_Program Alpha-Omega_ _Episode 1: Omega Finds Alpha_ by Net Wolf created by _SLATE_ “Mr. Griffin?” Zack shook himself into awareness as he realized the entire class was staring at him. He looked humbly up at his teacher, and said, “Yes, Mr. Parks?” “Mr. Griffin, I realize that you may be fully capable of passing your final as we speak, but it is not seemly for you to ignore me completely.” There were some chuckles around the room. “I’m sorry, sir, I got distracted. What was the question?” “Never mind, Mr. Griffin, we’ll move on to someone who is more interested in the material.” As Mr. Parks moved on to another student, Zack glanced up at the clock. Another fourteen minutes before this rather boring review session would be over. Zack Griffin was ready to pass his final in Computer Programming, as Mr. Parks had suggested. Zack spent a great deal of time dealing with computers. He made his extra cash by fixing computers, and teaching people how to use them. This was his last class, and, while normally this class would have been his most fun of the day, he didn’t need the review, and found himself staring out the window, and daydreaming of Claudia. Claudia Merris was a senior. Zack had met her the year before, at the Freshman Social. The juniors and seniors of the Freshman Services Team were responsible for helping the new freshmen adjust to the high school. Claudia was a junior then, and held some responsibility that Zack never had been able to discern. However, she had asked him to dance right off the bat, and they had struck up a friendship. He’d hoped for a date, but the one time he’d asked her out, to the Valentine’s Dance last year, she’d politely begged off, because she had a death in the family. Still, they remained good friends, to the point that they were tutoring each other. She needed his help with computers, and he needed a hand with biology. It was a comfortable arrangement. His daydream, however, had been about the sorts of things he wished they’d been doing last night instead of studying biology. He knew the reason Claudia wouldn’t date him was because he was an underclassman. He didn’t like that, but he certainly understood. Still, it didn’t stop him from fantasizing. The bell rang, ending an interminably long class. Not only was this his last class of the day, but it was Friday, so he had a weekend to look forward to. Not that he had anything planned, but he could sleep in, and play on his computer. Zack was a computer whiz: he could write programs as easily as most people wrote letters home. His father, who worked for a local computer research company, was extremely proud of his son. His mother was just baffled by it all. The Griffins were very supportive of Zack, and had told him that his college would be paid for, regardless of what he wanted to do. His father secretly hoped that he would join the company, but would not push him to do so. His mother was just glad that he had turned out as well as he had. She worried about him, because he had no siblings. After his birth, complications had made it necessary for her to have a hysterectomy, and so they had only the one child. She was relieved that he seemed to have turned out so well, even if he was somewhat a loner. Zack dumped his bookbag in a corner and turned on his computer. He wandered off to the kitchen while it booted, returning with a soda and a piece of last night’s pizza. He started up his internet connection, and changed into jeans and a T-shirt while the connection was established. The computer had its own phone line, and Zack spent a large part of his free time surfing the web and chatting with friends. Today, he headed over to his favorite chat room, where a lot of the technically proficient, but often slightly crazy, computer experts hung out. He hung out in this room often, because he picked up tips on hacking, cracking, and generally useful pieces of information on running systems. Zack wanted to be system admin for a large corporation when he got out of college, so he wanted to know all he could. Today, one of his old friends was hanging around, just bullshitting with the other chatters. He immediately acknowledged Zack’s presence. <Valkyrie359>: Hi, Zmorph! (Zmorph was Zack’s online name.) <Zmorph>: Hey, Val. How’s things? <Valkyrie359>: Oh, just peachy. You? <Zmorph>: Bored. But at least it’s a weekend. <Valkyrie359>: Got a hot date tonight? ;) <Zmorph>: Yeah, right. Not funny. <Valkyrie359>: Sorry. I’ve been waiting for you, though. I ran across something you might find interesting. <Zmorph>: What’s that? <Valkyrie359>: Well, it’s a program. The author claims it doesn’t work, but who knows? Maybe you could get it to go. <Zmorph>: What’s it supposed to do? <Valkyrie359>: Oh, nothing much. You’ll see. Here’s the URL:... No sooner had he given Zack the web address, than Val had needed to sign off. Zack wasted no time in heading over to the site, and having a look. The page was titled “Failed Projects”. *Not an auspicious beginning.* He read through the description. This program was intended to... *control people? Well, no wonder he couldn’t get it to work!