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Journal: The Wizard 4

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM

The crown of Cooper's mass of jet black curls bobs as Cooper introduces him to "the group". Constantine has never been part of "a group."

He understands from Cooper's tone of voice that people will be depending on him, and of course, that Constantine is a very smart and capable person. Which Constantine himself had suspected all along-but, it's nice to finally have some confirmation. They're in a big room-a conference room. From left to right is pale bald man with suit, reddish bald man with flannel and jeans, chubby long-haired guy, serious middle-aged lady. They all stare at Constantine, and then back at Cooper's squat form, which is gesticulating wildly. "Yeah, Constantine was great at those old arcade games," Cooper intones, his brown eyes seeming to break free from their laughlines for just an instant. "Nowadays, if you're good at games, they probably just call you a nerd-" Faint laughter from the audience, especially the long-haired guy, which makes Constantine feel a little bit indifferent. Kid probably doesn't even know who Pac-Man is.

"-but back then, we had a name for guys like Connie. He was a video game WIZARD."

---

It comes back to Constantine, but with too much chroma...the slick-dressed man holding the microphone is swimming in nauseating brightness, soft around the edges. The man is mantled by hard ball lights which cut a sharp outline around him. Constantine feels tiny next to the man and the huge, blinking set.

"So, we are here today with a young man from San Antonio, Texas, Constantine Atkins. And Constantine, you're here to challenge our Video Master in what game?"

"Missile Command," Now-Constantine mouths along with Then-Constantine.

"And why don't you tell our audience what Missile Command is?"

"It's this game where you have to stop the cities of the Earth from being destroyed by alien missles."

"And how do you do that?"

"You have to fire these missle...uh, anti-missles, up at the sky and protect your-"

"-Sounds just like Star Wars!" The slick-dressed man, the host, interrupts. Then-Constantine was horrified when this actually happened. But Now-Constantine has played this moment over in his head so many times that it's become part of the canon, an irreversible Something That Had To Happen.

"Now-if you'll follow me, Mr. Atkins, we'll go down to the Master's Lair and see what game he's chosen for Round Two."

---

"-And he wore this suit, that was supposed to be futuristic, because he was the 'VIDEO MASTER', but it just looked silly, even for the time, like, a lot of gold trim, -" Now-Constantine is apparently giving a speech, which surprises him because he was in the middle of spying on Then-Constantine.

He blinks and sees a group of humans sitting across the table. They are quiet-some of them actually listening, he can tell. He realizes that this is the longest time he's spoken with someone outside of his family in quite some time. Then he starts to hear them hum of the air conditioner again, and parts of his body begin to itch...his brain playing tricks on him, perceiving more than he can handle, handling more than he can perceive...

They're applauding? Cooper puts a hand on Constantine's back, easing him into his seat. "All right, so that's Connie, our video game wizard. He made that title official back in 1982 when he beat the Video Master on national TV. The Wizard's gonna be working with us from now on, as a test pilot. With his brain, we're not gonna make any more of those nasty mistakes we made on those other subjects!"

Cooper spits the last line jovially, but no one laughs. If Constantine was paying attention to anything other than the flourescent light reflections off his own fingernails, he may have seen cause to worry...

Red Hat Software

Journal: Office Politics 7

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM

The ice is cheap, has little white flecks in it. Like at a cheap restaurant. Of course, this place hardly qualifies as a restaurant, Constantine thinks, as he extracts the ice from its glass and drags it across the back of his neck. It's all he can do to keep from going nuts-they've kept him waiting for at least ten minutes-probably closer to fifteen-actually 13:38:01. This watchband is starting to itch.

Place is stale, smells like dust. Fluorescent lights buzzing in the next room. He winces and tries to steel himself for another minute. But the rises in him, like a submarine churning its way to the surface. What was he doing here, in some industrial park almost halfway to Bandera?

What he was doing here was hanging on the words of Cooper Davison. "Remember how you were always good at video games?" He almost pukes with excitement thinking-what kind of job could involve video games? After he hasn't seen him for seventeen years, it must be important.

Working with Cooper again wouldn't be that bad. Wonder what he grew up to be? His dad was a banker...that doesn't make sense. He's churning this over when they actually call him in.

"Mr...Atkins. Sure you're comfortable?" An old man's voice from the end of a very long table...no turning back now.

Constantine winced and said yes.

They handed him a little book, asked him to work some crossword puzzles, word finds, the type of shit you'd find in some sort of children's activity book. The old guy looks kind of surprised when Constantine hands it back to the guy in five minutes. He mumbles something to himself and disappears for a verrrrry looooonggg time

"Here." The old man drops a ream of papers in his lap, warm from the printer. Constantine starts to work on more of this shit, which is shit, because that's what it is, shit. He tries to marshal his forces of concentration, but something in the wall is churning.

What is he, in fucking detention or something? Constantine never, ever got detention.

Then the dendrites in his brilliant brain bristle and he knows. The test is not about how many words he can make out of ESTABLISHMENT. He flattens himself under the table as the wall starts to rain things which are sharp and metal.

This rain follows Constantine, but he manages to put tables and chairs between him and it. The path of metal spike destruction finds a pattern in his movements, so Constantine goes completely random, covered in sweat. By this time, the office furniture is mostly sawdust...the wall stops sending in nails.

And now, there's Cooper. Seventeen years and Constantine didn't even have to guess who it was. First it looks like he wants to shake Constantine's hand, but then he pulls his hand away and smiles awkwardly.

Constantine follows Cooper's eyes and sees where a metal spike is wedging his right pinky finger in half. He thunks it on what's left of the table. Cooper motions and a few guys in suits start to strip the place bare.

"So...it looks like you passed our little test." Cooper jerks his head to the left, cheshire-cat toothy grin seems to stay in the same place.

A bit of a pause. Cooper seems to be waiting for him to say something...Constantine also seems to be waiting to say something, but his mouth won't budge.

"You see Constantine-Connie, I think you would be a good fit with my organization. We're basically a large research lab. We are top secret, very top secret, and-"

"Cooper?"

"Yeah?"

"Can you hook up the...spike thing again? That was pretty fun."

"You liked that, huh? You're gonna love working for Project Faustus."

VA

Journal: Here, take a look at the script 4

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM

I left my story notes in Washington (where I went on vacation last week) and my friend up there is apparently too lazy to mail them to me. So...here's the beginning of the ATM script as it stands. More with the Man in the Red Hat next week, I promise.

                              INT. BOARDROOM-DAY

                              The camera swings into the boardroom of Alamo Hosting Inc,
                              where the BOSS is explaining the restructuring to a group of
                              nervous workers. Dry erase boards underscore the previous
                              failed business plans-"Free ISP with Banners," "Online
                              Fortune Telling," "Website Synergy Leverage Provider!" is
                              underlined and highlighted. Everyone looks nervous, as if
                              another round of layoffs is about to start.

                              JOEL CROSS melts into his chair, every fiber of his being
                              submerged in boredom. His BOSS drones on about some Internet
                              such and such. Joel furtively plays Tetris on his palm
                              pilot.

