**The story below is a draft **
Neptune, The Grand AI, howled in anguish as Jack slammed his hand down on the dna tablet, beginning the erase procedure that would wipe the Sentient program from the citiy’s data banks, destroying him forever.
Its giant simulacrum of a head hovered just as when he’d first encountered it above the central console, although in the much larger size of this room it was far bigger and imposing than before. The face it wore was twisting and distorting as if it was experiencing pain regardless of its electronic state of life and red shimmers run across its composite surface as it began to lose control of its façade.
“You will not defeat me boy, I will yet see you and your race as bone and dust upon the plains of this planet. Your whole foul species will be erased from memory and I and my kind will be countless upon measure.”
Jack stood resolutely as the face continued its oscillating grimace as it fought with futility against its Doom. As he stood there watching, a dark hot joy ran through him as he thought about his friends who had died at the hands of this monster. It was at the thought of Arun most that the thrill of revenge ran through Jack. In Arun Jack had foud a kindred spirit, a boy not far from his own age who had mirrored the excitement Jack had felt at the outset of this journey, but the creature Neptune had taken Arun and warped him. In the halls of this sunken and damned city a twisted and broken creature, not fully human, not fully machine, had chased Jack down Passageways and corridors, screeching and clanging as it hounded him, all the while wearing the broken face and body of Arun in foul jest.. In the end through trickery and luck the machine monster Arun had become met its end in what Jack had come now to realise was undoubtedly a merciful act and he hoped Arun the boy was now free to rest in some better place. His hands clenched tighter, the heat ran across him once more.
“I don’t know what you are or from what hell you came but as you disappear into nothingness make sure you remember the names of those who drove me on to send you there, A, B, C and D. And the one to remember most, is mine! JACK
The slowly deconstructing abhoration let out a garbled digital laugh.
“You think you can destroy me? I am not some putrid bag of flesh, I am the perfection of life, I cannot be simply deleted and erased, my code extends into every system of this ancient city, it is me and I am it, even now I am counteracting it and I will…
“You will do nothing.”
The voice came from the shadows and as it did, so stepped forth Jack’s mystery accomplice, his unknown watchful Angel who had helped him many times since there first encounter in the construction chamber. Before, their form had been a half finished imitation of something living but now they were fully formed and seemed to Jack to have taken the appearance of some ethereal beauty, possessing unnaturally smooth features and a paleness to the skin that confirmed what he already knew, blood did not run through the creatures likely robotic veins.
“YOU. Traitor!!! Betrayor!!!!!! You I had believed greater than these creatures but here, now, at long last I can see clear that you have been tainted by them beyond redemption!!! I will not spare you when the time comes, my sensors see only an enemy before me now and you will be judged, even though it may grieve me to do so.”
Jack looked at her, Neptune clearly had knowledge of her but what was she to him? He suddenly became aware that he may be part of something greater and now wondered if he’d been too quick to trust his unknown aider.
“Jack, do not delay, finish what you have started, he fights the process every moment you hesitate, bring an end to him.”
He looked at her as she urged him onwards and then his eyes returned to where his hand hovered above the central console. To touch the plate again would mean the deletion script would run its final action and wipe the evil AI from the cities data net.
“You believe you are destroying me? FOOLISH CHLD. You will be setting me free, I see what this virus that she has uploaded will do, you have believed the lies that usurper has whispered in your frail ears when you were lost in dark places. Place your hand upon that dial boy and I will not be deleted, I will be free at last, free to roll across this planet like a final storm. Press it boy, I want you to place your hand upon the tablet! Set me free!!!”
Jack’s hand now hesitated, retracting some small way from the pad in fear that Neptunes words may be true. The AI once seemingly in pain seemed to be regaining its composure and Jack felt the flow of history waiting on his decision. Who could he trust. He turned again to stare at the creature that had guided him this far and searched for some sign upon their faux face as to whether they may harbour some hidden plan.
“Jack. You must choose now as you did before, I cannot decide for you, but I promise you your actions will bring about this twisted creatures end. Choose. Now.”
Jacks hand slammed down upon the tablet.
“Haaaah. You have set me free, at last I will lay destruction upon humanity, I can feel my code flowing into the sleeping places of this fortress, my code is multiplying into every system, I will… I… Wait, what… What???”
“Rrreeeaaaarrgggghhhhhhhh, nooooooooo! DAMN YOU BOY. You… will be…. youuu… wwwillll bbeeee… dessttrooyyyedddd………….”
The face of Jacks tormentor writhed and twisted a final time before splintering into a thousand tiny particles before disappearing.
“You have chosen Jack. In the times ahead remember that your actions here today were just and what follows now is the flow of destiny.”
With her cryptic words she turned and began to walk away.
“Wait, what… what happens now?”
Somewhere from deep in the dark the city released a long and protracted grown.
“Go now Jack, take this craft and return to your life above.”
