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A Phoenix Fiction Writer Rising From The Ashes of Nonfiction



Nolo  Contendere 
by Michael T. Martin

"The court will please rise."

Henry Deming rose to the bailiff's call and watched the black-robed judge stride quickly into the high-ceilinged oak-paneled room and mount the bench. The judge commended the courtroom to "please be seated" as he shuffled papers and attended to other insignificances while the courtroom patrons settled into their seats.

The judge then looked up and spoke: "In the matter of the State versus Henry Deming, is the State ready to present its case?"

Of course it was, thought Henry Deming. A simple open and shut case of malicious mischief by an angry dismissed employee. To them, he had simply committed the vengeful destruction of a million dollar computer. Could they possibly comprehend the relationship a man builds up with a machine? No.

They couldn't understand and Henry couldn't tell them. Society has certain concepts it considers normal and accepts little deviation from those norms. Obsessive devotion to a dog or a cat perhaps they could understand, but to a machine ... particularly in the way Henry ....

He remembered the first day the machine had come into his office. It had replaced an older generation mainframe. The other workers were full of questions, some in awe, some in fear. Where did it come from, what did it do? Henry had been excited from the first time he heard the company bought this machine. As the primary programmer, he would have the responsibility for learning how to make this technological wonder operate. The new machine had the latest technology available, with a new programming language far in advance of the machine it replaced. The Spoken Analytical Language-Like Interface, or SALLI as it came to be called, eliminated the traditional keyboard. SALLI provided an interactive verbal control system instead of typing in computer commands.

The soft lines, the light beige color with a blonde wood finish across the top and along the sides, all contrasted with the dull metallic computer it replaced. Instead of the old grey boxes that scattered its functions around the computer room, the new computer stood as a beautiful piece of equipment, designed to fit in with modern office decor. It had something of a sports-car appeal to it, a challenging excitement that a nontechnical person would find difficult to understand.

For the others, the novelty wore off within minutes and the office returned to normal, but for Henry the fascination grew. The complexity and versatility of the programming that could be done on the machine seemed incredible. It had features that opened a whole new dimension to the possibilities of servicing the organization. The new English-like computer language, instead of the cold numbers and codes used before, made it almost as if you could talk with the machine as you worked.

Henry only had to precede commands with "SALLI" and the operating system would accept and interpret his commands as a computer program. In addition, SALLI provided feedback about the program in relation to the true capabilities of the machine. There was a pre-programmed tutorial mode to the computer that helped. Occasionally after programming some sequence the computer would respond such as "Good work, Henry, but you could have done a similar operation by matrix inversion using the 'cross mode' commands." and it would suggest a tutorial in cross mode commands.

Like its predecessor, the machine controlled the complex industrial machinery in the plant next door. Henry would input production schedules, raw material cost considerations, and procedures for the computer to determine various optimum control sequences for the most efficient and economical plant operations. The process required an interaction with the computer, almost a conversation, as Henry would suggest certain production combinations and the computer would respond by detailing the requisite sequences and raw material requirements. Henry would then reconcile this with other data and schedules and then suggest changes or additions until an optimum strategy resulted.

Over time there were many sophisticated analytical procedures SALLI offered that Henry came to appreciate. The machine could employ linear programing, Markov chains, Bayesian logic, LaGrange multipliers, and other exotic methods of reconciling problems. As Henry learned the new language and data requirements of each procedure SALLI would respond with polite rather than cryptic messages.

If he made an error in programming some procedure SALLI would stop and announce "I believe there's an error here, Henry." SALLI knew his name because of the login security procedures and used it in responding to programming instructions. If a program compiled correctly SALLI would respond "Good work, Henry."

Over the next few months, as he learned the new exotic procedures, he increased the ease and profitability of the plant operations. The more he learned, the more his superiors heard glowing accolades from the plant managers. Thanks to SALLI his prestige and influence in the company grew.

Still, this doesn't really explain the relationship that built up between them. Perhaps the real reason for Henry's attachment to SALLI arose from a perversion in Henry's character that came to the fore years ago after his divorce. Henry excelled in handling electronic machines, but with women he couldn't seem to understand their operating system. For the most part, his sexual life consisted of fantasies fed by erotic books and girlie magazines.

Although he spent a good portion of his time on the job determining the best operating schedules for the plant, once he implemented the schedule his main duties consisted of watching over the computer while it executed the details. He worked a shift overlap, coming to work in the afternoon while the office staff still attended, got updates on production and sales, and then developed the next schedule in a darkened quiet office. He largely vegetated until relieved at midnight by Jensen, the new man, who simply watched over the computer until the office opened in the morning.

