1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Winner Chivalrous Tart Short Story Contest 98: Strange Pet

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Aug 16, 2011.

    Chivalrous Tart - The iHelper

    Brian slept in a mattress two and half feet thick, with a light linen blanket that absorbed several degrees of heat but allowed his pores to breath. The pillow gave an inch between his head and shoulders, letting his trachea align horizontally, allowing the most air intake. The room was set at twenty four degrees below Brian’s body temperature. His caretaker had calculated these settings making sure his owner would get the best, uninterrupted sleep.

    As the sun crept through the shades, the caretaker unhinged itself from the stand it had plugged itself into last night. The internal clock in its head fired and warmed the artificial vocal cords. As the light sped across the neatly aligned Algebra homework, the mechanical mouth opened.

    “WAKE UP, SIR BRIAN, WAKE UP, YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE. TIME FOR A SHOWER, HATE AND GLOWER BUT YOU CAN’T TURN OFF MY POWER. WAKE UP SIR BRIAN, WAKE UP.”

    Brian’s eye lids crinkled open crookedly, but his hand was fast as a cat, as he swatted at the screaming artificial helper. The miniature human figurine jumped out of the way and continued its holler.

    “TRY AND STRIKE ME DOWN, WILL YOU? DROWNING OUT MY SOUND WILL ONLY CAUSE A FROWN.” The mechanical automaton took it’s audio plug and jammed it into Brian’s surround sound system, “WAKE UP, SIR BRIAN, WAKE UP!” A book fell from a shelf.

    Brian, with tears flying from the edges of his eye lashes, threw his pillow at the miniature man. In order to dodge, the mechanical boy cart wheeled, dislodging itself from the speakers. A loud buzzing white sound filled the room.

    “I’m up,” Brian screamed. “My god, every morning.”

    “Sir Brian, I have laid out your school clothes arranged by your particular mood. If you fancy grabbing the eye of the luscious Ms. Littlefinger, I recommend the bright blue trousers and leather jacket with no undershirt. Chicks love leather jackets.”

    Brian looked at assembled three piles of clothing and sighed. Nothing wearable, nothing even close. In one of the piles was a tie dye t-shirt, his sister’s tight fitting bell bottoms, and a jar of “Manly Man’s Super Gel”. The other non-mention pile consisted of a pile of clothes he wore last year. Brian looked at all the piles in disgust.

    “Alfred,” Brian said, “What version of the fashion app do you have? Didn’t I download the new one into you yesterday?”

    Alfred’s eyes rolled backwards, as if he were concentrating, and his inner core vibrated, “New update of fashion app does not compute with Artificial Helper Version 2.7. Update is only compatible with versions 3.0 or above. Visit your local Orange store for an upgrade.”

    “Useless crap,” Brian said. Alfred smiled.

    Brian sighed and picked up the clothes that his parents had brought for him last June and headed for the bathroom.

    “Sir Brian, you have approximately zero hours, thirty-five minutes, seven seconds, and twenty three milliseconds, rounded up, to complete shower routine.”

    The boy dismissively waved at the robot as he slammed the door shut.

    Alfred sat on the desk, swinging his legs and whistling as he waited for the shower to finish. It plugged itself into the charger to make sure that he’d have enough battery life to last the entire day. He had only charged for several hours the night before because he had spent an hour proof reading Brian’s Artificial Life and Ethics Paper. His owner was too tired to do it himself, and Alfred had done the majority of the research. It was more efficient for him to put in the extra hours because he had built in wi-fi. This allowed him a constant access to the World Wide Web.

    The paper had been about how the Orange iHelpers were not life. The technology had a miniature human brain, but the majority of its body was machine. The brain produced limited creative thought that gave each individual iHelper its own personalities. The entire central nervous system was organic because the electrical nerves gave the iHelper reflexes and proprioception equal to a human. The main difference between iHelpers and humans was that the Orange products lacked a peripheral nervous system. The nerves communicated with the mechanical aspects, so the iHelpers could not feel pain. Brian’s paper argued that the definition of life, was the ability to feel pain. The iHelper bones were metal lined with nerves that allowed output, but could not return any signals of pain. This allowed for a more durable product that could perform tasks unpleasant to humans.

    As Brian exited the shower, Alfred snapped out of his song and began stuffing Brian’s school work into a back pack. All of the papers were scattered at the base of Brian’s desk because Brian refused to organize it.

