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  • Writer's pictureCorbin Riker

Excerpt From Cyberkill

The airplane was leaving in a few hours, but Travis Cole still had some unfinished

business in his MIT office — one of which was to get his in-law off his back.

“Please, John. We’ve been over this a hundred times,” Cole murmured, leaning

forward on his desk to stare down at the computer monitor in front of him. He rested his

fingers lightly on the keyboard, his hazel eyes focused on the command prompt on the

screen:

DO YOU WANT TO EXECUTE? Y/N


Could he really do it?


Though Cole had made up his mind, it was now formal decision time. Pressing ‘N’ would

continue his life as a well-known researcher in eco-biology at the MIT Artificial Intelligence

Laboratory. Pressing ‘Y’ would end three years of cutting-edge work and move him and his

daughter to a new home in Washington, D.C. and a lucrative research job with the U.S. Army.

Cole’s finger hovered over the keyboard — he felt sick.


John François was, as usual, sucking on the end of an ornately-carved wood and

leather pipe. It went along with his academic look: elbow-patched sports coat, baggy

brown pants, and loafers.


“It’s not right, Travis,” François implored. “It’s not right to take Shannon away

from the environment she knows just weeks after her mother’s death. It’s just not right.”

Cole kept his focus on the task at hand. They had been over this a thousand

times. Shannon, Cole’s young daughter, was already in the car, waiting. In fact, all his

luggage and many of his important worldly belongings waited there as well. He would

return later for the rest of his stuff.


For now ...


For now, he had to just get away.


Cole’s finger still hovered. He blinked hard. Could he really do this?


Yes, I can do this.


“And what about this?” François said as he opened the cover of a three-ring

binder with the title TERRAN PROJECT written in blue across the front. François gently

thumbed through the pages and pointed at the different artificial intelligence programs

that Cole had cataloged and tracked while at MIT. “You’re just going to throw away

years of work?”


Cole ignored François and turned back to the computer terminal with its blinking

white cursor awaiting a reply.


He took in some air — and pressed the ‘Y’ key on the keyboard.

Cole turned to François while the computer executed his command unable to

watch. Instead, he looked at his aging in-law with compassion for the man. Since his

wife died of leukemia ten years before, François had lived alone. Cole and Shannon

were the closest thing he had to family.


“John …” said Cole gently, but François cut him off.

“Shannon’s only five years old, Travis. Taking her away from the surroundings

she knows isn’t the answer,” he pleaded. The older man had tears in his eyes.

Damn. Cole gently placed his hand on François’s arm. “John, I don’t know what I

would have done without your help after Kathy’s death. But I know what’s best for

Shannon. I have to give her a change.” Cole squeezed François’s arm, then looked

back to the computer screen. He watched as file name after file name appeared on the

screen, all tagged with the same statement:


FILE FOUND. FILE TERMINATED.


Cole looked at his watch. “Jeez. We have to go. You’ll see us off?”


François nodded in resignation.


“Thanks. Shannon will like that.” Cole glanced once more at the scrolling text on

the computer screen, turned, and hurried out the office with François close behind.

In the darkness of the vacated room, the program reached the end of its routine,

and then stopped on the last file. The text that glowed from the LCD screen turned from

white to red and blinked repeatedly insisting on an answer.


FILE FOUND. FILE ACTIVE.


ABORT OR CONTINUE?



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