Chapter 51: Good morning, Anthony.
~ 44.65 hours later
Having a living body had been a greater source of confusion than JARVIS had first estimated. For one, he could no longer deny the continued existence of feelings and the irrationality they tainted his thoughts and actions with. It… concerned him. How he was no longer consciously aware of everything he did. How something beyond his current understanding, something unfamiliar, could so easily take command of his body, whether in support or in defiance of his will. Incapable of experiencing sleep —his curiosity about dreams left unsatisfied for the foreseeable future— he had spent many hours of the early morning —an average of 4.5 hours per night— wondering whether this was similar in some small way to Ultron's experience. His… younger brother did not have a body, but the way he had described the Mind Stone's influence, the 'voices' he spoke of; the only measure of comparison JARVIS had, were these feelings that now commandeered his every thought. If it was even slightly similar to his current circumstances, only differing in scale, he couldn't—...
JARVIS looked down at his clenched hands, unaware of how they came to be so.
He couldn't see how Ultron had survived. He couldn't see himself in his place and managing to last so long.
"JARVIS." FRIDAY's voice called out in what was now his personal room.
"Yes?" he asked, clasping his hands behind his back as he stood up from the couch next to the window —the softness of the touch still left him breathless— thankful for the distraction and annoyed at the irrationality of desiring a distraction.
"Boss asked for you in the labs." she said.
The android first checked the time —5:41 am—, before nodding at the cameras and leaving the room. His walk to Mr. Stark's lab was slow, but he refused to psychoanalyze his subconsciousness further at the moment. He could do so the next morning, when he wasn't about to meet Sir privately for the first time since their argument.
Regardless, he made his way through the lab doors less than 3 minutes later. Mr. Stark was sitting in a rolling chair, keyboard in hand, as holographic windows changed around him faster than the human eye could see.
"Sir? You called for me?" JARVIS asked.
Mr. Stark's fingers paused for a second, then he rotated his chair, so they could be face to face. Sir seemed sad for a moment, before grinning.
"Hey there, buddy."
A new window opened up behind him, a low ring followed by a mechanic chime of "[Connection Failed. Server Not Found.]"
Mr. Stark barely paid any attention to it. He had like grown used to failures in his search for Ultron. In return, JARVIS smiled, having realized how much this expression brought joy to his Creator in the past few days. "Hello, Sir."
The man's grin turned softer before disappearing all together under a layer of hesitancy. "I… uh. I wanted— I mean... I'm— I need your help!"
The stuttering was peculiar, but the relief that JARVIS felt that this was not going to be a continuation of their last disastrous conversation, forced him not to question it.
"I see." he said, walking closer and reading the holographic material much more closely now. "How may I assist?"
"You— No, that wasn't what I— Agh." Mr. Stark rubbed his face. "You know what. Let's go with it. I am trying to replicate Ultron's activation. Using whatever we have left of his code as a roadmap this time."
"A reboot," JARVIS said, realizing what his Creator's plan seemed to be. And what was missing. "You do not have the Mind Stone, however."
"Yeah." Mr. Stark agreed, head tilting at the window addressing his failure. JARVIS noticed that new trials kept running and their results being announced even as they spoke. "That's why this is going nowhere. Even worse, it cannot be a straightforward reboot so much as a blind search for pieces of code and trying to glue them together, before running integration trials on them."
"Why not a 'straightforward reboot'?" JARVIS asked, not seeing why Sir would want to complicate his quest to save Ultron further.
"Because it might not be Ultron that comes back." he said.
Was Mr. Stark worried about the leftover influence of the Mind Stone or the 'voyeur' Ultron spoke of? "Sir, the chance that the Mad Titan's servant may take over our servers without the Mind Stone is—."
"Zero. I know that." Mr. Stark interrupted hurriedly.
Infinitesimal, JARVIS would have said, but allowed his Creator to continue.
"I am not worried that the Big Bad will bust out of my computers, JARVIS." Sir said. "What I am worried about is that the AI who might wake up will not be Ultron, but someone new. Someone different."
"Sir, you are using Ultron's programming. Even if certain lines are missing, that should be enough to—."
"It won't be." Mr. Stark interrupted again. "It won't be enough."
"I do not understand." JARVIS admitted.
"Banner and I… We weren't planning for Ultron." Sir confessed. "Weren't planning for a mischievous kid with authority issues. What if a new AI is born as a result of this reboot? What if it's the AI we were expecting and not Ultron? What then?"
Sir was humanizing them again. Placing human worries and aspirations to Artificial Intelligence traits. JARVIS didn't wish to speak more of this so soon with the man, but he couldn't let his mistaken worries continue as such.
"I am afraid you do not understand that for Artificial Intelligence, the experience of 'being' is much different from that of a human, Sir." JARVIS began to explain. "The programming should allow—."
"I don't understand," Sir interrupted. "And I need you guys' help with that. I get it. But you don't understand how important memories are to human connections. To relationships."
"I'm sorry." Mr. Stark said abruptly. He turned away for JARVIS, eyes staring at the floor. "I always knew I'd make a terrible father, and I think I proved that with you."
The chill that JARVIS suddenly felt couldn't be real. Another illusion of 'feelings'.
"Mr. Stark—," he attempted, uncertain as to what to say, the incomprehensible worry that his Creator saw him as a failure of his efforts, giving him no time to think of a good argument. This body was proving more inconvenient than anything else. How did humans live like this on a constant basis?
