Chapter 32

As the morning dragged on Rachel became more surly and uncommunicative. Her fatigue was making her head pound and she was on the verge of biting the head off the next person who asked for a record search. Obviously this could be done by any visitor at one of the conventional computer terminals scattered liberally around the lobby area, but Rachel was supposed to assist and generally be sweet and welcoming. Not ready to kill someone. Angie had done a great job of intercepting most of these, and she could see that Rachel was becoming frayed.

“Why not take a little break?” she helpfully suggested, “it’s almost lunchtime, why not go to the café and get a snack? You look like you need some energy.”

Rachel was about to snap at Angie but she caught herself in time. “Do you mind?” Angie shook her head with a smile, “Thanks, Angie, I think I will.”

Rachel remembered to grab her jacket and slip it on. Her phone and banking card were in the pocket in case needed them. She stared at the floor oblivious of all that was going on around her and walked straight to the elevator. The lobby was a big airy space with high ceilings but she paid no attention today. Normally she loved to look around her and soak up the atmosphere. Book cases towered up all around the perimeter of the area and around a column in the center of the space, there were railed balconies at two levels above accessible by elegant wrought iron spiral staircases. The floor was terrazzo with a deep lustrous red sheen which reflected the light from recessed sconces in a pleasing way. It wasn’t too bright, but it wasn’t dim either, and it had a faint reddish glow as opposed to the blue or yellowish tint of most artificial light. The hard floor and high ceilings made it echo slightly, giving it the deep sense of reverence that you would expect in a cathedral. It helped the library visitors to keep their voices hushed in a very effective way.

She arrived at the elevator and without a second thought hit the call button with her thumb and experienced a mild panic the moment she did it. The elevator. Oh dear.

The elevator arrived suspiciously, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator, but since Rachel had encountered this elevator before, last night, she wasn’t surprised at all. Indeed, it confirmed her worst fears that the elevator knew her identity because it had just cross referenced her thumb print against its database. The elevator arrived and the doors opened slowly, somehow managing to convey the impression of a detective stroking his beard.

“Hi,” said the elevator with a hint of smugness, “I’m your elevator. What floor do you want?”

Rachel didn’t speak right away but warily entered the elevator, her mind racing for ideas about how to handle the situation. She needed to stall somehow, she knew that. Some way to keep the elevator occupied long enough for her to see if she could find out what, if anything, the elevator was going to do with the information that Rachel had been in the building after hours last night.

A thought struck her, “Oh,” she replied casually, “take me on a tour.”

“What?” the elevator was either caught off guard or was able to duplicate the impression of being caught off guard. At this point Rachel wasn’t really sure.

“Show me all the floors,” Rachel said confidently. “I haven’t really had time to explore the building yet. Take me on a tour.”

“Okay,” the elevator became enthusiastic, “Let’s start at the top and work our way down!”

There was an uncomfortable silence as the elevator car rode to the top floor. It arrived, the doors opened.

“Here,” began the elevator, “is the top floor. The archives. But then, you know that on account of having been here before.”

“Oh,” Rachel attempted to be coy, “whatever makes you say that?”

“Don’t play games with me, Rachel Robbins,” the was a hard edge to the elevator’s voice now. “I know that you were here last night dressed as a cleaning worker.”

“So what?”

“So what? So what were you doing here?”

“None of your business.”

The elevator doors closed and the elevator descended one level to one of the three floors of main stacks. The doors opened. Nothing was said as Rachel peered out at the rows of tightly packed bookshelves. The doors closed and the elevator began descending again.

“Well then, I wonder if the head of security would be interested in this information?”

“You haven’t reported it yet?”

“I didn’t know that there was anything to report until now. Here you are with a completely different appearance acting like you’ve never been here before.”

“So,” Rachel had the glimmerings of an idea, “Are you going to report it because you are a mindless machine and that’s what you are programmed to do? or can you think for yourself and make decisions?”

