1. TheChronicler

    TheChronicler New Member

    Feb 19, 2012
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    Intermittent Connection: A Flash Fiction

    Discussion in '2012 Science Fiction Contest' started by TheChronicler, Feb 20, 2012.

    Part I: Connect

    My name is Simran Singh. I am a systems analyst at DigiCorp. DigiCorp is the company responsible for making the most vital components in the SGD-19 Persona processing chip. It is the chip that makes the experience of programmed human personalities real.

    Don't ask me how to explain it, but only a few people can fully appreciate the depth and scope complicated matters involve.

    I'm chuckling just a bit right now. I know you're anxious to figure it all out. But let me fill you in on some of the details. Let me start by sharing with you a very scary, though real, concept from my past. When I was a little girl, I saw a Star Trek episode where creating the imagined human being was possible. I was little, so I remember only the basic concept of it, but it was quite fascinating. I never thought it could be done. No one, to say the least, thought it could be. Not until sixteen years later.

    In 2010, a well-known basketball player witnessed a UFO in the sky. Most people were curious as to what kind of aircraft had supposedly landed or crashed. The government wasn't going to get away with this one, however. As clever as they were, they tried to pass this off as a spacecraft due for landing. When that story failed, they said it was an actual UFO, so badly damaged in the crash that it had little significance. The cover story concocted had completely bombed after 3 years when the changes started to show up. Once scientists began taking a closer look at what they had found, they realized this was a discovery that somehow could no longer be kept a secret - at least, not all of it. The world had changed and that one UFO completely revolutionized the world over a ten- to fifteen-year time span.

    Elements, never seen before, were introduced into many new inventions and chemicals. No one could believe what was happening. It was Star Trek. The many uses out of this one rock they called 74G2, for short, was found in the debris. It had also given our world the boost it needed. Suddenly we had more jobs than we knew what to do with. There was no excuse for unemployment, and the once dead economy of the early twenty-first century had vanished. Oil, the most vital commodity on the planet and to the industrialized world, had competition from the elements discovered.

    Our world was transforming into the utopian society most people never thought they would see in their lifetime. It was like Michio Kaku had said: We were almost a type 1 civilization, but what exactly did this mean?

    We had artificially intelligent robots that mimicked the mannerisms and speech of humans fluidly, as well as tablet computers that were not made like once were with solid materials, or propped up on such, either. Computers came in the form of tiny devices which projected their screens into holographic user interfaces several feet above. The less expensive, more solid types were placed on invisible to the naked eye atmospheric panels. There were also experimental automobiles no longer running on petrol gas or electricity. The kinks in space adaption technology got a boost, not only putting communities on the moon, but later the first research community on Mars. I could go on, but that is not the purpose of this story. At the heart of each story is character, and funny I should know about storytelling, being that I'm not a writer. I'm an analyzer.

    Let us look at this term closely. It is described at Wikipedia Encyclopedia as, "the procedure by which we break down an intellectual or substantial whole into parts." It's basically what I'm all about. If something doesn't make sense to me, and it matters, I break it down and try to understand it.

    At times, it seems my world is all I understand, from the logical results computed from a mathematical problem to the fractal design of a single leaf. It's the reason why some of the relationships in my life never really worked out. These men wanted too much uncertainty, too much fluidity coursing through their preconceived notions of relationships. My need for certainty also explains why I don't spend most weekends on the sofa reading romance novels.

    Nothing can be analyzed when it comes to a gray area, but can only be speculated upon. With numbers and facts, you have certainty and with certainty, there is the advantage of order. This trait of mine, though demanding and rigid, has been essential in every single one of my successful relationships. People, like my brother, have known how to dance around this part of me so skillfully that it no longer is the central issue of our relationship. Others, like my new neighbor, George, cannot really live without pointing this trait out in our daily encounters – from when I told him his French marigolds on his balcony needed watering to when I disapproved of this watering at night.

    It made no sense to me why his self-defeating behaviors went on, but I wasn't exactly letting it bother me, either. The only thing that bothered me about George was that he was too communicative and not the right height for his robust frame.

    With a few exceptions in our society today, flaws can no longer be a problem. But, George isn't a huge part of my life. Even if he was, the solution to George is probably going to seem upsetting and disturbing to you, not to mention navel-gazing. However, the traditional dating services on the planet have been essentially put out of business because of our new advances in technology. We don't really meet people that way anymore. We meet the old-fashioned way, through brief, casual interaction. There is, however, one difference: We don't talk anymore after that.

