a tale in weekly parts
This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.
The full story so far can be found here.
Alex looked around himself in terror. Nothing had changed, not a stick of furniture moved; but no presence, no Albert, no Kr’veth’neq’is, no Jinniskeet and, judging by the stillness and silence, no Jarvis.
“Hello,” Alex called into the emptiness, “Jarvis, you must be here, otherwise I’d be stranded in time somewhen. How can I be in you, if you’re not here?”
“Okay, you’ve got me scared. But, come on, a joke’s a joke but only as long as it’s funny, and this isn’t funny!”
“JARVIS!” he screamed, and started sobbing.
No reaction from anything or anybody.
Alex was right. Jarvis can’t leave the vessel, Jarvis is the vessel. However, as with everything bitek, it’s not that simple.
Alex sobbed himself out in about ten minutes, then decided to take a look around to see if anybody or anything living was present in any part of this vessel. After exploring all the rooms, he concluded that, for once literally, the lights were on but nobody was at home. What then, was an intellectually superior ten-year old boy to do, alone, he knew not where in space, he knew not when in time?
“If anyone is listening,” he called, “I’m about to explore the control room and see if anything actually works, or if it’s just there for show.”
He took a seat in the control room, in front of a blank screen and a keyboard. He pressed a few random keys, trying to bring the screen to life. It didn’t. He tried the “three-finger salute” of Control-Alt and Delete which always did something on the family computer at home, though not on his dad’s Macbook, which seemed to resist any of his attempts to do ‘normal’ stuff and which left him baffled, even though his dad bought it because it was supposed to be more ‘intuitive’. That’s a laugh, he thought.
That key sequence had no effect here, either. Having tried most of the various other tricks he knew to bring the machine to life, and having signally failed to achieve that end, he gave up and started looking for something else to do.
More than an hour had passed since everybody had disappeared and he was again becoming anxious. He pulled the mobile phone out of his pocket and looked at it. To say he was surprised to have four bars of signal strength would be a serious under-statement. He dialled home. His father answered.
“Hi, Dad,” he said, “Listen, I’m at a friend’s house—”
“Doesn’t matter, Dad.”
“Does to me. Which friend?”
“Eldrick,” he said, pulling a name out of thin air.
“Do I know him?”
“No, he’s new in the area.”
“What does his dad do?”
“He listens when Eldrick wants to ask him something,” Alex said in desperation.
“Okay, Smart-Alex,” his father replied, using the nickname he had dreamed up in one of his moments of envy of his son’s superior intellect, “what do you want to know?”
“Eldrick’s computer is dead and won’t restart. It was okay half an hour ago, but he turned it off and it won’t come back on again. Any ideas what we can try?”
“Is it a PC or a Mac?” his father asked.
“Not sure what it is, Dad,” Alex said, “It’s not a Mac; it doesn’t have those weird Maccy symbols on the control keys, but it doesn’t have a Windows key either, so I don’t know.”
“Put him on, I’ll talk to him.”
“I can’t, Dad; he’s on another call to someone else to try to fix it, but I told him that my Dad knows all there is to know about computers, so we agreed I’d phone you as well.”
“If it’s not a Mac, I can’t help you, son. Good luck.”
“But, hang on, Dad. There must be some things that will be the same whatever the make.”
“Okay. Mains or portable?”
“Unplug it from the power supply, count to fifty, then plug it back in and start it up again. Usually works.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“That’s all I’ve got, son,” his father said, and ended the call.
“Big help,” Alex said, looking at his dead phone.
He looked behind the screen for the power cable and the data feed but found neither. There was nothing connecting the keyboard to anything, but that didn’t surprise Alex; he was familiar with wireless and bluetooth keyboards. On a hunch that these things were just for show, he tried to lift the keyboard off its table. It wouldn’t budge. Looking closely, he saw that it was an integral part of the table. And the screen was part of the wall behind it.
“It’s all bloody window-dressing,” he yelled into the empty chamber, “nothing in here is real.”
In a fit of temper, Alex started kicking the furniture. He only kicked a couple of chairs, though, because each time his foot made contact with one, it dematerialised (the chair, not his foot) and Alex ended up on the floor on his derrière. Fortunately, there was no witness to his loss of dignity. This stopped him from kicking furniture, but it did nothing for his mood. He passed from chamber to chamber looking for something, anything that he could throw, stamp on or otherwise damage or destroy. That he couldn’t identify anything on which to take out his ire served only to worsen his already fragile state of mind.
There were two things of which Alex was blissfully unaware at this time. One was that the bitek gene that gave him mental capacity beyond that of any pure human, dead, living or not yet born, also has a monitoring and control function that comes into play when the levels of excitatory neurotransmitters such as adrenaline in the brain become critical. In essence, when his temper reaches a destructive state, calming neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and GABA are released to restore balance. The second thing he didn’t know is that when this function activates, a signal is broadcast to related bitek units, alerting them of the imbalance. It was this second action that notified Albert/Jarvis of his state, and that resulted in an audible tone emanating from one of the screens in the control room.
Now somewhat calmer, although he knew not why or how, Alex made his way to the control room to investigate the sound. That was when he saw the message on one of the screens. The text was in a medium shade of green on a soft blue background. It read: “All is well, Alex. We will all be back soon and we’ll explain everything. Kr’veth’neq’is says ESTERKHA’A. Press any key to continue.” Alex pressed the space key, which resulted in the message being played in Albert’s voice, except for the last word, which was voiced by Kr’veth’neq’is. Esterkha’a is a trigger word that she had planted in Alex’s subconscious during their earlier sessions. Meaning ‘relax’ in Arabic, it causes Alex to find a bed and sleep until awakened by another trigger.
Alex found a bed and slept.
This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 15 of this collaborative tale.
This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.