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The Heart Beats in Binary

Page 3 of 6

Disconnect BradSystem,” I commanded, but there was no reply. I must have imagined it, I thought. That reality leap can really mess with my head. The Paradise logo and opening screen popped up before my virtual eyes, and I went through the choice list. It then asked for a credit card number. “World Bank Visa; number R1, 32, oh, 9, 38, J, 45, D, T, X, 12; expires 4/98; name T. Bradley.”

“Processing,” said the synthVox.

“Pardon me,” said Bradley, as he materialized in front of me, “but I don’t think that is your proper credit card.” My physical body jolted with such surprise that I wrenched the earphones from the jack. After the initial confusion, I realized that it wasn’t virtually Bradley, but his AI.

“What the hell are you doing here,” I demanded to know, but since the phones weren’t in, the electricity wasn’t making a circuit and the computer system ignored me, assuming that I went to the bathroom, or something. Hastily, I plugged the phones back in, but before I could settle back, the server had some harsh words with me.

“Sir, under the 1995 Convention of Taxes and Credit under UN stipulation,” the Paradise synthVox growled, “it is a violation of world law to use a stolen or misappropriated credit card, punishable by fines of no less than $50,000 and/or jail time of no less than 6 years.” For a long time, nothing was said, until the synthVox used the computer equivalent of clearing the throat. “Response?” it said.

“I didn’t steal the card,” I said sheepishly. I really didn’t, and even Bradley would say so, but he’d be really pissed while saying it.

“Under the 1995 Convention of. . . ,” began the synthVox, again, but the AI interrupted it.

“I’ll handle this, Cinthi,” it said politely. Great, I thought, while I was out of the system, these two apparently got to know each other. How do two silicon intelligences talk to each other, I wonder? They can’t talk about the weather. Maybe they talk about electricity: “My that was some spike, yesterday,” or, “How about those solar flares that reached earth two days ago?” Whatever the small talk, they had plenty of a chance for it, because I was out of the loop for at least five seconds which is a long time for brains that process time in nanoseconds.

Bradley’s AI continued, looking sternly at me, at which I almost laughed, because Bradley himself just didn’t have the facial muscles to look stern, but here was his alter-ego doing it now. “Ralph, I explained to this system how you came into possession of T. Bradley’s card, and we have both decided not to press this matter further as long as you agree not to use the card any longer.”

Bewildered, but relieved, I sighed, “Yeah, sure thing guys.” I was more than willing to not get anyone, or anything, involved in this mess, but one thing still bothered me. “Why are you here, Brad?” I didn’t want to call him Bradley, and BradSystem 400vr seemed too silly and long in this place.

“T. Bradley has requested that I monitor all activity on this machine,”

Should I believe it? I wondered. I’m paranoid to a fault, but I couldn’t argue with Bradley’s logic. It was the first of in its class, and there should be some record of how the human interface really worked. It did bug me, though, that this whole incident would have to remain on record unless I took a worm to the memory, and it wasn’t really worth that; besides which, I hadn’t even gotten the chance to do what I wanted, which was to see Cori. “All right, you,” I snarled at the AI, knowing full well that I couldn’t possibly intimidate it at all. “Just keep out of my way. I don’t want to see you here again.” I put emphasis on the word “see,” because I knew it would have to stay; I just didn’t want to know about it.

“Yessir,” it said as amiably as a program can, “I’ll keep out of your way. And thank you for using. . . .”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Enter new card number,” I said as the AI dissolved satisfyingly from view. I gave my own card number. Since I was paying for this one, I’d go for the gusto. I choose a very expensive option of what price I won’t go into here, but needless to say that my credit agency must love me, as I pay off my premium slowly, just the way they want. “Make it with Cori,” I added, before the system even asked.

The deep grey foyer dissolved into a virtual jungle. This was, I assume, the reason that this place called itself paradise. The jungle was warm, but not uncomfortably so, and the virtual sounds of tropical birds and monkeys played in the background. This was interesting. What did most guys think when they got here? Were they Tarzan looking for Jane, or Adam meeting Eve? Me? I was just a computer programmer trying to understand how I could have fallen in love with a computer program and spent all that money. When Cori walked out from behind some rubber plants, chaotic thoughts melted into her image. My physical body was just sitting there at home in a small cubicle, but I swear I felt my legs go weak where I seemed to be standing. She was more beautiful than I had remembered. Her long brown hair lightly framed her thin face and fell behind her shoulders. She wasn’t wearing much, a bathing suit that was one piece, but a large diamond was cut from the center rendering it almost a bikini. Her body was well defined, and this outfit put it in context. Cori smiled.

“Hi, uh, remember me?” I sputtered.

“Sure, I do,” she laughed. Embarrassment crept up my face. I couldn’t even talk to her. I must have looked like an idiot. “You were just in here yesterday, but you didn’t tell me your name.” She still smiled.

“Uh, yeah,” I laughed feebly, avoiding her eyes. “It’s Ralph.”

“Ralph,” she repeated looking up towards the lush, green ceiling where breaks let through glorious beams of virtual sunlight. “I like that name, Ralph.” Yeah, right, I thought. The only reason that parents name a boy Ralph is that he was conceived during an episode of the Honeymooners, or because dead uncle Ralph is remembered fondly by great-grandma who can’t even recall her own name. But Cori had this way of saying it, and I was almost convinced that she really meant what she said. After a quarter of a century of hating my name, I suddenly found it to be melodious and poetic when Cori’s perfect ruby lips softly spoke it. “What do you want to do, Ralph?” she asked.

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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