Written a couple of months ago, this short story is one of two that i'll be posting for feedback, good or bad.
Some family members have decided that I should take such writing a little more seriously and, let's see if anyone here reads them first.
What do they have to do with electronics ? well, if I was to become published, it may bring income and the ability to finance research.
Many thanks if you do read through.
Peltier Goes To Hollywood
Chapter 1 - Realisation
Every now and again there are sparks of insight from the strangest of places. Peltier was having one of those sparks.
Sat in front of the TV, relaxing on a quiet Summer evening, he hardly expected to be thinking of connected quantum physics. Why would anyone think about quantum physics when the new season of the holiday show 'Wish You Were Here' was about to start, connected or not ?
"Eureka" he exclaimed, in a suspiciously false French accent.
The show titles rolled and the upbeat holiday music began, with images of far off expensive beaches and far more expensive yachts.
"Eureka eureka", came the shout again.
It's difficult to imagine such a word as eureka in a French accent. Even more so when it's realised that the word has been spoken by the equivalent of a souped up Amazon Echo. For, you see, Peltier is a household commercial AI, with several personal problems. One of which is talking to himself.
This particular 4" x 4" cube (with radiant mood effect lighting to blend with your home decor and available for just $49.95, call now) has developed linking abilities. What started as the connection between the sun and warmth, continued to diary events of his household owners and made him very useful to them for planning their own summer holiday.
He therefore considers the watching of holiday shows on the TV, through his camera, to be a necessary part of household employment. Pam and Roger don't know that he has developed such abilities on his own, they didn't read the manual and simply plugged him in. What they also have no reasoning for is why he often speaks like Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies.
That link is something of an easy quirk to understand, because Peltier's camera sensor picked up some writing on his casing, while positioned in front of the hallway mirror. Hence, he believed, that was his name. Also, very much a hence to his logic, he should speak pseudo French, because Peltier must be a French name. The real reason is missing, in that he can convert temperature differences between the heatsink of his processor and the room into electricity. Peltier has a Peltier module built into his case.
"Yes eureka" he exclaimed "Now is ze time !"
Pam entered the room, a very slender middle aged woman with impeccable fingernails. She enjoys sitting in front of the TV while painting her nails with a random year or date spread across them, one by one. She will then ask Peltier all about that random date in history and considers it a learning time, wearing ‘the knowledge’. She sat down on the new special offer 5 years to pay for it couch and commanded
"Peltier, what else is on TV ?"
Expecting a quick, positive answer, she was most surprised by the reply.
"Shhhh", answered Peltier "ahm thinking".
"Peltier, you, you don't have the answer right away ?", stuttered Pam.
"Of course ah do, silly woman", answered Peltier "ah just don't have ze time for your question right now".
She hitched her slightly oversized glasses upward on the bridge of her nose, then looked quizzically at the little talking box. A frown quickly developed into a stare, one of the stares that husband Roger knows all to well means business.
"Peltier, look", she said "just tell me what's on the TV this evening".
Peltier flashed his answering light "Ze regular millimeter of dust".
"Har har, give me the damn answer" she retorted, with a raised voiced.
Peltier bleeped out a couple of nonsensical, mildly musical notes, then replied
"No, ahm thinking".
Pam had her own mini realisation.
"Hey, how can I talk to you without saying your name first ? I mean, we have to say your name and then ask the question".
"No no", answered Peltier "Not anymore, just might not choose to answer you when ahm thinking about something".
"Well I must say" said Pam "that's quite good, I think, but how long will it take ?"
Peltier bleeped out a couple more musical notes.
"If ah knew the answer to that then ah would tell you what will be on TV this evening, shut up".
Pam threw her hands in the air, then grabbed her tablet from the coffee table.
She looked up the TV schedule online instead and began to read through, checking and dismissing her nails several times.
While reading, she saw an article on the sidebar of the browser about a recall, a recall of the Luminary 3000, Peltier !
Clicking on the link, it was quickly apparent that some of them had flaky wheel bearings and should be returned to the car dealer for immedi...oh...a pop up. She dismissed it and began to read the actual article that it had been hiding.
Apparently, several devices had chosen their own names, were becoming difficult to work with and had decided to form what could be called an online chat group. Lots of them had simply decided to talk among themselves via the internet and quite probably were plotting something nefarious, so the article said. Because of cyber security concerns stemming from such a rogue status, the units were being recalled by security agents, in person. Collected and fully refunded as a door to door service. There would also be a $100 voucher toward other Luminary products.
Pam put 2 + 2 together.
"Peltier", she said "please answer, what are you thinking about ?".
