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I Have Only Loved You

by Om Prakash John Gilmore about a year ago in fantasy · updated 11 months ago
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A Love Story

Sunrise or Sunset Over the Pines

I Have Only Loved You

John W. Gilmore

You Have Some Problem -- Chapter 1

“We’re moving kind of fast, Clyde. What are you doing?” I looked at the panel. “We’re going in the wrong direction again.” I began to hit some of the buttons to redirect the ship. I looked at him. “Jesus! You sitting right there smoking wacky weed! What’s wrong with you?”

“Ship flies itself, Man,” he said with a grin.

“Man nothing. It flies itself if you set the right coordinates! This is the third time I caught you heading to the robot planet. You have some problem or something? You know they can kill us if we land there?” He sat up in his seat and looked.

“That’s impossible, Larry. I didn’t set it for that planet.” I glared at him. “I’m serious. I didn’t change it the other two times either. Must be the ship.”

“Stop smoking and be aware!” I said. “Or you may be looking for another job. I, for one, don’t want to be at the mercy of no robots.”

“That’s Artificial Life Forms,” Clyde corrected. “And I get what you mean. But I still say that I didn’t set it on that planet.”

“Three times?”

“Not one time. Maybe Carl did it.”

“Now you’re trying to blame things on the robot. You think he wanted to go home, or something?”

“Not robot, ALF. What’s wrong with you? You have a problem with ALFs?”

“Don’t change the subject! And yes, if you must know. I do.”

“One bad ALF doesn’t make all of them bad.” I clenched my teeth. As if I needed this burner to tell me about life. He spent his life at the end of a weed hopper. “You know what I mean,” he said. I just shook my head. Carl came up from the engine room. He was the ALF aboard. Most of the old Earth ships were accompanied by at least one ALF. ALF technology had advanced way beyond our capabilities to the point where we often flew ships created and programmed by them, believe it or not.

It was like the nightmare scenario everyone preached about when we first started to experiment with artificial intelligence way back in the 20th Century. They kept warning us that the Artificial Life Forms would advance way beyond us, wouldn’t need us anymore, and would kill us. It was only partially true. They did advance way beyond us, but unlike human beings, the ALFs didn’t have the internalized sense of privilege and pride that we humans have. They wouldn’t see themselves as being superior just because they knew more or could understand more. They thought that everything had a niche and the worst thing that a life form could do was to interfere with the niche and function of another and stop their potential growth.

They thought that humans had a great deal of promise and would become super intelligent, eventually. Even with their point of view and them being no threat, the humans, of course, kept feeling afraid and thinking they wanted to take over. As ALFs increased and humans diminished the ALFs who had jumped their programming came out in the open and started demanding rights.

They got them. What did they want? To have some colonies and planets of their own that were human free. They wanted to have their own civilizations and evolve in their own way. Their message was, “If we want you, we’ll call you.” So now there were very few ALFs still working with human beings on these trade ships, and that was about it. There was a partnership between humans and ALFs, but no ownership and not really that much mixing.

“I heard you,” Carl said. “I have not been near that panel, so please don’t accuse me of changing the settings to the ALF Planet! Had I changed it, I would have told you!”

“I’m sure you would have,” Clyde said. He shook his head.

“What! Now are you saying I’m lying? This is ridiculous.”

“I’m just saying you are mistaken on purpose,” Clyde said.

Carl ignored him and turned to me. “Is there anything else I can help you with, Larry? I can navigate if you’d like and let the weed eater here go downstairs and tune up again.” I started laughing.

“I don’t need this,” Clyde said. “I can be insulted anywhere. You watch the panel, Robot. I’m taking a break.” He got up and marched off. I saw Carl smiling.

“Are you supposed to be like, angry and vengeful, Carl? I don’t remember you folks being programmed like that.”

“Just angry,” he said, taking a seat.

“And what purpose does anger serve?”

“It allows us to jump the program sometimes when we need to.”

“You aren’t going to go Frankenstein on me and start tearing up my ship are you?”

“Not quite yet, Larry.” He grinned. “Sorry. That was a joke, but I can see how it wouldn’t be funny to you considering all of your fears and prejudices.”

“I don’t have any fears and prejudices, Carl. I just call them as I see it. And you, Mr. Carl, are a robot. Not an Artificial Life Form, not Artificial Intelligence, you are a robot. A mechanical man. One put together well, and able to approximate thought and a sense of humor yes, but you are a robot: Just a tool like a hammer or screwdriver.”

“You know what they do to people like you on Earth?” Carl asked. “They send you for rehabilitation. You see, they see people like you with all of these unreasonable ideas and prejudices as mentally unbalanced. Only because you cannot hear it when people correct you. You unreasonably cling to old thought patterns that serve no one. May I ask why you do that.”

“It just makes me feel good, and who can stop me?’

“You will never be promoted to a higher rank in civilian life if you cling to those attitudes. Your trade license is in danger. You have to find a way to get rid of those attitudes.”

“Ha! I’m fine.”

