Golem Project In Progress
How had he ever gotten anything done without a golem? Wessel had trouble remembering. Aizi was everything he thought she’d be, and more.
She allowed him to multitask, to move forward with his project at ridiculous speeds. That first night, Wessel had gone to sleep with Aizi typing up his code. When he woke, she was still at it. Weeks of work had been accomplished overnight.
When his plans failed, she suggested ways to alter them. As exams came up in school, on Monday and Tuesday of the next week, she made sure he had time to study. In his Social Studies class, the book he had was nearly worthless, and he was falling drastically behind. Aizi researched other net reading materials for him, and with her working on his code, he had time to read them.
She carried him to school. She stood by his side. For the first time in his life, Wessel felt like he could make his own decisions and pursue his own goals. The days flew by, and Project Atum progressed with lightning speed.
As absorbed as Wessel was in getting things done, he barely noticed the actions of those around him. Unless they addressed him directly, in which case Aizi would notify him and prompt him to respond.
No one at school ever wanted to talk to him anyway.
Not Jakob. Wessel hadn’t seen him since he got his golem.
Not the teachers. They didn’t want to risk calling on him, as it wasn’t likely he’d respond.
No one would talk to him. No one but Lillian.
She caught him on Wednesday, nearly a week since he and Aizi had bonded. He had stayed after school for his weekly refresher in defense. The administrator of the inking exam, the same man who had taught everyone in this school how to fight, ran Wessel and a group of other students through a series of holds, soft blows, restraints, and takedowns. The golems stood against the wall, unused.
Wessel liked the defense classes, at least, when the students were practicing specific holds. It was nothing but a planned series of movements, and he could execute that plan perfectly.
It was the sparring he didn’t like. Too unpredictable.
During the sparring portion of the class, Wessel sat by the wall. He had opted out of sparring for the day, and had brought his math textbook with him. He sat on the soft gray carpet, head down, reading and rereading line after line of the geometry section. It was simple stuff, but it was also new to him, and he had to struggle to wrap his head around it.
A light contact tapped his shoulder. He shrugged, pulling his shoulders up toward his neck, and buried himself further in his book. He didn’t think about what it was, or why it would have happened.
“I believe she wants to talk to you, Wessel,” Aizi said.
Wessel blinked, and lowered his book. Lillian squatted beside him, hands on her knees.
“Hi,” she said.
“We haven’t talked since you got your golem.” Lillian looked up behind him at Aizi’s golden form, then back to him. “What is she like?”
“Um.” Wessel rubbed his sleeve, under which he could feel the mark. “Adapt… able?”
Lillian’s piercing eyes lowered to his arm. “Is that what you got inked on you?”
“Can I see?”
Wessel hesitated, then rolled up his sleeve, showing the mark.
Lillian tilted her head, and her ponytail bobbed with the movement. “I didn’t know you could get multiple characters. It looks like you should have multiple golems.”
Was that how it worked? Wessel shrugged again. Aizi was as good as multiple golems, anyway.
“So the programming, the golems… you said you wanted to fix everything. No, it was ‘make everything better.’ Whatever that means. Are you still working on that?”
“A-Aizi is,” he said. “My golem is helping.”
“That sounds so cool! Can I see what you’ve done?”
“I don’t have it. Not with me.”
“No, silly. I’m asking if I can go with you to see it. If it’s at your house, or in a secret place…”
Wessel looked up at Aizi, lost for words.
“Your parents would not take issue with you inviting a friend over,” Aizi said. “This decision is within your power.”
“It’s just a bunch of code…” Wessel said.
“Uh huh!” Lillian’s face was alight with enthusiasm. “So it’s on a computer?”
Right to the point. The conversation was moving too fast for Wessel’s tastes. Pushing him to make a decision. At least he knew what his options were.
“Yeah,” he said. “I can show you.”
“Yes!” Lillian looked at the other students. They were grappling each other in set contests, in two rings that had been drawn out on the floor. “Well,” she said, “you’re not sparring, right? What are we waiting for then?”
And just like that, the two left school and set off down the busy streets of Birmingham. Wessel wasn’t entirely comfortable with where this was going. He’d never even shown his parents his work. And now he was going to show this girl?
But yet, he couldn’t bring himself to refuse her.
“What did you mean, when you said you were going to fix everything?” Lillian asked, astride her ‘heart’ golem. She stayed behind Aizi and Wessel, keeping pace. “What can you fix with a golem and some code?”
Wessel thought about it. What could he fix? Everything, yes. But it was hard to come up with examples. Before he had Aizi, he was looking to fix small things. To make the golems more capable, able to do things that the other golems couldn’t do.
Now, though, with Aizi in hand, his goals were bigger than that.
The golems weren’t alive, and weren’t allowed to act for themselves. They were servants. The people who owned them were slow-witted, passionate, and fragile. The golems themselves were like a band-aid on the problem of humanity, trying to keep the people from destroying each other. He wanted to fix that.
He wanted a way to change the relationship, make it closer, more equal.
Instead of helping people, he wanted to make them better. And the golems were the key. If he could simulate the golems, he could understand and put them together with people.
“I want to make things free and simple,” he said, trying to put it all into words. “I want people and golems to be better for each other like that. Whatever’s possible.”
“So you’re going to change golems?” she asked.
“And make them more free,” he said. “Sort of.”
“I think I get it,” she said.
Did she? It seemed like she was a never-ending fountain of questions and curiosity. Wessel turned in his seat so he could see her. “Why?” he asked.
Lillian furrowed her brow. “Why do I get it?”
