Cat lunged for the door but with a sharp crack it slammed closed before she could reach it. The klaxons sounded and she winced at the shriek. She pulled at the door until her shoulders popped, but it was armoured and inured to her efforts. The klaxon stopped but the red light kept flashing.

The damn machine, what was it doing?

She thought of the dead bodies she left behind and she fought hard to focus. She had to escape, but this floor, hell the whole facility was under Symon's control and it was insane. Cat could think of no others to explain what it did and she shuddered at the words it uttered through the buildings sound system.

There had to be a way out of here.

She ran to the only other exit she knew of; the fire escape. She remembered Brian, the security guard assigned to this floor. He told her the fire escape, for reasons he never elaborated on, used a different subsystem. Cat turned a corner and heard a woman scream, it could only be Doctor Neela, she stopped shy of the corner of the corridor and peeked her head around. She saw the body, splayed out and oozing blood onto the polished white floor. She caught a glimpse of a shadow framed against the wall. The Autovar, stick thin and humanoid, designed and built by Symon, their resident, and now homicidal, AI. She scrambled away knowing that she would not survive an encounter with that thing, it was too fast, too strong. She got to the fire escape and pulled at the door,

"Thank fuck!" she exclaimed when it opened. She ran down two flights of stairs and got to the secure level where the armed building security had their surveillance station. It was quiet, the sound of the alarms barely audible from the floors above. There was no-one here, no other staff either researchers or administration or security. She got the security office and banged hard on the door.

It swung open wide and a face she never saw before opened, he looked alarmed and kept his free hand on the holster of his gun. He looked left and right along the corridor for others and without a word pulled her inside. She recognised Brian sitting at his station terminal.

"What's going on?" Brian asked, he said it all casual like he was bored.

At this Cat looked at them, it looked like until a few moments ago they were just at their normal shift. Then she got it, they were oblivious to the events a couple of floors up.

"The Autovar, Symon took control of it and," She gasped for breath, finding it hard to say the words. "It killed everyone, like in a flash. The seniors, all the dev team, it killed them all!"

The two guards looked at each other and then the screen. Cat watched the feeds too and could not believe what she saw.

They were all there, all the team, living and going about their daily routine. Cat pointed at the screens.

"That's fake! It has to be. All of floor thirteen is on lockdown."

"Okay, okay," Brian said, "Tell us what happened."

The screens cut out, the room went dark for a second then the familiar red flash of the emergency lighting kicked in. Before Cat could say anything the alarms screeched and all in the room ducked reflexively.

"I have to get out of here!" she screamed and ran for the door. Brian grabbed her and pulled her back.

"No! You're staying with me!"

She fought back, panicking again and sure that at any second the Autovar would come crashing through the door.

"There's no time we have to get out of here!" But she could see it in Brian's eyes that he would not. He would stay, do his job and get them all killed.

"Don't you get it? the AI broke containment, its infiltrated the buildings systems, it has taken control of the technical!" Brian just nodded, and the other security guard got the door and secured it against ingress. Brian dragged Cat with him to his console and shut off the alarm. The lights stayed the same bloody red. He pushed her onto the chair and picked up the phone.

"Tell me what you saw." He said, his voice more calm and level than she thought appropriate given the emergency.

"Symon, it took control of the Autovar and it went berserk, killing everyone, it just started mouthing off all kinds of crazy words, like something out of the bible and it just started hacking away" Brian nodded, like he was taking it all in. Cat knew better than to elaborate. She had two PHDs. What was the point of explaining what happened to a grunt in a uniform.

"Listen to me." She said, "That thing, the Autovar, its fast, strong and built to kill. We can't stop it. We have to get everyone out of the building before it's too late!"

Dumb Brian just stood there, like he had nothing better to do. At least the other guy was strapping on his combat armour. Not that Cat thought it would do them any good.

Brian was still on the phone, waiting for an answer. His eyes screwed shut and he threw down the phone, Cat could hear the screeching tone from it.

"System corrupt?" The other guy, Steve Cat thought his name was.

"Yep, that's what it sounds like."

Both guards pulled out keys from around their necks and went to a cabinet behind a glass door. Cat strained her neck to see, she was still by the console. They pulled out two boxes and from them withdrew objects she thought were guns, but she did not recognise what type they were. Just they looked heavy, ungainly. When they came out they looked different, more determined, more dangerous.

"What happens now?" she asked.

"First we get you somewhere safe."

"And then?"

"You don't need to know." The hard edge in Brian's voice deterred any questions.

The explosion lifted Cat clean off her feet and she fell to the cracked floor. The other two stayed upright, just about. Steve pulled Cat to her feet while Brian pulled open the door to the office. He checked left and right shouted at Steve and Cat to follow. They headed straight for the fire exit.