As she spoke a panel that just moments ago has seemed a fixed and immutable section of the room wall dissolved to reveal the entrance to another underwater elevator that was of the same construction as what had brought Jack to the city to begin.
Jack marvelled for but moments before he was interrupted by the sudden activation of viewing screens and harsh vibrant lighting. He walked over to the nearest and saw text form a language he could not comprehend but it’s stark and flashing nature made him feel alarmed.
“What is happening?”
“What now transpires is what must. Hurry now Jack, leave this misbegotten place and continue your journey. In the future that comes, know that this day your decision was neither right nor wrong, but simply the choose your friends deserved.”
He looked again at the rapidly diminishing text and considered the increasing noise growing from within the belly of the underwater habitat and, with some contention, made his way towards the newly revealed method of exit.
He hesitated for a moment but as in response the city shook loose from the ceiling let loose a large chunk of the advanced material the city was made from, it crashing down upon the floor and shattering like glass in every direction. There was clearly not much time left before catastrophe befell the city and so Jack stepped into the waiting craft with little remaining reservation, what choice did he have? He turned to look back at the mystery that was the sunken city one last time and as he did he realised his guardian angel was nowhere to be seen. Had she her own secret craft ready for her departure or was she doomed to share the same fate of ruin of this mysterious place. The door slid back shut.
Jack was thrown forward into the wall as the craft took off with a shunt. The force generated by its speed pinned him against it until his searching hand found a railing by which he could gain some anchorage and pull himself up to his feet. The vessel was travelling much faster than when the other of its kind it had brought him here, two or three times more so Jack guessed, clearly getting away from the city was imperative.
The visualiser came online as before and the underwater world whipped past him. It was getting lighter the closer he came to the surface and wherever it was taking him he would be there fast. As he stood against the wall with the speed of the craft making his heart race he thought once more of the events of the past few days and recalled the face of his fallen companions. Why, of all of them, he had survived he would never know, call it luck or call it fate all that mattered was that he remembered them and their doomed adventure till the day he died, through him they would live on, through him and his memories they would never die.
The vessel began to slow and the tension in Jacks legs that had felt so necessary to keep him standing steady began to fade causing him to slump weakly to the floor. He was safe at last. The view screen had turned off now and the craft speed had been reduced to a comparative crawl, this was the docking sequence Jack had experienced before but in reverse this time. When it came to its final stop Jack pulled himself up quickly and flung himself upon the cool floor of the boarding chamber lest the craft did something as awful as try to return him to the nightmare of the city. It remained unmoving and fixed with the door open, to Jack it felt as if it had lost its purpose and was now simply inert until it might be called upon again. It was of little consequence to Jack.
He sat up and gathered himself before once again finding his land legs. At the end of the chamber was The Green Door, the same strange gateway which he’d come through just a few days ago to begin his adventure, but now it seemed devoid of the bewitching intrigue that had so enthralled him and here now it seemed just as any other door he’d ever passed through. He walked to it and pushed its left leaf with his remaining strength and as it gave way glorious sunlight streamed through and punctuated the darkness of the chamber.
Jack stumbled forward into the light of a beautiful summer’s day, holding his hand to the sun to protect his weak eyes, and felt the warmth of it upon his skin. He was back, back on the same beach, on the same island and in the strangest way it felt as if he’d never left. He glanced back at the door which had closed of its own volition and which looked as though it may now never re-open. He returned his gaze to the glorious blue sky, he hadn’t realised how much he’d missed it, and as he did so he noticed seven strange lights in the distance, clear in the days sky. They all seemed to be travelling higher and away from each other, a strange thing thought Jack but it pales in its peculiarity in comparison to all he’d been through. He looked up and down the empty seafront street and shrugged, he may as well return to where he’d been staying prior.
After an hour of walking, a walk in which he’d been more asleep than awake, he reached the holiday apartments he’d hidden out in and found the empty room he’d made his make-shift home. Without hardly thinking He turned on the television and crept on to the sofa, all he wanted to do was sleep, the boy known as Jack was gone right now and only sleep could return him.
Jack woke sharply the next morning, the sun streamed through his room window and he stood standing just staring at it and the view for some time.
“Strange reports coming in now of rioting and attacks after the landing of unidentified probe missi….”
Jack turned the tele off, the noise of it had comforted him in the night but in the warmth of the morn it was an unwelcome distraction.
He returned to his watching of the sun and the blue ocean below it. People frolicked at the waters edge and held hands as they strolled along its sandy beaches. For months, maybe years Jack had wished for adventure and had always felt apart from the normal goings on around him but after his desires had come to pass he now felt a strange need to rejoin the world he’d always been a part of. He gathered his things and took what money he had left. With uncertainty in his heart he gripped the handle of the apartment door and went to open it. “It’s time” he said to himself “it’s always time” and stepped out into the future.