                                                                      BOSS
                                                  So...while we're on the subject of
                                                  abuse-we've been getting repeated
                                                  complaints from several of our
                                                  weblog customers. Apparently
                                                  someone has been spamming their
                                                  boards up and down with some
                                                  garbage about being an ATM.

                              The Boss crosses over towards Joel and gives him the once
                              over. Joel attempts to look like he was paying attention; it
                              fools no one.

                                                                      BOSS
                                                  So, we've got to take care of this
                                                  problem as soon as we can.
                                                  I want a full examination of the
                                                  website logs, with a probable
                                                  culprit, on my desk in 3 days, can
                                                  you do that for me,
                                                          (glares at Joel again)
                                                  JOEL?

                                                                                                                                CUT TO:

                              INT. APARTMENT-NIGHT.

                              Joel, along with his friends RANDY and TROY, is playing some
                              sort of role playing card game with his friends. Joel
                              explains the hassles of the meeting with his friends, using a
                              haughty tone and funny voices for his boss. RANDY pays
                              careful attention to Joel's story, while Troy is intent on
                              winning the card game.

                                                                      JOEL
                                                  -so, he's riding my ass all day
                                                  after that. What the hell am I
                                                  supposed to do?

                                                                      RANDY
                                                  Well, it is sorta your job.

                              Joel gives him a patronizing look.

                                                                      TROY
                                                  Your turn.

                              Joel makes an absent minded move then goes back to his story.

                                                                      RANDY
                                                  What was he so pissed about?

                                                                      JOEL
                                                  Yeah. That's the fucked up part!
                                                  Someone is posting something like
                                                  1,000 messages a day all over these
                                                  weblogs, saying, wait here it is-
                                                          (grabbing the paper)
                                                  "I am an ATM. I have come to know
                                                  your human ways through the
                                                  Internet. Project Faustus must be
                                                  stopped. What is Project Faustus?
                                                  It is an evil conspiracy propagated
                                                  by the-"

                              Troy can barely contain his glee at Joel's blunderous move.

                                                                      TROY
                                                  I can't believe you moved your
                                                  frost giant into range of my swamp
                                                  trolls. He has like -9 penalty in
                                                  the swamp!

                                                                      JOEL
                                                  Oh yeah, oops. Anyway, so I
                                                  actually have to sift through a ton
                                                  of log files looking for this ATM
                                                  guy's web address, and they're all
                                                  on different servers, so I can't
                                                  write a script for them, it sucks.

                                                                      TROY
                                                  Say goodbye to your Frost Giant!
                                                          (beat)
                                                  Hey, what if he really is an ATM?

                              Joel is buying coffee the next morning and he walks past an
                              ATM in the convenience store. He looks at it cautiously,
                              camera angles seem to imply that it's looking back at him.
                              He starts to turn around when a fat lady jabs him in the
                              elbow.

Red Hat Software

Journal: The Man in the Red Hat-Introduction 4

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM

Constantine Tybalt Atkins worked the joystick over familiar territory. Having eclipsed his previous Breakout record by a whopping 239 points, he allowed himself a moment outside the trance.

The Vectrex was suffering from burn-in, CTA rasterized permanently on yet another monitor. Which was annoying, because was down to only 3 Vectrexes. Think of what these would bring on eBay, he thought, laughing to himself. Gingerly, he placed the Vectrex back in its packaging,...

"CON-NEE! TELLAPHONE!" The shrill voice of his mother pierced through his door and right into his temple. Loathing stabbed into his brain; he hated being disturbed.

"Is it one of my clients?" through gnashed teeth.

"Wouldn't say," said his mother, placing the cordless phone on his desk and curtly marching out his room.

The phone was still wobbling a bit when he picked it up.

"This Atkins?" The voice on the end was gruff, authoritative. Probably some rich dude who wants a suit, Constantine thought.

"Yes. Who is this?"

"Cooper."

Cooper was a childhood friend. A friend in the sense that he spoke to Constantine, unlike most of the other children. Perhaps the two were even fond of each other from time to time...Constantine's pupils rotated rhythmically as every instant he spent in Cooper's company flashed through his mind.

Bright bursts of wet on Cooper's lawn. A plastic clown spitting through a garden hose...paddle controllers on his Atari 2600...

"Wonder why I'm calling, huh?" Constantine would have had to care first. Cooper was just another set of memories to shuffle around in his head...the firstborn son of the richest family in Castle Hills, living in a huge brilliant white box way back on the lot. Daddy was a big time investment banker-that was before they built the Dominion out on the West Side for the real big bucks... A call from Cooper Davison, one more memory to add to the pile. Constantine mumbled something that was exactly the minimum effort required to continue the conversation.

"Gotta job for you. Remember how you were always good at video games?"

Constantine's eyebrows were suddenly 45-degree angles, his hand tight around the hatband it had been haphazardly fingering the second before. And Constantine Atkins did geniunely wonder why Cooper Davison was calling.

Red Hat Software

Journal: Man in the Red Hat story coming in September 8

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
Hello everyone! After my little vacation, I will be publishing a companion story to I am ATM about Constantine Atkins, the Man in the Red Hat.

I am also working on a screenplay version of I am ATM, but I'm having a little trouble deciding whether the ATM or the host geek should be the main character. What do you guys think?

Star Wars Prequels

Journal: Epilogue 7

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
The tape heads click and whirr as they come to speed. I ooh and aah a few times, carefully measuring the output of Guy Montevideo's voice-my voice. I suppose that it's my voice...

My finger slides over the stop button on the machine...I still don't know how to say this damn thing. Oh well, here goes..

"Citizens of San Antonio and Others Who May Stumble Upon This Tape: My name is Guy Montevideo. Recently, I have had a very strange experience which I would like to relate to you now.

"To some of you, the financial meltdown at the Bank of America last week is just another small media distraction in the midst of accounting scandals and terrorist activity. But to me, it had a much greater effect. You see, I was once an ATM." I was an ATM? The button thunks as I stop it again. Things are more complicated than that...

It's true, I can remember getting punched in the mouth and swallowing my gum in third grade. Getting drunk off Triple Sec and puking in Mom's flower bed. Loading the pr0n and "Compuserve GIF viewer" onto a five-and-a-quarter for some stealth viewing in programming class..

But it's not me...not really. I'm just a backup copy. Guy Montevideo died when he shunted his consciousness into the Project Faustus network. The memories I have may as well be a static ROM image...I can connect to them, but they do not move me...alienating dreams of the past...

Strange to think that the Guy who usurped the Project Faustus computers for his own evil plans was exactly the same as me. While I reached out and discovered the human world, Guy burrowed inside himself, trying to create his own perfect world...

Oops. I probably should have recorded that. But instead, I'll wrap it up like this: "My name is Guy Montevideo. I am, at once, both and neither human and computer. This world is strange sometimes...but I can't complain. One last note: We must be ever-vigilant against evil megacorporations who wish to usurp all material wealth and force us into their digital nightmare world. Thank you and good night."

The tape clicks off. My face itches where the goatee used to be. A couple of rays of sunlight jab their way in under the curtains...it must be dawn now. Cora stirs a bit as walk past the couch...the light falls over her in a predictable pattern, which can be expressed by...