“No, why do you care? Why are you asking me about my stuff?” She had asked him a similar question, days ago. Returning the question made him feel better about it.
“You know I picked my inking based on you,” she said. “After our sparring match.”
Wessel nodded. His shoulder was still sore.
“That was really crazy, what you did. I thought it would be cool to be like that.”
“Heart-ful.” Lillian made a face. “No, no. Caring? That’s not right. You really want stuff that you want, enough to hurt yourself, and that’s… interesting.”
“You’re interested in me?”
“Yes!” Lillian brightened up for a moment, then frowned. “I mean, no. Sort of? I think about you a lot, because I want to know about you. You’re different, and that’s cool and stuff.”
“Yeah,” she said, then looked away, over the flow of pod-cars in the road. “Stuff.”
Wessel and Aizi led Lillian and her golem to the parking garage. They were silent on the elevator ride up, and then Wessel dismounted and opened the door. A loud metallic whine met their ears.
“Mom, Dad?” he called.
“Just me,” he mother called back from her room. The noise died down. “Welcome home!”
“I have a visitor today,” he said.
“Oh?” Wessel’s mom appeared in the doorway of her room, sleeves rolled up past her elbows. Sweat beaded her brow. “Who’s this?”
“Hi,” Lillian said, squeezing past where Wessel blocked the doorframe. “I’m Lillian. Nice to meet you, Missus Cote.”
Wessel’s mom smiled. “You too, young miss.” Then to Wessel, she said, “A friend from school?”
“From school,” he agreed, leaving off the friend part. “We took the inking exam together.”
“Oh.” Wessel’s mom wiped her forehead. “I’ll get back to cleaning. Shut your door if the noise bothers you. Oh, and there are biscuits in the fridge.”
“In the fridge?” Lillian repeated.
“Thanks,” Wessel said, heading for his room. Lillian followed, and the two golems trailed behind.
Wessel’s room was just large enough for two people and two golems to fit in without being cramped. Lillian’s ‘heart’ golem had to stand by the doorway, effectively blocking it. Wessel wasn’t super happy about the way that made him feel, but he didn’t say anything.
“Computer, Project Atum,” he said. The projector flickered to life with a burst of static. Wessel squinted at it, then said, “Aizi, could you stand by the window?”
Aizi moved to the window, and the afternoon sunlight diminished, making the projected computer display a bit easier to make out.
“You talk out loud to your golem?” Lillian asked, sitting on the bed.
“Yeah, she-” Wessel stopped himself, and thought for a moment. “It helps. Anyway, this is the code.”
“Can I look?”
Wessel stared at her blankly for a moment. It was right there, wasn’t it? She held out a hand, and he understood what she meant. He knelt to pick up the old flat keyboard. With one finger, he flicked the joystick. The screen jumped downward, scrolling through code.
“Careful with it,” he said, handing it to her. “Don’t type anything.”
“I won’t,” she said. She flicked to the top, then began scrolling down.
Wessel’s hands began to sweat, watching her. This was his vision. He’d never shown anyone, nor told anyone about it. She didn’t know the code, but what if she didn’t like it? What if she thought it was stupid? He kept his eyes fixed on the code, trying not to steal glances at her face.
“Wow, this is long,” she said, flicking down a couple hundred blocks in one finger stroke. “Crazy long. Complicated.”
Wessel didn’t respond. His focus was on the code, on every little familiar block and line and character and black space. All as it should be. It wasn’t fancy code, but it accomplished what it was supposed to by simple manipulation, repetition, and brute force. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but he was proud… of it…
Something was wrong with the code.
“Hold on. Can I see that?” he asked, holding out a hand for the keyboard.
Lillian narrowed her eyes at him. “But… you just gave it to me.”
Wessel frowned, then turned back to the screen. “Fine, then. You don’t know how to read this stuff anyway. Um. Flick up thirty lines.”
Lillian pursed her lips, and made an exaggerated gesture as she tapped the analog stick. The text slowly drifted down the screen, allowing them to see earlier lines.
He hadn’t written those lines.
It was more than that, though. Aizi had been working on it, so she could have written them. But they weren’t in the plan he’d developed. Wessel licked his lips, and blinked rapidly. It wasn’t right. Wasn’t part of the plan. Other plans could change, but this, this was the plan. The only plan. If it didn’t match his plan, it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work right.
“Okay,” he breathed. “The bottom. Flick to the bottom.”
She did. Past the code he’d put in. Past the code he’d had Aizi do. And past… past the rest of it. Some was in the plan. Some wasn’t. He didn’t know what certain functions did that had shown up, or why they were there. It wasn’t right at all.
“Ai-” he started, then looked at Lillian. She didn’t know Aizi was smart. She wasn’t allowed to know. He swallowed. The end of the program was the end he’d envisioned, just with extra code attached on the inside.
Should he trust these changes?
“You what?” Lillian asked.
“Go on,” Aizi said, as he fumbled for an answer.
“Hit the G6 key, Lillian,” he said.
She shrugged, and tapped the key.
Compilation complete. Structure complete. Linkage complete. Rendering framework, commands, options, pre-sets.
A slew of crude graphical information appeared on the screen, in monochrome yellow. A skeletal form that matched the form of a golem. Segmented command options, tiny boxes of script. Encoded design switches.
Option tabs appeared on the side of the screen, one at a time. Test run. Sim field. Ink connection. Symbol recognition. Distance operative. Feedback loop.
Troubleshooting and test options. All as he’d envisioned, but with some options he’d never thought to add. A completed, functioning simulation of a golem.