Be sure to check out the links to the other BlogHop stories included below!
I’ve spent every birthday with Jake for the past four years, now it was the big one, he was going to be 21. Jake is excited, but as usual his parents are somewhat subdued. I never knew why and no one talked about it. Before cake we flip through pictures of us, I ask about family ones. Fire. He says quietly, he doesn’t have pictures of himself when he was a kid. In our memories. His parents say looking at him through bleary eyes.
Jake got a new tablet. Finally his own computer that he could use as he pleased. His parents had always been strict about the internet, finally they acknowledged his adulthood. I was excited, we could game together. We ate cake in the usual silence, then headed up to his room. I offered to help set up the device since I’d had one since the 2150x came out two years ago.
We went through all the setup pages, choosing a cool background and setting the facial recognition sign-in. Finally it was ready to go. I hadn’t brought mine and I told him that I’d run home to grab it. I’d be back in 5 minutes.
When I got back to his room he was just staring at the screen, I’d shown him where to download the game. It shouldn’t have been hard but he was still at the sign-up page. All his info was filled in, he just had to complete the captcha to prove he wasn’t some malware bot. The red balls swirled over ‘INFinITY’.
“Dude, just do the captcha. Its not even a tough one.”
He just looked at me blankly, “you can read that?”
At first I thought he was joking, I waited for the laugh but it never came.
“You cant?” I stared, “ hit refresh, it’ll give you another one.” One click, this time green waves over a jumble of vowels. Finally he typed something, fingers pulling slowly over the projected keyboard. He hit ‘enter’ the screen flashed. Unverified.
“What’s wrong?” I must have shouted because his father came to the doorway now.
“what are you two doing?” he sounded worried and I didn’t understand why.
“Just trying to set up the game for Jake, it keeps messing up. The bot-code thing isn’t working,” I was bending down even as I said it, looking at the new text. This time I pushed Jake’s hands away to type it myself.
“whats it say?” I asked, trying to be sure I typed perfectly.
“Jake, what’s it say?” I repeated. His father interrupted.
“Tom you need to come with me.” his tone was so serious I didn’t ask why. I saw Jake typing again, trying to get past the log-in. Again it rejected him.
“Tom, now.” his father was stern and ushered me out the door. In the living room his mother was waiting for us, I could see tears sparkling in her eyes.
“I told you, he shouldn’t be online alone. This was bound to happen. We’ll have to tell him, to tell people.”
I looked between them, I had no idea what they were on about, could Jake not read or something? I would have noticed that.
“What?” I blurted out, sick of being left out of their silent conversation.
“Sit down Tom.” she reached under the side table and took out what looked like an ancient laptop computer. I had never even seen one that still had an attached keyboard.
“Jake is your friend. But do you know why its always hard on his birthday?” I shook my head. She choked a sob and placed the computer on the table in front of us, it was full of albums with dates in the late 2130’s, back when Jake and I would have been young.
“He said there were no pictures.” I thought this was the secret, but I didn’t know what it meant.
“No, he’s never seen these. We thought it would be easier, to say we lost them all, but they just don’t exist. Nothing from the last 10 years. Jake died when he was 11.”
“I don’t understand.” I really didn’t.. Finally Jake’s father started trying to explain.
“We were heartbroken when it happened. But the technology was coming along so we watched it carefully; Perfect Recreations. When they finally came out of beta, we jumped.” he paused as if reminiscing and I was starting to understand. They had to be joking.
“PreBots?” I asked, the company was well known, and high end. The first group to perfect the reconstructive AI. Not just robots, but completely tailored digital replicas. It was the top form of cloning, taking out the biological error completely. But what they were saying.
“It never caught on,” my voice shuddered, “It didn’t work.” that wasn’t the best word, the bots did work, too well almost. They were intuitive, instinctive, and quickly illegal.
“you cant tell anyone Tom, he’s all we have.” it was still his father, his mother was completely lost to tears. I nodded automatically. My best friend was a robot, not just a normal robot, an outlawed pseudo-conscious AI.
“hes not dangerous, you’ve known him nearly from the beginning. He doesn’t know hes different. We just want him to be our Jake.”
I was at a total loss, nothing that they could have said could have prepared me for this, I tried to look back, find things that were out of place; nothing. It was all consistent. If this was possible, how many PreBot AIs were out there?
“But, how? I mean,” the stern look was returning to his fathers face, and I knew the information session was over “he is my friend.” I didn’t know what to think, but that I knew for sure. I rose slowly from my seat, his parents eyes following me uncertainly. I meant what I said, strange as it might be, how much did it matter? Jake is my best friend. I paused a the bottom of the stairs, between them and the front door and knew my decision instinctively. I put a hand on the banister and went back up to get Jake past that log-in screen so we could get our game going.
Be sure to check out all the StoryTime BlogHop Participants:
Tito’s to the Max, by Chris Makowski
The Boon, by Juneta Key
Recommended Reading, @ Raven O’Fiernan
Sanctuary, by Elizabeth McCleary
Till Death Us, by Fanni Sütő
The Cloud, by Karen Lynn
Data Corruption, by Barbara Lund
Wish Granted, by Kami Bataya
The Witch of Wall Street, by J. Q. Rose
Grim Reapers on a Field Trip, byJ Lenni Dorner
Unwelcome Vistors, by Bill Bush
A Writer’s Morning, by Katharina Gerlach