Fiction: Override by David Rae
by David Rae
There’s a weird kid waving at me across the cybercafé. Ok, not so weird. That’s a bit unfair. He’s only just turned one I guess by the size of him. I wave back and then turn back to my inbox to check if any virtuals have arrived. There’s a few, and then the kid starts sending code over the link.
“D-D-D-D.” Just gibberish.
I want to tell the kid to stop spamming me, but he’s too young for that. Besides, there’s something else. I flick through my data banks, nothing. Why does the kid seem familiar?
I look up, and the kid is with his mum. I assume it’s his mum. Now she’s looking over. I smile. She’s not my type, and she’s highlighted status married. But she keeps looking at me. Then she comes over and sits at my table.
“Can I get you a simpsi?” she asks.
“Um, sure why not.” This is a bit odd. I mean, not that odd, I get picked up plenty, comes with the face. And I do my share of picking up too, but she’s married, and she’s got her kid with her.
She sends, and the droid brings two simpsi’s.
“Thanks,” I send back.
“Use Word-speech,” she says.
“Sure,” What’s that all about; no one bothers with talking these days.
She’s brought the kid over with her. Now I see him up close; he’s kind of cute.
“What’s his name?” I ask. But she doesn’t answer.
I don’t have time for this.
“Virtual or Bio?” I ask.
She sneers at me, “Is that all you ever think about?”
Now, I don’t answer. I’ve learned long ago that there’s no good answer to that one.
“I don’t do married anyway,” I say. Even if she was my type, the answer would still be no.
“You sure about that?” she asks. I check my data banks; I’m right. It looks like I’ve got some morals after all. I send her the output to show her.
“Don’t,” she tells me and deletes it immediately without even scanning it.
“Hey, I got no viruses or anything,” I tell her. The kid is reaching over to me. He’s still spamming my inbox.
“Do you know me?” she asks.
“Nope, never met you.”
I scan my drives again.
“Use bio-mem,” she says. Bio-mem; no one ever uses that these days.
“Humour me,” she continues, so I do I sit and think for a bit.
“Yeah, you look familiar.” I seem to have a picture of her and me, but that’s bio-mem; you can’t trust it.
“You look familiar too,” she says. I’ve reached out, and the kid’s got hold of my finger. Why I am doing this; I hate kids. He’s smiling at me.
“We should know each other,” she tells me.
“Want to know why?”
“I’m guessing you’re going to tell me.”
“We work at the same office, on the same project. Look it’s all on your profile.”
I check, and she’s right.
“Hey wait,” I say. “You’re married to Buk.”
“You know Buk?” she asks.
“Yeah sure, he’s my best friend. I’ve known him since we were in child-chapel together.”
“And you’re still friends?” she asks.
“Yeah of course,” I say.
“But we’ve never met, and you weren’t at my wedding?” That is a bit odd.
“Maybe he thought I’d steal you from him,” I laughed.
She looks away, but she doesn’t laugh.
The kid is still holding my finger and smiling at me.
“I should go,” she says, and picks him up and leaves.
I want to turn back to check for new virtuals that have come in. I usually get a few, but I can’t seem to find much enthusiasm. Maybe I need to code a new sim; one that looks like her.
When I leave, I find a piece of paper with words written on it. It must have come from that crazy girl, Buk’s wife. I mean, who uses paper these days. I put it in my pocket and head out. I don’t read it now because I’m not great at reading. Coding is my thing. I can code anything.
Mom’s sent me vid-link request, I allow the share, and her smiling face appears there on the head up.
“You are coming round tonight, Gann?” she asks. “Or are you too busy with sims and virtuals. You should get a real girl.”
“Sure, I’m on my way. I told you, real girls are too much bother. Sims are better.”
“Sims won’t give me a grandchild,” she says.
I sent a rolls eyes emoji and hang up.
When I get there, she’d finished synthing the food.
“What are you making?” I send.
“Apples,” she replies. She has synthed two apples, round and red.
“They look great,” I tell her. “You should open a synth-café.”
She laughs and looks happy.
“Bet you they’re better than the real thing,” I tell her as I bite into the crisp white flesh.
“Don’t be silly,” she says. “You’ve never eaten a real apple.”
“Have you?” I ask. “What are they like?”
“Honestly,” Mom says. “How old do you think I am? Yes, when I was little I ate a real one. But I can’t really remember. In those days, people were still using bio-mem.”
We finish the apples and then she starts on at me again about grandchildren.
“What’s the big deal?” I say.
“I don’t know,” she tells me. “It’s just that every time I think about it, there’s a big hole where something’s missing. I picture a little boy, just like you.”
I let the chip override my hormones and fire a shot of endorphins to help me keep calm. I don’t know why I let it upset me so much. I don’t think she even noticed. Certainly, I am pretty mellow in a matter of seconds.
“Hey, Mom, can I borrow your eye glasses?” I ask, remembering the piece of paper from Buk’s wife.
She hands them over, and I read “Tomorrow, same time. Corra and Kub.”
I didn’t think I would turn up. There was no reason to turn up. All night I had dreams. I should have turned the sleep app on. But they were good dreams. Even if they weren’t real, even if they were just bio tricks, they were good dreams.
I didn’t think I’d turn up because she’s not my type and I hate kids. I didn’t think I’d turn up because I don’t do it with a married woman and because Buk is my best friend and because she’s weird. But I do turn up. I go there early and sit in the same seat as last time staring at the door waiting for her to come in. I’ve got a synthol and I’m sipping it slowly. Perhaps she’s not going to come. Part of me hopes she isn’t. I could send and find out, but I know she wouldn’t like that. I should be checking my inbox. I’m getting requests from a girl over by the door, but I put it on ignore; wireless down.