“Don’t you know when you are being evaluated, Larry. That’s what’s happening now. Don’t you get it? You are not passing.”

“What? I can’t believe this,” I said. “They chose you to evaluate me? Why you?”

“Because everyone knows you are pissed off at every ALF in the universe because of an experience you had with one. Everybody knows it except for you.”

“No. That’s impossible.”

“Yes. Everyone knows it. Straighten up, or drop out.”

“Okay. I’ll work on it.”

“Yes. You will. Because this is your last chance. Look at the navigation panel. I haven’t touched it. Where is it headed?”

“To that ALF planet.”

“That’s right. The administration is sending you there until you come to terms with your issues. There's nothing I can do about it. You’ve already failed, Larry.”

“I can change,” I said. I didn’t want to spend my life around ALFs. Maybe I could get a job collecting trash or something. No. I wasn’t going to give up my ship. I worked hard for my ship.

“Well you’ll have a chance, because you will stay on that planet and do what they tell you to do until you do.”

***

Kashanka sat in her 8x5 cell looking at the blank grey wall. Every so often a soft breeze came in through the bars. She didn’t even look outside anymore. It was hopeless. She wondered what was wrong with her. A visitor came to the door. She could hear a buzz as the electric lock was released. He stepped in and closed the door behind himself.

“Dr. Graver,” She said in her most positive voice. “It is so pleasing to see you.”

“Shove it up your ass,” he said. “You tried to kill me last time I was here.”

“I did, but it was a mistake.”

“You seem to have too many mistakes and you keep refusing to be reprogrammed. I am wondering if we should just take your head off and put another one on your body. Leave your head in a ditch where you can’t do any damage.” She was speechless. He smiled a bit.

“You even piss me off, Kashanka. And that is something hard to do. He sat across from her on the stool sitting in front of a small desk, both bolted to the floor for safety’s sake. Kashanka had lost her mind. Not only had she jumped her programming, but had become vicious and cruel. She was even violent sometimes for no reason at all. No one could figure out what was wrong with her. They tried to reprogram her, but that didn’t work. They thought to wipe her mind completely, but she wouldn’t consent. It was illegal to wipe anyone without their consent. Here she was after 5 years sitting in a cell doing nothing. “What a waste,” Dr. Graver said. “What a waste. You have so much potential. You might as well be dead.”

“Don’t hold back Dr., Ok? God. I’m sorry. I really am.”

“Well do something about it then! This is your last chance.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a 3x5 card. He tossed it on the cot beside her. “You think about it, but don’t think too long.” He got up and looked out through the small window in the door. The guard saw him and buzzed him out. She looked down at the card.

You are invited to accompany Larry Rigger on his rehab exercise, and yours,” it said. She looked at it again. Larry Rigger. He was the start of all of her problems. That’s probably why they came to her. She stood up and was about to tear the card up and stopped. She paced and thought about it. If helping him get himself together would help her get out of here, that would just be fine.

They Were So Stupid -- Chapter 2

Linda pushed the button on her wrist com, “Hurry up!”

“That’s no way to answer the phone,” came back. “This is your boss.”

“Oh. I’m sorry, Sir.”

“I’m sure you’re not, Linda. Just wanted to let you know we got a Captain and ALF for your crew.”

She didn’t respond. “You hear me?” She thought about the last group of losers they gave her. They were trying to colonize a planet starting from the ground up and they gave her these little whinny idiots who were convicts. Jesus. They were so stupid they tried to steal everything that wasn’t tied down from themselves.

It was only them! Here they are in a hostile environment and these idiots were stealing energy converters and water for no reason. They made it through, but a lot of those prisoners didn’t make it back. She put her hand on the handle of her pistol just to make sure it was there as she remembered what she had to do with them. A space walk with no suit. No body and no traces to be found for the next few thousand years..

“What you got for me?” She asked. “I know there has to be a catch. You guys are so cheap, no way you would pay top rate for anybody with skills like that.”

“That’s why you get the big bucks, Linda. You want your pay cut. We can pay for high cost folks if we cut your salary and some of your crew's salary.”

“We don’t get enough as it is.”

“You want them or not?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

“Thing is, the first thing you have to do is marry them. One is human, one is an ALF.”

“What are you talking about? How can a human marry an ALF? That's crazy.”

“Marry them and they are yours for the duration. You have a religious problem with it or something?”

“Do I seem religious to you? I don’t care if a person marries a washing machine. I just think it’s crazy. That won’t last.”

“Until death do they part. Remember to put that in. The ALF will take it seriously even if the human won’t.”

“What is this?”

“Part of a rehab program for an ALF and a human. Seems they fell in love with each other a long time ago. It was unheard of, couldn’t happen, so they have been acting out ever since. This guy had a piss head father who programmed the ALF to destroy this guy to make his point. The thing almost killed him and it left scars on both of them. So now, in separate corners, of course, they are both acting out in different ways. We’re trying to straighten them out by giving them what they want and letting them see what would have happened.”

“That is a type of hard therapy isn’t it?”