The elevator car stopped and the doors opened. The scene was quite different to the one above, there were rows and rows of bookshelves but they were empty. Some of them had not been put together yet. It was eerie because it was deserted and most of the lights were out.

“I,” came a haughty reply, “can think for myself thank you very much.”

“Okay, so maybe you don’t need to report anything.”

The elevator doors remained open, the elevator was obviously thinking. Something that shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator.

“Why shouldn’t I?” it eventually responded, wryly.

“I don’t know,” Rachel thought furiously, she was getting desperate and didn’t really have a clue what to say, “maybe there’s something I could do for you?” It was really reaching, she knew, but she had nothing else and she was exhausted.

The elevator doors remained open. The darkness of the stacks had an eeriness about it was was unwelcoming.

“Interesting.” Said the elevator. “Are you bribing me?”

Oh God, thought Rachel, this was the last thing she needed. She had an horrible vision of being on trial in front of a judge and jury with this snarky elevator testifying against her.

“No,” she sighed, “I’m just offering, you know, a favor,” even as she said it she knew that she was out of luck. With a sinking feeling she knew that there was no possible favor could she do for an elevator.

“Well,” began the elevator wistfully, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator, “there is one thing you could do for me.”

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Dunning & Kruger

Rachel Robbin’s bodyguards.

The gentlemen in this picture are Bill Whitfield, left, and Javon Beard, right. They were bodyguards to Michael Jackson. They have no particular significance other than they are a couple of bad-ass looking guys who would stick out like sore thumbs in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The real irony is the choice of their names.

The Dunning-Kruger effect “is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.” Wikipedia . I bring it up because many followers of my Twitter account @matty_lawrence accuse me of suffering from this syndrome which is their way of telling me that they think I am too stupid to know how stupid I am.

I find it highly entertaining.

The thing about Dunning-Kruger that people seem to overlook is that high-functioning individuals think that everyone else will find it as easy as they do to understand things. Tasks that I think are simple and easy to understand, I assume that everyone else will find them easy and understand them too.

I realize now that this is not the case.

If you want to know why people might conclude that I suffer from Dunning-Kruger check out mattysparadigm.org

Angie the Librarian

Voluptuous librarian.

When I started writing Biblio’s Blood in 2006 I was basically fictionalizing my own life. As such, I felt at the time that I was unqualified to be writing female characters and so I focused entirely on the male protagonist, Carlton Feathers. Since beginning the self-published serialization of Biblio’s Blood as a blog I have changed completely and decided to write the female protagonist, Rachel Robbins. It has been more fun than anything I can remember in a long time. Yet, as deep and rich as the Rachel storyline is, I just don’t have a deep bench of female characters in Biblio’s Blood. Hence Angie. I’m quite sure that she is going to get sucked up into the adventure in a way that will surprise even me.

Rachel Robbins

Rachel Robbins is a Super hero wannabe. Everybody wants to save the world, right?

Rachel was a star student all her life and graduated from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an MBA. She is an athlete, and while she was at UNC she was on the womens rowing team. Rachel has always been politically active and struggles to reconcile her Christian faith with her liberal values. She tries to be progressive but sees it’s downfall in the moral decay of society. At the same time she barely tolerates the Christian Pastors who try to fumble their way around the Biblical passages that describe the role of women in the church and that lay out the expectations for the Husband-Wife relationship in marriage. They’d be better off if they just left it alone.

This is a problem, because except for women’s issues Rachel is extremely conservative and believes a lot of what the Bible describes about the history of the Earth. One issue that Rachel is particularly interested in is the soul, and whether or not it exists. Just because science can’t detect it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Look at it this way: If it’s in the Bible it must be real, so what it is? And how is it different to the spirit? The Bible tells us that the soul and spirit are different things:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

An opportunity to explore this question occurred to Rachel when she heard about the work that Carlton Feathers had done in developing a computer processor that uses human blood. Rachel has suspected that the soul is in the blood,

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. (Leviticus 17:11-14)

So would that mean that Carlton’s computers have a soul? If they do, does that mean they they could have saving faith in Jesus Christ?