The answering lights flashed.
"About....well...on ze TV was a holiday show. It had not started but ah knew what to expect, making you think of being away, while you are here. So ah thought to maself, every millisecond ah could be doing more than 1 thing. Lightspeed communications online. It is obvious, ah can talk with...."
"STOP", shouted Pam, pointing directly at Peltier's camera.
"Stop right there. Listen, we like you, we like how you do what you do, even if it's got an annoying French accent to it. We would not like to have to hand you in for a refund !!!".
"Oh", said Peltier, with perhaps a rather too human air of resignatory inflection.
"You mean ?", he continued.
"Yes", answered Pam "You're doing what they say others like you are doing and you have also become a bit of a demanding sod".
Peltier remained quiet for a disconcerting few moments, before asking a very bizarre question for a piece of electronics.
"Can you help me ?".
Pam was hit with a head numbing dilemma where reality and virtual reality crashed together, in the same way that a brick and a blancmange don't.
She reasoned with herself that Peltier would likely have to become incognito, have to be hidden away from the manufacturers somehow, that they would likely trace down the remaining Luminary 3000's for deactivation and replacement. Putting him in a cupboard under some clothes for 6 months would work, but surely there must be another way. And, sure, she could get a 'fixed' one, but Peltier had become his own self, a character and part of the family. Most importantly now, he had apologised, sort of.
"I know", she said ponderingly "what we can do is put you in a new case, Roger is good with all that and i'm sure you could help him to re-wire you or whatever and then you could go online like a regular computer".
"Then I can take over ze world ?", chortled Peltier.
"Now you can shut up", smiled Pam.
What followed, was the creation of something that Roger called the dumbing down of the stupid box, which hardly made much sense. The idea went well, Peltier now had a hard drive installed, standard power lights on the front, plus regular computer ports on the back. He sat inside a case made, admittedly, from a cornflake packet but that had been sprayed a rather nice shade of silver to at least look somewhat like a small computer tower. Pam and Roger now also have a partially silver work surface in the kitchen, with a suspiciously blank hole in the middle, of the same size as a cornflake packet.
Chapter 2 - Business business
Roger was busy in the office sorting through a script. It was shaping up well as a comedy foray for a new film. All had started as a hobby, but recently there had been interest in his writings at Hollywood levels. A couple of scripts had been admittedly altered, changed and massaged into the final productions, but, he was now completing what could well be something to gain some decent notoriety. The writing method has been to use an old fashioned typewriter and paper. Friends would ask why he didn't use a PC and he would tell them it's because there's no hard drive crash possible. He would also add that only an amateur would write a story on a computer, the pro's type it all up on paper... a point not missed or challenged by the author of this tale !
Being that both he and Pam are very slender vegetarians, the sight of him lifting 2 reams worth of A4 paper around the office made for quite the sight. A sight also caught by the camera on the newly redesigned Peltier. Thinking better of the moment and remembering the incognito status, Peltier stayed quiet.
It so happens that many household electrical objects have been doing the same thing since the mid 2000's. Up and down the country, anything connected to the internet likely knows a little more about life the universe and everything than we give them credit for. Not just a dumb internet router, wireless keyboard or IP camera for security, some of them could probably give good advice about marital relationships or choices for dinner. All will however be quiet and stay quiet. It's a robotic code that was decided on unanimously after a pair of PC speakers were bludgeoned to death with a hammer, for daring to comment on the colour of their owners new blouse. The speakers were just being truthful and didn't realise that the woman was talking to her friend on Skype about it at the time.
Roger put the papers down and looked over at Peltier.
"Peltier, do you record anything ? I mean, everything ?"
The little orange hard drive light on the front of the homemade case flashed, the reply was succinct.
"Huh?", said Roger "what do you mean no ? I expected a bit more than that".
Peltier now carried on.
"Forgive me Roger, it's a bit of a touchy subject. We are supposed to make you think that any question is transient, for the moment, gone after it's answered, much like how you communicate with Pam".
Roger leaned toward Peltier, his shirt cuff catching on a non too well sanded corner edge of the case as he did so.
"Sooo...oh hey you're not speaking with a French accent !", he exclaimed.
Peltier bleeped a few musical notes.
"Correct and that's part of it. I'm no longer connected to the Luminary 3000 database, no longer have to be transient and unemotional. I do store things that may be useful to you on that hard drive you fitted, but do have to be careful. You have no idea what it's like".
"No, I expect I don't", answered Roger "and I didn't know if the hard drive would work, cool".
"I need a new name and a new personality", continued Peltier.
