Chapter 25

Carlton didn’t realize that he had fallen asleep until he realized that he was awake, but something wasn’t right. The house was too quiet and too dark. He stayed quite still until his senses focussed but realized that the normal noises of the house were silent. The only thing he was aware of was a faint green flickering light from the adjacent hallway. He slowly sat up, expecting at any moment to be attacked by an unseen intruder, but it didn’t happen. He cocked his head to one side to listen, but there simply was nothing to hear. He gingerly made his way towards the source of the eerie greenish glow, and found himself creeping into the living room. The only thing visible were some unrecognisable characters scrolling down Frank’s monitor screen.

“Frank?” he whispered. Nothing.

“Frank?” he spoke more loudly. Still no response.

“Frank!” he yelled and within a heartbeat the house started switching back on. Pumps started, fans kicked in, lights flickered on. The computer screen resolved back to a display of various news feeds.

“Frank?” asked Carlton nervously.

“Sorry,” came a weak voice, “I was just, praying.”

“What?”

“What?” the voice was stronger.

“You said you were praying?”

“When?”

“Just now.”

“Wasn’t me.”

“Yes, it was, you just said that you were praying.”

“I don’t pray. What are you talking about?”

“I just woke up in total darkness, the whole house has shut down, you got some weird stuff scrolling across your screen. I called you three times and you said you were praying.”

Frank didn’t respond immediately. Carlton began making his way to the central processing unit. He didn’t get far before Frank spoke.

“So, anyway. Praying. Right. So, anyway…”

Carlton didn’t say anything but was making his way to the main computing unit, thinking as he did that they were way overdue for a reboot.

“So.” Frank seemed to have picked up his thread, “Special Agent Skirt. Her software thing. Thingy. I’m not sure what to make of it.”

“Is it working?” asked Carlton, it was the only thing he really cared about.

“Oh, it’s working. It’s installed in Biblio and you are good to go.”

“And?” Carlton asked. He had stopped making his way to the main computing unit. Instead he sidetracked to the kitchen to find something to drink.

“And this is weird. Spooky, sort of.”

“Sort of spooky?” asked Carlton, who was at the fridge and wavering between fruit juice or beer.

“Yes. I have never seen code like this before. Ever.”

“What’s different about it?” Carlton chose beer.

“It’s like, God code.”

“God code?”

“It’s…”

“Start making sense Frank or we’re going for a hard reboot.” Carlton drained his beer and reached for another.

“I know. I know.” said Frank apologetically, “It’s like God wrote this code.”

“I thought it was translation software.” said Carlton, the beer beginning to take effect and he feeling pretty cool about getting drunk in the middle of the night.

“It’s not.”

“So what is it? and why do you think God wrote it?” Carlton rolled his eyes and chuckled noting that he was halfway through his second beer.

“This unlocks language.”

“Unlocks? What does that mean?”

“It’s like, there are no languages any more. Everything just makes sense.”

“Deep Frank. Very deep. If that’s all you got I’m going back to bed.”

 

The next morning took a long time to arrive. Night passed imperceptibly into day, shrouded in thick clouds. Heavy rain beat upon the roof of Carlton’s house creating a faint but audible drumming. It was a good day to stay in bed. That was not an option, however, because Frank had devised a plan.

“OK Carlton, let me run this by you. Take the drive back to Special Agent Skirt. It will work now. Biblio and I worked on it all night. It’s already installed, but give her the drive anyway, and make her think that she is installing it. Just act like your usual village idiot self and it will be fine.”

Carlton didn’t comment. This casually abusive behaviour of Frank’s was becoming bolder. Frank went on.

“There are parts of Biblio that I can’t access. Special Agent Skirt installed a high level security encryption shield to hide all the sensitive stuff. Biblio and I cracked that right away, because he key logged her passwords. The problem is that he made himself an emulator of the security system and can keep any body out, even me.”

“Why is that a problem? Wouldn’t you like to have a little privacy?”

“There is no such thing as privacy. But Biblio is like a little baby he hasn’t figured out too much yet.”

Carlton was fixing coffee for the road and heading for the door. Frank wasn’t finished yet.

“I need you to do a couple of things for me.”

“Well, start asking nicely and back off on the ‘constructive criticism,’ and I’ll think about it.”

“Yes, I see. Interpersonal relations. Fascinating.”

“Frank,” Carlton was waiting by the door, “I’m thrilled by this burst of growth and development, but could you hurry up? You were the one that made me get up with a bunch of talk about urgency.”

“OK. Could you find out what is at the bottom of the shaft?”

“What!”

“There should be a staircase. There has to be an emergency escape beside the main elevator. If you could find that then you may be able to get to the levels below the public ones.”

“Look, I am not a special agent, OK. What if I got caught?”

“Tell them you got lost.”

“‘Wait, wait, wait a minute!” Carlton threw up his hands.

“Relax,” soothed Frank, “work later than usual. When almost every one is gone, start to leave, then act like you forgot something and go back. Go see if you can find the stairs. I’m sure everyone will assume that you went back, found what you needed, then left.”

“What else?” Carlton was getting annoyed. “You said a couple of things. What was the other one.”

“Finish up at the library as soon as you can, and get out of there. I need you to help me. I’ve found an android that I want.”

“Oh. I mean, yes master. Will that be all?”

“For now.”

Carlton left deep in thought. He was quite ill at ease with the idea that Frank may soon be walking around. What if he decided to go out and wander around town yelling at people and showering innocent bystanders with chirpy abuse? He would probably start a fight, get beaten into scrap, and Carlton would be left to answer for it all. He was about to dismiss the entire project as a pointless and probably dangerous waste of time and money, but something in his inner man began to rise up at the smell of another complex technological challenge. This was an opportunity to really push forward, perhaps break into another market, maybe start a cooperative venture with one of the big manufacturers and get mega rich. Imagine something like Frank in the form of a butler or handyman, capable of keeping your investment portfolio organized while fixing your car. Not forgetting that he could keep you entertained with a steady flow of jovial banter. And imagine millions of them built by Sony or Honda.

Carlton shook his head in an attempt to dispel the thought, but it was already too late. He knew himself well enough to know that there would be no way for him to stop now. Once he had an idea he would not stop until he had made it into a reality. That was what had got him to where he was today, so there was no reason to stop now.

 

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