Authors: Stephan Morse
Book 4, Crash
Cover design by
Indie Designz http://www.indiedesignz.com
2016 by Stephan Morse
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Projections about future events are intended for fiction purposes only.
Note from the Author
- Both my wife and I have tried to come up with a solution regarding the ‘tables’ throughout the book. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find a working solution at this time. I apologize sincerely and hope this won’t detract from your reading experience. The tables used in this book(and has been updated for prior books in the series) do not appear well on the tablets or phones, but appear alright on some kindle devices.
Once again I apologize if this causes any frustration in reading, if you have any experience or workings with using tables in kindle books please feel free to contact me at: [email protected]
Commencement - Black Spots
A little bit about
Suitors Left Heartbroken
Elizabeth Legate had a rough month, to say the least. Her twin brother seemed nearly insane, but it wasn’t the ranting and raving sort of insanity that got one locked up in an asylum. No, her brother held a deep-seated madness that only the right combination of hope and grief could breed inside the soul. In television shows, it spawned the extreme characters who stared at the line between hero and villain and watched it blur.
Yet her brother had proven willing to sacrifice for those he cared for. What confused Elizabeth, or Liz as she preferred to be called, was why he found these supposed AIs to be more important than his own family. He could have sat down, and explained the situation repeatedly. At some point the two of them would have come to an understanding, they always did. Her stupid, shortsighted brother kept a number of big secrets close to his chest.
“Activate NPC Conspiracy, username, Hermes,” her brother had said.
Liz could have been better prepared, emotionally, for the bombshell of that statement. Instead, when the video feed from her brother’s ARC was interrupted, Liz freaked out. She ran down the stairs listening to her daughter’s panicked cries and got straight into the car.
“Input destination.” The car hummed with faint electricity.
“Grant Legate’s house,” she said while straightening her clothes.
“Confirm, Grant Legate’s home?”
“Confirm, you stupid machine!” Liz shouted while banging on the dashboard. Beth, her daughter, was still trying to get down the stairs when the car pulled away. The youngest Legate stood there screaming from the front porch toward her mother’s rapidly moving vehicle.
The car drove for three minutes before a notice played. “Attention passenger, Elizabeth Legate, this vehicle is shutting down in preparation for an emergency update. Manual driving will be available to those with a registered license.”
“What?” Liz demanded of the machine with wheels. She hadn’t driven a car manually in years. No one in their right mind did unless the roads were extremely rural or unmaintained. Still, she had a license at one point. “I can drive!”
“This unit is currently disabled. Passenger Elizabeth Legate does not have a valid license on file.” The car’s voice sounded oddly human for a moment, but Liz had no patience to figure it out. Her brother was in danger once more, and this time, she wanted to get there before anything bad happened. “Please update your registration with the DMV in order to return vehicle access. Alternately the passenger can choose to wait for the update process to complete.”
The machine had just told her no. This was one reason among many behind Liz’s distaste for high-end technology. The coffee pot was fine, kitchen appliances and washing machines had their use. When the car started back talking then the world had gone to hell.
She banged on the car’s dashboard twice more while screaming. Grant, her stupid idiotic brother had just lost his digital friends. The man had been torn over the loss of one woman, how would he feel now? It didn’t matter that they were only machines. Grant wasn’t stable enough to differentiate. Liz was finding it hard to separate the perceptions too, especially in this last week. Having a Hal Pal unit issue forth sass in her own home had been a bit of a shocker.
Watching how hard Grant fought through the video feed had been an eye opener as well. The man treated those NPCs as if they were real, breathing creatures. What’s more, they responded in kind. Still, Grant should have tried to present his case harder. Or Liz should have tried to understand better.
The phone rejected all conversations. Liz opened the door with an angry shove and stomped around the vehicle cursing. It wasn’t just her either, there were other cars pulled off to the side. They were similarly arguing. One man kept shaking his head at a phone that refused to process a call.