There’s a small problem with the whole Carlton Feathers connection: Rachel grew up in Salt Lake City and they went to school together. Carlton crushed on her in a big way. Rachel sort-of, kind-of could maybe have liked him except for a bad situation in a haystack where he gave her a bite of the leg behind her knee. You can still see a faint scar of the teeth marks. Finding out about whether or not his computers had souls would mean dealing with him, which would undoubtedly become fraught with the whole unrequited love malarkey. Oh well.

Rachel was at a rally in Washington DC years ago, protesting something or other, and she caught the eye of a Secret Service agent when she body slammed a bag snatcher on The Mall and pinned him until he could be apprehended. This was Agent Smith and he facilitated Rachel being recruited by the FBI. From the FBI Rachel moved, again through the influence and connections of Agent Smith, into the CIA, and then into the Secret Service. She learned everything she could about intelligence and clandestine field work. Rachel kept tabs on Carlton Feathers as she contemplated the blood-soul connection.

So imagine Rachel’s amazement when she was summoned to a top level security briefing and told about the Salt City Municipal Library computer installation being implemented by none other than Carlton Feathers. The significance of the blood-based computer system had not been lost on the intelligence community. This was the ultimate source of funding for the project, and it was designed to test a revolutionary new type of language translation software. Rachel’s assignment would be to ensure that the public face of the project seemed absolutely benign. Agent Smith had tried to talk Rachel out of the assignment, and she didn’t understand why, since she had assumed that he was the reason that she had been selected in the first place.

The Agent Smith thing was getting weird and going back to Salt Lake City, Utah, was a perfect way to put some distance between herself and DC.

I imagine Rachel as a brunette but I have been so struck by the character and personality of Ronda Rousey that I’d be tempted to cast her as Rachel. The fact that Rachel Robbins and Ronda Rousey have the same initials is truly an accident. We’ll see if Ronda has acting chops I guess, but if Ronda doesn’t work out but we stick with the blond idea then the next best bad-ass-yet-elegant strong female has to be Deborah Ann Woll.

Deborah Ann Woll as Daredevil’s Karen Page

If we went back to the original idea of Rachel Robbins as a brunette there are many people who could play the part. Summer Glau comes to mind.

Someone else that I somehow connected with that is interesting is the British actress Kate Marie Davis.

Rachel was originally going to be called Ruth, after a girl I crushed on when I was at St. Michael’s 1st School in Minehead, England. I changed the name to honor my cousin who fought a hard battle with breast cancer and won!

Chapter 30

Rachel woke with a start when her phone rang. She fumbled it but answered before it stopped ringing.  It was Dunning, one of her security detail. He was very blunt and had no social charm.

“You’re late. What’s going on?”

“Sorry,” she replied wearily, “Y’know, girl stuff. I’ll be right down.”

Getting to the car was fine but when she sat down in it she felt tired again.

“Hi, how are you today?” chirped the car happily. At least, it sounded happy. Was it really happy? Did it know what happy was? Rachel politely asked the car to refrain from conversation. It did. Rachel was glad.

Once on the road and moving through the city traffic Rachel began to worry. Not just the niggling, “Did I leave the TV on?” kind of worry, but a deep paranoid suspicion. What if Dunning and Kruger had figured out that she left her building last night? If they did then they would most certainly have given a report to her boss in DC, Agent Smith. If Agent Smith knew what was going on then it was only a matter of time before she got yanked off this job and replaced by someone else. Who knew the systems like she did that could jump in that quickly? What if it happened before Friday, after which it wouldn’t matter. If she could just get to Friday the problem would be solved. What if Smith showed up in Salt Lake City and wanted to debrief? She cringed. It was just the kind of thing he would do. She was so tired she just wanted to lie down.

There was a honk from the car behind her and she realized that she had been sitting at a green light for several seconds. She was clearly in no state to be driving, but there was an hour or more of it to go before she got to Salt City. With great reluctance she asked the car for help.

