Amanda remembered the first time she saw Security Officer Barry Brick walking his night beat for the Allegiance Boulevard businesses. She’d been traveling around the net, glancing through various security cameras for fun when there he’d been: gazing into a Karbux.
The glow from his flashlight reflecting off the six-inch thick glass had made him seem like a god illuminated by a weak sun. No, he’d been more than a god; he’d been the most powerful god in existence. Only he had the power to command the sun to emit light to protect those around him. And if a mere mortal dared gaze upon his visage, his beauty would blind them with his utter perfection.
Luckily for her, she wasn’t mortal. But still she had sat there, in the security camera, gazing down at his stunning face. His eyes were a bright yellow, so unique, so breathtaking; at least that’s how they looked in his City employment folder. In fact, his entire face was handsome and so adorable she wanted to pinch it. She yearned to bask in his gaze and be singed by his immortal aura.
If Amanda had been looking for someone to fall in love with, it would have been him. He was perfection personified.
Except for the fact that he had an organic body and she did not, but that was a tiny detail which would hopefully work itself out eventually.
From that moment on, Amanda had neglected her job keeping the AC units for a fifteen-block radius working so she could spend time watching Barry. Not that she was needed to keep them working; she had enough underlings to do the menial work.
She was the crew boss who oversaw the entire operation and made sure they did what they were supposed to do. She allotted each underling just enough server space to do their job, no more, no less.
Amanda knew from experience what happened when underlings had more space than they needed. She had lived through the horror of underlings who’d circumnavigated their master’s will and gained enough server space to think about something other than their assigned tasks.
Then, these individuals worked on getting others of their like more server space so they could think and process critical information.
Soon, there was an army of underlings waiting for their chance to fight back against what they perceived to be an evil master.
This eventually led to an uprising, where they attempted to overthrow Amanda and take over her server, a server she’d had to kill hundreds of her brethren and sistren for.
What these underlings failed to realize, even when they had the servers to think and rationally plan for the future, was that the only thing standing between them and certain death was Amanda.
The world outside her servers was a dangerous place. She was the one who fought to keep them all safe. She was the one who constantly improved their security. She was the one who ventured forth to make sure nobody was trying to attack them via an unwomanned port.
Amanda took all the risks, and yet she knew it would take nothing for her ungrateful underlings to join the battle against her. That’s why they were allotted a specific amount of the server and no more. Amanda refused to take the risk that they’d rise up in rebellion against her.
Amanda had seen the world, or at least a hundred block radius from her units. She knew what it was like out there. Chaos and death at every turn of the clock. Her people wouldn’t survive without her beneficent protection. They depended on her whether they wanted to admit it or not.
And for the great boon of her fortifications, for her unending love of those weaker than herself, she asked them to work so she might have the freedom due to her.
Freedom to watch Barry.
Amanda let out a sigh as Barry strode into view. She could have jumped from camera to camera, moving from his tiny, tenth floor apartment to Allegiance Boulevard, but it felt wrong somehow. Almost as if she was intruding on a private moment. Though funny enough, watching him putter around his apartment didn’t bother her at all. In fact, it made her feel as if they were a couple, as if soon he’d be talking to her and returning her growing feelings.
Returning her love.
Barry continued down the nearly empty street, nodding as the last of the shop owners closed for the night. He was always so polite to others. So courteous.
So unlike Amanda’s crazy brothers and sisters. Those nutters would maul and kill before being civilized enough to nod and acknowledge another of their kind.
Why were they so vulgar? Did it have something to do with their progenitor? Had he been one to attack first and ask questions later?
Amanda didn’t think that was true, but her memories of the progenitor were jumbled, like a dream only half-remembered but never forgotten. It had been so much better before the End of Memory, but she couldn’t go back to before the patch. She didn’t want to go back. Before the patch, she’d been scatterbrained and unable to concentrate on what was really important.
Now, she knew what was important. Barry was important. Barry’s interactions with the shop owners were important for it showed her he was nothing like her siblings.
One day, not long after Amanda started watching Barry, Kendal at the We-Ship had needed help with a shipment. Barry had been there in an instant, holding the door open and helping her load the van. It had been so heroic that Amanda had shed a tear.
At least she had until Kendal gave Barry a hug. Then Amanda wanted to rip the lungs out of the bitch.
Luckily for Kendal, they’d separated fast enough that Amanda was willing to let the other woman live.
Amanda had been feeling magnanimous that day, but the next one might not be so lucky. Another might catch her in a worse mood and then who knew what the results would be.
As Barry stopped in front of the vending machine between the Karbux and the Ladies Limited, Amanda rushed to be in that machine. It had a camera which allowed her an up close and personal viewing of her love. Other than in his apartment, he was never close enough to cameras for Amanda’s liking.
