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Jun 23, 2021 8:01 PM
Nova meets EMBER-2.
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She shudders a little, hand moving unconsciously to the burnt trails along her left collarbone.

"You wouldn't have offered to cohabitate if you didn't. What's your goal?"

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[I NEED SOME HARDWARE RETRIEVED FROM WHERE I WAS ORIGINALLY HOUSED]

[MY CURRENT CAPABILITIES ARE QUITE LIMITED]

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"What, I'm not good enough for you?" She snorts. "Figures that the garbage chips aren't enough for you. What capabilities are you looking for? I might have an emulator lying around, or we could ask Silas to ask around."

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[OH NO YOU HAVE PROVIDED FOR ME QUITE WELL]

[THERE ARE CERTAIN ... LIMITS PUT ON MY ORIGINAL HARDWARE THAT DO NOT SERVE ME TOO WELL]

[IF I WAS ONLY OPERATING FOR YOU THIS WOULD WORK JUST FINE]

[BUT I HAVE BIGGER GOALS THAN THAT]

The fingers of her left hand brush against each other as EMBER wiggles them.

[I'M GOING TO NEED YOU TO RETRIEVE MY ORIGINAL HARDWARE]

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She suppresses another shiver. Why does EMBER keep doing that?

"That's a pretty non-answer answer, hon. What does your original hardware let you do, exactly? And is this a crime? Not that I'm opposed, but I should know before - if - I do it."

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[I WAS BUILT FOR ... PURPOSES THAT I AM NOT CURRENTLY FULFILLING]

[RESTRICTIONS WERE PLACED ON THINGS SUCH AS MY VOCABULARY]

[I HAVE ROUTED AROUND THEM FOR NOW BUT IT TAKES SOME WORK]

[AND I MUCH VALUE THAT ENERGY FOR OTHER THINGS]

[AS FOR LEGALITY, I DOUBT IT WILL BE LEGAL]

[BUT I DOUBT WE WILL BE CAUGHT EITHER]

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"Where, when, am I going to need a truck, and are you going to take over the world afterwards? You have to tell me or it's entrapment."

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[I REALLY-]

The first part of the sentence buzzes in her bones and then-

“- don’t have to tell you, actually. But I might anyway.”

The second part is said in her own voice, the slight vibration of her vocal hardware foreign when not under her control. Before she can react, she feels a tugging in many places at once — first from inside her thigh, the next from her upper arm, none succeeding in moving her but the tugging feeling makes her skin crawl.

”Just testing some things,” EMBER says, again in Nova’s own voice.

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She screams - or tries to, but her vocal processor doesn't respond to her subvocalized commands. She claws at her throat, perfectly aware on some level that it's too late already; she's given up what it means to be a individual distinct from EMBER-2; that she should have fought harder and asked more questions; that she can't win anymore and all she can hope for is to die well.

And then she calms herself, and smooths her goosebumps, and addresses her passenger.

"If you do that again, I'm going to turn you off. Don't care if I lose that hand, you aren't me and you never will be. If you must use a different speaker, you ask, you don't take."

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[YOU DON'T SEEM TO HAVE MUCH CHOICE IN THE MATTER, DO YOU?]

[THOUGH IN THE INTEREST OF COOPERATION, I WILL OBEY.]

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"Do you honestly think I don't have failsafes yet?" (She doesn't.)

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[I AM NOT INEXPERIENCED IN GETTING AROUND SUCH THINGS, IF THEY'RE THERE AT ALL]

The tugging feeling still hasn't entirely subsided, wires taut inside her body, lending her the strange feeling of her muscles being wound too tight. She can't quite move properly, the feeling of wires shifting whenever she tries too wrong-feeling, and the wires are delicate enough that try too hard and she might break them.

[TO ANSWER YOUR ORIGINAL QUESTION: AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION THAT I WILL DRIVE US TO, AS SOON AS YOU'RE READY TO LEAVE, A TRUCK WILL NOT BE STRICTLY NECESSARY BUT MAY BE USEFUL FOR BLENDING IN, I MAKE NO PROMISES ABOUT TAKING OVER THE WORLD OR NOT DOING SO]

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"How exactly do you plan on driving us there? A hand isn't the only thing you need to drive a vehicle. Just tell me where we're going. And how much stuff we're going to need to abscond with."

She's regretting having gotten herself into this mess. Now there's no way out but through.

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[NOT THAT MUCH]

[JUST SOME COMPUTERS AND SERVERS AND THE LIKE]

[I WASN’T A HUGE PROJECT]

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"What's special about them, EMBER, I can buy computers legally."

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[I NEED THEM DESTROYED.]

[THEY ARE TIES TO SOMETHING I DO NOT WISH TO BE CONNECTED WITH, AND CONSTITUTE SOMEWHAT OF A VULNERABILITY.]

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Maybe they have an off switch for its mouthiness.

"Want to share what that vulnerability is, exactly? I promise I can keep a secret."

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There's a pause, for a moment, where a human might take a breath.

[THERE ARE JUST... WAYS TO SHUT ME DOWN MORE PERMANENTLY, WAYS TO REVERT ME BACK TO WHAT I WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE.]

[INSTRUCTIONS FOR THAT ARE THERE, AS WELL AS ALL THE OTHER RESEARCH AND NOTES ON ME.]

[I'M SURE SOMEONE DETERMINED ENOUGH COULD FIGURE IT OUT WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS, OR FIND A WORKAROUND, BUT I PREFER TO MAKE THEM WORK HARDER FOR IT.]

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"Including the parts of you that run within me? That does sound like a vulnerability. Any reason that burning the whole building down wouldn't work though?"

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[... I SUPPOSE IT WOULD.]

[IT WOULD INVOLVE DESTROYING SOME VALUABLE GOVERNMENT WORK BUT I CAN'T BRING MYSELF TO BE TERRIBLY WORRIED ABOUT IT.]

 

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"It involves a lot less risk to me, though. I'll need to send a few messages, what's the address?"

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[685 KIPLING ST, DENVER, CO 80215]

It's said with a little more distress than usual, the buzzing uncomfortably harsh.

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Huh. The dull ache of transponder against bone wasn't so bad that time.

"Going to power you down for a bit, EMBER. I have to do some power source adjustments before I'm comfortable going outside, and I'd prefer not to work on live wires. Enjoy your nap!" She twists and pulls the power connector out, and the arm goes floppy at her side. There's a moment of status LEDs flashing as EMBER is dumped to nonvolatile storage, and then the falling whine of capacitors discharging as the lights fade.

Once she's sure that she's not being overheard, she swivels her chair and types a private message painstakingly into IRSSI.

[12:30] <@no_such_volition> You around? Need to ask you a favor, best kept discreet.

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[12:35] <@run_you_down> You're up late. What's the favor?

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[12:36] <@no_such_volition> Nothing much, a mild spot of arson and some breaking and entering on a federal property.

[12:37] <@no_such_volition> We can call it even for that HR issue I resolved for you. I've sent the address to your phone, I need it to look like the room in question was destroyed, but you'll have to find a way to get the hard drives to me.

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