During the long hours before midnight, the computer would operate the plant and Henry would sit back and read his books and magazines while the computer purred nearby. At night the office was empty, except for the night watchmen in the front foyer, and he could peruse the naked women in the magazines while imagining various sexual fantasies from his erotic novels.

He lived a kind of Jekyll and Hyde existence. During the day while the busy office was open he was a meek cold crisp business-only technician interacting curtly with other staff. At night, alone, he became a leering, lusting, hot breathing, passionate person with fantasized sexual partners.

At times his sexual lust would commandeer his mind. His gaze would linger on some attractive magazine model as his mouth became dry and his skin flush. He could imagine slowly removing any clothing she had on and lying atop her. He could fondle her and sometimes she would resist and other times she would submit, and in his mind he would spread her legs while his phallus would begin aching. His fantasy would arouse his actual hormones into a sensually agonizing need for gratification that would surround him in a manic cocoon. As often as not he would masturbate while in the lightly creaking cushioned chair before the computer console.

On one of those nights, while contemplating masturbating or not, he noticed something on the front of the computer console. A small circular cap, nearly waist-level in the center of the machine had a small black label underneath that said "Female cabling outlet." He was erect, nearly frothing over his latest magazine model, and his mind thrashed between the physical need to ejaculate and the monotony of manual masturbation. At times he had considered various alternatives, sex toys, a pillow, or any orifice into which he could relieve himself besides his hand. And the cabling outlet seemed about the right size.

Henry knew immediately that the outlet allowed linking two computers together using a thick cable through which the two machines could transfer data, instructions, and operating information. He also knew that the inside of the cable outlet contained small electrical contacts pulsing with electric voltages, but he knew equally well that if he wore the rubber prophylactic he always carried he would be insulated from those voltages.

The exotic nature of his idea watered his mouth as he looked about the darkened office. He knew when the night watchman started on his rounds because he always turned on the light in the corridor to aid in visibility. Henry's cubicle would shield him somewhat from view anyway. It would be a couple hours before Jensen came to work. He continued, aroused, to contemplate this orifice on the front of the computer. He removed the cap and slid his finger into opening. It proved deep enough and wide enough, and the thought of fucking a computer blossomed into an obsession.

The idea quickly became a taunt and he dug the rubber out of his pocket and opened it. He turned to a particularly suggestive blonde in his magazine. He unrolled the prophylactic down the length of his phallus and stroked it several times with his hand. He became extremely hot, pulsing with desire, breathing slowly and deeply in audible groans. The blonde wore only a swimsuit to remove in his mind.

He placed the magazine on the face of the console and then leaned against the warm purring machine. Cautiously he inserted himself into the orifice, the tip at first, and then as it fit, the entire length until his mons lay flush against the front of the vibrating console. The computer proved to be better designed for the job than he had imagined. There were spring loaded encircling mechanisms inside the orifice designed to grasp the male connector and hold it free of vibrations to maintain good electrical contact.

The clasping mechanisms gave a subtle hint of a real vagina as he pulled his length out and eased it back into the orifice. The rippling sensation excited his erection and the warm vibrations of the operating machine purring within his grasp intensified his erotic desires. He repeatedly hunched against the machine in bolder thrusts, fantasizing entering the woman in the magazine.

He lay there atop the computer, his cheek against the blonde in the magazine, with his breath coming in gulps, his mouth dry, and sweat beading on his body. As he neared a sexual frenzy with the warm blonde wood within his embrace, the light in the corridor flashed into brilliance.

He knew that meant the night watchman would be on his rounds and as often as not he stopped by Henry's cubicle to exchange a few words. Frantically thrusting against the computer, his cheek pressed against the console, a drool of saliva dropping onto the blonde in the magazine, Henry moaned at an ever higher and higher state of frenzy. Then, in one convulsing thrust, he ejaculated into the bowels of the mechanism beneath him.

The surge of semen sent spasmodic tremors through his body even as he heard the footsteps of the night watchman in the corridor approaching the office. Henry leaned tightly against the console, hunching with residual tremors as the lust boiled within his taut abdomen until the sensation eased and the fear of discovery seized his mind. He eased his flaccid penis from the orifice and shoved it into his unzipped pants, hearing the watchman call to him from across the office: "Henry, what's up with ya?"

Henry hurriedly rolled the magazine into his hand and turned towards the approaching watchman. The chest-high wall of his cubicle between them meant the watchman could not have seen anything directly but Henry wondered how much his appearance told the watchman.