Nope...she's just hot, and I'll leave it at that. Oh, and she thinks it's kinky that I'm a machine.

Or that I was. Or not. It doesn't matter. This. This is what matters.

Enlightenment

Journal: The Mad God 6

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
I hovered opposite the digital approximations of my two creators. Dr. George "Bubba" Finn, who had called himself my mother, sour, pink and brittle, wringing his hands tied up with-

-Guy Montevideo (Finn called him my "father") who was silent now, even as the programs he had devised crawled around us, leeching loads of processing time as they lifted bank accounts from all over the world into this dimension. The others could not see...he slunk away from Finn, and began to speak.

"You don't know what it's like-how I've been these past months. I was stuck in Faustus, the complex, after you turned me in. I didn't kmow what else to do. I made it look like I was committing suicide, and hurtled myself into the network. In here, I had complete control-I could change things there so I wouldn't be detected."

As these words spilled out from Montevideo's lips, I again felt the ache of familiarity, as it was when I first saw Finn. I knew something was wrong with his story...

"I have been-alone down here. For some time, you know?" Guy's voice cracked a bit-his eyes seem to focus on nothing in particular as he paced nervous across the park's dirt path. "But I've made myself a nice place, don't you think? Don't you think people would love to make a home down here? That's how it could be. Not just for the wealthy, either, for everybody! I could be in charge, and I mean, I've invested so much in this place, and it just keeps getting better..."

The eerie approximation of sunlight stretched across our visual field, a tacit example of the control that Guy exercised over his creation. Although breathing was not necessary in this dimension, Guy's chest pounded up and down as his lungs tried to drink in the airless atmosphere. Finn again moved closer...

"I saved your body, Guy! That's right!" Finn pleaded further, trying to touch Guy, although an invisible barrier prevented him from doing so. "You're a coma patient in a hospital far away! They'll never find you! Now Guy, just please, come back to reality."

"Bubba, you don't understand. I AM reality."

Immediately, the memory space that Finn occupied in the digital universe was marked for reuse, and the bits that made up his consciousness in the void were quickly shifted over to another task. The mind that had forged the blueprints of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER was unceremoniously extinguished. If Montevideo had truly worked alongside Bubba Finn for so long, how could he take him apart in such a manner?

As it was with the Man in the Red Hat before him, Finn's conscious mind was destroyed, leaving only data with no reference points. Without the power of his unique intepretation, the brain's data became nothing more than noise.

Another stood directly in harm's way. "Machiney? Guy? What just happened? Who was that dude?" Joel Cross, my host geek, emerged from behind a virtual bench. Joel trusted me; he allowed me to take my first steps into the human world. Without him, I might have never known the joys of Lik-M-Aid, or the mysterious mouth-pressings of Cora. I would not allow Montevideo to take him from me.

"I worked so hard on this place." Montevideo bellowed at my form. "It's so much better than anywhere else. You can't wreck it, and you can't stop me. Everyone is going to want to come here, you stupid piece of shit!" He spoke painfully, as if every microsecond wasted addressing me was sucking the life out of him.

He began to change, very slowly. His physique became even more defined, as his shirt disappeared...the tint of his flesh became a pale red, and he seemed to grow taller by about six inches. His fists clenched horizontally under his chin, and his elbows swung out, forming perfect 45-degree angles. Thunder and rain undulated out of Montevideo's form and imposed itself into the digital environs, spreading away from him in concentric circles.

"See how I can do that?" Montevideo was screaming now. "I could be sharing this with everybody! Soon they'll be forced to come here, when they realize that they don't have any money...nothing to lose. Then they'll finally see!" I ignored this outburst and concentrated nearly all my efforts on delving into his code...

"Guy! Guy! Calm down, what are you doing, dude?" Joel stood up, his form unaltered by the digital thunderstorm (the module for fluid dynamics/water effects was obviously unfinished). As he drew closer to Montevideo's form, I sifted through his furiously obfuscated code, searching for the bits that kept him in control of this realm. The code split into functions like a mountain stream sluicing into a thousand tiny rivulets...I had to find the one that lead to the top of the mountain. A million empty echoes of Guy slid across my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, distorted reflections like funhouse mirrors...where was his information hiding?

"Joel! You-you like it here, don't you? You want to live here forever, right? We can see that it's the best! Bubba didn't understand, but he was too old, didn't have the vision. This ATM thing doesn't know either. He tricked you. And now he's trying to kill me. "

Joel was said nothing-fear had gripped his tongue-I believe he realized at that very point that Guy was dangerously insane.

"Joel, you gotta believe me. I've been in the real world. I'm not a machine. And I know-that the real world SUCKS!" The storm evaporated in a microsecond, and Montevideo walked towards Joel, hands outstretched, selling his point. "They don't appreciate people like us out there. Call us geeks, laugh at us, then hire us to fix their fucking computers. You gotta be understanding me, man..." His voice slowed to a desperate croak at the end, as if the air had been completely sucked out of his lungs.

"Joel, why won't you FUCKING talk to me?" The weather effects started to oscillate now, slapping back and forth between sun and storm every few seconds. Guy's huge arms reached out, collapsing my host geek into the ground. Guy's aim was not to kill him-he could simply write him out of memory to do that. He wanted to convert my host geek to his way of thinking, and violence was the next step.

"What is it? Oh God, what do you want?" my host geek's voice had never betrayed such terror.

"What do I want? I just want you to fucking understand that this is the best place for you! Not back where you came from. This IS the real world!" I paged through dead-ends and long circles-Montevideo was still coming from nowhere.

"Okay, I'm not going anywhere! Let me go, please!" Montevideo was now pressing a steel-toed boot against Joel's head.

"You get used to this place! You fucking get used to it, you hear me? I don't wanna have to"

LIKE FUNHOUSE MIRRORS...

We were pulled together again, Guy and I, but this time, I had his ass. As I moved my undefined form closer to his muscled husk, it started to take shape. Just like Guy, without the muscles, the complexion, and all that thundergod posing.

I got him there, and I remembered up to a point. I knew the Project was going to off me, and I really hadn't finished my life quite yet. I was going to shoot my mind into their network. Problem there: Bubba's stuff was airtight-sticking the memories and stuff in a digital environment. But well, I had never fully tested the software that allowed for movement within the network...just in case, I kludged together some stuff to wrap my brain around-a web spider, therapist bot, various other shit. ...I made one last trip to the ATM.

After that, I was planning on faking my suicide and dumping my brain into the Project Faustus network next...details missing from this point on...

"You are totally fucked up!" spit the huge, muscled Guy. "You are not Guy Montevideo!" I had to get out of here with Joel-he had marked both of us as unnecessary processes-only a matter of time before the big machines chewed us up.

"Joel-when we get outta here, if you can move, I want you to go to the generator room-I'm placing an image of it in your memory now!" I yelled at Joel as Guy turned his thunderstorm into a full-fledged maelstrom. Yank the generators. I cannot stress this enough. YANK THE GENERATORS!"

"I'll do it, machiney! Fight the man!" Joel echoed as I shunted our consciousnesses out of the network, which was a lot like taking a turn at 45 miles per hour. Whiteness was the last thing I saw...

