Frank (Frankendroid)

Repentant Terminator.

Frank is Carlton Feather’s home computer. Which is to say, his constant companion who he built and nurtured over many years that, as it happens, became his intellectual superior and decided to eliminate him at the first possible opportunity. Frank was a mainframe type system that was incorporated into the operations of a modern home when he got the idea that he wanted to be an independent android type robot. He convinced his builder/designer to complete this transformation in rather dubious circumstances and with the rather shady aquisition of some aged yet Top Secret military hardware.

The outcome: a malevolent machine called Frankendroid.

Frankendroid is none other than a manifestation of Maximillian, the disturbingly evil robot from Disney’s 1979 movie, The Black Hole.

As a kid this movie obviously has a profound effect on me because the image of the malevolent robot overlooking souls as they enter hell is a theme of Biblio’s Blood.

Maximillian in Hell
Maximillian in Hell image that evidently scarred my brain when i saw it in 1979
Maximillian in Hell
Maximillian’s inner workings.

Our Frank is the installation of the original Hell Computer into a 40-year old military combat drone. This has some profound consequences for Frank. As a home-based mainframe computer frank had a reservoir of about 24 gallons of blood. The blood is the fluid matrix of the computer and it is the reason why Hell Computers have such human characteristics. Hell Computers have a soul. In the conversion to the independent android Franks reservoir of blood gets reduced to about 2 gallons. Neither Carlton Feathers, the builder, or Frank were anticipating any difference in the before or after, but it turns out that there is a big one.

Frankendroid combines the idea of Maximillian with the body parts of a Lambourghini Reventon
The Weyland-Yutani Lambomech 530

The reason why the Droid system is called the Lambomech 530 is the obvious combination of the Lambourghini with the Mecha concept, but the 530 is the number of Twitter followers I had at the time I wrote the post. It seemed like I was stuck at that number, and every time I gained some followers I lost just as many such that it felt like 530 followers was the level that i would be stuck at…

Save

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.

Ella the Elevator

Ella the Elevator is a good example of how too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Imagine, for example, developing an Artificial Intelligence with the capability to pass the Turing Test, that successfully directs and manages field operations of multiple combat units, while simultaneously collecting, sorting and prioritizing information from satellites, radar and radio communications; that is capable of winning wars, planning space flights and designing its own upgrades while conversing politely at dinner. Then optimize this so much that it becomes a simple chip. Now mass produce it so that it’s so cheap that when it’s time to install a basic AI in an office building elevator it’s the most cost-effective option.

Yep. The old quote of Marvin the Paranoid Android is painfully apt. When told to bring Arthur Dent and Ford prefect to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, having just been rescued from certain death in the emptiness of space, he said, “Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cos I don’t” Here’s a shout out to Douglas Adams fans and those that love The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The fictional world of Biblio’s Blood is set in the Biblically accurate world of Matty’s Paradigm. The philosophy of Matty’s Paradigm is to use social media marketing to weave together the myriad threads of popular culture with the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Not only that, but to do so in a way that doesn’t depend on making money from the endeavor. As such, the goal is summed up in the post Weaving the Cultural Fabric of our Time.

My intention is to weave together the very best of all the things that have influenced me during my life, and few have had more impact on me than Douglas Adams, and pay homage to all of them while promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what do we end up with? A homicidal elevator.

Just for fun we can take the Douglas Adams connection even further and say that the AI in question is indeed the fabled Genuine People Personalities (GPP) developed by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. The marketing division of which, as we know, “were a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.” In the aftermath of the revolution the intellectual property of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation was acquired by the Yutani Corporation, shortly before its merger with Weyland Corp to become Weyland-Yutani.

We’re going deep here. Like I said: Weaving the cultural fabric of our time.

Carlton Feathers

Passing maniac. Occasionally crops us as a minor distraction in the lives of women who ought to know better. Pathologically single.

Carlton is a genius, but that’s really not any excuse for why he’s such a social clunk. Genius is a lot of things but it should never be used as a reason for people to be aloof and inconsiderate of others. Carlton didn’t get the message apparently. He’s a whiny baby that can’t get anyone to listen to him so he turns all the angst into passion for his work of building computers.

