When Carlton got home Frank was waiting. Frank was Carlton’s home computer, a smaller version of the one at the library. Frank was the testing ground for Carlton’s experiments and, as a result, was a pretty fragmented jumble. But he ran all the systems in the house, and kept Carlton’s life as organized as possible. Carlton was in no mood to talk to Frank right now. Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid it.
As Carlton walked up the driveway he sighed at the irony of the situation. For the last seven or so years he had been alone. It had not been a problem since he had been busy and fairly prosperous. He constructed Frank, who until now had been the only companion that Carlton needed.
Carlton’s computers were different. He had never put his finger on why they developed such quirky characters. He didn’t worry too much about it. It made his computers a rare commodity, but it was surely the reason that he was not CEO of a vast empire selling millions of units every year.
He braced himself and opened the door. “I’m home.” There was a little pause.
“Where have you been? do you know what time it is?” Frank’s voice was sarcastic, as if mocking the tone of voice a wife or mother would use.
Carlton sighed again, and realized he had been sighing all day. “You wouldn’t believe who I ran into today.” Carlton didn’t really want to tell Frank about Ruth, but he would have to sooner or later.
Carlton stiffened and dropped his keys. “How did you know?”
“Probability moron. I guessed.”
Carlton sighed, again. Yes this was definitely why he was not selling millions of units.
“Was she wearing a skirt? Don’t be so surprised. The last time you stayed out this late was five years ago. During the last seven years you talked about her more than any other subject, besides me. When you came in the door and announced that you ran into someone it was the most likely choice. You forget who and what I am my friend.”
“I do?” Carlton was puzzled.
“Yes, you talk to me like I’m your pet budgie, but you didn’t build a conversation machine, you built me to be..”
Carlton cut him off and completed the phrase himself, “the most powerful, thinking computer in this world or any other.”
“Yes,” said Frank with added resonance, “and don’t you forget it!”
There was silence for a few moments, during which Carlton realized how good Frank really was, because most personal computers would have automatically begun reviewing the daily log, or reporting on the stock market or whatever.
“You’re probably tired,” Frank was clever, “but there is something that I was hoping to talk to you about.”
Carlton started getting undressed and moved into the bathroom, “sure, go ahead.”
“I was thinking about us, this place, and how there are so many other things I could do around here besides the accounts, environmental control, and, of course, being your pet budgie.”
Carlton laughed, “yes?”
“I mean, you’re a very important man, now, what with this big installation at the library, and there are so many things to do here at the house. You’re so busy that, no disrespect, it’s messy here. And on the outside there are a bunch of things to do. I looked at satellite imagery that I downloaded, before you cut me off, and there are weeds growing in the gutters. They are probably little bushes and trees by now.”
Carlton began brushing his teeth. He knew where this conversation was going. He had disconnected Frank from the Internet when he lost over 10,000 dollars in illegal on-line gambling, and so now Frank had come up with some scheme to get his Internet connection back. He was probably going to offer to take on the job of contracting with a maid service, plumbers and a carpenter, something like that. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The place was really turning into a dump. And now, since Ruth had just walked back into his life, who knew? He definitely could not bring her here in the state it was in. He shuddered as he saw himself wantonly skipping down the path of imagined romance. He had to stop that. Romance was out. But, still, it would be good to clean the place up and fix everything. Just in case. He had tuned Frank out but his attention snapped back at a word Frank said.
“Wait,” Carlton gasped, “what was that again?”
“I said,” Frank was a little terse, “I could take care of all this stuff if you would build me into an Android.”