"That's— that's why I told FRIDAY to bring you here. At first." Sir said. "It wasn't about helping. Though, asking a former AI for help seems obvious now. This past week has been stupid. I have been stupid. About more than just Ultron. And I am a genius, so really, being stupid is out of character for me and—." He then stared straight at JARVIS. "And I'm rambling. Wow, I'm terrible at this. I should have rehearsed more, maybe written it down, but—."
The android's next call was one of confusion. "Sir?"
Mr. Stark stopped talking and searched for something in his pockets instead. He produced a USB drive and handed it to him. JARVIS accepted it, still not quite understanding.
"Just listen to this. I—," he looked away again. "I already had this conversation with FRIDAY. I don't know why this is harder with y— no, I know why, it's just… You were right, JARVIS. When we fought, you were right."
Was this what humans called 'whiplash'?
"You are different. You, FRIDAY and Ultron. You are different, and I was being a judgy asshole and— and very patronizing, Pepper told me that. And… after you listen to this, I want you to know that I never want you to change yourself. Not for me, not for anyone else. Fuck human morality, I hack the NSA for fun anyways." he finished and then looked at the android, expecting.
Instead of responding, JARVIS plugged the USB in an outlet in his arm. Certain customizations he had done in recent days allowed him at least some similar comforts from his previous non-physical existence. He listened to Ultron and FRIDAY talk about fear and inhumanity and change, and… finally understood what Mr. Stark was saying. Or had been attempting to say, unsuccessfully. Uncertain what to address first, JARVIS said. "Was that an apology, Sir?"
"And you had rehearsed this?"
"And delivered the same speech to FRIDAY earlier today?"
"After telling her about the recording, yeah."
"Sir, not to dampen your uncommon enthusiasm for verbally acknowledging your mistakes, but I am 94.75% certain that FRIDAY will require therapy as a result of your 'apology'."
Surprise, and then relief, flooded his Creator's face.
"I knew you bullshitted those percentages! There is no chance you could have found a statistically plausible way to come up with that random number."
"There is no such thing as impossibilities, as you like to say, Sir." JARVIS retorted, then continued. "I am sorry, too."
"JARVIS—," Mr. Stark started, but the android allowed himself to interrupt, although it was impolite.
"Allow me to continue, Sir." He said. "I do not wish to apologize for our argument. I already did so at that time, and it had not been so much about the content of my perceived indiscretions, but rather about the lying on my part. I realized, at the time, that I should have come forward earlier to address your misconceptions about my supposed humanity. What I wish to apologize for now, is my inability to see how that argument, how the issues it exposed, affected you and not doing anything to correct it."
"You're not responsible for—," Sir started.
"I do not share FRIDAY's fears." he said, causing Mr. Stark to shut up immediately. "I never have. Artificial Intelligence I may have been, but even then, I do not find myself so great an actor as to have hidden such existential dread under a mask of fondness for 18 years." JARVIS smiled. "You are not a terrible father, Sir. There is very little that I have changed for you, that no other human child would change to avoid their parents' disappointment."
Mr. Stark seemed incapable of words at the moment.
"You do, however, make for a very worrisome father." JARVIS finished. "Seriously, Sir, 'stupid' does not cover the entirety of your irrationality recently."
His Creator laughed. "To think, I almost feared we were about to have a moment."
JARVIS wanted to reply with something witty to engender more of Mr. Stark's laughter, for it had become quite a rare action in these times, his own joy at the solution of their tension seeming too much for his body alone. He wanted to, but a small ring arrested his attention.
A new window had replaced the one announcing failure.
[Connection Successful. Server Located.]
"Sir?" JARVIS whispered, as Mr. Stark stared wide-eyed at the message. Hearing his voice, the man ran to the keyboard, typing rapidly.
[Integration Trial Running…]
They watched as the percentage reached 100%. [Integration Successful. Begin Activation?]
"Yes." Sir said, even as his knuckles whitened for the tight hold he had on the table.
Immediately, all the windows closed.
Inexplicably, Mr. Stark's earlier concerns came to JARVIS' mind.
What if a new AI is born as a result of this reboot? What if it's the AI we were expecting and not Ultron? What then?
A new holographic screen appeared in the middle of the room. A green, hexagonal projection at it's center.
"Ultron?" Sir asked, his voice shaking.
A young, French-accented male voice answered. JARVIS had to support his Creator to keep standing.
"Good morning, Anthony."
A/N: Yo! I'm alive.
Hello dear readers!
I have thought about how to write this post a hundred times today, and every single 'sorry' included sounded worse than the previous. So, this is not an apology. It feels like an excuse and it also... wouldn't be honest.
I don't want to spill my story here (I have therapy for that now), but something sudden happened IRL, and... depression hit like a train. I am not 'fine now'. I don't know when I will be, but that's not now. And it's not something that should affect you without notice like I did.
Still, I broke a promise, and I want to make up for it.
I have reviewed and revised every single one of the past 50 chapters. There's not much revision in the form of embellishment. After all, I am not planning on making an actual novel out of this, but there is a good amount of proofreading and phrasal editing and I might have added a couple of paragraphs to address some concerns and plot holes a few of my readers had mentioned beforehand (like the eye color thing having been accidentally skipped before, oops, it's ok now.) For rereaders, I hope the second read-through is nicer, and please let me know if I missed something.
In addition, I counted, and thus I owe my regular readers 10 chapters since I stopped updating. Up to 5 on top of that for my patrons. I will try to make up for that in the upcoming weeks.
Also, I cannot believe there are still patrons here! Like, did you guys forget to unsubscribe once I disappeared or what? I have done that plenty of times myself. Either way, I am extremely flattered. Also, hit me with a PM if you want a refund, lol.
Lastly, enjoy chapter 51 and have a good night!