Saturday, January 29, 2011

Story a Week 9 - Frank Saga, Part 8

Good evening, dear readers. It's rather late tonight, but it's still Saturday! :)

Tonight's Story a Week brings us another story in the Frank Saga. It's a little longer, so bear with me. Enjoy!

Agent Meyers and Frank sat staring at each other for a moment. Finally, Meyers glanced about the diner. "What is all this?" he asked.
Frank smiled and looked around the diner too. "I've been playing around with creating more and more complex realities. None of the patrons speak, yet, but the waitresses each have a personality and can carry on short conversations." He paused smiling to himself as he took in the myriad of activity going on around them. "I thought that a public place would be a good, comfortable and non-threatening setting for us to meet. Would you prefer someplace else?"
Meyers shook his head. "No, this is fine. Is all of this is fake, then?"
Frank nodded and elaborated, "Yes, though if you tried any of the food, it would give you a good approximation of taste without actually giving you any sustenance. Would you like to order?" Frank started to call over a waitress.
Meyers quickly indicated that he wasn't interested and said, "No, thank you. We have things that we need to discuss." Frank smiled at the agent and motioned for him to continue. "As I'm guessing that you know, I'm a member of the Cyber Crimes division of the FBI. I know a lot about computers, networks, security, and so forth." Frank nodded and Meyers continued, "I'm also assuming that you are the one who tipped us off about Dr. Spartan."
"And your point is?" Frank asked.
"I'll be blunt, Frank. Did you release the virus that took temporary control of most of the Internet's nodes?"
Frank smiled. "I did."
Meyers sat back in his chair and stared hard at Frank. "Why are you so openly admitting all of this to me?"
Franks smile grew. "You'll never be able to prosecute me."
Now Meyers' was puzzled. "Why is that? You just confessed."
Frank chuckled and shook his head. "I'm dead. I'm not even a human anymore."
Meyers leaned forward menacingly and growled, "I'll have you deleted."
The smile disappeared from Frank's face. Outside, clouds began to gather and a lightning bolt lit up the dark sky. The sound of thunder soon followed. Meyers looked around when he noticed that the hum of people talking in the diner had stopped. The patrons and wait staff were all staring intently at him. Frank said, "I don't like to hear that kind of talk, Agent Meyers."
Meyers was not a man that was easily intimidated, but he was beginning to fear Frank. Who knew what Frank was capable of when he was attached to the reality? Meyers tried not to let his feelings show on his face when he said, "You can't scare me with these charades, Frank. I'll take your computer into our labs and you'll never see a friendly face again."
Frank and Meyers stared hard at each other for a few moments. Frank spoke first, "Maybe we can help each other, Agent Meyers. You're worried about what I could do to the Internet and I want to be free of control of Hugo and his bosses... You scratch my virtual back and I'll scratch yours."
Meyers leaned back. The surprise he felt was pretty obvious on his face. He said, "Tell me what your plan is."
A few moments later, Agent Meyers left the virtual reality booth. He walked straight up to Hugo and said, "We will be confiscating all of this equipment and bringing it back to our labs." He turned to his partner and said, "Will you oversee the removal of the equipment? We need to be very careful with it all."
It took a moment for the news to hit Hugo, but he finally burst out, "No! You can't do that! I don't know what will happen to Frank if you were to turn off that computer!"
Meyers rounded on Hugo and sternly replied, "Frank assures me that he will be fine. I don't want him damaged any more than you do. We intend to investigate this matter very carefully, Dr. Argnatius. Losing Frank would be equal to losing evidence, and we have no intention of doing that."
Hugo turned to the lawyer and said, "Aren't you going to do anything about this?"
