Isabella's eyes tremble with fear. Mario feels his heart ache. He has always done everything he could to protect her.
“I'm sorry.” He touches the display and interrupts the conversation with DataCom customer service.
They stand in the living room, silent.
“Why did you do that?” she asks.
Isabella's smartphone announces she has a new message. “Dear Client, the DataCom emergency response team will arrive at your residence within five minutes.”
She doesn't move. “Please, tell me what's going on.”
“I'll explain it to you later. Just get your stuff and let's go.”
“Mario, they called me at lunch and told me you were afraid you were going to lose your job. Now you want us to escape like two criminals. I'm not moving from here until you give me an explanation!”
“Isabella, forgive me. I don't know where to start. I, I... I killed a man!”
“You - what?”
“A few weeks ago at work, I wrote the code for a new commission. My company usually only works as a subcontractor: for reasons of privacy, we often don't even know who the final client is. I had to use an algorithm that, through a series of suggestions, guides the user to end their own life. I figured it was just a regular video game and I didn't think too much about it. When the first release came out I asked for an analysis of the usage data. It's standard procedure, we use it to identify programming errors and correct them in later releases. Something in the data caught my eye. One user was identified by a first and last name, not the regular “Nick” they usually use in games. I did a search online and found a dozen news article about a man with the same name committing suicide.”
“Mario, do you realize what you're telling me? It's all just a coincidence. Nobody would use software to kill people.”
“That's what I thought, too. A coworker in administration gave me the client's contact info: DataCom. I contacted them to get a better understanding, but I could only speak with virtual managers on the phone, and they all confirmed that the software functions according to the specifications.”
“And then what?”
“I didn't know who to talk to so I asked Roberto, my boss, to help me. I told him I needed help with a few technical issues and I wanted to speak with a human at DataCom. He explained that after the last crisis, a lot of managers were replaced as part of a cost containment policy. From then on our company can only work with automated managers.”
“But why did they lay you off?”
“I don't know! A few hours after I called DataCom I got a message asking me to leave the office because I was being fired.”
All of the new information confuses Isabella.
“Now we really need to go, please,” Mario begs her.
The doorbell startles both of them. A man's voice barks from behind the door: “DataCom emergency response.”
Mario motions to Isabella to stay still. Both freeze, holding their breath.
The voice's tone rises: “We know you're in there. Open up or we'll be forced to break the door down.”
“Isabella,” Mario whispers in her ear. “They're dangerous. Let's go. The back door.”Isabella nods.