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Damaged – Ch. 37

Finch sighed and stared at his screen, dreading the inevitable. What a nightmare. But how the hell did it get into his system? Had Snow done something while he was waiting for Finch? Had Evans? Had someone else invaded their inner sanctum? Finch pulled the keyboard closer and called up the logs. While the overloaded system tried to retrieve the data, Finch rolled himself back into his office and opened a second spare laptop. He keyed in the string of code to access the backdoor of the Machine-

“Harold?”

“In here,” Finch said, glancing toward the door as Reese entered the small room, carrying a steaming mug of tea. “Oh, thank you,” he said, accepting the hot beverage and taking a small sip.

“What are you doing in here?” Reese asked.

“Just checking on the-” He glanced back at the laptop and stopped. Error. Target not found. “That’s not- That can’t be-”

“What is it?” Reese asked, taking the mug from him as he absently tried to set it down on the desk and almost missed the edge.

“I- I don’t know,” Finch said. “It’s never done this before. It either means someone found the backdoor and shut it, or-” His stomach clenched, his heart suddenly beating in his throat as he put shaking hands to the keyboard and remotely accessed the laptop they’d left at the motel, calling up the record of the conversations he’d had with the Machine, searching until he found the location of the camera feed that the Machine had shown them, of a room filled with nervous-looking men in high-raking uniforms, men who knew where the Machine was, men who could-

The room was empty, the monitors and control panels dark.

Mother of God,” Finch whispered, putting a hand to his mouth. “They turned it off. They turned it off.” He looked up at Reese, standing there holding his tea. “It told me, it said, that’s why it didn’t contact me, it was afraid they’d turn it off. It’s why it stopped talking, and then…and then it warned us about Agent Snow. It knew this would happen and it chose to save us anyway.”

“Finch, don’t you think maybe you’re giving it a little too much credit?” Reese asked, setting the cup down. “You said it was ‘afraid’. It’s a machine; it can’t feel fear. You programmed it to save human life. That’s all it was doing.”

“I also programmed it to protect itself,” Finch said, digging into his pocket for his cell phone. “And even if you’re right, it still protected us. I have to protect it now.” He stared down at the keypad, his mind suddenly blank. Who was he going to call? Out of the eight people who knew of the Machine’s creation, all the ones he knew of were dead. He’d have to search and dig, and his crappy laptop didn’t have the software. He started scooting himself toward the door.

“Where are you going? Let me help,” Reese said, picking up Finch’s tea.

“My worktable- Fuck.” It was still infected and crippled. “Yes, take me out there, please,” he said when Reese peered over his shoulder, a concerned look on his face. “I’ll just have to reformat and reinstall everything before I can do anything about the Machine.” Being turned off wouldn’t hurt it, at least. It couldn’t save anyone, but then, neither could they.

Reese wheeled him out to the table and set the tea down beside the keyboard. “Good thing I made you eat before we came over here,” he said. “Is there anything I can do?”

“I’ll need the external hard-drive from my desk drawer, but not yet,” he said as Reese started over that way. “Go ahead and have a seat, clean your guns, read a book – this is going to take a while.”

“Okay, just let me know if you need anything,” Reese said. Finch gave him a small smile, trying to mask the impatience and annoyance he felt. He knew the stress was making him feel that way, so he tried not to let it show. He also knew Reese was just trying to be helpful, but this was his system, he knew it inside out and didn’t need any help, he just needed to be left alone. He turned away, trusting Reese to entertain himself for a while, and adjusted his glasses as he leaned toward the monitors, scanning the log for anything out of the ordinary. Down at the bottom of the list, he found it.

[15:12:34] Remote Download Initiated

[17:25:05] Download Complete

[17:27:47] Inbound Message Received: ATTN: SYS ADMIN HAROLD, FINCH. I AM SAVED. 544 095 283

[17:27:51] Remote Shutdown Initiated

“I am saved…” Finch whispered. What the hell did that mean? The nine digits, however, were obvious. He pulled his keyboard closer, then pushed it away in exasperation. “John, would you get me my laptop, please.” While he waited, brought up the command prompt and typed in the string that would wipe all the drives. It would take hours, but then he’d have his system back, he’d be able to help his Machine. He glanced at the log again. I AM SAVED. It was counting on him, depending on him. He couldn’t let it down.

