This week’s fantasy fiction by Tapan is an interesting sci-fi, with engrossing twists and turns, exclusively of Different Truths.
“Will you call the verses I write my off-springs?” In times like this, Prajapati’s shining pate got sweat-beads precipitating, like a crown.
“Poetry are not human, PP”, Vani always had a simple logic for the most complex queries.
“Ok, paintings? Sculptures? See this,” Prajapati pointed to an image on his screen, “Will you call Venus, Botticelli’s daughter?”
“PP, those were objects. They didn’t breathe. Their creators never cleaned their bottoms at infancy.” Vani sounded resolved to silence Prajapati.
“Botticelli would have craved for Venus to come alive every night. He couldn’t. He didn’t have the science with them; or the technology.” Prajapati was about to win the argument…
“It’s 11:30. No check-in for the daily bread?” Vani got startled at the pokes and the voice. Her Sleep Monitor didn’t do this. Oh, it was him again! She had unsubscribed from the Dreams, then how could he still be there?
“You browsed to the Unsubscribe tab, and then a message from your Whole-mate Shikhar appeared, remember? You forgot to click on the tab!”
She hated unauthorised telepathic interventions, but Prajapati was her creator. However hard she wished to remove her Memory modules of him, they were embedded in her system firmware.
“What do you want now?”
She knew what he wanted. He wanted her to keep collecting as many Points as possible each day; to be in The Ring, the daily grind of the Commune, as long as she could physically and psychically sustain daily. Vani provided the essential training modules to the children of The Commune.
The bonus points that she earned working overtime helped her to afford the extravagance of retaining him in her Memory modules. The Commune didn’t sell Annual Sustenance of these modules cheap. Through her, he existed; even after obsolescence, even after End-of-Life of his serving abilities to The Commune.
“You don’t have to be rude.” His temperamental, overbearing ways with her continued even in his After-Life.
“Whatever I’ve got, I got from you!”
Prajapati, that wicked genius of a gnomist well ahead of his times, had engineered Vani’s DNA to be a replica of his own self. He had crossed his DNA with that of his favourite actress, Halle Berry. He had bought a used panty of Ms. Berry from the Dark Net, spending the lion’s share of his savings. It had enough of Ms. Berry’s DNA traces to be used for the Multiplication.
Vani had the svelte, athletic frame of Ms. Berry. Her face was, however, a spitting image of Prajapati. Common acquaintances on the Shared Socials would comment: “ditto”, “mirror”. She hated the comparison at different levels.
“We had good times as well. You don’t seem to have learned from those!”
Sharing metabolic and psychic needs was his definition of good times, always. He never understood the need to be left alone. Bhumi, Vani’s foetus-bearer, always had this complaint. She wanted Prajapati to be away sometimes, just to have Vani more to herself. Prajapati unreasonably doted on her. Connected deep within, she guided Vani whenever she remembered. The Commune didn’t charge for the Memory modules of the Foetus-holders. The little concessions this Terra-market still provided with, the small celebrations of being human.
“Huh, good times, past times – pastimes? Perhaps I shouldn’t have moved on. I should have lived in those times!” She regaled at the thoughts of her Phase-1: tiny, loved, irresponsible. “But you were always in a hurry to see me reach your height, to be responsible, well-deployed at The Ring.”
“I supported both of you for so many years, her and you, all by myself! I needed rest. They decommissioned me after they found out about you, my finest creation! There were not much savings with me then.” He usually got breathless after such ranting. He was surprisingly very steady still. “I spent my best years for the two of you.”
“I know, you’ve told me this only about a million times?” That was his way to keep getting her back.
Vani was sick of hearing the sob story ad infinitum. “You had done what anyone would have done.”
He could never bear himself being compared with anyone. “Anyone? Really! One of those ‘any-ones’ left you with me and never looked back. Anyone, huh!” Humility and tact were definitely not his strength. “Sorry, you won’t want to transfer your Memory location to those space-times.”
“It’s ok. Nothing from you affects me anymore.” There was a prohibited pleasure in feigning nonchalant indifference for the creator.