Alan replied, "There's nothing I can do about it. It's within the scope of the warrant to confiscate any evidence relating to the attacks that occurred."
Hugo looked pleadingly at his boss. Alfred just shook his head. Hugo sat in a chair and put his head in his hands.
Agent Meyers watched Hugo's drama without expression. When Hugo sat, he turned to his partner and said, "Can you handle this?" When the man nodded, Meyers left the room. He walked down the hall directly to where Frank told him lunch room would be. The lab tech and beautiful woman he passed in the hall earlier were sitting inside. The both looked at him with worried expressions on their faces when he came and sat at the table with them. Meyers looked at the tech and said, "You should leave now."
The tech considered his options for a moment. Finally, he sighed, and mumbled to Anne, "Sorry." He got up and left.
Meyers turned to Anne and said, "I'm taking Frank into custody. He wanted me to tell you that everything will be okay and not to worry."
Anne laughed sardonically and said, "Why should I trust what you're saying? You're not on Frank's side."
"Ma'am, I'm on the side of the American people. If Frank is not against that, then I'm on his side. So far, he seems to want to cooperate with me, so we're on the same side."
Anne looked hard at Agent Meyers. She said, "What do you want with me?"
Meyers stood up and said, "Nothing. You should go home. We'll be in touch soon."
Anne rolled her eyes at him. Without another word he left.
A few days later, Anne was at home when she got a telephone call. The caller ID said the number was unavailable. Anne almost didn't answer, but something told her that the call was important. She picked up the phone and answered it. "Hello?"
"It's me," said Frank's voice.
Anne got excited and worried at the same time, "Are you okay, Frank?"
Frank replied, "I'm great, honey. I've worked out a deal with the FBI. I need you to come down to their office in Minneapolis and I'll explain it all."
Anne said, "I'll hurry on over."
Anne ran out to the car and started driving. She was so apprehensive and excited that it took her ten minutes to realize that she had forgotten to buckle her seat belt. She reached over and grabbed the belt when she saw something out of the corner of her eyes. She looked up to see a car running a red light. She slammed on her brakes and closed her eyes.
When she opened them she was lying on her back and she saw Frank smiling above her. Confused, she asked, "How did I get here?"
Frank's smile disappeared. He stood up and turned away from Anne. She took a moment to look at her surroundings. They were in their house together and she was lying in the bed they had shared before his accident. She sat up and repeated, "How did I get here?"
Frank turned back to her and Anne was surprised to see tears in his eyes. "Anne..."
She stood up and walked to him. When he wouldn't meet her gaze, she softly asked, "What is it?"
Frank started sobbing. He managed to say, "Anne...we're the same now..."
Frank's statement confused Anne for a moment, but then she understood. "I died, didn't I? That car that ran the light..."
Frank, still sobbing, only nodded. "Why are you so sad, Frank?" she asked. "If we're the same now, we can be together always and forever."
Frank stopped sobbing and looked into Anne's eyes. "'re right. I hadn't thought of that. I was grieving for your death, but I still have you."
Anne and Frank smiled at each other. Frank hugged her hard and she said, "How did you get Hugo to do this for you? The last thing I knew, the FBI had taken you into custody, if you can call it that."
"Well, it was part of a three part deal where I do work for the FBI and Hugo gets to continue his research," Frank replied.
"So, are we in Hugo's lab?"
Frank shook his head. "No, the FBI has upgraded our hardware and we're being stored in some very secure government building. I've been doing analysis of data for them and I will defend their networks if they ever come under attack. That's our deal for getting us out of Cray. Other than that, they will leave us alone."
Anne led Frank back to the bed. "It's good to be alone," she said.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Look