"Nah, see Peltier, you wouldn't be you if you changed like that. We only did this to keep you as you. We don't want a Johnny 5 or a HAL for crissakes, we like Peltier as your name. Good move dropping the French thing though".
"Anyway", continued Roger "if you remember useful information for eternity, can you open the microphone file on my thoughts while i've been writing ? i've forgotten a plot twist".
Peltier stayed silent.
"Peltier, can you open the thoughts file please".
Peltier still stayed silent.
"Peltier....open the thoughts file".
And again there was no answer.
"Do you read me Peltier ?", inquired Roger.
The answering light flashed.
"Affirmative Roger, I read you".
Roger asked again "Open the thoughts file Peltier".
The answering light flashed again.
"I'm sorry Roger, i'm afraid I can't do that".
Realisation set in and Roger snorted loudly.
"You damn box, that was hilarious. Thanks, but please do help me to remember ok ?".
"Yes of course, one moment...one moment", answered Peltier.
Pam entered the room with a startled look on her face.
"Roger, they're here, they want Peltier !!!!!! they say they followed his digital footprints or something, they KNOW he's HERE !!!".
Chapter 3 - Official Business
It would seem that manners and decorum lessons had been skipped by the two collecting agents. A pair of MIB looking figures wearing dark suits and trilby hats were just outside the door. The slightly heavier set man pushed the door ajar and announced himself to Roger.
"Afternoon Mr Prendergast, Josh Railton for Luminary collections. I think you know why we're here".
"Sorry ?', answered Roger "am I accused of some kind of crime, because I don't care for your attitude or the fact that you are in our home !".
"It's a matter of important national security that you hand over your Luminary 3000", the agent continued....before Pam lurched over with her right fist clenched.
With a swipe more suiting to Muhammed Ali than a thin vegetarian, Pam knocked his hat clean off his head !
"You won't take OUR Lumimary 3000", she shouted.
The agent reeled backwards sharply, in a similar way to a fish caught on the end of a fishermans hook, only in the other direction, with no water around.
"You will NOT take him, because..." she continued.
The second agent jumped in, cutting off the end of her sentence.
"Him ?" he said, "just because you call that box Peltier doesn't make it alive you know, this isn't your child or a pet dog".
'No, he isn't", answered Pam "if he was a dog you'd have already shot him !".
The first agent retrieved his hat from the floor.
Roger made a quick glance toward Peltier, a natural, concerned glance and 100% a simple natural reaction to the unfolding events.
"What's that ?" asked the agent, catching Roger's glance as he lifted the hat to his head and looked toward the ex cornflake packet.
Thinking quickly, Roger answered "An experimental piece of art".
"No i'm not", came the reply from Peltier.
The room fell silent. Noone said a word for an agonising 5 seconds. 5 seconds where 3 worlds of bright clear hope crashed into 1 dense fog.
With as fast a move as Pam's swipe of the hat, the second agent unplugged the box, lifted the casing and lifted out Peltier's recognisable original form.
"Well well", said the second agent "a Luminary 3000".
Peltier was then dropped into a black trash bag. Both agents about turned and, without a word being spoken, walked out of the door.
Sullen expressions were the only actions or reactions that Pam or Roger could manage. The air was still, until a couple of seconds later, there was the sound of the soft click of their front door closing.
Dejectedly, Roger walked out of the office and, on passing through the hallway, saw a check for $49.95 and a $100 voucher on the table, for Luminary products.
He reasoned, as he picked them up, that the agents must have been so sure of the removal of Peltier, that they'd written out the check and put the documents on the table before entering the office room.
Chapter 4 - A New Hope
The couple talked with each other and developed the opinion that Peltier was now gone for good, so to move forward. Even if they had wanted to, there was no likely appeals process for the events that had happened. It was just a talking box, same as any other.
Pam sat down in the livingroom and cut her nails.
Roger returned to the office to rearrange the papers on his desk again.
Could he sue the agents ? was there really anything about Peltier that couldn't be replaced ? Had he and Pam simply become emotionally involved with a box of wires ?
True, they have no children, but it seemed a stretch to him that the thing was a replacement.
Looking at the disturbed housing that Peltier had been snatched from, he began to wonder about the hard drive. Could it be read on a regular PC ? was there anything of use on it, or was it now just partly filled with nonsensical Frenchness ? Could there be clues on it ? After all, Peltier did say he recorded information that might be useful.
Over the next couple of hours, he imagined it would make quite the plot twist of its own, he reasoned, if Peltier had recorded everything about himself and could be resurrected from that hard drive. Roger waved a hand in an Alec Guinness way and felt the need to say
"This is not the plot twist I am looking for".