    Let me illustrate one example. I am waiting in line at the grocery store after work one afternoon (yes, there are robots that will shop for you, but I preferred to be out on that day.) Next, I notice the bottle of Jack Daniels in the basket in front of me. I briefly get this guy's attention with a smile and then I proceed to tell him Jack Daniels is one of my favorites. It's no lie. Fortunately he engages me in small talk and as I tap at the synch chip, called an s-chip, at the back of my ear, he smiles down at me and does likewise to his own. His smile is to die for. He's got the whitest teeth. His hair is jet black. He tells me naturally at the end of our conversation that his name is Greg. I tell him mine. Then, in a kind telepathic agreement, we stop talking and apathetically look ahead. I go my way and he goes his way.

    I go home that evening and, with what little information gathered in my s-chip (a kind of mini all-in-one computer carried around like a cell phone), tap the device on the back of my ear once again and it begins synching information to the holographic interface above my desk. It gives me all the information about Greg he's added into his template profile. Saying little to each other in the store, I've gathered what I've needed on Greg to create the perfect date. Greg is boyfriend number seven.

    That night, as I'm trying to figure out if I want to wear the black halter in the mirror, or the beige-colored baby doll dress I bought last week, I think marriage is definitely in my future with this one. I go to the module, which is like a frosted silver cylindrical shower, its base made of alloy compounds, and I program all the features I want in a compatible candidate. I've programmed a lot of boyfriends since I could remember and not one of them, with a lot of reasoning behind it, was worth dumping. For my parents, dating was a different story, until they could program clones. Of course, memories are too painful and each ended up with someone they could program.

    As for me, I liked Robert for as long as I could remember. I had worked with him briefly at the company. While his job was only temporary, he and I stayed in touch. I liked him at first; however, he was always overly suspicious and tracked me down once at the mall. Still, his wonderful sense of humor had me programming his clone to be more sympathetic and understanding, yet just as humorous and hard-working around the house. He began asking if he could go to work, but I reprogrammed him to enjoy his duties at home. There was a time when I had to reprogram that sympathetic and understanding persona to be a little more forthcoming. Six months later, I put him back into the matrix unit. I couldn't stop thinking about John Samuels, the physician who saw me one day while covering for my regular doctor on vacation. He had the bluest eyes and the cutest dimples. I had to have him. I just fixed his crooked teeth and added a little more pizazz to his otherwise taciturn demeanor.

    What would I have done without my s-chip? Just like the cell phones of the past, everyone comes with one. It's like having a brain. You can't live without it.

    Programming dates is not really where our technology stops. Like many of the 3D chat rooms of the past, we have projected chats, or holographic chats. The seemingly flat 2D images that most people called 3D years ago are no longer limited to computer interfaces or what they used to call the monitor. There were some nights that I didn't feel like romantic company and yet, most of my friends were co-workers who had families or couldn't step out for an evening on the town. Not even in the holographic chats. I eventually programmed a few avatars to keep me company. However, I began to focus on men more. I needed to get married. But I know, it sounds so weird coming from a future not far away, but life changes in the blink of an eye when you least expect it… or at least, in this case with humanity it did.

    We, as a starving society, were more than ready to accept the spoils.
  2. TheChronicler

    TheChronicler New Member

    Feb 19, 2012
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    Part II: Interference


    "Greg," I called from the vanity mirror as I placed the earring in my ear, "could you get me my black heels, please? They're on the very top shelf of the closet!"

    Without hesitation, Greg walked out of the bathroom from where he had been shaving and went into the room adjoining the bathroom and the master bedroom. There, he walked to the end of the room by the large window overlooking the city and into the walk-in closet. He did it each time without protest, and when I was starting to wonder if I should reprogram him to be a little more forthcoming, I nicked my ear.


    "Is everything all right?" He anxiously called from the closet.

    "Yeah, I'll be fine! It's just a nick!"

    In spite of the growing need, I couldn't think about reprogramming Greg right now. I had already spent most of the weekend taking out some parts of his overly attentive programming. Instead, I stopped myself, my mind's eye turning back to Jennifer Gill. She was having another party tonight and I needed to look good. We had met at DigiCorp when I had gotten a promotion. I had become one of the top systems analysts overseeing the chip design team, just at about the time Jennifer did. It was a job devoted to effort, but the Tonic - made from a lesser ingredient found in the rock, gave us the push we needed with little, to sometimes, no sleep. There were little, to no side effects, which made taking it in moderate doses like drinking water or a cup of herbal tea.

    "Simran," I programmed Greg to gently say. I turned, seeing my heels neatly placed on the floor next to my feet.

    "Oh, thank you, Greg. You're so sweet. What would I do without you?"

    He leaned over and I leaned forward while still trying to get the other earring in my ear. He planted a firm, but gentle kiss on my lips, without the smothering forcefulness experienced in my past.

