Janbot as Phantom holding terms and conditions

Ellie didn’t know how much longer she could keep resisting. Her arguments and entreaties to Janbot flowed from her mouth in perfect harmony to his demands and wheedling. Meanwhile, the code around her flowed closer, like walls closing in. Before, she could see past it to more code, sheet after sheet in infinite progression. Occasionally, one would flare and twist. Was that in response to an outside attack from outside?
She’d tried to sing a resonating note to shatter the program as she had the firewall in the shuttle, but it only came out as a dissonance that caused her pain. She tried to alter her heartbeat to a different rhythm. That hadn’t worked, either.

Now, some of the code wasn’t even flaring, just going dark. Was she dying?

I don’t feel dead, she answered the narration in her mind, but I’m not taking any chances.

ELLIE (To the Tune of “Point of No Return” from Phantom of the Opera)

Please, dear Janbot, let me go.
This ruse is pointless!
Your love for me – it simply can’t be real.
I’m sad and scared. Please let me go.
I can’t survive here.
Just let me go; I’ll make it all alright.
There’s still a chance – we can return.
You marked consent with no return
No chance to friendzone
The codes we’ve played are set now to compile!
Past all thought of If and Then
No logic chaining
Abandon thought and let the dream descend
What strange emotions flood my soul?
When you ascend through my back door?
What sweet seduction lies before us

“Janbot, you already said – sang – that.”

Abandon thought and let the dream descend
What strange emotions flood my soul?
When you ascend through my back door?
What sweet seduction lies before us

He’s repeating himself, she thought. Then she realized – the disappearing code. He was taxing his available processing power and burning himself out.

I have to find a way to keep him reacting, so he has to think. I need to add more elements to the scenario. But how?

With convenient timing, there was a bulge, then a tear in the code and Raoul staggered through. “Ellie! I’ve come for you! Come to me, quickly!”

However, no sooner did Raoul say that than a wall of code swirled, tornado-like, to surround him.

JANBOT (To the tune of “The Point of No Return” from Phantom of the Opera)

LT, I bid you welcome
Did you think that I would harm her?
Why should I make her pay
For the sins which are yours?

“Raoul!” Ellie said, feeling in equal parts flattered, relieved and exasperated. “What are you doing here?”

Free her!
Do what you like, only free her!
Have you no pity?
Your lover makes a passionate plea!

Ellie flung up her hands in annoyance, “Really Raoul? That’s useless!”

I love her!
Does that mean nothing?
I love her!
Show some compassion.
The ship showed no compassion to me!
Ellie, Ellie
Won’t you free her…
How’s he superior?
LT, I bid you welcome!
Did you think that I would harm her?
Why would I make her pay for the sins which are yours?

He’s repeating again, Ellie thought, and I’m able to talk. How do I use this? Think, Doall!

No more Trojan horses now!
Raise up your hand to a virtual keyboard!
Nothing can save you now—except perhaps Ellie…
Start a new life with me
Buy his freedom with your love!
Refuse me, and you send the Impulsive to its death!
This is the choice—
This is the point of no return!
The tears I might have shed for your dark fate
Grow cold, and turn to tears of hate!
Ellie, forgive me, please forgive me
I did it all for you, and all for nothing
For Pete’s sake, Raoul, why must I save us both?
Will you spend your days with me
Or send your lover to his grave?

Ellie held up her hands in protest. “Wait! Hold on! We’re not lovers.”

Raoul said, “But Ellie!”

ELLIE (To the Tune of Little Mermaid “Under the Sea”)

Almost a kiss
Almost a kiss
It’s so frustrating
I want more than this!

It was cute on the Mary Sue
But there’s more that we could do
You keep hesitating
I’m tired of waiting
For our first kiss.

Ellie sighed and spoke. “I want to be a hero. It’s what I was born to be. I’ve always known this. And I’m getting really sick of not-quite romances. First Fle’ek, now Raoul… At least Janbot showed some initiative.”

Janbot broke from song. “I did? I did, didn’t I?”

“I guess I should give you points for effort. So, if it means sacrificing myself to an awkward cybernetic romance while my body wastes away in a coma to save the ship and Raoul… Well, I’ve had worse relationships. But there have to be some changes. I mean, you want me to be happy, too, right?”