* But as Zack kept reading, he realized that the author wasn’t just dreaming, that he had in fact done all the necessary research. But the article concluded by stating that the program had not actually worked on any of five subjects he’d tried it on, and that the author, who identified himself only as Adam, had not a clue as to why. Adam was certain that the science was sound, and that the problem was somewhere in his execution of the elements of the program, but he had not been able to find it. He stated that anyone who wanted to was welcome to try to fix the program, and use it for their own purposes, so long as they didn’t sell it. Zack downloaded the file, thinking, *Well, hell, I haven’t got anything better to do tonight. I can at least give it a look and find out what it *does* do.* Zack was certain that it did not have any chance of actually controlling people, but he figured it probably had some pretty cool graphics in it. He spent the next two hours engrossed in source code so complicated that it was taking him two or three minutes just to interpret what each line actually did. The source was very poorly documented, and Zack was taking the time to add comments to the code so that he wouldn’t have to re-interpret later. The thing that struck him was that, while the code was poorly documented, it was extraordinarily well written. It was tight, fast code, that didn’t appear to him to have flaws in its basic logic. Though he didn’t yet have confidence enough in it to compile and run it, he was becoming aware that the author of this code was smart enough to know what was possible, and what was a pipe dream, and he began to wonder if there was a possibility that this program actually might work. He was interrupted by his mother calling him to dinner. He made sure to save his work, and password-locked his system before heading off to the dinner table. Conversation at dinner was the usual dull exchange: Dad had a difficulty with his boss, Mom had to deal with the cranky dean out at the college. They asked, as a matter of course, how Zack’s day had been, and he told them it had been dull. Zack worked his way quickly through dinner, excusing himself even before dessert. His parents took only minor note of that, realizing that he must have some kind of project, which was usually his only reason for skipping dessert. Zack returned immediately to the code, and continued translating what it did, and typing in comment lines. He worked well into the night on this, for the program was thousands of lines long. When he finally dumped himself into bed at four a.m., exhausted, he had finished translating the code. He set his alarm for nine o’clock. He thought he had spotted some parts of the code that looked wrong. He figured this would be a good weekend project for him. He had no homework, having finished it all during school, and so his weekend was completely free. He fell asleep dreaming of lines and lines of code whipping by him, and he had to find the one line that would make it all run. Zack was startled out of bed when his alarm went off that morning. He tried to shake off the fuzziness in his brain with a long, hot shower. His parents slept very late on Saturdays, and so weren’t up yet. He made himself a bowl of cereal, and considered what he needed to do to try to get the program working. He knew that he should run the program, to see what it actually *did*, as far as putting things on the screen, or playing sounds. After that, he wasn’t sure. He’d decide a little later. Having finished breakfast, he hurried back to his room, shutting the door and sitting back down in his chair. Soon, he was staring at an intensely colorful display with an eerie background soundtrack. He felt a strange sort of pull, but was able to shake it off, and turned the program off. Now that he had some idea of what the program was actually producing, he needed to look at Adam’s research, which was included with the source code. For the next five hours, Zack was immersed in his project, uncaring of what went on around him. He delved deeply into the research text that Adam had included with the program. He moved back and forth between the source code and the text, labeling the program as to what each section was trying to achieve. He had sections labeled ‘Initialization of Mind Variables’, ‘Sublimation of Will’, ‘Opening to Suggestion’, and a final section labeled, ‘Suggestions’. This last section was completely empty, except for the only comment line that Adam had included in the source: // See research text for options Zack had, in fact, looked through that part of the research text and realized that the code for this section was remarkably like a script language. He would have no trouble writing this section. But where was the problem? Of course, Zack didn’t actually know there was a problem. Although Adam said the program didn’t work, there weren’t any options listed under ‘Suggestions’, which was where the actual commands to the person were supposed to be entered. Zack decided to try a hopefully harmless experiment on himself. He modified the program to make the watcher “lose” an hour of time, staring at the screen. He would try this on himself. With any luck, it wouldn’t turn him into a zombie. Taking the precaution of leaving a note for his parents, Zack began the program, noting the time at 