Dr. Salchica pulled at his beard, eagerly awaiting my response. I had failed at maintaining interactive communication with the host geeks' friends; I wished to flee. Perhaps Salchica, with his background in logic and artificial intelligence, would understand me better.
"I will go with you."
"So what, are you just gonna leave us here?" Randy seemed upset at this possibility. "Who is this Atkins guy anyway, he sounds familiar-"
"Yeah, he was on the local news, they found him in a hotel with some cyborg body, didn't you guys hear about that?" Cora issued her rejoinder, then eyed me curiously, "sizing me up," as you humans say. The process created more static on my DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE, mangling ability to perceive and decode human voices.
"-no way. Cyborg? That's gotta be bullshit!" Troi's ever-widening grimace had opened to spew his incredulity. No doubt his unusual amount of vitriol was related to his reject at the hands of Cora.
"It was on the news, don't you guys read the news?" Cora insisted. "But what would this guy want with you?"
Again, I had no answer.
"They-did some work together with me," explained Salchica. "What's important is the man is quite dangerous-and we must get Joel out of here."
"And who are you?" Cora's glance turned to Salchica now. "Were you guys working on the cyborg together or something?"
The interactional plane where I had parlayed with the host geek's friends had now shifted. The three male geeks stared at me quietly, perhaps with a sense of awe. "Wow, I thought you were just doing web design," said Randy with an awkward chuckle. "So...all this time, you've been working on some top-secret cyborg or something?"
"We don't have time for this talk!" Dr. Salchica insisted, grabbing my arm. "Atkins may be on his way!"
More synaptical responses-this time indicating that someone was gripping the arm that was not previously grasped by Dr. Salchica. It was Cora.
"Why are you in such a rush to get away? Why won't you tell us about yourself?" Yes, Cora's hand dug into the flesh of my host geek's right arm. My CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER reported no static-this time, a delightful warmth radiated just underneath the body's temples. The warmth possessed an intensity which rivaled the flavor of Raspberry Lik-M-Aid. Perhaps the stimuli that previously caused so much static was now being interpreted properly by my program.
"Listen, I think I can clear this up." It was the third male geek, who had remained silent throughout our evening. I did not know his name-my process of interaction with him could not begin.
"He's a professor down at SAC. Saketh D'Souza, remember me, I had you for Intro to Algorithm Design. Dr. Salchica, right?" Regrettably, Cora's grip on my arm loosened. The good warm feeling remained. I stared at Cora again, and she raised both her shoulders, avoiding eye contact with me. Perhaps her own CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER (if you humans possess such a thing) was overcome with static.
"Yes! Now let's get out of here!" Salchica's tone was desperate. As we were passing through the doorframe, Cora's voice exploded once again.
"What if that guy finds you at your lab, or you get hurt or something? Shouldn't someone go with you?"
"I have to take you back home, remember? You told your parents you were going to the library!" Troi's irritated voice paralleled his unkempt hair, which hung down around his face in disturbingly organic angles.
"Well, someone should go with him..." said Cora meekly.
"Forget it!" snarled Troi.
"I keep up this lab off my own money, with a little bit of help from my old bosses, the military. But I can't really talk about that." explained Salchica. The non-scent of sterility mingled with the hum of electronics to form a very dull plane of interaction. As Salchica pawed through a stack of papers, I began to run a statistic analysis of Cora's features. As I had posited before, the human female has a number of interesting angles which-
"Joel-take a look at this." My calculations faded into the background as I focused my processing power on perceiving Salchica's voice. "It's a summary of my observations of Atkins' physiology."
"As you can see, when Atkins was first brought to the hospital, his brainwaves appeared quite irregular on normal hospital equipment. But when I scanned them with my own machine, I was able to determine two discrete brainwaves."
"Tell me more about these discrete brainwaves," I replied.
"Well, one was a normal transverse wave, as would be expected from a fully functioning human brain. But there was also a square wave emanating from various centers in the brain. Ones and zeroes expressed in electron flow, if you prefer to look at it that way."
"Additionally, Atkins' brain did produce a huge amount of voltage compared to a normally functioning brain. In order to keep both brainwaves strong, we had to increase the amount of simple sugars in Atkins' diet. With enough sugars in his bloodstream, we could actually increase the amount of voltage passing through his synapses almost to the point of being dangerous to the integrity of the brain."
"The integrity of the brain?" I inquired.
"Yes," Salchica continued. "But shortly after you left, Atkins' brain activity dropped to comalike levels. Brain activity dropped to almost nothing-except a faint square wave.
A few days later,the normal brainwaves began to return, but then they disappeared for a short time, as you can see on the graph there. The frequency of the square wave (digital) brainwaves fluctuate wildly over the course of around a week before stablizing and ultimately disappearing. The most curious part-Atkins' "normal" brainwaves had greatly increased in frequency and voltage."
"Somehow, a great reshaping took place within Mr. Atkins. Reflex tests indictated that his synapses were firing around 3 times the rate of a normal human. His broken ribs healed rapidly. He regained consciousness and began to speak. Soon, he escaped from the hospital."
"What-do you think happened to him?"
"During the week or so when he was conscious, he kept repeating his thoughts about artificial intelligence-uniting human and computer. One of the few coherent statements he made (besides requesting sugary foods) was about your imperfection as a vessel for digital consciousness, and how he was going to rectify that situation. Shortly after making that statement, he disappeared."
"Interesting." I said, processing the information. I was unable to understand how Atkins' brain would function at all after I left it. Perhaps his human consciousness was not completely obliterated in our duel? But even with his human functionality, how could his brain continue to spew digital information without my knowledge? If this 'information leak' was possible, then what about the integrity of my current host geek's brain?
"It's more than 'interesting', Joel," stated Dr. Salchica. "He killed a hospital attendant with his bare hands while escaping. He put an armed security guard through a plate glass window. And if he finds you, you'll be next."