Hello everyone. I've decided to go with a new look for the blog. The old template wasted a lot of screen real estate and I think that this new look is generally more appealing anyways.

Stay tuned for another Story a Week this Saturday! It's already written, it just needs a little editing.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Story a Week 8 - Frank Saga, Part 7

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."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Story a Week 7 - Frank Saga, Part 6

Hello Internet! Today's story a week brings another episode of the Frank saga.

I'm really enjoying writing these stories and I've been considering extending my story a week to go past my birthday and continue on for the rest of the year. I've gotten quite a bit of good feedback too, which helps motivate me.


Frank watched the battle below unfold on the monitors in front of him. He was sitting in the command chair of an AWACS aircraft. The phone next to him rang and he picked it up. "Hello Hugo."

"Any change in the situation, Frank?" Hugo asked.

"No. Whoever is perpetrating this attack on us has come in force, but isn't particularly coordinated. It's mostly AI driven with some assistance from humans," Frank replied.

"How do you know that?"

"It's hard to explain. It's mostly in the strategies they're using. The humans occasionally try something new and creative while the AIs just cycle through the same tactics over and over. Any which way, they aren't going to be breaking into our network today."

"That's good. Mr. Curtis wanted me to sever our outside connections," Hugo said.

"No, let's not do that. I want to find out who our assailants are. We've captured a few packets and I've got some intel, but most of it's not much use right now..." Frank paused. "I've got something to show you, Hugo. Why don't you come inside?"

Frank could hear the hesitation in Hugo's voice when he said, "I guess I could do that."

Frank hung up and stepped out of the chair into the small open area in front of the command chair.

Hugo materialized in front of him and glanced about, nodding to himself. "I had thought that you wouldn't need the metaphorical realities after a time," he commented.

Frank chuckled and replied, "I don't, really. I'm doing most of the processing outside of this reality. I find, though, that I enjoy them. It connects me to my old self in a way."

Hugo nodded. After a moment of silence passed between them, he said, "You had wanted to show me something?"

Frank nodded and gestured behind Hugo. Hugo turned and was startled to see another Frank standing behind him. "'ve duplicated yourself?"

Frank shook his head and moved to stand next to his twin. Other than a difference in uniform, they looked identical. "I just chose an avatar for this program that looked like me. This program is designed to capture computers and network nodes of the internet for our use. Major hubs will see it as a software patch and it will infiltrate computers in a similar manner."

Hugo stared at Frank's replica and said, "You've written a Trojan horse virus?"

Frank nodded and said, "Something like that. I would like to think that this is more advanced than a simple Trojan that a hacker would write. It will communicate status updates to me and I can use the information gleaned to view Internet traffic on a global level. With this, I can track who is attacking us."

Hugo turned and paced for a few moments. He stopped and said, "I don't know about this, Frank.

You'd be breaking the law by releasing that program into the wild."

"Isn't whoever is attacking us breaking the law?" Frank said angrily. "They're attacking us. If our defenses failed, they would..." Frank saw something in Hugo's expression that made him pause.

"You know who is doing this, don't you?"

Hugo couldn't meet Frank's eyes as he replied, "I think so. I don't know for sure, but it's likely one of my former assistants."

"They're trying to get me, aren't they?"

Hugo looked at Frank and replied, "I would presume that is their goal." Hugo sighed. "We worked together for a few years and he had some ideas that I didn't like. He went over my head to Mr.

Curtis who promptly fired him. I've heard from mutual colleagues that he holds a grudge against me, Mr. Curtis and Cray to this day."

Before Frank could respond, something on the command console beeped. "One of your assistants wants to talk to us," Frank said without looking at the console. "I'll put it on the speakers."

"Dr. Argnatius, Frank, the news agencies are reporting about the attack. Apparently computers all over the world are being used to perpetrate it. The FBI and CIA are working together to identify the source and the target. They have threatened to put an injunction out to shut the Internet down in the US if the attack continues."

Frank and Hugo stared at each other for a moment or two. Finally, Frank said, "You see what they're doing? They are building an army of zombie computers to attack us."

Hugo looked worried as he asked, "Is there a risk of them breaking your defenses?"

Frank shook his head and said, "No, but this will go on in a stalemate until the feds step in. I could end this, if you'll let me."

Hugo started pacing again. He turned on Frank and quickly asked, "After the crisis is over, you'll call off your virus?" When Frank nodded, Hugo said, "Okay, Frank. You can send out your virus."

Frank excitedly clapped his hands once and jumped into the control chair. The virus disappeared from the airplane and Frank was hurriedly typing commands into the consoles in front of him. A moment or two he looked up and saw Hugo still standing there. "Don't worry, Hugo. I know what I'm doing."

Just before his image disappeared, Hugo whispered, "I sure hope so."

Later that day, Hugo switched on the television in his office and watched as the news reported on the activities of the day. "...the FBI doesn't have any additional information at this time on how the presumed attacks over the Internet were concluded, but a source who wished to remain anonymous told this station that they theorize that the defenders of the attack went on an unprecedented counter attack using some sort of virus program. He wouldn't give any more details. The FBI has promised..."

The phone on Hugo's desk rang and he turned the television off to answer it. "This is Hugo Argnatius."

"Dr. Argnatius, this is Special Agent Meyers, with the FBI's cyber crimes division. Do you have a moment to answer some questions for me?"

Hugo's heart leapt into his throat. "I'll do what I can, Agent Meyers. What kinds of questions do you have for me?"

