The Virtual Man [The Virtual Reality 1] (Siren Publishing Classic) (2 page)

BOOK: The Virtual Man [The Virtual Reality 1] (Siren Publishing Classic)
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“Very well, madam, let me speak to the Judge and see how I can resolve your issue,” it responded in that exceedingly monotonous and irritating voice assigned to most Artificial Intelligence units. She despised AI units, though, human males so far had not proven themselves to be much better.

As the Legal-Bot hovered away to argue on her behalf, Tiana mumbled her doubts about her husband’s mother’s profession as well as the legitimacy of Tom’s birth into his family and threw herself on one of the large, yet very uncomfortable visitor chairs in the courthouse lobby. Reclining, she basked in the warm sunshine seeping in through the skylight that covered the large room. Looking down at her with seemingly mocking smiles were the holographic images of the 182 men and women who at one point or another had served as governors of Georgia, her beloved birthplace. Five of these public servants had later served as President of the United States, and one had been elected by the Galactic Alliance as its Prime Minister, the highest office in the galaxy.
Well, I didn’t vote for any of you, so stop staring at me.

As the heavy paneled door from the judge’s chamber slid open, Tiana watched her Legal-Bot hover out. Too bad it didn’t have a facial expression to be read. Come to think of it, it didn’t even have a face. She stood up and met it halfway.

“Tell me you have good news.”

“Madam, you made a wise decision when you selected me over the other older Darius model Legal-Bots,” Darius-20 responded, its computer-generated voice seemingly tinged with a touch of arrogance. “I am well worth the premium you paid. My upgraded knowledge-base covering all Earth regulations as well as all intergalactic laws and decrees allowed me to present case law reminding the Judge that in Johnson of Earth vs. Arklexir of Sigma III the parties involved …”

Interrupting the self-absorbed machine, “I don’t have time to hear about your vast store of knowledge, you bucket of bolts, simply bottom-line me!”
While they’re working on artificial maturity, robot manufacturers need to develop a patch for the AI ego,
thought Tiana. W
hat a nuisance.

“Very well.” the robot appeared to resign itself to Tiana’s lack of interest in its prowess. “The court has agreed to allow you to finalize your piece of the disassociation at this time, while granting your husband a six-week extension. Your part of the marriage will be dissolved today and his will remain in full force until he either appears in court or the Judge has him arrested for contempt of court, whichever happens first.”

“What? I will no longer be married to him, yet he’ll still be married to me?”

Will I never be rid of him
?
Hey, maybe there’s a silver lining here. Maybe he’ll get arrested for contempt of court and they will throw his bony butt in jail next to six-foot-six Panty Peeper Guy. I’m sure they have a lot in common.
Tiana bit her lower lip as she remembered the pangs of lust the tall criminal had caused within her.

“Correct. That is where our planet’s recent adoption of intergalactic law, specifically Sigma III’s planetary matrimonial bylaws, enters into the proceedings. According to the new code, each individual is an independent participant in the marriage, therefore, you can receive your disassociation status today regardless of his actions. Now, if you will allow me to scan your retina, I will enter it into the record and you will, be a maritally unencumbered woman.”

Recognizing the finality of this last step, Tiana stood still as a red beam emanating from within the robot’s glossy black faceplate scanned the retina in her left eye. Surprisingly, she felt tears welling up.

It had to be the effect of the retinal scanner. Tom wasn’t tear-worthy. Besides, she didn’t cry, at least not in front of an AI.

After dispensing with the Legal-Bot, and making her final payment, she walked out into the bright afternoon sunshine. She looked up. The blue sky formed a radiant backdrop for transports of various models and sizes that hurried to and fro. Even the heavy Atlanta traffic couldn’t hide the majestic beauty of Earth’s southern skies. It was a beautiful day, one she hoped she could remember and treasure for the next two years. Heading for the sun-light-deprived Magellan Outpost would take her to the furthest edge of the Omicron quadrant. This, her latest assignment, should jumpstart her idled career, but more importantly it would help her get away from any and all memories of Tom and the less-than-spectacular end of her once promising marriage.