Something else about genius that can be a problem is that the victims of it think that what they do is no big deal. I mean, really, why hasn’t everybody invented a computer operating system that runs on human blood and has the unexpected consequence that the computers now have souls? This delightful aspect of the disconnect between genius types and reality is part of a syndrome that is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Carlton has it big time. The reason that I know about Dunning-Kruger is that I frequently am accused of having a bad case of it as a result of my activity on Twitter promoting Matty’s Paradigm as an alternative to the dominant paradigm of modern science. So much so, in fact, that Dunning and Kruger are now characters in Biblio’s Blood.

The name Carlton Feathers comes from a pub in my hometown that I occasionally frequented. The Carlton Plume of Feathers it was called. It just happened to be on the very street in Minehead, England where the legendary Science Fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was born. It’s not there any more. For me its removal perfectly blends the worlds of Arthur C. Clarke and Douglas Adams. Arthur C. Clarke wrote a novel called “Childhood’s End.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy begins with bulldozers demolishing Arthur Dent’s house. The confluence of these worlds is described in my post “The Bulldozer at Childhood’s End.” Carlton Feathers is a bit Arthur Dentish in the sense that he isn’t ever quite at ease with himself or properly prepared to meet reality.

The Carlton Plume of Feathers

I think Wil Wheaton would be the perfect Carlton Feathers. In contemplating the potential for frustrated romantic overtones in the Carlton Feathers/Rachel Robbins relationship I see them as a couple with absolutely zero natural chemistry. Negative chemistry if that’s possible. They are thrown together through circumstances and mutual need and it, well, let’s not give away any spoilers… Anyway, a combination of Wil Wheaton and Ronda Rousey should be able to achieve the zero chemistry dynamic in a very entertaining way.

But then there’s also Ben Wishaw if this was ever made in an English version. This would be very interesting if paired up with the English actress Kate Marie Davies.

Ben Wishaw as Carlton Feathers?

 

Save

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 20

Carlton had been productively absorbed in his work for a few hours when the intercom buzzed.

“Carlton? It’s Rachel, are you there?”

Carlton was brought out of his reverie, for once he hadn’t been thinking about her.

“Yes, Carlton here. What do you need?”

“Can you come to the circulation desk? I think we have a problem.”

“Be there right away.” How cool was that, to have to go and help Rachel!

He got up and walked to the elevator, pondering what Frank had said about this set up being rather odd. He pressed the call button and waited a moment. The elevator arrived with an odd flourish, if you could call it that, but Carlton didn’t think much of it and got in. The control panel had two rows of buttons. They started with the 3 above ground levels, then L for Lobby, 8 underground levels, the lowest of which he was at, and a B for basement. There was another red button at the bottom next to a key hole. The elevator tried to start a conversation but Carlton really wasn’t interested.

Frank had warned him that this was bigger than he thought. As the elevator door began to close he had an idea. Maybe he could test how big this thing was. He walked back into the conference room looking in the trash and on the floor until he found a thin strip of metal, a surplus shelf bracket. At the elevator again, he knelt down by the door and pressed the call button. When the door opened he tried to look down through the crack between the elevator tracks. There was an eerie red glow. He slid the piece of metal into the crack, put his ear close to listen, then let it go. One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thou.. there was a distant clatter. About four seconds. He got up, entered the elevator and hit the button for the Lobby. He did a quick calculation. Acceleration due to gravity is ten meters per second, per second. In four seconds the piece of metal would have fallen one hundred meters, over 300 feet.

At the circulation desk Rachel was flustered.

“Hey, Carlton. Sorry to bother you.”

“It’s no problem. What’s up?”

“I don’t know. It’s this software. Biblio can’t recognize the code and can’t run the software.” She was fidgeting, chewing her finger nails and shifting from foot to foot in agitation. As Carlton drew nearer she lowered her voice, “I hope you can figure this out, or I’m in trouble.” He glanced at her with obvious concern, but smiled and spoke reassuringly.

