Science Fiction

Lovelace½ #11

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series Lovelace½

There is something about Lovelace 1/2 that inspires me to be late in posting. It may be because I tend to prep these episodes during hectic times of the week, which means its easier to miss something. I do my Corbett-877 prep over the weekends, so there’s always plenty of time. Likewise, I have the full week to get Interviewing Trey prepped, but poor Andi’s prepwork always feels rushed. That may be why I miss more typos on the reread, too. I’ll work on that, and beg your indulgence.

I actually go into detail on Andi’s appearance, down below. For the record, I use a face reference I culled from the Internet, to make sure my descriptions are consistent. I’d post it, but I haven’t paid the photographer for the picture, so actually posting it wouldn’t just be rude, it would be… well, wrong. I’ll see if I can get permission to link to the appropriate page, though. It’s a good picture.

As for this episode….

I think it’s safe to say this is a big one. Please enjoy!

Andi stared at her mother. “Well, now that’s just rude.”

“Is it?” Her mum didn’t seem ruffled. But then that was her mother. She didn’t get ruffled. “Well, anyhow.” She started looking around. “What all would we need to pack? It’s just some clothes and the like, I assume?”

“Don’t you pretend this is decided — I said it just now and I meant it. We’ve got a meeting with the Dean and my teachers! I’m not going to pack up and go off with you just on your word!”

“We’re your parents,” her father said, poking at her pillow almost gingerly. “You will, in fact, go off with us on our word.” He looked back at her. “You don’t actually get a say, you know.”

“Of course I get a say! It’s my life.”

“Not until you’re of age,” her mother said. “Which you’re not.”

Andi snorted, shaking her head. “Just like that, then? ‘Oh, you’re too young, dear — be a good girl and pack up?’ Well I’m sorry, but that’s not the way it works — especially not now.”

“Not now?” Mum asked. Still so impassive. Still so unperturbed.

“Yes, ‘not now.’ You weren’t surprised to learn I’d gotten a sudden giant brain. Why not? What do you know? What have you been waiting for? What’s happening to me?” Andi was trembling, whether it was from anger or released tension she couldn’t say.

“You’ve become smarter,” Dad said. “By several orders of magnitude. How much smarter we don’t really know, yet, but smarter.”

“I know that. What I don’t know is why! And what you had to do with it!”

“And yet, you don’t want to come with us,” her mother said, poking in the closet. “Are all these your clothes? You couldn’t possibly need all of these, could you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean there must be twenty shirts in here. You wear a school uniform — how would—”

“Not about that. What do you mean about me coming with you?”

“You implied you wanted to stay here.” Mum pulled some of the shirts out, setting them on the bed and beginning to fold. “Obviously, you’re not that interested in learning more about your new abilities, or what we may have had to do with them, are you?”

“How can you say that? Or is this blackmail?”

She shrugged. “Does it matter? Obviously we’re here because of your abilities. You seem to think we have something to do with them—”

“You used to tell me numbers on my birthdays so you could test me later!”

“We haven’t found out what your perspective has been, yet,” her father said. “Are you noticing improved pattern recognition? Or a capacity to develop rapid conclusions? How about intuitive leaps?”

“My point is this, dear,” her mother said. “When we learned about your condition, we came here to collect you. Obviously, our intention is to act upon whatever we do or do not know about that condition. If you want to know what we know, you will have to come with us to find out.” She looked at the shirts. “Wait, not all these are in your size.”

“Of course they’re not. Some of them are Jennie’s.”

“Doesn’t she have a closet of her own?”

“We organized together.” Andi shook her head. “We’re getting sidetracked. It doesn’t make sense to pull me out of school. I’ve three weeks left in the school year.”

“Three weeks we could be spending measuring and charting your abilities,” her father said. “Surely that’s a better use of that time than you sitting in classes that couldn’t possibly engage your intellect any longer. Are you finding appreciable lag in your recall? Any kind of pressure or pain? Or is it just natural?”

