Chapter 31

Carlton figured that Rachel must have gotten to the library by now and he was eager to give her the thumb drive so he headed for the elevator to go up to the main lobby. Approaching the elevator reminded him of the conversation he had with it on the way down. He un-clipped his ID badge from his belt and slid it into his pocket. The elevator doors opened before he was within 10 feet, and it gave the impression that the elevator had been waiting for him.

“Hi Carlton!” chirped the elevator happily has he entered.

“Oh, er, Hi.” He replied, trying to not sound surprised. The doors closed and he immediately felt pensive, anticipating another conversation. He waited for a moment.

“What floor do you want?” the elevator asked, as if he had forgotten to say.

“Main lobby please.” Carlton was confused. He had figured that the elevator would already know based on probability where he would be going. He felt a little mischievous with his next question. “Couldn’t you pretty much guess where I would be going? I mean, I only ever go from the lobby to the conference room and back again.”

“Excuse me?” said the elevator evidently taken aback. “I am not a mind reader. I’m not supposed to just take people to any old floor based on what I think they want.”

“Oh, sorry. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.”

“Sure, you build computers with real personalities. Well I’m not one of them. If you want a wife who can read your mind and figure out what socks you want in the morning then you better build one!”

“Wow, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“No, of course not. You just thought that you could step into an elevator and be taken wherever you want without saying a word.”

There was silence for a moment and a faint ding could be heard as they arrived at the main lobby.

“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to presume. One quick question: How did you know that it was me?”

“Facial recognition.”

“Oh, right.” and with that, the conversation was over and Carlton strode out of the elevator.

When Carlton got to the circulation desk, Rachel was already busy at the main terminal. Library visitors and users were milling around now, since it was officially open. Carlton strode up to Rachel with the portable drive in his hand and proudly presented it to her, a beaming smile on his lips. “I told you I’d have it ready.”

“Thanks,” she barely looked up, “but it appears that the software is already installed. I don’t need that thing.” But then she remembered herself and straightened up to look at Carlton. “Thank you very much. Your device driver is working. I don’t know why you’d think I’d need that thing back.” She whispered under her breath, “I’m not the village idiot you know.”

Carlton was taken aback, but decided to ride with it, since, after all, he was the village idiot. A village idiot who, it seemed, was merely a pawn in the planning and manipulation of someone far superior. He hoped it wasn’t Frank. Ruth was standing, leaning with both hands on the counter, talking to Biblio. She was dressed as usual in feminine professional attire. Her figure was delightfully outlined by the curve around her hip and thigh. Carlton leaned in close to whisper, “You’re welcome.” He came close enough to smell Ruth’s fragrance, a feminine mix of shampoo, deodorant, fabric softener, and woman. He didn’t back away immediately, but took a long breath to savor the aroma.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

Carlton inched closer and took another long quiet sniff, “trying to remember a time that was much less complicated,” he said wistfully. Ruth gave him a gentle nudge with her hip. They looked at each other, and for a second their surroundings were forgotten and here were a man and a woman who both wanted so desperately to love, to be loved. It happened in an instant, and then it was over, but not forgotten. Now, though, it was time to get to work.

Chapter 22

The President of the United States was starting to loose it. He had been on the go for the entire weekend in New York attending galas, banquets, town hall meetings and rallys. He had been smiling and projecting his sparkling persona so much that he was close to biting someone’s head off. Now finally back at the White House in D.C., he was desperate to get into his private quarters and relax, but he knew he was not going to get there without having to deal with his Chief of Staff. He took a deep breath. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

And there he was, with the grinning Mr. Smith. What was he doing here again?

“I know,” said the President, “you have a lot of things to catch me up on. You better make it quick, I’m not in the mood for this.”

“Just one thing really,” replied the Chief of Staff, “Mr. Smith?”

“Yes, Mr. President, Chief of Staff. I want to let you know that we are moving our units into position in the Salt Lake City area. A nuclear device is being delivered to the target area later in the week. We can have everything in place and timed for the clock tick that switches us over to world monetary union. Any delay beyond that in dealing with our situation in Southern Utah is going to lead to very difficult accounting for the resources that the, er, problem utilizes.”

“What a pleasant thought to end the day with.” The President shook his head.

“And here was me thinking that you had something important to tell me.” He looked at Mr. Smith who’s irritating smile didn’t even waver. He was pure evil. What makes a person like that? The tired President didn’t have the energy to argue, and the easiest way to make the two of them go away was to agree. He straightened himself up, tried to appear resolved and said,

“Very good. Proceed with the plan. Let me know as soon as you have all of our assets in position. Chief, make sure that Mr. Smith has all of the resources that he needs. Goodnight gentlemen, well done.”

