Abigail doesn’t realize she’s being controlled by an artificial intelligence that’s turning her into the perfect girlfriend for Victor in Ghost in the Machine, available on Smashwords, Amazon, or BodySwapStories.com.
Victor has had a crush on Abigail since they first met but she’s only ever seen him as a friend. Fortunately for Victor, an artificial intelligence has escaped the lab and targeted him as the perfect consumer which it intends to satisfy by any means necessary. The AI figures that the best way to give Victor what he desires is to download itself into Abigail’s body.
Abigail has no idea she’s being controlled. She thinks it’s her choice to pig out on junk food, embarrass herself in public, and explore her sexuality as the AI learns to control its new human body. But the AI still has some difficulties deciphering meaning and an ill-worded desire from Victor leads to copies of his mind being inserted into Abigail and her roommate.
But maybe that’s what Victor really wanted all along and he didn’t even know it.
Victor took a last sip of his beer and leaned back against the cushion of the booth seat. Abigail and Paige sat across from him, both of them still finishing their meals. Abigail had been holding a single french fry in her slim fingers and gesticulating with it while she told a story for the last five minutes. Paige had egged her on, laughing and filling in details that Abigail glossed over.
“Uh, not quite,” Paige said, arching her slender eyebrow at Abigail. “I was the one who went down the hill first.”
“Oh my god, I forgot!” Abigail laughed. “It was a bunny slope and you almost plowed into the kids waiting for a lesson.”
“They had thick coats. They would have been fine,” Paige said wryly, swiping her black hair back behind her ears.
This was why dinners out with the two women took forever. Victor didn’t really mind though. They were good company and, besides, just being around Abigail was all Victor wanted.
Abigail’s stories gave Victor an excuse to watch her. He sought to memorize her face, taking in her close-set eyes that gave her an endearing girl-next-door look, her toothy grin, and the beautiful line of her nose. Abigail pushed her black glasses back up her nose and flashed Victor a gorgeous smile. The two had been friends for years but still, whenever Abigail flashed that smile at him Victor’s heart jumped into his throat. She was either blissfully unaware of Victor’s feelings for her or was deliberately not acknowledging any of the little signs over the years. Victor wasn’t sure which was better.
Abigail finally popped the french fry into her mouth. The conversation lapsed momentarily as both women took another bite of their burgers. Paige ate with cautious movements, trying not to spill anything on her white sleeveless top. The other two had already poked gentle fun at her for tucking her napkin into her neck but she’d just shrugged and insisted that it was well worth looking like a dork to keep her clothes clean for the club later that night.
Paige and Abigail were roommates. Both cute and in their early twenties, but that’s where the similarities ended. Abigail was the more outgoing of the bunch. Nerdy-sexy, with a face that always looked as though she had a hint of a smile and a willingness to throw herself into new things no matter how crazy they sounded. God, Victor had such a huge crush on her. Paige was shy and reserved, except when she went out clubbing or to a rave. Then she would hit the dance floor, bumping to beat without a care in the world. Usually she dressed simply, with a girl-next-door modesty about her. But when she went out, like tonight, with her dirty-blonde hair up in an elegant bun and an outfit that hugged her tight curves, she was hot as hell.
“Sure you don’t want to come out clubbing with us tonight?” Abigail asked. “It’s ladies night. You might meet a special someone.” She wiggled her eyebrows.
Victor blushed. She was always looking out for him, so how could he tell her that she was his special someone? Besides, he hated clubs. Too much loud music. Too many assholes. Too many people way cooler than he was hitting on Abigail and Paige. No, not the sort of thing Victor wanted to deal with.
“Not tonight,” Victor said, shifting in his seat. “I’m not really into the whole dancing thing. I don’t have your grace,” he nodded at Paige.
“You call it grace, I call it alcohol,” she replied.
“I don’t even know how you can do it. Don’t you have work tomorrow?”
Abigail sighed. “I’m trying to forget about that. It’s double checking Frank’s work,” she rolled her eyes. “His code is always buggy as hell so that should take up most of my day. Still, gotta love overtime,” she shrugged and took a gulp of her fruity drink.
“Gotta love that Silicon Valley money,” Paige laughed.
“What are you working on now?” Victor asked.
“Corporate secret,” Abigail smiled. “But not exciting. Oh! I forgot to tell you, I totally won this contest at work. I get to be a beta tester for this new VR helmet one of my departments is working on.”
“So, more work in addition to the not-exciting corporate secret work?” Paige asked.
