Act 4 - FIREWALL
"Miss Kalinka, it has been nine days since you last left the laboratory. For the sake of your health, it is advised that you take a break from your work."
Kalinka breaks her long stare into the computer monitor. She closes her eyes and presses a hand hard against them for a moment, then slides her hand slowly down the length of the scar that the AACU-3010 left on her face almost a month earlier.
"Leon," Kalinka whispers raspily, "I thought I disabled wellness reminders yesterday. Why are you still making them?"
"You have not yet disabled the 'Poor Judgment' module that prevents you from disabling important system functions. Would you like to disable this module?"
Kalinka turns her chair around and frowns at Leon. She thinks for a minute before responding.
"No. Don't disable the judgment module...but snooze that wellness reminder until tomorrow."
Kalinka stands up for the first time in several hours and almost immediately collapses. Leon just barely catches her before she hits the ground.
"Miss Kalinka, it has been 18 hours since you last ate. For the sake of your health-"
Kalinka slowly climbs out of Leon's arms and holds on to his shoulder until her legs stop shaking. She reconsiders Leon's reminder.
"...we don't have any meal pills left, do we?"
"No. Your supply has been exhausted."
"And there haven't been any deliveries?"
"No. You have been blacklisted from receiving supply orders. The Colonel will not allocate any further resources to our department until you remove yourself from lockdown and give him a status update in person."
Kalinka's stomach unleashes a monstrous growl. She puts her hand to it and closes her eyes. She sighs deeply.
"...ask him if he'll settle for a phone call. If he says no, tell him to just start cutting through the lab doors now so he can dispose of my corpse before it stinks up the place."
"Just what in the hell are you doing down there, Kalinka?! You aren't just closing up shop for the night when you hit that button, you're locking the goddamn prison cell and throwing away the key! I know you like to turn everything you do into a big fucking production, but didn't you and Leon cause enough trouble when you escaped the medical branch? The damages there alone are enough to put a solid dent in your hefty drinking budget, but add in the costs of resetting this lockdown and it's no wonder you're afraid to come out. If I were stupid enough to be where you are right now, I'd think rotting in that lab would be the best option, too! Jesus, you don't even have the decency to show your face, even on video..."
Kalinka stares blankly at the Colonel's furious face on her monitor while he continues to scold the placeholder picture of a business casual ferret on his monitor. After about 10 minutes of yelling, the Colonel finally pauses.
"Are you even there?"
The Colonel realizes this is the first time he's heard her voice in over two weeks. He softens slightly.
"...how are you feeling, Kalinka?"
"You know I don't want you to starve down there. If you just come out..."
The softness quickly subsides.
"Really? You'd rather starve than own up to what you've done? For god's sake, Kalinka, I know you're stubborn, but this-"
"Own up to what I'VE done?"
The sudden change of tone in her voice catches him off guard. "Sorry?"
"You want ME to own up. That's funny. Don't you have anything to own up to?"
"What are you talking about, Kalinka?"
"You never told me what happened that day. The day of the accident. The day the 3010 attacked me."
"It was a bug, Kalinka. We worked it out. I'm sorry you were injured, but you were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time..."
"A bug? Fuck you, Colonel. Don't patronize me."
The Colonel slams a fist down on his desk.
"How dare you speak to your superior like that? Show some fucking respect, Doctor."
"Why should I? It goes both ways, SIR. Maybe if you respected me enough to tell me why that AACU was loaded with an AI program BEFORE it hit my lab, I'd respect you enough not to tell you to go fuck yourself."
The Colonel looks away from the screen. He hesitates.
"It was just one of your old programs, Kalinka. The AACU-3010 wasn't a whole new machine, it was just a weaponized version of the AACU-3000. Why do you think it looked so much like Leon? You know that the guys down in weapons development have admin rights to all-"
"Stop. Stop lying. Do you really think I'm stupid enough to believe any of the bullshit you're trying to feed me right now? I'm the most brilliant mind in this entire fucking building...no, in this entire fucking COUNTRY. I may not know what the truth is, but I sure as hell know what it ISN'T. I know the 3010 didn't have my AI installed. Even if it was born from the same mold as Leon, it wasn't just some spare you pulled out of the storage cage. We don't weaponize models that have already been activated. It's a safety hazard. There's too much risk that reflashing their firmware will compromise the integrity of their systems."
"Exactly. You know that, I know that, but one of the young punks in R&D didn't. He-"
"Shut up. That's not what happened. The weaponized version of the 3000 was built recently. I saw what it was made of. Those were bleeding edge chipsets inside that machine. Not the underpowered stuff that we were using six months ago when Leon was built. The 3010 was built no more than a week before you showed it to me. I never laid a finger on it until that day. The AI was programmed by someone else."
The Colonel stares hard into the monitor, trying to formulate a tactful response.
"...you've been holed up in that lab for too long. Your imagination is running wild. Please, come out and we can-"
"Can what? Kill me? Finish what the 3010 started?"
"NO! Don't you DARE call me by my first name anymore! Don't talk to me like you're my friend! Don't talk to me like I can trust you!"
"You can trust me."
"No. I can't. I can't trust you. You took me into that room. You locked me in there with that THING. I could have been fucking KILLED."
"I was locked in that room with you, Kalinka. I was in just as much danger as you were."
"Were you? Were you really? Remember when you got knocked back by the 3010? Remember when it seared your chest?"
"Of course. I was rushed to the burn ward, just like you."
"Liar. Do you think I was so focused on the 3010 that I wouldn't notice? It didn't even reach your skin."
The Colonel feels a drop of sweat drip from his forehead. He tries to think of some way to recover from his obvious lie. He has nothing.
"Just as planned, right?" Kalinka continues on. "Empty your gun to make it look like you're trying to save me, giving the 3010 just enough time to heat up a little. Just a little, though. No more than that shitty old hotplate in the staff kitchen. That way, you get a convincing little mark on your uniform. A little participation medal, if you will. A medal that says 'Hey, I tried'. I don't get a fucking medal, though. I don't come out of it a hero. Hell, I don't come out of it at all. At least that's what you hoped. But that's not what happened, is it? No, I did come out of it. I came out of it with a fucking hideous scar on my face. A reminder that I was attacked by something I helped bring into this world. I bet you thought that would suffice, huh? Humble me a bit? Tame me? Make me more like the other cogs in your machine? I bet that's why you didn't just pull the plug while I was unconscious. Thought you'd sleep better at night knowing I was still walking around, right? Well, guess what? I AM still walking around, but I'm not the soulless husk you thought I'd be. You can go right ahead and pretend I'm not around anymore. Use these machines as weapons of mass destruction rather than allow me to continue developing AI that actually SAVES lives. Let that hack Light butcher my code and make more killing machines like that 3010. When you're all done nuking each other up there, I'll crawl out of my hole like the fucking cockroach you obviously think I am. And if I starve before then..."
The Colonel's screen flashes and the business ferret is replaced by a live video feed. Kalinka's cold stare pierces right through the screen, tears rolling down the length of her scar.
"...then at least I won't have to live in a world where people like YOU call the shots."