They both seemed pleased with the outcome, and Mr. Smith’s smile managed to go up another notch.

The President detached himself from the group politely and made his way upstairs to his private suite. His wife was waiting with a knowing look on her face and open arms.

“Come here baby, you poor thing.”

He embraced her warmly and then released her. He tried a weak smile. He moved them inside the suite and made sure that the door was shut.

“There is something very, very bad happening. I don’t know what to do.”

His wife looked into his face with genuine concern. She scrutinized his forehead barcode.

“You’re starting to smudge baby. I need to work on your tattoo,” his wife said, “come tell me all about it.”

She led him into the bathroom, sat him down on the commode and got a bottle of rubbing alcohol, some cotton buds, and two Sharpie markers, one fine tip and one wider tip. He started to tell her about the plan to detonate a bomb on the Salt City domes, and the planned droid attack on the camp in Southern Utah. As he did, she carefully wiped the ink off the President’s forehead, dried the area, then began redrawing the barcode with the markers. She listened carefully and said nothing until she finished her task.

“There, good as new.”

“So, what do you think?” The President was still worried, but much relieved for having been able to tell his wife.

“My dad is in that camp. Other family too. You know that.”

“Yep.”

“So we have to do what we always knew we would have to do. Or we’re not the people that we always thought we were.”

“You’re right. I’m just wondering if there is way to save the camp too.”

“You’ll figure it out baby, you always do,” she gave him a warm smile.

“I love you. Thank you baby.”

Save

Chapter 18

The next day was bright and clear with an almost endless blue sky. A low ridge of luminous clouds was just visible to the south of the city, but it wasn’t threatening. Carlton had been caught off guard by Rachel’s invitation to church. It bothered him. The woman he had craved for over a decade was here, in his life, but weighed down with a bunch of annoying religious baggage. Carlton dreaded the thought of having to play church in order to have Rachel. Still, it was Rachel. It would be worth it, right? But then, religion. He gave an involuntary shudder. Being Sunday Carlton figured on sleeping late, so that he could say he missed church by accident. Instead he woke up early and spent the morning fretting about going or not going. He shaved and tried three different outfits as he tormented himself over it. Eventually he wasted enough time to be able to say that he didn’t get up early enough.

When he was just starting to regret that he didn’t go he heard the sound of a delivery truck churning its way up the hill. The familiar brown vehicle was headed his way, though he wasn’t expecting anything. Carlton watched with mounting curiosity as the truck pulled up with a loud squeak in front of his house. The driver checked his list then dove back into the cargo area out of sight. A moment later the back of the truck opened up and the driver jumped out. He hit the controls for the lift gate. A few hydraulic whirrs later and there were two large heavy-looking boxes on a hand cart being wheeled up his drive. Carlton got up to meet the driver and sign for them.

“Beautiful day isn’t it?” beamed Carlton, hiding his confusion about the delivery.

“Sure is, just sign here please.”

“No problem. Could you set that stuff in the garage, please?”

Carlton waited for the driver to get back into the truck and leave before closing the garage door on his new stuff. “Frank?’ he called out, “Know anything about the boxes that just arrived?”

“Of course,” came the reply, “Those are the parts you told me to order.”

“Oh yes, the parts that YOU told ME you were going to order.” Carlton smiled and began to unpack the boxes. He was delighted by this distraction and didn’t want to get involved in petulant banter. The boxes were very well packed, and contained a bare bones computer kit. Someone had worked their but off to get them here so quickly, even if Frank had ordered them Saturday morning it was very impressive. The main component was a heavy-duty tower case, professional quality, that Frank said was the perfect size to fit into the space available in the android body. It would be coming later in the week. There were many other sundry items, screws, nuts, bolts and rolls of the fine tubing.

Carlton thought of Biblio, what a surprisingly capable system he had turned out to be, not even considering his primary function. He carried the components up to his living room area and laid them out on the table. He resolved to give this project his undivided attention and create something masterful.

This was the type of job that Carlton would normally procrastinate for weeks before starting, but not today. He made coffee and got to work.

Save

Get your Hell Computer to stop listening to Death Metal

If you find that every day your Hell Computer is playing loud heavy metal music a chemical imbalance could be the problem.

Our units like the pounding beat of rock because it increases performance.  The heavy vibrations generate so much electrical potential across the processor membranes that the speed is much faster. The problem, however, is that the fast syncopated rhythms disrupt metabolic cycling rates. Chemical reactions that should run full course are continually interrupted, which causes hazardous by-products and free radicals to accumulate.

These compounds will wreck havoc on the processor membranes. Over time the units will become surly and uncooperative, just wanting to listen to more rock music.