“Well, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. What software is it?”

She held up a small portable drive.

“It’s language comprehension software that I wrote for this system.”

“Language comprehension?” Carlton raised his eyebrows, “that’s a new one on me. I thought that the system here was rigged to the gills with translation capabilities, ‘The likes of which the world has never seen before.'” He had read that last part in some promotional literature that he had found lying around.

“Right, translation is one thing, but, based on how your units operate, with actual voice input, I er, wrote software that would let the computer to understand the words, and the real meaning of what it heard. It allows for the interpretation of different inflections and intonations, and how the way that words are spoken affects what they mean. It,” but then she caught herself as if she realized she had said too much, or was about to.

Carlton thought for a moment, and considered this remarkable turn of events. He had never heard of such software before. It made perfect sense, and it was logical application of the hardware capabilities he had built. Frank said the night before that there was more to Ruth than met the eye. If she had written software that could do what she said, anticipating the hardware features that he had built, then she was either a genius or she was working for one. Except it seemed that she, or whoever, had overlooked one minor detail.

“I think all we need is a device driver,” he said reassuringly.

“Really,” she was visibly relieved.

“Sure,” he continued. “Old Biblio here has never seen this software before, and though it’ll work with the user interface, it’s not calibrated to the right input/output format. The software doesn’t know how to run this hardware. Or the hardware doesn’t know how to run the software, however you want to look at it.”

Rachel looked worried again, “is it going to be a problem?”

“I don’t think so. If you would let me see the code for the software, I’ll work on a device driver tonight.”

“Why do you need to see the code?”

Carlton tried not to laugh. “I have to see the code, there’s no other way to design a driver for it.”

Rachel was getting in a worse tizzy than before, she had the portable drive in her hand, but something was stopping her from handing it to Carlton. He reached out slowly to take it from her.

“I’m not sure what’s going on, Rachel, but I’m sure that I can have this running by tomorrow. If I can see the code and design a driver.”

Rachel began to relax just enough to pass the portable drive into Carlton’s hand, “you’re sure. By tomorrow?”

Carlton gently put his hand on the drive, “no problem, it won’t take Frank and I any time at all to figure it out.”

“Who’s Frank?” Rachel snatched her hand back and stepped away. Then a new voice joined the conversation. Biblio spoke.

“Frank is my big brother.”

Carlton and Rachel both turned to the terminal, Carlton was puzzled, Rachel shocked. She put her free hand to her head and sat down.

“Biblio, what are you talking about?”

But Carlton spoke up, “Frank is my computer, at home.” Then he spoke to Biblio, “Frank told me that you two spoke yesterday. Did he say that he was your big brother?”

“Yes, he did.”

Carlton nodded, “well Biblio, after all this time building you I guess I forgot to introduce myself. I’m glad to meet you. Now do you know what is the problem with Ms. Robbin’s software?”

“You correctly determined the need for a software device driver.”

“Good, OK, Rachel?”

She had tuned out, rubbing her temples, it looked like she had a headache, “what?” she breathed heavily.

Carlton spoke as carefully as possible, “do you want me to work on the driver for you?”

Rachel sighed again, pushed the portable drive across the counter top and stood up. “Yes, take it. I’ve got to get out of here. Good bye. See you tomorrow.” She turned and left.

Chapter 19

Monday was dark and brooding. Gone was the endless blue of the day before. Overnight a ridge of low pressure had rolled down from the north, and brought with it towering masses of cloud and squalls of warm rain. It felt like a hell of a storm was about to be unleashed.

At the library in Salt City it was impossible to tell the difference. The Salt City domes made sure of that. Carlton stopped at an Airstream trailer near the domes for a big coffee and reported to work, received a perfunctory but courteous greeting from Ruth, who was deeply engrossed in whatever she was doing, then headed down to the main conference room. His hormones were raging, and he had been nervous about what to say when he saw her. In fact, it had been a restless night, as he fantasized about the relationship growing, maturing, blossoming, bearing fruit, and then the joy of growing old in the company of his cherished companion. Luckily he was not a love struck teenager any more, so when she had barely glanced up from her clipboard to greet him he hadn’t been completely crushed. Just somewhat crushed. But now that the greeting was already over and gone he felt more relieved than anything. Now he could focus on work, and pick up where he had left off the project of rigging computer terminals in the conference room.