Entering a transport in front of the courthouse, Tiana instructed it, “Intergalactic Spaceport.” The taxi reduced the verbal command to a set of coordinates and within seconds whisked her up to a southbound traffic pattern approximately a thousand feet in the air. The spaceport was a scant several hundred miles south of the courthouse, hovering over the Gulf of Mexico, so she knew it would be a short ride.

Chapter 2
The Convict

45 minutes earlier

“Mr. Hart, at the risk of interrupting the intimate conversation in which you and my Bailiff appear to be engaged,” began the clearly irritated Judge in a frustrated drawl, “do you think you might be able to give me your undivided attention long enough for me to pronounce your sentence?”

“My apologies, your honor, it won’t happen again.”

“Son, that’s what you said the last ten times I’ve had to get your attention back on this trial. This is your future we’re dealing with here. This is not a game.”

“It’s the Bailiff’s hair, your honor. My client is partial to redheads. Did you know that—” the Legal-Bot for the defense was not able to finish its statement as it simply froze into place and powered down.

“Now see here, Mr. Hart, Legal-Bots are government property and even considered sentient life by many. Who gave you the access codes to turn that Darius unit off?”

“I didn’t do a thing, your honor. My legal counsel seems to be malfunctioning. I think this is grounds for a mistrial.”

“The hell it’s malfunctioning!” the Judge stood up, glaring at Derek Hart, the single most annoying defendant he had dealt with in his thirty-plus years as a Galactic Circuit Court Judge. All semblance of civility departing his demeanor, he continued, “During this trial you have made a mockery of our legal system. You have rerouted security cameras to the women’s locker room. You have altered the Prosecution-Bot’s gender. You … you even had the audacity to link my access badge to the records of a well-known criminal.”

Throwing his gavel at Derek, narrowly missing him, the Judge continued, “Damn you, Hart, I was strip searched by my own security team!”

Quieting for a moment to regain his composure, the Judge sat back down as the redheaded Bailiff brought the gavel back to him. Giving her a nasty look, he snatched it back and returned his attention to Derek.

“I may not be able to prove you were behind these outrages, but rest assured that I
know
you were. There will be no mistrial and I have made it my business to leave no room for the slightest hope of an appeal for you.”

Restablishing his judicial demeanor, the Judge directed his attention at his computer access point and took a few moments reviewing what Derek guessed was probably the verdict.

“The defendant will please rise,” the Judge instructed while continuing to focus his attention on the jury’s decision. “Derek Hart, you are hereby found guilty of 32 counts of grand larceny and cyber invasion. I sentence you to twenty Earth years of imprisonment at the Lunar 5 Correctional Facility with no eligibility for parole.”

Putting the note down on the wide bench before him and, in frustration, brushing his large hand down and across his face, the judge continued. “Let me tell you, son, setting aside all the crap you have put this court through, it truly grieves me to see a brilliant, creative mind such as yours, with such potential to serve all interstellar life, be shut away. However, let this judgment serve to remind the public that no one, regardless of their brilliance, position or capacity to benefit society, is above the law.”

With that, the Judge’s gavel came down hard and echoed throughout the pale gray court room. Minutes later, it was still echoing within Derek’s mind. Devastation and disbelief, but not surprise, yanked him back to reality with the pull of a tractor beam latching onto a ship traveling at sub-light speed. He felt as if his life force had been extinguished.

Derek Hart had always been a ‘bad boy’ growing up, with his devil-may-care attitude, but he was innocent of these charges and had done nothing to warrant the kind of a sentence that had been levied upon him this day. His shenanigans and humor gave release to his constantly working, gifted mind. He had a woman to thank for his predicament. A woman he had loved. The She-Bitch had done a thorough job framing him. If he had been on the jury, he would have voted for a conviction as well.

Wearing an ubiquitous electronic prisoner restraining suit, and having been denied the use of a laser razor or even a comb, Derek felt like an automaton shuffling out of the courtroom, escorted by his own personal Space Marshall. Apparently the authorities had thought that in his hands, the most innocent items could have easily been turned into weapons. They were right. His heart was heavy and he felt like he had just been buried alive. Despite the blow his life had just taken, however, Derek’s mind was anything but lethargic. He knew he had to plan a way to escape.