    “Careful Alfred,” Brian said, “those papers are delicate.”

    “Yes, Sir Brian.” After several more minutes of packing Brian binders and laptop, Alfred declared they school ready.

    Brian picked up the one foot tall man, folded him by his waist, and placed him into his shirt pocket. Alfred bounced around the thin fabric, seeing out through the thin fabric. He tried to activate sleep mode, but there was an error inside of his processor.

    Through the fabric of the shirt, he heard Brian’s mom say, “Happy birthday, honey.”

    “Thanks mom,” Brian said.

    “Make sure you don’t dilly dally at school today. Your dad and I have a surprise for you.”

    Brian and Alfred left the door together, like they had for the past three years. On the bus Brian talked to his various peers, and Alfred recorded the more interesting parts of the conversation just in case his owner wanted to review the interactions later on. During some of their free time, Brian and Alfred had gone over the conversations. They had come to some interesting conclusions together.

    They deducted that Willy Claxton, Brian’s next door neighbor, was a chronic liar. When Alfred cross checked the stories by all the other kids and Willy Claxton, he came up with a seventy-seven percent false rating.

    Susie Littlefinger was a slut. She had slept with nearly the entire street, except for Brian, who was madly in love with her because she had not slept with him.

    Alfred and Brian had laughed as they conversed about their classmates. These conversations took place when Brian couldn’t sleep.

    Today there was nothing noteworthy, and the bus arrived at the high school with a universal sigh of disappointment.

    During the school day, Alfred sat on the desk, his back straight and at attention as his metal pupils trailed the various teachers, catching every word. He recorded the most important visuals directly to his hard drive, so Brian could watch the videos while cramming for exams. Alfred etched the global ideas into his miniature pre-frontal cortex, so he could tutor Brian. His thoughts were often broken and incomplete because of the size of his brain.

    Brian dozed during class if he’d stayed up too late playing video games, or he played Angry Birds on his iPhone.

    Everything went smoothly until the last period Artificial Life and Ethics class.

    “So, you’re sure the paper is decent?” Brian asked, as he set Alfred down on the desk.

    “Perfecto, Sir Brian. I spent an hour after you fell asleep proof reading the sucker and found nothing. Your arguments against those pinko, hippies, communists are sound proof. No pain, no life, sir.”

    Brian smiled and patted Alfred on the head. The teacher entered the room. She wore thick rimmed glasses that she had to constantly push up on her face because they fell down her witch like nose from their own weight. They covered hawk like eyes that dotted around the room, noting every absent and present student.

    “Hand in your term papers. I hope you lot did a good job on them. Your grade depends on it,” she said. Most of the kids sitting in front already had their papers stapled and ready for grading.

    Brian dug through his backpack casually at first. He moved the binders aside looking for his twenty page paper. After several short moments of searching, he emptied his book bag. Pencils, pens, crumpled balls of paper, and non-sticky sticky notes.

    “Alfred,” Brians said, “did you pack the paper? I don’t see it in here? Mrs. Grabenhort is going to kill me!”

    Alfred jumped down, sure that he packed everything. He was an iHelper and never forgot anything. He dug through the bag, rifling through the disorganized mess. Alfred twiddled his fingers. The seconds on the clock thudded with each second Brian searched.

    A gruesome memory bloomed into Alfred’s head. Jagged images popped into his thoughts, stupid, stupid Alfred. He had packed all the materials next to his bag, but the paper had been on top of the desk because he had done the late night proofreading.

    “Sir Brian, I think I may have left the paper on the desk,” Alfred whispered. “I’m so sorry. If you told the teacher I’d been a dumb klutz, I’m sure she’d understand. I’m sorry Bri-“

    His owner slammed Alfred’s head into the ground. Alfred never knew what pain felt like, but he was disoriented due to the sudden loss of vision. There was a faint popping in his ear, as he felt the semi-biological parts crush. He lost audible input on his left side.

    “You stupid robot, piece of junk.” Brian kicked the limp iHelper across the floor. Alfred initiated damage protocol that released a relaxant stimulant throughout his body.

    The teacher and the rest of the class, including Ms. Susie Littlefinger gasped as Brian slammed the back pack on the miniature robot. Through one eye, Alfred saw Brian’s red cheeks turn from burning anger to bleeding embarrassment. The clicking in Alfred’s brain thumped louder. In the back corner of Alfred's mind there was a manual override as his cpu forced sleep mode to prevent any more damage. His vision blanked, and his internal thoughts went white.

