RvB Drabble: Invasion
The first time Wash fully felt Epsilon’s presence was the moment he saw Tex after implantation.
It had only been a day since the procedure. Yes, the AI would be stored in the armor. That’s what they were all told. But the armor was merely a real-time backup. There was a part of the AI that would be stored in you. A part they had to add with the use of a scalpel. A part that can never really be turned off.
They kept everyone for a day after the surgery. Wash could feel Epsilon exploring his brain, and it mostly made him uncomfortable. There was another mind in his, and that mind was hiding from him. He was told that it was normal. That the AI would adjust. That he should report the first conscious activity for their records.
That night he was sitting on the couch in the common room, staring at the random movie that North had dug up from his collection. He was there so he could be looking at something and not have to think. He heard the others joke that he had post-implantation sickness. It had become a common phrase lately, ever since Carolina walked into the room with bags under her eyes and a pale complexion months ago after her implantation. It was the first time anyone had seen her look less than healthy. It lasted three days.
North’s lasted an entire week.
When Tex walked in, Wash looked at her through his haze. He had a moment to register that it was one of those very rare times when her helmet was off. It had initially surprised people how attractive she was. York commented on it and spent the next few days apologizing for his comment to Carolina, who pretended she wasn’t offended. Tex looked at him and nodded.
Wash gripped his head with his right hand and the back of his neck with his left and closed his eyes as his mind exploded in a foreign memory. He could instantly tell it was Epsilon. It was the intruder, come out of hiding, marking his territory and showing just how large his span was, his command of his host was. All other thoughts, all of Wash’s thoughts, were put aside in the face, in her face, in this memory.
The AI wasn’t a partnership. It was an invasion.
All he saw for a few seconds was Tex. Only it wasn’t Tex, not really, it was a memory of someone who looked just like Tex. A woman who smiled the same way and had the same tired expression. The woman’s laugh rang in his ears and he remembered hearing Tex laugh like that, once, just when North had said something stupid and Maine had come in with a terse quip. The memory’s eyes looked at him, and he knew they were looking at Epsilon but it still felt like they were looking at him, and he wondered if all morning Epsilon had been looking at Wash’s memories, looking into the eyes of CT, or the friendly gaze of York, like they had been looking at the AI. Wash wondered if Epsilon had felt displaced, if it had felt like it was intruding on something intensely personal, because that’s the only way Wash could describe this scene. This memory. This woman. This Tex. Allison.
"What?" a voice said and Wash thought for a second that the memory had been talking. But when he opened his eyes, he realized it was Tex. This Tex. She was looking at him, something between confusion and annoyance on her face.
"Huh?" was all he could manage, shaking the image out of his mind as Epsilon retreated back into its hiding place.
"I didn’t know you knew my name." She had crossed her arms, which gave her confusion a slightly impatient look. Tex was good at making every look carry an edge of impatience.
Wash froze for a second as he realized he must have said the name Epsilon whispered into his brain out loud, too. “Oh, I must have just read it somewhere,” Wash said with a forced shrug.
"Sure," Tex said, sounding skeptical. "But call me Tex."
"Yeah, sorry." Wash relaxed into his seat again, turning his attention to the movie. "I will."
He waited another thirty-two hours for Epsilon to say something. Something that Wash could report as his initial appearance. Something, anything, other than that woman.
This time it was much more cordial. The AI manifested itself in the air next to Wash’s armor and corrected three statistics in the lock picking field manual he was flipping through. Epsilon also took the opportunity to personalize the probability of success given Wash’s experience with certain locks.
Epsilon called it past data. Wash knew it was his memories, no longer private. Epsilon had access to everything Wash had ever experienced. And it seemed to be a non-negotiable two way street.