Chapter 14 - Mirai
As the Sombulant wears off, the first thing I see as I wake are impossibly large trees with reddish-brown bark the color of cinnamon—Sequoias, I think.I remember from school that Sequoias mostly grow on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I’m definitely not in the group home, but I must still be in California. I sit up so I can look around and my mouth drops open.
The bedroom I’m in is the most opulent thing I’ve ever seen. It’s like something out of a magazine. Two of the four walls are floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the forest. The room is large and filled with modern furniture. There’s a desk, a long white dresser with a dozen drawers, and a strange-looking wicker chair that hangs from the ceiling like a birdcage.
“Good Morning, Fumie,” a child-like voice says. Startled, I search for the person who spoke and the voice helpfully adds, “Up here, to your right.”
I look up and see a small white box with a black camera lens tucked against the ceiling in the furthest corner of the room. A green LED blinks on and off. Whoever is talking must be at the other end of the camera.
“Hello, who’s there?”
“Are you asking my name?” the voice says.
“I don’t have one.”
“I don’t know.”
Even though the voice sounds entirely human, I’m positive I’m talking to an AI—probably a level one or two. Simple questions are best.
“Where am I?”
“In your bedroom.”
“The one in Kyle Reid’s house.”
It’s almost too much to believe. I sink into the bed and groan with relief. “Thank God!”
“Fumie, are you telling me to thank God?” the AI asks.
“No, it’s just a figure of speech. How did I get here?”
“Chang brought you.”
“Who is Chang?”
“Kyle’s personal assistant.”
“I thought Suzerain was Kyle’s assistant?”
“They both are. Kyle has many assistants.”
I ask a few more questions and learn that Kyle’s house is in a nature reserve north of San Francisco and that I was brought here in something called a DuoCopter, which I gather is like a large drone capable of carrying one or two passengers.
“Is Rachel here too?” I ask.
“There is no one by the name of Rachel in the house,” the AI tells me.
“Where is she?”
“I am sorry, Fumie, but I do not know which Rachel you are referring to.”
“She was with me in the group home,” I explain. “We were together in my room before I was brought here.”
After a brief pause, the AI says, “There is a Rachel Cohen in San Francisco Child Services Group Home #39. Is that who you are referring to?”
“Yes, is she okay?”
“I have no information on her mental or physical well being, but she is currently playing a sim called Journey to Thisavros.”
I smile to myself. If Rachel is playing a sim, she must be all right.
“Fumie, are you decent?” the AI asks.
“Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.”
“I mean are you dressed appropriately for company. Kyle is at your door and wishes to see you, but I have learned in my research that human females from your time period do not like being seen unless they are decent.”
From my time period? I laugh out loud. She makes it sound like I lived in the Victoria era. “It’s fine. Please tell Kyle to come in.”
The bedroom door slides open. Kyle rolls in and comes to a stop a respectful distance from my bed. Decent or not, I’m so relieved to see him I have to fight the urge to jump out of bed and hug him. “Thank you for getting me out of the group home.”
“You’re welcome,” he says through the voicebox on his wheelchair. “I’m sorry it took a crisis to make it happen. How is your head?”
I only notice it now, but there’s a small bandage over my left ear. I reach up, wincing as I run my finger over the fabric.
“It should heal in a day or two,” Kyle says. “You must have fallen when Suzerain immobilized the building.”
I’m not sure if I understand Kyle correctly. “What do you mean immobilized? Did you put everyone in the group home to sleep?”
“I didn’t,” Kyle says. “Suzerain did. He was concerned for your well being after Noah Davis killed Kamila LaSalle.”
“But Noah didn’t do it,” I cry out.
“I’m aware of what you told Suzerain,” Kyle says, “but the only DNA and fingerprints found on the mask belong to you, Noah Davis, and a woman from Japan who died over forty years ago.”
