The bracelet pulled him through the city, consistently urging him into the direction of its counterpart. More than once, Finn had to readjust his path, because the bracelet wanted him to go straight through a building. He wished more than once that he had taken the time to figure out how to program a proper map into it.
Another building appeared before him, and he started walking around when suddenly the direction of the pull changed. Finn stopped immediately. Could it be? Had he finally found the house where Sophie was in? A glance at his watch showed him that he had been walking for hours. He hadn’t noticed, the time had passed like in a trance.
The pain in his leg started reaching his consciousness.
Finn’s eyes wandered back to the building. It was a large apartment building that – presumably – housed several families. A realistic place for Sophie to live, no question. The bracelet gently pulled his hand slightly up, towards one of the brightly lit windows on the second floor. The curtains behind it had a unicorn pattern. Could that be Sophie’s room? @suesa
“Only one way to find out”, Finn told himself, put the bracelet in his pocket and approached the front door. He pushed it, expecting a clicking noise, but he wasn’t that lucky. The door was locked. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy.
Finn carefully examined the names next to the doorbells. He suspected Sophie’s apartment to be on the second floor, so he should choose someone living as far away from that as possible. Someone who’d also open the door for him …
On the top floor, there seemed to live a “Family Jones”, and their doorbell looked like it was used several times a day. It was worn down a lot more than the rest, and Finn believed to spot a little bit of dried jelly next to the button.
He pressed it and waited.
“Who’s there?” A voice crackled through the intercom.
“It’s me!” Finn replied.
“Forgot your keys again? This late at night? Mom won’t be happy”, the voice replied, and a buzzing noise followed. Finn pushed the door open and quickly entered the house. He made a mental note that, if he ever lived in an apartment building with his family, he’d give every member a special password. It’s me was just too easily abused.
The stairs were made from stone, and Finn concentrated on not making a lot of noise by setting his feet down softly. When he reached the second floor, he stared at the two doors he had to choose from. Both doorplates indicated a family living there. None had the first names of the children mentioned.
Something pulled inside his pocket.
Finn almost slapped his forehead and pulled out the bracelet. It had led him here, of course it would now show him the correct way! Sometimes he seriously questioned his own intelligence.
The bracelet pulled to the left. Finn reached for the doorbell, then hesitated. What if Sophie’s parents opened? What would he tell them? He was a stranger, turning up at their door in the middle of the night. Asking for their daughter. That couldn’t end well.
But he also couldn’t wait much longer! Sophie had the bracelet, and with that powers, she should never have access to. If she found the words she needed to activate it, the havoc she could wreak was unimaginable.
Finn took a deep breath to brace himself, then rang the bell.
Feet on a wooden floor.
The door opened.
“Oh, hi Mr. A!” It was Sophie, grinning at him, already wearing her pajamas. Around her right wrist, she was wearing the bracelet. “You took long to find me! I thought you’d be here quicker. Do you want to come in?”
Did he? Not really. But the girl’s parents didn’t seem to be home, and he really needed that bracelet back.
“Yes”, Finn said, and Sophie stepped aside to let him in.
“Are you hungry?” She asked.
“A bit.” Finn didn’t know why he was so calm. He should take that bracelet away from her, rip it off her wrist and leave! But something stopped him. And he was hungry. He hadn’t eaten anything all day, and his stomach felt as if it was digesting itself.
He followed Sophie in the kitchen, where she motioned him to sit down at the table and started taking food out of the fridge. Toast went into the toaster, tomatoes were sliced, salad was washed. She seemed to know her way around the kitchen, which surprised Finn. He hadn’t really made himself a lot of food when he had been twelve.
“I assume you want the bracelet back”, Sophie said, her back turned at Finn. “I know you can’t let me keep it. You’re afraid of what I would do with it.”
“It’s good that you understand that”, Finn replied. Something didn’t feel right, the hair on his arms started to stand up, giving him goosebumps. “You shouldn’t have taken it away from me. You had your own bracelet, was that not enough?”
“My bracelet couldn’t do everything yours could. I needed to assess the full range of your knowledge.”
She didn’t sound like a child anymore. Something in her tone had changed, the playfulness had vanished and her voice was cold.
“Assess my knowledge?”
“To determine if you have to be eliminated. You tapped into the code, that can lead to a lot of damage if not stopped early enough.”
Finn’s heart seemed to skip a beat and breathing became difficult. He could hear the blood rushing in his ears.
“What did you just say?”
Sophie turned around; her face completely expressionless.
“Sadly, you already know too much. If left unsupervised, you are bound to interrupt the simulation and damage it. I have to stop that before it can happen. That’s what I’ve been created for.”
“You’re a security protocol”, Finn gasped.
“Not my exact designation, but close enough. Why do you think you didn’t feel comfortable influencing me with your newly found powers? Why didn’t you question my naïve interest in your powers? Why did you give me access to your knowledge? It’s hardcoded into you to not damage and fully trust me.”
“But you can damage me?”
“If it is necessary, yes. And in this case, it has become necessary. You know too much.”
She had put down the mayonnaise jar but was still holding the knife. Slowly, she walked towards him.
“Please don’t resist, it is pointless anyway and will only cause you huge distress before you’re eventually eliminated.”
“WAIT!” Finn held up a hand in front of her. It was shaking. Sophie kept walking towards him. “Please! You say all these things are hardcoded into me, yes? How about my curiosity, my ability to find a way to tap into the code? Why does that exist? Why isn’t it suppressed like my desire to stop you?”
The girl stopped and squinted her eyes, the first emotional reaction he had seen on her face since they had entered the kitchen. Did he reach her? He had to keep talking.
“Whoever programmed this simulation, maybe they wanted me to eventually find a way to influence the world around me! How can you be so sure I have to be destroyed? What would be the point?”
“I …” She hesitated. “It’s my job to … to eliminate threats to the simulation.”
“Are you sure that applies to me? Am I a threat? Have I done anything to damage the simulation? Or did I try to improve it?”
“You can’t improve it if you don’t know what the goal is”, she said, but her voice was shaking.
“And you can’t be sure that I’m going to damage it, as long as you don’t know the goal either. Maybe you’re endangering the simulation yourself when you eliminate me?”
The knife clattered to the floor and Sophie dropped to her knees, pressing her hands on her ears.
“No”, she whimpered. “Stop it. It’s what I’m programmed for. It’s the reason I exist, the reason I know all this is a simulation. I have to stop you! I have to …”
Finn had stood up to crouch down next to her. He grabbed her by the wrists and pulled her hands away from her ears.
“I am no threat”, Finn said calmly. “Maybe I was programmed for a purpose. We will never find out if you eliminate me now.”
And with a smooth movement, he pulled the bracelet off her arm.
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