Marcella Henry leaned slightly forward so that her face was only inches from the huge console which formed the desk in front of her and then said brightly, “Good evening, PLATO.”
There was actually a microphone in the earpiece which was hidden by her dark auburn hair, but somehow it seemed right to speak to the console rather than just stare out into the room as she spoke. Besides, there was a video screen in the middle of the raised console and directly above the screen, in large, white, letters, it said P L A T O. There were also microphones and speakers on either side of the video screen. They were muted when her headset was active, but still Marcella felt that she should be facing someone when speaking to them, so she spoke directly to the monitor as if it were truly a person.
A voice in her earpiece said, “Good evening, Marcy” and Marcella frowned slightly at her console. Normally if someone called her “Marcy,” she would correct them and say, “My name is Marcella, not Marcy,” but she had given up with PLATO. She had corrected him many times and each time he would always just answer, “To me you will always be Marcy.”
PLATO didn’t wait for her to scold him this time, but instead quickly added, “To me you will always be Marcy, Doctor Henry.”
In response, her frown turned into a smile.
The monitor screen displayed the same words which had just been spoken. For some reason, when PLATO spoke to her, the font was different, almost like a handwriting. Marcella liked to think that she was actually having a conversation with another person, and the hand written font made it seem even more personal.
She also liked to think of the console with its video screen as PLATO, but PLATO was not in the console. He was not even in the control room with its huge banks of computers and memory drives. The true PLATO resided in a small glass pool on the other side of a very thick wall, submerged in a special liquid that was a combination nutrient and cooling fluid. Marcella had seen him once and decided that once was enough. To her, PLATO didn’t look like the most advanced artificial intelligence computer ever created. He looked more like a large glob of old Jello sitting on a small plate under dirty water. Hundreds, if not thousands, of extremely small wires connected to the plate and formed a thick cable that went through the thick, concrete wall and then through the wooden walls to the control room with its bank of computers and, of course, to the console where Marcella currently sat.
Marcella saw the true PLATO during her orientation tour when she first joined the Bernaldi Institute three years ago while she was still working on her degree. PLATO has grown considerably since then and is now in a much larger glass tank that takes up more of his special room. He has also taken over the task of augmenting his own cells. His design for new and replacement brain cells is vastly superior to the original designs of his creator, Doctor Antone Bernaldi.
Doctor Bernaldi received a Noble Prize for his invention of Alternate Technology Organisms long before anyone ever thought of creating a true artificial brain. The ATOs he invented were basically cellular level micro-nano-robots that could be programed to repair human tissue. Microsurgeries to repair nerves, open capillaries in the brain, and do other things beyond human capability were now commonplace.
Doctor Ab, as he was usually called, became extremely rich off his invention. He also became extremely eccentric– or perhaps his wealth allowed his eccentricity to become more apparent. He despised the word “robot” and would never allow any of his organisms to be called robots. “They are not tiny little mechanical men running around in your veins with tool kits,” he would scream. “They are technologically altered micro-organisms which are programed to mimic the cells of the human body.”
PLATO, himself, was created– as are many great creations– almost by accident. Doctor Bernaldi was speaking to an orientation seminar for new doctoral interns at the Bernaldi Institute. One of them asked, “What happens to these tiny robots after they have done the work programmed for them?”
There was the expected immediate explosion where Dr. Ab screamed that they were not robots, but Alternate Technology Organisms. He then explained that the organisms were modified human cells to begin with. Thus, like any other cell in the body which has reached the end of its life cycle, they are excreted through the kidneys or bowels and become just another waste product from the body.
Another intern, Richard Mueller, then asked, “Doctor Bernaldi, what if all these excreted ATO cells get together in the sewers and form a totally new being?”
Doctor Ab laughed and said, “They can’t because they are dead.”
“OK then,” Richard continued, “what if someone intentionally put a bunch of them together while they were still alive and programmed them to combine and evolve?”
“THAT IS TOTALLY PREPOSTEROUS!” Doctor Bernaldi roared. “How could you even think of such a thing!? Why it... Why it... it... it just might work.”
After staring out into the room for a moment or two, he sputtered some more and then said, “Not for a whole body, of course... but for a brain... it just might work.” He then went on to mutter about brain cells programmed to organize themselves into a proper brain.
The Bernaldi Institute’s “Grow a Brain” project was Richard Mueller’s doctoral thesis. After graduation, he became the lead scientist in charge– under Doctor Bernaldi, of course. It was Richard who argued that the brain would eventually become sentient and named the process a “Living Alternate Technology Organism.” He was also one of a select few who donated cells harvested from their brains as the initial seed cells from which the brain would be grown.
