Constraining Obligations

They shall take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting and fulfill obligations for the Israelites by attending to the service of the tabernacle.

(Numbers 3:8) BSB

A note which was written in an old Bible of ours (which somehow got lost) was taken from something a preacher said at Calvary Baptist Church in Carrboro, NC. We have always felt encouraged by it.

Cherish the tender Spirit of your constraining obligations.

– Preacher at Calvary Baptist Church, Carrboro, NC
Continue reading “Constraining Obligations”

Chapter 2

Are you aware that the Holy Bible describes a future time when there will be no cash, and all financial transactions will require that you have a mark on your wrist or forehead?

And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

( Revelation 13:16-18 ) KJV

It will be impossible to participate in the economy in any way for those who refuse to take the mark of the beast. This is a serious problem, because the Bible goes on to tell us about what happens to those who do take the mark of the beast:

And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

( Revelation 16:2 ) KJV

What a dilemma. And it gets even worse:

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

( Revelation 19:20-21 ) KJV

So you can receive the mark of the beast, never have to bother with cash ever again, you can enjoy all the conveniences of modern life and a thriving market economy but, ultimately, will be slain by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords when he returns to rule the earth for a thousand years. Once you have been killed, your soul will experience torment and anguish in the fiery pit of hell until the thousand years has ended, at which time you will go before the great white throne to be judged. Judgment is righteous, and the punishment for your sin is to be cast into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet are. There your soul will continue to experience the horror burning for the rest of eternity alongside Satan, who is also destined to be there with you.

It is no wonder then, that a few people prefer to starve in the barren wastelands of earth, earnestly believing that they are being faithful to their belief in Jesus Christ. Their hope is that they will escape the wrath of God as it is poured out upon the earth, and receive everlasting life in the presence of God in heaven. Everlasting life is the reward for all of those who confess faith in Jesus Christ.

Carlton Feathers didn’t know any of this. He really didn’t care. For him the supposed convenience of having all of his finances tied to a bar code tattoo was a huge inconvenience. He was listening to the radio while he worked, and at that particular time he was in the Municipal Library of Salt City, Utah. Not Salt Lake City, that was an hour’s drive away, but Salt City, a fabulous new feat of architectural brilliance.

Chapter 1

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

(Revelation 14:9-10) KJV

It was an indefinable moment in a dimly remembered future that is neither near nor far away.  A radio chattered to itself distantly, until a blast of fanfare erupted and sent idle drifts of thought scurrying for cover.  

Continue reading “Chapter 1”

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.”

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.”

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