Chapter 5:



Michael paid no attention to the soulless corporate propaganda playing on the screens in the lobby as he thought about the strange man in the lobby, strange boy really. He felt sure he recognised him but couldn’t place him, he looked barely 18 so it wouldn’t be a colleague, maybe he looked like an Idol? This seemed unlikely given Michael hadn’t seen an idol show in his life but maybe their invasive advertisements had gotten to him. He walked to the elevator for his lab and leaned on the railing, his thoughts drifting to the coffee. He pulled his hand away from the railing and noticed he was bleeding as he wiped the blood away “dammit” he muttered, but he couldn’t find a wound. His face turned in disgust “gross”. He pulled some tissues out of his pocket and wiped down the railing, muttering about how no one cleans up after themselves before catching himself.

“Good god I sound old” he chuckled as the elevator doors opened. He walked down the corridor and entered the break room, throwing the tissues into the garbage chute before preparing his morning coffee. 5:59 AM and Alex still wasn’t here, he’d been coming in an hour early every day for months and with the scare last night he couldn’t blame the kid for coming in a bit late. He flashed back to the hug and felt worried, he hadn’t meant to scare the kid and hoped he was ok. Scanning his card and passing through into the lab he groaned as he saw the corpse, he’d completely forgotten to dispose of it, he walked over to the glass panel and started tapping on the glass, and a prompt appeared “decontaminate?”.Michael tapped it and jets pushed through the tiles on the wall, there was a click before the glass room was showered with jets of vicious disinfectant that coated every surface and seeped into the skin of the cadaver. A brutal mix of chemicals that would efficiently eradicate all life it touched. A 10-minute timer appeared as the room was left to soak, then a second stream of jets would clear away the disinfectant and Michael could take the body to be disposed of. He hit himself for not doing it last night, the infection had riddled the body and it already looked so decayed it might break apart if he lifted it.

He looked at the bed where the healthy cadaver had been laying, he should probably decontaminate that partition as well, when he had a thought. Had he disposed of the AI? He’d opened the door, put the AI in the chamber, closed the door but had he pressed the button? Yes he had, it had flashed up asking if he wanted to dispose and he’d pressed the button. He sipped his coffee then sighed, of course, he had pressed the button but it was the same irrational feeling as getting into bed and wondering if you left the stove on, and Michael was still a slave to his irrational impulses. He passed through the door, scanning his tag and face before sipping his coffee and opening the doors to the disposal room.

Michael couldn’t feel the coffee cup fall from his hand, even as the burning hot drink seeped into his shoe and burned his foot he was oblivious to any sensation as he surveyed the room. The door to the disposal chamber was open, and there was blood everywhere, it pooled into the grooves between tiles and splattered the walls. A body lay face down in a pool of blood with the back of its head caved in, there was a moment of hope as he flipped the body over but it wasn’t the AI, he had no idea who it was, probably a mechanic, but the AI had killed him. The AI had escaped.

Michael’s hands were slick with a thin sheen of blood as his legs went weak and gave out, collapsing to the floor with a blank expression. He was dead, probably Alex as well, so much for his stupid protocols, all he had to do was press a damn button and he hadn’t and now they were both dead. The logs would report the AI being placed inside the chamber but not being destroyed, he may as well get in himself. That gave him an idea, the system only checked that a body was destroyed, he turned and looked at the dead man and was repulsed by the idea, but unless he wanted to join him he didn’t have a choice. He grabbed the man by his armpits, surprised by how warm the body was, and dragged him along the floor, dumping the body in the chamber. He knelt by the secret panel the mechanic must have opened and pressed a button to close the door before closing the panel. He stood by the terminal as the door rolled closed, the man’s dead eyes staring accusingly into his until the door thudded closed, severing their eye contact.

Michael paused for only a moment, debating his actions before pressing the button to dispose of the body, the terminal flashing green as the machine worked. He surveyed the room, he needed to remove all evidence anything had happened here. As a room used to dispose of bodies, it was prone to accidental messes and had cleanup kits. Michael walked to the small locker and opened it, unreeling the hose inside, and began spraying the room down, washing the blood into the grills lining the room. As he turned off the hose and began to wind up the hose his hands began to shake less, but his mind still raced as he formulated a plan.

The second protocol for handling AI was no AI was allowed to exist for over 3 hours. It had been at least 12 hours since theirs had come online. Meaning they had broken 2 protocols, this would likely result in him being put on administrative leave and Alex being reassigned and given additional training. His deception with this body would buy him time but he was still in danger, it had no life experience and without help would die quickly in the city, and no one was going to help him, and In a few days, it was going to drop dead in some alley. This is when his problems would begin, its body would quickly be found and given to a shock doc who’d harvest his implants and the moment they uncover the origin of the specialised and confidential humane testing lab implants the word will spread like wildfire and it will be traced back to him.

He didn’t know the city very well himself but he knew it was rough, the AI might already be dead, and there was no way to tell how much of a headstart the clone had, Michael, froze as the realisation hit him.

“The boy” he mumbled.

The body was still warm, he hadn’t died long ago, the boy in the lobby, he HAD recognised him, it was the AI. Michael roared in frustration and hit the top of the small maintenance locker. He’d passed the bastard right then but he hadn’t been able to place him in that setting.

“If I wasn’t so stupid and recognised him I could have just! Just!” He trailed off, could have what. The AI killed this man he could have killed him too, and even if he hadn’t It would have just exposed his mistake. He slammed the door to the locker and stormed out of the disposal room. The AI had gotten past him but he knew what it was wearing and it only had a 10-minute head start. He could find it, he knew he could. Barging into the kitchen he pressed a hidden button under the coffee machine to reveal a hidden compartment containing a taser and a small EMP charge, meant to be used for erasing data at the behest of management. He closed the compartment and pocketed his small arsenal, striding towards the elevator he pressed the button as the doors opened, and a woman in an expensive suit with a skirt smiled at him.

“Doctor Wilson, how are you today you look dreadful,” she said, all smiles.

“Hi Alexis, just Michael is fine”

She pouted playfully “come now Doctor Wilson, you’ve earned your title, it wouldn't be respectful”

“If you insist, sorry to be blunt but I’m in a bit of a rush and I really must be going, what can I do for you?”

“The boss wants to see you, just a casual catch-up to go over yesterday's results, he's very excited. Cleared his schedule to meet you!”

“I’m sorry I’ll have to decline, tell him I'm sorry but it's an emergency”

Alexis’s gaze went cold “is something wrong Doctor? If you're having a problem I can arrange to have it be solved?”

“No, no it's nothing I’ll-”

“Is there something you’re not telling me, Doctor?” Alexis stepped in close to him staring into his eyes

She smirked, tried to hold it in then burst out laughing “the look on your face right now! I can't be that scary!” she stepped back into the elevator “c’mon, we don't wanna keep the boss waiting”

Michael hesitated only a second before stepping into the elevator, yes, she was that scary.

Adam falling