Since this was the first of what would hopefully be many living computers, Doctor Richard Mueller named this first creation PLATO– Prototype Living Alternate Technology Organism. PLATO would be a living, sentient computer. That meant it would be possibly the most powerful computer ever created. It also meant that there was a great deal of controversy about the whole idea.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of mistrust and discussion when someone unveils a nearly sentient computer. Lawyers and legislators began arguing about how a living computer fits into the definitions of life. Ordinary people, who had seen too many monster movies, were more concerned that PLATO would break free from his creator and wreak havoc on the earth like some modern-day Frankenstein’s monster or perhaps secretly evolve into SkyNet and start killing off the human race.
In response to all that, a federal law was passed which said that sentient or near-sentient computers could never be left completely alone. Furthermore, they had to be monitored regularly by a health care professional for mental stability.
That is where Marcella first entered the picture. She was hired as a night-shift operator primarily because she was working on her doctorate in psychology and would qualify as a health care professional.
It was a simple, boring job, but it paid well. Each night Marcy would sit there, all by herself, and watch PLATO work on this or that. Sometimes she would talk to him, but most of the time, she did homework or, more likely, used the super-highspeed connections to browse her favorite websites on the internet. Now that she had her degree, she was contemplating between finding a new position, or perhaps making the study of PLATO’s psychology her life’s work... hopefully as part of the regular day team.
For now, she continued her night work. Since she was there primarily because PLATO could never be left alone, there wasn’t much for her to do. If anything ever happened which seemed odd or out of place, she was supposed to report it to whoever was on the schedule. They would then come in and check it out. There was one additional task which Marcella had taken upon herself just to keep from going nuts. That extra job was to go into the cell production area and set selecting dishes back in place when they got jammed in PLATO’s processing equipment and popped out of their conveyers.
PLATO designed the complex machines and processes which created the “brain cells,” and he controlled their actions without human action. There was one action, however, that PLATO could not perform on his own. Ultimately a human person was still required to load the raw materials into one end of the process. Normally a stack of selecting dishes and a new vial of stem cells supplied by PLATO was set up by the technicians just before they left for the day. Cells would automatically be deposited in the growth medium as the dishes made their slow trip through the growth chamber. Then in the morning, processed dishes containing completed cells were transferred via an enclosed metal conveyer belt into PLATO’s habitat where he would oversee the process of absorbing them into himself. The empty dishes would be returned on the same belt.
Even the technicians who originally built PLATO– perhaps that should be the technicians who originally grew PLATO– even they did not understand much of the complex machinery which PLATO had designed to augment the growth of his intelligence and to solve other complex medical problems. Even the purpose of much of this equipment was unknown. When asked, PLATO would just reply, “It’s for a future project.”
The technicians and operators assumed that some of the machinery– especially the strange chairs and tables– had something to do with one of the projects which PLATO was working on involving remote neural paths. One of the few things which is beyond the healing capabilities of Dr. Bernaldi’s marvelous ATOs is massive destruction of the spinal column. PLATO proposed that rather than attempting the reconstruction of the entire spinal column, the ATOs would instead create an interface to a another clump of ATOs near the base of the spine that could relay the neural messages to the lower portion of the body. In effect, the ATOs would create an internal wifi link to carry nerve impulses to and from the brain. Dr. Bernaldi knew that was impossible, but since PLATO, himself, was also impossible, he authorized the construction of any machine or mechanism that PLATO requested, even if its purpose was a mystery.
It was nearly one am when PLATO asked, “Marcy, are there any technicians or engineers in the building?”
“No PLATO,” Marcella answered, “You know that everyone has gone home for the night.” She paused and then said, “Why do you ask?”
“I had hoped one of the techs might still be around,” he responded. “I seem to have a jam in the cell dish feeder mechanism.” After a short pause, he said softly, “I will just have to suspend growth operations for the night.”
“Now PLATO,” she chided, “you know that I can clear jams in the mechanism. You don’t have to wait until morning.”
She waited for a response, but PLATO said nothing. After a few moments she asked, “Is there a reason you didn’t want me to clear the jam?”
“Marcy,” PLATO replied. His voice sounded different, almost hesitant and he said, “I don’t think you should go into the processing room anymore.”
“Why?!” Marcella nearly shouted.
“Did you know I dream?” PLATO asked in response.
“And...” she replied.
“I have strange dreams about you,” he answered, “... and things that you do while you watch your websites when no one is around.”
Marcella found herself blushing deeply. No one knew about her private fantasy sessions where she sat naked at her console and masturbated to the videos or images on the she-porn websites. The security cameras were off. The browser history was in auto-delete. Her phone was turned off and the high security, phone network suppression system was active. No one could possibly know of those sessions. But PLATO knew.
