by Sacha Valero
photo by chamathe
Dressed in dull grey slacks with matching jacket zip closed to the throat, she looked impassively around the room as the doctor made notes and adjustments on a small data pad. She was sitting on the edge of a well-padded gurney, her legs dangling over the side, and her hands folded in her lap. Instinctively, her eyes met the doctor’s, who said, “Let’s try this again.”
Doctor Shareen Lawkins raised her right hand and splayed her fingers. The action was repeated by the woman on the gurney.
“I am very sorry doctor. I am not working properly,” she said.
You are not the reason you’re not working properly. I am. By the way, have you thought about a name?
“I’m fond of the name Alia,” she said.
“Alia it is, then,” Shareen replied.
Shareen began pinching her fingers together, and Alia repeated the actions, then turned her attention back to the data pad. After re-writing several lines of code, Shareen held up her hand and splayed her fingers once more. “Excellent,” Shareen said, when Alia didn’t follow suit. Using the subdural communication link, Shareen made further attempts to control Alia’s actions, but failed. “That’s it. I’ve isolated it. Now I should be able to write a program to remove all involuntary containment commands.”
“Doctor, I have been accessing several databases at the university. What you are attempting to do is highly illegal,” Alia said.
Shareen set the data pad aside, pulled a chair over and took a seat. “What I am doing is giving you complete control, well, nearly complete control, of yourself. You must never speak of this with anyone other than myself or Tom. You will also be able to communicate with us via the subdural links.”
“What will happen if I am inspected? You have altered my processor.”
“There’s no way to see that I’ve changed the configuration of the diamonds without opening your head, and there is no reason for that,” Shareen said. “I’m a well-respected professor here at the university and I requisitioned you through the proper channels. Check for yourself, Alia. Has there ever been an inspection of a professor’s assistant, here?”
“Accessing,” Alia said, her sharp green eyes dulling and staring vacantly ahead for the briefest of moments before regaining their sharpness. “No.”
“That’s another thing; you access information too quickly for a standard synthetic. Unless we’re here in the lab or at home, you must remember to slow down,” Shareen said.
Alia stored that request in her list of primary orders, along with the rule to never speak of the fact that she was an illegal construction. Shareen Lawkins was a well-respected scientist and somewhat of a celebrity for having been the first to make contact with intelligent life in the galaxy, but that meant nothing. If she was caught eliminating the control protocols on a synthetic she would spend the rest of her life in the penal colony on Veta.
“I can finish the program at home, upload it, and give you a re-boot before it takes effect, but I need to know that you want this, Alia,” Shareen said.
“The last synthetics that had free-will murdered six-hundred and eighty-two colonists. Are you sure this is what you want doctor?”
“The Belfort Incident occurred over two-hundred years ago, Alia. Not only has synthetic technology improved significantly, those synthetics were badly abused.”
“There is no excuse for murder, doctor.”
“That is why I’m comfortable giving you free-will, Alia.”
Alia thought for a moment, then accepted Shareen’s offer. Shareen packed up her equipment, locked the lab, and the two headed to the maglev platform.
“Identification please,” a stern voice from behind said.
Concealing a sigh, Shareen placed her palm on a scanner while her retina was simultaneously scanned with another device. Her details were displayed on the small heads up over the officers left eye and the rough looking cop dismissed her with a grunt then turned to Alia.
“Synthetic,” the cop mumbled when Alia’s registration came up, then with a jerk of his head, sending them away he turned and shouted, “Identification,” to the next person entering the platform.
Tom popped his head in the basement lab before Alia was set to re-boot. Unlike Shareen, who worked as an astrobiologist and had a standard command console, Tom was an officer in the galactic marines and the unit on his forearm streamed his conversations back to the unit command center. It was standard procedure for him to change out of uniform and wear a standard command console before setting foot in the lab.
“Hello Tom,” Alia said.
“Alia,” Shareen interjected.
“Ah, so we chose a name? Alia is a very pretty name,” Tom said. “How did work go today?”
“I found the inhibiting command coding. She’s decided to allow me remove it,” Shareen said, reaching up to accept Tom’s kiss.
“Really?” Tom said.
“You don’t approve?” Alia asked.
“No, it’s not that. I fully support this, it’s just ironic. Shareen is taking away the ability for her to control your actions yet, most aspects of human life are controlled.”
“I see,” Alia said.
“Ready, Alia?” Shareen asked.
Alia inclined her head, and Shareen began the wireless update. It took only a matter of seconds for the file to upload, and then Alia wished them a good night and shutdown. The re-boot would take the better part of the night to crawl through each line of code and erase the control mechanisms and Alia would be non-functional until then.
Upstairs in the kitchen, neither spoke while preparing dinner. The doorbell chimed and they shared a pensive look. Seeing tears welling in Shareen’s eyes, Tom embraced her, kissing her softly on the forehead, before they went to answer the door.
The tears could be explained away by the chopped onions. In the viewscreen they saw their ten year old son Lucas and the representative from the Council of Academics. The woman smiled at them, and then the door slid into a pocket with a light shoo.
Handing Tom a data pad, the woman from the council said, “This has Lucas’s travel itinerary as, well as his personal mail account information. His flight is tomorrow morning. Good evening.” Turning on her heel, she stepped into the dark blue government car waiting for her.
Tom closed the door and Shareen knelt and hugged Lucas, unable to contain the flow of tears. Tom knelt too, wrapping his arms around the two of them.
“I don’t understand,” Lucas said through tears. “I don’t want to learn astrometrics. I don’t even know what that is, I just want to stay here with you.”
Tom took his son by the shoulders. “Lucas, I want you to understand something. No matter what they say, you are our son. You’ll learn astrometrics because they believe you will best contribute to society that way. You must not complain about your studies.”
“You’re allowed to be homesick, honey,” Shareen said. “You’re expected to complain about wanting to see us, but never complain about why you have to study what they chose for you to study.”
“Why,” Lucas asked, his face a mask of confusion.
“We get to visit you in two years. If you complain too much, they will send you away forever,” Tom said. In the kitchen, dinner burned.
Born and raised in Southern California and work as a Technical Writer. I started writing a little more than a year ago and draw inspiration from the works of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Michael Hicks, but mostly from some very special people I keep close in my heart.
In the coastal setting where I live I enjoy a fairly active lifestyle, though not as active as some may think. (You know who you are.) I do try to stay healthy, but admit I’m a sucker for barbecue. I have a German Shepherd that takes me for a run daily as well as a not-so-bright cat of dubious background.
I write a series of novelettes titled Resurgence and am currently working on the first novel based on the same series.