Originally posted on Helping Hands Press’s Blog
Thank HaShem Henry had passed the AI equivalent of a driver’s exam.
Closing his eyes, Dr. Victor Avner McGregor leaned back in the driver’s seat of his brand new 2093 Lexus family car. Without Henry remotely operating his vehicle, he’d have wrecked and killed his wife, too. Vic’s whole body ached. No. He wasn’t his son’s killer. This was all HaShem’s fault, if G-d wasn’t symbolic—and HaShem probably was. At least this way Alexander had gone gently to sleep in Mommy’s tummy.
On second thought, HaShem could go pluck a duck.
To think the joy of fatherhood had once tempted him to break his word to his wife and make up with HaShem. He peeked beside him. Luzi sat quiet and limp as she leaned against her window, angled away from him. Pungent sweat slicked her shoulder-length, dark blonde waves.
Why had she stopped her ceaseless crying? Vic reached out and probed her shoulder with the tips of his fingers. “Luzi? Are you all right?”
She stiffened and drew away. “If you are all right, then something is wrong with you, Vic. Those insensitive clods wouldn’t even let me see him!”
“For good reason. One look at Alexander, and you’d have surrendered to irrational, short-sighted, selfish emotion and ordered him rushed onto life support.”
“Maybe I should have!” His wife made a wiggly, woman-scorned move with her head. “How can you be so clinical? Our baby’s in the morgue with a tag on his foot!”
Was she losing it? Their fetus was likely in a bio-waste bag and headed for the—No, the child was perfect, other than the disease that would’ve sucked the life out of his muscles. They’d realize someone would be interested in buying the body for science.
Visions of his baby being dismembered in a laboratory assaulted Vic’s empty stomach.
He gagged. Maybe he could go back to the hospital, explain his wife was right. The baby belonged in the morgue, on his way to a funeral home. No. He drew a ragged breath. “Honey, what Alexander deserves is to be healthy and still awaiting a live birth in three and a half weeks. Reality doesn’t care about what should be anymore than the government cares to let Daddy and Uncle Henry correct Alexander’s fatal mutation.”
Luzi gaped at him. “You were ready for human trials?”
Nodding, Vic scowled. “Try telling that to the idiotic paper pushers.” He waved at the shatter-proof Petri dish case in his breast pocket. “Henry’s bacterial nanites have more capacity for compassionate, independent thought, and he’s dead without a network connection to my supercomputer.”
“Your supercomputer? Ha! You sold it to Web Surfer Incorporated along with your soul for an employer and a steady paycheck outside of the healthcare industry.”
“Henry is by nature a product of the marriage of healthcare and tech. To limit him to what I envisioned for his life would be as wrong with him as it’d be with—”
“You’ve bullied me into an abortion because Sander dying in his teens from a crippling genetic disease didn’t fit what we’d envisioned for his life!”
“Stop criticizing me!” Vic snapped, cringing as his chest tightened and his face flamed. He needed to stop feeling like he’d betrayed both his AI and his son. It was irrational. “We did what was best for our baby, and turning Henry into a commercial Mac-and-Microsoft-killer allows me to also continue my medical research. That’s what matters, not who legally owns my AI, my lab, and all future fruits of my labors.”
He’d prove wrong the avaricious cretins who’d yanked his funding—and the mockers who’d dubbed him Professor Nutticus Bactenstein. Sadly, victory would come too late to save Alexander, let alone the real Henry.
The car lurched to a halt. Vic blinked and sat up straighter, peering through the front windshield at the side of a red brick building with frosty empty flower boxes under the windows. It looked a bit like a large home, except for the business parking lot.
Luzi growled. “Vic, where are we? I thought you were taking me home!”
“So did I.” He glared at the dashboard LED display. “Home is where I distinctly remember telling the car to take us.”
The dashboard switched from displaying car gauges to a vid he’d modified into a simulated reality. A grassy park lawn and partly cloudy sky stretched around the three-dimensional, age-progressed image of what his brother might have looked like at thirty-four. Henry had pretty much the same square face as him, but had their Scottish father’s sandy brown hair worn in a classic Caesar cut rather than their Jewish mother’s rust-tinted dark brown hair, which Vic wore short and spiky.
“Sorry, Vic.” His genderless AI spread his brother’s lips in an innocent grin and blinked his brother’s eyes. “I figured, if we got this far without either of you noticing, that meant you did need to head to your spiritual home more than to your physical home.”
Huh? This wasn’t his synagogue.
Luzi glanced behind them. “You go here?”
Vic followed her gaze to the sign and read it. Shema Israel? What in cyberspace was Henry thinking? “Uh no, I haven’t joined a Christian denomination that’s no more Jewish than the Hare Krishnas are Christians.” Vic glared at Henry. The sneak had better definitions than this. “Explain yourself.”
“You and the lady need debugged.” Henry shrugged. “You are the originator, but she is unproductively grieving and feeling guilty for letting you pressure her into this. Since she’s of Christian ancestry, it was most efficient to bring you both here at once.”
Okay, he’d have to find out where he’d miscoded and fix the error leading Henry to think there was something wrong with his coder’s thinking. “How are we buggy?”
Henry glanced at Luzi. “You wouldn’t listen to your wife, so why would you listen to your own creation? My order of operations is clear: obey you first and love you second. So second I lovingly brought you to a debugging facility suitable to your own kind, one that is not as buggy as you are and that will also be able to help the lady. First I had to help you execute the critical error of killing your own offspring.”
Fire scorched through Vic’s entire body. “He was going to die anyway! You don’t remember how you—how my real brother suffered, but I do! I’d be cruel to force my son to endure that.”
Luzi smashed her door open and climbed out. “Deal with that cruel invention of yours by yourself, Vic. I am going home on my own volition, thank you!”
Oh no. She was too physically weak for this. Vic reached after her. “Luzi, wait!”
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