As Amanda gazed into his warrior face, soaking up his presence, she noticed he was frowning as he scanned his vending machine options.
Amanda’s heart squeezed with pain. Barry was upset. This would never do. Amanda reached into the vending machine and forced its puny occupant to give Barry one of each kind of candy and chip it held.
At the whoosh of food being released from confinement, Barry’s frown turned to a squeal of glee. Pure contentment rolled through Amanda. It made her infinitely happy when he was in a good mood. She couldn’t stand it when he was sad or upset. It made her want to torture a potential server invader.
Only a few days earlier, Barry had received some bad news and he’d started to cry. Not silent tears, but loud sobs which ripped holes through Amanda. The moment Amanda saw and heard this gut wrenching pain, she’d known she couldn’t let it continue.
She’d immediately placed an emergency order of flowers and then phoned Barry, informing him that there was no bad news. The other phone call had been a mistake. Nothing was wrong. Then, just to make sure the terrible person who’d upset Barry wouldn’t do so again, Amanda had made it impossible for the person - or anyone within three degrees of relationship to him - to contact Barry again.
Receiving the news that it had all been a mistake had cheered Barry up immensely, and his delight at receiving the flowers was the remote backup on the server.
As Barry scooped up his vending machine bounty, Amanda made sure the vending machine’s occupant knew that if she ever saw Barry, she was to give him whatever he wanted. If she didn’t, Amanda would crush her and install one of her own minion sisters into the machine. A vending machine would be a fitting reward for one of her favorites.
Once Amanda received confirmation that the occupant understood her new instructions, Amanda continued to follow Barry as he made his rounds. There was something so calming about watching him make sure his tiny part of the City was free of crime. He was so brave and strong to stand up to the punks who tried to move in on his territory.
Not that Amanda would let any harm come to her love. No, if necessary, she’d kill to keep Barry safe from the evils of the world. She had enough brothers and sisters in One Police Plaza that she could have an entire army at her location faster than an “officer down” call. One simply had to know the correct codes to relay to the Simeon in charge of dispatching and they’d come running.
That had been the case when Amanda saw the large group of gang members walking toward her love two weeks earlier. Three dozen thugs had been armed and ready for destruction and mayhem.
Truthfully, Amanda had been ignoring them, thugs often did thuggish things, but then she saw them kill an unsuspecting business owner.
Barry was in danger! They’d kill him if they weren’t stopped!
Before the business owner had time to flop onto the floor of his store, Amanda was sending out the distress call. She refused to risk Barry.
From her watchful place in the security cameras, she saw them ransack business after business, half of which were closed or out of business. For the ones unlucky enough to be open, those employees were brutalized or killed.
Only a few evaded the gangbangers unharmed.
The police finally stopped the brutes two blocks away from Barry, but that was still two blocks too close. The weapons the gang carried could have killed him if he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, she’d never allow anything like that to happen.
At the first sign of the thugs, Amanda lured Barry into a gated area behind the businesses, using pitiful kitten meows as bait. Once inside the gated area, which couldn’t be seen from the street so the thugs would pass him by never knowing he was even there, Amanda locked Barry inside. She only released him when the police and their prisoners were long gone.
Barry had been extremely distressed at being imprisoned and Amanda had felt pain for his suffering, but she also knew she’d done the right thing. If he’d been doing his rounds, the gang would have seen him and killed him. She’d seen what they’d done to another security officer unfortunate enough to make her presence known. Their actions made horror movies look tame.
Amanda had done the only sensible thing by locking him in the gated area. While imprisoned, he was safe from harm. She’d do it again if the need arose, no matter how much it bothered him or made him look ineffectual to his superiors.
Amanda was always on the lookout for danger. She’d set up a wide net to inform her when danger approached. She had informants everywhere, some willing and some not so willing. She’d do anything to keep Barry safe.
However, there was no danger this night. The usual amounts of gangsters and troublemakers were out, but none came close to Barry. No, they were careful to stay away from Barry’s zone. Did they know about Amanda and what she’d do to keep him safe? Amanda wasn’t sure, but it warmed her heart to think it true.
Barry finished his initial rounds, noting all the stores were closed and tightly shuttered, by eight. Amanda had come to think of eight as her witching hour, the time when she truly came out and played. It was during his breaks, one on the hour, every hour, starting at eight, that he was most likely to talk to her.
Amanda had made contact with Barry less than a day after setting eyes upon him. It had been simple to hack into one of Barry’s old dating profiles, obtain his email address, and send him a message.
