A chorus of groans echoed through the harshly lit computer lab. “Complain all you want!” My balding professor retorted. “You all know that CS3003 is the final weed-out class. If you want to graduate, you WILL have a working program in my inbox by the end of the month! Dismissed!”
I slammed my software engineering book closed with an audible snap. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one else I would have faced the wrath of Dr. Stevenson. I could tell by looking at the pudgy, smug-faced, middle-aged professor that he enjoyed this power over his students. “Fucking useless bastard,” I thought.
He had just tasked us with creating a fully functional piece of software by combining two or more failed projects from his previous classes. The project itself was actually genius. It would teach us how to debug and fix lousy code written by others and how to add features to existing software. The only problem was the due date was less than three weeks away. A professional programmer would struggle under those time constraints!
With determination, I grabbed my books and sped to the exit. 50% of students failed this class each semester. I planned to get straight to work and avoid being on the wrong end of that statistic.
I felt a hand on my shoulder as I exited the classroom. I turned and glanced slightly down to see Hana, my usual study partner, clearly wanting to discuss the project. The petite Japanese girl’s ordinarily jovial demeanor was shrouded with anxiety.
“Hey, Mac,” she addressed me with a smile, “so, what do you think about this project?”
I paused and ran my fingers through my hair stressfully. “Man, I don’t know…” I replied through gritted teeth. “I’m going home right now to scroll through all of the failed software from last year's class… I’ll be damned if my software ends up in the failure pile for next year.”
“I guess I should, too,” She said with an anxious sigh. “I wish we could work together on this together like usual.”
“Me too, Hana, me too. We should meet up at the computer lab and at least give each other moral support this weekend.”
Hana agreed, and we wished each other good luck before heading opposite ways. I couldn’t help but glance back and watch her pert behind sway beneath her black mini-skirt. I myself to stop staring and continue the long walk to my apartment. “You literally don’t have time for a crush, Mac!” I chided myself. “For now, I’ve got to be married to the computer…”
Speaking of crushes, my roommate and best friend Leah greeted me at the door to our apartment.
“Oh, hi, Mac! So… don’t be mad! I AM going to clean up the mess in the kitchen,” She rapidly and nervously rambled, “but I didn’t expect you back yet, and…”
Her formerly brunette hair, part of her forehead, the kitchen counter, the floor, and her formerly white t-shirt were all dyed a rich shade of maroon.
“Easy, Leah, easy!” I motioned for her to slow down and take a breath. “I’m not mad. You can do what you want as long as you clean up. But why the kitchen?!”
“The sink is deeper in here.” She replied much more calmly. “So what do you think?”
“I think you need to get put on ADHD medication,” I joked, “but the maroon actually does fit you nicely.”
Leah just punched my shoulder and laughed. I made my retreat and shut the door to my room. I started up my computer and sank into my cozy desk chair as it slowly booted.
Leah and I grew up together. We had been best friends from as far back as I can remember. Everyone always commented on how we were an unlikely pair. She was a popular cheerleader, outgoing, and artistically minded. I was a mathlete, introverted, and I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body. We are definitely still an unlikely pair. Though don’t get me wrong, we never actually paired up. We’re just friends. And unfortunately, with zero benefits. I’ve always been smart enough just to keep our friendship and never push the boundaries. I’m well aware of where she stands. Her eyes don’t see me in the same light that mine see her.
My computer chimed and pulled my attention back to more productive matters. The hours ticked by as I searched through the dozens of failed projects from the previous year. I narrowed down the three unfinished pieces of software I’d be using to make my final product.
The first one was a simple file-organizing program. The code was almost functional. I already identified the main issue and could easily fix it up in an hour at most.
The second software was a mess, but the idea and some of the framework was good. The programmer’s goal was to create an interface to connect a VR headset wirelessly in place of a computer monitor. Amazingly, the student failed with such a simple program.
