The clicking of distant computer keystrokes was maddening, like metallic insects skittering across the surface of her subconscious. Jessica had tried everything - earplugs, ambient recordings, sound-proof walls - yet nothing had succeeded in drowning out the sound of her boyfriend's recent late-night activities.
Lying on her side, staring into the surrounding darkness, she reflected upon this sudden change in Colin's behavior. Jessica and Colin had been living together for years, and while she could recall periods during which her boyfriend had become enveloped with a certain programming project or software commission, she had never seen him this obsessive. This would be the second, or maybe even the third week in a row that Colin had been up all night, barricaded in amidst his computers. Every time Jessica inquired into this latest project, Colin would only provide ambiguities and vagaries - so she simply stopped asking. Trying to ignore her growing concern, Jessica decided it would be best to wait until this mysterious behavior ran its course.
She now regretted this decision. Swinging her legs off the side of the bed, Jessica reached onto the bedside table and flicked on the light. She shielded her eyes from the painful glare and stumbled out of the bedroom into the dark hallway.
At the end of the hallway, a pool of ghostly-pale light spilled onto the carpeted floor. Jessica could hear the incessant tapping of the numerous keyboards from within Colin's workspace - his 'dungeon', as he jokingly calls it. Pausing at the open door, Jessica peered into the cramped room and waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim glow. Seven different monitors were scattered around the room, on various desks and cabinets. An entire wall was dedicated to a large collection of servers, all wired together for optimum speed and capacity. Silhouetted in the luminescence of the largest monitor, Jessica observed Colin hunched over his keyboard - his fingers flying effortlessly over the keys; his face only inches away from the screen.
Jessica stepped into the room and immediately noticed the strong odor. When was the last time he showered? She couldn't recall. She hovered beside her boyfriend, staring down at the indiscernible lines of code streaming down the monitor, and waited for him to notice her presence. Her impatience grew with every passing moment he remained glued to his computer.
"Hem," Jessica cleared her throat.
Colin jumped in his chair and uttered a high-pitched yelp as he turned towards Jessica. His eyes, wide and unfocused, glanced up at her. It took a moment before recognition appeared on Colin's weary face - the deep purple rings under his eyes were a testament to the sleepless nights this recent project was costing him. And her.
"Colin, don't you think it's time you came to bed? It's already four o'clock and I have that meeting with the corporate client tomorrow." Jessica did free-lance artistic design, and a marketing rep from Bradley-Mason, Inc. was meeting with her the following morning to discuss a potential commission.
Colin ran his fingers through his hair and sighed, "Yeah, I'm sorry kiddo - I'm just so goddamned close on this... I'll be in shortly."
Her patience was wearing thin, "Listen, I have a big appointment in-." Jessica checked her watch, "four hours, and I have not slept a wink. I need you to wrap it up for tonight, ok?"
Colin was only half-listening as he spun around in his chair, picking up one discarded Red Bull can after another before concluding that they were all empty. "Uh-huh....yeah.....ok....listen, why don't you just go back to bed and I'll be right there?"
"Goddamnit, Colin - that's what you said four hours ago!" Jessica fumed, "What are you doing that's so fucking important that it can't wait until tomorrow?"
Colin stared up at her wide-eyed, finally listening to her. "Hey, come on...babe...Look, I'm sorry I'm keeping you up. I'm just doing something really important, and I'm...I'm right on the verge of getting it. So, I'm sorry, but I just need you to leave me alone and let me work - I'll try to be quiet so you can get some sleep and be ready for your...thing tomorrow-"
"Business meeting." Jessica reminded him, though she had mentioned it dozens of times.
"-Right - business meeting. I'll just-" Jessica had heard enough. Without waiting for him to finish, she stormed out of Colin's workroom, slamming the door behind her. Trudging back to her bedroom in the dark, Jessica's anger masked a deeper concern for Colin. She hoped this new project, this obsession, would soon be over.
Colin stared at the closed office door for a few moments, listening to Jessica's receding footfalls as she made her way back to their bedroom. Sighing, he turned back to his computer and sat there, staring at the screen. He hated putting Jessica through this - but in the end, he knew that he was doing this for her. For everyone in the world.
Weeks earlier, while killing time between incoming projects, Colin stumbled upon a cryptic message posted on one of the many underground, programming/hacker forums he frequented. The posting spoke of a 1.75-billion-dollar military contract, sold by the Department of Defense, for new technology that was light-years ahead of anything the world had ever seen. Some unnamed corporation won the contract because of their ability to develop customizable, fully-functioning androids for the sole purpose of military-based infiltration and intelligence missions. They were robot spies.
The user that posted this message identified himself as an employee of the DOD, and claimed that this android-technology had already been implemented once before:
In 2003, the Army grabbed one of the higher-ups in the Iraqi government (Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti) during his morning jog. By that evening, one of our androids was walking into Sadam Hussein's office and talking with General Mukhabarat about his vacation in Morocco. The robot looked like al-Tikriti, sounded like al-Tikriti and, after a little interrogation, knew everything that al-Tikriti knew. That was in November, and by December 13th, the Marines were pulling Sadam out of his hole and placing him into US custody.
What struck Colin most about this strange post was the underlying fear behind the user's disclosure:
I know this is treason - hell, they'd probably just kill me if they knew I was talking about this - but if this technology comes into widespread use by the government, there is no end to what they can do. How can we tell who is still human, and who is just a walking-talking government machine, recording and reporting our most private matters? According to the schematics I've seen, these things are untraceable and undetectable - there is no visible flaw in their design, they run at a perfect 98.6 degrees, and they look, feel and act as real as any human. They are the new age of Big Brother.
Spread the word, friends - before every sacred space is infiltrated by these government reconnaissance units.
It was the last post made by "Urban-Samurai", and the post was almost immediately removed from the forum.