The sky outside of Ben’s broad view of the bay was a brilliant orange. Wisps of crimson and gold clouds reflected off the ocean reminding him of why he loved the sea so much. It reminded him how life constantly shifted, swirled, and flowed from moment to moment. Some days were tumultuous and waves would crash into the shore changing the shape completely. Other days were calm, peaceful, and vast blue skies went on forever unobstructed by trees, hills, buildings or mountains.
Ben checked the time on his computer screen and saw he still had an hour or so before meeting his fiancé, Terri, at their favorite restaurant in town. A little sushi/martini bar that had the best mellow jazz to wind down a day to. It was very much needed today.
Steve had bowed out for the night. Ben had told him to take the next day off, but Steve had just laughed as he walked out the door saying, “Whatever dude. See ya in the morning.”
“Computer, Jazz List 3,” Ben said to his voice recognition software. The computer beeped once, followed by the click of his office stereo system powering up. A few seconds later, a little Coltrane started playing “My Favorite Things” to keep Ben in a positive mood and grateful for all that he had accomplished instead of thinking about the day’s events.
Ben sat down in his office chair, closed his eyes and let his mind drift off as several songs played on. During a louder jazz trumpet solo, he started coming back to reality. Adjusting to get comfortable, Ben slid his hands into his pockets as he leaned back into his chair. His fingertips brushed against the jump drive he had put there with the files from Jerry’s computer. He sat up, opened his eyes and pulled the jump drive out of his pocket and spun it around his finger tips studying it intently. And then, he made a decision.
Ben pulled the JANICE box over to the computer, opened it all up and plugged everything in. With more than just batteries powering the gizmo, a little more activity occurred. Specifically with the vials and several more indicator lights flickered into life.
Ben stared for a moment, both fascinated by what Jerry had made and with wonder at what the hell it was.
Plugging in his jump drive to the computer, he started copying the JANICE folder to his hard drive. After a moment or two, the few gigabytes of files finished copying. Coltrane’s “Impulse” began playing on the stereo as Ben sifted through the files and found one that seemed to be the main program file and double clicked.
A screen popped up with Ben’s company logo and the phrase, “ Jerry’s Artificial Neurologic Intelligent Crossover Entity.”
The screen filled with over two dozen control screens all busily measuring various activities. One control panel flashed several times with controls for volume, pitch, tone. Coltrane stopped and a series of melodius scales and tones played across the stereo.
What the hell?
“Thank you. It was awfully dark in here,” a woman’s voice resonated through the speakers as lights flickered from the dark box with JANICE’s name on it.
“Janice?” Ben asked enthralled and mystified.
“Yes. Are you Ben Ashmore?” JANICE asked.
Completely stunned, Ben replied, “Yes. How did you know that?”
“I am currently connected to a computer with that name associated as the current user. I therefore concluded that since you are the only person in the room, that you must be Ben,” she stated simply. Her voice was very realistic with only a hint of a mechanical tinge and the occasional word inflection seemed off.
“Impressive,” he muttered.
“Thank you, Ben. And, again, thank you for rescuing me from the darkness. Jerry doesn’t usually close the case that way,” she paused, “Where is Jerry, Ben?”
The office phone rang. It was Terri. “Hold on for a moment, Janice. I have to take this phone call. Is that alright with you?” He shook his head wondering why he asked permission.
“Of course, Ben. This is your office, after all. I’ll turn off my input to give you some privacy,” Janice said.
“Thank you, that is very thoughtful,” Ben blinked several times, still in awe. One of the control panels marked ‘input’ suddenly had all it’s sliders drop to zero.
I hit the speaker button, “Hi baby. Are you on the way to the restaurant?”
“You betcha, sexy man. How is everyone doing with what happened with Jerry today? How are YOU doing?” Terri asked sympathetically.
“This has got to have been one of the strangest days ever,” he said, looking at his screen and the JANICE box.
“Yeah, well, no one passed away at my office, but we had a set-back I’ll tell you about later. So, just go ahead and scoot out of that office downstairs and I’ll pick you up. I actually got out quite a bit early from the University and knew you’d need some extra lovin’ from your lady tonight.”
“You’re the best, woman. I know how much you love your robotics work. I need to power down some programs, how close are you?” he asked as he stood up and got ready to turn off the lights, stereo and power down the JANICE program.
“Just two blocks and turning onto…oh shit…!” and the line went dead.
“Terri?” Ben froze. An explosion sounded from outside and shook the windows.
Running to the window, Ben looked down onto the street where Terri’s car was crushed under a fuel truck. A fuel truck that was on fire.
He placed his hand on the glass with a sickening empty feeling of fear, pain, and truth at what the scene that lay below really. The only word that could escape Ben’s lips was, “no.”
“I’ve registered an accident nearby. Shall I call 911, Ben?” JANICE asked.
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© 2013 Eric Huber. Silicon(e) is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.