Chapter 16: A Cubist Vision

In which Oso realizes he can speak with the voice of God!

 

As Oso’s premed degree worked its way into a neurology degree, his boredom with academics began to take a toll on his health, so much that he relieved his stress through nightly visits to chic LA bars, where he could pick up hot, purportedly natural chicks. Okay, he would have done that, anyway. That and fine whiskeys kept him going.

“You’re really becoming a stereotype of yourself,” Gilly told him, when Gilly finally made the trip out to LA to visit his friend.

Oso had taken Gilly out to a chic LA bar. That was after he’d dressed him in a decent set of clothes. Gilly sneered at the clothes, but wore them well on his tall lean frame. And he sneered at the women, whom he insisted were all idiots, although he wore the women on his arm rather well, too.

“When are we going to move beyond prototypes? Let’s get this business going, Gilly, old buddy.”

“Don’t call me that. And how else are we going to start a business without creating prototypes? I’m creating great artwork. What’re you doing for the business?”

“Your work is too clunky to be art. It doesn’t move, doesn’t do anything without a lot of noise and trouble.” Oso peered in the bottom of his empty tumbler. He was starting to feel drunk. “As far as your question, I’m getting funding. Making money.”

Gilly fell into silence and a malicious glare. The two had recently had a fight about a very slender bionic leg Gilly had developed for his continued work in robotics. It was pretty to look at and would certainly give speed to a human amputee who had previously used a clunkier version. However, Oso had rejected it; it could never be controlled the way Oso wanted it to be controlled, by a fluid central network. In fact, to prove his point about fluidity, he’d gotten together with a computer science grad student he’d met at UCLA, and the two had collaborated to create an internet web browser that operated in a fluid manner—a CS brain. Oso wanted it to operate very much like his own mind, to see time and space as a great tree with golden globes of fruit hanging suspended from its branches. And together the two had managed something very salable. They called it the “ItSe”.

Oso could see the jealous glint in Gilly’s eyes, despite the engineer’s attempt to cover it over. Oso would always succeed where Gilly would fail. Oso intrinsically understood this, just as he understood that Gilly had a higher IQ than he had. Gilly waited too long, worked in small incremental steps, and Oso was too impatient for that. Oso wanted achievement now—not tomorrow. Not ten or twenty years down the road. Now.

“How’s that going for you?” Gilly asked—much too late to connect the question to the previous conversation.

That was exactly like Gilly. He was always too little, too late.

“How’s the funding working out, you mean?” Oso clarified.

“What else would I mean?”

“Yes, I’m doing well on the funding front.”

Gilly harrumphed. “What? From your dad? He sell a table?”

“I told him I was inventing a browser, and he said he’d trade it for a hand-carved abacus. Oh, and I have some buyers interested in your bionic leg.”

“What? My leg? The one you didn’t want for the company?”

“No reason to let a good design go to waste.”

Gilly’s face turned a peculiar shade of purple. “How dare you? It’s my design,”—and then—“Who wants to buy it?”

“Gena Core.”

The corner of his mouth rose in a smug little smile. “Gena Core.” His face scrunched up and turned purple again. “How dare you? What if I had a buyer for it?”

“Because I know you by now.”

“Actually, I did have a buyer for it. I don’t really need you to make a living.”

Oso looked up in surprise, from the spot he’d been centering himself on. He was staring at one spot on the bar surface in order to keep his mind focused and not admit he’d drunk too much. Oso didn’t drink too much. Or at least, he never admitted to it when he did.

Was Gilly pulling his very real, not prosthetic, but slow and powerful high-jump style leg? It didn’t appear Gilly was. Gilly could be wily. Still, he was the type of engineer who was never satisfied with his designs, always taking them back to the drawing board and refining them.

Gilly, who’d kept up shot for shot with Oso, rubbed his eyes. “I can see you don’t believe me. But it’s true.”

“What company?”

“I don’t know, can’t say, I… ”

“Yeah, you don’t have a buyer.”

Gilly spluttered but said nothing.

Oso held out his hand and kept it as steady as possible while shaking Gilly’s. “Let’s buy another round to our success. First principles, my friend. Money is the first principle. And we’ve found a way to make it.”

“True. I wanted the leg for our company, though. It’s really a great design.” Gilly hung his head, which pricked Oso’s harsh exterior a little. But only a little.

“It is. But it’s not what we want. It’s not the vision.”

“What is the vision?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Oso said, and he raised his hand to signal the bartender. As he did so, he caught sight of their reflection in the mirror over the bar. And he stopped, his hand in the air, stunned.

“That’s it,” he said.