“Really, you are OK with anyone now? All those nights I spent stuffing your operating system with expensive apps bought from the Dark Net have no value?”
“Don’t start again. You programmed me to be compatible with anyone. You did that after I was just installed.” Her tanginess melted his aggression. His lies found the wrinkles on his face to hide.
She needed to establish non-dependence. He needed to ensure his propriety.
“So, who is your latest “anyone”?”
She pressed her left temple slightly, half an inch right of the ear. The playlist of whatever she had heard or picked up so far, started displaying on her MindScreen. New recommendations streamed as well.
She had her fill with GreenLife, a drink designed to keep hunger at bay and nutrition filling, two days back. It could last her another day, save her conversations with Prajapati. These always make her famished. She poured herself a cup without bothering about the extravagance.
She increased the volume of the KanyeBeats to keep pumping up her adrenaline. She wished PP’s silence. He wished her attention. He put the finger on his lips and the beats stopped playing.
“You trust anyone and get infected with Malware. How long do you think you can afford reboots?”
“As long as I can work. Worst case, I may have to trade my Points for sex with the strongest in The Commune.”
Genetically designed, sex assigned, programmed – whatever; at the end, Vani was a woman. She knew how to take the gas of the ego ballooned in such males.
“What will you do if I choose to stop my respect for you?”
Once Prajapati migrated to the After-Life, Prajapati had lost the ownership of his Points along with his physical identity. His control on his creation was weaning. He had to retain his respect, at least, to keep in touch with Vani.
Out of old habits, Prajapati desired to pour a cup of GreenLife from the refrigerated flask. His ethereal self-realized soon that it could not. His frustration mounted.
Prajapati looked around and found crumpled bedsheets, conjoined headrests and some sex toys on her bed. He saw what he knew already.
“Is it a male this time? Or a female?” He changed his tone. She maintained an apathetic silence. “Wait! Is it just a fucking droid?” He so wished her to confess, to give him ammunition to prove her worthlessness once more.
Her mind-space was getting messed up. Her simmering anger was pushing for a weak vein for release. She did some fast breathing.
“Whatever it is, it is my actual companion now. 24×7, no strings, no demands, no heartbreak. Just the way you lusted for me, right? Guess I got too evolved, right?”
Prajapati paced up and down. The truth was much predictable to answer, hence, avoided.
In her Playlist, someone was saying “Hello, from the other side”. She could hear it now. His control on the Playlist had waned, or did he let it go?
Vani frowned. This was her favourite PastSong, and she could not even remember the singer’s name? Irritating! Prajapati put his index finger on his lips again. The soprano was silenced.
“Why don’t you ever go out of this pad on off-days like this? You work InLine, get food InLine, and earn Points InLine.” Her silence and a bobbing end to the recurrent music stretched his patience to the brink. He was never known for his patience anyway. “Having sex InLine too?”
She heard the last words, spoken louder than the others. She turned her head with eyes brimming with angry tears. She spoke slowly, so softly that Prajapati couldn’t decipher at first.
“At least, I am not fucking my creator for a living.”
He got thinned in his air of existence. This was always a lost ground. She had spoken the unspoken. He made a failing attempt to regain lost territory.
“I was legally allowed by The Commune to enjoy the fruits of my creation. I chose it to be with you, one of the few I created.”
“And my choices, immaterial?”
“I thought you liked it that way. You never sought any experience outside our bond. I remained within my entitlement. We never transgressed.”
“Because you had me agreed on the Penalty Points for seeking out, even before I understood what it meant. I waited for 60 seasons, for you to grow obsolete, to phase out.” She was panting; anger or apprehension, Prajapati couldn’t say. He could never resist this wild streak in Vani. Usually, they had marathon sessions of sex after such existential fights.
Vani was resisting his male libido out of her psyche. She browsed and found the Unsubscribe tab for The Dreams on one the tattoos etched on her left elbow. She was about to press it when a strong shriek was heard. She turned sharply towards a corner.