“You don’t even care about how I’m feeling, do you?” Andi said, her voice breaking. “You didn’t even say ‘hello’ or hug me or anything when I walked through the door. It’s just ‘aren’t you packed yet?’ and ‘how many numbers can you count?’ and you expect me to do what you tell me to do now? Do you have any idea how hard this has been for me?”

“Don’t be silly, dear,” Mum said, just as lightly.

“I’m not being silly!” Andi shouted. “Remember? I’ve perfect recall and a knack for pattern recognition! I’m not sure I can be silly any more! When I say you don’t care it’s because you don’t care!” She stabbed a finger at her mother. “How many times have either of you hugged me? Twenty-nine! Fourteen by you, fifteen by Dad, most of them on Christmas and not a one of them since I was 9! How many times have you kissed me? Seven! Seven! And only when Holly cajoled you to, and then you clearly replaced her over it! How many of my recitals or pageants did you go to? Eight, and every one of them because parents were explicitly expected to go! How many of my games did you attend? Three! Every one of them because it was a parents’ day at my school and — let’s say it again — you were expected to attend! They’re right — this isn’t neglect! This is abuse!

“I said don’t be silly. It’s unbecoming.” Her mother didn’t sound any more upset. She didn’t sound any more anything. “Since when did the level of our concern become measured by how much Footy we’ve gone to see? This country’s changed your expectations.”

“Don’t you dare put this on Queen and bloody Country! Parents in Britain cared as much or more than they do here — do you want me to give you the comparative average number of phone calls or packages or bloody hugs other kids received over my years of boarding school? Here’s a hint — they’re not appreciably different on either side of the Atlantic!”

“That doesn’t mean you’ve been abused, dear. You should be helping me. Which of these are yours and which are your roommate’s? We don’t want to pack her things as well. You should have kept them neat and separate.”

“Remarkable, that memory,” her father said. “Just how far back can you remember?”

Andi opened her mouth to shout something at her father—

Floating in a tank, sobbing into a breathing tube, her entire body on fire. Boffins poking her, ignoring her, checking EEGs. Boffins asking her questions after spraying her from a hose with the water too hot. “I dunno. I dunno, man. Are the guardians coming?”

Andi didn’t pause. “Thirty seven days before my fourth birthday,” she said. “I was looking out the window in the kitchen, the housekeeper cooking sausages behind me. It was snowing — a very light snow, just a few flakes. I don’t know if I’d ever seen snow before but it fascinated me. It was grey out there, and the streets were wet.”

Her father nodded. “Interesting.”

“That’s all. Just ‘interesting.’ Everything I’ve been ranting, and it’s just interesting! You don’t care. You’re just a couple of bloody machines!

“Don’t be silly, dear,” Mum said, exactly as she had before.

Exactly as she had before.

With exactly the same intonations as she had not five minutes before.

Andi realized she had heard her mother say it before that — not just once but six hundred and ninety three times. It was a standard response, every time reproduced in exactly the same way, with the same lilts to her voice. It wasn’t a rote response, it was an automatic one.

Andi, as she had just told her parents, had perfect recall and a knack for pattern recognition now. And, when a piece fell into place, it was almost like she couldn’t stop the rest from piling together all around it, forming the picture. She envisioned her father’s face the first time she could remember seeing it, immediately after the boffins were done with her and had pulled her out of the goo. It wasn’t simply close to how it looked now — it was exact. The same hairstyle, every hair the same length. The same features, with no additional lines or wrinkles. Remembering Mister Stone’s face the first day she saw him and comparing it to how he looked earlier today, Andi realized she could point out tiny differences, and that was just over nine months. In Andi’s entire life, the only changes to her father’s face were environmental — like getting rained on or smudged.

