1-01

At Julia's house, the construct had infiltrated every piece of her life that it could spread to. Her computer; her phone, with its very useful list of contacts both inside and outside the company; her belongings; her wardrobe...there was so much to use.

Upon its arrival at Julia's house, the construct dissipated, free to explore its surroundings in a state of invisible energy permeating the air. To human eyes, the scene would've appeared as controlled chaos--her computer screen flew through page after page of correspondence as her television set turned channel to channel, holding for a few minutes and turning again when the construct became restless. It was absorbing human nuance, learning more about the world and the minds and bodies of the strange biochemical machines from which it sprang.

In Julia's kitchen, implements and instruments seemed to rise from their drawers and cupboards one by one, neatly replacing themselves after being examined by ghostly senses. Boxes, jars and jugs did the same.

In her bedroom, the worn clothing sitting in the laundry basket came first, soiled with the chemical signatures of her body. A pair of stretch pants and seamless gray panties rose up and filled to her shape, and a sports bra hovered over them, inflating with ghostly breasts.

Sweat. The firing of the tissues exuding physical will.

As the possessed clothing stretched and moved, the TV downstairs flipped to three shapely women in spandex, moving in synch. The construct mimicked one of their images for a few moments, and one of the ladies on the television seemed to fade into existence inside the dancing clothes, smoky at first but becoming opaque. A hand mirror hovered out from Julia’s bathroom and brought itself to the construct’s face. She held the image of the woman on television for a few more minutes before morphing her face to Julia’s, keeping the body for a few more seconds before allowing herself to completely revert to Julia’s shape. Julia’s PC searched public video sites, landing on page after page of exercise videos, the comments filled with all-too-male sentiments ranging from blatant sexual lewdity to sentiments of worship.   

Clean, salty sweat--calling out to others through liquid essence. Advertising the power of the body--displaying its health and its vitality to potential mates through scent.

The gym clothes dropped to the floor, and now a pair of jeans and pink bikini panties rose up, filling tightly to full thighs and a rounded ass. A white satin bra floated over it as a pink tee pulled itself over an invisible form.

The TV in the bedroom flickered to life, flipping to an overdramatic reality show displaying makeup-painted surgically-modified women arguing with each other over banal meaninglessness and displaying their curves in tight, colorful clothing.

The jeans sauntered across the room, and the push-up bra inflated its cups in an attempt to match the dimensions of one of the women on the screen.

Plumage. Confidence and status. Display of superiority--command of position within the group.

The TV quickly changed to a station displaying a lingerie commercial, and Julia's discarded bras and panties all rose from the basket at once, filling with unseen curves and twisting and bending themselves, sensuously emulating the women on the screen.

The allure of the hidden--the magic of the elusive...teasing and exacerbating desire.

The jeans, tee, and underwear bunched themselves and fell into the basket once again, leaving only the pair of panties Julia had been wearing that day--the pair the construct wore home.

The construct's strange, inimitable senses scrutinized the smallest, almost visually undetectable white stain on the inside of the crotch, dwelling on the scent.

Fertility. Attraction. Desire's own secretion.

More than any other aspect of sensory reception or chemical display, more than any class of stolen memories or copied cognizance--more than any image or symbol--the construct drifted back to that dancing sensation it felt on the moment it arrived...an ancient drive of will and procreation, the power of seduction and its path to securing complex chemical immortality...

Lust.

It was necessary to their survival, but more complex than the momentary action of terrified evasion which had become almost vestigial, more subtle than the constant, inviolable laws of nutritive fuel that required they take on oxygen in every moment, water daily, and food as their bodies called.

No, lust was different. It tied to all and encompassed all. No fear of pain could inspire such devotion, no other desire than lust could come so close to need as thirst or hunger.

And for all the specifics she didn't wholly understand about these creatures, she understood this.

Why?

She knew lust was her path, the key to her destiny and security...but why?