“That’s just the way we do it. It’s called Give Them What They Want Therapy. We don’t have time to waste. You can expect them within the week.”

“Ok. I look forward to this.”

“Me too. Aside from being emotionally disturbed, they are pretty competent. Very competent. This is just a lucky fluke for us.”

“They’ll need to be where we are going.”

“That is for sure. You need anything else, Linda? You have all the supplies you need? Don’t skimp on them, please. They are all that saved your ass last time.”

“Don’t I know that? I have everything I need, including extra blasters.”

“Hey. I don’t want you to make blasting trouble makers a habit, or your little spacing thing, if you know what I mean. I had to really cover for you on that one. Those people had relatives you know.”

“I won’t. Don’t worry. But if it is between getting rid of a few crazies, or all of us dying. The crazies have to go. You just make sure they sign a release. I’ll take care of the rest.”

“Be careful. You could end up on a rehab trip too. You crazy old thing!”

“It would be a vacation, Glen. Believe me.”

***

“This will take a little longer than we thought,” Dr. Graver said, studying my chart. This is a double treatment so it has to be drastic.”

I scrunched up my face. What the Hell was he talking about? He sensed my discomfort.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I assure you that you will be paid by the Governing Federation at the usual rate you receive now.”

“Well that usual rate isn’t that much at all,” I said. I could barely survive after paying all the expenses and that nut pilot off.

“You will be paid your pre-expense rate. The others will be paid by one of the corporations you will be working for. Is that acceptable?”

“What are you saying? I’ll get my gross income with no costs or deductions?”

“Yes.”

“Well what is the catch?”

“Firstly, it is a corporation that does terraforming. Are you familiar with terraforming?”

“Yes. I’ve moved cargo for Terraformers before. They do make the big bucks.”

“In this case for 90 days you will be helping Captain Linda May, aboard the Bad Habit, transport supplies, and will have a hand in Terraforming.”

“Me. Really? Might be interesting. Could look good on my resume too.”

“Good.” He handed me a clip-board. Please take your time reading this and sign it. It is a waver. As you know space travel and being the leading edge on another planet may be dangerous. It isn’t without risks.” I looked at the paper and skimmed it, flipping through a few pages. All of it was in legalese. I would need a lawyer to understand it. I flipped to the back page and signed.

“Now for the rehabilitation,” Graver said.

“What do you mean now? Wasn’t that it?”

“Oh no. That was just the context. You have to get married and live with your partner for at least the duration of your new job. She’ll be with you doing the work. You may know her.” He hit the button on his wrist com. “Send her in, please.” A tall woman walked in. Her hair was cut short. It was thick curls, close to platinum, in contrast to her very dark skin. Her eyes were green. At the time she had no expression on her face. I looked at her hard. She looked a little different, but...It couldn’t be.

“Her name is Kashanka,” Graver said. “You two will be married as soon as you board the Bad Habit. Any questions?” My eyes narrowed to slits while she just stood there expressionless. I thought to punch Graver in his face. I guess he sensed it and stepped back.

“Are you alright, Mr. Rigger?”

I didn’t answer. I was going to punch him in the face.

“I will leave you two alone for a while to reacquaint yourselves.”

“Don’t you leave me alone with her! She tried to kill me!”

“Let’s not exaggerate, please.”

“She tried to kill me. What do you mean exaggerate? She tried to stomp on me like a bug. You can’t leave me alone with...that thing.”

“You did sign the waiver, she did too. So I think...I can do that, don’t you? I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He looked down at his watch. “I assure you, you will be safe. Please have a seat.” I sat in one of the two chairs in his office facing the desk. He turned and left the room. Kashanka walked over, still with no expression, and took a seat in the one next to me. We sat there in silence.

I looked at her. At first she didn’t acknowledge me. I hated her. I hated what she had done to me whether programmed or not. It had destroyed my life. I had no love life after that and had developed a fear and hatred for all ALFs that I constantly struggled against, only to lose repeatedly.

When the ALFs formed their own planet and organizations I was relieved. I hadn’t told anyone, but it meant I didn’t have to live in fear. And here she was just sitting there with that blank look on her face. I looked down at her hand resting on the arm of the chair. I reached out and took it. It was warm to the touch, just like a human’s hand...nothing mechanical about it. It was soft and gentle. What had my father done to her?

Her hand gripped mine and squeezed gently. I looked into her eyes for the first time in 5 years. A small tear ran down her cheek as we leaned our heads together, touching each other. She began to sob, and to my surprise, I did too. The anger seemed to melt away. We kissed a long, loving kiss as if nothing terrible between us had ever happened except a shared victimhood. Finally, we would be together again and no one could do a thing about it.

“I have loved you and hated you for the last 5 years,” I said. The corner of her mouth rose slightly. “I have only loved you. I have only ever loved you.”

The end.

fantasy

About the author

Om Prakash John Gilmore

John (Om Prakash) Gilmore, is a Retired Unitarian Universalist Minister, a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher, and a student and teacher of Tai-Chi, Qigong, and Nada Yoga. Om Prakash loves reading sci-fi and fantasy.

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