The last program I chose would probably be overlooked as garbage by everyone else in the class, but I recognized some impressive coding hidden in it. I had just completed an internship with SYS-AI Solutions, where I assisted the R&D department with training some experimental AI models. The algorithms in this failed project looked more complicated than any I’d ever seen. The software supposedly was meant to use AI to generate relaxing audio for a user and calibrate it based on the user's heart rate and other information from a smartwatch. It was way too much work for a college project. I wasn’t surprised it didn’t get completed. I hoped I could use part of the AI code for something on my project
Four days later:
My back ached, my room stunk, and my grades in other classes suffered. For four straight days, I skipped every class to work 18 hours a day on the program. Forcing myself away from the computer, I went to fix my hygiene situation. The weekend officially crept its way to me, which meant it was time to meet Hana at the lab and continue working even more.
I stepped into the shower and let the wave of warmth soothe my stiff muscles. A feeling of mild euphoria trickled into my mind. The project was moving smoothly. The VR headset and the file organization software were fairly easily repaired and combined.
The AI software was the next hurdle, and I had no idea what I could use it for. Filtering, searching, and sorting files is not particularly stressful, so the relaxing sounds AI didn’t make much sense. I just needed some inspiration.
It’s amazing what a shower, shave, and a fresh set of clothes do for a man’s mental health after a stressful few days of ignoring my physical state. I stepped out of the bathroom feeling like a new man.
“Malcolm Anderson, is that really you?!” Leah greeted me sarcastically. “I was beginning to think I lived alone.”
Leah looked pretty hot with her new maroon hair, contrasting her pale skin and black sun dress. It was hard not to make my staring obvious.
“It’s not my fault my narcissistic roommate never checks up on the hard worker in this house,” I replied, matching her sarcasm.
I sat down on the couch beside her. Her laptop was open, and her DSLR camera was plugged into the side.
“Nice shots!” I praised her while watching her scroll through the raw photo files.
“Thanks! I just wish I didn’t take so many,” she said sadly. “It’s hard to narrow them down and pick which ones are worth keeping and editing.”
“I said it once, and I’ll say it again. You need to use my film SLR camera for a while and get used to being more picky instead of just holding the shutter down and taking hundreds.”
Photography was a hobby we shared. As I said before, I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but I do understand basic composition. I purchased an old Nikkor film camera years ago to participate when Leah wanted to go out and do photography. My photos generally turn out fine. I know how to operate a light meter, and I love fiddling with the f-stop and shutter. My photos are just fine, though, not artistically beautiful like Leah or her photos.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Leah replied. “It’s just so hard to leave behind the ability to take hundreds of shots! I wish it were easier to sort out the bad ones, at least.”
Right then and there, the proverbial light bulb appeared over my head.
“Thank you so much, Leah!” I exclaimed and gave her a quick hug before jogging towards the door.
“Wha- Wait!?” She stuttered in bewilderment. “Thanks for what?”
“You’ll see!” I quickly yelled over my shoulder before closing the door behind me.
When I arrived at the computer lab, I already had the program planned out. I could submit my working VR file organization software without the AI crap added for a passing grade. However, if I could find a way to feed biometric readings from a user’s smartwatch into the AI, I could make something truly unique and maybe get an A. More importantly, my idea would win me some brownie points with Leah. The plan was to have the AI track heart rate, body temp, breathing rate, and even eye tracking data from the VR headset and filter and sort images based on the changes in those tracked values. In a nutshell, I wanted to attempt to make a program that could automatically organize a photographer’s photos based on their feelings when viewing them.
The whirr of high-powered computers permeated the air when I opened the lab door. About half of my class was scattered about the usually empty lab, furiously typing and clicking away. Hana was in our usual semi-secluded alcove in the room's far corner. The petite girl wore one of her signature mini skirts as usual. About the only time she wears anything else is when it’s below-freezing outside. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve always spent as much time as possible admiring her smooth legs and pert behind.
