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Amelia slamming my front door startled me awake.
“Good morning sleepy head, I called three times, thought I better pop over to see if you were dead or just ignoring me. Looks like it was somewhere in between.”
She was glowing, still in her clothes from last night. I was right; she was wearing a tight and shiny red dress. The way she looked made me think last night wasn’t real, that there was no explosion. She looked primed and polished, not disheveled or a speck of dirt on her. I was speechless.
“Still at a loss for words, aye Cash? I suppose you may be slightly confused, maybe I should explain. You got my note yes?” I nodded. “Alright, so basically the Muse Box was working smoothly the first two nights, only a few missteps here and there like the McCartney dream. Night three is when it got weird."
“Amelia, you blew up a building. With people inside, with our technology. Three years of working towards destroying the one thing we’ve been attempting to create?”
“I know, but Cash, darling, you don’t understand. This thing hasn’t been in your brain. It’s been in mine, and it’s planted some not so savory material up there. Violent things Cash. I know I can be an angry enough person for the rest of us, but I have never felt this type of rage before.”
I sunk lower into my couch, trying to escape the moment. I had always been skeptical of the Muse Box, but in a ‘"this is never going to work" sense, not a "make you homicidal" sense. This type of technology could never reach that level of awareness without outside intervention. The box is not meant to be cognizant, to think for itself. It is meant to take memories or thoughts a person already has and rework them to fit that person’s fantasy. The information implanted into the box’s code is purely from the person wearing the nodes, apart from the random facts sheet we upload to it in updates.
“This can’t be real,” I don’t mean to say it out loud.
“Oh but love it is. Unfortunately you and I are the only two that can fix the problem, and I’m plastered all over. My grandmother always did tell me I’d look great on television, although I think she wanted me on the other side of the news desk.”
Amelia opened my fridge, shutting it only seconds after once she realizes it’s contents consist of ketchup packets and curdled milk. “Anywho, that means you’ll have to do it."
I could hear the smile in her voice. I stood up slowly.
“What do you mean?”
“Well as of late I’m not exactly allowed back into the facility, so you’ll need to go in and destroy the remaining boxes, along with any accompanying data. We need to make sure this doesn’t spread.”
“I think you’re being a little extreme Amelia.” She spun from looking at some cheap wall art to stare into my soul.
“No, Cash. I put my life, my career on the line because I know this box needs to be destroyed. I’m past extreme at this point.” She had fire in her eyes.
“If what you say is true about the Muse Box, why would I believe you blowing up that building wasn’t just the technology forcing you into a violent outburst?”
“You have a point there, Cashous. However, why would the technology risk destroying itself? There were hundreds of boxes at that party. Losing that many links to other vessels would cut off its ability to manipulate more than just a few others and me. It just wouldn’t be practical."
Even when she was serious she kept a lighthearted tone, slightly mocking.
“I guess you’re right. But why not just announce to recall? You didn’t have to hurt anyone.”
“Like I’d have the power to do that. Those investors were having a ball, drinking with the higher ups, basically begging them to take their money. What would I do? Just walk up to Mr. Cleinfield and say, ‘oh yeah by the way sir, the Muse Box is creating violent tendencies and needs to be recalled immediately.’ That would’ve definitely worked Cash.” The sarcasm was thick. “And even if he had ordered the recall, who would give back the machine? Maybe a few honest men, but how many of those rich assholes are honest men?”
She threw herself onto the couch. I sat down next to her. We both just sat for a few moments looking through my window at the people on the streets, buildings, and trees. All completely unaware.
After what felt like forever I decided to speak.
“Well, I guess we should get moving then.”
I stood up, extending my hand to her. She grasped it, stood, and then pulled down her dress a bit.
“I guess we should.”
She started walking out the door when she spotted my Muse Box sitting on the counter.
“We can start with this one.” She grabbed the screwdriver I had left next to it and brought it up above her head like someone about to sacrifice something. I swung my hands in front just before she brought the metaphoric hammer down, well screwdriver.
“What are you doing?”
“Maybe we don’t have to destroy everything. Maybe we can just clear the computers at Vision, recall the rest of the machines and save the information and this little guy for us. This could just be a missed step, a fault of our own. We don’t have to completely scrap the project. We can fix it Amelia.”
She looked at me for a few moments, looking for a tactful way to tell me no.
“Maybe we won’t start here, but you’ll have to finish it here, Cash.”
She grabbed her jacket and walked out the door. And I stood in my kitchen alone, with the Muse Box.
The building was swarming with protestors, nothing out of the ordinary yet. Amelia had stayed in her car about two blocks away, making me walk through herds and crowds of people. The protesting had gotten worse since the unveil party explosions. Clearly, the people were unhappy, but it didn’t make much sense to protest at Vision. Why would they try to blow up their own investors?
I waved my ID in front of the lock at the entrance. It made a beep dissimilar from the usual. “Access denied,” a smooth woman’s voice rang through the box. I guess that makes the blow of not being allowed in your place of work a little less harsh. I tried my ID a few more times before calling Amelia to see if she had a plan B.
“I guess they thought anyone associated with you or the project should be denied access to the premises.”
“Oh you have to be joking. Well this is only a speed bump, just wait until one of the suits gets back from their lunch break and sneak in with them.”
“What if they?” Click. Did she seriously just hang up on me? I did as she said and sat on the bench outside the front door. A few guys came back from lunch, but I couldn’t muster the courage to walk in with them. Finally a group opened the door wide enough that I had time to squeeze through before the door closed.
The inside of the Vision building didn’t look any different than when I had seen it last a few days ago, aside from a few more security guards here and there. I had to then get into the elevator with a group of suits, considering you need ID verification to use those as well. I rode with them without hitting the button to the floor that held our research lab. When it came down to just me and one other guy, he gave me a strange look, considering I wasn’t wearing a suit, but I pretended to get off on the same floor he did and snuck back on just before the doors closed. I pushed the button to the floor I needed, B7, and then held down the close doors button. I read somewhere that these buttons don’t actually work, same as the crosswalk buttons, but it still gave me slight peace of mind, and I was able to make it to the basement without others interfering.
The level was dark.