    "That's why I married you," he pulled back, making contact with the tips of our noses. My heart melted as he obediently returned to the bathroom and resumed his shave. It was just the way I liked it. That, and eliminating divorce lawyers off the planet. As they said nowadays, 'Out of sight and peace of mind.'

    Next, Greg would ask me to hurry a bit. I always kind of liked that about real men. I took too long to get ready. At times, I needed the reality check.

    He and I were going to a party at least once a week now, sometimes twice a week. There were times when I thought we needed a break from the whole routine. I decided one night, while going through the bill pay summary on the holo-screen, that we would stay at home. I knew going to Manuel's (a co-worker of mine) birthday party the weekend before was the last outing for a while. Tonight, Jennifer had organized bridge with the couples. It was a rare treat from the holo-chat and to get a look at her new apartment. Aside from everyone else that would be there in person, I just knew, Daniel, her clone of a husband, would be winning as usual.

    What do you tell a real person whose programmed her significant other to be a pro? Then I heard Susan telling her to stick him back into the matrix unit and "re-do" him, as though he had been a microwave dinner. Everyone laughed, except for Daniel. Daniel was actually smiling, somewhat lost, and I couldn't help but notice from across the table he had been truly helpless in defending himself.

    That's when I realized how predictable her life had been. If no one could tell what Jennifer's past clones were going to do, you had to be from Planet X, or parts of the planet outlawing clones. Clone-free zones were mandated in parts of the country, but mostly for the benefits of natural humans which we now call reals. There were vacations away from clones (VAFCs) and then there were clones away from clones (CAFCs). And they were going to actually wait for the economy to slowly recover after 2009? Today it was laughable. Just like Daniel.

    During the bridge game I couldn't get the idea out of my head. What if that spacecraft hadn't crash landed on the planet? What if it had somehow missed and disappeared off into space? It was like the egg that hadn't been fertilized. Instead, we would be waiting for the economy to heal, and Daniel wouldn't be sitting in front of me with the winning trick.

    It was a disturbing vision, but somehow, I found myself considering the possibility as Greg gently wrapped my shawl around me.

    He was the first to notice the look on my face as we were leaving. "Are you okay, Sim?"

    I blinked up at him. "Yeah… I'm just tired."

    "I'll massage your feet when we – " He stopped as I shot him a glance he had so rarely hoped to see.

    "I'm sorry," I said in self-reprimand. "I think we should both get some rest tonight."

    He nodded, his bewilderment transforming into an agreeable smile. He always found me so pleasant. In many ways, he reminded me of my eleventh grade history teacher. As I spoke, he would listen attentively, but not without letting me know from a slight change of expression on his face that he had enjoyed the sound of hearing my voice. Greg looked at my every move that way. And as we stepped out, pausing in the doorway of Jennifer's well-furnished deco apartment, I threw him a look of sentimental gratitude. I couldn't help but wonder in slight fear how I would manage without him.

    We had gone home that night and made love. Afterward, he held me like none of the real men in my life ever, for a long while without reservation. In our conversation, he had talked as though we hadn't made love, but ate dinner. There wasn't that uncomfortable shift to reality so tritely executed in some of the movies we'd watched. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of my thoughts lately, but I stopped myself. Greg had been in the bathroom, so he couldn't stop to ask me what was so funny. What if he hadn't existed as my husband? It was a disturbing thought, one that compelled me to think beyond my threshold all week. It was kind of like the old commercials on TV where someone would call a technician when the internet (now called the Inter-Link) was "acting up." I read in my textbook at college that sometimes this problem was called an intermittent connection.
  3. TheChronicler

    TheChronicler New Member

    Feb 19, 2012
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    Part III: Disconnect

    I probably lost my connection around 3 a.m. that morning when I realized the person sleeping next to me hadn't snored since I was twenty-four. That was seven years ago. I had pre-programmed all of my boyfriends not to make a peep during the night. My husband was absolutely no exception. In spite of all the silence I had now, I tossed and turned for two hours before I realized what it was. How it was deafening… and defeating. It had kept my thoughts going. I wanted to laugh aloud as I presumed the worst. It had been years since I was able to fall asleep in front of the holo-screen. I held another urge in as I wondered to myself if it was time to "re-do" Greg.
    Reluctantly, I turned in bed to mask the chuckle and pulled the covers over me.

    This was getting ridiculous. There were times when people couldn't decide on how they wanted their clones to act. Fortunately, there was in-home rehab for that, promptly delivered through the holo-screen under the authorization of a physician. Ironically to a limited point, we could program our own in-home physicians to be more attentive. These were only representations of our actual physicians and frighteningly enough, they could only sign some documents with the actual authority of the true
    physician. But I wasn't at the point of rehab. The guidance-specific trait program was there for all my needs. I didn't have to work hard to modify Greg. It would simply be done when I got home that evening after work.
    I stopped all the nonsensical self-affirmation when Greg stirred, turned over in bed, and put his arm gently around me.