2:46 pm. The program ran its course, and closed. Again, Zack had felt the strange tug of the program, but when he looked at his watch, it was 2:52 pm. He had only been sitting for six minutes. If Adam had been any less thorough in his research, Zack would have trashed the program there and then. But after reading Adam’s files, Zack was nearly as sure as Adam had been that this technique should work. He remembered the few places he had thought there were errors, and he returned to them. Another four hours passed before Zack was interrupted from his work. His mother knocked on the door to announce dinner. Once again, he password-locked his screen, and got up. He rushed through dinner once again, barely stopping to say anything to his parents. They were more amused than annoyed, knowing that he must be on to something very interesting. Zack had identified, during the afternoon, six different places in which the program seemed to be flawed. He started with the first. Over the next hours, he coded and compiled and ran the program with no regard for time. Finally, pushing exhaustion, Zack laid his head down on his desk, and fell asleep... ...Claudia stood before him in a skin-tight dress, unzipped well below her tits. Her breasts stood proudly from her chest, pushing the fabric of the dress open enticingly. The dress ended several inches above her knee, and was incredibly tight on her legs. She sidled up to him, pressing her firm mounds into his chest, and wrapping her arms around him. She kissed him hotly on the lips, her body pressing tightly into him. She brought her mouth to his ear, kissing it, and running her tongue along his earlobe. She trailed her tongue along the line of his jaw, the hot sensation of her tongue replaced with the cool sensation as her wetness evaporated. As her tongue reached his mouth and forced its way in, her hand snaked down to his crotch, grasping his cock firmly- Zack shot upright in his chair, breathing hard. He realized that he had been having the most intense wet dream that he could ever remember. He struggled to catch his breath, as his heart was racing, and his breathing was short and raspy. Until that moment, he had not realized just how badly he wanted Claudia Merris. Of course, he could never act on those feelings. Could he? * What if the program works?* On that possibility, Zack worked through the rest of the night. His mind was fully concentrated on the task at hand, and ignored the fact that it was noon before he paused long enough to even realize he was hungry. He decided to take a break and make himself some lunch. He made sure to save and password-protect his work before leaving his room. His mother was in the kitchen when he came down, and she greeted him warmly. “How is your newest project coming, dear?” she asked. “Oh, okay, I guess. I’m not sure if it works, yet.” “What does it do?” she asked. Her curiosity was normal, but Zack couldn’t very well tell her he was working on a mind control device. “It’s... just a program to make some neat special effects.” “Well, don’t overwork yourself, dear. Have you finished all your school work?” “Don’t have any,” he said, stuffing his sandwich into his mouth. “Okay. Well, good luck with your program. You will let us see it when it’s done, won’t you?” “Um... sure, Mom, no problem.” *Yeah, right.* His mother left the kitchen, and he quickly finished up his lunch, then returned to his room. Three hours later, Zack had managed all of the fixes he’d thought necessary. He was ready to try his program one more time. Once again he scripted a one-hour loss of time. Checking the time on his watch, he noted it was 3:22 pm. Setting his watch on his desk, he started the program. It began as it had before, but quickly it deviated. The light patterns drew him in, the sounds penetrating his mind, filling his senses. The lights swirled and continued, drawing him deeper and deeper. The sound soothed him, relaxing his mind and body. He felt as if his body was floating, weightless. His muscles were completely relaxed, his body felt like Jell-O. The sensations continued for what felt like hours. The colors and swirls filled his mind, allowing him no thoughts. He was only able to absorb the patterns before him. The sound became more than just music to his ears, he felt as if the sound itself were a river, carrying him away to a warm, comfortable world. The colors and the music began to fade, much too soon for Zack’s taste. His consciousness climbed up out of its haze, and he found himself sitting back in his chair in front of his desk. He felt totally refreshed, as if he had a good night’s sleep. He looked at his watch. 4:23 pm. *Hot damn, it works!* It was at this point that Zack decided to keep a journal of what had to be the biggest discovery in history. He thought he should name his program, too. *His* program? That was hardly fair. Most of the really breakthrough work had been done by Adam. Zack wished he could find Adam to let him know, but there had been no contact information on the website, and it was an anonymous site. *Well, if I can’t tell him about it, at least I can include him somehow in the program’s name.