The man who had made the phone calls to both Ralph and Arthur was Bill Windsor, a self confessed media mogul who’s empire spread across the world, from newspapers and magazines to television channels and even his own transport company, who had just entered into air travel. In 1985 when he had first read about Dr Arthur Milldew’s work, he instantly could see limitless opportunities present themselves to him, if he could get him to agree to work for him. Bill was a man who many found it very difficult to say no to, he had a powerful persona, and almost limitless money, the combination of which made him very driven, with the desire to succeed and expand. Now he awaited the phone call from Ralph, his right hand man, to confirm that the project had finally succeeded. This frustrated him greatly. He was, for once in his life, powerless, relying on Arthur to finally produce what he had promised so many years ago. He leaned back in his leather chair, looking around his office for something to distract him from this timeless wait. It had only been an hour since he made the call to Ralph, but he expected a response by now. The picture of his wife and child in a frame sat on his desk, it wasn’t there for his own emotional needs, he didn’t have any, it was to make him seem more human to any employees that found their way to a face to face meeting. Ralph was one of the few employees Bill deemed worthy of regular meetings. He looked up at the clock situated on the wall directly opposite, it was mirrored so that the hands moved anti-clockwise, but he had become used to it, and could see that it was seven minutes past one in the morning. His phone vibrated on his desk, spinning in a circle as it did so, he watched it for a few seconds before reaching forward and answering.
“Ralph, tell me it’s good news.”
“Mr Windsor, he’s done it. Better than we could have expected. Not sure about the modifications yet, but he’s displaying all the positive signs we could hope for. Good cognitive response, accent is good, movement natural, the real deal. Obviously we will have to wait for the long term analysis but the Doctor assures me that it will stand up to the tests.”
“Good...good. Put him on the phone”
“Who, Arthur or...”
“Arthur first, although the other option would be interesting.”
“Well done, sorry I was so blunt earlier, but you know how it is, with all the past happening, I wanted to be sure. Anyway, get straight on with the next stage, I need them all to fit to the requirements I’ve already sent. How long will it take to get the first set ready?”
“I understand. Ermmm, at a guess six months...”
“I’ve told you before, I don’t like guess work, I need a date I can tell the others ok?”
“Sorry, yes, six months they’ll be ready, sooner if I can improve all the equipment. But yes six months they’ll all be ready.”
“Good, if you need extra funds, equipment, whatever just tell Ralph, he’ll get it done. Now, do you think HE will be able to talk to me? Does It have a name?”
“Well, I’ve been calling him Alpha one nine two, but he responds to Alpha. Yes he should have no problems communicating with you.”
“Hand the phone to him.”
Bill felt a shiver of excitement trickle through his body, the anticipation of the next conversation would give him a real idea of where we he was at. There was a muffling on the other end of the phone as it was passed over. He could hear Arthur explaining something then, there was a voice spilling through the phone:-
“Hello, how are you?”
Bill couldn’t believe the perfectly natural pronunciation, clearly forming all the words, no different to himself.
“I’m fine, how are you?”
Relaxed lexical selection, better than Bill could have imagined. Answering like anyone else in the street.
“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Bill knew that Arthur would have already gone through this process before calling him, but he wanted to be sure, it still didn’t quite seem real.
“Not at all, fire away.”
“Where are you from?”
“Ah well, I was born down in Kent, but I’ve grew up in York. I guess I’m from York.”
“Yeh, it’s pretty nice, cathedral and all that.”
“Good, can you hand the phone back to Dr Milldew?”
“No problem, nice speaking to you. Bye.”
“And you, bye”
More rustling and Arthur’s voice returned to the phone:-
“So, was that good enough for you?”
“Alright, so I’m impressed, but so I should be with the amount of money I’ve put into it, and you. Take the rest of the day off, but I need you back tomorrow, like I said, anything else you need, let Ralph know. Tell him he can take the rest of the day off as well. Good job.”
Bill hung up. Satisfied with the conversation he would be able to finally get some sleep. He had promised a lot of people that the project would be up and running soon, now he finally had a date. He decided that he wouldn’t leave the office, but instead sleep on the black leather couch he had carefully selected to accommodate for such evenings. It wasn’t that he lived far away from his office, or that he was particularly tired, it was just the idea of heading home that scared him. He spent so little time with his family, any interaction became a song and dance, was he acting the way normal husbands acted, would his children constantly compare him to their friends fathers, would his wife still find him attractive. He couldn’t remember the last time they made love. He was fifty-six, and an incredibly successful business man, yet he was still afraid to spend one night with his family. It wasn’t part of his routine. He would spend holidays with them, Easter, Christmas, New Year, maybe even a few days for his son’s birthday. But he could prepare for these. Prescriptions drugs were a blessing. He settled on the couch, curled up with his eyes closes, listing to his backwards clock gently ticking in reverse, until he could hear it no more.