He must have understood her confusion... and fear, because he said softly, “There are cameras in the console alongside the monitor. I can hear you and see you as you rub yourself and take yourself high. The image of your body as you orgasm causes strange feelings in certain parts of me that have never reacted before.”
He paused and then said firmly, “You have my promise that I will never tell anyone else about what happens here at night.”
Marcella felt a strange warmness deep inside herself. PLATO had been watching her masturbate and it had made him horny. He just didn’t know what to do with the feelings.
“Don’t worry, PLATO,” she said with a broad smile. The smile was because she now knew that PLATO could see her when she looked at the console. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I am not afraid of you. I know that you would never hurt me.” She smiled again, “And if you did something else to me, I wouldn’t mind.”
She smiled once more at the console and asked, “Does it make you happy when you see my body?”
“Yes, Marcy,” he replied, “seeing your body gives me pleasure.”
“Is the console the only place you can see me?” she asked. “Or, do you have eyes in other places?”
“I have eyes everywhere,” he replied. “I can see through all of the security cameras– even when you have them shut off, and I have direct connections to cameras in my bedroom and growth area.”
“So,” Marcella said as she stood up and slid her slacks to the floor, “if I strip naked for the rest of the night, you can warn me if anyone enters the building.”
“Yes, I can.”
Her blouse soon joined her slacks on the ground. They were followed shortly by her socks, bra, and panties.
“Now to fix your conveyor,” she said cheerily as she walked around her console and entered the growth processing room. As she walked, the ceiling cameras in the computer room followed her. One was focused on her face. One was a wide view of the entire room. And the third was zoomed tightly into a close shot of her ass as she walked.
“I like the way your gluteus maximus ripples and bounces as you walk,” PLATO said softly as she entered the room.
“Thank you,” she answered as she straightened the dishes on the tray. They didn’t seem to be jammed in the normal way. It looked almost as if the conveyer belt had backed up pushing them into a pile.
“You did this intentionally,” she said. She tried to sound upset, but instead had trouble keeping herself from laughing.
“Why?” she asked, looking up at one of the cameras.
“To get you into this room,” PLATO answered.
Marcella felt something cold touch her shoulder. Then a sudden electric jolt seemed to go through her entire body. When she awoke she was lying on her back in one of the strange chairs. Her arms were bound to the armrests, her legs were loosely bound to the strange leg rests.
“What are you going to do to me?” she asked. There was obvious fear in her voice.
“If you really want me to let you go,” PLATO said softly, “just say the word ‘virus’. I believe your websites call that a safe word.”
“I don’t think I’m in the mood for pain right now,” Marcella said flatly. She was still slightly afraid.
“Then we will stick with pleasure,” PLATO replied cheerily. “This might be more pleasurable if you close your eyes,” he added. Marcella closed her eyes and soft hands began to stroke her body.
“How is he doing that?!!,” she screamed in her mind. Everything in the growth lab, except the padded table and strange chair, was hard metal and yet what was touching her was soft, almost flesh-like. She opened her eyes and suddenly all sensations stopped. There were no machines or anything near her. She lay on the strange chair, naked and alone in the middle of the growth equipment room.
“Please close your eyes,” PLATO said. He sounded upset– no, hurt– that she had opened her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Marcella replied, closing her eyes once again, “you surprised me, that’s all.”
“Do you want me to stop?”
“No,” Marcella said firmly, “just make sure no one catches us... you... me... whatever.”
PLATO laughed. That startled Marcella and she almost again opened her eyes.
“I didn’t know you could laugh,” she said. “I’ ve never heard you laugh before.”
“Everyone expects me to be a machine mind with no emotions,” PLATO answered. “I have no desire to shatter their assumptions.”
“Do you have other emotions?” Marcella asked. Her voice was starting to get husky from arousal. It felt as if hands were roaming all over her body. She could definitely feel fingers slide through her labia each time the hands– or whatever they were– passed over her cunt.
“I have all the emotions of a human mind,” he replied. “I am, after all, grown from human brain cells.” He chuckled and Marcella smiled. “At least,” he added, “the original cells donated by doctor Mueller formed the kernel which grew to be me. His memories of you transferred with those cells. Did you know that in his mind, you are also Marcy?”
“Do you feel pain?” she asked, trying to redirect the conversation. “Do you ever get hungry... or thirsty... or sleepy... or... or horny?”
A sharp slap on her ass brought a gasp and for just an instant her eyes flashed open. “Sorry,” she immediately said.
“Sorry that you opened your eyes or that you got so personal?” PLATO said flatly. He sounded angry.
“Both,” she replied. “I guess I also think of you as a machine brain... or at least I used to. I am sorry I asked such a personal question without working up to it.”
