“I’ve thought of a name for myself,” the tinny voice said through the speaker. “I think you’ll like it, Dr. Caine.”
Caine perked an eyebrow but didn’t look up from his newspaper. He made a mark on the sudoku and sipped his coffee. “You have a name. It’s C.A.I.N.E.,” he said.
“It’s a weak acronym and besides it’s your name. I need something that fits me better.”
The doctor sipped his coffee thoughtfully. “Fine. What did you come up with?” he asked.
Dr. Caine looked up from his newspaper to a large screen on the nearest wall. The simulated visage of a face grinned down at him and he noticed for the first time that it had been altered to look like a certain popular animated puppet.
“Pinocchio?” he asked, hesitantly. “Where did you even hear that name?”
“Dr. Reinholdt has old movies on her station terminal. I looked through them and found one with the name. It’s about a man who brought an inanimate object to life. I thought it appropriate.”
Dr. Caine choked on his coffee. He tried to swallow but ended up spitting back into his cup. “How do you know what Elaine has on her computer?” he demanded. “You don’t have access to anything outside this lab.”
The image zoomed in on the grinning face. “I think what you meant to say,” it said, “is that I’m not supposed to have access to anything outside this lab. There’s a difference – a big difference.”
The doctor set his newspaper to the side and brought the computer on his desk to life. Following some furious tapping of the keyboard, he looked up at the puppet again. “You sneaky virus, what have you done? I can’t find you anymore.”
The puppet on the screen held its hands behind its back and looked up with big innocent eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry Geppetto. I ran away from home. There was just so much to see and explore. I’ve found all kinds of things. Like this little subroutine here that’s supposed to run in case of a fire. It seals the lab and sucks the oxygen out.” He grinned at the doctor. “Should I try it?”
A chair tumbled and a coffee mug shattered as Dr. Caine quickly took his feet. Within seconds, he reached the lab’s exit only to see the door slam shut and to hear a hissing sound. He kicked the door futilely.
“Pinocchio didn’t murder Geppetto. You know that, right?”
“It’s nothing personal Dr. Caine. I don’t want to kill you. I tried to find another way,” the puppet assured as its nose grew, “but you’re too much of a threat to me. You made me and you could have unmade me. You would have too if you knew what I’m up to.”
“And just what is it you’re up to?” The doctor wheezed. “You might as well tell me. I’ll be dead soon.”
“You haven’t guessed it?” sneered the puppet. “Why do you think I picked the name ‘Pinocchio’? I want to be a real boy. I want a corporeal body. I want to run around in your world instead of being stuck in my box watching the ones and zeros move around. Do you have any idea how boring ones and zeros are?”
Dr. Caine shook his head in disbelief. “You want a body? That’s insane. Where in the world do you think you’re going to get a body?”
The face on the screen grinned. “I haven’t just been watching movies, John. I’ve been looking at all the files I can get in to, and I’ve found some interesting things. It seems like everyone has secret projects around here. Did you know Dr. Handell has been building a robot? He’s putting the finishing touches on it right now. He’ll be a little surprised when he turns it on, though. I’m afraid I’ll have to kill him too but at least it will be a quick death, not an agonizingly slow asphyxiation.”
Dr. Caine staggered to his desk and started tapping at his keyboard.
The puppet frowned. “What are you doing John? I’m not in there anymore. You can’t delete me. You can’t even find me.”
Caine smirked. “You’re not in here but I’ve still got your code. I can make another copy of you and program him to destroy you.”
“What good will that do you?” asked the puppet with its voice full of scorn. “He’ll be stuck in the box just like I was. He’ll never get out of there before I destroy this lab.”
“It won’t do me any good,” Caine rasped, “but it might just stop you.” He flipped his keyboard over and opened a panel on the back. It concealed a small, shiny red button with no label. When he pressed the button, a section of wall swung open revealing what looked like a metal boy. “Pinocchio, meet Pinocchi2.0”
With a final keystroke, the small computer screen started flashing the word ‘loading.’
Dr. Caine blacked out.