Good Saturday, everybody! Time for another Story a Week. Frank's Saga continues this week, but I think the end is in sight. Stay tuned!
"Welcome back, Anne," Hugo said. "Frank is waiting for you, if you'll step inside the chamber."
Anne stepped into the chamber without any hesitation this time and Hugo helped her get the equipment on. When she opened her eyes she was standing inside of her own home and Frank was standing in front of her, smiling.
"It's good to see you," he said. "I've prepared dinner for us, if you'll follow me."
Frank turned and headed to the dining room. Anne followed and noticed a couple of changes were made to the layout of the house. Frank had added a fireplace to the living room and there was a roaring fire inside. She smiled as they stepped into the dining room. There was an elaborate meal laid out for them. "You don't know how to cook," she said jokingly.
Frank laughed and said, "I can create quite a nice digital feast though."
Frank helped Anne to her seat and went over to his own. Anne hesitantly took a bite of green beans and was surprised to see that she could taste the food. "It's good," she exclaimed.
Frank smiled and said, "Hugo and I have made some improvements to the virtual interface in the past few weeks since the..."
Frank suddenly stopped talking and was staring intently at the wall behind Anne. Thinking he was joking around, she looked at the wall. She didn't see anything and turned back to Frank. "What is it?"
Frank snapped out of his reverie and said, "I'm sure it's nothing. I'll be right back."
Frank stood up and left the room. He started speaking to someone. Anne couldn't hear everything that he was saying, but she did pick up a few words. "...cut off...then who? ...find out..." There were a few more garbled sentences, and then Frank yelled, "I don't care how you do it, just find out!"
Anne turned back to the table and pretended to eat as Frank came back in. "Everything okay?" she asked.
Frank smiled again and said, "I'm sure it is, honey. The building's connection to the internet has been severed is all, I'm sure it will be back on soon."
They continued their meal, but Frank was obviously distracted by the loss of Internet connectivity. Finally, Anne asked, "Should I come back another day?"
"No, I..." Frank started, and then said. "Oh, shit! You have to go." When she didn't move, he said, "Now! The FBI just pulled up out front."
Suddenly Anne was staring at the inside of the virtual reality helmet. Someone pulled it off her and Anne was happy to see that it was Dr. Argnatius and not an FBI agent.
"Frank wants me to get you out of our department so the FBI won't hold you for questioning," Hugo said quickly. He pointed to one of his assistants and said, "Frederick here will take you to another department." To Frederick he said, "Walk slowly and act naturally. Talk about sports or something."
Frederick ushered Anne out the door and they walked away from the reception area. "The Twins are doing quite well this year, don't you think?" Frederick asked.
"Yes," Anne answered distractedly as two FBI agents hurried up to them, "I think they'll make the playoffs this year."
Agent Meyers eyed the lab technician and his beautiful companion walking down the hall as he and his partner approached Dr. Argnatius' lab. He looked them over for a moment before allowing them to pass. If they did happen to be persons of interest, they would get them later. The other agents had the building locked down, after all.
An older man was stepping out of the lab when the agents arrived there. "Dr. Argnatius, I presume," Agent Meyers said.
Hugo immediately recognized the voice of Agent Meyers and replied, "Correct, Agent Meyers. What brings you to my lab this afternoon?"
Agent Meyers pulled a packet of papers out of the inside pocket of his blazer. He handed the papers to Hugo as he said, "We have a federal warrant to search your lab and detain any witnesses to any cyber crimes that may have been perpetrated by anyone here at Cray."
Hugo quickly glanced at the papers, then back at the agents. "You won't mind if we wait for my boss and his lawyers, would you? These are serious allegations, after all."
Agent Meyers nodded to Hugo. "We can wait, but we'll be waiting inside your lab. I don't want your techs erasing any evidence while we stand around out here."
"Of course, this way," Hugo said as he gestured into the lab.
The agents walked into the lab and Hugo followed. "All of this equipment is all powered down, what's it all for?" Meyers asked.
Hugo's face flushed and he said, "I think I'll wait for the lawyer to arrive before I answer that, if you don't mind, Agent Meyers."
Meyers didn't reply and looked around the lab some more without touching anything. A few moments later, Hugo's boss, Alfred Curtis and a short, stocky man dressed in a tweed suit walked into the lab. Hugo handed the papers that Agent Meyers had given him to the lawyer. The man began reading through them. Before long he said, "They have the right to search the lab and question anyone who works in it. No charges are being filed, yet."
Agent Meyers cleared his throat and repeated his question, "What does all this equipment do, Doctor?"
Hugo looked at the lawyer who gave him a reassuring nod. "These consoles are control interfaces and that chamber is a virtual reality interface."
Meyers inspected the consoles more closely and then walked to the virtual reality chamber. He stepped inside and inspected the equipment he found there. "What do these machines interface with?" When Hugo hesitated, Meyers said, "You can tell me, or I can have our techs rip all of this apart to try and discover their purpose. Your choice, Doc."
Hugo quickly replied, "The interface is to a metaphorical reality controlled by the intelligence stored in the supercomputer in the other room there." Hugo pointed at the server room.
Meyers seemed to notice that room for the first time. He left the chamber and stared through the glass at the supercomputer housed inside the other room. "Intelligence? Is that another AI that your department is working on?"
Hugo looked at the lawyer and said, "I'd like to confer with the lawyer before I answer that question."
Meyers didn't take his eyes off of the computer as he nodded. Hugo walked over to the lawyer and extended his hand. "I'm Hugo Argnatius, by the way," he said.
"Nice to meet you, Doctor. Alan Schmidt."
Hugo dropped his voice to a whisper to say, "The intelligence in that supercomputer is a secret project that my department has been working on for several years. If our competitors got word..."
Alan interrupted Hugo, "Say no more, Doctor. I understand." He walked over to Agent Meyers and said, "The good doctor is worried that his research efforts will become publicized before his planned date. Can we agree that any information that he shares will be kept confidential?"
Meyers turned and stared into Hugo's eyes as he replied, "Yes, unless we end up in a trial situation."
Alan turned to Hugo and nodded to him. Hugo sighed and said, "The intelligence in that computer isn't artificial. Or at least, it wasn't always artificial." Hugo told the story of Frank since the day of his unfortunate accident up until before the attack.
Meyers listened to Hugo's story with no expression. When Hugo finished, he said, "You mean to tell me that there's a man's consciousness stored in that computer?" When Hugo nodded, Meyers added, "And you want me to believe that Spartan was trying to steal it?"
Hugo shrugged, "I don't know," he said. "I don't know much about what happened that day. Frank handles his own security."
Meyers looked dubiously at the computer sitting in the other room. "Can I talk to it?"
The lights on the virtual reality chamber came on at that moment. Hugo gestured to the chamber and said, "It looks like he's eager to speak with you."
Meyers approached the machine. It was the first time since entering the facility that he appeared unsure of himself. He took a deep breath and entered. Hugo set to helping the agent into the equipment.
A moment later, Meyers opened his eyes to find himself sitting in a busy diner. There was a man sitting across from him and tables filled with patrons all around them. Waitresses hustled about the place. Frank spoke first, "Hello, Agent Meyers."