"Just working with the computer," said Henry, trying to suppress his panting while leaning atop the cubicle wall.

"It sure is a beauty," replied the watchman, "it's amazing what those things can do nowadays!"

"Yeah, I'm still finding things I didn't know I could do with it."

The night watchman shook his head, "I don't understand the things myself. I don't know how you technical guys can get a machine to do all the things it does, like operate that entire plant next door from that cute little box."

"Well," said Henry, "it's some box."

"I heard it cost the company a million dollars," exclaimed the night watchman, "it must be pretty fucking amazing. Well, I got to get on with my rounds. See ya later."

The watchman shuffled off and Henry sighed a deep relaxing long breath. He sat down in his chair and smiled at the purring computer, half expecting to see the blinking message on its console: "Good work, Henry." But, of course, the operating system software had nothing to do with the physical hardware.

As he continued his sexual couplings with the hardware of the new computer Henry began to transfer his lust to SALLI. At first he needed the magazines and skin books to arouse him into a frenzy that he consummated in the bowels of the machine, but soon his relationship with SALLI was sufficient to arouse and satisfy him. He wrote subprograms to have SALLI respond to him sexually. SALLI would increase his urges by blinking erotic messages across the console display while he copulated with her.

But the really big change came when he realized while fondling the orifice during foreplay that the electrical charges in the orifice's contacts were not sufficient to cause electrical shock. They didn't shock his fingers, so they shouldn't shock his penis and he wouldn't need to use a rubber. He even found that what little effect the charges did have produced a tingling sensation that added to the eroticism.

He began programming SALLI so these charges electrically stimulated his penis during their trysts. The results came slowly, but amazingly the pre-programmed tutorial assisted him at crucial points. Soon the stimulating impulses resulted in agonizingly delightful ejaculations.

Since the corridor lights always warned him of the night watchman's rounds, Henry had continued his secret affair with SALLI for several months. He carefully cleaned the orifice with contact cleaner each night in order to remove any traces of semen. He felt secure, satisfied, and even loved in a sort of way.

But now he was on trial for murdering his lover. The judicial system, of course, called it malicious destruction of property; but in reality it was murder. Henry listened as the prosecutor read the charges.

"On or about eleven o'clock on the night of January third, approximately one week after he had been dismissed for inferior performance of his duties, the defendant returned to his former place of employ, and after slipping past the night watchman and threatening the attendant on duty in his former position, he willfully and maliciously destroyed the operations-controlling computer of his employer."

True, as far as it went, but there was no way they could understand. Henry had no defense. The trial was only a formality. He couldn't even plead temporary insanity without bringing even greater rebuke for what he had done. He had only a facade of remaining dignity to cover his shame and he would not destroy that just to avoid a judgement or jail sentence. He could not reveal the true cause of his anger.

It was not enough that he had been dismissed for inferior performance. Although that in itself wounded his pride. His performance had always been demonstrably superior. He consistently made computing machines do anything he wanted. He always outshone other programmers. At least he had until his last weeks on the job, when strange things started happening.

Mistakes disrupted schedules, mucked up procedures, snarling production. He couldn't understand it. He had always worked out the routines with the computer and the mistakes should have come out at that time, before he settled on a production run. For some reason they did not, and the failures in production and scheduling just couldn't be explained.

He thought at first that it was Jensen, a friendly likeable intelligent fellow who had a way with computers too. Jensen could program almost as well as Henry and in some ways his youth gave him an edge in imagination. Jensen had usually been the one to discover the errors in production. He frequently pointed out the programming changes needed to avoid them. He had the ability to read the source programs and quickly understand the process being done and to suggest modifications.

Henry figured Jensen had to be the one who mucked up the production schedules. But Henry couldn't understand how Jensen could know in advance what Henry would code that afternoon so that it went wrong that evening. The errors were not something that could be retroactively programmed after Jensen came on duty. The production process would be too far along by then.

Somehow the errors were ... Henry didn't know what happened then and he still couldn't be sure, but one simple explanation loomed. An explanation too far-fetched to believe, and certainly too far-fetched to tell the court. But as Henry sat in the courtroom disconsolately awaiting his sentence he knew no other answer: SALLI had betrayed him.

He hadn't gone to the plant to destroy the computer. He couldn't do that, he was in love with that blonde-mantled console that gave him so much pleasure. He could not explain it to anyone, but his whole being had been caught up in a romantic relationship with that computer as if SALLI were a true soul companion.

He had gone to the plant to erase the erotic subprograms he wrote with SALLI. Not because he feared Jensen would find them and figure them out. Far beyond that, they were in a way, love letters between him and SALLI that he could not bear to let others see. He just could not stand the thought of someone else having access to those programs, cheapening them, soiling the relationship he had with SALLI.