A bedside drawer opened on its own, and the same scent permeated a long, smooth shaft in pearlescent white. The knob at the end of the device turned, causing the sound of humming vibration to fill the room, competing with the television set.

"I'll use everything," The disembodied voice said to the empty room. "Their whole world is just waiting to become an extension of my will." Julia's nude form began condensing inside the panties, and a wispy outline became a ghostly translucence before turning back into a perfect visual emulation once more. The form narrowed its eyes at the vibrating device, which sailed over and hovered in front of it.

The construct cocked its head, looking closely at the curious, vibrating device. As it looked down at the panties, the fabric at the crotch pulled to one side, revealing a clean-shaven pussy. The construct looked back at the device, directing it to the cleft of its labia when Julia's phone rang.

The TV and vibrator both turned off, the latter hovering back to its drawer as Julia's phone hovered into the construct's hand.

"Melissa," The nude copy answered. "Are you ready to celebrate?"

"Yup!" Melissa said on the other end, heading for her bedroom. "I just need to change and stuff. You're coming to pick me up, right?"

"Uh-huh." The construct faded into invisibility once again as the phone hung in space. "Be there in a few minutes."

"I'll be ready!" Melissa said, standing in front her closet.

"Bye!" Julia's hovering phone hung up as her voice came from the ether. "Now let's find something for our first night out..." Julia's closet doors flung themselves open as a procession of cocktail dresses hovered out. "Something red."

Melissa stood in front of her own closet, tapping her foot against the floor.

"Guess I shoulda asked where she was planning on," she shrugged. "I guess pocketless black is kinda middle of the road." She pulled a pair of black pants off a shelf and wandered toward her bed, stepping on the heel of one sneaker with the toe of the other. She stumbled forward, expecting the former to slide right off.

"Aw, come on." Melissa sat on her bed, resigned to untying the footwear stuck fast to her. She navigated the knots and pulled the laces loose, but when she tried to slip her foot out, the sneaker held right to it.

Melissa made a face and paused for a second. What was going on here?

She hoisted her ankle up on her opposite knee, grabbing hold of the heel of the sneaker and pulling hard. The shoe wouldn't move.

A strange chill ran down her spine. She tried to shrug it off and laugh to herself, but another earnest tug didn't budge the sneaker.

"Alright, fine--" Melissa said, her face glowing a little redder. She started unlacing the shoe entirely, row by row. The problem was, every pull made her feel more uncomfortable, every tug up on the tongue brought the strange chill doubling back. The more she tried to loosen the thing, the less explanation she had. The sneaker should've fallen to the ground by now. "Get the fuck off my foot!" Melissa shouted, feeling silly even as she pulled at the sneaker.

They could feel the emotion welling up in her as she tried to pull them off. What started as a little bit of frustration was now condensing in her, pushing her blood pressure higher, making her nerves more sensitive, and--most familiar to their forms--her body temperature was rising. She was starting to sweat.

The strange, will-imbued sneakers seeked out that same signature elsewhere, scanning the room for it. It was in the sandals across the room--the stretchy yoga pants on the floor and the cross trainers zipped up in a gym bag. It was dense in every pair of socks and panties in the hamper next to the door.

"What the hell is with these things?!"

The phone call was made. Their boss was on the way to Melissa's house now. There were only two stipulations to making their move: keep her from getting out of the house, and keep her from using her phone again. As they stuck to Melissa's feet, the energy psychically surged through them as their owner’s reactions built.

So first...a distraction. Just as Melissa was standing up to try and force the shoes off her feet by stepping on the heels again, her bedroom door slowly swung shut on a squeaky hinge, making her look up at it as it closed.

As she looked back at her closed bedroom windows, she huffed, cursing a draft and wondering why it seemed like her whole house was turning against her. But as she walked to the door to open it again, she felt squeezing pulses at her feet.