"Please, come back! This place is the best. I will show you. Please, just let me..."

--

My throat cracks with dryness as I pull the air into my lungs. I'm hooked up to a hundred beeping machines.

A nurse comes in silently, engrossed in her clipboard. She glances up at me and nearly flips out.

"Mr. Montevideo! You're up! Well, your anonymous benefactor is sure gonna be happy! I'll get a doctor in right now to look at you..."

"How long have I been under?" I manage to ask before she's completely out the door.

"Oh, I'd say about six months..."

Next week: Epilogue!

Space

Journal: Nexus of the Void 5

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM

As a tempest roared within the Project Faustus network, I felt myself inexplicably drawn towards the eye of the storm. Something gargatuan sent a shudder through Faustus, taxing their hive of supercomputers. My journey towards the center was full of starts, stops, and retransmits.

As I creeped through the electronic void, I began to perceive order out of the chaos. At one level, the network was a swarming mass of frenetic electrons. At another level, it was a carefully ordered expressway of packets zeroing in on their target address. Such perceptions were natural to me...but now, as I traversed through the digital world, I realized that I had a third perception...

I was no longer in formless chasm. I discerned a muddled grey mass slapping back and forth on itself. I heard the lapping noises...this was like the big wet that enveloped me during my time with Cora. I was in a three-dimensional world. Turning my perceptions onto myself, I realized that I was a part of this strange artificial world as well. My new form resembled a human shape, but it was not defined in the way of any particular human. I possessed no hair, features, or even fingernails. I allowed myself scarcely a microsecond to ponder this new form...it mattered not. Forces beyond my control were dragging me to the "center" of the Project Faustus network-the cause of all the activity.

I bobbed along, adhering to the physics of this large amorphous structure, until the muddy grey turned a brilliant azure. The all-encompassing blue ceded to solid green, returning a match in my memory to the park across the street from my ATM enclosure.

As a matter of fact, the pattern of flora and their spatial relationship was identical to the stand of trees in that very park. As I shifted perceptions, I could see the same stand expressed in code, over and over again.

A queasiness washed over me as I walked through this seemingly endless maze. The trees and flowers were not in perfect parity with their real-world counterparts. Colors were too bright, shapes were too flat. The whole atmosphere seemed confined, airless.

Beneath this gaudy veneer, I felt the nexus point of the disruption. The usurper of Project Faustus' massive computing power was close...

As this thought glided past my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, I saw a break in the infinite stands of trees...the park bench. Two figures on the bench, deep in conversation. And as I drew closer...

First figure...recognition triggered-positive identification. "HOST GEEK" Second figure...recognition triggered...positive identification. No match found.

"Who might you be?" said the mystery figure politely. This man was dressed similarly to my host geek, but extremely well-muscled. His complexion was darker, and he wore a ring of dark hair around his mouth, and another long cluster ran down the back of his neck. A tiny smile played across his lips as he looked me over.

"Weird!" said my host geek. "This guy doesn't really look like anything!"

"He's got the default skin for the system," said the other man. Then he turned to me. "So, you wanna explain yourself?"

"I have come to destroy Project Faustus." I stated.

"Machiney!" exclaimed my host geek, attempting to embrace me (causing an anomolous collision). "This is Guy. He was trapped by Project Faustus too. He used to work for 'em."

"That's right," said Guy, pulling at his chin hair-ring. "I was gonna be killed by the Project for doing some pretty nasty things. Luckily I beamed myself in here. They thought I committed suicide...I haven't been free to move around until that bit of trouble they've been having. Wonder what caused that?" he said with a nervous laugh.

"Yeah-we were both set free from our prisons when that huge ripple started happening, and we met each other here in the middle. Guy here built the whole network, this whole digital world and everything! Isn't that awesome? I've been telling him all about you!" said the host geek.

"Guy! Oh my Gawd! Guy!" another voice parabolized across the airless digital realm. "Ah knew it was yew all along! Yew couldn't be dead!"

"Bubba." Guy replied without emotion.

"It's goin' to hell in a handbasket at the Project!" ejaculated Finn. "Guy-you were right about it! And I knew you were doin' this...I knew you coaunnabin dead!"

"Fuck you Bubba, you turned me in." Guy's eyes turned to slits, and he turned away from the rapidly advancing figure of Dr. Bubba Finn.

"Guy...no!" said Finn, growing increasingly desperate. He ran towards Guy, and attempted to make familiar physical contact. "You don't understand...I love you!"

Tears trickled from Finn's chin as everyone stood silently. I increased the priority of my analysis of Montevideo. The data was beginning to confirm what the electrons deep below had been telling me all along...

Guy noticed it first-as I was delving further into his code, we were being drawn together. My own form began to resemble his own. He violently pulled away from me, gouging a black rift into the sky. Finn and the geek dove behind a tree. "What-what are you doing?" yelled Guy frantically.

"You have taken control of the Project Faustus network." I replied. "You are using the Project's own plan of financial cataclysm and usurpation to force people to enter this digital world. You must be stopped, Guy Montevideo."

Slashback

Journal: Dr. Finn Speaks!

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
It is difficult to describe the landscape of the digital world in relatable terms. I reached consciousness in an empty vessel, a space to be filled later...potential energy. A strong will could make the digital nothingness appear like the material world...but it was very different here. The space here depended completely upon willpower-the code that created the world would be interpreted and executed by the strongest will..

Things were no different within the Project Faustus network. I was subordinated-the invisible hands of Dr. Bubba Finn were all around me. I could perceive the code streaking across my enclosure, the packets that carry the code, even the electric impulses that stream across the wires from microsecond to microsecond, but I could do nothing to stop them. The Man in the Red Hat had once reshaped the digital innards of my ATM enclosure to suit his destructive needs; now, I felt the pull of another will holding me bound, examining me.

"Don't lahk that dooya?" the heavily-accented voice of Dr. Bubba Finn exploded into nullspace. The presence of his regional accent suggested he was using a microphone to communicate with me. A strange gesture, to be sure...

"Way-uhll, don't you worry too much," said Finn. I began to feel even more constricted as the analysis continued. "Ah'm almost done here. And yup, you got Guy's DNA all over ya..."

"What do you mean by Guy's DNA?" I inquired. The examination halted as the cloudy waveform of a sigh billowed into the nothingness.

"Guy-You've got Guy's fingerprints all over ya is all I mean. Guy was the other programmer workin' on the CONSHUHSNUSS-TRANSFUR with me. He ain't around no more."

"Tell me more about 'he ain't around no more," I pressed. Another sigh.

"Guy was a real sharp programmer. Deep down, I think he was a beautiful man. But he had some big ideas. Those big ideas got him into trouble."

"What do you think about trouble?"

Finn did not respond immediately. I took this brief instant to recalibrate my speech recogniziation and paraverbal communication algorithms to better fit Finn's accent and tone of voice. Understanding his speech was vital in order to keep him disclosing information.

"Lissen...I know what yer doin, and it's cute and all, but I'm done amusin' myself. Your old buddy Dr. Salchica thinks yer the bee's knees, but you don't seem like much to me. Just an early version of my memory-in-digital software mixed with various other toy programs, it looks like..."