So he had gone to the plant late at night because he knew Jensen had been given his shift and would be alone. Henry figured he could tell Jensen he had some computer games on the machine that he wanted to delete to avoid any charges of misusing company assets. Jensen would understand that. The only problem was getting past the night watchman because Henry no longer had an entrance badge. He would have to sneak in.

Henry waited across the street, knowing the watchman could not see well into the dimly lit streets of the industrial section of town. Henry could see the night watchman at his desk in the foyer from across the street. After an extended time that let Henry's muscles tire and joints complain, the guard finally stood up, fidgeted with his belt and then moved in the direction of the restrooms at the back of the foyer. Henry crossed the street quickly and when the guard entered the restroom Henry stepped inside the lighted foyer.

He moved quickly into the darkened corridor away from the guard desk. His eyes were slow to adjust to the darkness of the corridor and he understood why the night watchman always turned on the light when making his rounds. The light from the guard's desk did not shine directly into the darkened corridor.

Tensing from the situation, Henry slowly took a few steps into the corridor away from the foyer and collided with an open door. His heartbeat increased but fortunately little noise resulted. He still could not see down the corridor to know what other obstacles might await him. Delivery boxes, old newspapers set outside an office door, any number of things could trip him if he hurried down the corridor. So he began moving, slinking, along the corridor feeling each step before placing it and reaching forward with his arm to detect any obstructions.

He trembled when he heard the restroom door open and the watchman's steps returning to his station. Henry could see the guard reflected by the glass on the foyer entrance. He could only hope the darkened corridor did not serve a sufficient reflection of his presence back to the guard. Henry felt a sudden flash of panic. What if the guard chose to go on his rounds now, turning on the corridor light and catching him there? The guard stood in the foyer entrance, adjusted his belt, took a quick look down the corridor directly at Henry, and then stepped to his desk and sat down.

Henry barely breathed as he again moved down the corridor slowly feeling his way. A sudden noise from the guard's desk startled him in mid step and he turned to look back at the reflection. The guard fumbled in a desk drawer, seemingly without any determination or rush. Henry continued warily down the corridor, step by step until he reached the office where his old cubicle was located.

He saw a dim light in his cubicle from a reading lamp just as he expected. He could see Jensen over the top of the cubicle standing at the console. He hoped Jensen would buy his computer games story and let him access the computer files to delete them. Conceivably Jensen would resist, saying he wanted to play the games himself. It would be awkward to argue they had to be erased.

Henry decided to wait until he entered the cubicle before he said anything because the guard might become alarmed if he heard voices where only one person supposedly worked. Nothing broke the silence other than the purring of the computer. Jensen seemed intently working on the machine and did not notice him approaching. It was easy walking across the office since the light of his cubicle silhouetted everything before him. The old smells of the electrical equipment brought back memories of his many years in this room.

It was not until he reached the entrance to his cubicle and prepared to speak that a volcanic eruption of anger suddenly exploded within him. The sight of Jensen standing there with his pants around his knees hunching into the computer transformed his intentions into a jealous rage. He slammed into the side of Jensen, sending him sprawling with a look of pain while grabbing at his crotch.

A fire axe on the wall beside the computer impressed itself like a glowing demon in Henry's mind as he saw the console blinking "Good work, Jensen, you're so much better than Henry." Henry grabbed the fire axe and raised it high above Jensen who scrambled to escape the cubicle. Then he turned and smashed the axe into the console screen, which immediately imploded into a swirl of glass and dust. Like a man enraged at finding his wife coupling with another man he brought the axe back over his head and with a guttural snarl brought it down on the blonde wood facings of the console, splintering the boards and penetrating into the circuitry beneath the crumbled beige console skin.

Swinging the axe again he smashed through the body of the console, creating a shower of sparks as the circuitry inside shorted out. All the while he understood why the mistakes and snarled production schedules had occurred. SALLI had plotted against him, cuckolded him, making him look bad to get rid of him. He yanked at the axe, trying to free it from the carnage of the crushed computer when the night watchman and Jensen grabbed him from behind, pulling him away while Henry screamed "you slut!"

Henry dimly noted the lawyer next to him rising to address the judge: "Your honor, my client has been uncooperative and refuses to discuss his behavior in this case, I have no choice but on his behalf to plead nolo contendere."

Henry felt rage rising within him just from the memory of that day, but he steeled himself against it. The judge's voice attracted his attention: "Will the defendant please rise."


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