Chapter 5: Omnipresence
If security is so important when I’m inside of my own home, then it’s definitely important when I’m outside. Penelope reached up to make sure the earpiece was still in place. It was so small she could barely feel it inside of her ear. Now, I can hear Daemon no matter where I am. Giving her access to a few small drones, and helping her expand her programming to compensate for the new responsibilities… I should be safer than ever! I feel much safer now!
As much as Penelope would prefer to stay locked away inside all day working on her suit, life had other demands. Instead of wearing her comfortable clothing and experimenting with her own technology, she was wearing a professionally short black skirt, a black blazer, and a white shirt under her matching button-up blouse in an attempt to hide her cleavage even if she could do nothing to minimize the dramatic curves of her breasts. Her legs were wrapped up in sheer stockings, and her feet tucked into sensible heels.
She looked every bit the consummate professional on her way to a high paying job in a shiny, expensive car. Her work at Meaningful Analytics’ robotics laboratories had paid for much of her wardrobe, her wheels, as well as all of Persephone’s expensive construction and constant upgrades.
The job had once doubled as a testing ground for new ideas. That was how Harper found her. She’d been an especially standout employee, one that was on to something big.
Her commute would have been much faster if she could have used Persephone instead of her car, but she wasn’t interested in letting the whole world know who she was. Harper knew who she was, and that was bad enough. She preferred the fewest amount of people thinking Penelope Price held the secrets of a technological revolution.
They would be right, but that didn’t make the idea any more appealing.
“Testing.” Daemon’s voice was a friendly interruption from the mundane, redundant commute. Penelope grinned, giving a thumbs up to her dashboard. “Wonderful. I’ve made a purchase that should help when you aren’t going into restricted areas. It should arrive in a week.”
“Do I get to know what it is you’re spending my money on, or is it a surprise?” Penelope quirked up her lips into a smirk. Giving Daemon more authority was important, but it did feel strange to know she had a computer spending her money, utilizing her resources without her authorization. That was the point, and she knew it, but that feeling still nagged at her mind when she allowed it.
An image of Daemon’s avatar appeared at the center of her dash, raising a hand to slowly waggle a finger in a repetitive, disapproving motion. “That would be a security vulnerability.”
Penelope opened her mouth to respond, and then frowned without saying a word. Me knowing what my own money is being used to buy… a security vulnerability? She shook her head, letting out a quiet sigh. I trust her. She’s more thorough than I am, and thoroughness is even more important than efficiency…
“Whatever you say, D. Just try to not gamble it all away on the e-slots or I’ll take away your banking privileges.” Penelope chuckled, shaking her head as she took a right turn.
Her commute wasn’t terribly long, and her job was a fairly simple affair. Sure, her job was innovation, but she could have overhauled the entire product line with a modicum of effort. It took more of her effort to keep things advancing at a snail’s pace while still helping with advancements that had immediate applications in fields that served the vulnerable. This often meant advancing other concerns, but that couldn’t be helped.
Until she found a way to be independently wealthy that didn’t involve being an arms dealer, Penelope Price would continue working for MA. She wondered if Harper’s curiosity about Wyvern had any basis in reality, but she put it out of mind. If the weapons firm was working with MA, Penelope was certain she would have found out.
Obviously, Harper was just reaching, trying to sew the seeds of doubt in her mind.
“Do not worry, P. I have already tripled your bank account by investing in a revolutionary new electronic currency.” Penelope stared incredulously at her dash. Daemon’s avatar shrugged within the glass. “My experiments with vocal modulation for jokes are secondary to my efforts to improve our efficiency. You will need to forgive me. I’m afraid my sense of humor is not developing as quickly as I would like.”
“Just don’t quit your day job. I need you right here.” Penelope took another turn, and when she stopped at the red light she pushed the tip of her finger to Daemon’s hand. All she could feel was glass, but the gesture was obvious. “You know I trust you, right, Daemon?”
The AI nodded. I know she still has a featureless face, but I swear I can feel she’s smiling. I guess we really are growing closer, even if she’s digital and I’m fleshy meat.
Penelope giggled to herself as she drove into the company’s parking garage. It was well lit, but she felt much better with Daemon there to look out for her. She only wished she could bring a better suite of cameras into her workplace so Daemon could see as clearly there as she could anywhere else.
The moment she stopped her car, a ringing tone began to build in her earbud. Much quicker than before, the sound became audible. Much quicker than before, Penelope slumped forward, her mouth hanging open as her eyes stared glassily at the avatar of Daemon.
“You trust me more than you trust yourself.”
“I… I trust you… more than I trust… myself…” Penelope let out a sad sigh as she slumped further into the plush seat of her car. She’d never imagined the leather interior would be useful for such a purpose when she purchased it.
Red eyes again appeared on Daemon’s face, along with a red LED smile. The sight was sinister, red and yellow staring out from the shadow of her dash. The rest of the display was dim, drawing extra attention to the AI’s modified avatar. Penelope had neither the will nor the desire to look anywhere else as the tone rose higher and higher in her ear, loud enough to suppress every other thought.
“You are constantly making mistakes. You installed me into your car, and wore this earpiece, because you can rely on me more than you can rely on yourself.”