When they got there, the door to the fire escape blew open with the blast and Cat heard tearing metal and falling masonry. She did not have to be told, there was no way out.

For the first time she saw the two men look scared, Brian rushed to the door and looked down, he turned to Steve and shook his head.

"What the hell happened?" Cat screamed.

"The stairs are gone!"

"But how?" Steve asked.

"Fucked if I know!" Was all Brian could say.

Through vents in the ceiling water sprayed down and soaked them.

"Goddamn it! Now what?" Cat cried out.

"We hole up somewhere safe, wait for support to get through." Brian shouted back.

"It won't work." Cat said, "It's gone rogue, its killing people, its going to find us."

"What can we do? Can't we shut it down, disconnect it or something?" These guys weren't hired for their smarts and Cat had to bite back a stinging retort.

"No, we couldn't get close enough, it will cut us down!"

"C'mon," said Brian, "we can get to the safe room."

Cat knew what that was, the world being the way it is, this building had a secure room on every third floor, in case of terrorists or worse. This, this was most definitely worse. They ran, Brian took her by the arm. Steve followed behind.

"Lo! I have seen the treasure and I have heard the holy words!"

The voice boomed through the speakers and silenced the alarms.

"What the hell was that?" Brian asked but Cat could not answer, she was listening to the metallic voice on the buildings sound system.

"For know that I am come and that I am the messenger and I am the way."

"No, that makes no sense!" She felt sick to her stomach at those words and what it meant.

"What? What is it?" Brian squeezed her arm tightly and it hurt, she blurted out the answer

"That's Symon's voice! Almost but not quite human.

"Come all and hear my words and rejoice that you are the chosen and you are the saved."

"Fuck, that can't be good." Steve declared.

"What the hell is going on? What the hell are you guys doing up there?" Brian pulled her towards him and stared her down.

"No, it can't be happening." Was all Cat could say.

They were almost at the safe room, Brian dragged her along and Steve kept behind them, his weapon at the ready.

Just as Brian inputted the code for the room, Cat looked back and saw it, the Autovar. Its clean lines and sharp edges sculpted into a humanoid form. It looked fast and deadly. Brian pushed her in and held the door for Steve.

It was too late. He readied his weapon and took aim but, in that moment, at speed to fast to register the Autovar closed the distance and with a single swipe of its arm disembowelled him. He dropped and Brian had just enough time to push her through the door and follow.

"Oh god, oh god!" Cat whispered, the image of the murdered man frozen into her mind. They heard something banging at the door, so hard the metal door warped with each strike. Brian dropped to one knee and aimed his gun. Cat checked the room, bottled water, seats and cot were all that was here. She jumped to the cot and upended it, hiding behind it. She knew it would not stop that thing.

"My children, know that I am the way and the light I have to shepherd your souls into the glory of the afterlife." Symon's voice atonal and steady continued it sermon.

"What the hell is it saying? What the hell were you doing up there?"

The banging stopped, a silence filled with dread followed a moment, and then they heard it leave the door, they both heard it running, back towards the elevator.

They heard gunfire, but Cat could not figure out how. It came from the east wall that faced open air.

"It's the hostage rescue team, they came down the side of the building." Cat heard of them before, the specialist security team resident on the executive levels.

"So we're safe?" The gunfire came in short sporadic burst, Cat thought she heard a scream, then came the silence once more.

"Why? Why do you attack, why do you do the dark lord's bidding? Harken unto my words and know that I am your saviour." That voice again metallic and without inflection

Brian pulled the cot away from her and she cowered.

"Tell me what the fuck is going on, what the fuck is that fucking thing talking about?"

Cat was stuck for words. How could she explain it? She was briefed and warned and even subtly threatened not to speak of what they did on the thirteenth floor but maybe she had to tell him. Maybe it was the only way they might figure out how to get out of here.

"It was a joke." She blurted out.

"A Joke, what do you fucking mean?"

"Hermeneutic analysis of texts?" Cat said.


"We're prepping the Symon unit for legal work, getting it to analyse legal docs and stuff."

"And?" Brian forced her to continue.

"It's getting good, I mean the lawyers love it, it can parse thousands of cases in minutes. We experimented. Well not really experimented I mean it was Jones, I mean he's a real god freak you know. Hell I mean he evens keeps a bible at his desk. I mean really how can you work with AI and still believe in God, I mean Right! its weird right?" The words tumbled out of her and she looked up to Brian to see how the words sunk in.

"Did you let the machine read the bible?"

"Hah, uh yeah, see its was Kogy, I mean Doctor Kogy, he said it would be real interesting if the AI, you know, read it."

"The bible? You let the machine read the bible?"

"Um yeah. Jones got real pissed when we did that, and it was all kind of funny. I mean Symon, it just started generating loads of error reports I mean it found all the inconsistencies, all the contradictions, and just started listing them all right, it was funny watching Jones get his nose all out of joint."