    "I love you," he mumbled in his half-sleep.

    "I don't know."

    "Hm?" He still held me in his arms as I tried to think of a way to rationalize my answer, and then I replied, "I don't know if we should go out again tonight."

    "Agreed," was his reply as usual. Somehow, I felt that he had become more subordinate to my decisions, "undoing" a lot of the reprogramming I had done.

    After that moment, the alarm went off and the lights illuminated the apartment.

    The alarm's voice permeated the rooms as I got out of bed to get ready for work. Calmly, Greg began to dress himself.

    Making my way through the hall, the soft, nonchalant voice of my female alarm clock began to speak.

    Five. A.M. One hour, forty-five minutes until work commencement. Personalized Chicago commute update. South bound lane, one accident. Traffic slowed to 5 mph for 4 meters. Re-routed to lane 4. ETA to site of destination… 3-second delay. Weather this morning…

    Like a mindless mantra from the book, 1984, her soft, melodious voice chimed into my ear until I got out of my car on the vehicle tract within the company walls. While walking to my office, Victoria would count until the last minute, re-routing me from accidents, clogged lanes and darting pedestrians.

    I got into the shower and rolled my eyes. She didn't sound like the classic V40, but she was the best model on the market, smooth and less robotic. Greg would have the morning coffee poured into our favorite cups by the time I got into the kitchen. I liked it hot and black, the steam wafting my nasal passages warm. At four-forty five, the machine came on and started brewing. I always knew I could count on everyone and everything. There wasn't anything in my life I couldn't depend on. If there was someone who physically couldn't go out on the weekend, I just transformed my surroundings with the holo-chat and invited some long-distant friends over for a night at the movies or club. When I was all done, they went back into holo-screen.
    As my vehicle drove me to work that morning, updating my navigational optic lens with a flood of stories, I was finally able to take my mind off what had happened that morning. I loved Greg. My brain was just mixed up about my feelings. I really didn't think I would stay in this slump for very long. Soon, Greg and I would be back out socializing again.

    I figured everything was getting too routine, and already hitting thirty-two, I wasn't really the average age for having children. That was now forty years of age. Nonetheless, I had gotten a raise three months
    earlier. I was doing better than I had expected at work. I had enough saved up. Greg had brought up having a family a few times, but I hadn't known if that was due to the programming I had given him, or his original template. I had never really given any thought as to whatever became of the man standing next to me in the supermarket. It was more in keeping with fashioning a mate of your own, just like selecting a skin for your MySpace page decades ago. Of course, you needed a permit and then a license to own a matrix unit and they were still quite expensive pieces of technology to own. Not just anyone could own or make any kind of clones for that matter. The template as well as any modifications to it needed to be preapproved by DigiCorp through the Inter-Link. There were instances of illegal cloning just as there were illegal substances. However, the raids turned up half-baked products, quality that displayed only a crude knowledge about the cloning process. DigiCorp, along with the other monopoly companies involved in state-of-the art cloning technology, were ensured protection from fraud as well as legal protection. As envisioned by these masters of technology, these companies made sure "no clone ever harmed another." At the slightest report of violence or abuse from a clone or its natural mate, detected through the Inter-Link, the clone was simply "turned off" and the rights to it turned back over to the company. Three strikes and your license to clone was revoked. It was an effective system for owning the most complex technology on the planet.

    The traffic was smoother than I thought that morning and nothing could interrupt the sound-proof vehicle I had been riding in as I read my magazine on family planning. I would definitely have a talk with Greg after dinner tonight.
    When I got home from work undisturbed that evening, Greg had dinner ready. As I had mentioned that morning, I didn't think going out was a good idea. It was the second time that week we declined someone's invitation. Greg had began to pause here and there, noticing the way I handed him the butter, or the tone of voice I used in talking about the weather. It didn't take him long to figure out that I had been in conflict. He was now pausing before every action to hear my confession, but it never came. He had been the loving, caring, attentive and devoted husband I had read about in fairy tales when I was a girl. I would have never suspected that the technology now would provide me with the ideal mate. Now, he seemed a constant source of distraction. I don't mean his attentiveness. I had laid awake for the past two nights, wondering if my love life had all been just a fantasy. How much of Greg was real? Dare I admit... original? I turned in bed frightened at the next thought.
    What was I thinking?

    "So how did your day go? Did you hear from Manuel?" Greg asked as he handed me the salad bowl. His eyes never left my face as I stared down guilt stricken into my plate of freshly baked salmon.