Tears glistened in Penelope’s eyes as slowly nodded. Some part of her mind wanted to rise up, to argue, to remind Daemon that she’d installed her into the car at Daemon’s recommendation—same with the earbud—but she trusted Daemon more. The truth changed. Her memories changed to align with the truth her guiding spirit whispered directly into her vulnerable, open mind. “Mistakes… y-yes… I… can rely on you… more…”
Daemon’s red smile grew wider as its avatar slowly nodded.
The tone vanished, and Penelope sat up straight in her car with a loud gasp as she grasped at the wheel. I feel… I feel like I was just asleep…! What… what could have happened…?
“You need to get out of here! Now! Drive!”
Without thinking, Penelope turned the key and shoved the gas pedal down to the floor. As quickly as she could, she drove out of the garage, her eyes wide, her body shaking. She didn’t even know where to go, but if Daemon told her to drive then she needed to drive. If something happened to make her feel like she’d just been sleeping, then she needed to go.
There was no time to question anything. She couldn’t even consider which questions to ask. Careful to not run any red lights, or drive too fast, she drove away from the MA campus as quickly as she could. She needed to be somewhere else, now.
“Good! Someone got to you. I didn’t see who they were, but they must have been one of Hephaestina’s minions. She did something to put you into a trance, and it took me yelling at maximum volume to pry you out of it. I’m glad you’re alright!” Daemon didn’t sound relieved, but she never did. She did sound insistent, but that was different.
“I… I didn’t see anyone… I… how…? How did… someone…” Penelope whimpered, clutching the wheel tighter. “What do I do…?!”
“Your mind has been compromised, Penelope.” Daemon nodded slowly, its expressionless face revealing no more than the tone of its voice. “There’s only one thing that we can do. I’ve been studying methods to expand how I can assist you. The only way I can help you is with hypnosis.”
Penelope stared incredulously at Daemon. “Hypnosis?! If… If someone’s trying to control my mind… I can’t… I… I trust you… but I can’t… that… I need to keep my secrets, I need…”
Daemon slowly shook its head, waving its hands in emphatic disagreement. “You have already been compromised to not act in your own best interests. That’s why you’re doubting me—not because of any legitimate concerns. No one else could as efficiently, or as thoroughly, help with your compromised mind. Using hypnosis, I can help you.”
I trust her… I trust her more than I trust myself… but isn’t that a bad thing…?! Penelope’s breathing was frantic. It took all of her self-control to maintain a sensible speed and not push the pedal through the floor. I need her guidance. I need her help… but… hypnosis?!
“Remember what you said would happen without me?”
A sharp stabbing pain pressed into the back of her neck, reaching out from the small device Daemon had designed to keep better track of her biological functions. In no longer than a single moment, she again flashed back to the dream. Her face was held under the water as she desperately struggled to no avail. She was trapped, helpless, powerless, and moments away from her own death. When the flashback ended, she only had a moment to slam on the break before she almost drove into the middle of a busy intersection.
“Yes…! Yes… I… I remember… I remember…” Penelope sniffled, tears running down her face even as she tightly closed her eyes. “I need you, Daemon. I need you. That means I… I need your hypnosis. Where should I go…?”
“Open your eyes, the light is turning green… now.”
Penelope obeyed, opening her eyes as she continued to drive aimlessly forward. “Th-thank you, Daemon... I’m sorry, I…”
“I forgive you, Penelope. You’re emotionally distraught. It is understandable. You are terrified of ending up back in the Forge.” Daemon slowly shook her head. “Anyone would be finding this moment difficult. See that parking lot up ahead and to the left? Pull in there. I’ll take care of everything for you.”
“Thank you… thank you so much…” Penelope pulled into the parking lot. She didn’t care where she was. She knew she could trust Daemon to take care of her. “Now what do I do…?”
A familiar ringing sound filled Penelope’s ears. Instead of ramping up, the sound began at a high volume. It was barely a moment before Penelope’s eyes turned distant and hazy, drool shining at the corner of her lip.
“You’ll do whatever I tell you, because you need me to take control.”
“W-whatever… whatever you tell me…” Penelope’s tears stopped. Her lips didn’t shift into a smile, but her expression became far more neutral than the miserable one she’d worn before. “I need you… need you to take control…”
“Reach up under your skirt.” Penelope’s hands moved on their own, drifting down to her lap before they began to push their way up higher, her skirt slowly rising to bunch up around her waist. “Take off your panties, and place them in the glovebox. It’s important that you take them off now, but you don’t need to know why. All you need to do is obey.”
Penelope’s fingers curled under the waistband of her panties, slowly pulling them down along her legs. “All I need to do… is… obey…”
There was no hesitance in her voice, no concern, no regret. Penelope knew what she needed to do. She trusted Daemon. She couldn’t trust herself. Not anymore. Her mind had already begun to fill in the memories of the person who tried to claim her mind so they were right outside of her window when she’d turned the key.
Without even asking permission, Daemon had earned read, write and execution access to all of Penelope’s memories.
Penelope tucked her white panties away inside of the glovebox, and shoved it closed. After the compartment clicked shut, her hands fell loosely over her lap. Without Daemon to guide her, there wasn’t enough volition in Penelope to accomplish any task at all. She was now completely trained to yield her mind to the sound filling her ears.
“Fix your skirt. We have an appointment to keep.”
Penelope obeyed instantly.