All art is by Aisaku.
Part 7 - Father
Kary laughed into the phone. “Yes. That will be fine…” He soon hung up and smiled at me. “So, how are things going?”
I’d talked with the voice for the good part of an hour. I kept things focused on Kary when it asked about family life. The voice seemed a little worried, but I assured it.
With a smile for Kary, I answered, “Peachy.”
The voice chimed in, “It has been most illuminating.”
Kary looked pleased. He tugged on his tie. “Wonderful. And questions?”
Since I heard the voice to my left side, I automatically glanced to my left as though to check with a physical person for any questions. Of course, no one stood there.
I turned back. “Should I have questions?”
Kary grinned. “You certainly should, in particular about....”
“All my terrible secrets…”
I just stared.
He snorted. “I’m teasing you. Sheesh. Well, I just want to tell you that the actual ‘implantation’, as it’s called, is done by a massive needle that’s eased into the back of the neck…” He mimed the motion with his hands along with vivid sound effects from his mouth.
I narrowed my eyes.
“…or that’s how it was originally conceived. Come on. I’m not going to stick a huge needle in my little bro. And besides, how would we ever be able to market something like that to the general public? With a lolly?” Kary laughed until he was doubled over. Clearly, he was making some pun. I just watched.
He ended with a sigh. “Fine. Okay. I had my fun. Now the questions you should be asking involve how much fun and free time you’re going to have with your new little companion.”
“What about control?”
He suddenly sounded exasperated. “Didn’t you already ask that?”
“To the computer over there.”
Kary waved his hands. “Then it’s answered. Good?”
“What’s your hurry?”
He leaned forward. “Why are you being a stick in the muck? We talked about this on the phone. You agreed. We shook on it. Aren’t you with me?” He laid his palm out to me as evidence, as though some trace of our handshake were still there.
“You’ve told me about your dreams and ideals, but you’ve been short on actual information.”
He clapped his hands and kept his jaw firmly set. “What information do you want?”
“How about the AI operating system and the information about tests so far?”
Kary seemed slightly annoyed. “There haven’t been any incidents which would worry me so far. Come on. You’re my brother. Do you think I would do anything which would put your life in jeopardy? I have put blood and sweat into this unit with the wish that you would accept my tireless efforts. But no…you have to bring dad’s attitude with you and slap my hand away.”
I brushed my hair back. “...I thought we had an agreement about dad.”
He folded his arms and released a long breath. “Yeah. But he’ll be in my head until the day I die. So, you’ll forgive me if he peeks out from time to time, right?”
I held my hands up. “Okay. Big brother wants to take care of everything for me. That’s fine. When do we begin?”
“As soon as you sign the last of the consent forms. They’re the usual accidental death and dismemberment forms.”
Mr. Glossian shot him a dirty look and he enjoyed a small smile before clarifying, “It’s just something from Legal. It’s nothing too unusual for beta-users, just covering our assets.”
When my thoughts returned to the present, the ringing remained. I checked the time with the cab. About half an hour had passed.
The alfalfa fields had given way to dry junipers covering a narrow, hilly pass. I felt a moment of terror looking ahead at the driverless console in front as the ravine drew into sight. But the moment passed when I remembered the emergency kill switch to the side and the manual backup in the front.
Still, I shut my eyes as the vehicle dipped around a bend.
Dida returned with the obvious. “I’m not receiving a pickup. I’ve been retrying every five minutes. His auto-responder doesn’t seem to be on either. Perhaps he left?”
“Perhaps…Were you away too, Dida?”
“For a time, Mr. Glossian. I was affected, but I tried to keep the information from impacting the system. You recalled soon before I was implanted. Are you suspicious of the other Mr. Glossian?”
“We’ll see. I have several questions to ask when we arrive.”
Dida set aside her virtual papers. “May I inquire about the rest stop you asked for?”
“It’s a stupid idea. It’d be better if I just told the taxi to forget it.”
Dida stumbled and awkwardly asked, “Oh…then shall I call to notify…?”
I could’ve brushed her off, like all the other times. But I answered, “I didn’t even tell him I was coming. It’s just a stupid thought.”
“Oh…but what if there isn’t anyone there?”
“He’ll be there…” I tightened my hand around the cushions.
Dida, in her smallest voice, quietly asked, “Who?”
Looking only at the winding road ahead, I answered, “Father.”
The taxi bumped over a large pothole.
Dida asked just what I was thinking myself. “Are you sure that’s wise, Mr. Glossian?”