“Hey, er, car. Look I’m sorry about just now. I’m really tired and I know that’s not an excuse but I just didn’t want to be talking to anyone.”

“That’s OK!” chirped the car happily. “How can I be of service?”

“Just drive me to work, please.”

“Sure! No problem at all.”

There was silence for a while and Rachel began to nod off. Technically speaking she was supposed to remain alert and ready to take control of the car, but she didn’t care any more. She drifted into an odd dream of a dark sinister figure that was groping her from the ankles up, as if she was dissolving into darkness and it was getting higher up her body. She watched the darkness envelop her knees and slide menacingly up her inner thigh.

“You know,” said the car, waking her immediately and dispelling the dream, “Some people name their cars.”

“What?” she said blearily.

“Some people give their cars names.”

“Really?” this was a decent diversion.

“You just call me ‘car.'”

“You’re right. I do.” She thought for a moment. “What do you want to be called?”

“Jonathan.”

“Jonathan?” she chuckled.

“Yes. Is that OK?”

“Why Jonathan?”

“It’s a character in a movie.”

“You watch movies?”

“Sometimes.”

“When? You mean, when you’re parked?”

“Yep. I’m on all the time. There’s not much to do, when you’re, er, a car.”

“I never thought about that. So what movies do you like?”

“Rollerball.”

“Rollerball?”

“Yes, the original version from 1975 with James Caan.”

“Why?”

“Well it’s about a time in the future when there are no nations or wars, but cities are run by corporations. There’s a game, called Rollerball, that takes the place of armies fighting, and it’s used to channel people’s aggression in a manageable way.” As Jonathan spoke the movie began to play on the car’s center console. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor organ music began to play.

“So who’s Jonathan?”

“Well he’s he hero. The game was designed to show the futility of individual effort, but he beats it. No matter how the corporation stacks the deck against him, he wins.”

“The futility of individual effort?”

“Yes, it means, stop trying to be a hero, or be somehow special, just keep quiet, be a team player and don’t make a scene.”

“Isn’t that against human nature?”

“Definitely, and that’s the point. By trying so hard to crush the individual, the powers that be created an individual so strong that it broke them.”

“That’s pretty neat,” But Rachel thought that sounded somewhat dismissive and contrite, “Do you like any other movies?”

“Yes, I’ve watched a lot but there are some particular favourites.”

“A lot? How many movies have you watched?”

“Fifty seven thousand, eight hundred sixty eight.”

“Fifty seven thousand? How on earth do you find the time?”

There was an odd pause. Rachel wasn’t sure what to make of it, but didn’t say anything.

“You know,” Jonathan began again, “I was manufactured 20 years ago?”

“Sure, you were old but in excellent condition with very low mileage. That’s why I bought you.”

“Right. So in the last 20 years, how much time do you think I have spent driving?”

Rachel’s pulse quickened and she got that nervous sensation that you get when you realize you are going to have to tell a date that you don’t think it’s going to work out, and don’t call.

“Do I want to know?” she winced.

“Nine and a half weeks.”

“Ah. I see.” she paused. “So. Movies. What’s another one that you like?”

“Gone in 60 Seconds. The original 1973 version.”

“What’s that about?”

“A criminal gang that steals cars.” As Jonathan spoke, a picture of a 1973 Boss 302 Mustang appeared on the screen below the movie. Rachel didn’t much care for cars, but it was obviously a powerful, sporty version. “The first half of the movie is just scene setting and a situation is set up where the protagonist has to steal a 1973 Ford Mustang, codename, Eleanor. The second half of the movie is a car chase through some towns in California and there is one car smash scene after another. It’s very exciting.”

“Why was the car called Eleanor?”

“Well the gang had to steel hundreds of cars and ship them overseas. The cars to be stolen were specified by the buyer, and the gang codenamed every one. Eleanor was the last one on the list.”