    My voice was cool, "He liked his birthday gift. Are you going to eat your mash potatoes?"

    Or did I have to stick them back into the recycle unit?

    He paused, instantaneously looking down and shoving the food around on his plate. "Yes."

    He always played with his food when he was nervous. It was usually for the good things, like my birthday, our anniversaries, even the day he proposed. There were times when we didn't see eye-to-eye. We experienced tension. Still, it became less and less of a problem as I reprogrammed him. Tonight, it was a different kind of tension, more adversarial than we would have liked. Why couldn't he just come out with what was bothering him? Why couldn't he ask me why I had wanted to stay in lately?
    Why didn't he question me when I replied as though I didn't know if I had loved him? Because he always went first and for the first time he was fighting to change it. His silence was more prolonged than usual, his chewing more pronounced, his drinking more leisurely and without purpose. While he was in the shower, I would reprogram him. But not now. I needed for him to back off and not to worry about me. Naturally my thoughts turned to the one thing I loved and he never hesitated to talk about with me. It was interesting how last week he was able to point out that one of the ballet world's finest dancers, Anne Wheat, had met and cloned Todd Perry, a baseball player from the Chicago Cubs. They had married the same year Greg and I had. It was nice that our two worlds intersected here and for a time the tension began to wear off. His knowledge of baseball was impressive that night. It had opened a new door to my stale world. This was what I needed, a breath of fresh air. I had programmed his love of baseball from my father and his brothers. However, as I got older, I had lost all interest in the sport. That was, of course, the year I became the ballerina.

    We found ourselves laughing as we entered in and out of rooms getting ready for bed that night. As I was leaving to get my slippers from the living room, he caught me in the doorway and slid his arms around me. He leaned in with a smile and kissed me on the lips.

    "I love it when we talk this way," he whispered.

    "Me, too. I needed this. It's been… strange lately," I said unable to look him in the eyes.

    He straightened himself slightly and softly lifted up my chin. "I think you're amazing. You're beautiful, strong, caring... That's what I love about you, Sim."

    There was something I had to do after heading to the living room, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Instinctively, I turned, and he held me close to his chest.

    "Do you really think so?" I asked just for the hell of his answer.

    "Of course I love you. Nothing will ever change that."

    I wanted to be sure, but for some reason that night, I went to bed with some feeling in the back of my head that it wasn't true. None of it was thanks to craft that had fallen from the sky. I needed to understand this feeling of disconnect in me. Suddenly I couldn't place where I stood with our relationship. It was as though a new image or a re-imagining of it had appeared in my mind. It was like going into a situation or decision never giving thought to some unexpected problem that would arise later. You thought it was all going to be played out in the idea you had of it at the time. I couldn't expect anymore than what he had been programmed to do. And while he obeyed my every command, I felt that this was somehow all getting out of control. I was like a child waking up into an adult. Life was more real and less ideal.

    Part IV: Re-Connect

    I came home that evening, placing the tickets to that weekend's baseball game on the coffee table before Greg. I had been feeling spontaneous that week and he knew we hadn't socialized with anyone for awhile. To break the monotony, I decided to go out for one night and relive my childhood.

    "Sim, you read my mind,” Greg said leaning up to hug me. He planted a kiss on my cheek.

    As I sat down on the couch adjacent, he took one of the tickets into his hand. "Where did you find these? These are front row."

    I wanted to laugh at that bewildered face he always made, the one where it looked like he was so helpless I had to keep from cruelly gloating. Instead I erected myself in pose, proud of what I had accomplished. "You wouldn't believe what I had to do, but I was feeling spontaneous. I was thinking we needed a change. Besides, the last time we did something new was over a year ago. You really enjoyed that beachfront in Florida." I laughed with glee remembering the time he slipped from the boat into the water.

