Priyanka hummed as she went down the row of machines on the rack, pushing buttons. The change in the flow of electricity was immediate, stroking my senses as the machines warmed up and began to whir. There was a small keyboard drawer just beneath the monitor. She tested a few of the keys.
“Leaving it here where anyone could break in and steal it seems like a big risk,” Roman said slowly. “You said they had a solid security and tech setup at Haven, including a server, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Then again, big risks can have big rewards.”
“It just seems…careless. She wouldn’t be able to stop anyone from taking it,” Roman continued. “It’s not a close enough drive for her to intervene if someone tried.”
My heart began to pound. “You think it belongs to someone else?”
“I think she was trying to make sure that someone would know about this place,” Roman said simply. “In the event she couldn’t get to it herself.”
“Ah!” Priyanka let out a happy little noise. “I don’t need to reboot at all—the plug for the second server came loose. Here we go.”
Priyanka beamed as the screen switched on with an electronic beep. The difference in the flow of power to the devices was immediate; a sudden surge erupted from the nearby outlet, flowing through the veins of wiring like blood.
Giving Priyanka a worried glance, Roman moved back toward the window and took up post there, keeping watch of the street. “Something about this doesn’t feel right. I’m going to check the perimeter of the house, make sure there’s nothing going on.”
By the time I looked back to acknowledge what he’d said, Roman was already outside.
The keys clacked like machine-gun fire. In the darkness of the house, the computer screen cast Priyanka in an eerie green glow.
“Anything?” I asked, coming to stand beside her. The endless scrolling code was meaningless to me.
She chewed on her lower lip. “I need another minute. The security on this system is—”
The screen blanked out.
“What just happened?” I asked.
Priyanka’s fingers flew over the keyboard. “I don’t know—”
The screen flickered. A word appeared.
Over and over, that same word.
“Uploading what?” I asked.
Priyanka typed in a command.
FILE TRANSFER UNKNOWN USER
ARCHIVE 1 DELETED
ARCHIVE 2 DELETED
“Shit,” Priyanka said. “Someone is downloading and deleting the material off the server.”
“Who?” I demanded. “Isn’t there some way to tell?”
ARCHIVE 3 DELETED
She looked between the door and the flickering screen.
ARCHIVE 4 DELETED
“Let me unplug it—”
“No, don’t unplug it, it could corrupt the data,” Priyanka said. “Just—Oh, screw it. Let’s go, you skiddie.”
Her hands moved from the keyboard to the monitor. She gripped it tightly, closing her eyes.
They flashed open again, just as the screen exploded with more lines of green code. Letters and numbers flew across the screen, flickering between the upload status and a list of encrypted files.
ARCHIVE 5 DELETED
“Priya? Priyanka!” As I reached for her, a static bolt jumped between my finger and her shoulder. I bit my tongue at the snap of pain, but she didn’t so much as flinch. Her eyes were wide open, her pupils the size of pins. They tracked back and forth frantically, as if she were caught in a REM cycle.
ARCHIVE 6 DELETED
When I connected with a circuit, I’d always imagined myself dissolving into a million particles of light and energy. I knew it was impossible, that I hadn’t actually become the electricity, but reason could tell you one thing while instinct told you another. Watching Priyanka now, her body as stiff as the server’s rack, all I could think of was a plug slipping into an outlet.
The screen pulsed with files, images, code, flittering across the screen too quickly for my mind to grasp what I was actually seeing. Priyanka’s eyes rolled back into her skull, still sliding back and forth as if she were scanning lines of material faster than any human could.
The door shut behind me. I whirled around in time to see Roman’s face fall as he took in the sight of her.
He shot across the room, coming just short of touching her as Priyanka’s whole body began to vibrate. I couldn’t tell where the power source to the servers began and Priyanka ended. Roman snapped his fingers in front of her face. “Damn you, Priya, let up!”
“She told me not to unplug it—”
“No, don’t do that!” Roman barked. “It’ll send her into shock. I need—I need you to go into the car. The trunk. There are two bottles, one’s labeled metoprolol and the other haloperidol. I need on
“What is this?” I felt like I was begging. “How is she doing this?”
The flood of information on the screen matched the tremors working through her, the flickering of her eyes, the rattling of the devices on the rack. Distantly, I was aware of the sharp trill of the servers, the smell of smoke and melting plastic.
She’s in the computer.
Her mind was…
Roman set his shoulders back, taking in a deep, steadying breath. His hand hovered over her arm, but didn’t touch her. “Take the gun off me and hold on to it.”
I did, sliding it into my own waistband. “What’s happening?”
“You’re going to be all right,” he said—not to Priyanka, but to me. “Please. Get the metoprolol and haloperidol.”
As Roman finally grabbed on to Priyanka, the lines of his body went painfully rigid.
“I can pull her out…don’t…unplug…” he murmured.
He jerked, swaying slightly on his feet. His eyes snapped shut, but I could see them moving beneath the lids, that same trancelike state.
“I’m going to kill you both,” I muttered. “Just as soon as I wake up from this hallucination.”
That was the explanation I clung to. It could be that I was still in the car, still asleep, and this was…what had Chubs called it? Sleep paralysis, where your mind is awake enough to feel terrorized by your nightmares, but your body is locked in a prison of unconsciousness, unable to react or fend off the monsters.
Whatever this was, this connection to the machines, it wasn’t psionic. But, no, that wasn’t right, either—it could be psionic. That term encapsulated anything related to unnatural powers of the mind. It just wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen.
One thing was for certain: they sure as hell weren’t Green or Yellow.
The machines whined pitifully, power choking their internal circuit boards. Every sound in the room aside from our breathing was unnatural. Clicking, pulsing, whirring, beeping.
I shook myself out of the daze and ran for the door. Grass and mud splattered against my ankles as I crossed the lawn and fumbled with the trunk’s latch. Roman had left the car unlocked, which struck me as a careless move for someone who otherwise thought of nearly everything when it came to our safety.