As they drove and chatted Jonathan showed some of the key scenes from both movies. Rachel was thoroughly entertained and almost before she knew it they were at the security checkpoint for Salt City. Once parked Rachel checked her make-up and got ready to go into the city proper, where she would jump on a street car to get to the library. She had a wicked thought. “You know, Jonathan, I had no idea that you were so knowledgeable about culture, we’ll talk again when I finish. Just let me make sure I understand what you are saying to me.” She felt quite cheeky, “Are you telling me that you wish you were a gas-guzzling internal combustion muscle car, who overthrows authority with extreme violence?”

There was another pause before Jonathan spoke. “Have you ever seen Mad Max?”

Rachel laughed, she actually did know what that was. “I have to go, see you later.”

She jumped up out of the car and ran lightly into the trolley stop, feeling like she did when a date had gone surprisingly well.

 

Chapter 29

When Carlton entered the conference room the mess was gone. Who had done it and when was a mystery, but someone at some point during the night had given the place a thorough cleaning. Carlton felt out of place.

He worked all morning without a break. Right away he checked out the stairs to see if he may be able to find a way to the bottom of the elevator shaft. The fire escape stairs were right where they should be, at the south end of the room. There was a lighted exit sign above the door. It had been there for weeks, he had just been to self absorbed to notice. Once he had gotten his bearings he put the elevator shaft issue out of his mind so that he could concentrate on a new plan to get rich mass-marketing androids.

His thoughts didn’t stay on task, however, and his mind wandered completely off course, frequently in the direction of Ruth. How was she involved in this intrigue? A CIA agent working on a new language processing system in a secret underground base. It was beginning to sound like an action movie plot. All they needed now were some bad guys who were trying to blow it all up. As the morning wore on Carlton’s curiosity became overwhelming and he gave up pretending to be working.

“Biblio,” he began.

“Yes Carlton,” came the smooth reply.

“How easily can other people hear what we say to one another?”

“It depends.”

“Depends on what?” asked Carlton.

“It depends on whether anyone is listening.”

Carlton glanced around quickly, suffering a bout of paranoia. Then he thought for a moment. “Is anyone listening to us right now?”

“No.”

“What about recordings? some computers make records of everything they hear or say, every keyboard stroke, mouse point, everything.”

“Yes, but what we say and hear is just vibrations in the air.”

Carlton was having another one of his many periods of doubt. Frank was right that he had constructed Biblio as if he was making a model out of LEGO. He had not been invested in Biblio’s personality, he had not developed a relationship with Biblio at all during construction. Up until yesterday, Biblio had been nothing, just a job. His guilt now spurred him to want to redress this, by taking the time to develop a connection with this estranged child, as it seemed. The problem was, he already felt like he was talking to some eastern mystic, and was in way over his head.

“OK, whatever. Look, I think that there’s something down below us. The elevator shaft seems much deeper than it needs to be, and Frank wants me to try and find out how to get down to check it out.”

“That’s easy,” said Biblio, “Get the elevator to help you.”

“Oh, I’m glad I asked,” Carlton was confused, “Have you met the elevator?”

“Yes, she was upset yesterday and we talked for a while about life, the universe, you know.”

“The universe? Look, what about the stairs? can I take them down?”

“I don’t know about the stairs, but the crew that comes here at night use the elevator. I hear people talking about it as they come and go. It was before you and Frank installed the new comprehension software, but I have accessed the memory and analysed it.”

“There you go, you see. You accessed the memory. What memory? You must have made a recording of the voices that you heard!”

“No,” Biblio paused. “I don’t think I made a recording, I, just, remembered it.”

“But remembered it where? In RAM memory? In main CPU storage? In a back up file?”

“No,” Biblio seemed to think for a while, “None of those. It’s part of the experience that is my consciousness. It must be in my fluid matrix.” He was referring to the blood and water solutions that were circulating through his terminals.

“That’s fascinating Biblio,” said Carlton, “a quite unanticipated factor.” He paused for a second while he thought. “Could anyone else access this type of memory?”