I think she’s not coming. She’s late. Well, what time is the same time; I never checked it in my logs. She comes in with the kid, Kub. When he sees me, he starts spamming and waving.
“D-du-D-du-D.” I’m not sure why but I spam back. I feel strange, like I’ve drunk too much synothol even though I’ve only had one and I’ve not even finished it.
She looks around, and then sits across from me.
“I knew you’d come,” she tells me.
“Something made me,” I say.
“Yeah, me too,” she says. I’m playing with Kub. Why? I hate kids.
“He likes you,” she says. There’s no good answer to that.
“What’s this about?” I ask.
“I don’t know; maybe nothing.”
“You do know Buk’s my best friend,” I tell her.
“I know,” she says. “Can I show you something?”
“Sure,” I tell her. And she hands me a slip of paper, more than a slip; It’s a full report. I scan it and makes no sense.
“What am I looking at?” I ask.
“Kub’s diagnostics,” she tells me.
“I’m not a bio technician,” I tell her, and pass the report back.
“No, look. Don’t you see it.”
“See what?” I ask.
“Look at the chip registration and then look at Kub’s arrival date.”
“Ok. They’re not the same. Wait that is odd, his chip registration is before his arrival date.”
“Two months different,” she tells me.
“Yes, that’s odd; must be some kind of screw up by the nurse-priestess. Or maybe she’s used an old chip.” I hand the report back to her.
“Yeah, maybe,” she agrees. But it doesn’t sound right. It can’t be right. “And look,” she says, and points to a reset date. “Who resets a chip that’s only two months old?”
“I don’t know?” I tell her. I’m not sure where all this is leading.
“Want to know what else is strange? Look at my reset date; it’s exactly the same.”
“That’s not so strange; it’ll be a system upgrade,” I say.
“I’ll bet you had one on the same day,” she says, and when I check, she’s right.
“Hold on,” I say. I send to Mom and ask her to let me see her diagnostics. Sure enough, she’s had a reset on the same day.
“Ok, spooky,” I admit, "but so what."
“Tell me something,” she says. “Did you dream about me last night.”
I don’t say anything. As long as they’re just dreams, it’s fine.
“So you did,” she says. “I dreamed about you. I bet it was the same dream. You, me and Kub, only in the dream he’s called Gann.”
“That’s my name,” I whisper as soft as I can, but she still hears me.
She takes her screen and face-walks Kub and me. We’re identical.
“That’s just software,” I say. She nods and puts it away. He’s just like me.
“Buk’s my best friend,” I say. “I won’t do anything to hurt him. You’re his girl.”
“He makes my skin crawl,” she says. “Every time he touches me I want to scream. He never plays with Kub.”
So what; too much information; there are lots of unhappy couples in the world. Why does she have to invent all this weird shit and drag me into it?
“I won’t do anything to hurt him,” I say again. She nods and looks at me oddly. I can feel things going crazy inside me. I let my endorphin pump go into overdrive, but I’m still shaking.
She reaches over and puts her hand on my forearm and then scratches me.
“Hey what’s that all about,” I ask, but she’s up and taking Kub out of the café. I’m angry now and go back to my inbox. The invite from the girl at the door is still there. I open it, and arrange a cyber hook; something to take my mind of all this crap. Something to take my mind off Corra.
I don’t think it’s odd when Buk invites me upstairs to his office the next day. Why should it be; I tell myself. He’s my best friend, and we often meet up and play golf and stuff.
When I get to his office, he has two sythies waiting and hands me one. I want to ask him about Corra and why he’s never mentioned her. But I don’t; it’s his business.
The golf sim is up and running. Buk’s been putting in a few practice shots. He needs it.
“Good synth,” I say after taking a sip.
“Only the best for us,” he says. And it is the best. I’ve never tasted real whisky, but Buk has. If he says it’s the best, then it’s the best.
“How big a handicap do you need?” I ask. He laughs, and then asks for fifteen stokes.
“Sure that’s enough,” I say. “Anyway, what are the stakes.”
“Make them small,” he says. “I’m still recovering from that last time.”
I doubt it; he earns a big multiple more than I do. He’s made it to the top.
“It’s good you remember us, little people,” I say, and we laugh again.
We play eighteen holes. Buk chose a course out in Florida. He’s been practising on it and knows it better than I do, but I still beat him by more than fifteen strokes.
“You should have asked for more,” I tell him.
“Yes, should have.”
I’m feeling really tired now and sit down on the couch.
“Any more of that synthie?” I ask.
He’s looking at me strangely. And then he takes out an optical flash drive.
“What’s that for?” I ask.
“It’s for you,” he says.
I try to stand up but for some reason, I can’t. I feel so tired and so slow. All the past comes back to me; sitting with Corra during the birth, our wedding eye-cams, playing with little Gann; they all flash past my eyes.
“Why?” I ask. And when he doesn’t answer
I can’t speak anymore, but my eyes keep asking him.
“Because I could,” he says. “And because I wanted her.
I manage to send; this is crazy.
“Is it?” He sends.
And then nothing.
Corra is waiting in the Cyber-café for Gann, but he doesn’t turn up. In her hand, she has the result of the paternity test. Kub is crying, and no matter how hard Corra tries to override his tears, he will not stop.
She can sense her memory chip start to close down and reboot. There was something important that she’s forgotten.