a tale in weekly parts
(formerly Albert and Jarvis)
In episodes 1-88, Albert and Jarvis told the story of a bitek construct that had been in the lives of the Grahamson family for three generations. Appearing in the form of a shepherd's hut (Jarvis) and its elderly occupant (Albert), an earlier experiment had resulted in the birth of Aloysius, a non-manifesting human/bitek hybrid. Alice and Alex, the two children that Aloysius had fathered with his wife, Magdalen, displayed strong bitek capabilities from an early age, though Alice was significantly more precocious than her younger brother. Albert and Jarvis nurtured and enhanced these capabilities through many adventures until the point where, to prevent a global catastrophe, the two needed to act together. The action needed more power than the two possessed. To produce stonger hybrids, Alex's seed was used to produce a young in a distantly related hybrid female in another dimension, while Alice was impregnated using her own bitek components. Albert and Jarvis absented themselves from the lives of the Grahamsons to allow Alice's pregnancy to progress in a safe, normal environment.
You can see the full story so far at this link.
Madge returned some minutes later with a tray of tea and biscuits. She poured a cup each for her husband, children and grandchild and took her seat at the table. Zak was deep in conversation with Alice and Alex, so she decided to hold her tongue for a while.
“You said your relationship with the Eddies was closer than Albert’s,” Alice said, “How would you describe it?”
“It is,” Zak replied, “much closer. I would describe it as symbionic.”
“Symbionic?” Alex asked, “Don’t you mean symbiotic?”
“By definition, a symbiotic relationship exists between two different organisms living in close physical association or between different people or groups. It could, I suppose, apply to machine intelligences or other techno-mechanical constructs—”
“Or mostly bitek, but we thought our relationship deserved a better word; like symbionic.”
“And just how close is it?” Al asked, trying desperately to keep up with the conversation.
“It’s hard to describe, Granddad.” Zak paused. “Okay. When you hurt yourself; say by sticking a needle in your finger, what hurts?”
“My finger, of course.”
“But where does the pain actually register?”
“I think I see where you’re going with this,” Madge said, “the pain registers in your brain. Your brain tells you that it’s your finger that’s hurt.”
“Exactly, Grandma. It’s not a very good example, but we and the Eddies are as close as your finger and brain. Zara and I are, too.”
“How do you mean?”
“If either of us pricks a finger, we’ll both feel the pain. That close.”
“Like the Borg?” Al said.
“What?” everyone else asked.
“You know. Star Trek. The Borg collective. They are all part of a single hive mind.”
“Well, yes. I suppose so, except we don’t lose our individuality. Think of it as a little bit like a Prime Minister’s cabinet; all individuals, but giving the same message and acting as a coherent unit.”
Al laughed. “Not in this bloody country, they’re not,” he said, “but I think we get what you mean. When I speak to one of you, I speak to all of you, sort of thing.”
“Well put, Granddad.”
Madge looked at Zak and said, “Never mind all that, Zak. I’m interested in this housekeeper robot you said about earlier. Tell me more.”
“Sorry, Gran. I shouldn’t have said that. They don’t exist yet. I guess I’m still new at this time malarkey.”
“But they will exist in the future?”
“Can’t you be more definite than that?”
“Would you prefer probably not?”
“Probably not. Is that because the future’s not certain?”
“Time is like a tree, Grandma. We’re on the trunk. In front of us are branches, any one of which we might follow. Every time anyone makes a choice, it takes us down a different branch – like a fork in the road. Every branch has branches and so on until you reach the twigs. Standing here on the trunk, we may be able to see what each branch and twig looks like, but we never know which one we’ll end up on. It depends on thousands of choices made every day by billions of people – as well as other factors that people can’t even foresee, let alone control.”
“Like the butterfly effect?” Al offered helpfully.
“If you like.”
“So no help for me around the house for a while then?” Madge asked.
“You’ve always got me, Grandma,” Zak said. Madge smiled. You know the kind of smile that you make when you know you ought to smile but really, I mean really don’t want to? That kind of smile. “Let’s all get some air,” she said.
The family got up from the table and trooped out of the house, followed by three dogs each of which displayed a lot more excitement than was seemly. They walked around the garden until they came to the leylandii, behind which Jarvis had been parked, if that’s the right word to use for a bitek unit. The patch was bare grass with a three metres by two metres hard standing that Al had constructed during one particularly wet autumn when he thought that there was a risk of Jarvis getting bogged. Of course, at that time he had no idea that Jarvis was anything other than the old shepherd’s hut that he appeared to be.
“Never seen this patch without the old hut,” Al said.
“Are you wiping a tear from your eye, love?” Madge asked.
“Course not, woman. Bit of hay fever,” he lied.
“It’s alright to be sad, Dad,” Alice said, “we’ll all miss him, you know. None of us has any experience of life without Albert. Except for Mum, of course. But he’s been in our lives from the very start. All of us.”
Madge hugged Al and drew their children in. There had to be a period of adjustment, of grieving, for all of them.
Alex and Alice were aware of the goings-on beyond the leylandii involving three dogs and one bitek construct that was also a ten-year-old child. Zak may be a super-powered post-human with the ability to converse natively with the three dogs, but he was also in the body of a pre-adolescent boy. Outwardly, everything was calm and quiet, but a look around the hedgerow would have revealed three dogs performing stunts that are physically impossible for dogs, aided and abetted by a lad whose maturity, judgement and moral compass were, at best, works in progress. Not only were they performing these deeds, but they were also, judging by the output from their brains, loving it.
Alex wandered around to where the activities were taking place.
“Zak,” he said, “are you sure dogs are supposed to be able to do that?” At the time, Ixus was lying on her back, Chav was balancing on his nose, bouncing up and down on her nose, and she was making running motions that had Isaac doing a passable impression of a hamster in a wheel, flipping over, too.
“Sorry, Alex. Can you take Isaac?”
“Hang on, I’ll pass you control.” Alex became aware that his link with Isaac had strengthened, and he somehow felt that he was mentally holding him. “Now think him off Ixus and gently pop him back on the floor.” Alex did as Zak asked and mentally carried the puppy away.
“Wow!” he said, “That’s amazing.”
“Can’t you do that already?”
“I don’t know if I can or not, Zak. I’ve never tried it before.”
“Well, you can now. Can you lift Chav off, too?”
“You mean you put him there but can’t get him back?”
“Oh, I can, Alex. I just thought you’d like the practice,” Zak replied with a grin.
Alex raised Chav from Ixus, who immediately flipped and tried to lick Chav’s nose. Chav hates that and began growling. Alex raised him half a metre and held him there until he calmed before putting him back down on his feet.
“Did you know we can do telekinesis?” Alex sent to his sister.
“In theory, but I’ve haven’t tried it since we reactivated,” she replied.
Zak’s eyes glazed for a moment. “You can now, Mum,” he sent.