Dominic glanced down at the glass screen, where Cat’s widget quietly waited, preening himself with one paw.  His fur was blue with light blue tiger stripes and with each breath, a little white cloud formed in front of his pink nose.  Dominic smiled, noting the color change from orange to blue.  He addressed the widget, “Cat, are you ready? Has Laira informed you of your task today?”

Cat’s tenor voice came from the right side of the desk, near his widget, “No, I have not spoken to Mother this morning.”

Dominic then noticed Laira’s widget was not present. Puzzled, he placed a finger on the corner of the glass screen to give the system his biometric authorization and said, “System, search for Laira.”

A less than human voice intoned, “Laira program is not present in the campus net.”

Dominic still with his finger to the glass said, “System, connect to my residence, Milli net, and search for Laira.”

Again the voice intoned, “The Laira program is not present in the Marshall residence Milli net.”

Dominic’s heart began to pick up its pace, and a fear deep in the pit of his stomach started to rise. “System, check Milli net for file folder LAIRA.”

The voice intoned, “No folder by the name LAIRA found.”

Dominic’s chest became tight with gripping pain, “Breathe!” He told himself. She’s here somewhere.

“System, check…”

Jenny’s voice broke in over the office communications system, “Sir, Ms. Sands is here.”

He looked at the antique clock that sat on the right side of his desk. The hands displayed nine forty-five.  “She’s early.” he thought, aloud he said, “She will have to come back later, I am suddenly busy.”

“Sir, she insists on you seeing her now.”

“Not at this moment, Jenny. Reschedule her and find out what she wants.”  As he was about to swipe the privacy icon on the glass screen at his fingertips, he heard Jenny sound somewhat alarmed.

“No! Ms. Sands!  You can’t go in there and besides the door is locked.  You can’t. Wait!”

From in his office, he heard the door unlock, and it swung open, revealing a tall, slender woman with dark green eyes, and dark blond hair that bounced as she walked toward him. She was wearing a conservative tan business jacket over a white silk blouse and tan skirt to the knees.  Two thoughts seemed to collide in his mind, a memory of a teenage girl smiling at him and a boy in tears, standing on a curb looking at the burnt remains of a house. His knees felt like they were going to buckle, his arms felt like rubber, the edges of his vision darkened.

She spoke in a silky melodic voice, “Breathe Dom, before you pass out.”

The use of his familiar name, made him involuntarily inhale, his vision cleared slightly. She had made it to his desk standing across from him.  She leaned over and gave him a little push back into his chair, where he sat and looked up at her dumbly.

Jenny asked from the open door of his office, “Sir, should I call security?”

He focused on Jenny long enough to shake his head.  He heard the door shut, leaving him alone with her.  His mind tried to make sense of the beautiful woman.  His only utterance was, “What?”

She smiled at him, “You haven’t figured it out yet? I’m a little disappointed by that. I mean considering all that you have built here.” And she made a broad gesture, taking in the whole office.

He blinked, still looking at her magnificent beauty and asked again, “What?”

She glanced down at the glass screen where Cat walked around the screen and watched her with a Cheshire grin on his feline face. She winked at him and said, “Cat, we would like you to perform a backup of yourself and then perform a controlled shutdown as we will be upgrading your processing power over the next couple of weeks, thanks.”

Dominic looked at the woman in front of him to the dark glass interface and dumbly asked, “What?”

Cat replied, “Yes Mother, I will perform a backup and then a controlled shutdown.”

Dominic jerked his head at Cat’s words and looked up from the desk to Ms. Sands. “What?”

“Dom, really?”  She paused looking at him, as she continued, “Let me introduce myself again. Hi, I am Laira Willamine Sands. I was your Learning Artificial Intelligence Run Alpha program.  I am available for hire as your personal, executive assistant.”

Dominic looked at her, reached out to place his finger on the desktop glass.

Laira spoke up again, “Don’t bother, the folder is gone too.  I’m all here, no backups.  It’s an all or nothing decision.”  She said this in a flat determined voice, all the while watching his dark blue eyes and waiting to see his reaction.

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