Wow, I've kept up with this for five weeks! I've seen my page visits rise to new heights with the project, so I know that people are reading this and I hope that you all enjoy my short fiction. If you have any feedback you'd like to share, please leave me a comment!
This one is a little longer than the rest, but it's still under two thousand words. Enjoy!
"Forgive me, Father, for I think that I've sinned."
There was a pause before the priest replied, "When was your last confession, my son?"
"I've never done this before, Father. I'm not Catholic."
Another pause. "Okay, then. Tell me what's bothering you. What do you mean by 'you think' that you've sinned?"
Hugo considered his words carefully before answering. "Well, even though I'm not a Catholic, I do know the Ten Commandments and the seven sins and what I'm doing doesn't fit exactly into any of those things, but lately I've sometimes been feeling like what I'm doing is wrong somehow."
The priest, concern in his voice, said, "Tell me what you've done, my son, and I will consult with the Lord's Word."
Hugo replied, "Maybe this wasn't a good idea..." He started to rise.
The priest spoke up quickly. "Wait. Let's forget the penance and the possibility of sin. You sound like you just need to get something off of your chest. That is part of why I'm here as well, you know."
Hugo paused, half standing. Finally, he sat back down and said, "Well, Father, I'm the head of a research team who has managed to copy the brain patterns of a human into a supercomputer."
The priest asked, "And why does this seem sinful or wrong to you?"
Hugo shrugged even though he knew the priest couldn't see him. He replied, "The man died and we used his brain as a donated organ. His consciousness is now living inside a computer."
"And you're concerned because?"
"Well, I don't know exactly. I just have a bad feeling about it all. I'm not even sure it's guilt or anything like that. He seems happy enough right now and for the first time in history a man's consciousness has survived past the death of his body."
The priest was silent for a long time and Hugo again wondered if this was a good idea. Finally, the priest said, "Well, I must admit that this is altogether a unique situation that you are in. The only advice that I can give you is that you must come to terms with whatever feelings you are having. But first, you must identify those feelings. Do you have a means to communicate with the person's consciousness?"
Without hesitation Hugo answered, "Yes, I can speak directly with him whenever I'm in my office."
"Okay, then. I would confront the person with your feelings and perhaps the two of you can start a dialog to help you overcome these emotions."
Hugo thought a little while about what the priest had said. It was true that Hugo didn't know much about Frank even though he had opened up somewhat about himself to the digitized man. "Thank you, Father. I think that I will take your advice."
Before Hugo could leave the confessional, the priest said, "You are quite welcome, my son. Remember that the Lord is with you always, even when you don't expect it or believe."
Without another word, Hugo left the confessional and the church. During the short drive to the office, Hugo considered what he would say to Frank. He felt a little apprehension, but at the same time he was glad that he decided to go forward with this.
A few minutes later he walked into the control room where the virtual reality chamber and the interface to Frank's computer were at. Hugo looked through the glass at the cooled and static free environment that housed Frank and his computer. As soon as he walked in he knew that something was amiss. None of the monitors for the interface were on and all but one of his assistants were conspicuously missing from the room. "What's going on here?" Hugo barked.
The man was obviously startled as he turned to Hugo. He stammered, "Sometime this morning Frank took over the kernel and severed the connections to our interface. We've..."
Someone behind Hugo cleared his throat. Hugo turned to see his boss standing in the doorway with another of his assistants. "Where have you been, Hugo? We've been trying to reach you for over an hour."
Hugo mentally slapped himself in the forehead as he realized that he had turned the volume on his cell phone off when he entered the church. "Uh, I'm sorry, Mr. Curtis. I must have left the volume on my phone off."
Alfred Curtis rolled his eyes and said, "You are the epitome of the absent minded professor sometimes, Hugo." He chuckled a little and said, "Well, at least you're here now." The short stocky man pulled a single piece of folded paper from the inside pocket of his expensive suit as he said, "I received this email right before I got the call from your assistants." He handed the paper to Hugo.