“Well, how’s it coming, Hana?” I asked while pulling out the chair next to her.
“Mac!” She greeted me with an infectious smile. “You’re alive! I haven’t seen you all week.”
“Yeah, I know,” I replied while logging in to the computer. “I really tried to hit the ground running on this one. I can make up my grades in all my other classes. I’ll be damned if this project delays my graduation by a year. I’m ready to make some money!”
She giggled cutely as I punctuated my words by slamming my wallet on the desk.
“I-I can see that,” she said. “I just started today. I haven’t even chosen my failed software yet. There’s so many to choose!”
For the next several hours, we both hunkered down and worked with focus other than the occasional frustrated outburst. Misery loves company has to be the unofficial motto of all study groups.
“Got it!” I exclaimed a little louder than I intended. Nobody in the computer lab minded, though. I simply got a few thumbs up from classmates. Everyone knows the exuberance when you finally track down and fix a bug in your code.
Hana smiled at me then turned to see my screen. “How the hell do you already have a UI!”
“ADHD hyper-fixation, no job, no social life, big programming skills, and most importantly, GitHub,” I said while exaggerating, counting on my fingers.
“You’re a loser!” She jokingly retorted, along with a playful punch to my shoulder.
“Isn’t that what I just said?” I laughed. “But seriously, my program may be almost functional now. The screen is duplicated to the VR headset; the file organizer looks like it will work IF the AI is programmed right. If I had a smartwatch, I’d give it a test!”
Hana excitedly offered to test it out using her smartwatch. She connected it to my computer and gave me her passkey “0115”. Biometric data began rolling when she put her watch and VR helmet on. It was displayed in the right pane of the computer side of the UI. I hadn’t programmed any controls or readouts for the VR headset yet, so all she could see would be the photos once I activated the AI and opened my photos folder.
The bio-data was pretty neat. I ripped code from several other programs. I could see all the info she manually typed into the watch, like her 5’-0” height and 105-lb weight. My favorite live readout was pupil dilation, followed closely by breathing rate. The microphone and eye trackers on the headset sent that data. I had to write most of the code, but I figured it would be valuable data for the AI.
I typed in the command to begin recording biometric data and feeding it to the AI, and I was just about to pull in the photos folder when Hana said, “Woah! It’s working! These are videos or something, though not phot….. Wait! Was that my dad… how…there’s… it’s… too much…”
Hana got worryingly quiet and calm all of a sudden. “What the hell is she seeing?!” I thought to myself. “I haven’t even put the photos into the program yet.”
I glanced at the computer and noticed the file menu was full of .gif files. I remember seeing some code referencing .gif files in the AI program, but I hadn’t fed it anything to make a .gif out of. I expanded the file menu, and it returned ”error overflow.” Curious, I went to the search bar to see if I could apply a filter and eliminate the overflow error. I started typing the word “ship” since one of the photos on the computer was of a sailship. The top autocomplete option was “sleep,” though, so I clicked it and hit “filter.” My program then asked for the sorting order. The options were “newest, oldest, highest confidence, lowest confidence, and randomized.” I selected “highest confidence” since that would be the image the AI considered the most sleepy… whatever the hell that meant.
I clicked execute. Hana slumped down in her chair even further and started slightly snoring. “Hana, are you ok!?” I asked as quietly as I could while lightly shaking her. When she didn’t respond, I lifted off her headset. Hana was dead asleep. Her smooth features looked completely relaxed, completely oblivious…, and completely pliant. I ran my fingers along the curve of her soft cheek and slipped a finger partway between her cherry-red lips. With a start, I snapped back to reality and pulled my hand away like it was burned.