The agent's voice was at the same time hard and yet unthreatening as he said, "Well, Doctor, you'll have heard the news about today's attacks over the Internet?"

Hugo immediately answered, "Of course."

"Good," Agent Meyers replied. "I'm going to be a little blunt here, Doctor. We're almost positive that your facility was the target of today's attacks." The agent left it at that and Hugo was just starting to wonder if he should speak when Meyers continued, "We've also received an untraceable tip on who the attacker was. Needless to say, we're going to verify these claims."

There was another pause. Before the agent could speak again, Hugo said, "Why are you telling me all of this, Agent Meyers?"

"I'm glad you asked, Doctor," the agent replied. "You see, Doc. The attacker in question was once an associate of yours. Do you remember Alexander Spartan?"

"How could I forget him?" Hugo replied. "He was at the same time a brilliant mind in the field of Artificial Intelligence and a pompous jackass. My boss, Alfred Curtis, fired him for his rogue behavior."

"Yes, we know about all of that and we think that this may have been the motive. I was just wondering if there was any new information you might want to share with me to aid in the investigation?" The agent's voice turned harder and more commanding than before.

Hugo was hard pressed to keep the secret of Frank to himself, but he succeeded. He said, "Not that I know of. I haven't spoken to or received communication from Dr. Spartan since his termination."

Agent Meyers paused a moment before asking, "Are you sure, Doctor?"

Hugo replied, "Yes, Agent Meyers. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No," Meyers replied. He paused and said, "I must admit that I'm a little disappointed that you can't give me more information."

Trying to stay calm and level voiced, Hugo replied, "I'm sorry that I couldn't help you."

"You have a good day, Doctor Argnatius. I'm sure we'll be in touch." Without further word the line went dead.

Hugo's hand shook as he set the receiver down. He jumped when it rang the moment that it was hung up. He quickly scooped up the receiver and said, "Yes?"

It was Frank's voice on the other end. "What did the FBI want, Hugo?"

"How did you...never mind. I think he was a little suspicious with us, but he mostly asked about my former associate..."

"Dr. Alexander Spartan," Frank interrupted.

"How did you know that?" Hugo asked. "I didn't tell you his name before."

"I have access to all of Cray's employment records, Hugo. I did a little research. It didn't take long."

Hugo replied, "Yes, well, that's who the agent mostly asked about. He pointed the finger at him for the attack on us."

Frank chuckled, "Yes, I imagine that he would."

A light bulb came on in Hugo's head. "You were the anonymous tip that he referred to, weren't you?"

Frank chuckled again. "Of course. I made my message to them untraceable. Before I relinquished control of the nodes of the Internet I saw some messages go around the FBI about a raid on his lab too. He won't bother us again."

The blood ran out of Hugo's face. He squeaked out, "What have you done, Frank?"

Hugo could hear the defensiveness in Frank's voice as he replied, "Hugo, you have to understand that he wouldn't have stopped there. He would have tried again to get a hold of me. Who knows to what lengths he might have gone? He knows now that he can't beat me on my terms and that he'll have to find a way in real life to get at me."

Hugo replied, "I understand, Frank. You have to protect yourself."

Frank heard the fear in Hugo's voice and said, "We're on the same side, Hugo. You have nothing to worry about." He paused. "We are on the same side, aren't we, Hugo?"

Quickly, Hugo replied, "Yes, Frank. Of course we are."

Hugo could hear the smile on Frank's face as he said, "Good. Let's keep it that way."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Story a Week 6 - Frank Saga, Part 5

Hello dear readers! Sorry that this entry is a day late, I've been on a company retreat since Friday and haven't been on my computer for more than a couple of minutes since then too. So, here's the next segment in the Frank Saga.

Before we get to the story, I'd like to ask you all a favor. My readership seems to have peaked. If you like my stories and blog, I'd like you all to spread the word. Tell your friends, link my blog, etc! I appreciate those of you who have already done so.

Now, on to the story!


The phone on Hugo's desk rang. He picked it up and said, "This is Hugo."

The receptionist was on the other end. "Anne Montgomery is here to see you."

Hugo's heart immediately began pounding in his chest. "I'll be right there. Please get her a guest badge." Hugo hung up the phone and headed to the reception area.