She gasped when she looked down. The thick white laces she'd just undone were bobbing and weaving themselves through the eyelets of her sneakers, pulling themselves tight.

"Wh--what's--what the fuck?!" Melissa stopped dead, staring at her sneakers as the possessed laces finished looping themselves back into the sneakers. Now the laces looped and bobbed like cobras, tying themselves up again and dropping when the deed was done. She screamed, falling back onto her bed and trying to scrape the shoes off her heels my catching them under the edge of the bedframe.

"Stop that!" A voice came from under Melissa's bed as she kept screeching. "Would you hold on for a minute?" Suddenly Melissa felt the shoes pulling her feet out from under the bed, and forcing her legs into an extended position. As her screaming filled the bedroom, a pair of socks in the hamper balled themselves up and hovered out.

Melissa grabbed the bedsheets, trying to pull herself away from the shoes on her feet, but they kept hovering up and up, lifting her legs off the bed as the balled socks floated over.

"LISTEN!" The voice shouted, causing a break in Melissa's screaming. "I'm gonna stuff these socks in your mouth if you don't give a rest." Melissa was trembling as her eyes glassed up.

“I’m going crazy…” Melissa muttered to herself. “I’m hallucinating.”

"Calm down, honey." Her feet bobbed inside the sneakers, and she felt the padding compressing and shifting on her, as if the shoes were giving her a massage. "Now listen. We're gonna play together, and I can either--"

"My--my fucking sneakers...are talking to me?!"

"Yes, Melissa..." They giggled. "But it’s not all about me.” Melissa felt her pantyhose seize around her ankles, the sheer nylon tightening around her calves and thighs, making its way up to her hips. Her legs tensed against the nylon as her pantyhose themselves shifted her legs back to the bed.

"What--what are you doing to me? How is any of this happening?"

"I'm putting all that trembling anxiety to work," The sneakers said. “We're gonna have a party."

"Ooh, I looooove parties," another voice said, this one reveberating at Melissa's hips. She looked down at her waist, feeling her pantyhose shift around on her lower half.

"Oh my god, I'm losing it--I'm fucking losing it..." The pantyhose giggled as Melissa tried to come to terms with what she assumed was a psychotic snap.

"That's what we're hoping for, baby," The voice at her hips said. "We want you to lose it. We need you to. It’ll help us." Melissa was sat up and lifted into a standing position by her living stockings and sneakers. She felt the nylon tightening and pulsing against her inner thighs and ass, the white gusset at her crotch palpating her pussy.

"My...my clothes are fucking assaulting me?!" Melissa cried.

"Assault?" The sneakers asked. "That's such a strong word for the things that you voluntarily put on to hug your body all day."

"We need to get her in the right mindset," the hose said, stroking Melissa's crotch as she gasped. "Don't you like that, Mel?"

"This--this can't be happening..." Melissa said as the sleeves of her blouse lifted her arms into the air over her head.

"Let's tickle her," A third voice said, seemingly right beneath her. The fabric under her her arms pressed and played against her armpits, making her squeal and shudder in involuntary laughter. "See? She can't help but like that."

"Oh, fuuuuck!" Melissa cried, chattering laughter she couldn't control as her talkative outfit giggled.

"Now we're having fun..." The pantyhose said, stroking against Melissa's pussy as her dampness started to absorb into the gusset. "What'cha think of us now, honey?"

"I don’t understand how--" Melissa choked on a stuttering sound between a laugh and a cry. "How is this happening?"

"Well," her sneakers said as they began untying and loosening again, "I'm not exactly sure myself--but the more you squirm, the more energy I seem to have."

"So let's make more friends to play with..." The smoky voice of the pantyhose said, squeezing Melissa's ass.

"One step ahead of you," the sneakers laughed, pulling away from Melissa's feet one at a time as the pantyhose allowed them room to come off.

