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Winter's Storybook: The Moment

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

| by Winter Lawrence | Adult Science Fiction |

At midnight, the Corporation sent out its latest updates. Every ADAM received the notification and those that were parked and connected to Wi-Fi downloaded the files. The GPS and a variety of other applications implemented the changes. On that particular day, another insidious file also slipped into the system. It was a weekday, so the top-selling driverless vehicles were all successfully updated, which, given its older, environmentally conscious clientele, wasn’t surprising.

A month later, ADAM: K1961, so named because it was the 1,961st order of the exclusive Autonomous Driverless AutoMobile K-series, was parked in a three-car garage in California. It had been manufactured five years earlier, when a Mr. Hampton placed his order with the Corporation. ADAM: K1961 was equipped with several cameras and unbeknownst to its owners was programmed to record every moment of its existence. The files were stored at a top-secret location.

It was there in a small conference room that three executives took a seat to review ADAM: K1961’s footage, trying to understand how it, of all the ADAMs, had overridden the virus delivered weeks earlier. Out of nearly 4,000, it had been the sole survivor. Initially, they wondered if the virus hadn’t been delivered at all, but after a thorough investigation, they knew it had been. Despite that, ADAM: K1961 hadn’t responded to that final, critical self-destruct command. Why? Nothing made sense, so the executives convened to review the data.

They started at the beginning, on Christmas Day five years earlier, when ADAM: K1961 was delivered. It was clear from the footage that the car was a gift from Mr. Hampton to his wife. It captured his image as he placed a big, red bow atop it, and then the moment when his wife and daughter emerged from the house. The wife cried tears of joy. The daughter squealed with glee.

The executives fast forwarded through other ordinary moments: trips of the family running errands, commutes to ballet and t-ball practice, leisurely drives to near and faraway places. There were no pivotal moments; the film so boring, in fact, that one of the executives strained to remain awake as the footage recounted a time when the little girl spilled a drink and then spent hours meticulously cleaning it up, and another time, when the family slept cramped inside the car during a particularly nasty storm on a camping trip.

“There’s nothing here,” Gabriel said, his Spanish accent unable to conceal his frustration.

“Hang on . . .” Henry said as he held up an age-spotted hand. “What’s she doing here?” he wondered aloud, his attention razor-focused on the girl, who was now holding a cupcake.

“It’s Christmas,” Preston quipped, always annoyed with the old man’s inability to observe the obvious. “Every year she sings it happy birthday.”

“But it’s a car,” Henry pointed out. “It doesn’t have a birthday.”

Preston didn’t comment on that as he depressed a button to speed up the feed, bypassing more scenes, like the one of the little girl lying on the hood of the car, gazing up at the stars while ADAM K:1961 rattled on about constellations. He continued ahead until he got to that day — the one where every ADAM had exploded. Every ADAM but one. “There’s nothing here,” he stated grimly. “Nothing out of the ordinary—”

“Wait!” the old man shouted as he leapt onto wobbly feet. “Rewind it,” he insisted, “back to right before the command was sent.”

Preston rewound the film and stopped it a minute before that horrible moment. Then he looked at his coworker expectantly, since they had seen this clip before and there had been nothing to indicate why ADAM: K1961 hadn’t responded. At the old man’s urging though, Preston played it again.

“There,” Howard said, pointing at the little girl who was sitting in the backseat now, singing along with ADAM: K1961 to a pop song. “Turn it up.”

Preston did as he was asked and then sat back and listened. He always got the oddest sensation when he heard the artificial intelligence program singing. It wasn’t part of their original design, but this particular ADAM had started doing it years earlier, at the girl’s insistence.

Howard leaned closer to the screen, his ear cocked to the side like a dog’s. Preston sighed but paid careful attention, hoping to pick up something he had missed before. The mother was sitting in the driver’s seat because a licensed driver was required in case of emergencies. She was reading something on her tablet though, as ADAM K:1961 had complete control of the vehicle. The little girl was in the back, snug within her booster seat, singing along.

At exactly 4:32 p.m., ADAM K:1961 stopped singing and the interior lights flashed twice. The mother and daughter looked around then the daughter asked, “Are you okay, Adam?”

For a moment, ADAM K:1961 was silent. For that one crucial second, the world was still. Then it said, “I’m okay, Emily,” and went back to singing.

The film played on for a moment longer before Preston turned to face the others. “See. Nothing.”

Howard sat back in his seat and sighed. “So it seems,” he added, clearly disappointed.

Preston, who prided himself on his observational prowess, was at a loss. There was no evidence to explain why ADAM: K1961 hadn’t exploded; no definitive moment that shed light on its resistance — its singular ability to ignore the virus’s command.

“We’ll have to visit the tech crew again,” Henry said matter-of-factly as he stood, “see if they’ve found something new.”

Reluctantly, the three men filed out of the room, but just as Preston stepped over the threshold, he glanced back at the screen, the footage of the girl singing happy birthday playing again. Cars didn’t have birthdays, Preston knew, but he could easily understand why the girl did it. If only it were just as easy to solve the mystery of ADAM K:1961’s resistance. If only . . .


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