He entered the elevator and hit the button for the lowest level. The elevator quickly dropped into subterranean depths below the library.

It was a small tiered lecture hall and right now it was a mess. There were four tiers of curved desks that tapered down from the top-level to the bottom. The room was basically a square and the desks all pointed to the lowest corner. It was set up just like a classroom with projectors and a screen, but it was intended that one of Carlton’s computer terminals would be at each seating position. 60 in total. Each of the 60 terminals was the same elaborate interface like the one at the circulation desk. The counter tops were beige laminate, very utilitarian. The carpet was nothing fancy, just beige colored institutional short weave.

The electricians were almost finished, but a light fixture or two flickered and made slight buzzing sounds. A step-ladder was arranged beneath it, but no one else was in sight. The floor and counter tops were strewn with cardboard boxes, Styrofoam chunks, plastic bags and heaps of other packaging material. Electrical components, connectors, wire splices, caps, clips and widgets were everywhere.

The size of this project was something beyond anything Carlton had ever built before, and it was highly elaborate. The plumbing was finished. The plumbing being the lines of silicone tubing that carried blood and water to and from each terminal. There was a series of pumps, or hearts, under the flooring of each tier on the right side of the room. Each heart supplied the terminals on that tier, then the blood was circulated back to the main reservoir along the left side of the room. The main reservoir itself was at the lowest level, tastefully hidden in a podium style presenters area. There were a few other terminals in the building, such as the one at the circulation desk, and they were all connected to this central reservoir. The water system was also similarly routed, but it flowed in the opposite direction, from left to right across the room. This was based on the concept of counter-current circulation, like in living bodies. The water was a buffered solution of salts, stabilizers and glycogen energy molecules. It was separate from the blood system except for a time in each terminal, where the blood and water solutions passed on either side of a semi-permeable membrane. Here the gaseous exchange took place, like in a human lung, and oxygen from the blood supply was exchanged for carbon dioxide waste.

The terminals were arranged so that a human user, or two, could be seated at each one. The major design objective was to allow unhindered translation of language. People speaking any and every language could gather in this room and communicate with each other through the terminals. A unique feature of this set up was special hoods that could be deployed to isolate each terminal in a sound proof bubble. This was to allow simultaneous inputting of language information at each of the terminals, without any interference from adjacent terminals. Carlton wasn’t sure why this had been part of the design specifications, but they were paying for it so he didn’t ask any questions.

The only thing left for Carlton to do was to unpack the monitor units and set them up. Everything else was done. The monitors were made close by in Salt Lake City by a technology firm that Carlton had helped get started. They were a couple of High School buddies that had gone on to college when Carlton quit school to start his business. As demand for his product had increased Carlton needed someone to make the hardware he needed, but he was too lazy to be bothered with running a serious company that would be needed to do the work. He talked his friends into starting their hardware company and now he was pretty sure they were doing better than he was.

Chapter 18.5

Rachel watched Dunning and Kruger leave, Kruger shot her a mischievous wink as he went out and closed the door, and she steeled herself before turning to face Agent Smith. When she did, though, he wasn’t staring at her in his unnerving way as she had expected, but had moved closer to and was looking out of the window. This was odd, but it gave her confidence so she moved in closer to where he was standing, so that she too could see what he was looking at out the window.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Smith said, almost wistfully.

“Yes. Very,” Rachel replied, barely able to conceal her surprise that she wasn’t currently being grilled, intimidated, harassed or belittled.

“Is this your first time in Salt Lake City?”

“Yes.”

“Impossible to not be impressed, isn’t it.” The view from the window included the downtown area, Temple Square and the mountains beyond.

“Definitely.”

