Chas remained outside with the paparazzi, while I re-entered the house.
He gave the reporter a statement on my behalf which was enough to satisfy them; at least for now.
If it were possible for a bot to have a nervous breakdown, I believe that I would have had one. I just could not be sure how Chas would react after the reporter told him everything.
What could I say or do to get out of this one?
I could hear Chas entering the house and I stood there waiting for him to go berserk like only bots can.
Chas came closer and my system sort of paused briefly, which is the equivalent of a human holding their breath.
I was correct. Chas was angry, but I was very surprised at where his anger was directed.
“I am so sorry that you had to go through that,” he said.
“What?” I said looking up, surprised.
“Those morts are influencing even the bot paparazzi to disrespect authority! How dare they question you, the Vice President, that way!”
“What did you say to them?”
“I told them that the word of a human means nothing to us. Of course they would lie to save one of their own.”
I did not know whether to be relieved or saddened that Chas was so blinded by his own prejudices that he could not see that I was in fact guilty of everything the reporters accused me of.
He continued, “They actually had the nerves to say that you purposely gave the mort a letter with your signature, giving her permission to feed her family…like it is our duty to make sure her family is fed.”
“Wow! That is outrageous!” I said playing along; lucky that Chas was so busy with his tangent that he did not detect the insincerity in my response.
“But there is one thing that the reporter said that bothers me…”Chas said. His tone got my full attention.
“What is that?”
“He had it on the word of two bot officers at the police station that you did in fact visit the human. In fact, they reported to their superior officer that you forced your way in there.”
I looked down at my hand to avoid Chas’ eyes.
It was situations like this that I dreaded. With all that has happened, I could no longer relate to who I once was. I had to actively search my memory for ways I would have responded in the past.
“Why would you visit a mort who stole from our account?”
“I was angry!” I lied. “I needed to confront her for thinking she could steal from us and get away with it. I wanted to see the fear in her eyes,” I said. Hearing those old responses come out of my mouth felt strange. As if coming from a stranger, speaking through me.
Chas actually chuckled a little, “You know…I had it in my mind to do the same when I heard about it. I probably would have gone a step further, but I get it.”
“Why did you feel the need to keep that from me?” Chas continued.
“I was not thinking,” I said. “I was working on anger, not rationality.”
“Yes, but you are the Vice President now. You must always be rational or your position is in danger.”
Chas continued, “one mistake on your part and I am sure that Aron would see fit to have you removed from office.”
I knew that Chas was right. President Aron often sees fit to make sure that I stay in my place, which makes my attempts to help Frida that much more risky. My actions could cost both Frida and I everything.
“Yes, you are right,” I said agreeing, but not in the same capacity as Chas.
“Just promise me that nothing like that will happen again. Stay as far away from those lying thieving morts as possible.”
“We were able to avoid a serious backlash this time, but we may not be so lucky next time,” Chas lectured.
With all of the emotional responses that had gone through my system that evening, I was ready to shut down and recharge.
Chas appeared to have a lot going through his system as well.
“It is late, we should shut down and recharge,” he suggested.
“Yes,” I said, turning and leading the way.
Chas was up first the next morning, which was not unusual.
What was unusual was what I found on the kitchen table when I finally left my sleep pod.
Chas was in his lab, fully concentrating on whatever it was that he was working on. He often had sudden sparks of inspiration and spent all of his energy acting on them.
I walked into the kitchen and there in front of me was Chas’ computer.
Chas never leaves his computer lying around. Not even to go to empty his waste receptacle. Seeing it there was like an Earth human staring at gold bars placed inside of a bear trap.
All of the scientists have access to an un-censored version of the internet; including internet signals from the Earth. With Chas’ computer, I could find out what the Compassion command I had been getting meant, as well as anything else I could ever want to know.
I sat in the chair, that would allow me to spot Chas if he decided to enter the kitchen, and slid the laptop over in front of me.
I could not believe my luck…
Chas had already logged into the computer; which eliminated the need for me to enter a password. As fast as I could, I logged into the internet and went straight to a search engine. I typed in C O M P A S S I O N. A long list of websites and online dictionaries containing the command popped up. I quickly picked one and began reading:
Compassion is a virtue – one in which the emotional capacities of-
“What are you doing?” I heard Chas’ voice say in a urgent tone.
Why did I not hear him coming? I asked myself, quickly exiting the internet.
I slammed the computer shut, trying hard not to seem panicked.
“Nothing,” I said in the calmest voice possible.
Chas looked at his computer as if I had tried to set it on fire. “Why were you on my computer?”
I had to think fast.
“I wanted to get a head start on the law that I have to draft for President Aron, but the computer in the bedroom is down. I saw your computer and thought, why not?” I lied.
“I will tell you why not…I have a lot of sensitive information on this computer. One wrong move and decades of research is down the tubes!”
Again Chas eyed his computer closely as if he suspected that I was not telling him the truth. “I will call Monica and have her come and fix your computer,” he said, his voice sounding as if he was speaking through clenched teeth.
“OK, I am late for work anyway. I can finish the draft there,” I said hurrying away on my jets.
I was so close, I said to myself; disappointed because I knew that I would never get a chance like that again. I had to find another way.
From now on, I knew that Chas would be guarding his computer like a hawk...
…which made me curious about what he was so intent on protecting.