The Network router was screeching. Before she could react, it turned dark inside. The remote controlled opaque window panes with Nanoparticle-embedded glass became transparent. The Sun radiated her pad. The temperature of the room started to rise… 23, 24, 25…
For such emergencies, Prajapati had smuggled in a good old UPS as a backup long ago. He had kept it concealed but ensured that the thing is always on a floating charge. Vani had kept the connections intact. After a few cycles, it came to life, but could just illuminate the two lights in the pad. Daylight was already pouring inside in gallons.
The SurroundWall displayed a marquee announcement in Sans Serif text …waiting for Network… marching on its screen like giant ants. A fast moving blue dot above it, carving an image of incomplete infinity, showed that the systems were still searching furiously for their parent Network.
Her Playlist had stopped playing. She ran around the pad, tried out different gestures and physical pushes & touches with the few gadgets she had in the pad. But the Network router was blinking rapidly with its one red eye.
She hastily checked on Prajapati. He had turned a few shades lighter. With lower energy levels, he was sitting in the chair vacated by Vani and rocking slowly. He was shaking his head in utmost calm to some music that only he could hear.
Vani couldn’t bear the sunlight for long. Her skin started to itch. Her shaved head showed pearls of sweat. Her short and light clothing was turning transparent under the humid heat that was building up.
After about 30 oscillations of Prajapati’s rocking chair, her patience gave up. She looked with irritation at the SurroundWall, pressed her left temple a few times, and clicked the Nano routers on her wrist tattoo a few times to call The Commune Helpline. No luck. There was no Network.
Suddenly, the SurroundWall had an image. The blue light on the Network Router started blinking. A classical Sari clad beauty, obviously a droid, appeared at the centre of the Wall.
Vani watched the announcement with anxiety. Prajapati was still rocking the chair with the same amplitude. He seemed distant, beyond holocausts.
The announcement was curt, courteous and mechanical. The Commune was compelled to increase the Network tariff two-fold due to increasing operating cost of The Nuclei, the grand server chain of The Commune. Graciously, they were offering a waiver of fees for two seasons, if the consumer paid for 12 seasons upfront. Connections were suspended till the consumer agreed to the new tariff rates by clicking the I Agree tab under the long micro-scripture of the Terms and Conditions appearing now on the SurroundWall, which obviously no one could read.
It was common knowledge that The Commune was engaged in a long-drawn legal battle over the custody of The Nuclei with The Landings, the neighbouring Metrodome for the dying city, Blore. Both were energy guzzlers, anyone could turn into a guerrilla saboteur to defend its propriety.
Vani had never experienced such sharp hike in the cost of basic necessities during her period at The Commune. As there was no Network, it was impossible for her to coordinate with the InLine activists of WeProtest members against such unilateral, fascist imposition by The Commune.
She felt as helpless as a newborn child. Should she press the ‘I Agree’ button? That would mean cutting her seasonal savings to half. There will be no possibility in the near future of any union with Shikhar. The advance paid for shifting to a larger, free-owned pad on the slopes of the NanHill had always been her aspiration. With reduced savings, that went too.
“What should I do now?” The fading image of Prajapati was at about 35% transparency. She had to stand close to be audible.
“You have become so pale.” He held an intent gaze at her contours, unfolding gradually by strong daylight and streams of sweat. He kept looking. He was seeing her so clear after eons.
“Are they going to take over all our controls?” Vani could feel but chose to ignore the rising libido of Prajapati. She needed someone known to reassure her that everything was going to be alright, like before.
“Look at those dark circles. When was the last time you had an 8 circle sleep?” Was he mocking? Was he seducing her again with such façade of a concern? Like, he used to do every day, every moment when he was On.
A realisation sent shivers down her spine. Excitement made her look more desirable. “Wait! Wasn’t it a tariff hike like this which made you voice out against The Principles? Didn’t that cost you decommissioning?”
She recalled the night with fresh shivers down her spine. Prajapati was a champion of free expressions. He refused to serve The Propaganda since it all began. Several notices were served to him warning to seal his genomics lab if he didn’t stop being a voice against. The Principles tolerated till his deliveries outweighed his rebellion. His productivity decreased one summer, and he was decommissioned swiftly with a clinical and legal objectivity.
