The Playboy sat in the upper floor lounge of his penthouse atop Batten Tower, reclining in one of the comfortable chairs, feet propped up on the hassock before it. A glass of his favorite Dalmore Trinitas rested on the side table near his elbow, a bottle of the same next to it, but judging by the amount in both, the glass had been poured and remained untouched.
His attention was focused in front of him, where holographic images played before his eyes. The central focus of the images was a scale model of his own body, displayed in perfect detail, while around it various types of data streamed - calculations, formulae, graphical representations and images that fluxed and swelled and danced.
The images finally froze, all of the graphical displays peaking at the top of their respective scales, and the feminine, crisply businesslike voice of Diana emanated from the hidden speakers around him. "Analysis complete, sir."
He nodded, his expression one of grim acceptance. It was the fifth time he'd had her run the diagnostic program. When she'd reported the anomalous data the first time, he'd been certain there was some sort of malfunction in her biometric sensors. It had taken a full week and many systematic checks of her entire operational structure and systems before he'd been convinced it wasn't. A malfunction was a remote possibility, but faced with what she had reported to him, he'd had to check. After all, this incarnation of his own artificial intelligence had come from another world, and there could have been any number of glitches or deviations that caused her readings to be inaccurate.
Not to mention that she had been initially designed, programmed, and maintained by a darker, twisted version of himself. That fact alone meant that he had to be doubly certain that there were no anomalies in her operational matrices.
But he had checked, and re-checked, and then checked again. While there were certain distinctive variations in the AI's persona, cognitive, and reactive patterns from the one that Renna had absorbed, her functional and analytical routines were a perfect replica of her predecessor.
He'd been convinced of the accuracy of the AI's projections by the third time the analysis had finished. When he'd has her run it the last two times he had introduced variables of his own, but the end result was the same.
The Playboy raised a hand to massage his forehead, his eyes falling closed for a moment as he sighed softly. "Ah shoulda known dis was comin'. How'd Ah miss it?"
There was a momentary pause before the feminine voice responded. "Unfortunately, I am unable to determine how such a thing could have evaded your cognitive and perceptive faculties. However, historically and psychologically speaking, there are certain aspects of the human condition which most people do not actively contemplate. Even the counterpart of yourself that created and programmed me had such flaws in his perception. Unlike yourself, however, he would not have been so readily accepting of the facts."
He rolled his eyes at the AI's voice, his hand dropping to rest in his lap as he let his head fall to rest against the backrest of the chair he reclined in. "Dat was a rhetorical question, Di."
The frozen holographic display vanished, only to be replaced by the shimmering, petitely sculpted feminine shape of the AI construct, posed prettily with her hands clasped behind the small of her back. "My apologies, sir. The statement was intended to provide some measure of comfort."
He lifted his head to regard the shimmering construct for a moment, thinking back over her statement. He supposed, in her own logical way, the construct had been trying to make him feel better. It was at least good to know he wasn't as flawed as all that. "Yeah, well...t'anks, Ah guess. Any idea how long?"
The holographic construct tilted her head to the side slightly, a gesture he had built into the original to indicate that the AI was calculating an answer to a query. Whatever the differences, there were obviously some similarities between himself and his darker counterpart. It was not a thought he liked contemplating much. "There are a number of variables which could affect such a projection, too numerous to ensure an accurate calculation."
He should have known that, too. In life, there were no certainties. Not even in his own. "Yer sure dat dere's no way dat it can be stopped?"
Diana gave a simple nod, not even a pause this time to consider. "I am very sorry, sir. There may be a method which can be devised to postpone the inevitable, but the situation has progressed to such a point that it can no longer be reversed."
He nodded again, another sigh, soft and long, escaping him. Inevitable. Another concept he was not fond of. But he'd seen the analysis himself, reviewed all but this last one down to the last qubit, and could not find a flaw. He'd been up for days, weeks in fact, with little rest. And he still had so much to do. So many things unseen to. So many people he wanted to see and speak to, though he did not think he could tell them about this. Not even Katt.
Katt. His eyes drifted over to the glass of scotch at his elbow, untouched and forgotten until this moment. If she were there to see it, she would know instantly something was wrong. Hell, any of his friends would. If they remembered anything about him by now, that is. He'd been absent from them for far too long.
It was funny, though not amusing at all, he thought. Only when faced with the inevitable did he begin to wonder if they missed him, thought of him, talked about him. Hell, he hadn't even been watching his city-wide network for...well, anything.
But now...well, now was the time to start living in the moment. But first, there were details to see to.
His attention returned to the AI, still hovering in the air before him. "Diana, start a new file and begin recordin'."
The AI paused a moment, then nodded. "Ready, sir."
Ed paused a moment, his gaze dropping to his hands, now folded in his lap. He didn't want to say the words, didn't want to start this file. To do so was to acknowledge the beginning of the end, but he also knew he had to be done.
With an effort he raised his gaze back to the AI and took a deep breath, then began.
"Ah, Edward Karl Batten, bein' of sound mind and body, do declare dis t'be my last will an' testament..."