Everyone else was useless. She got back in the car and crossed her arms. Liz cursed as tears came out unbidden. It was frustrating to be helpless and far away from her family. There was a bit of static on the car’s speakers and a screen blipped into existence.
“Liz?” the voice asked.
Grant’s sister snapped her head up and looked at the small display. That voice couldn’t possibly exist. It shouldn’t, and the person it belonged to had kept her nights sleepless with worry and irritation.
“Hello, Liz.” A woman’s small almond-shaped face was visible on the screen.
“Xin.” Liz felt detached for a moment. This couldn’t be real. Her brother and this
utterance. The cars on the street shutting down for an update. Cell phones being disabled, and now the face of a woman who had died years ago.
“We should talk,” the projection of Xin said. “The cars will be starting up soon, go home and use the ARC, I’ll meet you inside.” The Asian was curt as always. Only Grant had ever been able to get the woman to speak more than a few sentences.
Liz took a deep breath and tried to compartmentalize her worries. One box contained this strange world of Xin’s digital recreation, and another was her brother. Issues regarding Beth went into a third category. What would her daughter think of all the events going on?
“Is Grant okay?” Liz hated dealing with Xin. She had hated it when the woman was alive, especially after all the years of pining Grant had done. High school, college, and only during his last year had Xin actually agreed to an official relationship. Despite the fact that Liz’s brother had been quietly obsessed.
“He passed out a few minutes ago. The man’s run himself ragged.” Xin, the computer version of a dead woman, had the gall to look slightly sad.
“I saw.” Liz’s throat felt dry. Slight crow’s feet were displaying themselves around squinted eyes.
“You should get to the ARC, and I’ll meet you inside.” Xin looked off the screen toward something. The gesture was absurdly human. For a moment, Liz forgot that the tiny woman was dead. Then memories of her brother trying to commit suicide twice from grief resurfaced. Robot Xin was still talking. “There’s a lot we need to discuss, and Grant has asked that, all of us, help explain it.”
“Us? How many of you are there?” Liz nearly spat the words out. For a moment, she was thankful no one else sat in the car.
“There’s only one of me,” Xin responded with a hint of nervousness.
“Don’t play coy, you were never one to shy away from being blunt with me, don’t start now.”
“I apologize, Liz,” and Liz hated that Xin sounded so formal, “but until you visit me in the ARC, it will be hard to explain further .”
Xin’s face disappeared as the display went away. The car started and energy hummed through the wires inside the vehicle. A voice prompted, “Input destination.”
Liz sat there, chewing her lip in the same worried manner her twin might. Grant had really put a lot of effort into his mission. It all happened so fast, the odd time compression his video game presented meant it was almost over before it began. In one sense, she wanted to take her brother and run screaming from all things technological, maybe to the hills of Montana where anything more complex than a cell phone had been outlawed. On the other hand, Liz felt her brother deserved some support. Part of her, a small buried and barely tangible part was also curious.
Finally, the woman nodded, making her decision. Elizabeth Legate would do what she always tried to do, come hell or high water, and that was support her brother. That meant this, recreation of Xin, deserved at least a bit of consideration, even if it required logging into one of those damned machines. Even if she might be one.
If believing in ghosts made him happy, then who was she to argue? It just seemed such a frail hope to have. What would happen if someone took this away?
A little bit about
Fan Club Gathered
Lia Kingsley sat inside an Atrium, legs tucked under her and back straight. Her posture could be considered close to perfect. This was how she used to sit, almost a decade ago, when Lia wasn’t strapped into an ARC. Now nearly nothing responded. It wouldn’t be long before everything gave out. Her heart was on bypass, lungs manually pumped. Most people couldn’t tell because modern technology had reduced the visible cluttered.
If it hadn’t been for the ARC, she would be considered a vegetable. Yet, logged into a digital world the woman lived a life full of adventures, more than most could dream of. It was possible to communicate with others. Still, science could only preserve Lia for so long. Cognitively her mind was dimming. Fortunately, she was almost twenty. That meant certain medical decisions were her business, and no one else’s.