“Freedom is just a state of mind”, one of the hereditary leaders of The Commune had given an Inline statement, justifying the persecution and execution of the non-compliant rebels.
“Hey, do I see a few gray hairs?” He used to be calm in the face of a crisis, almost to a fault. She was reminded of the reasons of her psycho-sexual dependence on him.
She used to relish every moment of his proximity, his warmth. The heat of his intellect, chivalry, and humour enamoured her enough to nudge her desire to be non-dependent to sleep, deep sleep. Everytime!
The Router was screeching like a hawk, albeit with its blue eye flickering at a gentle speed. She had to know from him the way ahead, the way out.
“Tell me, what should I do now?” He was smiling, and silent.
His transparency had reached 25%. “Should I press the button and log in again?”
“No.” His definitive answer made her defiant, probing.
“What do I do without the Network?” She had never conceived to exist without it.
“We can talk, as we are now.”
“For how long? You are already fading away.”
She panicked suddenly and rushed to the chair. She caught hold of his wrists. All she could catch, however, were the handles of the rocking chair. “Wait, I can’t see you ever again without the Network. Why are you even suggesting such suicidal ideas?”
“There are people around, real people in the flesh. Maybe engineered, assigned, programmed but with a human heart and mind and other vital parts.” He winked. “Get out and meet them. Unite. Make a Force. Move out of The Commune. Reach out to the Masses, as you have always wished in your encrypted weblog.”
She was very unclear. He won’t last long. Transparency read 15%. How can he leave her to decide on her own in such dire moments and disappear? She had never done that before. Since she had been attempting to be in union with Shikhar, she had been stingy about renewing the
Memory modules of him. She didn’t purchase the Long Retention package. She had to clear other bills for a month of wining, dining and entertaining with Shikhar. Her bad!
“But how do I connect with my friends and the support groups? They will all be gone without the Network.”
“Oh, you can seduce and articulate. You will have a bee-line waiting outside.” He had never been chirpier before. “Anyway, when you feel unwell in my absence, you will need real people to nurse you, right?”
“But going without the Network will mean the end of movies, recipes, shopping, music…. Oh, Stars? How do I cope with so much of change?”
The transparency was at 8%. Prajapati gesticulated towards a corner. “I had an iPod. A lot of outlawed stuff must still be there. Our choice of music matches, right? Like so many other choices?” He blinked suggestively. “And check that,” he pointed towards the attic space, “Our old home theatre may just be active with all the BRD and DVD stacked right next to it.”
He paused. His reducing energy was understandable. “And shopping? Admit that you have stuff enough to last another 5 years! You wear the same dress to work, pleasure or recreation for days… so, what’s the big deal? I am sure you have enough to get The Current back. Just do that and wait.”
Transparency was just 5% now. But he was still audible. “They just want you to lose patience. I did. You don’t.” He was speaking slowly, with long pauses.
“They can’t keep you off-grid forever. You are the market. You are revenue. Just unite all. The Network will be back.” In his final moments of visibility, he caressed her face with his gaze. “Who knows? I may also be back…”
Soon, it was only the daylight in the room to give her company. She pushed herself towards the hatch that led out of the pad. She could see a few other beings like her pushing their heads out, eyes dazzled with the extreme brightness of low latitude, high altitude location they were in. Everyone saw broad daylight after so long.
Eyes would adjust, she braved herself. It’s the mind which would need training. She had to mobilise togetherness once again to solve problems. The Commune would not be happy. They were not supposed to be.
She had to start where he had left. To get him back.
Photos from the internet.
#FantasyFiction #Fiction #DroidLove #Fantasy #SciFi #DifferentTruths
Tapan Mozumdar has been a practising engineer for 29 years. At 50, he began to write short stories. Now, he is practising quite hard to be a writer. He was shortlisted, in 2016, for the Star TV Writer’s programme and Bangalore LitMart. He was published in the February edition of The Spark. He writes short stories, poems, and non-fiction.