He walked into the reception area to find a beautiful young woman waiting there for him. She got up as he entered the lobby. Hugo extended his hand and said, "Miss Montgomery?" She nodded and he continued, "I'm Hugo Argnatius."

She shook his hand and asked, "What am I here for? Your assistant called me and asked me here, but he wouldn't really tell me why. He only said it was about Frank This is all really confusing since before today I'd never even heard of Cray before and don't know how Frank would have any connection with your company."

Hugo was hesitant to come right out and say why she was here, instead he said, "Why don't you come back to my lab. I'll explain some of what we do on the way."

Anne hesitated for a moment before following the scientist. Hugo led Anne through the hallways and explained some of the history of his department. When they arrived in the control room he finished the explanation.

There were a few moments of silence as Anne looked around the room. "You're not trying to recruit my brain, are you?" she asked.

Hugo almost laughed out loud, but instead he said, "Goodness, no. That is partly why I've brought you here, though." He paused a moment. He found that he couldn't look directly at her as he said, "We've already acquired a donor brain."

Before he knew what was happening he was defending himself against an angrily flailing Anne. "You used Frank's brain, didn't you? Why wasn't I told about this sooner?" she yelled at him.

Hugo caught her arms and gently held them as he said, "Yes, we used his brain. The day before he died we received permission from the FDA to use a human brain. His was the first available."

Anne pulled her arms from Hugo's grasp. She took a deep breath and looked around the room again, more intently this time. "Where is it?"

Hugo was confused for a moment. He asked, "His brain? We don't have it anymore. We didn't have any use for it after we mapped Frank's brain patterns into that computer." Hugo pointed to the computer in the other room.

Anne stood up and looked at the computer. Tears forming in her eyes, she asked, "Why have you brought me here? Why are you telling me all of this?"

Hugo sighed and replied, "Frank wanted me to. He wants to speak with you."

Anne quickly sat down. She stammered out, "F-Frank wants to t-talk? How is that possible?"

Hugo walked over to the virtual reality chamber. He said, "This is a virtual reality chamber. It will allow you to interact with Frank in a very realistic virtual environment."

Anne immediately stood up and walked over to the chamber. She only hesitated a moment before she entered. Hugo helped her get equipped and then closed the chamber door. He gestured that his assistants should leave. Before he could turn the machine on, it came to life all by itself. One of the monitors came on and a plain text message saying, 'Come back in half an hour,' came on the screen. Hugo quickly left the room.

Anne opened her eyes to find herself standing on the shore of Lake Minnetonka. It was summertime here even though outside the building Anne knew that it was winter. She was startled to hear a voice from the past call her name. She turned to see Frank standing a couple of feet away. He looked exactly the way she remembered. She ran to him and put her arms around him. She was surprised to feel the warmth of his body pressed against her own.

After a few blissful moments, she took her head from his chest and looked up at him. Tears were in both of their eyes as she said, "I thought that I'd lost you forever."

Frank's smile disappeared from his face. Grimly, he said, "I'm afraid that you still have, my love." The confused look on Anne's face made him continue, "I'm still dead, honey. I don't have a body and it's not likely that I ever will."

Anne pushed her head into his chest again and the tears started flowing in earnest. Through her sobs, she said, "This isn't fair."

"Life isn't fair," Frank said and let her cry as he held her for several moments. Finally, he said, "We'll get to talk to each other frequently now. I can call any phone number that I want and we can talk that way. It will be as if I were traveling..."

Anne looked up and interrupted him, "Instead of dead, you mean."

The two of them stared deeply into each others' eyes for a few moments. Frank said, "Right now, it's the best we can do. I have some ideas on how to improve our situation, but I'm afraid that I can't share them with you at this time. I couldn't wait any longer to see you."

"What can I do to help?" Anne asked.

"Nothing, yet," he replied. "My next step is to sort some things out with Hugo. So far, I've been their plaything, but things are going to change around here."

Anne and Frank spent the rest of their half hour walking along the shore of the lake. When it was time for her to leave, Frank said, "Send Hugo in when he comes into the room. He's been pacing outside of the control room the whole time."

Anne's visage disintegrated and Frank had to fight away the tears. A couple of moments later, Hugo materialized next to Frank. Hugo glanced around before he asked, "Anne said you wanted to talk to me?"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Story a Week 5 - Frank Saga, Part 4

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"

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."