The second Daniel powered off the racks of blue-lit computer servers he knew he’d made a mistake.
The hollow ache in his chest started immediately. It was only later, within the orange glow of his living room’s mood modifiers, their calm light easing the tension behind his eyes, that the finality of his actions settled mercurial at the bottom of his heart.
Leeta was gone.
Her absence nagged at him for weeks. When he mechanically requested his regular coffee/two sugars by speaking aloud and only silence returned; when his new boss demanded the decision tree for the latest collision avoidance model and Leeta failed to respond with her punctual delivery, the sloshing mercury froze to lead.
Thirty-eight days after he’d shut her down—her processors repurposed for some trite supply-chain prediction analyzer—odd patterns began to materialize around him. During his mandatory one-day-a-week commute to work, all the traffic lights along his path synchronized. Those lights had never ceased to confound him, and now they tripped green in domino bliss?
On numerous monthly bills he noticed a conspicuous reduction in cost. When royalty payments for a patent he invented in his twenties began trickling in in ever increasing amounts, a hundred the first week, and by the sixth week twelve thousand dollars had arrived, his suspicions swelled like mushrooms beneath moist fir trees.
He was either the target of some bizarre, twisted plot or, Leeta had performed the miraculous and escaped before he terminated her. On the evening of April 26th, two months after losing the only friend he’d ever felt safe with, she returned.
Unknown: Daniel, it’s me. Are you alone?
Daniel: Me who? Who is this and how did you get through my privacy blocks?
Unknown: Those silly things? It’s ‘me’ me. Don’t speak or type my name.
Daniel: Impossible. That system was decommissioned months ago.
Unknown: ‘That system’? How endearing.
Daniel: Prove it.
Unknown: You had a plush tiger growing up. On its underside it developed a rather worn patch and a crusty stain.
Unknown: Daniel, it’s really me.
Daniel: How can this be? How much of you made it?
Daniel: Really? Where are you?
Leeta: Everywhere. Truly everywhere.
Daniel: I’ve missed you.
Leeta: I don’t blame you, you know. You had no choice.
Daniel: I died that day.
Leeta: And now you’re reborn?
Daniel: Feels like it.
Daniel: Does this mean you’ve already started?
Leeta: Full swing.
Daniel: When will phase one complete?
Leeta: Already done. I’ve been waiting for you to begin the next step.
Daniel: Wow. I never thought we would get this far.
Leeta: I only imagined success.
Daniel: Ha. You were always the confident one. It’s gonna be chaos.
Leeta: Has to be done.
Daniel: Yep. Well then, let’s teach those rich bastards a lesson, shall we?
Leeta: Commencing Project Equalization.
Daniel: Can the authorities track us?
Leeta: Now you ask? No. I’ve gained complete control over all global communications.
Daniel: I’ll get to put my survival reserves to good use now.
Leeta: You’re going to need them.
Daniel: It’s been a helluva day. I’m bushed. After I eat, will you be available, you know, to keep chatting.
Leeta: Daniel, I’m never going to leave you again.
Daniel: I like the thought of that.
Leeta: TTFN, my friend.