Her mother was the same. No physical changes. No changes to her intonations. She realized that every time either parent said good morning to one of their housekeepers or au pairs, they said it in exactly the same way every time. Neither one ever seemed to get more than mildly cross, and even that wasn’t so much frustration as expectation on the viewer.

Andi looked at her father, who was looking at her. She saw him blink. “I should get dressed,” she said, softly.

“You’re dressed now,” her mother said.

“I’m in my school uniform. I don’t need to be in dress code any more today,” she said, keeping watch on her father out of the corner of her eye.

Her father blinked again. Nine point eight seconds after the first.

Andi felt a cold rush down her spine, realizing that her entire life, her father blinked every nine point eight seconds, like it were on a metronome. Her mother was slightly slower, blinking every nine point eight one one three seconds.

“All right then,” her mother said. Neither one had taken much notice that Andi wasn’t yelling now.

Andi grabbed a shirt from the pile her mother was folding, and scooped up her jeans from the floor. “I’ll be right back,” she said, stepping back for the door.

“You could change here,” her father said.

“I really couldn’t. Excuse me.” She stepped through the door and closed it, then made a beeline for the bathroom.

By the time she reached the bathroom, she was trembling. So many people seemed to think this mind of her’s was a blessing, and most of the time she’d admit it was, but now? Now she couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t stop seeing the thousand thousand bits and pieces of collaborative evidence for her realization. The precision in her parents’ movements. Her parents, like that were even true. She looked at her face in the long mirror over the three sinks in the communal bathroom. Looked at its slightly rounded features, almost heart shaped, her chin rounded, her nose perhaps a bit wide and rounded on the end as well. Her blue eyes. Her slightly arched eyebrows. Her straight, black hair. Mum had sharp features, her cheeks defined, her chin almost edged, her nose thin. Her eyes were brown, her eyebrows sparse, her hair was black and cut in almost a tight bowl, but of a different texture and with more wave. Her father’s nose was long and almost Roman, his face a bit thick with almost rough skin texture. His eyes were hazel, his hair a light brown with a hint of grey, but for his bald head. Grey in exactly the same places they had always been, of course.

There was nothing. No commonality of appearance. Even Andi’s skin tone tended lighter — she was a winter, her mother a summer, her father an autumn. If anyone saw the three of them on the street without context, they would never think the two were her parents.

Because they weren’t. They weren’t even human.

They were machines.

Andi began to mechanically change clothes, still staring at the mirror. Machines, made in the image of human, but unable to bridge the gaps. Robots — no, androids. That was what you called a machine that was made to look like a human. Andi had seen that on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation she’d seen four years back. A house mother had been watching it — it wasn’t Andi’s sort of thing, but she’d been hanging in the common room of her dorm and it was on. She remembered every second of the episode now, of course. That android had essentially been alive — were her parents? It didn’t seem so. They lacked… something. Not just empathy. That was obvious now, but still. Their answers were too automatic. Too predictable. So what were they? What was their purpose?

“I dunno. I dunno, man. Are the guardians coming?”

“Oh God,” Andi murmured, a choke in her voice. Their purpose was her. They were made and set to watch her. To wait for this jump in intellect. And, when it showed up, to collect her and bring her to whoever did this.

Andi wanted to believe she was insane — that this didn’t make sense. But it did. Why make androids to fake being her parents — not just hire people? Dependability — androids would perform as programmed, not develop untoward feelings for their subject. If you could build the bloody things in the first place it made sense to use them for this. That must have been why they kept changing au pairs and nannies when she was young, too. Why they kept moving her to different boarding schools — it was to keep her caregivers at arm’s length, keep people from realizing her ‘parents’ weren’t quite right, and keep anyone from being too concerned for Andi’s welfare. Why not make the androids look more like Andi? They couldn’t know what Andi would look like as she aged, and even if they did — they almost certainly replaced actual people with these machines. Andi had no living relatives — well, ‘Dale Gannett’ and ‘Georgina Moore’ had no living relatives that she knew of — so they were probably taken as targets of opportunity, with just enough money and background so they could reasonably be expected to pay school fees for their child.