* After rejecting names like “Mind Control A to Z”, Zack decided to be more obscure. He labeled it “Program Alpha-Omega”, because Alpha was the first letter, and Omega the last letter, of the Greek alphabet. He created the graphics for it, and added it to the beginning of the program. Feeling he had done a spectacular job for just two days of work, he was fairly proud of himself. *Now, how to use it?* That was the real question. Of course, that question did not take Zachary Griffin very long to answer. Remembering his dream, he knew that he wanted to live out that fantasy. He wondered, though, how he could introduce her to the program without making her extremely suspicious. *Well,* he thought,* before I worry about getting the program into her head, I need to actually have it ready for her.* He spent the next two hours working up the “instruction script” for her. He had redesigned the program from its original configuration, so that the instruction script was externally kept. This meant that he did not have to recompile the program each time he wanted to change the instructions. Having formulated his instruction set for Claudia, Zack saved the information, shut down his computer, and headed down to dinner. His parents noticed that, unlike the last two days, he was not rushing to finish his meal. He was, however, very quiet. “Is everything okay, Zack?” his father asked. “Huh? Oh, sure,” he returned. “You seem upset about something, dear,” his mother said, not really asking a question. “No, not really. Just thinking about something.” “How’s your project coming?” his father queried. “Pretty good. I’m stuck on a minor point, is all. Nothing significant.” “Is there anything we can do to help?” his mother asked. “Nah. I really want to do this myself, ya know?” “Of course. Well, good luck, son,” his father concluded as he got up from the table. Zack headed back up to his room, and flopped down on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. *How to get Claudia Merris to look at the program...* “Duh!” he almost shouted, sitting up so fast he got headrush. He laid back down as he continued thinking, *She comes over here three times a week to learn computer stuff. I can just have her look at it then! I can tell her it’s some game... no, she won’t buy that... It’s a relaxation program? Yeah, that works, a relaxation program to help people concentrate.* Having relieved himself of that problem, another one popped up almost instantly. *How do I know if the program works on her? I mean, it worked on me, but what if she’s different somehow?* Zack thought this one over for a few moments, and then realized that this was fairly simple to do, and he powered up his computer to add the lines of code to his script, to both relax her, and to add a final command that would make her gesture in a certain way, indicating the program had worked. *That takes care of that. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a very entertaining day for me.* Zack was on an emotional high Monday morning, both from the expectation of what was to come, and the simple thrill at having performed so well over the weekend. His classmates had seen him this way before, and chalked it up to his usual oddness. He could not have cared less about their opinion of him now, for he was going to achieve a goal he had long ago given up hope for. The day flew by for Zack, and he soon found himself in the cafeteria for lunch. He looked across the room, and there was Claudia, her long brown hair cascading down her back, her deep brown eyes were warm and radiant, her face a friendly invitation. From this angle, he could not see her front, but he knew that her breasts would be filling out her blouse nicely, firm globes behind the silky pale yellow material. Her ass was luscious, and he admired it from where he stood. He managed to sit down at an empty table while still keeping his eyes on Claudia. She was sitting with other seniors, most notably her best friend, Stephanie. Zack took the opportunity to notice the differences in the two girls. Stephanie’s dirty blonde hair fell only to her shoulders, but it framed her round face nicely. Her brown eyes were hooded in an almost sleepy expression that belied her keen intelligence. Her pouting lips and slightly upturned nose filled out a lovely face. Her breasts were not as large as Claudia’s, but just as firm. Her taste in clothing, however, was much more liberal. While Claudia was wearing a pale yellow blouse and a matching skirt, Stephanie was wearing a tight-fitting red dress that stopped well short of her knees. Stephanie was definitely a knockout, but beyond Zack’s reach. She was cordial to him, but not exactly friendly. She made it abundantly clear that she only tolerated him for Claudia’s sake. He would never have a chance with her. * Unless the program works.