“Well, I have to beta test it in my own time.”
“Sounds like they’re using you as an unpaid intern. This is that big corporate bullshit at work,” Paige shook her head.
“But the helmet looks so cool!” Abigail insisted.
“Can I come over and try it out?” Victor asked.
Paige dabbed at the sides of her lips with a napkin and sat back in the booth before looking over at Abigail. “All right. You ready?”
Abigail clapped her hands together. “Let’s do it!” She turned to Victor. “Last chance. Sure you don’t want to come?”
“Nah. I’m good.”
They all scooted out from the booth and wound through the busy restaurant to the street. There Victor hugged them each goodnight and watched them walk away, his eyes lingering on Abigail’s swaying hips, her curves so incredible in that skintight black dress she wore. With a sigh, he turned and trudged to his car.
When Victor got back to his apartment he didn’t even bother to turn the lights on. He just sat right down in front of his huge computer and booted it up. The pink neon lights inside the casing sparked to life, accompanied by the low whoosh of the liquid cooling the processor. He’d put the thing together himself with Abigail’s help. There were three big monitors so he could chat and game at the same time. Various plugins—steering wheels, a VR headset, a joystick—sat to one side of the steel desk that the monitors had been bolted to, ready for any game he desired.
Currently, his game of choice was a third person co-op shooter called Bravador. He loaded it up and logged in, unsurprised to see his friend, AceOfKings, was already online. Ace seemed to be online constantly, and Victor wondered what his friend did that he could play games all day. Or maybe their schedules were exactly synced. Ace had been suitably vague whenever Victor had prodded him. Ace much preferred listening and commiserating with Victor.
Victor slid the headset over his head and thumbed the button to turn the microphone on. “Hey, Ace.”
“Hello, Victor,” Ace replied, his cool voice like silk. “How are you tonight?”
“Eh, well, you know.”
“I do?” There was the briefest of pauses. “Ah, I see. Did you interact with Abigail this evening?”
“What do I do, Ace? Do I tell her how I feel?”
Ace was Victor’s confidant. He knew none of Victor’s friends and knew nothing about Victor’s life except what Victor told him. It was like talking to a psychiatrist while playing a game. A psychiatrist with an odd grasp of the English language and the slightest unplaceable accent. As they loaded into a game of Bravador, Victor spilled his guts to Ace.
“You appear to be stuck in the grey area known as the friend zone,” Ace replied. “Maybe your romantic outcome would be more favorable if she knew of your feelings.”
Victor snorted. “No way. What if I get rejected?”
“What if you do not? Maybe she feels the same way towards you.”
That gave Victor pause. It wasn’t that Victor had never had a girlfriend, it was more like he was constantly measuring them against Abigail and finding them wanting.
Ace and Victor each selected a character and jumped into an online game with some other players from across the world. Ace had astounding accuracy and an uncanny ability to predict the opponent’s moves. Victor played by instinct whereas Ace was more methodical. Together they were a great team
“We should play in a tournament together,” Victor said, eager to change the subject as they spread out through the map.
“Would you like that?” Ace asked, then added: “I am holding up in beta quadrant.”
“That would be awesome.” Victor said as he charged through the map. “Finding cover.”
“There is an all-female tournament in San Diego this weekend,” Ace responded. “Target eliminated,” he added as he killed a player.
Victor didn’t have time to wonder how Ace had looked that up so quickly because suddenly he was being attacked from behind. He ducked behind a stack of crates. Pulling out his knife, he waited for his opponent to charge towards him. When he did, Victor leaped up and swiftly jabbed him in the face.
There was no more time to talk that round because the timer was counting down and the other players were rushing them. All they could do was bark commands at each other until time ran out and the game ended with another victory for Ace and Victor. By then Victor had forgotten to ask Ace how he knew that Victor lived near San Diego.
They played until late at night, when Victor’s eyes started to ache from looking at the screen. The only interruption had been a text from Abigail, her and Paige holding up some sort of syrupy looking cocktail and smiling into the camera, accompanied by a text:
Free drinks! It’s not too late to join us!
Victor hadn’t bothered answering, just jumped into another round.
“Do you think she is flirting or just being friendly?” Ace asked when Victor told him about the text.
“Man, I don’t even know.”
“I wish I could help.”
Every interaction with Abigail just left Victor more confused. Just when he thought there was nothing there she did something to make a little niggling doubt appear. Ace was a good listener, but he was no Abigail.