Monday, July 08, 2013

Fractal, Part VI

This is the sixth part of a short story draft. Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV. Part V.

I was at home on Friday, just finishing up dinner and preparing to settle down and read some articles in the recent issue of Transactions on Neural Simulation and Artificial Planning Systems, when the doorbell rang, and I found, much to my surprise, that it was David.

"May I come in?" he asked.

"Of course," I said. We settled down in the living room; I had to push a large pile of Foundations of Engineering for Artificial Intelligence and Trends in Machine Learning and Response off the couch to give him a place to sit.

I was about to ask if he would like some tea, when he said suddenly, "Stimson has taken me off the project."

I sighed. "I will talk to him on Monday. He is bound to give in if I threaten to make trouble."

David shook his head. "It doesn't matter. I've actually come for a different reason."

There was a pause, and I waited for him to explain, but when he spoke again, he said, "We've been fighting the fight for a long time, haven't we, Charli?"

"I suppose, although it usually seems too short for me."

He smiled wanly. "To me it seems like it's been forever, and just gets worse. I guess that's what human life is: lots of little disasters making up a big disaster."

I laughed. "'Disaster' is not the word I would use for you," I said. "You have accomplished more in your life than generations of people can usually accomplish. You have done things that were once considered impossible."

"Do you think of Becky much?"

"Every day, obviously," I said.

"We need to keep our promise to her," he said.

"We already have. Our success with the project is proof of that."

He looked at me a long moment, and said, "Morgan Stimson cannot be trusted with the project."

"I agree," I said. "He is out of his depth. But that has always been true."

David shook his head. "That's not what I mean. Everything before was unimportant, but now it's entirely different. We cannot leave her at his mercy."

It took me a moment to figure out who 'her' was. "Rebecca? But Morgan will not interfere with the project itself. He knows it would be his head if anything went wrong."

He shook his head again. "I've always admired you, Charli, and you are my oldest friend, perhaps my only friend, but sometimes I don't think you see the people around you. The man is a parasite interested only in money and power, and he's spent his entire life leeching off our successes. But she is something utterly new, a thousand little revolutions in one, and there are dollar signs in his eyes. He is taking steps to take the project over, and he has removed me because I made it clear to him that I wouldn't stand for it. And that is treating his actions charitably. He was always jealous of Becky and me, and now that he can have her to himself, who knows what he'll do...."

"David," I said, "Rebecca is not Becky. "

His mouth set in a straight line. "I know that, Charli," he said evenly, "but it doesn't change anything. You and I owe it to Becky to make sure her legacy doesn't end up in the hands of Morgan Stimson. And even if that weren't the case, think of the ethics of it! Do you really trust Morgan Stimson to do the ethically right thing by Rebecca?"

"I would not trust Morgan Stimson to do my laundry," I replied. "But there's no need to get excited about it. You and I can work out a set of protocols and go around him...."

"This is not the time for your usual cool-headedness, Charli," he said. "Honestly, how can you think about her just locked up in a laboratory all the time and talk about formulating protocols? There has to be a better way."

He took a deep breath, as if gathering courage, then said, "I have contacted some people who can get her away. They don't know the details about her, only that Trisagion is holding her unjustly to experiment on her. Trisagion plays God enough that it wasn't difficult to find people who would believe that. All I have to do is get her out of the lab. It's all ready to go, but when Stimson pulled me off the project, he took the lab permissions off my card. I need your entry-card."

I was flabbergasted, sitting there looking at his intensely earnest, expectant face, so very different from the David I though I knew.

"Are you serious?" I said, managing to get it out only with difficulty. "What would happen to you?"

He held up his hand. "Don't worry about me, Charli. I have it all planned out. I know exactly what I'll do. You don't need to worry there. And you don't have to worry about security records, because I know how to erase them. Once I'm in, I'll be able to do that without any problem. Trisagion's been paranoid about competitors recently, it won't be difficult at all to use that to cover any other tracks there might be. I just need your card."

"But, David," I said, "this seems so extreme...."

"Good God, Charli!" he said sharply. "What do you think they are going to do with her, set her up in an apartment somewhere? They're going to experiment with her until she breaks. And I know for a fact that Morgan Stimson has talked with the Board about making more. All for more experimentation, or, worse still, sold off like cattle. Imagine a production line of Rebeccas sold to the highest bidder! Is that what Becky was aiming for? We have to protect her vision. I just need the card."

I opened my mouth to refuse, to say No to David for perhaps the first time in my life. But as I did so, I could not help thinking of her in the garden, so very Becky-like that she could be a sister or a daughter, but so child-like and free from care. With a sigh I handed David my entry-card.

"Thank you, Charli," he said, bounding up to take it. "You are a saint. You will not regret this. The last big hurrah of B, C, D, 1, 2, 3."

He left, and I sat still for a very long time.

to be continued

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