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The Heart Beats in Binary

Page 2 of 6

Virtually, I walked into a dimly lit lounge, sat down, and waited for the program to start running. When Cori walked into the room, smiled, and sat next to me, I whistled at the dedication of the programmers in this place. She had no glitches. Visually, she was perfection, but that was not too difficult to engineer, and that wasn’t what impressed me. Her eyes, brown, darted this way and that, looking me over, occasionally squinting. A computer wouldn’t need to do such things. “Hi, there,” she smiled, with a voice with a slight rough edge that would make a synthVox burn circuits trying to duplicate.

“Hi, uh, Cori,” I fumbled. I hadn’t really expected this. She was beautiful, and for a minute I just stared at her, while she just smiled at me. Eventually, she managed to get some type of conversation out of me. I got her to laugh at a couple of my self-conscience put-downs, and I think we talked about the weather in California, but I can’t recall much of anything else, except that somewhere in the middle of it, she reached out to hold my hand. After my ten minutes were up, I disconnected from the server slowly, stuck in some dream. I opened my eyes into the real world, and glanced at the hand Cori had been virtually holding. The sweat had seeped through the glove.

I lingered in the machine while recalling her pleasing vanilla perfume, and smiling at the bits of conversation that began even then to fragment in my scatterbrained mind. My reverie was interrupted by Bradley’s harsh and excruciatingly masculine voice asking, “Is it a winner?”

Passively, I gazed at him, saying, “She’s human.”

Bradley, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, and I guess he took my response as positive. “Good,” he said, “you usually bitch about the response time on these things. You think she’s seamless?”

Cori? Yes, absolutely seamless, but Bradley wasn’t asking about that. “I could smell her perfume, Brad. Tactile sensations were programmed in to that server, too, and your hardware picked it up. This thing’s a winner.”

Bradley didn’t smile often, but he was positively beaming then. “Good,” he said with visions of dollar signs dancing in front of his eyes. “Great, in fact. We’ll make a killing.” He paused for a moment, got this big crease in his forehead, and asked, “Whose perfume?” And finally noticing my vacant look, he shouted, “Jeez, Ralph, what the hell happened to you in there? Are you spacing out?”

“No, man, no,” I replied. I stared at him blankly. “I hooked into a VR chat line, and I, uh,” I paused to think of appropriate words as Bradley grew into his perfectly developed sneer. He was one of the few men I knew that sneered with his whole being. “I’m very impressed with the programming over there,” I finished.

“Yeah, well you would be.” One of the few nice things about working with Bradley was the way he would just ignore things beneath his personal contempt. Luckily, most of my life was in just such a category, so he dismissed me with a, “Just make sure it doesn’t interfere with the project.” I was satisfied with his dismissal, because should he have wanted some justification from me, smitten with a VR module, I wouldn’t have been able to supply one, as unsure of my feelings as I was then.

Trying to distance myself from my feelings, as a decent programmer isn’t really supposed to feel anything—we are a cold, logical breed—I spent the late evening and most of the next day finishing up the code on the AI’s voice extension. When I patched it in to the main system, it started up with, “It is June 13th, 2013, at 2:55 AM.” I’d like to note that it specifically said, “Two thousand thirteen,” and not “Two-zero-one-three.” As a programmer, I take pride in such things. The AI, whose voice was more like Bradley’s than I should have wished, continued, “This the fourth launch of the BradSystem 400vr. Synthetic voice module, ‘Bradley,’ is installed. Voice recognition and activation are on. Please say or enter your name.” I did as I was told, and it greeted me, “Welcome Ralph. I see this is the second time you used the system. Please ask for help if you have any questions. Waiting for response.” That’s the voice term for what we computer users call a prompt.

I made a critical error, here, I see in hindsight. Bradley had this story about this deli where they made fresh oatmeal cookies. Late one night, he purchased his first one, and was pleasantly surprised when he found that it was one of the best he had ever eaten, and Bradley was proud of his local standing as an oatmeal cookie connoisseur. He was so taken with it, that two hours after constantly thinking about this cookie, he hailed a cab and found that same deli to get another. He waited until he was home to eat this one, but was mildly disappointed when he found that this second cookie just wasn’t as good as the first.

It was a good lesson, I assume, but I know that it never happened that way with Bradley. He was not the caliber of man that could be pleasantly surprised, or mildly disappointed, especially after spending what must have been seven or eight dollars just to get a lousy oatmeal cookie at three in the morning. I’m pretty sure he lifted that axiom from someone else. He would have used that story on me, however, had he gotten the chance, because in the giddy feeling of a project completed, I decided to celebrate. I started to strap on the gear.

“Dial server at 900, 2, 13, 56, oh, 12, channel 6, zero, zero, 9,” I commanded the machine.

“Is this what you really want to do?” the AI confirmed. I gave a positive response. “Yessir,” intoned Bradley’s AI, “and thank you for using the BradSystem 400vr.” Once again, I warped, but this time I felt a tag-along, the shadowy presence of the AI. It didn’t do that last time.

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November 1993 © Jonathan Russell

MacPhoenix: Creative: Stories

Read on: WebSpace | Lounge | Tech | Portal | Blog | Swag | About

Creative-Types: c  l  a  r  i  t  y | Jim | Jonathan | rich(e)rich | Scott

Projects: Lingua Shapta