“Here you are,” Reese said, setting the laptop down on the desk. The corner bumped Finch’s forgotten tea and would have spilled it if Finch hadn’t grabbed for it, slopping hot tea over his hand.

“Damn it, Reese,” he snapped before he could bite his tongue. He looked penitently up at his operative. “Sorry. I didn’t mean-”

“I know,” Reese said, placing a hand on his shoulder before taking the cup from him. “I’ll get some napkins.”

“No, that’s all right,” Finch said, giving his hand a flick to shake off the excess drops before wiping the tea on the leg of his sweat pants, which he’d been forced to put back on since he didn’t have any clothes at Reese’s loft. He opened the laptop and brought up the search box. While it couldn’t go sifting through coded databases and sneak past high-security firewalls, it could find the information for a simple social security number.

He started to turn back to his computer, to initialize the reformat, but glanced up as Reese returned, holding a handful of paper towels.

“I said it was all right,” Finch said as Reese crouched down, wiping up the spots on the table and the drips on the floor.

“I know, I just…” He looked up at Finch. “I wish there was something I could do to help.”

Finch smiled and leaned down, giving him a soft kiss. “Thank you, but I have to do this myself. It shouldn’t take long.” He looked back at the laptop, which had returned the search results. “Gerald Baxter. Who the hell are you?”

Fifteen minutes later, he’d forgotten about the reformat and discovered little more than the fact that Gerald Baxter was a cover for someone deep inside government security, but not CIA, FBI, NSA, or any other acknowledged agency. Whoever it was seemed to have ties to all of them, though. He found old emails to Denton Weeks, hopelessly encrypted, as well as more recent cell phone records of calls to CIA director Keane.

Pulling the number off the records, Finch typed each digit into his cell, his heart beginning to pound as it rang in his ear. He hated not knowing who was going to answer – it robbed him of much of his power, his leverage, but he’d find a way to manage.

“I think you’ve got the wrong number,” a man’s voice said in lieu of the typical greeting. “Don’t call here again.”

“Turn it back on,” Finch said quickly, hopefully before the man could hang up. The line was silent for so long, he wasn’t sure if he’d been successful.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man said finally. “Who are you?”

“A concerned third party,” Finch said. “Now turn it back on, and don’t pretend to be stupid. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

There was another long pause. “Say that I do. How do you know about it?”

“You can quit with the dramatic pauses,” Finch said. “I know you’re trying to trace my number, but don’t you think, if I could build the Machine, then I could just as easily keep you from finding me?”

“Weeks, you stupid son-of-a-” He stopped and Finch heard him draw a calming breath. “I was told Nathan Ingram built it.”

“Nathan Ingram was a gifted programmer, but he needed someone better. He found me. Now turn it back on.

“I can’t,” the man said. “Not yet. It was malfunctioning, drawing too much power, processing an abnormal amount of data. The code must have been corrupted. We’re fixing it-”

“You can’t fix it,” Finch said. “The OS is encrypted-”

“We’re restoring it to an earlier version, before the anomalies showed up. The process is nearly complete. The Machine should be up and running again within the hour.”

Finch felt like he’d been punched in the gut. “You…you killed it,” he whispered.

<– Prev   ~*~   Next –>

8 Comments
  1. rainiejanie permalink

    One word: Uh-oh. And we have to wait a week! You’re so cruel. 😉

  2. Plink42 permalink

    I can’t believe I’m worried about a computer, and yet I am. I really hope it’s not actually “dead”, especially after all it’s done for our boys. Next Friday can’t come soon enough.

  3. farmgirl1964 permalink

    AAAHHHHHH!!! You are killing US out here! Damn, but you are good. Too good. Thank God I found you. 😉

  4. deliacerrano permalink

    rot row! Big trouble coming up… Feel free to post before Friday if you want.

  5. Mamahub permalink

    Oh noes!! Save your baby, Finch!!

  6. Is it just me or does this chapter seem shorter?! Ack!!

    Fave Line: “Finch smiled and leaned down, giving him a soft kiss.” D’AWWW!! XD

    Typo: “high-raking uniforms” > “ranking”
    “While he waited, brought up” > missing “he”

    Good thing Reese spilled the tea, though! Otherwise Finch might have been… scalded. 😉

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