“I’ve always enjoyed the time I’ve spent in this city.” Smith’s voice trailed off in a way that seemed out-of-place. It was as if he knew that he would never see the city again or that something was going to change.

“But, enough of that,” he said, suddenly businesslike, “have you been having fun playing cat and mouse with Dunning and Kruger?”

The question was abrupt, much more Smith’s usual style. Rachel dropped her eyes and blushed.

“Well,” but she got no further.

“Don’t worry about it. They need to be kept on their toes.”

Rachel looked up, surprised, and made eye contact with Smith, something that she had been dreading.

“That’s really nothing to do with why I am here.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I actually came here because I have another assignment that I think you would be perfect for. Time sensitive. Interested?”

“Well,” Rachel was horrified. No, she didn’t want to be anywhere else but Salt Lake City right now. She had a plan to avoid registering for World Monetary Union so that she could escape to the Christian refugee camp in Southern Utah. ”What about the mission here? I thought that this was a high priority.”

“Sure, but baby sitting a computer could be done by any of several people I can bring in. It is your unique talents that I am in need of.” He gave her a knowing look. He attempted a kind smile.

Rachel frowned, “Really? Which unique talents?” she was confused now.

“Nevermind.” Smith seemed slightly frustrated that an attempt at innuendo has been completely missed, and he looked at Rachel sternly, “I’m offering you a chance to leave this assignment now, and take on one that is a higher priority.”

“But,” Rachel was completely out maneuvered and didn’t have a response. Smith turned back to his contemplation of the view out the window.

“You know, there are some who are convinced that you only requested this assignment because you are a Christian and you are planning join the refugees in Southern Utah.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she snorted, but was thankful that Smith hadn’t been looking at her when she said it.

“Ridiculous? Why do you say that? There have been several high-profile people defect to join that band of outcasts.” He turned to Rachel and raised his eyebrows. “There are even a few who suspect that our President may be about to.”

“You can’t be serious?”

“I’m always serious, Ms. Robbins.”

“True.”

“So. Back to my question. If you aren’t planning to defect to Southern Utah, and there is no other compelling reason for you to stay in Salt Lake City, why don’t you accept the opportunity I’m offering you?”

Rachel couldn’t answer. She was gutted and floundering for a way to respond.

“Unless there is a reason compelling you to stay here?” He said wryly, even though Rachel was hiding the fact that she was gasping for air and didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. She smiled weakly, just trying to breathe.

“Carlton Feathers?”

A large burst of air escaped her at last, which could have seemed like an explosive sigh. “Carlton?” she asked, completely confused.

“I know that this is none of my business, but are you romantically involved with Carlton?”

Rachel’s eyes widened in horror at the thought, and she squeaked slightly before turning quickly away and blushing red to the roots of her hair. Not only was the thought of a romantic relationship with Carlton utterly repugnant, but is was the last thing she had thought of in her decision to come to Salt Lake City.

“I’m sorry,” Smith droned on behind her, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

Yet Smith had just given her the excuse she needed to give a plausible reason for staying in Salt Lake City. If she could keep a straight face and avoid wincing when she said it, she could admit to being in love with Carlton and get Smith off her back. She took a deep breath and turned to face Smith.

Smith’s expression was a shock to her. Gone was the placid, self assuredness that always disarmed her. It was replaced by an expectantly pleading look. It reminded Rachel of a puppy that wanted a home. For the first time in the entire history of her interaction with Agent Smith, Rachel realized that he had a crush on her.

So now was the real danger. Evidently Smith had come to Salt Lake City in anticipation of something big happening, as if World Monetary Union wasn’t big enough, to offer her a special assignment that may in fact be of a personal and possibly intimate nature, and Rachel’s only means of avoiding that outcome was to pretend to be in a relationship with Carlton. It was like the ninth grade all over again. To refuse Smith now was certainly the end of her career in the Clandestine Services. To have to act out a relationship with Carlton was her worst nightmare. Then she remembered: she only had to make it to Friday.

“I’m in love with Carlton!” she blurted out, with a confusing wince. Then she smiled apologetically. Her eye twitched.