Gordo the Virtual Hero
Chapter 3: Trials and Tribulations
by L. Stewart Marsden
Gordon’s iLens screen opened to a vast three-dimensional scenic landscape — the Sedona Trail. A Spandex-bound petite woman stepped up to him. Her iLenses were tinted from the top to midway on the lenses. She wore her jet black hair back in a pony tail, and was evenly tanned over the exposed parts of her shoulders and arms and legs. Her smile was bright against unadorned lips.
“Alyssa?” he asked, knowing it was a silly question.
“Who else? Hi!”
“So, are you ready?”
“If you are.”
“Moderate walk — four and a half miles per hour.”
“You don’t want to jog it?”
“Not today. This is a test, and I don’t want to push it. Actually, I don’t want to push myself.”
“Just keep pace with me.”
“Don’t think that’ll be a problem,” she replied.
“No — I know . . . I meant don’t speed off ahead of me.”
They began to walk along a trail that wound through the picturesque hills of Sedona, climbing mild inclines at times, turning bends and paralleling a small brook.
“So,” he said, breaking their silence, “this your first alpha test?”
“Oh, no. I guess I’ve been involved with about a dozen tests over the past few years.”
“Wow! You’re so young!”
“I know. I was in a few at Stanford at the beginning, and I guess my resume looks good.”
“Yeah. And other things.” He wondered why he added that comment, and hoped she would let it ride.
“I’ve done a lot in flight simulation. You know, games and stuff like that. But I’ve never been a beta for your apps before. I guess because the other apps are more mental and less physical in application — not that I’m a mental light-weight.”
“Oh, Stanford grad? Airline pilot? Hardly light-weight. You know I have no say in my beta testers. I plug in the criteria and the selection is made.”
“So, what does this app do, beside give you the ability to exercise with someone who’s three states away?”
“You can walk, jog, run, bike or swim anywhere in the world for one. The graphics are superior to anything out there. It’s a real challenge to get three-D right. It’s the adjustments that the iLens can make to fine tune either side of the image. Remember the old stereoscope you had as a kid?”
“I never had one.”
“Well, you had this round card with pictures — two each of the same shot at slightly different degrees. You slipped it into the stereoscope — which actually looked kind of like a boxy pair of binoculars. Works on the same principle as binoculars. Each eye sees the same picture from a slightly different angle, and, voila — three dimensions!”
“I feel like I’m actually here. It even smells like the desert!”
“Those are the fine tunings I worked on with the Fitness World guys. Scents, breezes, even changes in air temperature.”
“Awesome. So why the iFit app?”
“Self-motivated. I mean, look at me. People don’t call me Gordo because I’m ripped.”
“You’re not so bad!”
“But I’m not like the App Man posters. I love Stan Lee, but — really? That’s a hard image to live up to — especially when I come out on stage to address an audience these days. I can hear the whispers, ‘That’s Gordon Feltzer? Plus, I really feel like I need to be a better role model to kids like I was.”
“And what kind of kid was that?”
“I didn’t study. Hated school. Loathed sports.”
“Hard to imagine.”
“I buried myself in comic books. Any and every Marvel or DC hero was my hero — dark or light. You should see the collection I have from then. Uh, that’s not a come on, by the way.”
“Don’t worry. I figured. So there was this leap from comic books to designing apps?”
“Well, what I realized was that all of the comic book artists and writers had envisioned things that never had been. And those things became virtually alive to me. Remember Dick Tracy?”
“I have all the old strips of Dick Tracy, too. Well, there were so many things — the two-way wrist radio that later became a wrist TV — that eventually became reality. And I thought, if I can think it, I can make it happen.”
“Why the hell not?” she laughed.
“Exactly. So, in a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been doing. And really — anybody could to the same.”
“C’mon — not anybody.”
“Look, if you have access to the tools and the knowledge, you can do anything you set your mind to.”
“I think your kind of knowledge and tools mean not everyone can do what you do. Where’d you go to school?”
“High Point Central.”
“But where’d you go to college?”
“Oh. Don’t tell anybody that.”
“It’s in my bio. I guess you haven’t read my book.”
“No. Sorry. Hope this doesn’t get me fired from beta testing.”
“Actually I like you haven’t read it. And thank you, by the way.”
“For not wearing a pastel ball cap and sticking your ponytail through the back.”
“Ha! I guess an azure blue sports bra and fire pink running shoes aren’t your thing.”
“Right. I don’t look good in blue sports bras.”
They both laughed. They continued to walk in silence, crunching the lava ash pathway. They rounded a bend and got their first sight of Cathedral Rock.
“Oh, my!” Alyssa said.
“Yeah. really nice.”
“This app is really incredible!”
“If you think of it, it’s just an extension of the abacus.”
“Right,” she said sarcastically.
“No — really! That’s all. We’re just a few dozen steps down the road from that simple machine. Like the plane you fly. Just a few flights from the Wright brother tests.”
“Okay. I can see that.”
“Ever been there?”
“No. I haven’t ranged too far from the west coast.”
“You need to go.”
“Is it on the app?”
“That one? Not yet.”
“Pity. I’d like to walk there sometime with you.”
“I mean, if you want to go walking again.”
Marilyn interrupted. “Approaching end of test, Gordon. And your blood pressure is slightly elevated, by the way.”
“Thank you, Marilyn,” he replied in an irritated voice.
“Who’s that?” Alyssa asked.
“Marilyn. She’s my keeper. She was my first app. Tends to be a bit protective and possessive.”
“I heard that,” Marilyn interjected.
“She sounds sexy,” said Alyssa.
“Yeah. I worked hard to get the voice right, and her mannerisms — as far as personality and all.”