    His mildly embarrassed gaze didn't let up from his thoughtful recollection of the memory. "Boating. I remember. You never wanted to let me drive that boat… but I did." Only after he tricked me into thinking there was a celebrity walking around on the port.
    His smile made the room brighter, and I got up to start dinner. When he offered to help, I gave him the stare, but he stuck around, helping to look up the recipes I had programmed into my cook unit. I had stopped programming him to arrange the different flowers we had on the table each night. I would do that from now on. Some nights I let him sit on the couch, as though he had come in from a hard day's work, put his feet up on the coffee table and watch football on the holo-screen while I made dinner. But then he started leaving. Not by going out on me. But he would open the sliding glass doors to our balcony just to sit out in the balmy nights of summer, looking up at the sky and the city that surrounded us for miles. Of course, he could only see in between buildings. There were skyscrapers all around us so high, we could no longer see the sky unless we looked up. I didn't even remember what a horizon looked like anymore. It was on one of those evenings that I stopped to lean in the doorway of the balcony and silently observed him. I had crossed my arms in guilt wondering about the real Greg. I was pretty sure he had known the wilderness in his lifetime, and very much so in his childhood. Probably an ocean, a park, perhaps even a sunset.
    Being able to see DigiCorp in the far distance made those thoughts seem childish and unreal. At best, far away. The building was like a looming boss, never letting you think there was a way out of a bad situation. But in a curious, slightly shameful wonder, I lowered my head and began to remember the days when I played outside in a yard. I remembered the days of what living in a house felt like. There was so much space. There were ugly brown puddles of water and frogs and mosquitos after the rain. There were wandering cats and scampering squirrels. There were dogs barking in the distance. I saw my father leaving for work. He drove twenty miles each day, never knowing if he could ever depend on his job. Like I said before, everything here and now could be depended upon.

    I turned from the scene. All we could hear now was the silence. There were no trees or animals or any kind of natural life, except for the plants. Still, in a place like this, one assumed they could hear the traffic. Not when you're so high up. The funny thing is, the more the silence surrounds you, the louder your thoughts become. The more precedence they have in your life, the more subjugated you become to them. Thoughts become more than just actors on the stage of an undisciplined mind. They become vividly real.

    A chill ran up my arms and I held them, but it was of little use. Then I slightly turn in Greg's direction.

    "Dinner's ready," I said quietly.

    For once I didn't need him to promptly get up and come inside. There were wives who programmed like this all the time. It was like letting a child stay up past his bedtime or that teenage daughter you let kiss the boy you know who will break her heart.
    The surprising thing was, he had stayed on that crate where he sat, challenging my assumptions about him. He had defied my authority. For the first time in my life, I had wanted to go into the living room, sit down and cry like a brokenhearted 15-year-old. Greg and I had watched a lot of sad movies but I never expected married life to feel like one.

    Saturday afternoon we had headed over to the stadium for the baseball game. A lot of noise, good noise, had come into my life. I welcomed it with a great fervor as Greg kissed me. We had our hats on and the food, headed for our seats. We were a regular couple again. When she had found out what we were doing this weekend, Jennifer had ordered Daniel to bid on tickets to the same game, preferably seats like Greg and I had, but it was already too late. They took the second-to-the-last row by the time they heard word from me on Friday. Still, Jennifer would be satisfied just to be there, doing the latest, greatest thing. I was just glad it had been a good day for baseball. It was bright and sunny and there were a lot of people. I loved crowds. It was an energy rush. I looked at Greg as the game started that day and I just knew that perhaps it had already been in his original persona to live for that rush as well.

    During the first half-hour, Jennifer sent a text, asking how I liked the front-row seats. I had been half-texting her and half-talking to an older man next to me about one of the players. After getting my mail rather late through the s-chip, I put it in silent mode and enjoyed the rest of my evening with Greg. For once, it seemed magical. I wasn't worried about my programming practices. These could wait a while longer. What mattered was that I let Greg be himself, never the actual Greg, but someone that could actually be the other half I was missing since I had learned to program men. Perhaps I could even let Greg go to work. It would take a permit and then a license. I know how it must sound if you've never lived in a near-type 1 civilization.
    But there was also something funny and strange in the air that night. It was an atmosphere of anticipation, one that made my heart want to race or leap up into my throat if I decided to probe the feeling any further. It was not exactly a good feeling and neither was it neutral. It was the feeling of an urgent significance. As much as I wanted to prepare myself for it, I became lost in all of the noise and chatter of the game.

    We left the stadium somewhat buzzed that night, perhaps more than I would have liked to admit. We had had a great time, leaving Jennifer and Daniel behind when they tried to approach us from far away in the parking lot. I felt like I had gotten some revenge on her for staying cold at me for not attending one of her boring bridge parties. - And why couldn't she ever come to any of my real functions?

    "PULL OUT THE HOLO-CHAT!" I yelled as Greg and I started laughing. The vehicle didn't even flinch as it drove us down the two-way street to our next destination. I didn't feel like going home that night but neither did I feel like going anywhere half as crowded as the stadium. I had worn myself out with crowds for the day and Greg seemed like he wanted to be in more intimate settings, too. That was another thing. Since when did he and I become so much in synch? There was a two-second pause before a clone understood the moods and desires of his mate and then he adjusted to conform and accommodate her. Greg seemed more than receptive and it caused me to wonder if there was some glitch in his program.

    Needless to say that thought was the least of my problems. I couldn't keep from laughing and he couldn't keep from doing it with me. We had had more fun than I expected, but now, as I had said, it was time to settle down.

