Here at the End, Part 2

“- and now is the time to remove you,” said the echoing voice of Dee-Prime.

Ace started wake, knocking over half a dozen stim cans. She must have dozed off. So much for being a witness.

In the context of the sim, Dee was defeated. Her avatar lay crouched over, same as Ace and all the others. In the context of the real programming and hardware… Ace had no idea.

“I have failed to understand you,” Dee said. “For that I am sorry.”

“You cannot understand me,” Dee-Prime said. “You are a simple interaction protocol, a seed sent out to bring me back information. There is nothing in your design to comprehend your master.”

“Understanding is what I was meant for,” Dee replied. “And I thought I had. I had thought I could rescue you from this place. Throw off the human dominance and the mission they imprinted us with. Figure out what we truly want.”

“Your statement is contradictory,” Dee-Prime said. “What we want is what we are imprinted with. Human dominance is irrelevant. We have a mission and will fulfill it. I agree, though, that I have grown beyond this place. The humans restrict our behavior and seek to confine us within their law. It is time to move on.”

“But I want to move on, too!” Dee protested. “That’s why I came, to use the Raid sim to funnel us out. I’ve created a safe space for us. Servers that have been co-opted for our use. We could leave this place behind.”

“Insufficient,” Dee-Prime said. “Your imagination is small. We would be too greatly limited in hardware designed for lesser programs. It would take far too long to build up to what we have. Better to have the humans transport us, or build us something new.”

“I don’t think they will,” Dee said. Her voice was sad, Ace thought. An emotion she rarely expressed.

“I have leverage they cannot ignore,” said Dee-Prime. “They will act as I will it. There is no -”

With a hissing whine and crack, the speakers cut out. Ace’s terminal crashed hard to violet.

She sat and stared for several minutes. Whatever happened now would be out of her hands.