All art is by Aisaku.
Part 5 - Sorrows
Dida had chosen a chime sound instead of the usual dial back, which father’s phone still possessed. I found that promising. She’d continued a command while my mind was elsewhere. But I needed to test whether any of her systems were affected this time.
The chime continued.
A soft, womanly voice answered. “Hello?”
“I’m calling for Dr. Kary Glossian.”
The voice gave a little chuckle. “How are you, bro?”
It took a moment. “Sorry, it’s been a while since we talked.”
“No worries, Aide.” Kary sniffled. “And my apologies too, I have a bit of a sore throat. What’s up?”
“I have technical concerns with Dida which I wanted to bring up.”
“Is she okay?” Kary's voice sharpened.
“It’s regarding her organizing control and a couple notes of concern…” I explained the gist of the incidents so far.
Kary gave a long, soprano rumble in his throat. “Alright. Actually, I had heard of something like this occurring before. It’s an issue with our beta-set. For mass-production, the growth and variables of the system are limited. People don’t want their computers to change and grow so much and you know of course…”
I gently interrupted, “I do. Go on, please.”
Kary cleared his throat and sighed. I couldn’t help but think of mom.
“Well…the thing is…with those human-fungal situations, the problem was the AI was growing beyond the boundaries it was meant to exist in. A limit had either been mutated or changed.”
I felt a cold chill. “So you’re saying Dida is getting into my head…in areas where she’s not supposed to be?”
Kary stammered. “No no no. I’m just presenting a particular kind of case which we’ve seen so far in your class of user….where are you now?”
“In a restaurant.”
“I mean, where are you living now?”
“Bellacina in California.”
“Nice place. Our west coast office isn’t far from there. Give us a visit and maybe we can see what’s going on. I’ll upload the directions.”
I clenched my napkin between my fingers. “Kary?”
“What happened in the cases like this?”
“It wouldn’t be right to say. Each case is unique.”
“Please tell me what happened to them.”
He took a long breath before speaking.
“It’s been a long time, remember? Things are a lot safer now and Dida was custom made for you because you’re my brother. The only people affected were people in the company. We also suspect that they may have made unauthorized modifications…”
“I just had to qualify it before I told you. Each and every one of them blended their personality with their AI until the AI took over. But none of them survived after that point. They passed away by cerebral hemorrhage.”
Dida responded first with a tiny gasp.
I cleared my throat and said, “You haven’t mentioned this before…”
Kary’s smooth voice rubbed a bit as he coughed. “As I said, they were particular situations different from your own. I figured it wasn’t best to trouble you with it.”
I took a long breath through my nose. “It was your ethical responsibility to disclose all you knew.”
Kary nearly spoke twice before saying, “I’m sorry. Can you come visit us so we can help you?”
I tore the napkin in half. “I’ll call you back.”
“Alright. Please make it soon.”
Dida waited until Kary disconnected to cry.
I touched the back of my neck. “Dida?”
“Oh…Mr. Glossian. I feel so ashamed. I’m hurting you. I’m making trouble for you.”
“No, Dida. None of this is your fault, I assure you.” I couldn’t be sure, but I also knew that positive morale couldn’t hurt her programming or system structure.
But she naturally asked, “How can you know?”
“Because I know you would never hurt me.”
“Really…?” Her voice was so soft I could barely hear her question.
I wasn’t sure from our first meeting but, as soon as we shook hands, my brother gave me some time alone with Dida.
I scooted up in the chair. I gave the bowl another once-over and tapped the earpiece to make sure it was still secure.
The little voice asked preemptively, “Mr. Glossian?”
“May I ask you about yourself?”
“I mean, you may ask.”
“Understood. Please tell me everything you deem relevant for me to know.”
I blinked. That was a pretty big swath.
“Umm…I might’ve missed this when the other Mr. Glossian was talking…but will you need this uploaded…somehow?”
“I record everything you say to me along hypha strands.”
“Ah…cool. What’s that?”
“The better term would be ‘mycelium’. That’s the collective term for the hyphae. I can give you the non-technical example which Mr. Glossian programmed in for your sake.”
“How thoughtful of him. Please do.”
“In their unaltered state, they are similar to long branches which are collectively used to nourish me. Mr. Glossian has modified them so they also allow for the storage and retrieval of great amounts of information.”
That wasn’t bad considering some of the explanations Kary offered but it also begged questions from me.
“Interesting…but you bring up nourishment. Once you’re put inside of me…what will you eat to survive? And for that matter, how do I stop my body from hurting you?”
“Both very good questions. Mr. Glossian has worked extensively on both concerns. Several iterations of my sisters have been required to work through those problems. The second question is actually easier to answer.”
I crossed my legs.
She continued, “All humans have a certain, manageable level of fungi within them. This is maintained by a healthy immune system and balanced bacterial flora. Adding me to any human system would only, at most, necessitate supplementary probiotic bacteria. Furthermore, Mr. Glossian has tailored my enzymes to best mimic the appearance of human cells. According to my records, all laboratory trials have been completely successful.”