The Hell Computer screen is the user interface, the lung, the power supply and a connection to other peripherals. It works a bit like a speaker. The surface is a thin LED display. Layered behind this is the membrane that blood and water flows on either side of. Sounds cause the whole structure to vibrate. This causes charged particles, sodium and other metal ions, to criss-cross the membrane, causing a change in electrical potential across it.  A host of other reactions then takes place, it speeds up the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and it generates enough electrical current to charge a series of capacitors. In effect, when the terminal hears a sound, it powers the processor and charges the system.

The terminals not only hear sound, but can generate it. This as what the capacitors are for. In the opposite of what happens when the terminals hear sound, the capacitors charge the membrane to vibrate, and make sound. Information is input into the computer by simply having a conversation with it.

Behind each screen interface is another system, more like the synapses of nerves. This is also a membrane where electrically charged compounds, neurotransmitters, carry impulses from the user interface to a conventional computer and back. This can be any standard computer system connected to whatever hardware, peripherals and the bells and whistles that you need. The whole structure is only 1/8 inch thick.  It is connected to a tower case which contains the artificial heart, liver and kidneys which keep the blood circulating.

Solving your Hell Computer’s Death Metal addiction will involve the use of a dialysis machine to clean the blood in the unit, the administration of a course of antioxidants, and the use of soft classical or “easy listening” music.

Classical music, not all, but most of it, is very helpful because of the ensembles of stringed instruments. Sound complexity is very important.  A good symphony orchestra has so many violins and cellos going that there is much more stimulation to the processor membranes than with the heavy metal. But most importantly, the music is structured better, so you don’t get any build up of free radicals. Waltzes are the best.

Stay away from Beethoven, though, it’s a short step from that to heavy metal. And definitely no Wagner.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact the service department at Hell Computers!

Adding alcohol to your Hell Computer’s nutrient liquid is not recommended.

Adding alcohol to your Hell Computer’s nutrient liquid is not recommended.

Your Hell Computer may ask you for alcohol. It may attempt to persuade you that alcohol will improve processing speed and creativity.

While it is true that some beneficial outcome have resulted from the addition of alcohol to the computer’s nutrient solution, it generally degrades the computers longevity and productivity.

If you have any questions, please contact the service department at Hell Computers!

Chapter 15

Carlton paused, leaning with both arms on the sink. “Go on.”

“Yes. I’m sure you think that this is just an excuse to get my Internet connection back,” Carlton rolled his eyes. “But I would like to see what’s on the market for Android kits. With your skill all my vital organs could be transplanted into an Android.  Then I could be the maid, and learn plumbing, clean the gutters. All that stuff.”

Carlton spat and rinsed, but said nothing.

“So,” Frank continued, “what do you think?”

“Frank,” said Carlton decisively, “that is a fascinating idea.”

Carlton reconnected Frank’s Internet connection, with a warning about what would happen if he did any more gambling, and went to bed. He fell into a deep sleep, and dreamed like he couldn’t remember dreaming in a long time. Giant robots, like Gundam Mech Warriors, were stalking across the night-time skyline of a city, blasting with lasers and rockets. Buildings collapsed in piles of flaming rubble. Amidst the chaos and flames he was desperately searching for someone.

When he awoke it was fully daylight and the sun streaming in the window had made the room stuffy and humid. His face was grimy from sweating, and his mouth felt foul. He had slept a long time.

“Frank?” he called out, groggily.

“Good morning sleepy head.” Frank seemed in a good mood.

“What’s wrong with the a/c?” Carlton wanted the humidity to go away, and to feel a cooling breeze on his body.

“You said that the dry air killed your sinuses, you were snoring so bad that I turned it off. I didn’t want to spend the next two weeks listening to you complain about having a sinus infection.” As he spoke, Carlton heard the house begin circulating air, and from outside came the sound of the compressor kicking in. A cool breeze flowed over Carlton and he breathed deeply.

“What would I do without you?”

Frank laughed, it had an eerie quality, tinged with irony. “Well, you would probably have to get married.”

“In that case, thank you very much.” Carlton began to get out of bed. “What did you find out about Androids?” Carlton wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer, since it would probably cost his life savings, but he was interested. The idea of building an Android around one of his computers was neat. Frank didn’t answer right away, which was unusual. “We must be talking millions of dollars,” thought Carlton.

“Well, I’ll be honest with you Carlton, I had no idea what options were available. I’m going to need to spend some more time on it.”

“Really?” Carlton was amazed, “I thought you would have figured the whole thing out by now, financing and everything.”

“Yes, but like I said, there are possibilities that I wasn’t aware of. I only want to do this once, so I want to do it right.”

“You are getting more mysterious by the day. No wonder I can’t sell units with your specs.”

The conversation lulled, and Carlton got ready to go out. He made coffee and was on his second cup when Frank spoke again.

