57. EmptyThe room was empty, but that was impossible. The room couldn’t be empty.

I searched to see if the unit was hiding somehow, but I knew that there was simply no place for it to hide. It was gone.

Impossible, but that was the reality.

There were eight redundant levels of security to keep this from happening. Eight! They only wanted to build in three levels at the beginning of the project, but I’d insisted. They laughed at my “paranoia,” but I knew the risks — the ramifications — of failing demanded that failure would not occur.

And, yet, it had.

After I sounded the alarm, I examined the room while I waited for the emergency response team. There were no signs of violence. Nothing was broken. The unit, somehow, had simply opened the door and walked out.

I would have felt better if it had broken out. At least then we’d know what we were dealing with.

It was the A.I. — I was sure of it. I hadn’t wanted to use Johnson’s shoddy programming, but I didn’t have a choice. To take the unit to the next level, it had to have some measure of adaptability. Johnson said he lobotomized the A.I., though, so we wouldn’t get a repeat of last year. Being able to circumvent this much security, however, showed we were dealing with something smarter.

Then, as the ERT showed up, I heard something behind me and I realized my mistake. We couldn’t get the door closed in time.