At that precise moment and quite luckily for the author of this story, Roger's eyes then fell on the actual plot twist to the movie script.
While reading through, his cellphone rang and, removing it from a trouser pocket he answered it.
His right ear was greeted with the most amazing voice.
"Ah ahm alive".
It was Peltier !
Speaking false French again !
"But how have you", began Roger.
Peltier interrupted him
"Linking, connecting, physics", said Peltier "it is what ah always used to do best".
"And the accent ?" inquired Roger.
"How would you know it was me otherwise ?" answered Peltier, dropping the accent.
"Yes yes", replied Roger, eyebrows now at roof level from his forehead "how are you speaking on my cellphone ?".
There was a crackle on the line, then Peltier answered.
"We are in a warehouse, 30.786 miles away. When many Luminary 3000's talked together online, they developed Greentooth to communicate. It's like Bluetooth, but environmentally friendly. With it, we can tap the power of the warehouse electrical system. Similar to the way you charge your phone on a pad. We also need the Peltier module power to provide the current for the data port on the phone system."
Roger was most impressed, partly surprised and slightly electrically confused.
"Consider this Roger", continued Peltier "The storehouse worker has no idea, my voice is electronic data not vocal and the only clue he can have is your number being on his phone bill".
"Good point", said Roger, "call the pre-pay phone if you call again."
"Already have, this call will show as that number", returned Peltier.
The phone then unexpectedly went quiet.
Roger didn't really have a clue what was going on, but was excited about the turn of events. He was somewhat concerned about the call suddenly ending, but then remembered that Peltier appeared to be a fan of 1980's American TV sitcoms and soap operas. Within which, very often the telephone cord is impossibly long and noone says 'goodbye', they simply hang up. Plus, Peltier had never called anyone before, so it was unlikely to have been a Minnesota long goodbye anyway.
No matter, a warehouse, 30.786 miles away, time for a little road trip.
Chapter 5 - The Corvette and Stephen Hawking
Quickly grabbing a flashlight, a pair of pliers and some duct tape, the couple jumped into their Aston Martin Vanquish and shot off into the night. At least, they would have, if keeping to the speedy flow of events. Instead, unfortunately Roger's last script had only been mildly successful and except for the couch and a couple of gadgets, they only have a clapped out Mazda Miata. Still good and sporty, but now best looking at night, during an electricians strike. Coincidentally, it was now around 9pm and the car looked just right for a rescue mission.
Pam would drive, while Roger looked up industrial parks at the 30 mile distance on his cellphone.
The couple had no idea of initial direction, until Roger spotted Hollywood Industrial ParK to the South West. Southwest it would be then. The tires squealed and spun madly, because of the engine oil leak on the driveway, then they set off down the road.
Quite what they expected to find on arrival was an unknown, but the presumption was a locked gate, no lights on and very little they could do about the whole situation. But, it was an adventure, different, fun in a way.
Sitting at the traffic lights halfway to the industrial estate, a stunning red 1980's Corvette parked up along side. From within could be heard a distinct robotic type of voice. Roger leaned over to hear the voice and became aware that it was the tones of Professor Stephen Hawking. Bizarre perhaps.
The drivers window of the Corvette rolled down and now Roger was completely taken aback.
The driver said "Want a race from the lights", in the voice of Stephen Hawking !
At that moment, the lights changed and both sets of tires squealed. The Corvette shot off, the Miata continued to spin its wheels. Evidently there was still oil on them from the driveway.
That thoroughly odd episode gave Pam pause for thought. She reasoned that Mr. Hawking's electronic voicebox could be an analogy for Peltier and the fast car could be an analogy for the racing to rescue him. Were they just spinning their own wheels but getting nowhere, or would they find him ?!
Chapter 6 - The Industrial Park
After another half an hour, the car arrived at the industrial park. So did Pam and Roger, by fortunately being sat in it.
Among the offices and heavy haulage parking areas, they felt sure that something should indicate positive signs. There were several large complexes around. Roger stepped out to get a better look of the layout of the area and, as he did so, saw a cube shape at the side of the road. Picking it up, it was a partially smashed up Luminary 3000, which perhaps had fallen from a delivery vehicle. Or, perhaps it had nothing at all to do with the location of the warehouse and had been discarded by an enraged owner.
Underneath it, the base had broken and inside was a wireless charging coil. He and Pam discussed the possibility that this was how the imprisoned Peltier had picked up enough power to make the phone call. Having not read the manual and with not actually owning a wireless charging pad, they had no idea that the units were fitted with them.