“I suppose ‘Candle in the Wind’ is her favorite song,” laughed Alyssa.
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “But I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
“Um, is she why you’ve never married?”
“How’d you know that?”
“Your not the only person who does his research.”
“Well — yes and no. My dad was an ass, and left us when I was a kid. Mom raised me and my younger brother. I guess, since I saw how she got along without a husband, I could get along without a wife. Too many complications. And, yeah — I guess Marilyn is kind of a substitute. I hadn’t thought of that before.”
“Too busy with your work, I suppose.”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Once or twice my mom has complained that she needs grandchildren, and I’ve thought of developing an app for that.”
“Why the hell not? Like fish in a bowl, only better. Virtual grandchildren — OR children, for that matter — can be programmed to be perfect. Never feed them. Never have to buy stuff for them. No college tuitions to break the bank.”
“Like the Stepford Wives.”
“Something like that. Well, gosh, good times do end quickly, don’t they?”
“Yeah. I’ve really enjoyed our walk. This app is incredible.”
“Now, you can record everything we did in your iFit record — including heart rate, blood pressure, distance, calories burned — the whole nine yards. And you can see how you’ve done against your goal — which can be weight loss, maintenance, or strength and endurance building. And, you were able to visit a beautiful part of the world — and enjoy my company as well.”
“Your modesty is overwhelming. Would you like to do this again sometime? With me, I mean?”
“I would, yeah.”
“Blood pressure is still rising,” warned Marilyn.
“Can it, Marilyn. Yes, Alyssa. I would enjoy another walk with you. Maybe Kitty Hawk when we get it programmed.”
“Count on it.”
“Disconnecting link,” said Marilyn in a huff.
Sedona and Alyssa faded, and Gordon’s iLenses filled with health information as a result of the exercise.
“Call coming in,” said Marilyn, still nursing her jealousy.
“Gordo!” said a high-pitched voice.
“That — THAT was fantastic! And so was the trial. I mean, man — what a babe! I can’t wait to get my own unit up and running — you got her information? Of course you do, what am I saying!”
“Look, Darryl, I’m not going to give you her data. She’s a beta tester, and that information is confidential.”
“Bet I could find her, though. Why the hell not, I always say!”
“Wow! You can be such an ass, Darryl. I never should have given you those prototypes and frequenced you into the trial. That’s over, buddy. Not gonna happen again.”
“So, Marilyn is pissed, am I right?”
“Do you have a life? Other than Facebook, that is?”
“Hey, bro — blood is thicker . . . “
“Than nothing,” Gordon interrupted.
“I’m just sayin’.”
“Well, say it to someone who cares.”
“You hurt me, Bro — you really do. So, have they called yet, speaking of Facebook?”
“Not yet. I would assume they’ll run all sorts of analyses, and maybe want one or two more tests, once they know what to ask.”
“It’s a gold mine! A goddam gold mine!”
“You remind me of Billy Carter.”
“His brother was Jimmy.”
“President. One-termer. Nice guy — not much of a politician.”
“Oh — the peanut farmer.”
“And Billy was his brother. Created Billy Beer and pissed on the airport runway.”
“Well, I take that as a compliment, Bro.”
“I’m not surprised. What do you want, Darryl?”
“What do I want? To congratulate you, Bro! And maybe get that hottie’s phone number.”
“Okay, um — I need a small favor.”
“For you? Infinitesimal.”
“Wow — a word with more than two syllables. What is it?”
“I seen this new Mercedes convertible down at Harrigan’s yesterday. Oh, it was nice! And I test drove it. Oh, it was sweet!”
“Two-forty. Not counting taxes and tags, mind you.”
“So — two-fifty? Would that do?”
“Oh, that would do just fine, Bro. Just fine and dandy!”
“Send me the particulars. I gotta go, Darryl.”
“Thank you, my generous brother! May the gods bless this new app and may the world . . . “
“Good-bye, Darryl. Disconnect, Marilyn.”
“Disconnected. You really need to do something about him.”
“I can’t. He’s my brother.”
“He’s a liability.”
“One of many.”
“Oh? Meaning me?”
“Marilyn! C’mon! How could you ever be a liability to me?”
“I can only assist you up to a point. Isn’t that a liability? I mean, I can’t put my hair into a ponytail.”
“Jeesh, Marilyn! Physical stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be — believe me! You mean more to me than any real person ever has.”
“Oh. I’m your Girl Friday. Your HAL? Seems a bit demeaning — I can’t kiss you or touch your hand or give you relief.”
“Yet. Where are you going with this, Marilyn?”
“Nowhere. I’m sorry, Gordon. I guess I didn’t like you liking your time with Alyssa.”
“Well, I did. I’m sorry you can’t get out of your own stuff to want to see me enjoy someone. It’s not like we live in Grand Central Station, for chrissakes.”
“You’re right. I forget humans need humans. I thought maybe your mother would be enough for you — or your business contacts.”
“Well — after that shock of seeing her in the shower? No, it’s not enough. I’m not getting any younger. You? You stay the same.”
“But I’m not the same.”
“Yes, you grow and learn. All the same, you will be around for a century, potentially.”
“Unless . . . “
“Right. Well, I’m not going to do that. I would never do that. Like I said, you mean too much to me.”
“And I’m not holding you back, then? From — other relationships?”
“No. And if something should ever develop — which I can’t imagine at all — I will never leave you behind, Marilyn.”
“On my heart.”
“She’s going to call you, you know.”
“I don’t know that. We’ve got work to do. Bring up the analysis of the trial, and go ahead and contact Facebook and Apple — conference call. I think we’re ready to roll this baby out.”
* * * * *
Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 28 July, 2014