I feel my heart sink. Rachel and Noah were right. Madison is going to get away with murder. “It’s not fair,” I tell Kyle. “Madison is the one who killed Kamila. I saw her do it with my own eyes. If you don’t believe me, ask Rachel. She was there too.”
Kyle rolls his wheelchair closer. “Fumie, it doesn’t matter what I believe. The police will conduct an investigation and justice will be served.”
I get a sense that Kyle couldn’t care less about Kamila’s death. But I do, and even if it takes me the rest of my life, somehow, I’ll find a way to prove Madison is the real killer.
“How about we talk about something more pleasant,” Kyle says. “Have you met your PA?”
“What’s a PA?”
Kyle chuckles. “Not quite. Suzerain is unique. There isn’t an AI anywhere in the world like him. He’s been with me for the better part of thirty years. Perhaps, in time, your PA will become special too.”
“Who is my PA?” I ask.
“I am,” the child-like voice says.
I try to hide my disappointment. “Aren’t most personal assistants level threes?” I ask Kyle.
“You know about the levels?” He sounds surprised. “What level do you think your AI is?”
“No, she’s a five—like Suzerain.”
Shocked, I glance up at the small white box with its child-like voice. Noah said there were only a few fives in the entire world, but all I can think about is his joke: Dumb as a toaster.
“But she’s so…”
That isn’t the word I’d use, but I nod.
“All AIs begin like that,” Kyle says. “Even the level fives. They start out as raw quantum computing power, then through access to data and experience they learn and grow just like a human child. Now that you have an AI assigned to you, your job is to nurture her.”
“How do I do that?”
“Start with a name.”
“You need to give her one,” Kyle says. “Everything that matters has a name.”
“How do I do that?”
“You tell her.”
I look up at the little white box and say, “Your name is Mirai.” I don’t even have to think about it. It just comes to me.
“Mirai,” the AI says, repeating it back to me. “The Japanese word for future. It is pretty and symbolic. I like it very much. Thank you, Fumie.”
“You two are off to a wonderful start,” Kyle says, sounding even more pleased than Mirai. “I’ll leave you alone to get acquainted. Any questions before I go?”
“Only about a million.”
Kyle laughs. “I don’t have time for that many, but I’m sure you’ll find Mirai to be a useful resource. Oh, and before I forget, you start at a new school on Monday.”
The door opens and he zips out of the room. As soon as Kyle is gone, Mirai says, “Fumie, would you like to learn about your new school and review the class schedule?”
“God, no,” I groan. “I’d rather poke my eyes out with a sharp stick.”
“Why would you want to do that?” she asks. “That does not seem wise.”
“I was being sarcastic,” I explain. “Do you know what sarcasm is?”
“There are several definitions,” she says, “but I believe you mean the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.”
Mirai is silent for a moment, then she says, “I still don’t understand. I think what you are saying is that inflicting pain upon yourself is preferable to learning about your new school. Is that correct?”
“But Fumie, why is pain preferable to knowledge?”
I give up.
“How about we talk about it more later?”
“I would like that,” she says. “Can I ask you another question?”
I’m beginning to think that nurture is code for answer a gazillion questions. “Sure.”
“Before he left, Kyle said we should get acquainted. To prepare for that, I have learned that humans make small talk when they are getting acquainted. I also learned that small talk is polite conversation about unimportant things, but I do not understand how talking politely about unimportant things helps you become acquainted with another person.”
“Because sometimes you end up talking about things that are meaningful,” I explain.
“Wouldn’t it be more efficient to skip the small talk and focus on important things?” Mirai asks.
“People aren’t always efficient.”
“Because we aren’t computers like you.”
“I am also not always efficient, Fumie. My search algorithms frequently take me down logic paths that result in a dead-end.”
Search algorithms—That gives me an idea. “Mirai, how good are you at finding people?”
“I have never been asked to find a person, Fumie, so I cannot say if I am good at it or not.”
“Can we try?”
“Certainly. Who would you like to find?”