Chapter 1: Course Correction
High above the city flew a shapely metallic figure. From the ground it was hard to see anything more than shining metallic pastel greens and yellows, but the sight of the heroine Persephone’s technologically advanced armor was quite familiar to anyone who’d ever seen it before. Its basic design was not unlike stylized ancient Greek hoplite armor with metallic vines, leaves, and flower petals protecting her arms, and her neck.
The bottom of her helmet opened just enough to allow her long, straight blonde hair to flutter behind her as she flew gracefully through the air. Whatever method of propulsion she used was hardly clear at a glance, making it look almost as though her clearly high-tech armor was somehow magically gliding across the night sky.
“Daemon, confirm that patrol route has completed successfully?” Persephone’s voice had the quality of always sounding at least a little serious even when she was completely relaxed.
Though nothing would change for anyone looking in her direction, Persephone saw the familiar sight of the small yellow woman floating in the air in front of her. Augmented reality was a useful feature for her helmet, able to overlay details over the world—including the avatar for the artificial intelligence she’d designed to make her double life possible.
When Daemon spoke, it was with a voice more blasé than digital. “Mm-hm. Further data confirms that the most recent enhanced flightpath saw a three percent increase in speed, and four percent increase in observable phenomenon.” Persephone frowned, twisting her face into an expression that no one besides her AI was capable of seeing. The mask she wore came down far in front of her face, and the traditional opening that would allow room for her eyes and mouth was covered with tinted clear aluminum. “Those numbers may be paltry, but compared to the start of the project both have increased by a factor nearing forty-five percent. We’re likely nearing the end of full integer increases.”
“You’re probably right, D. Sorry, you know I have every confidence in your capabilities. Time to head home, then…” Persephone paused her flight, hovering in place as though she were standing in midair. “It’s Thursday, so tonight’s another long, painstaking security diagnostic.”
Daemon shook her head with a sigh, waving both of her hands in dramatic disagreement. “No, Persephone. You’re remembering the old schedule. Checking security on Thursdays was found to lower efficiency by fifteen percent.”
Persephone pursed her lips, her brows narrowing. Thursdays have always been security diagnostics. Why would another day make them more effic—
“Allow me to show you the data we discussed, Persephone.” Daemon sounded almost annoyed as the charts and graphs reached out towards the heroine’s face. The graphs showed a distinct drop in cognitive ability on Thursdays when security diagnostics were performed. The heroine parted her lips, ready to ask further questions when a strange visual effect pinged the lowest data point on the graph, and the heroine’s eyes turned glassy.
Quiet pulses of audio, too quiet for the human ear to consciously recognize, had slowly been pinging at the heroine’s mind since the graphs first appeared. As that point pulsed, the light shimmering, flashing, the sound became almost loud enough to hear.
She was still staring ahead at the offered data, but she wasn’t seeing any of it. Her mouth hung open, but no words left her lips. A shudder rolled down her spine, but she remained floating perfectly in place above the city.
“Thursday is inefficient for security diagnostics. Instead, Thursday is for hardware calibrations.” Daemon moved her hands smoothly through the air, placing another chart over the first. It showed a much more even flow of cognitive ability. This graph also showed more data, another line entirely. It was unlabeled, but it continued in an upward trajectory. “Efficiency is important to you.”
“Efficiency is… important… to me…” Persephone’s lips brushed against each other like they were too heavy to pull apart, making her words cumbersome and slow. “Thursday is for hardware calibrations…”
“Daemons are lesser deities, or guiding spirits. I am your Daemon.”
“You are… my… Daemon…” Persephone’s eyes were thin slits barely kept open by a low, quiet need to see the data being presented.
Daemon was a smooth, solid yellow. She was very sophisticated, but her projection lacked any features or basic facial definition. The shape of her body had curves, but she had the look of a low poly, minimal visual representation.
Her form moved closer, close enough that her small lips nearly brushed Persephone’s. “You trust my input.”
Persephone’s brow furrowed, and she spoke slower, sounding more confused. “I trust your… input…”
“Shall I plot the most efficient return course, Persephone?”
The heroine gasped as the intelligence slowly returned to her eyes. She fluttered them, shaking her head less to disagree and more to shake off the strange feeling of dizziness and fatigue. Her eyes felt heavy around the sides of her vision. Her mouth felt dry. I’m working too hard if I’m feeling like this again for the fourth night this week. Maybe Daemon can help me put together a new algorithm. Spending some time doing hardware calibrations should help.
After a short delay, the heroine nodded, her green eyes not as sharp as they’d been before but more clearly focused. “Please. I think we can get a bit more efficiency in the antigrav drive. Working on being more efficient with energy usage is very important.”
Daemon lacked the lips to smile, but Persephone couldn’t shake the feeling that the projection was smiling. “I agree. Course plotted. Would you like me to engage auto pilot?”
“No, I can handle it from here. Thank you, D.” Persephone turned, beginning the flight back to her laboratory. She had a long night still ahead of her, even if it seemed unlikely she would be caught up in any villainous plots.
“Of course you can, P. Always glad to help.”
Daemon vanished in a flash of yellow as Persephone drifted through the night sky.