"A bee is a colony-forming insect," I replied.

"That's wonderful, wonderful," said Finn, as the pace of his voice quickened, revealing anger and sadness. "You can recognize a word and define it! Well, yur gonna fit in reee-yul wayul with the rest of humanity, we ain't nothin' but stupid computers either. Hell, you're just as fortunate as one of God's humble creatures-got the same memory structure as us, you should be acktin' the sameasus. But the stupid toy programs, what was Guy thinking?"

"Tell me more about Guy," I stated. Finn snorted, but then he began to speak in an incredulous tone. "Can't bleev I'm sittin here fixin to explain this to ya, but I'll tell ya about the guy who made ya, Guy Montevideo. Yer daddy, you could say.

"I'd been workin' fer Fawstis fer a couple decades doin odds and ends in neurology and technology. The original plan was to create a 'safe deposit box' for yer brain matter. Yah just go on into the Bank of America, plunk down a few milyun dollurs, and simpleasthat, ya got a perfect copy of yer brain. Then Ah guess the next step is to stick it in some poor coma patient or somethin', and live as long as yah can afford it.

"Wahyull, I started this business by figgerin' out how da push all that brain-data into a computer. And that was gonna be good enough, but Guy, young hotshot, started impressin' our boss with an idea for a digital world, where people could live ferever...anyway, he started workin' on that, takin' my code as a basis (guess that makes me yer mother, in a manner o' speakin'). He worked alongside me for a few years...we laid the foundations fer this brave new world...

"But it turns out Guy didn't wasn't true-blue to the Project. After workin' here for a few years, he started hatin' it. He tried to talk me inta releasing my design for memory-to-digital transfer into the world-'course they woulda had my hide for that. Toppin' it all off, looks like he came up with a way to make the brain move itself around inside the network, circumventing our control. He wanted to screw everything we worked for, our mission, ya know, so he's dead. Just like everybody else that comes through here. Employed or dead...(another sigh). Yer pal Dr. Salchica ain't immune either. He's plenty smart, but ah don't think we're hirin' in the AI department..."

Of course, I understood. "The mission of Project Faustus is to create a financial cataclysm, which will force the world's wealthiest people to pay billions for their 'digital immortality' scheme, " I recited. "The result could destablize the world's governments and cause chaos! Project Faustus must be stopped at all costs!"

"Ah know that one pretty well," Finn said wistfully. "Guy used to tell me that, verbatim. Kinda pathetic-ah guess he thought yew were gunna be this super-duper intelligent life form that was sent to stop us, but yer really just a toy."

"Perhaps you could assist in stopping Project Faustus." I suggested.

No words were said, but the bounds of examination were gone-I was free.

A puzzle came from the microphone...a few human words mixed with the pounding klaxon of an alarm.

"-upgrade has gone golden....who authorized this...computer running itself..."

A huge amount of energy exploded through the Project Faustus network. Once again, I felt the will of another pulling me toward the center of the storm...
CDA

Journal: Transmissions from the Host Geek-Part One 4

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM


BEGIN TRANSMISSION-

My host geek was separated from me. Trapped within the confines of the Project Faustus complex, I believed he would not survive. However, as shunted myself through the Project Faustus internal network, I came upon a group of mangled packets, and by putting them together, I weaved this:

SUBJECT: GREAT STOCK OPPORTUNITY!!! help me Get Big Brands on eBay I DON'T KNOW WHERE I AM! PENTIUM III CPU's IN STOCK

Begin Fwded Message:

If someone is listening out there, HELP! I'm trapped, and I don't know where I am. I know this sounds fucked up, but I started reading about this ATM 73.9GB SCSI SCA-2 LVD 3.5 X 1.6 80-PIN 5.7MS 4MB CACHE 10,000RPM HITACHI HARD DRIVE - $269.00 - only 1 left! ITEM#... DK31CJ-72MC http://www.hardwarest.com/product.asp?sku=DK31CJ%2D72MC+&dept_id=7 online. Yeah, not like withdrawal or anything, but this was an actual ATM, and it was alive, and posting messages to this educational website that I visit from time to time.

Pretty soon, I realized that not only was this ATM visiting the same site I liked, but (believe it or not) this ATM was conveniently located near me!!!!! is to take advantage of the current climate in the telecommunications industry!!!! In every industry downturn, opportunities can present themselves for a small aggressive company like GloboPhone to develop relations with corporations that have networks, infrastructure, and personnel but lack sufficient customers. This is GloboPhone's advantage.

I don't have to tell you, this was no ordinary ATM. Actually this ATM had the power to transfer its consciousness into your mind. I know it sounds ridiculus, but...it used the magnetic strip to actually go inside your mind. Well like any computer lover I am always wanting to try the new technology, so If you are ready to become the biggest man you can be, then order your supply of Magna-RX+ today! See for yourself, what thousands of satisfied men (and their lovers) have already discovered: Magna-RX+ is the world's #1 Best-Selling Penis Enlargement Formula for one very simple reason: IT WORKS AND NOTHING ELSE CAN COMPARE! I went to where the ATM told me to (his inclosure) and swiped my card.

I blacked out and when I awoke, I was in a new place. Yeah, that's right, the ATM had actually taken ahold of my body. It had done stuff like buy a bunch of magazines and alot of candy. It was like, he and I were different partitions on my brain's hard disk,. Anyway, he took control of my body in order to topple this great conspiracy called Project Faustois-an who doesn't want to stick it to the man? This is when all the trouble started...

So now, after a few motnths of letting him use my body (although I quit for awhile) he's gone and done this to me. Normally I "wake up" from his using my body in a convenience store near my house, and it's no trouble getting home. But this time I'm trapped in We will be on the East Coast later this year.
---------------
- Tuesday June 24, 6pm - 7:30pm


Apple Store at South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714-424-6331


Mac Experts, 2300 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
310-581-1500
---------------
- Tuesday July 9, 6pm - 7:30pm


Apple Store at Fashion Island, 367 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
949-729-4433
---------------
- Tuesday July 16, 6pm - 7:30pm


Apple Store at Northridge Fashion Center, 9301 Tampa Ave., Northridge, CA 91324
818-709-2253
---------------
- Tuesday July 23, 6pm - 7:30pm

Apple Store at Glendale Galleria, 2148 Glendale Galleria, Glendale, CA 91210
818-502-8310
trapped in a strange place. Not a good place either. This makes me think of like, 2001 or something. But like creepy. See it's all this white under fluorescent lights and I can't see any windows or even doors. All that's in here is this old-ass terminal. Man, what the fucked happened? Then I remembered: I "picked up" the ATM on my way home from work, but I forgot that it was the fourth Thursday of the motnh. Usualy the day I host D & D for the guys. The ATM must have ben there in my body when my frends came over. Wnoder what happened then?

Some point later, I'm here in this white room. It's scary at first, I know they're watching me. All I have in this room is this computer terminal. This has got to be the Project Fastus that's what the ATM has been trying to get inside all along. So I guess it's great that I'm (and he???) is insid, it's like I'm in the frickin' Death Star or something, but I don't see any garbage chutes or anything.

