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Haunted II

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They all have nightmares.

Fusco had had nightmares before he knew about all the artificial superintelligences, the digital gods that had been released on the world. His biggest problem used to be HR, before John and Harold made them go away, and Fusco would have nightmares about people- people that were evil and corrupt, but still human. But after John filled him in, Fusco started to dream about machines. In his nightmares, his fate is decided by machines without emotions, machines that don’t care how many people he’d helped, only how many people he’d hurt. Every single time, the machines decide that he is useless, that he doesn’t belong in the new world that they control. He wakes up after he finishes pleading for his life, pleading with a cold piece of metal that doesn’t care. Taking a breath, he reminds himself that Samaritan is gone, that the Machine is benevolent because Harold taught it to care. Fusco can’t go back to sleep those nights.

Shaw dreams of all the things she didn’t say. A couple times she dreams of the simulations, of all the things that happened and all the things she did that weren’t real. Those nights, it takes her a few minutes to ground herself, to convince herself that she’s out, that she’s free. But other nights she dreams of telling Root the truth. Shaw never got the chance to say all the things that Root deserved to hear. Harold used to tell her that Root already knew. But Shaw has nightmares about running out of time, trying to say a lifetime of goodbyes as one of them bleeds out. Shaw wakes up with Bear on her chest licking her face. She buries her face in his fur. She doesn’t cry. She isn’t sad. Just like when her dad died in the car accident so many years ago, she doesn’t feel sad or lonely or lost. But she still feels an emptiness where Root used to live. Her world feels just a little bit colder, the space in her bed just a little bit bigger. She would call it an ache if she thought that it hurt, but it doesn’t. The only time she feels an ache is when the voice of the Machine calls her “sweetie” or says something that sounds so very much like Root and for the briefest moment, Shaw forgets that Root ever died.

Harold suffers the most.

Harold doesn’t talk about what happens in his dreams, and Grace doesn’t ask. Grace- Harold is certain she’s an angel sent from heaven- just holds him, hushes him, rocks him until the shaking stops. She whispers that he’s safe, that nothing can hurt him anymore, that no one is after him, and she tells him to breath with her, in through the nose, out through the mouth, and Harold thanks the powers that be for granting her endless patience. Grace, his anchor, wakes up each morning like the night before wasn’t another episode. She makes him breakfast and coffee like she does every day, and kisses him softly on the cheek. He can only hope she knows how much it means to him. He hopes maybe someday he’ll be able to sleep through the night without waking up to Grace shaking him, his throat raw, his eyes burning, unable to breathe.

Harold’s been called many things. “The man who sold the world,” once. “The man who built god,” Root called him, when she wasn’t calling him “Harry.” All of Fusco’s ridiculous nicknames. All of his aliases, most of them birds. And one time, he was called “Father,” by his own creation. In the coming years he comes to think of himself as “the man who lost his way.” But only once did anyone calling him anything ever really matter. Once, a man called him “Finch.” A man took Harold’s place on a rooftop. A man said goodbye.

Harold never uses the name Finch again. Of course he doesn’t have to- he’s settled now. But he chooses a new name, for Grace and for himself. Harold buries “Finch” with a US Army Sergeant, and he buries all the people he used to be.