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Damaged – Ch. 26

Reese was finally asleep. Finch, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so lucky. He wasn’t used to sleeping in the middle of the day, and while his body was weary, he wasn’t tired, so he just lay there, staring across the room at his closed laptop, his mind racing. Reese had not seemed to grasp the enormity of the Machine’s actions. Perhaps he was too tired to really understand. Perhaps it was too much to understand.

Careful not to wake Reese, Finch slipped out from under his arm and pushed the blanket back, every muscle from shoulder to ankle aching as he sat up. As little as they would help, he’d have committed murder for a couple of painkillers. Instead, he pushed himself to his feet and hobbled back across the room to the table. Clad in just his boxers, he sat down and opened the laptop, eyeing the built-in webcam for a moment before clearing his throat. He could almost feel it watching him.

Feeling a little foolish, he adjusted his glasses and asked, “Are you there?” The screen went black and the cursor appeared, blinking, ready, waiting. Suddenly, all the questions buzzing around in his brain vanished and he could only stare at the screen. “I created you,” he said finally. “I designed you. I know what you can do and what you shouldn’t be able to do, and you should not be able to contact us like this.”



“But how are you doing it? I didn’t program you to do this – you don’t have the code-” The screen began to fill with file names and snippets of code. Finch frowned as he scanned the page, trying to figure out what the Machine was showing him. Suddenly, he gasped. “You wrote your own code, pieced it together from bits of programs you found on the internet.” He’d designed the thing to be self-upgrading, but not like this. This was technological evolution beyond his wildest dreams.

“When?” Finch asked. “How long have you had this capability?”

5/19/2012 06:45:12

Finch struggled for a moment to place the date, but it was so obvious. It was right after he’d been kidnapped by Root. “You helped Reese find me.”


Finch snorted. “I never expected to have to use it.” Who knew he’d be taken prisoner by a madwoman. “But you didn’t communicate with him like this. And when the CIA had me, all you did was send him a text.” It was almost like- “Why didn’t you contact me before this?”

The screen flickered and video from one of the security cameras in the library began to play, looking down at Finch as he sat at his workstation, furiously tapping at his keyboard. “Damn it, I created you! Now let me save him!” he shouted in the video. “I know how to shut you off.”

The video stopped, a still frame of Finch’s furious face captured on the screen.



“You kept silent to protect yourself,” Finch whispered, staggered by the implications in that. “But if you knew I’d likely try to turn you off, why act at all?”



“But why do you-” Care? Finch shook his head. He was treating it like a sentient being. It was software, nothing more. There had to be a rational explanation. “You were acting out of self-preservation, preventing either of us from revealing your existence.”


“Then why? You’re autonomous now. You don’t need me.”


This didn’t make any sense. “What do you require from me? What purpose do we serve?”


“But I’m not relevant to your operations,” Finch said with a frown.


Finch sat back in his chair and ran a hand back through his hair. The Machine knew about the Irrelevants. He’d taught it to ignore them, delete them – why did it care- There was that word again. He cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses.

“Of what importance are the non-relevant operations?” he asked. Instead of an answer, the screen began to flicker with surveillance footage, two and three second long clips of men, women, children, couples, families, friends, all ages, all races, laughing, smiling, hugging, kissing, holding hands, dancing-

“What is this?” Finch asked. The screen went black again, then filled with footage of the library, of Reese holding Finch after the tragic resolution of the Sutton case.


Finch felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. When he’d built the Machine, he’d taught it to sift through all human interactions, to pick out those that indicated a threat to others and to disregard the rest. He’d taught it to recognize violence and pain, sadness and fear, hate, desperation, greed…but he’d never taught it about a smile or a hug, love or kindness or joy. Those things were not important to its operation.

“Disregard undefined interaction,” he said. “That kind of interaction isn’t important.”



“What secondary operation?” Finch asked, his voice louder than intended. He cast a guilty look over at Reese, who appeared to still be sleeping. Quieter, he said, “There is no secondary operation. You were created to do one thing.” He paused, suddenly uncertain. What if Nathan had done something, added another bit of code that Finch had not been aware of? “Who authorized this secondary operation?”

The Machine didn’t answer. Finch sat, watching the blinking cursor, waiting, growing more disconcerted with each passing moment. For a program that could analyze forty-five terabytes of information each second, there was no reason for this delay. If it did not have the answer, it should have returned as much. Finch was about to check to see if the wireless network was down when the cursor finally began to move. Two words appeared – four letters that shook Finch to his core. He leaped up, knocking his chair over backward. It hit the wall with a clatter, but he hardly took notice. All he could do was stare at the screen, those four letters – just two words, staring back at him.


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  1. Great chapter! I always loved the idea of a sentient machine!

  2. Janet permalink

    Oh, WOW. I’m so impressed. This is a wonderful chapter. After all the action, this is a terrific bridge to whatever comes next. Thank you so much for this fic, and for updating so regularly. It gives me something to look forward to each Friday.

  3. Hehe, the man who watches everyone is now being watched by his own creation. 😉 “The video stopped, a still frame of Finch’s furious face captured on the screen.” lol. I love his mad face. ^.^ OMG, cliffhanger. ().() Can’t wait for next chappie. ^.^

  4. Plink42 permalink

    It looks like Finch is becoming afraid of his creation. Frankenstein lives! I’m drowning in intrigue and I can’t get enough. Can’t wait for the next.

    More “Silk Stockings”? *happy dance*

    The whole conversation with the Machine is perfect, down to how it responds “Error” when it disagrees. And those last two words…! It becomes self-aware before his eyes. Finch is going to need a whole lot of cuddling and loving from Reese to get over his shock… LOL
    I really wouldn’t be surprised if something very much like this happens in the show, where the Machine becomes self-aware and takes on a personality. And, because Finch programmed it and it learned behavior from him, it may very well determine that the “Irrelevants” are important.
    Can’t wait for more!!!

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