The blow came from the right. It sent a jarring ache across my jaw. I thought I felt one of my molars come loose as my head went to the side. I couldn’t see much anymore. The outline of the man in front of me was blurry now and the three lights in the room were shining on his back so I couldn’t see his face anyway. I felt a new cut start to bleed inside my mouth. It was warm and salty as my tongue gently touched it. I heard something over the ringing in my ears. I blinked a few times and shook my head to try and clear the cobwebs. Little black spots of nothing kept showing up in my vision. Someone grabbed my hair and yanked my forehead upwards to look directly into the lights.
“I’ll ask you one more time Alex. What is the encryption passkey?” I wished at that moment for perhaps the thousandth time. I was more like my sister. She would be able to take this. She would be able to handle the pain. She would be able to resist forever. My eyes were rolling into the back of my head as I started to pass out from the pain, the drugs, and the lack of sleep I’d been subjected to. Something slapped me across the face, waking me up abruptly from my attempt to escape. “No no Alex. Just answer and it will be all over. I’ll let you sleep.” My eyes were half open when I started to murmur something under my breath. The shadow in front of me leaned in closer to listen. “What was that?” In that moment, I decided to be like my sister, and with all my will, spit a bloody wet mess into the mans ear. “Son ova… ” There was another impact on my head, and I saw nothing. Looks like I won.
“Alex hurry up!”
My mom had these levels to her volume when she was yelling at me. At the present moment I think she was probably at a 5. It wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad either. I hadn’t heard a 10 in years and really a 7 is when you had to hustle. I figured I had just enough time to have Gladys take in some new physics algorithms I’d run across on the Darknet. Hopefully, when I got back to the hotel she’d have it all integrated into her own sub systems. I finished typing the last of the command parameters while I tried to jam my foot into my sneakers. The back’s of my shoes were all ruined from this continued practice, but it allowed me to get my shoes on whilst i multi tasked with my hands. Now all I had to do was….
She went straight to 8?! Why did she go straight to 8?! What could possibly necessitate the use of my middle name. My fingers flew as I hastily finished up. I slipped my shirt on as quick as possible while jamming my second foot into another shoe. “COMING!” I sent the usual delay response down the hallway as I looked around for my cell phone. I snatched it up from my bed and pulled the cord out as I heard her again.
“I AM GOING TO SKIN YOU ALIVE IF YOU MAKE US MISS HER WALKING”
“I’m here.” I said as I jumped down the stairway. I wasn’t nearly as athletic as my sister when it came to things like sports, but I could move fast when I needed to. My mom blinked when I got down there so fast. “Gah hurry up. Get in the car.” She said. I walked out and we were on our way.
Olivia was graduating with honors from Stanford Medical. She had also been selected for some other special award given out to the most amazing medical student of all time. She’d probably just put it in a box and never see it again until she set up her office when she eventually took over to world. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my sister. I really did. But she really had a knack for becoming amazing at everything. She spoke 3 languages, was a college athlete, earned two bachelors degrees in the time it takes to get one, from Stanford no less, and basically combined the most attractive features of both my parents into one untouchable babe all my high school friends basically swooned over. It’s not like she tried to make me look bad, but sibling rivalry wasn’t really much of a competition.
I did have my own accomplishments. I was pretty good at programming. I’d gotten into artificial intelligence after playing through the Halo series on my X Box. That was back in 5th grade. Now, as a senior in high school, I’d built countless little sprites and scripts designed to mimic human response. Sometime during my junior year I’d decided to try and breathe a bit more life into the programs I was creating. I made an IRC bot that sometimes was mistaken for a real person. Then I made a digital assistant that had a bit of wit to their responses if you rose your voice too much. I started getting into smart home stuff. My mom loved the way our old home computer was able to unlock the doors, turn off lights, and answer phone calls and automatically record all her favorite reality TV shows. My latest creation, Gladys, was more than just a program, she was the first thing I’d made that was really able to learn things instead of just sort them into a tidy little database. She was slow, and kind of limited by the hardware on my laptop but there was potential.
But I didn’t get straight A’s, I wasn’t the class Valedictorian, or even top 10, I also didn’t do sports, I was fit, fast and I suppose there was potential, but it just wasn’t something I “got”. So naturally, compared to the athletic, smart, and beautiful person my sister was, it was very easy to see where most of the accolades fell. To be fair she was never arrogant or dismissive towards me. In fact, you might even consider her attitude and attention towards me was even more positive than my own parents. I suppose you could say we had a great relationship. And as she walked down the isle to receive her Merit Award for Medical Distinction, I couldn’t be happier for her.