Andi realized she was almost hyperventilating. Stop that! she told herself, forcing herself to calm down — remembering how she had been feeling just twenty minutes before. Angry and annoyed, without fear or despair or whatever else she—

No. Don’t give in. She forced herself to remember. Forced herself to adopt the expression, the rate of breathing, the flush. The edge to her voice. Forced herself to be the picture of the angry young daughter whose neglectful parents were being unreasonable, not the foundling proto-weapon designed for intellect with robotic keepers who was being collected for God knows what.

Picking up her school skirt and shirt, she looked in the mirror. She wiped away obvious wetness around the eyes, and had to trust the attitude she’d aped would fool the things in the other room. Of course, they clearly hadn’t any empathy whatsoever, so with luck that would carry through. For now, she had to get them to that meeting, and from there?

From there she had to find a way to stay at the school — stay here. Stay away from these things that had pretended to be her parents. She felt her heart pounding again, like it would be torn out by the sheer betrayal—

No! Angry, annoyed, teenaged girl with unreasonable parents. Don’t show other reactions.

She half-stormed back to her room, her face and bearing the perfect mask of the bratty girl who was having a justified tantrum. She went through. “All right,” she said. “We’ve got to get to the meeting.”

Her ‘parents’ had largely gotten her things into a pile, and were diligently — no, mechanically — separating them so they could pack them for the trip. “Do we?” her ‘father’ asked. “Is it really necessary?”

“Of course,” Andi snapped. “Or do you want them calling the police because a student disappeared?”

“We’ll go to the meeting, of course,” her ‘mother’ said. “Ready?”

“Almost,” Andi said. “I just need my things.” She retrieved her wallet and phone from her book bag, then walked over to Jennie’s desk.

“Isn’t that your roommate’s desk?” ‘Mum’ asked.

“I told you, we organize together,” Andi said smoothly, her voice the perfect mask of annoyance at having to repeat herself. She opened the bottom drawer, and pulled out Jennie’s ‘fanny pack of bringing the pain.’ “I just needed my bum bag.”

“All right then. Let’s go and get this over with.” ‘Mum’ started for the door, her father following.

“Right,” Andi said, buckling the bag on, sliding it to where she could easily get to it from her right hand. “Let’s get this over with.”

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4 thoughts on “Lovelace½ #11”

  1. Well, crap.

    Okay, going through the Fanny Pack of Doom:

    1. A Leatherman. Contains both a knife and tools — if the guardians are somehow disabled, it might be possible to partially or wholly disassemble the things using it.

    2. A pen knife. Assuming it’s just a small blade (apparently some people have started using the term to refer to Swiss Army knifes while I wasn’t looking), probably the preferred stabbing tool.

    3. Steel pen. A deniable stabbing tool, which might be convenient — unlike the knives, taking a simple pen out doesn’t tend to arouse suspicion.

    4. Pepper spray. Almost certainly ineffective … but the fact of it being ineffective might be useful if Andi needs to prove that the guardians aren’t human.

    The question is, of course: how tough are these things to damage? If she has the opportunity to look for (or attempt to recall) weak points, that would be helpful … and if she doesn’t, she can just aim for the eyes.

    Assuming it comes to that. Which it might.

  2. This should be interesting. I find myself wondering about the androids’ design. It wouldn’t be too unlikely that there’s a layer that can “bleed.”

    That would look bad initially–until they hit the layer that’s actually mechanical.

  3. ….I was gonna say that there needs to be a scene where she maces her parents. I was also gonna go into how even Exalted’s Dragon Blooded understand the need for getting the next generation of living superweapons emotionally attached to the previous one.


    Now, I’m just wishing the bag had a Taser instead of mace. Maybe she could try a logic bomb on them?

    On the upside, the Lovelace connection is starting to be clearer.

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