Benjamin Cook talked to his dead wife as he did every night, but this night was special. Benjamin, or Benji, as his wife Connie called him, was very excited about a new device he was about to complete. He loved talking to his wife with the earpiece and microphone, but he desperately wanted to see her again. He wanted her to see him. It was nearly the second anniversary of her death, and Benjamin wanted his surprise to be ready.
"Honey, I have something pretty great to show you tomorrow night," he said.
"What do you mean show me Benji? I can't see anything," Connie replied.
"I know, I know. You have to wait just a bit longer. Tomorrow will be special, I promise…I just need one thing," he said.
"Don't say that. This is the only way to be with you! Trust me I have it all under control. I just need one part for your surprise. I miss you so much," he said.
"I know, I know. I miss you too, but—"
"Just wait until tomorrow, trust me. I have to go now. I'm pushing it as it is. I love you," he said.
"I love you too Benji," she said.
Benjamin took out the earpiece and unplugged it from a small box. The screen on the box lit up and indicated twelve minutes had elapsed. He switched the virtual emulator to hibernate/blackout, and placed it inside a small lead-lined box. He closed the lid and placed it in his hiding place, a slide-out panel in the wall under his bed.
You're pushing too hard Ben. Twelve minutes is just too close to the wire, he thought. He flopped back on his single bed and stared at the ceiling, tracing the cracks and water stains. His mind wandered, his eyes grew heavy, and soon he dreamed of Connie.
The next night, Benjamin came home from work sweating. He unbuttoned his coat and took out a chip array he had smuggled out of the warehouse. He placed it on the table next to his bed that doubled as a work bench, which was littered with a confetti of electronic parts. Benjamin opened a cabinet and took out a circular pad with several ports and small cameras that lined its circumference. He swept the mess off the table and carefully placed the pad beside the chip array. He went to the panel underneath the bed and retrieved his secret leaded box.
Alright, he thought, everything is in order.
Benjamin peeked out from his blinds and scanned the corridor outside. There was not a soul in sight. He closed his blinds and pulled a heavy curtain down behind them to block any light from escaping.
He unscrewed the bottom of the pad and clicked the chip array into place. He removed the emulator drive from the box and connected it to the pad. After plugging in the earpiece and setting the emulator drive to active emulation, the surface of the pad began to flicker.
A twelve-inch tall three-dimensional hologram of a woman appeared. She looked around the room and fixed her gaze on Benjamin.
"Oh my God, Benji! How did you do this?" she exclaimed. "I can even see myself!" She looked at her hands with wonder. She examined her figure.
"I don't remember being this thin, but I'll take it!" she laughed.
"Heh, well yeah, I just went from our wedding photos. Connie, this is my present," said Benjamin. "I've been working on this for the last few years. It's still just prototype stuff, but it's a start. I knew when you were sick and we did the download that we would get here. It was just a matter of time. The emulator was just the beginning."
"I can see you. I can see your face again Benjamin." She looked into his eyes. "You look so tired. What happened to my sweet man?"
"I'm sorry…the last few years have been tough."
"I'm sorry too Benji."
Benjamin was so captivated by their conversation and the moving image of his wife that he lost track of time. When he finally checked the timer on the emulator it read 00.15.27, dangerously past time. He told his Connie he loved her and that he had to go. He quickly shut the emulator down and locked it into his box. He heard movement in the hallway and rushed to place the box back behind the hidden panel.
Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Benjamin didn't answer. He quietly placed the pad back in the cabinet and hid the rest of the electronic trash under his mattress.
Stupid, Benjamin! You have nowhere to hide!
"Mr. Cook, are you there?" said a woman from behind his door.
Benjamin didn't say a word, his eyes wide with terror. There were whispers from behind the door. There must be a team of techs outside. How could he have been so careless? At least the emulator was hidden. He might suffer for this, but at least his wife was safe. He could rebuild.
The door ripped from its hinges when two techs used a battering ram to smash it in. Three officers entered his tiny apartment with guns drawn. Benjamin threw his hands up and bowed his head. Their guns were trained on him when a small thin woman entered. Her face showed no expression. She grabbed Benjamin by the hair and stared at him.
"Find it," she ordered the officers. They trashed the apartment while they searched. The electronic trash and pad were found instantly, but not the box.
The woman sat on Benjamin's bed and analyzed the pad and the parts.
"This is not what we came for is it Mr. Cook? What created the frequency?" she demanded.
Benjamin did not respond.
"Hook him up," she said.
The Techs placed a vitals unit oven Benjamin's finger and a scanband on his head. The woman slowly moved through the apartment.
"Hot or cold Mr. Cook?" She moved closer to the bed. Benjamin tried with all his power to stay calm, but his mind was racing.
"We have a spike Captain Newsom." the tech said.
She looked under the bed. Bejamin closed his eyes and tried to think about his wife. He pictured waves breaking on a beach; anything that would distract him from the moment. Sweat poured down his face.
"Eureka!" Newsom said. Benjamin opened his eyes. The woman stood in front of him holding the emulator in her hand.
"Mr. Cook, this is a clear violation of the Non-Determined Threats Act. Possession or creation of proprietary non-connected devices and networks such as this unit is an act of treason."
"Please," pleaded Benjamin. "That's all I have left of her."
Captain Newsom plugged the earpiece into the emulator.
"Hello, Benji?" the Captain heard Connie's voice. The Captain quickly opened up Benjamin's file on her handheld. She saw his history: deceased wife Constance Cook.
"Constance?" The Captain asked. Silence.
"Where is my Benji?" Connie finally replied.
Captain Newsom dropped the emulator on the floor in front of Benjamin. He fixed his eyes on the cracked screen and its readout: active emulation, two bars of power. Newsom's boot came down on the unit and smashed it to bits. Benjamin stared in disbelief.
"Those are the rules Mr. Cook." Newsom said as a tech cuffed him. He felt numb.
"Leave him," she said.
"Captain?" The other techs were confused.
"This man just lost as much as any person can lose," she said. "There will be no trouble from him. That will be all. Pack it up."
They un-cuffed him and left him on on his knees. The illegal equipment from the apartment was sealed in evidence baggies. Benjamin stared at the floor where he had lost his wife for the second time. Hot tears burned his eyes and mixed with sweat as they rolled down his cheeks. The techs poorly re-attached Benjamin's door and waited in the corridor outside.
"Remember, we're always watching," Newsom said as she stood in the doorway. "Good night Mr. Cook." She shut the door behind her. Benjamin remained on his knees in the darkness. He listened to the fading sound of their boots until there was nothing left but silence.