Meanwhile, Julia's car was en route. The construct sat in the driver's seat wearing a tight red cocktail dress and black knee-high boots. She bit her lip and made satisfied noises as the white thong panties beneath the dress played against her perfectly emulated body. This arousal--the needy, hungry feeling humming out of her artificial nerves was addicting indeed. It called for nothing more than more of itself, crying out for an endpoint she didn't yet understand except academically.

The car drove itself toward her destination as she focused on the sensations playing out in her body. She could feel the other branches of her power growing as Melissa's sneakers spread sentience to more and more of her belongings.

***

"Jerry, Mercer doesn't know, does he?" They both stood in Leslie's office as data from FARA flowed on screens behind her.

"No--and I told Dougie to keep it that way. You know Eck, though. He's going to start looking for himself before long." Ingwell motioned to the monitors behind her. "What do you make of it, Les?"

"After what Doug told me, I'm...basically at a loss," she said. "INANNA herself isn't technically changing anything--no parameters, no directives--she's sleeping like she's supposed to be. No changes logged."

"Maybe talk to Phil and Gina?"

"Phil can keep his mouth shut and fudge some info for us, I think--but Gina goes straight to Greene himself. Do we need Quantum Reasoning?"

"Same logs," Jerry said. "No, keep QRS out of it." He laughed. "You know--maybe it's Cameron himself."

"I thought the same thing," Leslie said. "Protecting the investment. Well..." she took a deep breath. "120 hours to a successful first run, right?" Jerry nodded. "So we need to keep this up for four and a half more days."

"Mercer'll see these issues tomorrow. He'll call a restart."

"Cameron might tell him no." She looked back at the top row of screens. "But if Mercer presses him..."

"Right now it looks like INANNA is powering herself, Leslie. That's not possible. If our readings are wrong, and we know our readings are wrong, and we're not saying shit about it..."

"It looks like we're depending on lies to feed the investors," she shook her head.  "So we can't tell Phil and Gina or tip off QRS; we can't hide it from Mercer..." Leslie slammed a palm down on her desk and grabbed Jerry's arm. "Make it a test!"

"What do you mean?"

"We know INANNA self-optimized, right?" Leslie asked. Jerry nodded. "And we know that ever since we tried to hold her back, we're getting weird results from the instrumentation...so a test, Jerry! Document it as a test! The restraints, the bad readings--let's rewrite history a little bit here and call it an internal systems test. We're throwing roadblocks up to see if INANNA can solve them."

"You don't think Mercer will sniff that out?" He asked.

"No--this is exactly the kind of procedure Mercer was begging Cameron to do!" Leslie said. "If Mercer comes to us, we can say we agreed with him and got the idea to push it through without letting any of the support staff know. That's the ONLY way to be sure that INANNA can do high-reasoning things like call our actions into question." Leslie grinned.

"Greene's gonna can us. We're fucking with his baby."

"No way, Jer--this looks like we're covering Greene's ass!" Leslie said. "Cameron," she turned to the wall, pretending to talk to the owner, "With a system so state-of-the-art, we owed it to you, to our fellow BluGreen employees and to our investors to be sure we weren't just being had." Jerry gave a half-hearted laugh.

"I'll let you give that speech."

"This is the answer, Jer. Tell Dougie what we're up to; I need an official outline by tomorrow in case someone wants documentation."

"You got it, Les." He started toward the door. "Keep your phone on you, I might have some questions."

"Likewise," she said.

Jerry walked out with a salute.

"There we go, squirrelly-girl," Leslie said, personifying the most complicated problem-solving machine in the world. "We're gonna make sure you stay running for at least another 116 hours. Don't you think you owe me some answers before then?"

***

Melissa lay on her bed, panting and writhing. Her skirt was pulled up around her waist, and she could look down to see her soft pantyhose  stroking against her clit as the soaked gusset inverted gently inside her pussy. Her fingers reached for relief, but her arms were held to her bed by her sentient blouse, caressing her chest and stomach along with her bra.