I desperately tried to stay calm and not call attention to our secluded corner of the lab, but nothing was waking her up. Suddenly, my eye caught the movement of a .gif on my computer screen. It appeared to be a low-quality video of someone climbing into bed before the screen was filled with black. I expanded the thumbnail and realized the person in this .gif wore the exact same bracelet as Hana… and had the same small birthmark on her wrist. “No, no… there’s absolutely no way. This is a prank!” I mumbled frantically to myself while scrolling through the other .gifs. The thumbnail on one video in particular really caught my eye. It was definitely Hana, and she was looking at herself in a full-length mirror near her bed while wearing only a pair of magenta panties. That’s not what grabbed my attention, though. The camera's POV should have been at her eye level, but no camera was in the mirror.
“These… these are her memories,” I said hesitantly. The realization sparked my fear and adrenaline into an inferno. “How do I wake you up?” I asked the essentially comatose girl.
I placed the VR headset back on her head and watched for the breath and eye-tracking data to reinitialize. Then, I clicked the x button near the filter and sort bar to clear the sleepy tag. I received the overflow error again just as Hana sat back up.
“Hana, can you hear me?” I asked and was met with silence. I then remembered she went quiet moments after the headset was put on the first time and before I applied a filter. With hope, I removed the VR headset once again. Unfortunately, I was met with a completely blank, eerily mindless stare. If I weren’t so freaked out, I would have been immensely turned on by it. She looked deeply hypnotized. I grabbed the back of her neck and moved her head from side to side. Her eyes just lazily crossed and slowly realigned when I stopped. My hand slipped down and caressed her small bra-covered tits like it had a mind of its own. I pulled away quickly again, but not quite as fast as the last time I caught myself.
I had one final hope to fix Hana. I had programmed the filters to default to none selected if an error occurred, like my overflow error. I went into the code and took away the file limit. Then, I programmed a button to add all tags and to select default sorting. This would essentially be a “revert to default settings” patch. It took me a solid hour to remedy the code. All the while, I was terrified someone would notice Hana sitting beside me, unresponsive with a VR helmet on. Luckily, my fears weren’t warranted.
I reverted all the filters and sorting to default. With bated breath, I slowly removed the VR headset. She didn’t come to immediately like I expected, but I did notice her breathing speeding up and her blinks becoming more and more frequent. After about a minute, she stretched and said. “Why did you take it off?” She replied in her normal reserved voice. “It looks like it was working. I saw an image right before you pulled the plug.”
“Oh… umm… I haven’t actually added the files, so you shouldn’t have seen an image yet,” I stumbled to engineer an explanation. “I want to see where it’s pulling photos from and fix that issue before I test more.”
“Ha! You’re just trying to make sure it doesn’t show me your hentai collection,” she joked loud enough to elicit laughter from other nearby students.
“Hana!” I chided her with embarrassment, “I’m on a random school computer! Even if I had a hentai collection, it wouldn’t be on this computer!”
“You’re just too easy,” she replied with a smirk. “Either way, it looks like you’re on the right track with your software! I still have a lot to do. I’m feeling a bit sleepy, though… like I just woke up from a nap. Want to call it quits until tomorrow?”
I kept quiet and just nodded affirmatively. I didn’t trust myself to speak. My voice felt like it would just betray my guilt to her. We simply packed up and went in opposite directions to our cars.
I didn’t breathe until the thud of the door resonated within the safe, isolated cabin. My fear and anxiety washed straight out of my body. What was left behind was darker than I expected, but oh, so exciting. The image of Hana’s mostly nude body in the mirror flashed in my mind. Her eerie blank stare from when I almost groped her cute tits also seemed much more arousing in hindsight.
The mechanism the program used to accomplish these feats of essentially mind control, not to mention the streaming of memories to a .gif format, was beyond me. It seemed like pure magic. This unlikely invention reminded me of Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Whether magic or technology, I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t excited to test out more filters. The sleep tag worked quite well. The devil on my shoulder wondered what “horny” would do.
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A male computer science student accidentally creates a program capable of filtering, sorting, and editing other peoples memories. His female roommate, and a study partner become his oblivious beta testers.
- 1st Person, Male
- Mind Control
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- 17 Chapters
- 13 Chapters Deep