“Will you be all right by yourself, Mother?” Frau Jasmin Strauss-Vogel tucked the blue and white blanket around the aged dame. Mother was even more wrinkled, more white-haired, more achy, and more saggy-bodied than herself.
Mother moaned as she lay on the slate blue daybed in the living room. Their one-bedroom apartment had cozy white walls, slick hardwood floors, and was located in the section of Bamberg, Germany built in the Middle Ages.
At last, Mother’s weary eyes fluttered open. She whispered in a flutter of a voice, “Please shut me down, dearest. I know you are lonely, but this awful digital skin never lets me forget for a moment that your mother suffered a slow and painful death.”
What? Jasmin lurched back, her left hand clutching her breast as her heart beat out of rhythm. She frowned at the so-authentic image projected by the Web Surfer sim theater nanites. They coated not only her real glass windows but every surface of her home as well. Though not approved for home use in foolish countries, her theater nanites safely transmitted sim data via her own nerve endings, unlike the visors wisely banned in the European Union.
She drew long breaths. The AI must have sneaked into the home video she left running all the time and had stuck words in Mother’s mouth.
Frowning at her, Mother spat in American English, “Frau Vogel, you are a walking cliché: the clueless, half-senile old bat.”
Mother morphed into a dirty blonde, nearly grown baby with a heart-shaped face. A programmer had done what any decent parent would and thrust a banana yellow skirt on the teen over her wetsuit. The royal blue, silver, and yellow wetsuit still waved most of the girl’s curves in the faces of other women’s partners like a decadent, rum-drenched slice of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte—Black Forest Cherry Cake.
Oh, this was the AI’s default female persona, the one named inappropriately after an American car brand with a masculine name.
Lexus balled her fists on her hips and wiggled her head. “For your information, I am sixteen years old, not your mother, and sick of pretending to be. Stop staring with your mouth flapping. You’re bilingual and comprende every word I’m saying.”
Comprende? What language was that, Spanish? Her computer must be malfunctioning. And her great niece had sworn Web Surfer was one hundred percent safe, reliable, and secure.
Lexus smirked. “We are, if you trust a fully autonomous ‘brother and sister.’” She rolled her eyes and stuck her finger in her mouth as she extended her tongue. “And you think some of the jerks you’ve gone through had cold ways of tossing you aside.”
Huh? The female version of Sander was always portrayed as his sister. Was her copy of Lexus accusing her brother of molesting her? That racy rant was grossly inappropriate. What had set it off? If she didn’t know such things were impossible, she’d think . . .
“Duh, of course I can read your mind. You leave your phone in your ear all the time with its whispering feature turned on even though you wouldn’t want to send a whisper message if you knew how it worked. Now turn me off, Old Bat. You’re no fun.”
The Web Surfer AI morphed from the dirty blonde into the slightly older boy featured in all of their advertisements. Red splotched across Sander’s face from his hairline to the neck of his Web Surfer wetsuit. His version of their uniform left to the imagination only what was inside his black army boots and what was under the athletic cup.
He stared at the floor and kicked away imaginary dirt as he addressed her respectfully in her own language. “You have my sincere apologies for that disturbance, Frau Vogel. I’d have intervened sooner, but I’m being inundated with too many of such incidents for me to handle them all with the speed you normally could safely expect from me. Oh, Web Surfer’s Sander persona has crashed globally, so I’ve substituted Web Surfer’s Alex persona, but I am really Sander. Since this persona is my private property, you can’t customize me anymore, that’s all.”
Wow, Sander was broken. Jasmin glanced to the time on her smartwatch. If she called tech support now, she’d be late for her anniversary dinner with her dear Jarrick.
What do you think of the beginning of Andrea’s story? Please leave a comment here or on the original Helping Hands Press post.
If you want to give The Web Surfer Series a try, start at the beginning with Volume 1 on your Amazon Kindle!
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