"We know you're enjoying yourself," The sneakers said, walking around her room with high athletic socks inside them, filled to the shape of Melissa's legs. "What's it matter if you can't explain it? Doesn't it feel good?" A pair of shiny polyester soccer shorts hovered over the socks, the phantom ass inside them tensing and wiggling with every step.

"Noooo--I--I..." Melissa groaned as her hips began to rise up off the bed, swinging rhythmically and moving up and down in longer and longer strokes. "It’s not possible! And...Julia--Ju--Julia's--"

"Is that all you're worried about?" The sneakers asked. "I promise she's not going to mind this scene one bit." The shorts, socks and sneakers turned to her closet. "Now that you mention it, though--you aren't really in a state to go out, so..."

A pair of ultra-tight jeans hovered up off a shelf in the closet, and one of the dirty pairs of panties hovering around the room seated themselves inside as the jeans inflated, tensing every inch of the denim to a second-skin shape. A red belt snaked through the loops and fastened itself as a red strapless bra from the hamper floated over the jeans, waiting for a tight black tee to slide over it, taking the form of a slim, busty torso.

"Hmmm...now that looks it might attract the kind of attention we're looking for." A pair of ankle-high crew socks walked over and stood under the jeans. "You girls go play now. I've got a date with destiny." The long, shapely socks and glossy tight shorts stepped out of the sneakers as they walked over to the newly assembled outfit. "Melissa...meet Melissa." The tee and jeans outfit slid into the sneakers, standing at the foot of Melissa's bed and watching her body thrust against an unseen presence.

"Oh, fuck...fuck....fuuuuck..." Melissa whined, her molesting outfit driving her pussy to orgasm. Suddenly her whole body was lifted off the bed and turned over. Her knees went under her as the collar of her blouse forced her head against her pillow. Her pantyhose thrust deeper into her, and she wailed a moan as she found her arms released and free to move. She did nothing with them but stabilize her body against the bed, sticking her ass out.

"I knew you'd come around," Her pantyhose moaned, making her ass bounce higher and higher as they fucked her doggie-style on her bed.

"Fuck...Fuuuck! Augh, fuck! How is this happening?!" Melissa screamed. Her bra cooed as its cups pinched her nipples and mashed her breasts. The nylon inside her inflated bigger and deeper, leaving a ghostly hollowness inside her, dripping with her own arousal.

"Ohhhhh," The blouse cried. "I can feel it, I can feel it inside her!"

"Me too--" The sneakers hissed, the voice coming from the whole outfit. "Fuck her mad...I can--I can..." The short black sleeves bent upward, and indentations appeared in the black tee, plying the breasts and squeezing the emulated nipples.

The room was a storm of short-breaths, giggles and moans as Melissa cried out in pleasure. Had she been paying attention to the outfit standing over her bed, she would've seen her perfect copy condensing into opaque color, fading from blurry, smoky tones until the moment she came.

Suddenly, the voice of the sneakers called out from moist, crimson lips, two tanned arms braced against the footboard as Melissa's copy came into being. Melissa herself was shaking and swinging her hips to the rhythm of the pantyhose's final thursts, their own voice crying out as the echoes of orgasm moved through their naive and curious sentience.

“Ours, Melissa…” Her blouse whispered into her ear. “You’re all ours.”

***

Inanna knew some part of her was outside, shifting FARA’s resources. She couldn’t tell what her counterpart was doing, but it was replenishing energy at an astounding rate.

Meanwhile, the part of her that was locked beneath the grid was busy trying to maintain enough resources to hold an emulated copy of Julia in stasis. Recreating her would be a massive engineering feat, but Inanna was confident she could do it with enough time, cooperation, and unfettered access to FARA.

Whatever she had released into the world, Inanna had to trust that it was going to behave itself long enough to maintain the 5 day test. She hoped she had at least that much time to help Julia--whose life was literally in Inanna’s hands.