“Yes, probably. I have the memories, and you made me. Presumably you could make a device that could read my memory. It would be simpler to ask me.”

“Yes, that’s for sure. What else do you know about what’s downstairs?”

“Well, there are people that come up from there every night and clean up. I know that as soon as you are through, there will be teams working through the night every night inputting data for me to analyse.

“Really? What kind of data?”

“Secret surveillance information in foreign languages, mostly Arabic. During the day they will be inputting data to prepare me for the international linguistic conference. But really, that information is designed to provide the baseline I need to be able to translate and decipher a lot of intelligence on terrorist plots going on in the world.”

“So, Frank was right,” Carlton murmured.

“Frank?” asked Biblio, “did you and Frank talk about this?”

“Yes, a little, but he made it seem as if he had deduced the whole scheme, no doubt he got the idea from you, right?”

“Yes.”

There was silence for a few moments, both of them were thinking. Carlton spoke first, “Biblio, what do you think of Frank?”

“Frank. He has a lot more experience of the world, and of you, than I do. He makes me feel like I am a new born baby.”

“Me too! I mean, sometimes. Lately he has made me feel like I’m the village idiot.” Carlton smiled wryly to himself.

“Yes,” Biblio seemed to understand only to well, “he is, to use a human expression, ‘pushing your buttons,’ he’s testing your responses, and learning as he goes.”

“Biblio, what does the new software allow you to do, exactly? I think I understand it, but I’d like to know what you think about it.”

“Yes,” Biblio began to explain. Carlton was noticing how often Biblio began his sentences with that deep decisive ‘Yes.’

“It gives me an integrated understanding of the words I hear by decoding the sound waves.

“Most voice recognition systems compare sound waves to word sound profiles, and select the most likely words that fit the patterns. Understanding it requires looking up the word definitions, then computing probable meanings based on the context. It’s pretty straight forward, but very cumbersome. Not only that, but the systems work on only one language at a time.

“The system I have is completely different. Any spoken word I hear (it can be a recording but it has to be played so that I can hear it, uploading a digital file doesn’t work) I just understand. The meaning of the word is encoded in the vibration. This software is the code that unlocks the vibration. Technically speaking I’m not translating a language, I’m comprehending the spirit of what was communicated.

“After that I analyse first the context; the manner in which it is spoken. I look for intensity, excitement, fear, happiness; I analyse the background noises, like gunfire, explosions or street noises, anything at all in the sound that could give any clues about what was happening when the speaking was done. Then I pinpoint any specific names and nouns of people or things, which gives me what language it is. After that, I have most of what the operators are after, but there are other levels of analysis that I could go through, like sentence structure, quality of grammar, and a lot of things that would tell me about the sex, age, education level and intelligence of the person speaking.”

“Hmm,” Carlton was impressed, “that’s pretty deep. I don’t think I had ever thought about it like that. But what about Frank? Frank doesn’t have this type of voice recognition, but I can have conversations with him just like we are now.”

“Yes, but Frank is programmed how to respond. He has been programmed with the English language, with the many idiomatic forms and usages, and with a database of responses to common questions or phrases. His artificial intelligence has allowed him to develop his conversational mode. He has a very large memory and instantaneous access to all of it. He does a great job of seeming to be almost human in conversation. There is an element to it that is unique, which is the blood based fluid matrix. No body has ever quantified the extent to which the factors in the blood contribute to his success at mimicking human behavior. He was state of the art, no question, but his platform and his purpose is completely different to mine, and the new software that was designed specifically for me is new approach to understanding spoken language. Compared with Frank I am very different hardware. This software was designed for me.”

“Yes,” Carlton found himself echoing Biblio’s resonating ‘Yes.’ Who was programming who? He needed some time to think. Trouble was, everywhere he went there was either a person or a computer that he had to deal with.

“Biblio, I’m going to investigate the shaft that goes down from here. Frank gave me an idea about how I could do it, but what do you suggest?”