As he stepped out the door and into the atrium lobby, he barely glanced at a woman, not more than five feet away, who was dressing down her Legal-Bot. Her next move startled him.

Damn, she hauled off and hit it.

He liked a woman with spunk, but this one clearly had an anger problem. Looking at her more closely, temporarily forgetting his dejection, he took in her timeless beauty. What he wouldn’t give to incur her wrath.

Hit meee, hit meee,
he thought, chuckling under his breath
.

This woman, no, this goddess had flaming red wavy hair cascading down to the middle of her back, and skin as smooth as silk, gently kissed by freckles. Her full, round breasts, challenged by the whack she had just given her Bot, were doing their best to squeeze out of her top. The woman’s nipples were tantalizingly erect, either from anger or air-conditioning, and frankly, he didn’t care which. Her luscious legs ended underneath a thin, tight skirt that came down to mid-thigh and did little to hide the soft curves of her bottom. This woman was neither thin nor fat. In his opinion, “voluptuous” was the best adjective for a body like hers. Voluptuous, yes, but she also had a cuteness and cuddliness to her that would make anyone’s worst day feel like the first day of spring. She was just darling. Taking a deep breath, he caught a whiff of her perfume and felt his dejection rip away, to be replaced with hope and a strange sense of belonging. Life rushed back in.

The next thing he knew he was tripping over an end table like an awkward teenager, losing his balance and falling before the subject of his exclusive attention. His face landed just inches from her beautifully sandaled feet with perfect little toenails polished red. They couldn’t be real toes; they had to be strawberry candy.
Hey, can I have one?

Looking up at the woman, his eyes didn’t make it past her dress, as his position on the floor gave him a clear view of her pink-lace panties.

Wonder if they’re edible?
his sex-starved brain speculated.

Under the Marshall’s watchful eye, she turned to him.

“Are you okay? Would you like me to spread my legs wider to give you a better view?” Her voice was like thick honey, smooth and golden but dripping with sarcasm.

He looked into her eyes for the first time. Surrounded by thick lashes her green eyes were angry, yet tinged with sadness. What was her story, he wondered. Time stood still as she captured his gaze and he was drawn in. He felt himself swimming in them; pools of sparkling emerald green, reminiscent of the Caribbean waters he had explored as a boy. Those eyes held the same mystery for him now that Earth’s ocean had held for him then. They pledged fiery passion. They promised unparalleled, wild, heart-thumping adventure.

Derek had to touch her. He had to experience the softness of her skin firsthand. He had to know what it was like to feel this woman’s heat skin to skin. Stretching his hand to her in a supplication for help, she met him halfway and wrapped her soft, lithe hand around his. The contrast between her softness and his ruggedness was clear. What caught him completely off guard, however, was how his body reacted to the touch. It was just a touch, no different than a handshake at a business meeting, yet it set off a rush of lust that fell over him like a tidal wave. It was as if Derek and the woman had known each other for ever.

Did she feel the same connection I just felt?

The redheaded beauty took her hand away as quickly as she’d given it, leaving Derek to fall back on the ground with the same uninterrupted view.

Ouch! Wait, is that a moist spot on those delectable pink-lace panties? Guess that answers that question.

Quickly, Derek gathered himself and stood up while he allowed his gaze to wander over her curves. He must have stood up too quickly, for he felt lightheaded when he spoke.

“I am now,” he responded. Flashing the woman an impish, boyish smile. “With regards to your legs, they’re spread just fine, but I am much obliged for the offer.”

Much obliged? I haven’t said that in years, what’s wrong with me?

Thinking quickly, Derek tried to come up with a clever line to get her attention, but his usual quick thinking froze up and instead his mouth spoke without the benefit of his brain.

“So, my fair goddess, are you busy for dinner …” his breath was failing him.
Please, oh please, don’t let me say anything stupid.
Giving her the full impact of his best killer smile, he then completed the question, “… twenty years from tonight?”
Okay, that was really stupid.

Derek watched as her delectable mouth curved into a wicked smile and she batted her eyelashes at him. His line had amused her and caught her attention.

BOOK: The Virtual Man [The Virtual Reality 1] (Siren Publishing Classic)
5.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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