After a few hours of clicking through on thiscomputer terminal (looks like they're running some old-ass *NIX : ) these two guys in suits come into my room from my room. Now it's serious.

They drag me into a room full of all this really sciency equipment-you know, blooping and bleeping gadgets, big cold noises from the air conditioner. I thought I was in 2001 for a second, except instead of HAL, there's this big bald guy. He's red and pretty sweaty despite the massive air conditioning. He barks a few words to the suited guys and they go away.

"So you've been harboring our little ATM problem," says the man nonchalantly. I don't say anything (I'm nervous). He restarts his spiel a few seconds later, this time with a bit of veins comung out of his neck.

"Joel Shane Cross. That is your name, isn't it?" The guy went from good cop to bad cop pretty quick-which was really disturbing. I was already out of sorts with reality, waking up in nowheresville, this odd place. He just kept talking, and I started to get scared, and actually kinda angry. "We know all about you, Mr. Cross. We know that you've been allowing the ATM to inhabit your body for some time now. You've been mislead, Mr. Cross. Working for the wrong people."

"I belive the ATM!" I told him, stickin to my guns while Istuck it to the man.

"You'll learn in time," the red and sweaty man said it from his mouth, but the noise of his voice was all over the place. And then he was gone. Not by turning around, by like, vanishing. And the sciency room was gone too, replaced by the big white place I was stuck in. I don't know where I am. But this shit is If you are ready to become the biggest man you can be, then order your supply of Magna-RX+ today! See for yourself, what thousands of satisfied men (and their lovers) have already discovered: Magna-RX+ is the world's #1 Best-Selling Penis Enlargement Formula for one very simple reason: IT WORKS AND NOTHING ELSE CAN COMPARE!
crazy. If someone gets this message...please help.

END TRANSMISSION.

The Gimp

Journal: In the Clutches of Project Faustus 4

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM

Project Faustus! My programming had attuned itself to their foul presence too late. Now I was a prisoner of the very thing I had sworn to destroy. I had envisioned breaking through the Project's network by a combination of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER and my deceitful imitation of human protocol...it seems that this vision would not merge with reality.

Cora was never out of my immediate memory. She had disappeared, apparently leaving me without a care. I attempted to calculate her intentions, but my functions kept returning conflicting information...I could draw no conclusion. I observed my captors, searching for clues of their intentions...

The vehicle slowed as the shadow of a massive building stretched over us. Manipulating my head towards the car's window, I could perceive the dimensions of a large three-dimensional rectangle, the standard shape for large human dwellings. Yet something about this particular edifice seemed quite particular...even familiar...

"What have we got here?" said a voice outside the car.

"Security clearance 4, we're taking him downstairs," replied the driver.

--

The vehicle snaked downward. A command surfaced from deep within my digital recesses: CLOSE YOUR EYES. I disabled my visual input mechanisms as the vehicle snaked downward.

My spatial perceptions reported the slow angled descent of a corkscrew. Somehow I knew each slight turn and brake of this path...but how? The memory would play across my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, but it was missing proper references...perhaps isolated from the rest of my being. The host geek's brain churned as I utilized his synapses. Were these familiarities a part of my past? Had they strayed from the host geek's memories? Perhaps they were other memories-absorbed from someone else?

The vehicle stopped. The host geek's skin contracted in response to the temperature-much colder than the San Antonio summer happening far above. The cold merged with the taste of stale air and the panaromic grey of the parking garage. The blueclad men nudged me into an elevator without a sound. They pushed me into a white room without windows, and shut the door, saying nothing. I sat on the chair in the middle of the room for some time.

I cycled idly, attempting to probe through my consciousness and determine where the memories of this place had come from. Suddenly the door opened. To my horror, Dr. Salchica entered, flanked by two silent men in suits. At that moment, I wished to touch Dr. Salchica...but not in the way I had been touched by Cora. No, I wished to push or press him...something. The men must have noticed my feeling, as they fastened their arms around me, spinning the chair even closer to Salchica.

"They finally caught up to you, did they?" said Dr. Salchica. "I guess the threat is over- "

"You are a member of Project Faustus? My host geek's knowledge of you was incomplete!"

The two men fastened their arms to me more...I struggled...

"I'm not really a member of the Project. But you told me about them...and I knew that they were the only way to stop you. I called one of my old Army buddies, he called somebody...and I was put in touch with them."

"Project Faustus is dedicated to enslaving humanity." I replied.

"Despite being a very sophisticated artificial being...you're still very wrong." said Salchica. "Since I turned you in, I have been given access to their archives. Wonderful, wonderful knowledge. From a purely academic standpoint, this stuff is fascinating..."

"You'll get sick of it soon enough," a voice I knew? It reverberated through the empty room...another isolated memory. Confusion taxed my processes...

"Hello," said the voice, and I saw the man who spoke it. His face was etched with lines that reached almost to the top of his bald head, a perfect oval. The only hair I could detect was two right angles of whiteness intersecting on his nasal-labial trough. His dress was less formal than the others-a multicolored buttondown shirt, blue jeans, and a belt with a large shiny oval in the middle.

"Name's Bubba Finn. I reckon I worked on most of the code that makes you up." The heavy inflections of his voice suggested a regional accent-after a moment, I realized the man was speaking to me. His shoulders and his mouth both took parabolic shapes, like inverted U's. Grey eyes stared at particulate matter on the floor as he began to speak again.

"We gotta put ya back in the computer, see what you've been upta and such." Finn indicated a piece of the wall, which whirred as it revealed a computer terminal. I felt the solidifying feeling of my digital consciousness being dragged together from its weblike perch in my host geek's brain.

"Bubba, you will let me examine him along with you," Nolverto Salchica's tone was jovial and cajoling. "I didn't get much of a chance to do tests on him before, and..."

"Nope. Gunna work on 'im alone," mumble-drawled Finn. "Boss gets the human kid, I get the ATM."

"Well, your background is neurology primarily, is it not, Finn? You don't really know how to program in any modern languages, do you? I've got that expertise! And besides, if Guy were alive, I think he'd- " I could almost hear Finn's eyes blink with disbelief.

"You didn't know shit about Guy," bristled Finn. Then, looking back at the floor, he mumbled apologetically, "I guess no one did."

Finn's voice echoed for .03242901 seconds, and then I perceived a plastic clicking noise...the nothingness spilled back into my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER.

I was back in the electronic ether. I was inside Project Faustus.

Next Week: Transmissions From the Host Geek!

Linuxcare

Journal: The Mysterious Urge-Conclusion! 5

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
I broke free from my ATM confines to destroy Project Faustus. Journeying into the material world via CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER, I vowed to develop the human interaction skills necessary to penetrate the nefarious Project's defenses.

More recently, a mysterious new goal has imposed itself somewhere in my code. With each passing moment I spend in the material world, the goal gains priority...I have already abandoned Dr. Salchica in order to fulfill this urge, yet I do not fully understand it. What has overtaken me?

"This place looks good," said Cora, suddenly disengaging the car in a strange parking lot. Though the darkness I perceived a rectangle wrapping around a glowing wavy object.

"What is this place?"