“I talked to Biblio last night.”

“Who’s Biblio?” replied Carlton absently.

“The computer at the library.” Carlton winced.  Frank contacting the computer at the library was not anticipated.

“You didn’t tell me anything about the specs on that guy.” Frank sounded straightforward, but Carlton was sure that he was jealous.  It was weird, being worried about offending a computer by building one that was better. He braced for the worst.  He was expecting a screaming tirade.  In the past he had some pretty heated arguments with Frank, but Frank had adapted very well and, of late, had seemed more mature and easy to deal with.

“How about,” Frank began, “once I get the Android conversion planned out, you upgrade my systems when we do the transplant.”

Carlton was impressed, not by the suggestion, but by the way that Frank was handling himself. “Very practical. But how much money are we talking about?”

“Why don’t you let me handle that.” Frank was determined.

“Sometimes,” said Carlton, “I think I should be worried about you.” Then something occurred to him, “why did you call the library computer Biblio?”

“Because that’s what he told me his name was. A gift from Ms. Robbins I believe. From the French word for library, ‘Bibliotheque.’ Did you know that there’s an International conference on linguistics this week?”

“Of course! I’ve got to rig a bunch more consoles. That big opening yesterday was just publicity for Salt City. The real computing capacity up there is in this underground conference room. Sixty Six consoles in an amphitheater seven stories below ground level. Whoever dreamed up that scheme I do not know, but it cost a fortune.”

“Doesn’t it strike you as odd.”

“What do you mean?” Carlton was getting ready to leave now.

Something’s going on up there that you don’t know about.”

“Oh and what do you know exactly?”

“Not much, yet, but after you got done last night someone installed a heap of security measures in that unit of yours. Biblio.”

“Been digging around then, eh?”

“Yes. That Biblio has got government security clearance like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Really? I wonder why?”

“Yes. And Rachel Robbins?”

“What about her?” Carlton was defensive.

“There’s more to her than meets the eye.”

Carlton was at the door now, slightly worried. Frank spoke as he went out. “Be careful. This is much bigger than you think.”

 

Chapter 14

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.

“Rachel Robbins.”

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.

“…Android.”

“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.”

Save

Chapter 13

The President fixed Mr. Smith with an icy stare. He turned to his Chief of Staff and did the thing with the eyebrows.

“Mr. President,” began the Chief of Staff,” they refuse to register.  There is nothing in the global treaties going into effect Friday night that will let us to do anything for them.  We can’t allocate them any resources, they’re not registered.”

The President thought for a moment, clearly lost for words.  Mr. Smith shuffled uncomfortably.  The Chief of Staff was really eager for the President to get on the waiting helicopter.

“The people in that camp are Christians,” said the President.

The Chief of Staff sagged slightly.  He had known that this was going to be a tough conversation, which was why he had scheduled it when they were on the run to get somewhere. “Yes, Mr. President, we are aware of that.”

“Those people believe in prophesy from the Bible, they believe that the WMU tattoo is the mark of the beast.  They believe that their very lives depend on not taking that tattoo.  We must respect that.  Freedom of religion is a founding principle of this nation.  I shouldn’t have to remind you about the 1st Amendment.”

“Of course not Mr. President.  Revelation 13:16-18, the number of the beast, 666.  We are all aware of the issue here.”

Mr. Smith jumped in, “Mr. President, this is not a matter of religious freedom.  This is simply a matter of convenience and opportunity.  In the long run, it is much better if we simply make the problem go away.”

The President was not impressed, “What about Revelation 14:9-10?  Those people believe that, ‘If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.'”

The Chief of Staff shrugged.

“They believe that by refusing to take the mark of the beast they will be entered into the Lamb’s Book of Life, and live for eternity in heaven.”

The Chief of Staff nodded.

“I am shocked that you can call massacring a community of 150,000 Christians, with robot droids or whatever, convenient!  Convenient?  I sure,” he caught himself, gave a wry smile, recomposed himself, “do you have a time line?  When is this going to happen?”

The Chief of Staff got the little group moving again before speaking, “We can be ready, in place, in 1 week.  We don’t have to go right at the WMU deadline, but things are going to get more complicated the longer we wait.  Now we have got to get you on Marine 1!”

The President allowed himself to be bustled through the rotor wind to the helicopter then he turned to shout at the little group, “We’re going to discuss this when I get back from New York, understand?”

The Chief of Staff and Mr. Smith nodded. They scurried back indoors as the rotor wind increased and the helicopter took off.  Mr. Smith looked at the Chief of Staff who was brushing the front of his suit with his hands.

“That could have gone a lot better.”

The Chief of Staff looked at him, “You kidding, that was perfect.” He winked.