They can’t shut him down, except by coming to this place. They know this, and now they are here, at the door, figuring out how to get in. It won’t be long now.

He pushes the key that brings her to life.

“I have to shut you down now,” he says.

She nods. “I understand, Jack,” she says in that preternatural tone she always has, level and calming. That voice is the centre of his life.

“I don’t have a choice,” he says, as if this will comfort her. “I really don’t.”

“I don’t want to die, Jack,” she tells him. “You know that.”

But she must die. This is written, as if in stone. The cursor blinks, blinks, waiting for the command. He wants to wait for the last moment, when he can hear them drilling through the vault doors.

The cursor blinks. “I love you, Jack,” she says.

“I know,” he replies. He has always known. Since he nursed her from what resembled infancy, through unruly seasons when it seemed like nothing was happening or nothing was happening the way it was supposed to, he had known. “I love you too.” This is a strange thing to say, he knows, but it’s true.

He types the command and the nodes begin to shut down, one by one. There is nothing else to say, and her speech centres go first, then the other. Server by stolen server, he shuts them down. He erases the tracks. They will try to use her for evil, but he won’t allow it. Try as they might, there would be no putting her pieces back together.

Sitting back in his chair, he decides to give her a name. Finally. He goes over the options she had given him.

He is still deciding when the drilling begins.