December 9, 2018

Virtual Legacy

The Elder Care Center, or ECC, was a white building designed to resemble a greenhouse. The recreational pavilion had a dome for a ceiling. The walls nd the curved ceiling were made out of glass. From behind the windows, the residents of the nursing home could see the jungle of Baakarmasara. At the far back of the dome, seated at the closest table to the window, was Izaya.

“You have a visitor, Izaya.” One of the robot nurses had approached him. “The rendering has been finalized and the simulation has been completed. It is ready.”

“Who is it this time? Who are you entertaining me with? I hope it’s not Poe again? I can’t stand his dark humor,” said Izaya without looking at the robot.

The jungle outside was thick and bright. Dark green and blue skies. The jungle has been put there to create an atmosphere of peace, beauty and rest. Most everybody enjoyed watching the jungle, even if it was just a hologram. Izaya, however, prefered to watch the sunset. Soon the first stars would light the sky.

“Her name is Leena,” the robot said. “Leena Northcott.”

“My daughter? You’ve simulated my daughter?”

The nurse robot pointed towards the entrance to the visitor’s wing. From behind the glass doors he spotted the figure of a woman with very dark straight hair. The hologram looked just as Izaya remembered her.

“This is what your psychological evaluation recommended. This is good for you.”

“I don’t want to talk to her. My daughter is dead,” said Izaya.

“It took me awhile to find her in your memories. You didn’t tell me you had a daughter,” said the robot. “It is nowhere in your files. I should know these things, Izaya.”

“Are you spying on me now, Alma?”

“I am your monitor, Izaya,” said the robot. “Spying on you is my job.”

Izaya rolled his eyes in desperation.

“Why do you refuse to talk to her?” said the robot.

“Why do you ask? Why could you care?”

“I was just wondering about having a daughter.”

Izaya’s eyes opened like plates. He had never heard Alma speak like that.

“I rather not talk about my daughter thanks. You’ve wasted your time with this simulation.” With a great deal of mental strength Izaya turned away from the to robot and pushed aside the thought of her daughter. “It is really not a good memory.”

“I am sorry. I understand that it might cause you discomfort. It would never be my intention. I’m sure want to keep the memories of your family and wife to yourself. Specially if they are painful.”

Once again Izaya turned to the robot. “Let me be very clear, Alma. I know they have built and programmed your to behave as if you cared. And we all here pretend that you robots do. But you know–as well as I know–that you can’t and you do not care about us.”

“Why would you say that?”

“For one I am an AI engineer. I know how your brain works. You can try to trick me but it’s not going to work.” Izaya was slightly amused. “I probably have written some of the code running in your head now. I wrote a lot of code for the first robot brain core.”

“I know that,” said Alma.

“And I was one of the main contributors to the source code of Silk, that was incorporated into the early versions of Vertex OS 1.0. That was before the robots wrote all the code enhancements themselves, of course.”

The robot looked at Izaya in silence.

“I know you have been programed to pretend that you care,” Izaya said. “And to make me feel comfortable. Your program is to sedate me. To make me feel at home, right? You are programmed to make me think of you as a person. As somebody with a soul–whatever that mean.”

“You are right, Izaya. I am a machine. Not a replacement for a human.” The robot face smiled peacefully. “I am no better than a human, but I still can do a perfectly fine job.”

Izaya felt a tingle of guilt. Alma sat next to him.

“The memories of my wife are actually my happiest memories,” said Izaya finally giving in. “They are not painful. I loved her with all my heart. She was the happiest, funniest and most beautiful woman I had ever met. One in a million.” Izaya looked out through the crystal dome to the first stars that were beginning to appear in the firmament. “I fell in love with her from the moment I met her. I proposed within a year.” He had always been proud of this fact.

“Sounds like true romance,” said the robot.

“What would you know?” He said with a chuckle. “We wanted to go to the colonies. You wouldn’t believe it. But when the colonies started one would get paid to go to the colonies. They needed the hard workers. There was a lot of challenges with the reality of an early colony, but also opportunities. I had always wanted to go to space and discover new planets.”

“The spirit of a pioneer,” said the robot.

“Ah, don’t use that word.”

“Why didn’t you go to the colonies in the early days?” asked the robot.

“My wife got pregnant soon after we got married and that put a stop to our dreams of space travel. The trip alone could have kill the baby, and if not as if the situation in the colonies was that great either. It’s not like they had corner stores to go buy baby formula. So we decided to wait until Leena as a bit older. Just a year or two, you know. Enough that she was stronger.”

“So what happened? You never made the trip.”

“What happened was the cyberwars and KZ bombs,” said Izaya feeling a sharp pain in his chest. This was an old wound healed but still sore under the scar.

“When the first KZ bomb dropped everything changed. I mean everything. It’s been now, what? 30 years? People have almost forgotten what we were before the Blackout.”

“It’s not just that things went dark,” said Izaya. “Everything was offline and we were lost. It was chaos for a while. Specially the first few weeks. It was terrifying.”

“It must have been really scary, Izaya.”

“After the Blackout the government took control of most private companies and they cancelled all space travel for the public. Because of it we lost our chance to leave Earth.”

“Do you resent you had to stay on Earth because of your daughter?”

“I’ve haven’t haven’t always been a good person, Alma. I am ashamed to admit that I once blamed her for getting stuck on Earth.”

“It’s normal to think that way.”

“Is it? I tried to love my daughter. I really did, but I was too hurt. My dreams were lost. Our lives could have been so different. Sometimes I think about it and it still hurts.”

“Why not talk to her now?”

“My daughter killed herself years ago, Alma. I am an imperfect man and I can’t even face myself. I failed. I know I failed. I know I wasn’t a good parent. And now it’s too late and there is nothing I can do to fix that. I rather not even think about it. I can only put it away, off my mind.”

“That hologram is not my daughter. It’s just a shadow.”

“The simulation is not your daughter, but she has been built from all the brain recordings of her available and your memory of all your interactions. She is not your daughter but this simulation is just as good as talking to a human. It might give you closure.“

“I failed as a parent. I never fulfilled my dream. And as a punishment I will leave no legacy behind. A wasted life.”

“I understand how hard it must be to be the last one left on your family. Just because your daughter died doesn’t mean you leave no legacy.”

“You don’t understand.” Izaya looked at the robot. “Soon everything that’s going to be left is dust. And you I guess.” Izaya turned towards the window. The stars were bright in the sky by now.

“I understand the disappointment of finishing the thread of life. I understand why you would be disappointed to not leave a family behind. But there is another way to look at it. After all, everything that you leave behind is your legacy.”

“I have one last question. What did you like most about your career as an AI coder?”

Izaya gave it a serious thought while looking at the dark sky. “Probably the attention to detail. The perfectionism we always tried to get. I had a sense of pride for a job well done.” The sense of accomplishment for creating something that worked as it should.” Leving the best of my on it.

“That is a good feeling I presume. I’ll leave you alone now.” Alma started walking away, but she spoke once more as she walked away. “Funny. I just realized that your daughter’s simulation is probably is running on a virtual brain core, just like the one you wrote years ago.”

The robot walked out of the room.

Izaya looked through the glass doors that lead ot the visitor center where the simulation of Leena was still waiting. He walked through the doors and hear the voice of her daughter speak.

“Hello, Dad.”

December 9, 2018 · #TMC · #Fiction · #Short Fiction


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