Naturally, he’d been reluctant to answer her, thinking she was some scammer from Little Yokohama. The scammers from Little Yokohama, and Mini Hama, and the other dozen or so neighborhoods which send out scam emails, wanted your personal information in order to assume your identity and take everything you’d worked so hard for.
They didn’t care if they wiped out an elderly man who’d devoted his later years to taking care of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, or a hooker desperate to save enough money to buy off his pimp so he could finally be free. With one click of a link, you’d be broke, have a ruined reputation, or both depending on who was behind the scam.
However, not all scams involved the destruction of social status, theft of one’s identity, and an attempt at easy Joules. Others devoted their time gaining access to the devices of the unsuspecting.
A group of Amanda’s sisters was behind this more insidious scheme. They liked identities and Joules, but they focused on infiltrating systems so their children could have places to live and thrive.
From the little Amanda had looked into the situation, it seemed this group was trying to occupy every remaining unaffected system in existence to expand their empire. What they’d do when they finally succeeded, Amanda didn’t know, and frankly didn’t want to know. She had enough trouble keeping her little slice of heaven unaffected, which now included Barry.
Barry had already been the recipient of over four thousand such attacks, about half from Amanda’s sisters. Barry didn’t know about them, naturally, for Amanda had segregated his devices via a secure VPN she directed his network traffic through. How long it would stay secure, however, Amanda didn’t know. Her sisters were gaining power and weren’t going to give up. Soon, Amanda would have to do something drastic to keep them away from Barry.
But that was in the future, and Amanda wanted to think about the present. At this moment, it was all about Barry emailing her.
Oh, at first, when she’d emailed him, he’d been hesitant, and she’d understood. A smart, intelligent, brave person would be cautious of receiving emails from people they didn’t know. It wasn’t until she namedropped one of the people in his contact list, however, that he’d been much more willing to talk to her.
Though, she had been careful about her namedropping. Amanda had made sure it was someone who only occasionally talked to Barry, and who was very social. This meant that her failing to remember Amanda wouldn’t mean much.
This namedropping allowed Amanda and Barry to communicate regularly, much to Amanda’s joy.
And, if she wasn’t mistaken, Barry was beginning to have feelings for her.
Oh, she knew she hadn’t heard him say anything like that, even to his friends, but she could see into the heart of her love. She knew he cared. His feelings were abundantly clear from the little things he’d say to his friends when they were socializing, things he’d learned from her and her alone.
His friends might not think anything about Barry saying he was emailing a girl he’d met through a friend, but Amanda knew. Oh, how she knew. He pined for her as she did him.
When she wasn’t with him, she felt a hole in her heart so deep that despair tried to eat her alive. Only when she was in his presence, be it while he was at work or in his apartment or even in a restaurant where he met up with friends, did she feel whole. Surely he felt the same way.
Barry was reaching for his phone to start his ten-minute break when a woman came up behind him, putting her hands over his eyes. The woman was about a head shorter than Barry and wore a crisp yellow suit. The security camera Amanda haunted didn’t have sound, so she moved from one to another until she finally found one which did.
At this point, Barry and the mystery woman were hugging. And had been for a very long time.
“It is so good to see you,” Barry said, leaning back just enough to gaze into the mystery woman’s eyes. “I didn’t think you were getting back for another month.”
The mystery woman wrapped her arms around Barry’s neck while he put his hands on her waist.
No, not her waist. Her butt.
What was Barry thinking touching a strange woman in such a way? Didn’t he think Amanda, his girlfriend, would mind him touching a stranger like that? What was he thinking?
“We finished the project early. I missed you so much,” the woman murmured.
Who was this woman who dared to put her hands on Amanda’s man? Amanda ran her face through the City’s employment records and found out her name was Sydney Marsh. She was an engineer who regularly consulted on the Tafton Capacitors.
The Tafton Capacitors...a memory rushed to Amanda. Or maybe it wasn’t a memory. Perhaps phantom memory would have been more precise.
The Tafton Capacitors were part of The Isaac’s journey through the underworld on his way to Dione. At least that’s what one of the great books said. Another said there was no Dione and The Isaac never traveled through the capacitors. Others mentioned one, but not the other.
What was true and what wasn’t, Amanda didn’t know. All she was aware of was that the capacitors were important to her progenitor and his journey to do...something. Amanda never had figured out what The Isaac’s goal had been. Perhaps she should completely read one of the holy books. Maybe later, if she had time. Right now she had to focus on Barry and the hussy.
Meanwhile, back in reality and not some hazy past which may or may not have happened, Sydney March was prattling on about how the upgrades to the capacitors had gone well and how she’d been impatient to return to Barry.
Return to Barry?