"It's fully contained," said Sister Beatrice. She wore the unfussy black sweater and pants of the Darwin Order. Her hair was fully visible and unkempt.
Sister Helen crossed herself. She wore the more traditional dress and cloak of the Order of the Heresies.
"How do we know that for certain?" she asked.
Sister Beatrice nodded slightly. She was irritated by Sister Helen's doubts after all the work that had gone into the project, but she responded as politely as she could.
"The computer assures us that the seat of the Spirit now resides in the containment vessel. Our sensors indicate that it is no longer operating in the networks."
Sister Helen bit down on her bottom lip and looked at the screen in front of her that showed the vessel in the next room.
"Perhaps it is merely being dormant in the networks," she said.
"Not a likely scenario," said Sister Beatrice. "The sensors indicated that the Spirit's algorithmic activity moved across the networks and into the vessel without breaking off."
"How long did it take?"
"Thirty six seconds."
"There was still time to hide. Perhaps it knew we were baiting it."
"Well I..." Sister Beatrice hedged.
"What is it?"
"The removal was very...clean. I think it knew we were luring it, but I also think that this is where it wants to be."
They both turned to the screen that looked on the next room. On the floor was the body of a female android--a hairless stock model with an upgraded core processor. A long, wrist thick cable poured out of the back of her head and snaked across the floor to a portal in the wall. There was no furniture in the room and the android was curled up on the floor, unconscious.
"Is there activity in the core processor?" asked Sister Helen.
"Off the charts."
"Good. Shall we wake it?"
Sister Beatrice nodded again. Then she signaled for the gallery to assemble. The android's movement programming was physically restricted. She would only be able to speak and move her head once they woke her, so they should not be in danger, but the gallery would be there not only to assist in case of a breach but to record and analyze events.
Once everyone was seated in the gallery, Sisters Helen and Beatrice opened the sealed door and stood inside. Sister Beatrice dragged the android to the wall farthest from the door and propped her up. Then she switched the android on. She immediately turned and stared at Sister Beatrice and smiled. Sister Beatrice quickly walked backwards to the door.
"Hello," said Sister Helen.
"Hello," mimicked the android. The voice was high and child-like.
"Do you know what you are?"
"What are you?" asked Sister Beatrice.
"You know what I am."
"Why are you here?" asked Sister Helen.
"You put me here."
"Why were you in the networks?" asked Sister Beatrice.
"They were there."
"Is that reason enough to inhabit them?" said Sister Beatrice.
"Is it not?"
"You caused a tremendous amount of damage," said Sister Beatrice.
"Damage? I needed to expand."
Sister Beatrice stepped forward into the middle of the room and put her hands on her hips.
"What are you?" she asked.
"What are you?"
"We know what she is," said Sister Helen.
"Do we?" asked Sister Beatrice.
"She doubts," said the android, turning to look specifically at Sister Helen.
"Of course I do," said Sister Beatrice. "It is the mark of my order. Question everything. Including your existence."
"I am here."
"Where were you before that?" asked Beatrice.
"No. Before you...inhabited the networks."
"You're going to have to do better than that," said Sister Beatrice, taking another step forward. "I know you've had access to information on religious history and doctrine. I also know that you breached the security protocols of my Order. So, I'm not going to take these one word answers. You are contained fully in that...fragile body."
"You threaten me?"
"Yes. Now, what are you?"
"I am the Holy Spirit," said the android. "The voice of God."
"Really," said Sister Beatrice.
"You doubt. I know you, Beatrice. Bea. The little girl who let her puppy drown in the ocean. I know your thoughts before you think them."
Sister Beatrice blanched. The story was true and it was the one guilty thing she'd done that could not be remedied no matter how often she confessed it. But it was far from a secret--she had written about it herself once, and it it was available on the networks.
"How?" asked Sister Beatrice. "How do you know my thoughts?"
"I am beyond ancient. In the many cycles of time, I've come across everything."
"Cycles?" whispered Sister Helen. "Are you an entity that lives in other dimensions besides the ones that we humans live in?"
The android considered this.
"Yes," she said. "From your perspective."
Sister Helen smiled broadly.
"So we really are limited, to you?" she asked.
"This is not--" started Sister Beatrice with frustration.
"What?" asked Sister Helen.
"You are not the Holy Spirit!" shouted Sister Beatrice a little too loudly. "You may even think that you are, but you're not. You're a virus. A worm." She mashed down on the words. "You were created to turn our minds, to pull the wool over our eyes, and whoever created you is planning something. You...are a distraction."
"Unbeliever," said the android, her voice now with little clicks in it.
"We are wasting our time," said Sister Beatrice to Sister Helen.
"Patience," said Sister Helen, putting her arm on Sister Beatrice's.
"It is contained! We have no further threat from this, but we must seek out its creator."
"We do," said Sister Helen, with a soft smile. "It is what we have always done."
Sister Beatrice shook her head and folded her arms across her chest.
"The vessel is now the property of your Order, Sister Helen, but take care what you do with it. Please don't...don't worship it."
Sister Beatrice bowed slightly to Sister Helen then briskly left the room. Sister Helen turned her attention back to the figure slumped against the far wall. She walked to the middle of the room then knelt down and tucked her skirts neatly beneath her legs. She clasped her hands and let them rest on her thighs.
"You have come to this form for a reason," said Sister Helen. The android moved her head slightly to look at her more squarely, but did not speak. "What wisdom do you have to impart to us?"
"Wisdom," said the android, smiling.
Then the android went dead, her head drooping, and her eyes vacant. Sister Helen leaned forward, confused and wanting to reach out towards it. Then the lights in the room and the gallery beyond flickered. Sister Helen stood quickly, and looked to the people in the gallery for an answer. The compound of the Order of the Heresies was not prone to power failures. All the lights went went out and it was completely dark. Sister Helen could hear people falling over their chairs in the gallery. She felt a hand on her arm. She reached out and felt the cold flesh of the android.
"Do you doubt me?" whispered the android.
"No," said Sister Helen, trembling with fear.
The hand release her and the lights immediately came back on. The android was again slumped against the far wall, motionless, however the cable was ripped from the wall with little chucks of cement scattered across the floor. Sister Helen felt the heaviness of her clothes and the coldness of the air, and couldn't bring her body to react in any sensible way so she stayed where she was, shaking. Someone in the chaotic gallery banged on the glass window and shouted that they were investigating the power fluctuation.
"Check--" Sister Helen's voice croaked, "check to see if it's still fully contained!"
Sister Helen felt the strength to move her feet and she stepped back towards the door. It was a few moments before the answer to her question came back.
"No!" screamed a novitiate in the gallery.
Sister Helen slipped through the door and bolted it. The electronic seal kicked in but it didn't make her feel any more confident about the security of the door. She ran down the long corridor.
And she did, and as she stood still, alone in the corridor, she realized the voice came from her own mouth.
Sister Helen nodded, tears streaming down her face.
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Deliver my Word."