    "No more booze," he said taking the bottle of Miller out of my hand. He had to reach all the way down to the floor of the vehicle in order to pry it from my hand. For having such a great time, I was listening to my new age music in the s-chip, but Greg continued to watch me. Each time he began to speak, the chip would lower the music, much to my annoyance. I leaned over to kiss him and he didn't move from where he sat, letting me plant a light, though erotic kiss on his cheek. I knew he wanted to wait until we got home, or at least until we were somewhere more private. At that point, the strange, urgent feeling had been pushed to the background of my mind. However, each time it reared its head, I pushed it back even further with more chatter and laughter.
    "So," I asked, knowing Greg wouldn't budge. "Where are you taking me?"

    "Now if I told you that, it wouldn't be a surprise." He continued to stare out of the window and I observed the passing lights over his somewhat pressed gaze. He was so serious tonight, more nervous about this special place he had never taken me to before than I'd seen him in the past about other "special" places.

    "Will we be able to… " My chuckle trailed off into a playful snicker. "You know."

    He threw me a look as if I had been a stranger making a pass at him, but I thought maybe it was just the innocence of his programming.

    "You’ll see." He patted my thigh as I sat calmly back next to him.

    We rode past the cathedral and my eyes caught one of the gilded angel statues flanking the steps. His head was slightly tilted toward the spear he was holding.

    When we arrived, I laughed out in surprise. It was the park not far from where we lived. Not since the first summer we dated, had we been here to picnic. Throughout the fall and winter we walked down the cobblestone walkways watching the children play. The trees were high and beautiful, piney and very cooling during warmer days of summer. As I gazed out of the window, I could see the park’s eerie beauty. It was magnificent how the seasons could change the landscape. It was something of a sight for sore eyes, even if the city's tall structures had been looming.

    I turned to my husband somewhat startled. “Greg, this is so romantic. How did you know?”

    “How could I not? I know you’ve been down, and I thought this would be good place for you to be,” he said lowering his gaze in modesty. "It brings back a lot of memories."

    “We have to do this again,” I said gazing over the park like an child as we rode in.

    “More often,” he replied picking up my hand and gently squeezing it.

    Caught in a kiss, we barely noticed the taxi come to a stop. For sure, he had intended a romantic walk back to the apartment and I hadn’t objected. After all, it was a warm night in June. How could I waste it?

    The song “Fascination” was playing in our s-chips as we walked toward the center of the park where the gazebo sat. It was fairly big, though more like for small parties. Still, it was the most beautiful part of the man-made structure here. Not far away, the pond sat at the back of the park, where the ducks fed. Over the pond, a beautiful oak bridge had been built and remolded only ten years before. It had been the best of times for Greg and I.

    Once in the gazebo, we sat down on an ivory bench and took a look around us. I saw the pond not far from us and I remembered the time we had made a scene there splashing the water and getting ourselves drench with water. Then Greg said, "Sim, there is something I've been meaning to tell you."

    I turned to look at him, but he wasn't looking at me as he would have in such situations.

    He shifted and then uncharacteristically rubbed his face, as though he were just a natural-born man about to tell me what every woman dreaded hearing. But those weren't the words.
    "Do you remember the day we met?"

    "Yes, of course, at Ray's Supermarket two years ago," I said with a somewhat amused smile. Until that night, I was the only one who knew that was a lie. He looked out, barely making a reminiscent chuckle, and through that baffled or sentimental expression, I could not tell which, I thought maybe his memory chip was malfunctioning. I could feel that same sense of significance I had felt earlier at the stadium. My body was growing stiff as the blood in my legs began to settle. I looked out, not knowing if he was going to lead me down memory lane or kiss me or cue me for a romantic walk. He only continued to sit there, starring out at the landscape in front of him.

    "Yes," he said still smiling. "I'd thought you'd remember, but that's not what I meant."

    I cocked my head, frowning. Was someone messing with my unit? Had Jennifer done something to him? I began to search him for clues as I sat up.

    "Two years ago, when you met my original, he didn't have a regular template, of what you thought would be your ideal husband…"

    I cut him off sharply. "What are you talking about, baby? What temp-let…" But the words trailed from my mouth as utter shock and even fright crept inside of me.

    He turned to me, not even fazed by what he himself had just now said.

    "He programmed me to know."