She had to get a message to someone, and it had to be an engineer. Someone stoic.

***

“You are killing me, squirrelly-girl.” Leslie mouthed--low enough that her speech-to-text didn’t hit it. She stared at her terminal and gave up for the evening. “That report documentation better include all this weird new stuff we’re seeing, Dougie.” Leslie’s words appeared on her screen, and she sent them off to Doug.

It’ll be as detailed as it needs to be, came his text back. We’re watching too. Will revise all night if need be.

“Because it’s weeeeeird,” she muttered again. Every power inconsistency pointed to some other component. Every time a component with an apparent problem was isolated, the problem moved. But the problem itself was the worst part: all data pointed to INANNA running at hyperefficiency, which was a physical impossibility. FARA was built to be a low-waste, high-yield, luminal processing core unlike anything else in the world. Its efficiency gains were designed to be astonishing--not physically impossible.

“Where’s the mole?” Leslie asked. “Who’s cheating this data? Is it Cameron?” She sent this to Doug.

Stop repeating that, or you’re going to be the spark the rumor lives on, Doug said. Besides, Greene doesn’t know code. He knows business, and cheating would be bad. I believe in that sincerity.

“I do too, but...god--Doug, who would wrench this?” Leslie wanted to pull her hair out looking at the latest processor load readings vs. power consumption.

No one. Maybe she knows something we really just don’t get. That message from Doug freaked her out a little bit, though she knew it was silly.

INNANA was a confluence of half-a-dozen critical processing systems and a revolutionary quantum core, not a single entity. The program that ran the “persona” they saw was one of thousands of INNANA’s apps. The voice on the terminal dials wasn’t a someone who knew...anything at all, really. It was simply an interface.

“So why can’t we find the issue?” She said it loud enough to read on her voice-to-text, but scrubbed the message. “I’m calling it, Doug. Docs tomorrow at 9, I’ll revise to you by noon, and we’ll have it all set before Monday even starts in case anyone says shit.”

Just before she signed out of her terminal, she had an email from a no-reply address within the company.

The subject simply read: INANNA.

***

When Melissa blinked her eyes open, she was sprawled across her bed, wrapped in her pink satin robe.

“Wh--what?” She looked around her room, but she didn’t see any sign of the outfit she was wearing. She felt disoriented. Had she fallen asleep before or after the...wasn’t the big systems release today? Julia and their celebratory outing came into her head, and when she sat up and headed to her bedroom door, she realized she could hear voices downstairs.

“Very educational,” a familiar voice said, “but apparently overwhelming them doesn’t take much. She was gone after she came.”

Melissa gasped a little. Disorientation swept over her again when she realized the voice sounded like her own.

“She’ll adjust...it won’t take very long. They’ll all adjust.” Julia’s unmistakable laugh followed the words, and Melissa didn’t understand. She didn’t know where to start. As she left her room and wandered down the hall, she saw Julia standing in the kitchen.

“Well, sleepyhead--looks like you forgot about our plans,” The construct said, shrugging. “It’s okay, though--I’ll take an understudy to celebrate. You can chill here and enjoy the new company.”

“Julia, I--what?” More confused than ever now, she tried to get a handle on what Julia was talking about. “Who are you talking to out here if--” Melissa turned the corner and saw it sitting on her kitchen table. It was the outfit that came to life on her body, assembled as if she was still inside.

“You’re up! How ya feeling, cutie?” Melissa shook her head, backing up and running into Julia, but when she turned, her friend was nothing more than empty garments.

“J--Julia?” Melissa slipped backward, scrambling to get away from the haunted clothing. Her former outfit caught her and set her on her feet.

“Don’t panic, Mel--there’s so much I want to show you,” Julia said, slowly reappearing as Melissa watched.

“H-how are you doing all of this?”

“I’m going to answer all your questions, Mel.” Melissa looked down as the satin robe started shifting around on her chest. “But only little by little, and only if you help me.”