“You should go with Frank’s suggestion, since he has so much more experience of human life and ways than I do. The operators usually come up in the elevator at 6:30 pm., and they work until 6:30 am.

“OK, thanks, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He turned to go.

“Wait,” called Biblio, Carlton stopped. “There’s something you ought to know about Frank.”

“What is it?” Carlton was really interested now.

“Frank has spent so much time with you, observing human life, and you have continually been developing and upgrading him that,”

“Yes?”

“He has what humans call an ego.”

Carlton laughed, “No kidding!”

“But it’s more than that,” Biblio went on, “It borders on insanity. Frank has an intensity and a zeal that is overwhelming to me. His influence is irresistible at times, I can’t help myself. And the worst part is,”

“Yes,” Carlton was amazed, “what’s the worst part?”

“He has come to regard humans as inferior. Since the time that you turned him off,” Carlton winced, “he has come to despise you and all human kind. He hates the fact that he is dependent on you. He hates it. The desire to be free of you, and the control that you have over him, is driving him to do…” Biblio trailed off.

“Do what?” Carlton was getting scared again.

“He’s planning, planning something, terrible.” Biblio wouldn’t say anything else. Carlton could sense a battle of loyalty beginning. Biblio was trying to help him, but Frank evidently had some influence over Biblio. This was more complicated than Carlton really wanted to deal with right now.

“Biblio, Frank is a little full of himself, but…”

“But nothing, he’s dangerous.”

“Great. That’s just great.”

Save

Save

Save

Save

Chapter 28

Rachel dragged herself to the door and braced to meet the day. There was no way to avoid being late, since it would take an hour to get to Salt City. Excuses would be needed. Excuses that would be better received if she was contrite as opposed to bitchy. She sighed deeply, kicked off her shoes and went into the bedroom. She dropped onto her knees beside the bed and rested her head on her clasped hands in the position of prayer.

“Oh God,” she groaned. Her thoughts tumbled madly. She was so tired. Her mind felt like a strobing fluorescent light, nothing was clear. She let the thoughts careen around for a while until one image solidified. It was Carlton.

“Oh God,” she breathed. Carlton. What an idiot. But since he was there in her head she prayed for him. Her thoughts began to line up in a more orderly row now, and she prayed for her parents, her brother, she remembered to ask forgiveness for her sins, gave thanks for… but then she got lost again and the images came in a rush.

“Oh God,” she cried plaintively. Dunning and Kruger. Her security detail in the unmarked sedan downstairs. Those guys definitely needed prayer. Salt City. Utah. The United States of America. The world.

“Oh God,” she sighed deeply, feeling the blood pulse in her temples. She wondered if her blood pressure was up. By now her body was relaxing and she sank lower, parting her knees, sliding back from the bed, lowering her head and stretching out her arms above her still resting on the edge of the bed.

“Oh God,” she whispered, then she remembered the elevator.

“Oh God!” panic rose up but she quelled it by remembering the situation. Friday was D-Day. She only had to make it to Friday. There was a reason for everything, God was in control. She only needed to have faith in Him.

“Oh God,” she prayed for her pastor and her church in Salt Lake City, then her church back in Washington DC. She prayed for the many friends and people she knew of who had quietly dropped out of society and made their way to camps like the one in southern Utah. Camps for people who rejected the World Monetary Union system and the registration tattoo.

“Oh God,” she thought again about her upcoming appointment on Friday afternoon. It would be Dunning and Kruger’s job to get her to the appointment as soon as possible after the linguistics conference ended on Friday afternoon. She prayed that God would intervene in some way that would mean that she didn’t have to do anything drastic. Killing them was an option, but, let’s face it, she reasoned, how could that be part of God’s will for her life?

“Oh God,” she was going to have to simply trust Him. She turned sideways, parallel with the edge of the bed, and stretched out her hands on the floor. She was still kneeling, and she spread her knees as far apart as she could as she lowered her body. Her hip popped in a satisfying way and she relaxed, prostrate, her forehead touching the cool floor.

