Yeah, I know there’s been quite a bit of a gap between this chapter and the last, but I hope the wait’s been worth it! Here we shall see Chloe complete her LTW! But at what cost…
There’s a three year time jump between this chapter and the previous one. Cloud Flower and Tony are eight years old.
I cracked my knuckles to relieve the aching joints. I don’t know how long I’d been programming, but I was 99.8% certain that every life-threatening bug had been found and eliminated.
The code had been uploaded into the machine hours ago. All that was left was to turn it on.
I held my breath and flipped the switch. The mechanisms within the shell spun and whirred, disconnecting power feeds and running diagnostics on all processes.
The construction shell opened…
…and my creation emerged.
“Wow,” I murmured, staring at the robot. This thing, this creature, was a moving, thinking embodiment of my brilliance. “Wow.”
A robotic voice crackled to life. “All systems fully functioning. Awaiting initial instruction.”
Hmmm, the voice receptacle seems to be outputting on too low a frequency. I would have to tweak that later. Now was the time for first instruction.
“You are DAVE,” I told it.
“DAVE,” DAVE parroted. “What are you?”
I blinked. I hadn’t anticipated the sentience chip to function correctly on the first go. This was by no means my first invention. But it was my first artificial intelligence. Yes, it had taken years to properly program, but still.
“I am your creator.” I tried to impress importance into the syllables. Let’s see if it can detect formal vs informal. “Call me Chloe.”
“Chloe,” DAVE repeated. “Creator. Does this imply that you are responsible for my physical form and data banks?”
I blinked again. This…this was incredibly! “Yes. That is a correct assessment of the statement.”
Time to test the uplink. “DAVE. Access data array 273-AD7.”
The robot’s eyes blinked off for a moment before changing to green, a clear sign that a connection had been established between its processors and my servers. Then the eyes reverted to white. “Connection failed.”
“Hmmm…” I pulled out a port tester. “DAVE. Cease all but vital processes. I’m going to have a look at the problem.”
It took a few days, but eventually I was able to determine that the issue was with the encryption on my servers. After that, I added DAVE to my rather short list of allowed connections. After all, these were my private servers.
I also took the opportunity to expand his AI.
“All right, DAVE. One more tune-up before you begin your duties.”
“Yes, Miss Mayfield.”
An oddity that DAVE had developed was to address me as ‘Miss Mayfield’. It was strange, but not explicitly forbidden based on his programming. So I left it.
“After this, I’ll introduce you to my husband, Mortimer,” I said as I worked to straighten wires and make sure every connection was stable. “You will save him quite a bit of time, I imagine.”
“Mom!” Anthony’s sudden call caused me to lose my grip on the port tester and prod a rather delicate connector. A jolt of electricity ran through DAVE.
“Blast!” I jerked the tester away. “What, Anthony?!” I studied the component. It doesn’t appear to be damaged.
When I glanced back up, Anthony was frowning. “What?”
Anthony rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Nothing. Nevermind.”
“What is with that boy,” I muttered, resuming DAVE’s tune-up.
DAVE’s eyes tracked Anthony across the room, until he was out of sight. “What?” he queried.
“My son, Anthony.” I stopped working and stared at DAVE until he met my gaze. “He is your primary concern. Understood?” Once DAVE confirmed, I resumed tinkering.
“Why didn’t you tell me you got on the honor roll?!” I couldn’t believe it! The highest marks in school and Anthony hadn’t even mentioned it.
“I tried! But you were too busy with DAVE!” Anthony screamed at me. To be fair, I wasn’t exactly using an inside voice either. How had we even gotten to this frustrating topic?
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the van pull up to the house. Mortimer was home. Good! Let him deal with his son! “If I’m too busy at a given time, bring it up later!”
Anthony screamed and grabbed his hair. “Because you’re always too busy! You’re too busy to read to me, you’re too busy to sign my field trip slip, you’re too busy to play with me, you’re too busy to eat with me and Dad, you’re always. Too! BUSY!” He screamed again and ran for the stairs.
I just stared after him for a moment. “Anthony!” As I started after him, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Leave it, dear.” Mortimer sighed, then stepped around me. “I’ll talk to him.”
I could only stare.
“Miss Mayfield? Do you require assistance?” DAVE asked from behind me.
“Maybe,” I whispered.
“Miss Mayfield…” DAVE trailed off.
“What, DAVE?” What’s happening?
“Could I provide some kind of assistance?”
“I don’t know.” Was it something I did?
“Young Anthony appeared to be under an extreme emotional strain…”
“Was he?” Oh, god, was he? Have I really been that preoccupied? No. No?
“Yes, Miss Mayfield. His vital readings are always on my visual. I sensed a rapid increase in his heart rate and breathing zero point four six minutes ago. That is the reason I ceased tending the garden and came inside.”
I have, haven’t I. An old memory, of Anthony asking me to read him to sleep, flitted across my mind, swiftly followed by another of him asking me to accompany him on a field trip, and another of him asking for help on his homework. All I had dismissed. He was too old to be read to sleep, almost nine years old. I couldn’t take a day to visit the art museum with a bunch of elementary school children. And I knew he didn’t need help with homework. Or, at least, I thought he didn’t.
“I’ve been too busy,” I whispered, my throat constricting.
“Yes, Miss Mayfield. Yes, you have.”
I buried my face in my hands and hoped the floor would open up, just this once.
Later that evening, once Anthony was asleep and DAVE was charging for the night, Mortimer and I sat down. Or, rather, Mortimer insisted I sit down.
“I don’t know what to do,” I finally admitted, playing with the cup in my hands.
Mortimer sighed. “I know, dear.” He sighed again and took a sip from his own cup.
“I love you,” he said finally. “You’re brilliant and beautiful and unique and full of such amazing ideas that no one else can claim.” He sighed again. “Tony’s a lot like you.”
I snorted. “I find that difficult to believe.”
“He is. When I see him start spinning fantastic stories for his classmates, I see you, trying to explain some contraption to me. You’re both such passionate people. Just in different ways.” He smiled that soft smile that made me weak. “Maybe that’s why you don’t always see eye-to-eye.”
“If he’s so much like me, shouldn’t I know how to fix this situation?” I stared at my cup. The tea had gone cold.
Mortimer shrugged. “I think you need to talk to him–”
“He locked me out of his room!” I gestured upwards, almost spilling cold tea everywhere.
“And whose fault is that?” Mortimer’s reply was gentle, but not exactly forgiving.
I covered my face. “Argh.”
“No arghs, honey. You need to talk to him. He needs to know you still care about him.”
“I do care about him!” I interrupted again.
“Then show it, dear.”
I sighed and dropped my head to the table. How was I going to do this? What could I even say?
“I love you,” I whispered, peering up at my husband.
He smiled. “I love you too, for all your faults, I love you.”
I sat and stewed in my thoughts until Mortimer spoke again.
“He’s only eight, Chloe. I know you might think that’s a fine age to start being independent, but it’s really not.” Mortimer’s brow furrowed and he stared into his cup. “He’s still a child. And he needs his mother.”
“I know,” I murmured. “I know.”
Sometimes, it’s really interesting to play completely hands-off and watch what happens. Though the incompatibilities between Chloe’s wishes and her family’s wishes is heartbreaking.
Also, Chloe achieved her LTW! I just couldn’t really fit it in anywhere nicely. She’s got one last thing to do, though, before we turn our attention to Tony.
Thanks for reading! ^_^