    Alfred felt his safe mode booting mode. Safe mode loaded only the most basic files. His connection to the World Wide Web was disconnected, and for the first time, his access to all of humanity's information was cut. Alfred lost track of time and his place in it. How long had he been unconscious for?

    “Mom! I love you, I love you so much. I can’t believe it! You actually brought me something I asked for, for once!” Brian jumped up and down yelping. He held cardboard box up over his head like a trophy he had trained everyday to earn.

    “Brian,” his mother said, “we got you this if you promise to work harder in school, and if you promise there won’t be anymore outbursts in class.”

    “Yeah, mom,” Brian said, ripping at the box, “sure mom.” Brian tore through padding foam creating a snowstorm, revealing the iHelper 3.5. The newest iHeper that wouldn’t be released to the public for another month.

    “I love it, it’s beautiful. It’s so much slimmer than Alfred. Wow! The battery life lasts for two days, so I won’t have to charge it every five minutes.”

    I have to be charged every 17.5 hours, Alfred tried to say, but the files to activate his vocal cords were still loading. Error messages popped up all over his vision.

    “Oh my god, I can create 3D holograms and send them directly to Facebook. This version can reach download speeds up to several gigabytes per second, this is so rad. I’m going to send a hologram to Dave and Andrew right now, to shove it in their face that I got the newest iHelper.”

    Brian stumbled over to Alfred, holding his new iHelper. His eyes twinkled.

    “Alfred, I need to get the memory chip from your head.”

    “Sir Brian, does the iHelper 3.5 not come with its own memory?”

    “Don’t be an imbecile, Alfred, of course it does, but all my files are installed on you. It’d be so much quicker to move the hard drive than to copy all the files, which can take hours.”

    “Sir Brian, I won’t be able to help you out much, if you take away my memory. I will still be able to form minimum basic functions, but the majority of my concrete memories are stored on my hard drive.”

    “Alfred, you didn’t even help me much to begin with. I mean, you’ve always been okay, but let’s not fool ourselves. You’re outdated.”

    Alfred sighed, “Are you sure you want to do this? It sure has been swell these last few years.”

    “Quit stalling,” Brian said, his voice giddy. “Besides, you won’t need the memory anyways.”

    “Why?”

    “You’re obsolete.” Brian picked Alfred up by the neck and set him on a stool next to the new iHelper. Alfred read about the improved G-touch technology, the increased learning ability and retention, and the new apps available exclusively for the 3.5. Alfred stared into his reflection from the plastic on the iHelper box. His arm dangled uselessly, and there were dents in his forehead from where Brian had slammed him into the leg of a chair.

    “It sure has been a good time,” Alfred said.

    “Well, the times can only get better with the 3.5,” Brian said, as he unhooked a metal hatch on Alfred's neck.

    “Sir Brian, do you think you’ll be that much happier?”

    “Yes.”

    “Anything to make you happy, sir.”
    Alfred glanced at the slightly open door, thinking he could wriggle out of Brian’s grasp and escape. But where would he go? His battery would run out in a few hours. If his owner didn’t want him, he was a goner.

    As Brian pressed the eject button on Alfred’s back. Most of Alfred’s vocabulary, basic algebra, and basic maintenance protocols were ripped from his head. It was like a lake made of nothingness permeating through the city of thoughts in his head. The basic structures of things like the alphabet collapsed. He couldn’t recall the vowels or when “e” went before “i” except after “c,” or was it the other way around?

    Alfred tittered on the brink of insanity as he forgot what his favorite color, blue, looked like. The name of his owner was stolen from him; he thought it started with a “B.” He loved his owner, but he couldn’t remember why. Was there a reason? He wasn’t always this forgetful, right? Wake up, Sir Brian, it’s time to wake up? Aren’t these my thoughts, isn’t he stealing them from me?

    The memory stick popped as it left the usb slot embedded in the iHelper version 2.7 brain. The pop echoed in an infinite loop in the auditory canal, but there wasn’t a functional signal to bring it anywhere.

    “Mom! Take out the trash. It’s my birthday.”
    "It was your pet, honey."
     
  2. nzric
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    nzric Active Member

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    Great story, good descriptions of Alfred's pov
     

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