Scene 11. To Meet An Old Soul.
Steve rode without a comment while Alvin sometimes muttered under his breath at the wheel of the creaky panel-truck. He drove the rolling box of electronic repair equipment to an industrial area, to the back where ancient buildings were held up by piles of dead and decaying equipment.
Steve got out of the truck and followed Alvin through the maze of partly constructed freezer here, a stripped, old step-side pickup truck body there. All the carcasses of dead machines seemed to hold up the, even more rusty, walls of the warehouse.
“This is what I call home.” Alvin made a sweeping gesture with his hands. “It ain’t much, but it’s watertight, secure and is close to a central data-hub for easy access. I have hardwired the warehouse to the underground trunk lines. It’s all optic, so I get the best data bandwidth than anyone around here. I put in frequency chirp modulators to cover that there is a data thief among the connections.”
Steve moved about the room, looking around the surroundings, inside the warehouse was in stark contrast to the exterior.
“Do you intercept data?” A glance at walls and tabletops covered with every wire, electronic and plug on the market.
Cables ran along the walls, zip-ties held them in place, turning in sharp corners or graceful loops., each unused cable, looped on itself, tied with a bright marker tag and a digital bar code.
“No, not at all. I might as well send up a big red flag and say ‘arrest me here’.” Alvin grinned. “Not to say I haven’t been tempted. But why mess with a good thing? The cost to benefit ratio is not there. Twenty-years in prison to hack a nude picture of an actress or something is not worth it. Anyway, make yourself at home. I’ll get us something to drink. Do you drink?”
The carpeted living area felt comfortable, warmed with radiant heat that, the android’s processors deduced, Alvin tied in with the elevated solar panels that covered much of the property behind the warehouse.
“Yes, I can consume any organic substance, and many inorganic. The materials all get processed and converted to energy.” Steve leaned over to see what was outside of a window and the optics went busy in an attempt to record everything.
Outside, the building looked abandoned, inside it was a tinkering technician’s paradise.
In one corner was a small car on a lift, glossy black and wide wheels in back, the car gave off a low powered signal that repeated every ten-seconds.
Over and over.
It was a beacon, a request for acknowledgement.
The Sword of Religion, Steve Aldin, the android felt the tone, plaintive and melancholy echo of a broken heart.
For the first time, the android sent a response code instead of a request. A single tone, two point six kilohertz, a pause, ten-seconds ticked by, eleven.
The tone changed immediately and the old-style handshake happened.
“I see you found my project. This old car is a bit of a mystery, pre-war by the looks and upholstery.” Alvin pointed with a wrench. “I am going to remove the electric motivators and electronics and replace it with a small W-6 engine I saved out of a racer. It will be an asphalt-ripper then. all it has now is larger golf-cart electronics at the wheels.”
“Asphalt ripper?” Steve tilted his head in curiosity. An action he had observed used by beloved pets of humans. They called them puppies.
“I call it Honey, she is a sweet ride.” Alvin smiled as he went around the shop, restocking his truck with parts and panels, circuits and screws. “She’ll get even better when she has some real power under her hood.”
“Sleeper.” Steve said.
“What?” Stopping Alvin in mid-sentence.
“Sleeper, that’s this car’s name. It wants you to call it Sleeper.” Steve stepped closer to the car and reached out, putting his hand on the fender. The touch was a shock for the both of them.
Two souls, one intensely loyal to the first human family from which it now found itself separated by a long distance and time. The other, an artificial soul like the first. But that was where the similarities ended. The first, to protect the humans and prevent harm to them. To bring them home, even when they can’t. To improve the world and live in harmony. The second artificial heart lived with a mandate that directed the destruction of anyone who the Supreme Leader viewed as infidel.
“What are you mean? Are you saying you are in communication?” Alvin asked the android. “Are you talking to it or something?”
“Yes.” Steve said. Then the core processors created a new subroutine. Although in conflict with other programming, the programs assessed that to elaborate was a necessary effort. “The car is awake, and possesses a large store of information.”
Alvin blinked. This was more knowledge than he ever thought he might get about the car. He purchased it at auction the year before and Alvin could barely get it above the speed limits on the street. It was slow, but quick to maneuver.
And he could get it to launch with neck-snapping performance on the grounds of the industrial area.
But every time he got the little car on the road, something seemed to hold it back, a power drain, maybe a failed circuit. It was like driving with the brakes on.