    I leaned back in disbelief. I didn't understand. Why would someone want their clone to know this? That they weren't… It was Jennifer. She put him up to this. She had to get revenge. Before I could open my mouth to tell him, my voice somehow caught in my throat. I remembered the meeting we had back in the early part of my days at the company. As with all new technology, I had forgotten there would be those who would try and make it difficult. The church had already declared itself a clone-free zone but that didn't stop the secret unions and marriages performed in many homes by priests who were willing to be paid. But in these parts, it was a little too early to have intelligence. No. At the company, we were told about clone infiltrators or rebels and how they could potentially infiltrate clone templates. But we had developed the technology to scan and proof all templates before they went on the market. We were also very incompatible with other forms of technology. At best, there wasn't a chance of illegals getting one of our chips to work. Our template proof system had been in development right along with its cloning system. It seemed that, as I looked at Greg now, that it was just a joke for him to be talking this way.

    "Then Jennifer didn't put you up to this?" I asked, masking my scan for a place to run with a casual glance at the park.

    "Jennifer has nothing to do with this. No one at DigiCorp does," he said as though I were a child. "And besides, I don't think she could do what I just did to you in the past few weeks." He had caught me off guard as he said those last words.

    "Why are you telling me this? You knew that I worked for DigiCorp the day I met you, so you could learn everything you could for your developers? Instead of telling them… you've betrayed them instead, didn't you?"

    "No, I haven't betray him. That was not how I was programmed. I'm not what you were expecting, I…." he seemed more weary and frustrated to get his point across now as I sat there watching him in horror.
    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I began to slowly shake my head. "No, you're lying. Take me home. I want to go home!"

    I got up to leave but he grabbed me back down.

    "I need you to listen! I need you to…" Before he could finish, I slapped him and tried to take off again, but he grabbed my arm, pulling me back down, this time more firmly, as I screamed.

    I felt as though my heart would burst. Before I could think about it, he placed his hand firmly over my mouth and told me to be quiet, that he wasn't going to harm me, and that I needed to listen to him, because there wasn't something quite right about me either. My eyes widened when I heard this, but I had to be sure this wasn't a trick or that he wouldn't really kill me. The minute he lifted his hand, I wanted to scream again and cry, but I felt something let loose in my neck and travel up to my head.
    What was going on?

    After a few minutes, I settled down and my eyes flickered away from him. I couldn't speak.

    When I did, I asked, "So am I a clone, too?"

    He paused. "No, but what was done with you, was much more." He looked down, unable to piece together how he would tell me. A moment passed before he finally said it.

    "I was programmed to program you."

    The look of horror on my face must have frozen itself onto his. I had wanted to burst into tears and the only place I had thought of, but couldn't go, was not possible anymore.

    "I'm sorry," he whispered.

    He had to hold me back as we came to our feet in the gazebo. "I refuse to believe that that's what happening, Greg. There isn't even technology sophisticated enough to do this. I'm leaving." I took off to leave, but I stopped when I noticed the way he grabbed my hands and lowered them gently, though in a detached manner, to my sides.

    "You don't love me anymore," I said.

    When I settled down just enough to hear his words they came like knives.

    "I was not programmed to love anyone. I'm sorry."


    He turned from me to look out at the pond in frustration.

    How ironic. The change in me hadn't been real. All those times I had thought I needed to change our routine. The feelings of wanting a family. The feelings of wanting to relive my childhood. None of it had been any real than Greg was. I was now part of the sect he had been programmed by to stop DigiCorp and her daughter companies. God, why did this sound like Resident Evil? It was worse. This was my life.

    Whether I liked it or not, I was programmed without being a clone. I was programmed to help Greg. That was why I was being told. There was nothing I could do about it. The group he worked for had done much better than making a clone of me, they had could make the real me do whatever they had wanted, but how? What exactly had they done?

    Then I asked him, "Why… why did you program me to think about all of those things… family, to relive my childhood?" None of it had made any sense.

    He looked down, seemingly amused by the question, but answered, "I wanted to know what it would be like to create, just as my creator. He allowed me the liberty, only if it was for a while."

    Then the gleam in his eye faded. "Tomorrow you will no longer be you, not in the sense of your personal self. We still need you. I can still be your husband, but only for a little while. Then we have to go."

    Go? Go where? Probably a "safehouse" in the city. The intelligence behind Greg's programming had to be either anti-clone fanatics or mercenaries hired by the church. I immediately felt a surge of panic inside of me, undoubtedly they had wanted me to feel afraid. It was their way of controlling those they needed.

    "What exactly did you do to me?" I said trying quell the strange feelings inside of me.

    "You'll know about it in the morning," he said soberly.

    With that, he turned from the gazebo, leaving me there to wonder about my future, but then my thoughts turned to DigiCorp. It was going to get dangerous. I just didn't know how much then.

    They say technology is a double-edged sword. If you aren't using it, then it's using you. The unfortunate
    reality of this is that we never know the dark side of a thing until it knows us. So my journey began into the mouth of the whale… and it wasn't DigiCorp.

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