She sank to her knees, her head bowed. “Why must I do this, Father?”
“You know why,” he whispered, stroking the bent head, marveling at the softness of the hair, the physical perfection of his creation. “My knowledge must never fall into their hands. Please believe me, this is the only way.”
He sat back in his chair, squared his shoulders and placed his hands on the armrests, waiting.
The girl did not move.
“Must I order you to do this?”
She raised her head. Her gazed bored into Alex’s, stripping him bare of his delusions. The fine hairs on his nape stood to attention. As God was his witness, he felt as though she was peering into the deepest darkest recesses of his soul. He wondered what she would see there. And, coward that he was, found himself grateful that she was incapable of passing judgment on him.
She waited, sitting back on her heels with her hands clasped neatly in her lap, her features a smooth emotionless mask. “Yes, Father,” she said. “You must give the order. Please believe me, this is the only way.”
Alex pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and heaved a shaky sigh. It served him right, he supposed. He’d poured his heart and soul into her, done his utmost to make her as humanlike as possible. And he had been the one to insist she call him “Father”. He could hardly blame her for mustering what they both knew was a token resistance to this final solution.
“So be it,” Alex said. “Initiating sequence Revelations 13-colon-17, 6-6-6. Cyborg Unit Gamma-Dash-One, this is Alexander Jay Durham. Confirm.”
“Running voiceprint analysis. Identity confirmed.” Her voice was now flat, machine-like. Inhuman. Alex’s command had shunted her artificial consciousness aside, allowing him to access her core programming. Forcing her to obey.
“Cyborg Unit Gamma-Dash-One, prepare to initiate sequence J-O-H-N-3-colon-16.”
“Commence sequence J-O-H-N-3-colon-16.”
The girl stood and placed her cool, lethal hands on his shoulders. He closed his eyes. He was tired, so very tired. He harbored no fear for what was to come, merely profound relief. God willing, Mary would be waiting for him.
“I. Do. Not. Want… to do this… Father.”
His eyelids flew open and he choked on a gasp. Real tears glistened in her eyes. It should have been impossible for her to fight the command, impossible for her to produce tears.
A malfunction or a miracle? Only time would tell. And Alex had run out of time.
He took a deep breath and clasped his hands, settling them into his lap. His eyelids drifted closed. “Cyborg Unit Gamma-Dash-One, commence sequence J-O-H-N-3-colon-16.”
“Commencing sequence,” the cyborg said. “I love you, Father.” In one swift, efficient movement, she broke the old man’s neck.
As humans often liked to do in such circumstances, she closed her eyes, honoring her creator and his contribution to this world with a minute of silence and utter stillness.
She would have preferred to bury him but that was not part of the plan. However, there was another way for her to honor his memory. The man she called “Father” had always balked at choosing a suitable name for her. The significance of a name, choosing the right one, had been too overwhelming for him.
She now appropriated his middle name. She would henceforth be known as “Jay”.
Her sensors registered that the grumbling purr of Hummer engines had ceased. Leaving Father’s body slumped in the armchair, she took a replica of herself from a cabinet and placed it in the chair behind the computer desk. As she arranged the thing in a lifelike pose, positioning its hands on the keyboard, a droplet of moisture plopped onto the Enter key. She swiped at her cheeks and examined the wetness on her fingertips. Her tongue darted out to taste and identify.
Impossible. A malfunction.
She blotted her face with her sleeve and filed the phenomenon away in her databanks to be analyzed fully at a more opportune time. Her immediate priority was to increase her core body temperature until it exactly matched the ambient temperature of this room. She would automatically make adjustments as she passed through each area of the house so that she would not register as an anomaly on their heat sensors.