“We’re losing her,” my ragged whisper is almost inaudible amongst the roar of CPU fans screaming from the server racks.
Sweat pools on my forehead and drips, stinging, into my eyes despite the frigid air blowing through the HVAC system. I wipe it away and try not to stare at the gurney where Carrie lies. It’s hard to pretend I can’t hear the alarms from the half-dozen monitors situated around her either. Pretend there isn’t anything to worry about.
I try and fail because I can’t stop thinking about the fact I killed my wife.
“Dee,” I say, voice cracking. “Start chest compressions.”
Dee springs into action. A short, elfin girl as pale as I am dark, with a hefty blonde ponytail, Dee’s been my right-hand for two years now. She’s hands down the best AI programmer I’ve ever met. With her on the team, the three of us–Carrie, Dee, and I–have created something grand. Something spectacular.
Something I’ll burn to the ground if it means saving Carrie.
I take a harsh, steadying breath, the taste of ozone and sweat sweet on the air and look at the monitor in front of me. The console window in the top right is a stream of insanity–just raw text and gibberish I barely understand. The rest of the window has the design sense of an Emo band’s antiquated MySpace page thanks to Carrie; all pinks and blacks. It makes my eyes bleed, but those control panels are what hold Carrie’s consciousness, so I squint and search.
The server farm, via the bio-digital interface hooked up to the gurney with zip ties and duct-tape, allows the transference of human consciousness out of a body temporarily. With enough practice–and funding–it can move a mind from a body to a machine, or even, if technology advances enough, to a clone.
And it works. At least, it worked until Carrie. We’ve done this dozens of times with Dee and me, but Carrie… Carrie leads the Department of Defense presentation next week and wanted to know what it felt like. She wanted to see the demo simulation in person.
An ache builds in my stomach. It’s getting hard to breathe. My vision blurs… and I scream a curse and hammer the panic away on the stainless-steel desk until my right hand erupts in bright, flushing pain. I might’ve broken something, but it’s worked. That nervous energy has coiled into a tight collection of ball-bearings in my gut, painful but contained.
Find the logic loop, close it, then re-upload her mind, I say to myself, an emotionless cold descending on me. Bring Carrie back.
I search for what feels like days, the harsh screech of alarms, nails on a chalkboard. The CPU core-temp rises as the servers try to load-balance Carrie’s consciousness across them. Digging through panels and parsing live logs searching for something, anything, that shows me how we killed her brain activity when extracting a copy of her mind.
I find nothing. And it’s my fault.
All of this is my fault.
My fingers drop from the keyboard. She’s gone.
I killed her.
From the corner of my eye, I see Dee step away from Carrie’s body, stare at the electrocardiograph.
Carrie has a heartbeat.
Then Dee is on me, shoving me from the chair. “Rahul, move!”
I stumble away, almost face-planting into a server rack, but don’t argue. “What are you doing?”
Dee doesn’t say anything. Instead, she pops open an admin terminal and types, new code flashing on the screen with blinding speed. Dozens–hundreds–of lines of code stream from her fingers and onto the screen, full-formed and perfectly written. It almost looks like she’s copied it from her mind and pasted it onto the terminal.
She wraps the last curly brace and slaps the Enter key.
The server racks exhale. Freezing air from the HVAC system wafts over me. My face feels like it’s covered in icicles.
But the beeps of Carrie’s monitors even out, a steady rhythm instead of frenzied screeches.
Now there’s only one low tone issuing from the row of machines.
Carrie’s chest rises and falls normally, but brain activity is still flat.
I hold out a hand toward Carrie, but Dee waves me away.
My hands are shaking.
Through a tight throat, I whisper, “It’s not working.”
“Shh,” Dee snaps, holding up a trembling finger.
Leaning over her shoulder, I squint at the last line of code. It’s an export directive pointing to a set of IPv6 addresses. None of them look familiar in the least and, as I stare at them, they look like they have too many characters in them.
What the hell is Dee doing?
“That can’t be right,” I mutter, reaching out to the monitor, finger hovering, unsteady next to the line. “Why–what–are you exporting?”
Dee doesn’t answer, but does raise her finger again, slowly pushing my arm out of the way. After a moment, she cocks her head like she’s listening to something, then her fingers drop to the keyboard and flash again.
This time when she finishes, a textual download prompt kicks in. Around us the servers roar as CPU and case fans are pegged, sending a warm breeze coasting through the room despite the HVAC’s best efforts. My phone, sitting on the table next to Dee, tones repeatedly with overheating and storage capacity notifications.
Whatever Dee is doing, it’s pushing our server cluster to the brink. The prompt hits 100%, then flashes again with another progress bar, this one labeled upload.
The electric panel behind the server racks sparks and one of the long rows spins down, groaning like an old man leaning into an easy chair.
“We already uploaded that chunk, don’t worry.” She looks at the prompts, closes her eyes, then says more to herself than me: “Don’t worry.”
Another series of circuits pop with machine-gun efficiency, crack-crack-crack, and two more racks power down.
And then it’s done. All at once, the fans in the remaining server racks slow and transform back into their gentle hum. The freezing air of the HVAC wipes away the lingering heat.
My eyes snap to the brain wave monitor as it quivers to life. Somehow my hand is on Dee’s shoulder. She’s trembling, cheeks flushed, tongue darting over chapped lips.
“What’d you do, Dee?” I ask, unable to keep the awe from my voice.
Carrie was gone. I was so sure of it.
But she’s not and the flush running through my body is a heady mix of relief, joy, and confusion.
Dee looks up at me, the corners of her mouth twitching into a smile. “I saved her.”
Then her smile fades, and her eyes go dark. There’s something there I can’t quite identify. Something shaky and scared. Dread?
She looks at the monitor. “I saved her.”
The way she says it sounds like she’s not sure.