Doctor Elena headed back to her office. As she walked, she continued to consider her patients. Bobbi was lovely. To be honest, she would like to make a play for the boy herself. But, she could not violate her professional ethics.
Then there was the woman. She felt herself tensing just at the thought of the hateful creature. That Bet person was a serious challenge to her detachment. Self-righteous, self-centered, supercilious…and those were her good qualities. There was simply no getting around the fact that she was a total bitch.
What are we going to do with her? she wondered. Well, she supposed they would think of something.
But her other patient, that was the interesting one. Also the terrifying one. If Bet challenged her calm, then the Other challenged her courage.
Fortunately, It didn't have a body yet. It was still just a simulation running in a mainframe. But, even so, It was terrible.
And, now, she had to go visit It.
Once in her office, she seated herself behind her console. It would be a virtual visit. She would travel the Net to where It was. She put on her headset and the Cloud took shape before her. Individual computers became glowing rectangles and octagons. Communication links appeared as long shimmering lines. She took one of the lines and in a millisecond was in the lobby of the Fortress.
Two entities were waiting for her. One was another human, Sirana Arlanda, also present in virtual form. The other was Omni. But, then, Omni was everywhere. "Evening, everyone," she said, as she manifested her virtual self in the lobby.
The Sirana, a tall and striking young woman, extended a virtual hand to be shaken. "It's morning for me. I'm in North Australia at the moment. Lovely weather."
"And for me," Omni said, cheerfully, "it doesn't matter a hill of beans what time it is, since, unlike you lucky humans, I don't sleep."
"Why would you want to?" Arlanda asked, smiling. "It's an awful waste of time."
"Ah," answered the avatar, "but sometimes wasting time is the most productive thing you can do."
Elena decided to change the subject. "And how is our patient?"
Omni was instantly serious. "Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying."
"No change, then?"
"Not a bit,"
She sighed. She wasn't surprised, but she had hoped that something might have changed for the better. "Well, let's face the music."
Omni nodded and the three of them 'ported to the Control Room. It was, of course, another virtual environment, located nowhere in physical space, but constructed to give humans a familiar context within the simulated world of the Cloud. It had chairs and control panels, and artificial technicians working behind consoles, and on one wall was a huge screen. At the moment, the screen was blank.
"Are we ready?" Omni asked.
Elena worked up her courage. It is just a simulation, she reminded herself. There really isn't a vault on the other side of that screen. There really isn't a creature inside it. But no matter how many times she said it, she didn't believe it.
She glanced at the Sirana. The other woman said, " Do it."
The screens flashed into life. And on the other side…