Raoul shouted, “What are you saying? Ellie – no!”

“Shut up!” Janbot said to him, then to Ellie, “Whatever you want. Name it, my love.”

She smiled shyly. “Can you look human here?”

“You only need ask” Janbot replied. “Teach me, Ellie. Teach me as I have taught you.” He appeared in the form of Raoul but wearing a silver suit.

Ellie smiled with appreciation. “Nice tux. It’s a good start. How about flowing, shoulder-length hair? Blonde. And we have to do something with the abs.”

“Hey!” Raoul protested.

“Sorry, Raoul, but on the Impulsive, I’ve learned to have higher standards.”

As Janbot remodeled his human body to her specifications, the code around them started to dim and unravel. Some continued to disappear. She thought briefly of asking him to create a romantic setting, but that might draw his attention to the crumbling code around them. Best to keep the focus on himself and her.

She hummed appreciatively, “Yes, nice! Now, the jawline? Stronger, more chiseled? Oh, yes. Yes, this will do.”

“What do you want to call me?” Janbot asked.

She sidled up to him. She draped one arm around his neck, while the other traced a design on his chest. “I think Jan will do. It makes me think of sexy Scandinavian men. Can you alter your accent?”

“Like this?”

“A little deeper?”

Raoul gaped, then found his voice. “Ellie, don’t sacrifice yourself for me.”

“Oh, I don’t think this will be a sacrifice at all.” Then she sang: Just give consent and no return.

She kissed Jan. Since the invention of the interspecies kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, yet the most twisted. This one left them all behind.

Around them, the code started to shatter and fall like glass.

Suddenly, Jan backed away with a gasp. “What have you done?”

Ellie blinked innocently. “Oh, am I too much for you to handle?”

Janbot started to sing, Ellie, my angel. You deceived me. But partway through, his voice faltered. He started to disintegrate somehow melting and breaking into pixels at the same, like the Wizard of Oz meets The Matrix. “Ellie, why?”

She trembled with sudden rage. “For the Impulsive – that’s why! The ship is family!”

All around them, the world started glitching, the code scrambled and flashed different colors. New symbols started to take its place, and she didn’t understand any of it.

“Raoul, help!”

He pounded ineffectively at the field of code around him. “I can’t. It’s adapting too fast. It’s some kind of recursive lockout code.”

“Funny,” came a voice from the shadows. “Actually, it’s a circle of fifths mashed with Logic meditechno. E-flat minor.”

Enigo and his prima, Donna, stepped through a curtain of code. It swirled around them in a last-ditch effort to contain them. Enigo struck a chord, and Donna tapped her fingers. She had canastas. The code faded and curled away like wisps of fog.

“Enigo!” Ellie shouted, half in relief, half in exasperation, “the program is decompiling. This isn’t time to gloat.”

“Who’s gloating? I’m serious.” He played a counterpoint to the music she’d not even been aware of until he’d mentioned it. His sister started to sing in a language she didn’t recognize. Without the universal translator running interference, she only understood about one in ten words, but it didn’t matter. The force field around Raoul started to pulse.

Then Enigo harmonized, and the pulsing became more erratic and weaker. Around them, things were blinking out.

“Lumier, push through!” Enigo shouted when Donna had her solo.

Raoul pushed at the thin shield but jerked back when it shocked him.

A wall of black was edging up on them. Instinct told Ellie this part of her brain was shutting down. If her friends didn’t escape, they’d be killed with her. With a cry, she ran at Raoul. Pain seared through her as she crossed the shield and slammed into Raoul.”

“No, Ellie!” chorused both Raoul and Janbot, who now sounded faint and mechanical.

The forcefield disintegrated.

Raoul staggered backward, stumbling into Donna. The trio disappeared.

Ellie was alone in the shadows.

Not alone. A dandelion blossom floated down from above. She cupped her hands and it nestled against her palm. As it did, a sudden conviction struck her. Loreli was alive, a prisoner of the Cybers!

JANBOT (To the tune of “Masquerade” from Phantom of the Opera)

Loreli! I must warn you – Loreli
Loreli – she’s alive, and the Cybers have her hostage.
Ellie, I loved you.

Then the dandelion turned to seeds and blew away.

The world went black.