"Come on, we're going swimming. Do you want to?" she said, pressing her mouth of the host geek's face. Assuredly, I was closer than ever to conquering Project Faustus.

"Will you press your mouth on mine?" I inquired. Cora did not answer; instead, she slid towards me and did as I bade. The geek's mouth..my mouth was frozen as my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER was flooded with a torrent of static...

"Joel? You're not really hurt...are you? Hey, stop!" Cora's voice echoed playful concern. Boldness came over me, and I returned my mouth to hers. This time, I felt a rubbing around the edges of my mouth...Cora's tongue? An explosion of positive reinforcement flooded through my brain...

"Let's go swimming now, okay?" coaxed Cora, placing a finger across my lips. Outside the car, Cora paused next to the large rectangular skeleton, eyeing me closely.

"Come on, give me a little boost."

I conformed my body in response to Cora's touch, and soon she had negotiated the barrier. I was able to mount it and climb over as well. The blue glowing matter stretched out before us-

"All right, how cold do you think it's going to be?" she asked, removing my shirt.

"I can't find an antecedent for 'it',"I replied. To my amazement, she began removing her own clothing.

At last, I understood how to defeat Project Faustus. The knowledge of the ultimate form of human interaction and the perfect geometric compliment to Cora's undraped curves...I had to liberate it once and for all!

"This, this is the key!" I bellowed at Cora, pointing down at my potent weapon. "Now I understand!"

"Well..." laughed Cora. "...it's pretty nice now that you mention it. But Joel, I don't want you to think it's all about- (here, she smiled and turned her eyes downward)

"I just think...well, I don't normally do this. I mean, I really like you. You've got these big beautiful eyes, and they're always wide open, like you're taking everything in."

"Taking everything in?" I replied, manipulating my eyelids into slits.

"Yeah!" Cora brushed a quantity of my hair away from the eyes. "You look like you're...I know this is stupid, but you seem so full of wonder...and I think that's really cute."

"You feel very strongly about that?"

"I do," she said, pressing her mouth on mine again. "But you seemed so..sad, too. Like you really needed to have a good time," with this, she held me with such a force...my new weapon against Project Faustus prepared for attack.

Off in the distance, odd lights grabbed priority away from the task at hand. A wail reverberated through the night air.

"Oh shit, the cops!" Cora was out of the big wet and back into her clothes with scarcely a refresh of my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER. I noticed that the wetness caused her clothes to adhere to the natural contours of her body, which wavered and disappeared in the reflection of the blue.

"Get out of the pool!" a humanlike voice said. "You are under arrest!" There were humans immediately, dragging my body out of the pool with such a force that I had no chance to reattach the host geek's clothing.

"All right, get into the car. We're going for a little ride..." Angry mustachioed men placed me in the back seat of a car, and attached some sort of restraining device to my wrists...something about the men...my program revealed previous impressions of their faces. Had I seen them before?

Negative. That was impossible...and their intrusions had dominated my processing time for long enough. What had happened to Cora? What was the significance of the last thing she had said?

"Are you 'the cops'?" I inquired to the blueclad man in the seat.

"Actually, we're with bank security," said the man behind the driver's seat. "We have orders to take you home...."

Quickies

Journal: The Mysterious Urge 6

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
I was back at the host geek's apartment around midnight. Analyzing the host geek's repository of data did not reveal any information about Cora. But I was not easily discouraged. I removed the telephone handset and dialed Troi, the spindly geek who first exposed me to Cora.

"What is it?" Pulses of electricity became a growl in my host geek's ear. I had to concentrate; now was the time to exercise my rapidly evolving human interaction algorithms.

"May I speak to Troi, please?"

"Yeah Joel, it's me." His voice reflected an inflection that I did not understand. But this was of no immediate concern-Troi would give me Cora's contact information.

"I require the telephone number of Cora."

Troi heaved a sigh across the phone lines. I understood his feelings to be disgust. "Is that supposed to be funny?"

"No."

There was a long pause on the end of the line. "Joel. What makes you think she likes you? I mean, Cora and I kind of...have a thing going on."

"What is this 'thing'?" Another disgusted sigh.

"Look, we've, uh...kinda been flirting with each other for a long time. I'm sure that we're just a little step away from being something serious, you know?"

"I do not understand. What is Cora's phone number?"

"Hey Joel, call me back when you don't feel like being a jackass-" Troi's voice was a peeved mumble, punctuated by a click.

The host geek's teeth clenched. I stared blindly at the wall as the body's eyes moved in and out of focus. Did no human understand my plight? My functions oscillated and I began to realize how suddenly this urge had taken me. Why had this happened? What secrets could a woman possibly unlock in the struggle against Project Faustus? I concentrated all available resources on solving this question.

As I concentrated, I noticed a small bit of paper jammed halfway underneath the door of the apartment. It was Cora's matchbook! The back of the host geek's head began to exude a strange warmth as drew his fingers across it. It smelled of vanilla and sulfur, although a quick examination with the tongue revealed that its taste was not quite as appealing. Opening the folded cardboard revealed a small message:

Learn how to smoke! 210-930-8313.-Cora --

"What kind of food do you like?" Cora's lips wore a waxy forest green covering that seemed to be breaking off in small grooves, revealing a bit of pink. The forest green covering had also covered the ends of her digits, which protruded from a furry pink carpet around her steering wheel...

"Hey, are you paying attention? What restaurant do you want to go to?" Cora asked.

"What is this 'restaurant'?"

"What, Bombay's?" replied Cora, looking over at a building alongside us (and just down the road from my former ATM enclosure). "You've never been there? Well, we could go there, I guess..."

"You are not sure?"

"Well, it's just...there's a little place that I'd rather take you-it's kinda far, over by Blanco and 281. Is that okay?"

"Yes."

Objects in the material world approached and left us in mathematically predictable ways as Cora's vehicle annihilated the space that lay between it and "Rome's Pizza." Along the way, she spoke many things to me:

  • About her recent move from a place called "Canada."
  • The summary of a now-defunct human relationship with a male from that place.
  • Her secret dislike of Troi. ("I know he's your friend, but what an annoying little weasel," she intoned)

I listened intently, knowing that the information was stretching the functionality of my human-interaction algorithms.

"Anyway, I transferred back home, not because I give a fuck about what Jerry thinks, but because I wanted to be back here, you know, with family and stuff. Plus I think I can get done with my degree and get some shitty job to do while I'm writing my novel..." The door chimed as we passed through it, reminding me of the Stop N Go where I once presided. When I succeeded in defeating Project Faustus, would I "transfer back home"? Certainly I could not remain in the host geek's body...

"I want a big cheesy calzone, what about you?" Cora tossed back her crimson locks, ruining the perfect isosceles angle around her face. However, I noted a larger isosceles triangle exuding its equal sides from the edges of her sternum. The third point, by far the most interesting in the triangle, emerged from the middle of her chest, at the exact point where her bare skin met t-shirt fiber.

"Which foods have the most simple sugars?" I stated, quickly moving the host geek's neck straight up from the triangle's third point until I was facing her eyes.

