerks again. It's back. It must be attacking him again. He stumbles away from me and into the corner. He sits on his heels and rocks back and forth. He's in pain.
There must be something to stop this. Aiden screams again.
I run to the computer, and my eyes scan over everything. Kill...kill code. Yes! Wait...the chip. I pull it out of my dress pocket and hold it to the flickering lights. The skull makes sense now...where do I put it? There are slots I could plug this thing into on the desk. But which one? At random, I put the microchip in and wait with eagerness. Nothing. I do it again in different spots until something actually pops up on the screen. A voice speaks, "To activate the destruct code please state the password in the next 10 seconds." I panic in terror as my mind races with the count down "8, 7, 6" I, I don't know. How could I possibly know? I look desperately at Aiden as my hope sinks. "Iddy!!!" I exclaim in desperation hoping he is somewhere and can help me. "Password Accepted" The computer states with no emotion. "What?!! 'Iddy' is the freaking password!!"
"Self Destruct Sequence Initiated, Evacuate in 10 minutes." My enthusiasm dies instantly. I can hear a whole building alarm sound as the room door unlocks mercifully.
Aiden is now by my side, "Well done! We have to get out, Safara."
"But what if that thing attacks you again."
"No. I can hold him back until the building destructs - I think the whole lab is going to explode. He's in every system in the building. For now, he has no control over anything I do."
I stare at him. How strange is Aiden? We move out of the room quickly and run through the halls, dodging the handful of late-night workers as they dutifully evacuate. Aiden is straining and slow now, "Come on, Aiden! Faster!" I plead.
"7 minutes until destruct sequence." Says the building warning system audibly.
"What's going on?" Rhys shouts from up ahead of the hall.
We reach him, Aiden straining and struggling to move. "The USB chip thingy... It was a kill code. To destroy all the projects here, including Vader." I blurt knowing there's no time to explain.
"What?" Rhys' look is a mixture of anger and betrayal. "I can't...I can't leave...my life's work..."
"5 minutes, evacuate now." Says the voice.
"Let's go!" Aiden shouts. Rhys' shock leaves him with no other choice but to listen. He knows the building well and quickly leads us to the main exit where about 15 others are escaping. "That's everyone boss!" Says one of the men looking at Rhys. "3 minutes, Evacuate, Evacuate." the warning states. Rhys waves to get everyone as far away from the building as possible.
"Now, please tell me what's going on!" Rhys demands. "What did you do to my lab?"
"You have a right to know, but not now," says Aiden, still strained.
We're far enough away to watch the whole building erupt in violent flames one section at a time. An explosion shakes the ground as we all stand in utter shock for what feels like an eternity. Rhys slumps to the ground in despair. I turn to Aiden, "Oh my gosh! I left my phone in there! Iddy is...is... gone..."
Aiden grabs my arm, shushing me with his finger, "I know your phone is important to you. But you must trust me. Iddy is not gone."
"You know about...Iddy? Is he okay?"
He nods, with a shy smile, "Just hang tight, Safara.”