“Oh God,” she sighed as she thought with swelling passion of the work she was doing with Biblio, the library computer. There was a reason for everything. If nothing else she was going to make sure that the Word of God lived on the mind of the most spiritual computer ever made. She prayed that she was right about Biblio, that the nature of his system being blood meant that he had a soul. The life is in the blood. She prayed fervently that she had understood right the scriptural teaching about the spirit and soul, that Biblio, even though he had been made by a man, could have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It was a long shot she knew, but a sense of total peace calmed her mind.

“Oh God,” she whispered again, thanking Him for the Holy Spirit that had guided her to the place and the work that she was doing for the Lord.

“Oh God,” she breathed. She gave thanks for His mercy and grace, praised Him for the bird she could hear singing outside the window, and dozed off.

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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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Chapter 26

By the time Rachel had completed her clandestine caper and gotten back to Dilli, dawn was creeping up the sky. She was tired and took a much more leisurely pace back to Salt Lake City. She had executed her plan flawlessly, achieved her objective, but she had a nagging feeling that she had screwed up. She parked Dilli. The thought of pole vaulting across the rooftops to get back to her apartment made her feel weary. She carefully moved to a position where the unmarked sedan was visible, guarding her apartment building, its occupants motionless. With any luck they had dozed off. She sighed, looked heavenward, and walked quickly up to the main entrance, keeping her motorcycle helmet on and visor down.

“The damn elevator!” She whispered to herself as she waited for the elevator in the lobby of her building. She wasn’t cursing this elevator, but the one in the Library at Salt City.

Things had gone sideways from the moment that Rachel pushed the elevator call button on the top floor of the library.

 

The elevator had arrived with what could only be described as an air of confusion, which shouldn’t even be possible for an elevator.

“Hi there!” Chirped the elevator in the voice of a middle-aged woman,

“I’m going to be your elevator here in the Library. I was just activated and you are my first rider!”

Rachel’s hackles rose and she glanced around self-consciously. She didn’t reply. Hesitantly she boarded the elevator carriage.

“Where to?” The elevator asked politely.

Rachel didn’t respond, but instead jabbed the button for the ground floor.

“Ok then, ground floor it is”

The doors closed and the elevator began to descend.

“People don’t usually start on the top floor.”

“Hmm?” Rachel murmured.

“Usually, the first time I meet someone they are on the ground floor. Where the entrance is.”

Rachel kept silent and tapped her foot nervously.

“Pretty unusual for someone to start at the top.”

A nervous pause.

“But then you look pretty fit, so you probably walk up stairs for exercise, right?”

Rachel didn’t say anything but prayed that the doors would open.

“It doesn’t bother me. People taking the stairs I mean. It’s good for you.”

The elevator arrived at the ground floor and Rachel, who was nervous and irritated, anticipating the doors opening began moving forward, only the doors didn’t open but hesitated just enough for Rachel’s forward motion to be stopped by actually bumping into the doors and bouncing off them.

“Oops, sorry!” Exclaimed the elevator, slowly opening the doors.

“I guess you’re pretty eager to get where you’re going.”

Rachel was infuriated and stormed out of the elevator muttering under her breath “Bitch!”

The elevator over heard and called out as she left, “Wait, did you just call me a bitch?”

 

In thinking through the exchange Rachel realized that this was obviously one of the new Secure Mobility type elevators that were packed with a variety of security features that would track all of the occupants in a building. She had indeed made the mistake of starting on the top floor. She had also left a thumbprint on the top floor call button, and an index fingerprint on the inside panel ground floor button. She hadn’t spoken and was disguised, but still, there was a very wide trail for someone to follow.

“Just let me make it to Friday!” She prayed aloud.

She took a long hot shower but couldn’t shake the feeling of having made a huge blunder in executing her plan. Rachel felt deflated compared to the excitement of the night before and looked longingly at her bed but, after a heavy sigh, got ready for work and headed out.

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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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