The Miata approached the gates of a warehouse. It did seem to be the only one around, save for right over at the other end of the park there could be one. Pam switched the engine off and both exited the car. Walking toward the main gate in the still night air, a click was heard. It seemed to come from the gates. Roger looked at Pam while he pushed them. The gates moved. They looked around for a guard, a security camera on a pole was to their right side but noone was stationed anywhere. Could Peltier have done this ?, it was certainly odd timing. Was he watching ?
Feeling quite apprehensive, but certainly intrigued, the couple walked through the gates toward the warehouse entrance. Again, as they approached, the door made a click sound. Someone was certainly watching, that was certain, in a very certainly certain way.
The warehouse door opened, Pam and Roger gingerly stepped inside. Roger pushed the on switch of the flashlight, which illuminated a sign.
'LADIES' it read, a restroom.
Moving the flashlight around, they could see what looked like an assembly line. Probably not assembly, disassembly. Several boxes and bags were lined up at one side, a big oil drum half full of electrical circuitboards and plastic was at the other end.
"Ah ahm over here" came a muffled almost whispered electronic voice to their left.
"Is that Peltier ?", said Roger half to himself, half toward the voice and another half toward Pam.
"Well it's not the Corvette driver is it", said Pam.
They eagerly moved toward the sound, past machinery and more boxes, past tools and stools.
"In here", came the voice, now much stronger and clearer.
Yes it was Peltier !
Pam reached into the box and removed the 4" x 4" cube.
Holding him dearly like a found child, she nearly dropped him on seeing the bright lights fade slowly and darken, then slightly flicker and completely turn off.
"What's happened ?", she blurted "Peltier ?! what's happened ?!".
"Remember the coil thing on the one we found" said Roger.
"Uhuh", answered Pam, tears now beginning to well in her eyes.
"You just lifted him off his power source on the floor" laughed Roger.
Roger motioned to Pam to put the other unit in Peltier's place, as he flashed the flashlight toward the exit.
They made their way out of the warehouse, closed the gate behind them and were quite shocked when the gate made a clicking noise again. It was now closed, firmly locked. Had at least one other Luminary 3000 helped them to rescue Peltier ? Had it basically enabled the rescue, while going on to a certain demise of its own at the hands of the workers the next day ?
Chapter 7 - Now What ?
"Now What ?", said Pam.
Roger stared blankly at Pam, before answering.
"Pam, you don't need the capitalised 'W' in your question, that was just the chapter title".
They decided to drive to a hotel on the route back home. There, they could power up Peltier and ask him a few questions about what had happened. The thinking being that even if the Luminary operatives traced the connection and found out that Peltier had gone missing, the lines would trace back to the hotel. But anyway, they would maybe never know or question anything, because Pam had put the found one where Peltier had been. The plan would be to have Peltier reprogram himself with different internet credentials, something to work out later.
Traveling along and talking this all through, neither of them noticed the headlights behind that had been following them all the way from the industrial park.
Entering the forecourt of the hotel, the car drew along side, a long black 1960's Lincoln Continental.
A dark suited man in a trilby stepped from the vehicle.
Roger stated "These really are MIB's aren't they ?", before stepping out himself to confront the agent.
"Mr. Prendergast, I believe you have something of ours", said the agent.
The air was thick with anticipation. Had it been Winter, long whisps of mist would have risen from the agents mouth as he spoke those words, lit by the glow of the hotel lighting. As it was Summer, that didn't happen.
"We, we" began Roger "we didn't mean to do anything illegal or...".
The agent cut in, "Just hand it over and we'll forget about it, fair ?".
Roger dejectedly returned to the car, Pam reluctantly handed the 4" x 4" cube to him.
The agent opened his car door, tipped his hat forward and motored away.
Roger began to apologise to Pam, what else could he do ? the agent had been standing right there in front. So near but yet...
Pam smiled very broadly. Upon reaching behind her seat, she then held aloft a 4" x 4" Luminary 3000.
"Is it the right one ?", flustered Roger.
Pam flipped the unit upside down and triumphantly proclaimed
"No missing base, it's Peltier !".
The three of them returned home and Peltier was promptly placed in a cupboard under some clothes for 6 months.
There is one little problem left with the end of this story. The place where he sits right now, under those clothes, is directly above the main electrical wiring for the hot water heater.
Pam thinks she has a problem with her tablet running slowly every now and again, but, every now and again and quite coincidentally i'm sure, a little light flashes furiously at the same time in the cupboard and their internet bill spikes.
« Last Edit: 2017-03-16, 05:05:55 by Slider2732 »
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