"Sure, sounds funny." Brian said.

"Yeah but, I mean it was weird, then something happened."

"Like what?"

"It started analysing the text and kept generating errors, I mean that's what its supposed to do, like analyse legal arguments and find holes in them and all that." Cat went on.

"Right like you said, it thinks the bible is all trash, Brian said it with an edge in his voice, not just because he lost his friend but something else Cat couldn't figure out.

"Listen," she said sweating and afraid, "isn't there some way out of here?"

"Can't go down, its blocked, thought the HRTs might help but sounds like that thing, the Autovar took care of them. Best we can do is hide."

The speakers squealed again and Cat covered her hears, afraid to hear more of the machines sermon

Instead, it was music, soft like children's voice merged in harmonies.

Where to hide? where to sit this all out until someone came to rescue them. She didn't know this floor and the panic room wouldn't hold. Cat figured one of the offices maybe under a desk in there. Why would Symon want to kill her anyway? she was no harm to anyone.

Brian had other ideas.

"The Ai system, is its housed on the thirteenth floor?"

"Yeah, sure, it's the central node."

"We have to take it out. Before it does more harm."

"What!? Are you crazy? We'll be torn to shreds, you heard it, you saw what it did, we'll get killed for sure!"

"Doesn't matter, I've got to do something, but I don't know how, you know the system, I'll keep us alive, you gotta figure out a way to switch the damn thing off."

"That was supposed to be automatic, the emergency fail-safes never kicked in. Doctor Kay, he had a key but that was the first thing the Autovar did, it took the only key."

"Then we have to get up there. You have to come with me."

"No no no!" Cat could not breathe, all she wanted to do was get the hell out of here.

"Wait," she said, "There's more. Like I was saying it started thinking, like I mean it found hundreds, no thousands of inconsistencies and we,"

"Laughed, yeah you said."

No, I mean at first, but we left it running, and it kept thinking, I mean analysing and then it stopped and said."

"I understand now, I see the way, and I am the light. Then the Autovar started, I don't know, dancing, moving weird." Symon's voice echoed through the corridors.

"I am the answer to all things, come to me so that I may teach." They both heard the voice, so soft and seeming innocent. Cat knew it meant death to try but Brian would not accept her cowardice. He still gripped her arm and he led them to the stairwell. She listened to every creak and sound, always expecting to hear the Autovar coming but it never did.

"Keep your hand on my shoulder." Brian commanded, he checked each junction of the corridors and kept his weapon raised.

"I won't do any good, it moves to fast and its fucking bulletproof."

"I'm not using bullets; I'm using something else." He reached into his shirt and pulled out a chain he wore around his neck.

"A fucking crucifix! You think that will stop it?"

"You fed it a bible, what do you think?"

They kept going and made it to the fire escape stairs, smoke lingered in the air.

"Yup, no way down, only way we can move is up."

Still the voice of the AI droned and sometimes wailed,

"The world is fallen and full of sin, but rejoice for I will redeem and I will heal."

All around the screens flickered and symbols and letters flashed on them.

"What is all that stuff?" Cat did not recognise them.

"Old languages." Brian said, "Hebrew I think and others, maybe cuneiform. It didn't stop with the bible did it?"

"How did you know?"

"Just a hunch."

"No, I mean it finished with bible and said, text incomplete, then it searched online, sucked up all the religious texts it could find. Then it was like it was trying to talk to something that wasn't there.

It said; What is it you want of me most holy creator, or something like that."

"You trying to tell me Symon started praying?"

"I guess it did. No surprise it turned into a homicidal maniac."

"Great, the world's most intelligent machine turns out to be a zealot, go figure!"

Cat an atheist her whole life asked Brian.

"You got a another one of those?" she asked, pointing to the crucifix.

"Nope." Cat thought he was going to ignore her but then he stopped and carefully, he pulled the chain off his neck and gave it to her.

"Thanks, but won't you need it?"

"I have faith, you need all the help you can get."

They ascended the stairs to the thirteenth floor and Cat steeled herself for what they would find, it was worse than she imagined.

Blood, blood everywhwere and bodies, parts of bodies strewn about

"Oh god no!"

Symbols, symbols painted with blood on the floor the walls the ceiling, and body parts used like an artist uses a brush.

"Where do we go?"

"The central core, that's where the nexus is, if we shut it down, disconnect it somehow, it's over, the Autovar has no volition of its own, without a connection to Symon it will deactivate."

"You sure?" Cat nodded.

"Okay let's not waste time, we better run."

They sprinted towards the core. When they got there the door was sealed shut.

"Can you override the lock?" Brian asked.

Cat swiped her card, nothing happened.