I gave her my best shrug and responded, “It’s been about six years since we’ve really talked. Maybe it’s time.”
“If you so choose, Mr. Glossian.”
Still, I felt a trace of hesitancy. I could just tell the computer to ignore the stop. Our last big talk hadn’t been very productive.
“Where is your business now?” Father’s eyes searched me.
I sipped my tea. “I’m self-employed right now. I gave my dissertation defense last year.”
He leaned forward. “So, you’re just using up space. What good is that Ph.D. of yours?”
I avoided his gaze and calmly explained, “It’s a Psy. D and a lot of my time has been taken up on the research side of things. I have a few patients I see pro bono as well as some who pay for counseling hours. I’m also looking at a job at a school.”
He gave a rough growl. “So, you’ll be sucking down government money then?”
“Mostly private schools.”
His mouth clenched. “Those usually pay more but they can fire you whenever they like.”
“I know. So, how have you been?”
His look sliced through me. “Why do you care? Anxious for my funeral?”
I offered him only a shrug. “Just making talk.”
He smothered a pillow under his body. “I see on TV that’s what you psychologists do. Pay for talk. There are worse things. Like what your brother does.”
The room felt too warm, but I didn’t comment on it. “Kary has a business.”
He gave a sound like both clearing and crushing his throat. “That hideous name! He should’ve been named Karl, at worst. Leda didn’t really want him, you know.”
I gave a few breaths. “Well, I’m really here because I’m curious about the Didaks. Mom only mentioned them in passing.”
Father pushed back his narrow spectacles. “Leda. She was a goddess when I first met her. But beauty fades and she had little of mind. She was crazy.”
I sat up. “Could we please keep to her family? What did you learn about them? Did you ever meet them?”
He sat rigid and unflinching. “I never concerned myself with the Didaks and they never bothered me in return. They came from somewhere in Greece. I didn’t care to know more.”
I shut my eyes a moment. “This was a mistake…”
Father clutched the couch arm. “What do you really want?”
I stood from my chair and set my tea to one side. “To leave now.”
He gestured with his other hand to the door. “It’s not locked. See you at my funeral.”
We were at least clear of the ravine when I returned to the present. The road was a four-lane highway through a bleached dry countryside with multitudes of transplanted, drought-tolerant species.
I addressed the taxi computer, “I’d like to revise the route.”
“Acknowledged. Cancel or revise?”
Dida burst over my next words. “Wait! I received information from the last long-term memory access. I’m sorry. But I think you were right at first. You should see your father, Mr. Glossian.”
“Because…while it is clear your interactions in the past have had negative results, situations are not static. I have noticed this with human behavior. It’s why you have good sessions with patients and not so good ones. Not all times are equal. Also, you’ve never given up on any of your patients.”
“My father is not a patient. And besides, I’ve been trying to connect with him for over thirty years.”
“Such an investment of resources should not go to waste. You will pass right through his area. I know I cannot influence your decision, but my advice is to take this opportunity. I know it may seem to run contrary to your current issues and concerns, but my speculative processes offer a high probability that they may not be entirely unrelated.”
I rapped my fingers on my leg and told the taxi computer, after a moment’s reflection, “I’d like to revise the route.”
“Remove mid-point stop from the system and…”
“MR. GLOSSIAN!” Dida almost yelled at me, which gave me pause.
“What’s wrong, Dida?” The taxi said a quick “Command not recognized. Awaiting further instructions.” I answered it back with, “Delay command.”
“I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t, but I must again strongly advise we keep to the route you first wished. You must not give in to your doubts and fears based on past events.”
I listened to the newfound earnestness of Dida’s little voice and sighed to myself.
“Taxi. Disregard last command given concerning change of route.”
I shifted to lay lengthwise on the seat. It felt rather more comfortable. “Dida?”
Hesitantly, Dida answered, “…yes, Mr. Glossian?”
“I really hope you’re right about this.”
“It is my wish this will conclude positively for you, Mr. Glossian.”
“Same for you, Dida.”
“Thank you, sir.”
A moment of automated hissing and rubber rolling over pavement filled the air till I finally took the opportunity to ask, staring out the window, “What does a ‘father’ mean to you, Dida?”
“The term. I’ve asked you about ‘enjoy’, now I’m curious about your thoughts on ‘father’.”
“Oh. It is a human term for a form of paternal relationship between humans.”
“Correct, Dida. But as with the other term, I’m looking for your own context.”
I could hear her idle sound.
I suddenly felt a little tired. I shut my eyes and awaited her answer.
I felt the car vibrate beneath me.
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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.