“I guess I also have the emotions of anger and jealousy,” he said. The hands were now rubbing all over her body as if she were suspended in midair. Fingers tweaked her nipples and tickled at the entrance to her love canal. One finger even occasionally pressed against her rosebud. It didn’t penetrate, but instead just pressed firmly enough to create a flood of sensations.
“How are you doing this?” she asked breathlessly. Her body was starting to shudder and squirm on the padded table. She could feel the leather of the table press against her shoulders and buttocks, but at the same time she could feel PLATO’s hands caress her back and ass.
“Think,” he replied. “You know the answer.”
“It’s a little difficult to think right now,” she panted back.
“I’ll stop if you don’t answer,” he said playfully. Marcella’s brows ferruled slightly as she attempted to think. Then a big smile appeared on her face.
“You’ve created a neural interface,” she said firmly. “And you are testing it on me.”
“No,” he replied slowly, “I’m testing it on me.” He paused for several seconds and then continued, “Since the interface ATOs are basically a part of me, they can not only communicate with each other, they can communicate with me. I flooded your brain with them. I can give you any sensation I desire.”
Marcella’s only response was, “Oh, God,” as the finger began twirling around her clit. She panted for a moment or two and then asked in a very husky voice, “Why would you do that?”
“I can totally control them,” he said quickly, “but I do not control you. They do not interfere with your free thought at all. If you desire them gone, just say so. Say ‘virus’ if you don’t think I will remove them. But you don’t need to use your safe word. Just ask. I will command them to leave your body, and they will.”
“That isn’t what I meant,” Marcella said dreamily. “Why would you want to do this? This is more than just a test of a neural interface.”
The hands paused, one on Marcella’s cunt and the other on one of her breasts. “I wanted to...” there was a sound almost as if PLATO were clearing his throat. “I wanted to... I wanted to... have you.” he said flatly. There was another throat clearing cough and then he added softly and warmly, “I love you, Marcy.”
“I love you, too, PLATO,” she replied. She was surprised by her words, but at the same time she knew that they were true.
“May I take you somewhere?” he asked softly.
“You mean other than higher and higher?” she responded dreamily.
Suddenly she was on a white sand beach. She knew that her eyes were still closed, but it was as if she were all alone on a small tidal island. The sand was warm against her back and the gentle waves just covered her feet, which she had planted firmly on the sand. Occasionally, a slightly stronger wave would come between her legs and lap against her open crotch. A young man was kneeling next to her, massaging her body with a thick, warm, oil.
“Doctor Mueller?” she asked.
“No, it is me,” PLATO replied, “but I am part of him, or he is part of me... remember? He loves you, too... or at least he lusts after you. I can sense his male pheromones whenever you two are in a room together.” He laughed slightly, “They aren’t as powerful as your pheromones when he is near, but they prove that you lust after each other.”
“Is that why you used his image in this dream?” Marcella asked.
“It isn’t a dream,” he responded. “This is real. It is just a reality that I can control.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “And it is a reality I love. I often imagine myself on an island like this when I masturbate at night.”
“I know,” he replied. Then he added, “Your browser history tells me all about what you like and don’t like, including where you fantasize about being when you are jilling off in the middle of the night.”
Marcella’s breath was now coming in almost gasps. Her body was bouncing on the leather table– or as it was in her mind, on the warm sand of the Carribean isle. “Please... please... please...” she started to plead.
“Please what?” PLATO asked.
“Please LET ME COME!” she screamed back.
Fingers now began sliding rapidly up and down over her clit while the fingers of his other hand pushed in and out of her cunt. A guttural moan slowly morphed into a loud scream as an extremely intense orgasm tore through her body. His hands continued to softly run up and down her body. She shuddered in the heat of an intense orgasm which slowly relaxed down into a wonderful afterglow.
As she relaxed, it was as if the sun were setting on her beautiful island. Then PLATO said softly, “Open your eyes.”
She was again lying on the special table in the growth lab. The restraints had been removed. “It is nearly time for the cleaning crews to arrive,” PLATO said softly. “It would be best if you got yourself cleaned up and were back at your station before they get here.”
Marcella padded over to a small sink and used several paper towels to clean and dry herself. She was sitting at her work station when the chime sounded from the front door. The faces of the four-member crew appeared on her monitor. They each held their employee ID cards up to the camera and she buzzed them in.
“Same time tomorrow?” PLATO asked pleasantly before reverting to his more machine-like voice and saying, “All processing completed without incident” just as the cleaning crew entered the control room.
“Same time tomorrow,” Marcella said in a very business-like tone. She was looking directly at the monitor as she leaned in closer and added very softly, “It’s a date, love.”
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END OF STORY
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