He plugged it in often, after modifying the ancient plug shape and he was able to find the voltage requirements and build a plug to fit.
Still, no matter how slow the car went, the voltage showed full. It was then Alvin would often make comments about the little car’s ancestry.
So he saved up and purchased an exotic kit that was almost the size of the little car. He would just have to change the transaxel that came with the kit. He would remove all the electronics and have a car that could fly down the quarter-mile track as fast as any except for the most powerful and exotic street cars.
And now this android was telling him there was more to the little car than he was led to believe?
“How much data does it have.”
“Reporting one-thousand twenty-four zebibyte total storage, with six-eighty-six zebibytes of storage used.”
“I don’t understand, my trucks are running two-fifty-six terabytes, how does that compare?”
“This little car is built with zebibytes of capacity, each zebibyte is one-thousand million Terabytes.”
Alvin went quiet for a moment, the numbers were esoteric and arcane.
“This system, compared to your road trucks.” Steve paused for just a heartbeat. “Each memory unit would hold over three-billion, nine-hundred million copies of what your trucks used as operating systems.”
That caused Alvin to pause.
“And you have … sixty-eight percent full?”
“This car’s construction date is reported as before the west coast invasions the Holy Army. Before the war.” Steve nodded. “Its memory has never been cleared.”
“This little car could store three-billion truck’s information in it?”
“No.” A pause. Alvin thought the Android had discovered a flaw in the math. It was too much!
“That is for one ZiB, a term for zebibyte, Sleeper the car has six-hundred and eighty-six times that in recorded information and an order of magnitude more storage than it has recorded. It has a thousand twenty-four ZiB’s of ultimate storage. Not counting what it might hide in the net.”
“Oh, my…” Alvin’s own speech center faltered, overwhelmed. “Oh my oh my.”
“Haven’t you ever tried to communicate with it?”
Alvin’s jaw dropped before, now it snapped shut with a downcast gaze.
“No.” He shook his head. “Damn, I never even thought to try. Let me find a connection…”
“You don’t need a physical connection, scan in the VHF range with your computer interface, look in between channel four, five and six.”
“Furry flippin’ cats!” Alvin exclaimed as his computer logged into the ad-hoc network that Sleeper set up in a blink of an eye. “That was too easy.”
Opening his 3-D viewer, he fast forwarded through the recorded years. To Alvin, it was as if he were there. The sounds, the video feed through his headset was in astounding quality.
The two watched Sleeper’s history on the first time on a dry lake-bed with the open-wheel speed-machines.
“Now we know why it calls itself “Sleeper”.” Alvin whispered “It has more acceleration than any other wheel-driven machine on record. In fact! If this is the car…” His voice trailed off in awe with another display of the same day.
Alvin logged into a website dedicated to speed records by various years of wheel-driven and jet propelled vehicles. Jotted down a number on the back of his hand and walked over to the service hatch under the back seat of the car.
And gasped. This was a car. This was the car!
“This car still holds records!” Alvin blinked rapidly, rechecked the numbers on the screen of his handheld computer.
“This is why it doesn’t perform properly, it is a repo’d car and this system has been devastated by fat fingers and it looks like. Crumbs?” Alvin pointed, sighed and walked to the three-dimensional display. “This car is in the books as setting record after record.”
“But here!” he pointed at the display. “This shows an asterisk, it displays a year that was pre-war. So this car is that old?”
“That is what I indicated. The car is an unusual machine.” Steve remarked. “It has suffered terribly throughout its life.”
Steve shook his head in sadness while the android in contact with the most intimate parts of the car’s memory.
Emotion, melancholy, grief, happiness, sadness, pain all flooded out of the little car’s core. The heart might be from the last century, but the horrid flood of emotions linked the android to the other synthetic life. A hundred years of input.
A single ZiB of memory, equal to a billion terabytes.
And the little car had stored hundreds upon hundreds of moments in time.
Every tick of the clock since it went online the little car recorded, it never forgot.
Then Sleeper the car asked Steve a question.
The shared moment of the bare truth between machines shocked and caused a fundamental and complete change the android’s code. Steve patched the core database with the largest change since the he came online.
Only the two protected programs to go to James Madison Power Plant and to shut power off to the magnetic bottle in Steve’s chest. Then the antimatter grain of gold would drop and contact the normal matter of the container.
The destruct program was hardwired into the circuitry. Steve could not patch or change it, but Sleeper the car suggested an idea.
Old souls and treachery will overcome youth and ability.