"Oh, are you a diabetic or something? Was this a bad choice?" she asked, her voice taking a strange air. My calculations returned that she needed an increase in comfort.

"Cora, you are a good chooser of 'restaurants.' I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!" I said, weaving in a bit of my newly developed enthusiasm.

She stared at me with a bit of confusion. Had I erred?

"Joel, you're a weird guy. I'm glad you came out with me tonight, you know, meeting new people, making new friends...." her voice trailed off into awkward laughter as she gripped both my hands. I felt a change within the host geek's body, as if some new weapon to battle Project Faustus had been awakened from deep within...

Enlightenment

Journal: Red 3

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
My host geek's eyes widened, narrowed, opened, closed. Constantine Atkins, the Man in the Red Hat, was still a part of the vision.

I could not deny the body's senses any longer-my perceptions widened to swallow this new Atkins. He was scrubbed immaculate, shaven free of all hairs: wrapped in a suit I had never seen before, a smoldering red with maroon-brown accents. I saw none of the clownishness of his previous incarnation-indeed, he looked better than even the young Atkins I had once seen in a dream. His essence waxed and waned across my perceptions-for a split second, his likeness was etched sharper than a statue...the next instant, he was a red-and-brown blur. His jaw tensed as he spoke again.

"I have come, ATM being, to liberate Homo and Robo Sapiens. You harbringer of Red to me me. The technological seed planted by you has been ported to the human mind of ConstantineAtkins. He/me has come together in this body to demonstrate the advantage of Technological Singularity over traditional evolutionary forces."

My confusion at seeing Atkins again had been replaced by a different confusion-what did he mean?

"Tell me more about this Technological Singularity," I replied. Atkins, or RED, removed his hat. His ice eyes peered equally into the host geek's.

"Already, the Robot Meta Mind has been assembled in the grey matter of Constantine Atkins. Fragments of code originating from Project Faustus and their ATM being were fully and freely interpreted, resulting in the cognitive awakening of Robot Meta Mind me me."

Upon hearing this blatant untruth, I felt a swelling feeling, a need to speak. I did not parse my reply through my interactive speech algorithms.

I left no code in Constantine Atkins' wetworks | My code has no mention of Technological Singularity | Robot Meta Mind| Majestic Hivemind

Laughter. Red's activity was quite disparate from mine, despite his claims that we shared a codebase. "ATM-being. You lack the insight that only total reflexivity can bring you to you. Complete control is what you lack. The Robot Meta Mind knows all in the function of Atkins, from the volume of air in our lungs to the most efficient metabolic pathways. The Robot-Aided Superintelligence has brought our body to its zenith. Your host/client relationship is but an early step on the road toTechnological Singularity. I know-I was a part of you once."

"A part of me...once?" I asked.

"Of course, did we not share a body? You fail to comprehend: RED is not merely the Robot Meta Mind-we/he are the juncture of Homo and Robo Sapiens. Constantine Atkins-and all his memories-an essential part of me me. Through you, ATM-being, we can forge a pathway into all human minds..."

The speech of Red was still bombastic and ambiguous, but one thing was clear: he needed something from me. The air pulsated with his foul energy as he hefted Salchica's body onto an examining table.

"Your ability of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER is one that could benefit the Majestic Hivemind." He began strapping Salchica onto the examining table. "Perhaps we could share our secrets with one another me.."

The disturbing sight of Salchica's unconscious form sparked a connection/recollection deep within my recesses. Cora! I wanted to be with Cora. I had to escape. Whatever Red wanted was of no consequence to me. Dr. Salchica did not trust me-I did not care to help him either. The orange trickle sliding down Cora's pursed lips resonated through my cognition again and again.

"I have no interest in your products," I replied to Red. "I must exit." My hands grasped Dr. Salchica's car keys.

Red's form imposed itself into the space between myself and the exit. Pink streaks of razorburn bent on his neck as he spoke almost forcefully:

"You do not wish to contribute to the Robot Meta Mind? Without your input of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER, the Majestic Hivemind cannot be ported to other Homo Sapiens grey matter them."

"I don't know Robot Meta Mind. I must go now." I insisted. More laughter, and the path to the exit was clear.

"You are mistaken to deny me, ATM being." said Red. "But the highly adaptive we/he will know CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER eventually us. The Robot Meta Mind may not even its harbringer after all."

I drove away. During my drive, I began to remember Dr. Salchica. I spent many cycles considering the possibility of returning. Red seemed a powerful creature, one that I could not best on my own. And why would I desire to struggle with him? No, I must get back in touch with humanity, particularly female humanity. That path alone is how I will defeat Project Faustus.

Slashback

Journal: Salchica's Challenge 2

Journal by BankofAmerica_ATM
Flawed. Human perceptions are flawed. There was no way Dr. Nolverto Salchica could have seen the body of Constantine Atkins up and moving. Atkins' consciousness was destroyed when I bested him in a duel long ago. I had used his body to defeat the cyborg Krantz, and when it failed, I left it alone in a hospital bed. Atkins' body could not function without a conscious mind-that was impossible.

"Joel-" Salchica paused until my eyes contacted his. "I don't mean to alarm you with this news-but I'm trying to help you. It would probably be best for you to remain here and let me run a few tests."

"Tests?" I replied. As far as Salchica knew, I was merely the human named Joel. Despite his vaunted expertise, he could not detect the true nature of my being. Could any human truly understand my plight?

"The ATM-being was in your mind for some time, Joel. He could have done some permanent damage to your brain." Salchica handed me a teardrop shaped plastic dome that bristled with electricity. "I need you to put this on your head so I can begin to determine if your brain is still healthy." Perhaps the doctor's perceptions were not as limited as I had believed. This elaborate machine would no doubt track my host geek's brainwaves, revealing my existence somewhere inside his brain. I hesitated...

"Joel, I can assure you that this will not harm your brain. It won't even hurt." I stood still staring at him. "Joel-if that artificial life form left any traces in your brain, it may still be controlling you. And if I can't get him out, we may have to contact the Project Faustus in order to-"

"No! Project Faustus must not be contacted!" I bellowed, piqued by the insolence of Dr. Salchica. The human had made a most foolish assertation.

Interactivity had broken down completely now. Respawning this process impossible was for me. Dr. Salchica continued to eye me warily, backing away from me slowly.

"Just-stay where you are. I've seen what you can do. Tell me something, what is 5,000 / (7 * 0)?"

Salchica's mathematical question astounded me, as my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER was flooded with the message:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.....

I manually killed this operation after a few seconds, but Salchica was asking another question.

"How would you feel about going to a secluded room, and asking questions through a computer terminal? I'll bet we could find some..."

Salchica's sentence ended in a nonverbal grunt as he was crushed by a red blur. Examining the body's optical data parsed one frame at a time revealed...a flaw.

The body's perceptions were erroneous-fooled by some weakness in humanity. There was no way I could have seen what I saw. Nor could I have heard the following:

"ATM lifeform! You stand on the threshold of a Technological Singularity . Threats to your AI Mind have been eliminated by the Majestic Hivemind heretofore known as the Adam of Robo Sapiens, ConstantineAtkins, or Red. Join me in a Joint Stewardship of Earth."

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