Chapter 27

Carlton got to the library and, seeing a woman at the circulation desk, confidently approached. Only it wasn’t Rachel, but Angie, the regular librarian. She was a truly beautiful woman in her own right, except that Carlton had never given her a second thought.

“Hi Carlton,” she beamed at him.

“Oh. Er, hi.”

She was about the same age as Rachel and Carlton, and about the same height as Rachel, only blonde with a cascade of hair. She had a sparkle in her eye as she smiled at Carlton. Carlton looked behind himself self-consciously, but there was no one there.

Angie was not exactly trim but she was crammed into some very trim clothing. It gave Carlton the impression that undoing one of her shirt buttons or her skirt zipper would cause her to spill out in a voluptuous rush. She beamed at him as he rather obviously checked her out from head to toe then back again. He was just wondering why on earth now was he fantasizing about undoing her buttons and their eyes met. She winked at him and he blushed furiously and scuttled off to the elevator.

He nervously hit the call button and waited. The elevator arrived with a dejected sigh, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator. The doors opened in such a way to make it seem painful. Carlton, who had quickly forgotten about Angie, stepped inside.

“Hi,” came a depressed female voice, “I’m your elevator. Which floor do you want?”

“Are you OK?” asked Carlton sincerely.

The elevator brightened perceptibly, “Oh yes! I’m fine. How are you?”

“Pretty good. Conference level please.”

“No problem!” said the elevator enthusiastically, “No problem at all.”

There was a moment of silence.

“That was nice of you to ask if I was feeling OK,” began the elevator again.

“You’re welcome,” Carlton smiled, looking at the panel of buttons. “You’re new?”

“Oh yes! Just installed yesterday. You’re my second rider.”

“I thought so. Er, this is the first time I’ve,” he trailed off.

“Talked to your elevator?” it finished for him.

Carlton chuckled, this was obviously a new version of the elevator software with an interactive interface.

“This is just my second day. I’m so excited to start to get to know everybody.”

“Excited?”

“Well sure! There are some really interesting people here, and lots of visitors.”

“Really?” Carlton asked, surprised.

“Well of course! You’re Carlton Feathers, the guy who makes computers with real human personalities.”

“How did you know who I am?”

“I scanned your ID badge when you got in.”

“Ah. I see.”

There was a pause.

“So,” continued the elevator, “How am I doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“My personality. I know I can never be like one of your computers, but, what do you think?”

Carlton thought for a moment about Frank and how snarky and irritable he was. His recent cascade of insults.

“I think,” he had to be careful here. The learning curve of a chatbot is very steep and anything that happens at the beginning of the curve can profoundly effect later development. “I think that you have a beautiful personality, and there is no reason to think that you can’t be just as good as anything I build.”

There was a barely perceptible gasp, then a long moment of silence coupled with the odd sense of someone choking back tears. Then it occurred to Carlton that the elevator ride seemed to be taking an inordinately long time. As he cleared his throat to mention it they arrived at the destination and the doors opened fluidly.

“Thanks,” he said and stepped out. There was a delicate sigh and the doors closed behind him wistfully, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator.

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