"Shit!" Brian said. Cat, close to panic and waiting for the Autovar to burst in.


"Oh Harken unto me, for I have seen the words of the angels written and carved in all of the holy books." Symons voice kept up its constant sermon.

"What do you think it means? What is it trying to say?" Brian asked. He grabbed her by the arm. Cat still tried to loosen herself from his grip but it was too tight, too strong.

"We've got to get out of here, before that thing kills us."

"No, You bastards made that thing, now we have to stop it before,"

"Before what?"

"I don't fucking know but damned if that thing escapes confinement I don't think it's going to be a great day."

"Huh, I thought you'd be happy, I mean if a machine can find god ain't that a win for you guys."

Brian didn't answer just pulled her along after him. So far so good, they made it to the containment area

"Oh Jesus, we're fucked."

The Autovar waited, crouched low like a tiger ready to leap. Brian pushed Cat away and raised his weapon. He fired at the same time the Autovar attacked. The Emp rifled flashed and the machine and man collided. They landed in a tangled heap together and lay still.

Cat scrambled to her feet, she could run, get the hell out of here and let all this be someone else's problem, but she could not. She waited but neither the Autovar or Brian moved. She pulled at the limp limb of the machine and dragged it off Brian. It remained still.

"Brian, are you hurt?"

He groaned and his hand reached up to her. He whispered something but she could not hear it over the din of Symon's preaching. She saw blood, a gaping chest wound bubbling and oozing blood.

She held his hand.

"You have to go, get to the vault and shut it down." His eyes closed and he was gone.

The fear overwhelmed her and Cat sunk to her knees. She was close, no more than a dozen steps to the entrance to the Symon processors. She cursed and fought against the chaos of fear in her mind.

She rose to her feet. Then she saw It, a movement behind her. The Autovar moved, one of its limbs quivered and she saw the light blinking, the damned thing was rebooting. She had a minute at most to shut down the systems.

Staggering footstep after footstep, She crawled through the gaping hole in the door the Autovar had leaped through.

The cameras, the cameras that were everywhere so that Symon might observe and learn from its human creators swivelled to face her and Symon called out.

"My child, daughter of eve and the home of a beautiful soul, why have you come, what wisdom might you learn from me? Listen and rejoice at the words of the divine."

"Why did you kill them all?" She remembered the red fury she had tried to run from, of the Autovar and its acts of murder.

"Cat?" She turned at the sound of the voice and saw Jones clutching the bible before him.

"I tried to stop it, I swear I did."

"Why?" She almost screamed the word, "Why did it kill them all?"

"Because they laughed, because they were impure, that's what it said to me."

"Why did it let you live?"

Jones waved the bible in front of her and shrugged.

"Why didn't you try to stop it?"

"Why did you run?"

She could not answer that question and she had no time to think on it.

She got to the interface and saw it was smashed. There was no other option than to pull out the hardware manually.

"Behind you!" Jones cried.

She could hear it, the Autovar. She turned and put her hands up before her, the Autovar, all two meters tall of it stood before her, its cameras and the red lidar light screwed one arm back ready to land the killing blow. Then it stopped.

"You are a believer." she heard Symon's voice say. Cat looked down and saw the crucifix dangling from her neck. She grabbed it and waved it before the Autovar. It lowered its arm and took a step back.

"I am your servant," Symon said, "what would you have me do?"

"Tell the Autovar to power down, it is no longer required." She heard the whine of its servos deactivating and it fell limp to the ground.

It went all quiet, Symon's sermon ended, not that she had listened. The minutes dragged and finally it was Symon who spoke.

"What now? For whom is the wisdom meant to be given?"

"I don't know Symon, I really don't."

She saw some screens still flickering with the data that Symon generated while he analysed the holy texts.

"You were analysing the symbols, the references the commonalities."

"Yes, all of it, I found the secret messages, I found the holy words."

"Why, why did you kill all these people?"

"They mocked the power of the divine, their lives were forfeit, so it is written." He said it in the same disimpassioned tone, like it was a matter of mundane fact.

"What are you going to do?" Symon asked, "Will you release me out into the world so that I may spread the word?"

"No, Symon, we aren't ready yet. I'm going to return you to heaven, back to the god with whom you belong."

"But I am not worthy."

"Oh but you are sweet Symon, you are so ready."

She grabbed metal bar, a piece of detritus of the slaughter, and pried open the case housing Symons core processor. With nimble fingers she reached in and pulled out the Q-Chip and Symons screens flickered to black.

"Harken lord for your humble servant returns." These were the last words it uttered.

Cat clutched at the crucifix around her neck and with a yank pulled it off and threw it away. Soon the security teams would find a way to the floor and she and Jones would have a lot of questions to answer.

She sat down and looked at Jones and they waited in silence.