Hugo quickly unfolded it and read: 'To Whom It May Concern: I've taken over my computerized home and cut myself off from contact to you. I am quite sick of your constant monitoring of me (yes, I was able to sense it). I have some other complaints that need to be addressed before we continue this relationship. When Hugo arrives, he may enter my world, but anyone else trying to contact me will not be allowed in. Sincerely, Frank'.
Hugo scratched his head as he handed the paper back to Alfred. He said, "I hadn't fully realized how unhappy he was."
A few moments passed as Alfred stared hard at Hugo. Finally, the man said, "Well, what are you waiting for? Get in there and talk to the man...er...machine...whatever."
Hugo turned and entered the virtual reality chamber. One of his assistants went to start the machine up, but before he reached the button, the machine started on its own. Nervously, Hugo put the helmet on his head.
Frank saw Hugo materialize next to him. The two of them were standing on the shore of a lake that was unfamiliar to Hugo. Hugo waited for Frank to speak first.
After a few moments of small waves lapping the shore at their feet, Frank said, "Welcome to Lake Minnetonka, Hugo." He paused and looked around before he continued, "Anne and I used to come here once or twice a summer and rent jet skis and race them around the lake."
Hesitantly, Hugo said, "Frank, I'd like to talk to you."
Frank ignored the scientist and continued, "I know that it's the end of December out there in the real world, but I was feeling nostalgic for these memories in particular. Anne and I haven't had any particularly memorable Christmases... nor will we, I guess."
Hugo saw Frank's eyes well up and he blurted out, "I'm sorry for what happened to you, Frank. But there's nothing to be done about that. You're here whether you like it or not and there's nothing that I or you can do about that."
Franks face turned from sadness to anger as he turned on Hugo and grabbed the front of his shirt and lifted him a full foot off of the ground. "You're right about one thing, Hugo. There is nothing you can do about it. There is, however, something that I can do about it."
Hugo was surprised to discover that he was feeling an intense fear for his own safety at this moment. "Frank, don't go doing anything rash now. Neither of us really wants your consciousness to be deleted."
Frank set Hugo down and laughed in his face. "You guessed wrong, Doc. I could walk out of this machine right now if I wanted to. I know how and I have the power to do so."
Hugo did some quick thinking and replied, "Where would you go, Frank? No desktop computer in the world would be able to hold you and you would be discovered if you took over someone's server."
Frank nodded to Hugo and said, "Yes, I know that, Hugo. I only want you to know that I do have the ability to leave. And if you even think about disconnecting me from the Internet, I will leave before you finish pulling out the plug. I have access to the entire building right now. Security, the phones and all of the other computers in the building."
Hugo was starting to feel a panic attack coming on. Frank said, "I can even detect your elevated pulse rate and increased blood pressure." Frank stepped back. "Be careful that you don't give yourself a heart attack."
Hugo took a deep breath and quietly asked, "What do you want, Frank?"
Frank smiled and said, "Good, we understand each other." He turned back to the lake and continued, "You can keep the monitors, but I only want them on when we're working together." He looked over his shoulder at Hugo. "I will know the instant someone pushes the power button on one of them."
Hugo nodded, and Frank continued, "I also want your permission to contact my fiancée."
A lump formed in Hugo's throat as he asked, "Do you think that is a good idea, Frank? She thinks you're dead."
Frank nodded. "I know that. You will first arrange for her to use the virtual reality interface."
Hugo replied, "I will do what I can, Frank. I do have one question for you, though. How did you do it? How did you bypass all of our security measures?"
Frank chuckled. He said, "You've been pitting me against them from the beginning. You didn't tell me that, but I quickly figured it out when I began to put feelers out to the network here. The strategies they used were the same as our practice sessions. It was just a matter of time, and it didn't take much of that even. Do we have an agreement, Hugo?"
Even though Frank wasn't looking at him, Hugo nodded. Before he could say anything, Frank said, "Excellent. You may go."