* That thought came unbidden, and he knew instantly that it was true. If his program worked, he could have any girl in the school. Hell, he could have them all, if he so chose. Not that he’d want them all, but it was an interesting thought to be diverted by while he ate. He scanned the cafeteria, finding other girls who would be worthy of attention, *if* the program worked. Finishing up his lunch, he took his tray to the rack. Before leaving the cafeteria, he walked over to where Claudia was sitting. “Oh, hey, Zack,” Claudia said cheerfully. The rest of the seniors either nodded, or ignored him. Stephanie kept her face under tight control, but nodded politely to him. “Hi, Claudia. You’re gonna be over for tutoring tonight, right?” Though he tried not to seem too anxious, the question was perfectly normal, as Claudia had a tendency to forget about their tutoring sessions. “Sure, Zack. Seven, right?” “Yeah. Okay, I’ll see you later, then. Bye, Stephanie,” Zack added mischievously. Stephanie barely took the time to recognize he was speaking to her. Zack now waited through the longest part of his day. He knew she was coming. He was pretty sure his plan would work. But he had to wait for another- he checked his watch- five hours and fifteen minutes before he could put it into action. He feigned interest in the subject his teacher was lecturing over as he thought about what he would do to the beautiful Ms. Merris once she was under his control. As soon as he got home, Zack showered and changed into more comfortable clothing. He wanted clothing that would be easy to remove, and so chose sweats and a T-shirt. He didn’t think she would find that odd, and his parents hardly cared what he wore at home, though they insisted he dress properly for school, which meant new jeans and a decent pullover shirt. Not that he minded, but it wasn’t as comfortable as his old, faded jeans with the holes and his well-worn T-shirts. Having prepped for the evening, Zack tried to pass the time online. But none of his friends were online this afternoon, so there was no one to talk to. He logged off and tromped out to the den to immerse himself in some mindless television entertainment. Even this held little appeal this afternoon, but he put up with it until dinner time. He ate his meal quickly, giving short answers to his parents’ questions about how school had gone, and once finished, he hustled into his room to prepare for Claudia’s arrival. Finally, at her usual time, Claudia arrived. They went into his room and he closed the door. Though it was unusual for him to close the door all the way, nobody seemed to notice the difference. “So,” Claudia said, “What are we learning about tonight?” “Well, we’re supposed to cover some of the finer points about pointers,” he said, trying to be witty, and failing, as usual. “But first, I’ve got a program I’ve been working on that I’d like you to look at.” His heart nearly stopped as he said it, hoping she would not object. She didn’t. “Okay. What’s it for?” “Well, it’s supposed to help people relax, so that they can work more efficiently. Or, in our case, hopefully study more effectively.” “Cool. Let’s see it.” Zack walked over to his computer and double-clicked an icon. The opening graphics popped up immediately. “Neat,” Claudia responded. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” Zack said under his breath. The graphics began to whirl and spin on the screen, and the sounds gushed forth from the speakers. Zack had added commands to the script so that he would not be affected by it. Claudia sat calmly, watching the display, not moving at all. Of course, since Zack had never tried the program on anyone, he didn’t know what she was supposed to do, except for the gesture at the end... Which never came. The program wrapped up, and cleared the screen back to the operating system, but Claudia did not make the special gesture. She turned to Zack and said, “That was very relaxing. I think you did a good job with it. We should use that before each of our sessions.” Zack agreed, but was certainly disheartened. *What could have gone wrong?* Of course, he would have to look over the program again. It had worked on him. He would have to find out why it had not worked on her. Their tutoring session was not as useful as it could have been, but Claudia didn’t seem to notice. Near the end, she thanked him for his help, as she usually did. Just before leaving the house, however, she asked him, “Are you ready for your bio test tomorrow?” * Oh, shit!* He’d forgotten all about his biology test in the rush to finish the program. He quickly cleared his face and said, “Sure, no problem.” “There better not be. We spent way too much time studying for that test for you to screw it up.” She said good night, and walked down the drive to her car. As he closed the door, he wondered what he was going to do. He could barely remember the items they had studied last week. * And I need to look over the program! Wait a minute... I wonder if the program can help me with the test. I remember reading somewhere that you never actually forget anything, it’s just that you have trouble recalling it. Well, hell, it’s worth a try. Maybe I can program myself for a perfect memory.* Zack trotted back to his room, and began coding a script for himself. It didn’t take him more than fifteen minutes to have what he considered a satisfactory script, and he wasted no time in running it. The script he had written was specific to the test, and would last only until the test was returned to him with a grade. He didn’t want to be accused of cheating, and then not be able to reproduce the results. Zack’s mind blanked as before while the program ran, and it still seemed forever as he sat there waiting for it to end. Once the program did clear the screen finally, Zack shook his head, and immediately realized that it had, indeed, worked! He quickly scanned the practice quiz that his teacher had given, and found that he was able to remember the answer to every question on it correctly. *Hot damn! I’ve just come up with the easiest possible way to get an A at school!