“What’s it?”

The bartender, responding to the gesture, asked them if they wanted more of the same. Since Oso was too preoccupied to answer, Gilly went ahead and affirmed they’d take the same. Oso heard Gilly order. He heard the sounds the bartender made, the clinking of glasses; he sensed all that was happening around him, but it was as if he’d been frozen in time. His mind hung from his 4d tree.

It was an effect of the mirrors. It was a glitzy bar, as that was where glitzy women were found. And there were mirrors hanging everywhere. Oso suspected this was so that someone looking for a prospect could chat one person up while watching the other pretty people in the place. He ran his hands over his face and through his hair. His spatial awareness was skewed by the alcohol and mirrors. The fruit on his geometric tree hung like a postmodern dream. His reality had become a landscape formed by cubists.

And that was when he saw her. She was a sculpted blonde, approaching the bar at a fast clip, gaggles of her reflected in the mirror to infinity, just as he was, just as Gilly was. There was nothing special about her. She had a nose that had been cut by a plastic surgeon, and a Botoxed smile. Her breasts, rising up like tanned balloons, were certainly implants. He also suspected her cheeks were fake.

If he wanted to, he could take her home with him. If he spoke, she would jump-to at the sound of his voice. Instead, as she sidled up beside him at the bar and put in her order, her eyes looking at him sidewise and begging his attention, he ignored her.

“That’s it,” he said again. “We give them life through sound, the hum of life. We speak, and they become.”

“God, you’re really drunk, aren’t you?”

“I’m not God. I am drunk. But I know how to create fluidity in our robotics. Smart, plasticine materials, triggered by sound waves, just like that dame.”

Gilly just stared in his tumbler, his last round untouched. Oso’s round was, too, to be honest. At first, Oso thought his friend was simply ignoring him, as he might ignore a raving lunatic. When Gilly looked up again, Oso realized Gilly was just as stunned as he was.

“No such technology exists.”

“Not yet,” Oso said.

“Maybe not ever.”

Oso smacked his friend on the back. Doubters needed to be smacked, as they were severely handicapped by logic and couldn’t understand anything but pain. “It will exist because we are going to create it. I know. I just saw it. It was hanging on the tree.”

“All parts of the robot will be triggered this way? Or just their skeletons? Will their skin be smart plasticine fibers? What about their minds? How will you create their minds? This is too much. We’re going to need time and money we don’t have.”

“I like that you’re thinking big, Gilly, old buddy, but time and money are never a problem. And won’t be after I start selling shares of ItSe.”

“And grad school?”

“Screw grad school.”

“But you have a research fellowship.” Gilly moaned. “You got a research fellowship. I got a one-time scholarship for my contribution to a robot that’s basically a moving computer. You are operating out of my league at this point.”

“I’m not a designer. I’m an idea man. I couldn’t do this without you.”

“I couldn’t get these babes without you, either. I almost married a frumpy civil engineer until you stopped me.”

“I didn’t stop you. You decided she wasn’t your type. I convinced you not to take the job at Sandia Labs.”

“She did have some bad habits. She rearranged things on my desk. She touched my keyboard. She left her clothes on the floor. The floor. And then she picked them up and wore them the next day. She brought her cats inside and kept them inside to shit and shed and sleep on everything. Cat hair on my computer!”

“Exactly.”

“I have standards, Oso!”

“That’s why I like you.”

“She had no boundaries. She ate ice cream from the tub and expected me to dip in with her. She walked around in her ratty underwear, her jiggly bits getting more and more jiggly, as she was forced to eat all those gallons of ice cream by herself. She gained twenty pounds the year we lived together.”

As Gilly had begun to rock back and forth on the stool, flapping his hands, Oso patted him on the back. “It’s all right, friend. It’s over now. You have your white walls, your clean apartment, and your office to yourself.”

“I don’t want to pick up chicks tonight. They might contaminate the moment.”

“Picking up chicks isn’t mandatory, but you have to admit, it wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t stay the night.”

Gilly snickered in his old, awkward, and somewhat creepy way. “Yeah, maybe we should find some dumb hussies.”

Oso blinked a few times to clear his head. “And then again, maybe we shouldn’t.” Gilly had fallen into Gilly-land and would end up making a fool of himself, if not both of them. “Maybe we should just go crash to preserve the delicate beauty of the moment.”

“It’s a moment as delicate as a virgin.”

“That’s true, and there are none of those here.”

“Right.” Gilly shook his head and pushed his glasses up his nose. “God, you are really just…God. Smart robots birthed by infrasonic sound. I think I need to sleep on this. Forever.”


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