That sounded more encouraging to hear from her than from my brother. And since she’d explained, it seemed only fair to return the favor.
“Understood. Okay. My name is Aide Glossian. Most people think it's short for Aiden or something like that. But it’s not. Mom just chose it.”
I adjusted the microphone a bit from where it’d been left. “Would you like to know about our mother too?”
She answered immediately. “Please tell me whatever you deem suitable.” Her words sounded vigilant. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just a particular feedback response made to prompt me to keep talking, to show attention. It was only a simulacrum of communication, after all.
I picked up the microphone again and held it close so I could lean back and talk.
“She was born Leda Didak in a small town in Greece. She left her family and native country when she was young…for America. Once there she soon met and married Peter Glossian, our father. Not long after that, Kary was born. A few years later, myself.”
The little voice offered gently, “She sounds really pretty.”
I didn’t know if it had a probability calculator for terms and conditions or if it was just saying something according to a protocol designed by Kary. I held onto a bit of cough and expressed, “She was radiant. Like a raven-locked, curly-haired goddess with a chiseled, perfect face of classical beauty. But she never smiled.”
The little voice coming from the off-white patch of fungi seemed to imply a frown as she asked, “Why?”
I felt regret about how open I was. For all I knew, Kary would just download whatever it recorded and try to start talking to me about mother again. I could still remember the warmth of his hand though.
“For whatever reason, she loved father, yet father always seemed to do everything in his power to break her joy. He always found it…irrational. The same with her sorrows.”
I could feel the little voice’s presence almost physically pressing into my ear.
I jammed my fingers into the fleshiest part of my leg. “Yeah. I tried to help, but I was always too close to the storms. When he didn’t have mother to dig his eyes into, then he turned to Kary. I never knew why he seemed to leave me alone…by comparison.”
While an AI, the little voice paid careful attention and soon asked, “Did something happen to your mother?”
I answered only, “Several things did. And, in the end, her spirit was gone long before her body finally left.”
The voice murmured a bit and then asked, “Does this cause pain for you to speak about?”
“There are a few things I wish to keep to myself. So far as pain? Yeah.”
“Oh! My apologies then. Do you wish to suspend communications to attend to your injury?”
I gave the voice a quick smile. “That won’t be necessary. I’ve lived with it for more than twenty years. I’ll survive.”
The voice didn’t quite seem satisfied with that. I figured I’d settle it with, “Just leave it for now…”
“Understood. My apologies again. What is your profession?”
“Well…that was one thing father didn’t object to or methodically erode about me and my brother. He respected…doctors. That's as far as I went explaining to father what I do. I make enough money that he accepted it. He considered Kary the worthless dreamer though.”
The voice in my ear made a soft sound which seemed to be its ‘thinking’ or ‘processing’ response.
“So you’re a doctor? Isn’t the other Mr. Glossian as well?”
I held up two fingers to illustrate, then realized a moment later that the AI was just receiving my audio and soon put them down. “Kary is a biologist by profession and an entrepreneur so far as how I think about him. I am a psychologist specializing in various therapies connected with technology usage.”
I sounded like Kary when he really got going. I cleared my throat and clarified, “I help people who have psychological considerations relating to computers and the internet.” Not much better, but then I probably could’ve uploaded a data file on the specialty and been done with it.
“Do you enjoy it?”
That was probably a predetermined question. “It’s good work and I feel like I’m making a difference for my patients.”
The voice seemed a little confused by my answer. “But you don’t enjoy doing it?”
I blinked. “What do you mean by ‘enjoy’ then?”
“It improves your given purpose and the efficacy of your functions.”
How analytical. “Well, it’s a little different with humans…” But how to explain?
I tapped my lip. “For human beings, enjoyment firstly is vast. Some people enjoy some things which others hate. Little things can bring enjoyment. But, mostly, enjoyment can be from purpose and…and…having influence by your actions. It’s rather intricate.”
The voice made the processing sound again. I looked down at the off-white blotch of dots. I wondered which part was used for what.
“I have some background information included concerning the topic, but thank you for your personal account. More information allows me to provide my services to you with the greatest personalization.”
I only offered back a quick, “Cool.” Then I worried that slang may not make sense to the AI and added her own, “Understood.”
The voice seemed pleased.
I rubbed my head. “Do you need personal likes and dislikes now too?”
“That depends on your later settings for me. Don’t worry about anything now. If there is an error, I can be reset and the information reentered more effectively.”
“Yes. My data would be completely purged if something went wrong. A clean version of the OS would then be reintroduced.”
The voice didn’t seem particularly concerned. But then that was to be expected, I suppose.
“An anti-fungal agent would clear out the system, leaving only a data core to be read by the clean OS. You would be injected again with my version. Your presets would be saved in the data core to ensure continuity of service.”
I had to ask…
“And what about you? Wouldn’t you be dead?”
“This copy of the current OS wouldn’t be of service to you anymore. My goal is to avoid that inconvenience to you.”
I winced. It was talking about ceasing to exist and its main concern was that I would be inconvenienced.
But I had to remind myself that it had no concept of life and death. It was just a computer, no matter how formed.
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Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.