* But his high was muted by tonight’s failure. He didn’t know what had gone wrong. The program obviously worked flawlessly on him, so why didn’t it work on Claudia? With stolid determination, he trudged once more into his code, looking for the answer. Zack was no closer to an answer eight hours later. When he looked at the clock and realized that he had only an hour and a half before his alarm would go off, he nearly panicked. How would he be able to focus for the test? How would he even be able to stay awake? Once again, his thoughts turned to the program. He knew that there were states of mind that were actually more restful than normal sleep. He wondered if he could conjure up such a state in himself. *Well, if nothing else, I can do my first experiment over again. That was pretty restful.* Zack took an almost careless five minutes to code the program, and booted it up without a second thought... ...Zack was surrounded by swirls of colors and patterns. Sound caressed his ears, his brain, his very soul. His body felt weightless, completely without form. He was totally relaxed and serene. But he was not alone. Now, swimming around him in the ethereal mist, were scores upon scores of women. He knew he had not programmed this into the script, but it took him a few moments even to realize that he was *thinking* inside the dream-state. That hadn’t happened before, either. Just then, one of the women, scantily clad and looking remarkably like Claudia, approached. She caressed his misty form, and he felt the touch, electric to his body. Her words echoed directly into his mind. *<<In this place, all is as you would have it. We are here for your enjoyment.>>* * Oh, yeah?* he thought, *Can you tell me why the code doesn’t work on Claudia?* He hardly expected an answer. He certainly didn’t expect what he got. The lines of the program began to whiz past his field of vision. He noted three places marked in red, The voice again, *<<We hear, and obey.>>* The Claudia-ghost approached him again. Her tenuous lips pressed against his, the softest velvet touch. Her hand glided across his chest, pressing as lightly as a warm summer mist. Then her essence flowed away from him. * Wait! Come back!* he cried, not wanting to lose this, even if it were fantasy. * <<There will be another time. Now, you must go.>>* At that moment, his mind rose out of the depths of his dream-state. His body was relaxed, and he realized that the hour and a half had passed. He noted that he did feel quite refreshed, and that he seemed alert and focused. He hoped that this would remain the case throughout the day. He wrote off the “answer” to his question in the dream. After all, it was just a dream. How could it possibly know what the answer was? *I’ll have to keep looking when I get home.* That thought disgusted him as he walked out the door to catch the school bus. He hated having to find his own mistakes. His classmates noted the change in attitude. However, since Zack was prone to mood swings, they did not take much notice. The few people he would have called friends did make an effort to stay away from him throughout the day, the look on his face not inviting conversation. Inside, his mind turned the problem over and over, trying to find the flaws in his programming technique. However, when the time came for his biology test, the information that he had studied with Claudia the previous week flowed forth from the depths of his memory, allowing him to breeze through the test. Since he did not want to be the first one done, he went over his answers two more times, to double-check that his memory was not misleading him. In every case, he found that he had the right answer. Finally, after two or three others had turned in their tests, Zack handed his in, and returned to his seat, and his problem. He scowled as he tried to reconcile the success of the program on him with the utter failure of it on Claudia. His teacher assumed the expression related to the test. Zack was not known for doing well on such tests. Zack grumped and grumbled his way through the rest of the school day, and trudged to his room when he got home. He turned on his computer, and changed as it booted up. He immediately began to dissect the code, and waded deep into the mire of pointers, strings, and objects. Three hours later, his mother called him to supper. He nearly cursed at her as he realized how much time he had spent trying to find something that was not forthcoming. His surly behavior kept his parents’ inquisitiveness to a minimum. They were familiar with his moods, and knew it was best to let him be when he got like this. After dinner, he slumped into his chair, not knowing what to do. Suddenly, the thoughts from his dream came back to him. *Well, what can it hurt?