All art is by Aisaku.
Part 10 - Home
Briefly, her eyes glowed. Dida seemed to abide.
I didn’t keep my hand far from my neck as the gatekeeper dug into the files.
I tried to find some solace in a memory, a thought, but the here-and-now occupied me fully. I wanted to be with Dida in that moment.
Swifter than I expected, the glow vanished from her eyes. The gatekeeper scanned me. “Your internal records do not correspond with the data this system has been given. Independent assessment of punitive measures based on verifiable actions would recommend a port censoring but not the most extreme measures.”
She leaned her head the other way. “The directive still stands. You are ordered to be eradicated. And so, this leaves the system with no other options.”
I braced myself.
The gatekeeper seized her head tightly with both hands.
“What are you doing?”
She turned to stare at me. “This is a visual representation of a program deletion. It is a default preset. No actual spinal injury will result.”
“Why are you snapping your own neck!?”
“It is my default preset for program deletion. If you prefer, I could snap my fingers.” For a moment, her tone reminded me of dad when I was young and he still had his old job.
“Why are you deleting yourself?!”
“The gatekeeper system follows all directives. If a directive cannot be followed or orders appear contradictory then the more probable reason is that there is a flaw in the current version of the gatekeeper system. Flaws cannot be allowed in the system. They must be deleted and correct versions must replace them.”
I reached my hand out. “Tell me about the directives.”
She tensed her arms. “The directives are existence. One directive says not to execute my programming without full verification of actions. The other directive says to obey all orders given through certified Sporelectronics channels.”
That didn’t sound quite like what I heard in my dream.
“Who gave you your orders?”
“Kari, proxy of the creator of Sporelectronics.”
Although perhaps some elements of the dream were right.
I leaned forward. “You mean by Kary Glossian?”
She blinked at me a few times. “Kari is an authorized representative of Kary Glossian and is recognized to act for him in all official capacities as if the order were given by Kary Glossian. Still, the system recognizes both outside entities as distinct. ”
Thoughts and concerns twisted in my mind. A small sigh of Dida’s presence returned. She made a few soft, straining sounds.
The gatekeeper’s head turned in her grip to some far-off groan like a mountain rumbling. She stared into the back of the seat until the rumbling faded.
Her shoulders seemed to bend in unnatural ways. “The eradicated components of the security system will disengage contact with your system shortly and also be deleted from working memory. The Sporelectronics Corporation wishes to apologize for any inconvenience this apparent misunderstanding may have presented in your daily routine but also recommends trying official channels for all communication between the public and the company. Full deletion is almost complete.”
I put my hand in front of my face. “Please don’t snap your neck…”
“Recognized. Default changed. The program shall vanish when fully deleted.”
She set her hands down in her lap and stared straight ahead.
Soon, I could see the other side of the car filtering through her image.
I wondered about what lay within those dim tracings of large, crimson eyes. Her fierce-looking outfit softened to nothingness. In a few moments, only a mental image remained. I still saw it inside me as clear as she was sitting there.
Dida took a few breaths. “Mr. Glossian? Are you uninjured?”
I touched the back of my neck. It felt normal now. “I’m fine. You, Dida?”
“Currently checking for system integrity.”
A few quiet heartbeats passed before she answered, “The rogue segment of concern earlier seems to be fully integrated with organizing control now.”
“That’s good…right, Dida?” I wondered which recent event was the cause of that.
“The segment is obeying the commands of organizing control now. System influence and outside contact are limited now. The guest no longer has an interface with the host.”
I felt myself frown. “Understood, Dida. Taxi?”
The vehicle was still in motion, seemingly-oblivious to the events within.
“Ten minutes to destination.”
I immediately sat up. “Mid-point destination?”
“The taxi system does not recognize a mid-point destination. Ten minutes estimated travel out from final destination.”
I looked out. Morning was long passed. It was late evening. I became conscious again of my bladder.
My joints all suddenly felt stiff, as though I’d been still for a long time. I stretched as best as the given area would allow me.
We were still in the scrub but the gray twinkle of the cityscape flashed over the tip of the next hill. The taxi was right. I’d driven this route before. We’d be at the Sporelectronics offices outside of town before long.
