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On one side of the large parking lot outside the main entrance of the clinic Delacroix, two FBI agents, four local police cars, and a SWAT van sit there looking mean. On the other side there’s Eklund, Janis, Jazz, a few doctors in lab coats carrying tasers and me. Things don’t look that good. I’m betting on a number of things that might not be true, but at this point my plan is the only thing that makes sense. A hail mary pass, that just might get us all killed. Fun.
Eklund walks across the no-man’s land of the parking lot. Janis follows him. Delacroix joins him in the center of the space with the two agents to back him up.
“What’s it going to be, doc? The hard way, or the really hard way?”
Eklund looks older than I’ve ever seen him. He wipes sweat off of his brow and glances at me. I nod at him, even though I’m not sure about this either. Then he clears his throat and speaks. “What is will power, Agent Delacroix?” he asks.
“That sounds like a question, doc. I’m looking for an answer.”
“True, but you see, your reasons for attacking us seem to be contingent on whether or not the agent we took from the hospital wanted to be saved or not. But he was unconscious, how can we know what he wanted?”
“Your Pisces there put him in the hospital, I don’t think he’d be running to join her again.” Delacroix walks closer to Eklund using his height to intimidate the smaller, older man.
“You don’t think, but you don’t know,” Eklund points out.
“Sure, fine. Why don’t we wake him up and ask him? Oh, that’s right, we can’t, because he’s in a fucking coma.”
“Janis?” Eklund turned toward Janis, who’s rubbing her wrists in discomfort.
Delacroix and the two agents tense up, expecting an attack.
“Go to Delacroix. Do whatever he asks.”
Janis’s eyes go wide, but she follows the order, walking over to Delacroix.
“Go ahead. Give her an order,” Eklund prods.
“Stand on one foot,” Delacroix asks, and Janis does so. “Jump up and down.” Janis still follows the order. Delacroix’s face hardens into a scowl. “Kill yourself.”
The blade snaps out of Janis’s wrist, but she doesn’t raise it to her neck or any other part of her body. She wavers still on one foot. Then, slowly, her raised foot comes down.
“Kill yourself!” Delacroix yells, but now Janis’s blade retracts back into her wrist. She walks, slowly at first and then with more determination, back to Eklund’s side.
Eklund smiles. “She has a computer in her brain. It has a very simple program. Follow every order. A couple of days ago, she would have followed your order. But she has gained a will of her own. She has learned how to ignore her programming.”
“Am I supposed to be impressed? One of your robots is malfunctioning, how does that change anything?”
“Janis, if you could go back, would you rather I hadn’t helped you out? Would you rather I had left you in a coma?”
Janis swallows and shifts her weight. “Sometimes…sometimes I think I feel that way. But not right now. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to be in a coma again either. I’m sorry if I’m not supposed to say that!”
“It’s okay, Janis. You’re a human being, now, not a robot at all. You’ve made me very proud.” Eklund pats Janis on the shoulder and turns to Delacroix. “You say Agent Fox wouldn’t want to be here. I say at the moment he has no will of his own. I say that anyone with an ounce of willpower would rather they have a will than not, and the only way we can give Agent Fox any semblance of will, would be to let us help him. Afterwards, he can decide if it’s worth it or not, but until then, let us do what we can.”
“How do I know you didn’t just program her to act this way? She’s your robot, you could tell her whatever you wanted.”
“I’m not a robot!” Janis says suddenly, her blades out of her wrists. She seems a little startled by her own outburst, but then she slowly smiles. “I’m not a robot,” she says again. “I have a will of my own.”
“Oh yeah? How do you know that? How can you be sure?”
Janis steps in front of Eklund, powerfully, resolutely. She is her own woman. “I know I’ve got it,” she says, “Because it makes me feel good.”
There was a flurry of decisions that had to be made, most of which I couldn’t quite follow. Eklund and his clinic were allowed to continue under stringent government surveillance. He was no longer classed as a terrorist threat, but was required to pay a fine and work a few hundred hours of community service for the injuries the two agents sustained.
As for me, I have a job now, working for Eklund. As to what that job actually is, that’s difficult to say. I can usually pick things up pretty quick and passing the tests for certification in different areas hasn’t been a problem. Sometimes I work in the operating room, assisting one of the doctors, sometimes I’m fixing some electrical problem. Eklund understands how bored I get doing the same thing and lets me work on whatever needs doing. It’s perfect for me and I get paid more than I would ever make doing something else.
Janis visited her mother again recently. I think they bonded a little. There was mutual crying. I asked her out on an official date, and we’ve gone on a few of them since. That’s going pretty well. Janis still can be a little too accommodating at times. I don’t think we’re going to stay together. I think she’s still learning who she is, and at some point she’s going to have to see other people just to make sure I haven’t influenced her too much.
I think I’m okay with that. I think I love her, and I think I’ll be a little jealous of whomever she’s with, but I think I’ll be able to deal with it. I’m still learning who I am too after all. Maybe we’ll find each other again. Maybe we’ll drift apart, but whatever happens, it will be because of our own decisions. Our own will.
When Agent Fox wakes up the first time, I’m there in the room with Dr. Eklund and Dr. Gardener. He opens his eyes and blinks a few times. “Don’t worry, Fox” I tell him, “We aren’t going to hurt you.” The fans on his prosthetic cortex whir. “I’m Ethan Yates. I’m a friend. These two helped you out of your coma, their names are Dr. Eklund and Dr. Gardener. For a while, you’re going to have to do whatever we say, but eventually, you’ll be able to make your own decisions. Nod if you understand.” Fox nods slowly, and I know he’s going to be okay.
I love my job.
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