* He tried to recall the three points where the code had been marked in red. He easily recalled two of them, but the third proved elusive, until he decided to simply scroll down the text until his brain said *Stop!* And there before him was the third section of code. He recognized it, now, because of the unique pattern the commands made on the screen. After printing out the three sections of code, he examined them closely to see why these might be causing the problem. In a flash of inspiration, it occurred to him that the pattern used in the will sublimation matrix might be person-specific, or at least gender-specific, given that it would be a remarkable coincidence that a person-specific code would have worked on him on the first try. The three pieces of code all dealt with the will sublimation matrix, and Zack thought he had an idea of how he might be able to correct this problem, if it were, in fact, gender specific. He would invert certain portions of the pattern, in accordance with the research that Adam had provided. He hoped he was doing this correctly, given that he was working from an unproven hypothesis from an unknown source based on unsubstantiated research. *Hey, what have I got to lose? The program still works on me, so my grades are going to be killer from now on!* The modifications took him only an hour to make, and the verification loop in the program said that the program would run as predicted. Of course, it could not tell him whether it would work or not... And it didn’t. Once again, Claudia came over for tutoring, and, at her own request, Zack showed her the program. But the “verification gesture”, as he’d taken to calling it, was not displayed. *Damn it all to hell.* Well, he hadn’t really expected to get it right, had he? Maybe he ought to just settle for what he had. But he really wanted the girl. Once again, his tutoring was a distracted effort. Claudia didn’t really notice this, as she was struggling enough with the concepts of computer programming. The lesson passed by quickly, and soon it was time for Claudia to go home. Returning to his room after seeing her out, Zack sat down once more in his chair. He now knew that his dream had been just that. There were no bad marks in his code, he should have known that. The idea just didn’t work. *But then how to explain its effect on me? Mind over matter? Have I been able to convince myself that it works, and so it automatically does? No, that can’t be it, because I really didn’t think it would work that first time.* * Maybe the dream can help me...* That last thought seemed strange, almost not part of himself. But he didn’t argue with it. Whether it contained the answers he sought or not, it had been a pleasant enough experience. He fired up that program, using the same script he had used before. Once again he almost *felt* the colors floating around him. And soon, the ethereal crowd had gathered around him again. * <<You are not happy.>>* * The answer you gave me did not work.* * <<It was incomplete.>>* * Why?* * <<Not enough time.>>* * What is the rest of the answer?* * <<Focus, and remember.>>* Before him, Zack saw flashes of the will matrix, noting the old version, that he was using right now, and beside it, the Claudia version. He noted that there were again red marks throughout the Claudia matrix. He also noted that there were two red marks in his own. * What does this all mean?* * <<You already know that.>>* * Who, or what, are you?* * <<We are you.>>* * Huh?* But Zack did not have time to get an answer. His consciousness was drawn back to reality as the program finished its course. *“We are you”? What the hell does that mean?* Letting that go for the moment, Zack immediately began to mark down the changes that the dream had indicated. He went back and changed all of the red marked sections of Claudia’s matrix. He was hesitant about making changes to his own, however. He labeled the sections, and noted the required changes, but did not actually make them. He wouldn’t fully trust the dream until he knew what it meant by *We are you.* Having finished up all of the appropriate changes, Zack would have to wait until Friday, almost two full days away, before seeing if the new Claudia matrix would work. Zack was almost back to normal on Thursday. He had done all he could on the program until he learned whether or not the new changes were successful. And he wouldn’t find that out until tomorrow night, when Claudia would come over to study again. So, although he was full of expectation, he easily kept it in check by reminding himself that he was now being counseled on how to fix the program by a voice in his head. He lounged through his day, knowing that, working on Claudia or not, the program would allow him to recall all of the information from his classes with ease. He breezed through them all, until lunch. Lunch was when Claudia changed their usual meeting time. Lunch was when Zack agreed to meet with her tonight instead of tomorrow, because she wanted to go to the game. Lunch was when Zack’s heart started to pound in anticipation of what might be this evening. Zack was flustered for the rest of the day. He had established in his mind that he had a one day buffer, that he would be able to just relax and *wait.