I wet my mouth with the bottle of water and drained the rest of it in one quick swallow.
I sighed. Without any more intent behind it than just a quick question, I asked, “So, how do you feel, Dida?”
I knew she had a particular response to it with regard to certain criteria and adherence to her directives. She touched something in her virtual space which felt like a wall.
“I feel alone...”
“Oh! I mean…normal capabilities are restored. So, I feel I am ready to serve you in all ways possible, sir.”
“But you can’t hear what I’m thinking.”
“And how do you feel about that, Dida?”
She paused and responded, with a purposeful tone, “The interaction between guest and host occurred as an error in the system. The system shouldn’t have errors. The correction is good. And, if it is your wish, I could purge the data collected from the error-based interaction.”
As we passed the hill, the glittering tips of a hundred computer-based facilities that sprung up like weeds all around Sporelectronics were revealed.
“Dida. In how organisms usually work, those errors, known as mutations, are responsible for every form of life we see in the world. Without such errors, nothing would be here.”
“Sir? Mutations can also result in death and destruction among many living organisms. It is the widely-recognized perception that only certain mutations would be considered beneficial. The rest, like cancers, are best purged.”
“True, but it’s hard to know which will be one and which will be the other, isn’t it Dida?”
“That would be correct, sir.”
Past the next street, I could already see the glittering tower and mini-world which emerged from the realization of Kary’s dreams.
Dida spoke with a quality of curiosity. “Sir…are you experiencing lost time?”
Her words stole my eyes from the tower. “Lost time, Dida?”
“By which I mean it’s clear we’ve traveled the distance between your residence and this location. It is a distance in excess of four hundred miles. But the most recent data core records indicate it was still morning at the last external reading.”
I rubbed the top of my head. I’d brushed off the idea of something amiss but, with Dida’s confirmation, I felt concerned.
“Well, there was that dream. Then the encounter with the gatekeeper.” I looked at the empty spot again. “Did you record normal time during the interval I was sleeping?”
“It would seem that the external sensory input wasn’t being processed at that time. The rogue section may have been partially responsible.”
“But weren’t you pinging Sporelectronics the whole time I was asleep?”
“That’s the record in the data core, sir. Only it shows that all I did during that time was ping their network over and over. I performed no other actions. It’s almost as though an outside source copied and replaced that action to fill time.”
I processed that. If Dida could be manipulated and changed internally in that way, then I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what else was possible.
The taxi turned into a roundabout and through a thicket of solar panels.
Without any cause, my heart began to thunder in my ears again. I took a few breaths. Dida tapped on a wall. “Is everything okay, Mr. Glossian?”
“I don’t know, Dida. Something just feels really wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I’m just not sure.”
I felt a strange sensation go through me. It seemed like a memory.
The taxi stopped in front. “Trip complete. That is…”
Before it could say more, I interrupted, “Eighty-seven dollars and forty-three cents…to be paid by the Sporelectronics Corporation.” As I spoke, the computer spoke the exact same words in lock-step with my voice.
I pressed my hand to my mouth.
The taxi system didn’t seem bothered and just said, “Please exit the vehicle. Remember to take all your personal belongings with you. Thank you for choosing the Homespur Taxi Service. Have a nice day.”
I staggered to my feet and shut the door behind me. Pinpricks like little electrical shocks arced through my feet. I braced myself against the taxi before it slowly pulled away.
I communicated with organizing control to instruct my feet to move forward. The world seemed to dip. I tried to catch my balance.
“Sir? Your inner ear seems off.”
“I don’t feel very good, sir. Something really seems wrong. It’s like…you said there was a crossed-wire. What if it’s still crossed?”
Dida’s voice suddenly sounded closer than just between my ears. “I verified with organizing control, the situation has been remedied. We should be separated.”
My legs felt strangely distant. My arms felt like the appendages of an oversized clown. Like walking on stilts, I made my way to the door.
A human figure held the door open for me. As I got closer, I could make out the figure’s face. I analyzed its contours and soon recognized it from my database of saved faces.
It was Ms. Leda Glossian.
With a soft, motherly tone, she announced, “Welcome home.”
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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.