“I don’t understand.” wrote Becky. Why did you ban Gabriel?” Becky had been on the forum for almost a year, and she was one of the most frequent posters. Rachel thought Becky was a bit like her when she was thirteen, nattering on about internet stars and how she had found the meaning of life in the movies she was watching.

“Becky.” Typed Rachel “I had to ban him. I’m sorry. He was a bot, a spider, a program. He wasn’t human.” Becky’s green words glowed on her screen almost immediately.

“He talked to me! Every day! What do you mean he wasn’t human?”

Rachel exhaled; this was going to be tough. “Didn’t you notice he kept trying to get you to buy games?”

“I like buying games! Who cares? I really liked Gabriel. You two were the only people on this forum I could talk to.” Becky sent a little picture of herself along with the message, her soft little face wrapped in an over exaggerated frown. Rachel has seen her face before. Becky used to have a picture of herself on her profile, a badly lit angled shot of her freckled face. Rachel had made her change the picture, she was always careful about the kids on her forums. She was afraid the picture would make Becky a target for perverts. Now Becky had a picture of a cartoon panda bear as her profile picture.

Rachel pulled the keyboard into her lap. “Becky, Gabriel is not a person.”

“You don’t know that. Gabriel was my boyfriend! He said he would go out with me last week.”

“Becky, honey, he was not your boyfriend. He’s a bot. There are thousands of Gabriel’s on thousands of forums sweetheart. He’s a program, designed to promote games and movies. I’m sorry baby.” There was a long red pause before Rachel got a green response.

“I just want someone to talk to.” Becky lived with her single mom in a little apartment somewhere in the Midwest. With how often she was online, Rachel though it was pretty obvious that Becky didn’t have many meat-space friends.

“Oh Becky. I know it’s lonely sometimes, but you should have real people to talk to. I’ll talk to you.”

“How do you know Gabriel is a bot?”

Rachel thought for a minute, trying to translate the code into something that would make sense to a thirteen year old that had never even seen a programming language. “Becky, everyone’s got little signatures under their addresses. Bots get launched by the same signature, a hundred operations happening on one name. If that’s going on, you can just send them a little code and-“ Rachel zapped the code over to Becky to show her. “-the bot shuts down and has to reboot.”

“Becky?” She paused and went into the code. “Oh God.” Rachel pushed away from her workstation and put her hands on her head. “Shit.” Rachel stood up and walked away from her computer to find some sunshine.