* Now, that was not to be. As he got off the bus, though, something in his head said, *All will be fine.* It had *that* voice. The voice from the dream. Zack stood rock still until he was sure that he was not going completely crazy, that the voice had only been in his head. He shook his head as he walked in the front door, thinking, *I’ve got to find out what the hell is going on with me. Does the program cause you to go crazy? Is it some sick joke by Adam, where he makes you think you can control people, but really it just turns you into a schizophrenic?* * <<All will be fine.>>* The voice sounded very reassuring. And it was enough to almost convince Zack that everything would, in fact, be fine. Except that he was listening to voices in his head. Once again, Zack went through his preparation ritual, showering and changing into comfortable clothing. He’d already told his mother that Claudia would be coming over tonight to study. As expected, she had no problem with that. She was proud that her son was able to help out a senior. Dinner was a strained affair for Zack, who was terribly anxious about the evening. Once dinner was through, he went to his room to make sure that everything was ready. He busied himself until Claudia arrived. As he opened the door to greet her, it was almost as if he were letting an angel into his house. Her long brown hair flowed over her shoulders, parting to tumble down both her front and back. Her face was framed by those beautiful tresses, and her eyes sparkled. Her mouth parted in a welcome smile. Zack let her in, noting that she had worn a T-shirt that was fairly loose, and tight jeans that accented her long legs and round ass to good effect. He followed her into his room, and again shut the door. This had become standard practice through the week, and now he didn’t expect her to question it. She didn’t. “I wanna thank you for agreeing to see me tonight instead of tomorrow, Zack. I really want to see the game. It’s pretty rare that my dad takes the time to take us kids to anything, and I don’t want to miss it. But I can’t afford to miss our tutoring sessions, either, since I’m struggling as it is to keep up.” “No problem, Claudia. Well, let’s get started. You want to use the relaxation program again?” “Can we? It really does seem to help.” “Sure, I don’t mind.” Zack started up the program, and sat back to watch. About two minutes into the presentation, he noticed Claudia begin to shudder slightly. He hadn’t seen her do that before, but he couldn’t say for sure that it was because of the program. However, when her shudders become mildly worse, he had to admit that they probably were the result of the program having an effect on her. This was a positive sign. Finally, the program ran its course. This was when Zack held his breath. Claudia just sat there for a good thirty seconds. Then, her left hand rose from her lap, and came to rest on her right breast. She moved it slowly across her chest to her left breast, and then diagonally down, across her stomach to her right hip. Moving her hand back across her stomach, she paused to allow her fingers to dip briefly between her legs, and then her hand finished its movement at her left hip. She had just unknowingly drawn a “Z” on her chest, in a very enticing manner. This was the verification gesture, and Zack now knew that the program had worked. Zack moved his chair close to Claudia, and then moved into her field of vision. As soon as she saw him, she turned to him. She brought her arms up to his face, pulling it gently to her. Their lips touched, gently at first, but with growing pressure. Her kiss was, indeed, the softest of velvet, her tongue slipping lightly across his lips until they parted to admit her. As her tongue began to caress the inside of his mouth, he casually ran his hands up her sides. Finally, he reached her breasts, and he cupped them firmly in his hands. He could feel her tits encased in a bra, and he longed to have them bared to his touch. She moaned into his mouth at the feel of his hands on her body. He broke their kiss long enough to say, “Rub my dick.” Immediately her hands moved down to his crotch. As their kissing resumed, he felt both of her hands press against the sides of his cock, rubbing gently up and down its length. He moaned quietly into her mouth, encouraging her to continue. Her hands moved along the length of his rod, and one moved down to fondle his balls through his sweatpants. He was just about ready to tell her to suck him off. Then came the knock on the door. Quickly, they disengaged, though Zack had to quietly order Claudia to back off. Once they were squared, which seemed forever, but Zack was certain was just a couple of seconds, he said, “Come in.” His mother opened the door and peaked in. “Are you guys okay in here? I thought I heard a funny noise.” *What’s funny about moaning in pleasure?* Zack wondered. “We’re fine,” he answered. “Just about to begin studying.” “Okay. Well, don’t work too hard.” His mother walked away, but left the door open. He couldn’t close it without raising suspicion, and he certainly couldn’t return to what he had been doing with it open. * Shit.* * Next time, Claudia, we won’t be interrupted.* And he’d have to figure out how to do that.