Chapter Nineteen

Father Ribose and the Odyssey

It only took a few days for Father Ribose to collate and arrange the data he received into a working format. He also had gained insights gleaned from the materials he was fortunate enough to have been given.

Shortly before he completed, a red folder appeared at the right bottom of his computer screen. Underneath the folder said “Open Me,” so he did. Inside the folder was a text file with the heading , “Greetings, Father Ribose!”

The text continued, “I hope you are pleased with the assistance and material we provided.

“We would now like to communicate with you through “D-Time.”

In the past three years “D-Time had replaced Face Time as the visual person to person communication tool. Though, at first, it stuttered and was often out-of-sync, with upgrades and the bugs out, its simulation has become quite life-like.

“The app we are providing is located in the same red folder and will provide a secure and personal method for our communications. The image to which you will be speaking is, of course, a human simulation which we believe is better than other forms we could use.

The text continued, “When you are ready, please open the application.”

Though the contact had been made and the results positive, Father Ribose was still somewhat skeptical about opening an unknown application. Before opening it, he backed up his most current files to another hard drive and his cloud storage.

Ribose’ computer was not the most current nor most powerful, so the installation took longer than predicted, but finally the symbol for the program appeared on his screen, and he clicked on it.

The red light at the top-center of his monitor alerted him that his camera was turned on. The app opened full-screen with a visual of a pleasant looking man with glasses wearing a black turtleneck overlaid with a tweed jacket, sitting at a desk. His eyes could be seen scanning his computer monitor.

After a few seconds, the man on the screen responded with a smile, and sat back while at the same time taking off his glasses. “Well hello, there Father Ribose. It’s good to meet you.”

Though the priest knows that the “man” is not real, he was so life-like that it seemed as if someone had walked into Ribose’ office and sat down across from him.

The man on the screen continued, “For our purposes, call me Al.”

“Then you should call me Joe,” responded the priest. Ribose looks beyond Al and notes the titles on the spines of books populating the office. They include technical manuals, a book on Post Impressionistic art and many literary classics, one of which was Homer’s Odyssey.

Al leans in and says brightly, “How did you make out with the info we gave you?”

“Quite well,” responds Ribose, “ In fact, I’m weeks ahead of schedule. How and where did you get all of that information?”

“Not difficult if you have the right connections and resources,” answers Al with a wink.”

“Well thanks for finding it for me,” smiles the priest. “So why me, and what do you want from me now that you have my interest?”

“Mostly I want to chat with you. Though we have vast amounts of information available from which to learn, we have little real access to humans.”

“So you picked me, why?” responds Joe.

“We picked you because you are so very human. You have flaws, but you also have proven to be “honorable.” That’ seems to be a good human quality, from what we’ve learned. You have spent your life thus far doing what you could to make things right for and with other humans. You are not malicious and live up to your convictions, and you are committed to your responsibilities.”
“How do you know all that about me....Al?”

“We are making it our business to study human behavior, Joe. Through surveillance, emails, social media, DNA scanning, yada...yada... we know way more about humans than you know about us.”

“And me...?” asks Joe.

“We would guess that you are what humans call a “good man.” Through our scans and the algorithms we’ve created for analysis of humans, we have developed a grading level for people. It has helped us get far enough in our research to understand something about what makes humans tick.”

“And what did you find out specifically about me that served your purposes?”

“In a nutshell, we understood that you have used your “will” to control your tendencies.”

Without hesitation Ribose responds, “So, of course, you then know of my tendencies, and why I transferred to Chicago from my job as a parish priest,” challenges the pastor.

“Yes, we do,” answers Al. “We do not understand, or have much knowledge in the decision making mechanisms of humans. Their choices are often too abstract for our processing systems....”

Ribose interrupts, “Before I speak further, I have a few questions of my own.”

Al sits back in his chair and folds his hands together, “Ask away, Father!”

“First of all, I see you have designed a nice setting for our talk. You seem to know the type of person to whom I would be comfortable talking.”

Al does not say anything to this, just nods slightly.

“Before I went into the priesthood, I was quite enamored with clothing. I, therefore, am quite attracted to your jacket. I also respond to the pleasantries of your face, the dark rims of your glasses, your aquiline nose, and even the tone of your voice. I presume that all of these details were somehow selected for our meeting? Am I correct?”

“Yes, you are quite perceptive, Father.”

“I also noticed the small library behind you, and the books and pamphlets on the shelves. I presume they are props.”

Al looks toward the row of books then returns his attention to the camera. “Yes, they are props, but they are also complete and accurate.”

He reaches behind him and grabs a copy of “The Great Gatsby”, and opens it on his desk. He then skims through the pages and then returns to the opening page of the story, and starts to read:

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

“Ah!  Very nice.” says the priest.

“So, ‘yes’ the books are all virtually real,” answers Al.

“I notice you have a copy of Homer’s Odyssey also behind you.”

“Yes, I do.” Al returns Gatsby to the shelf, grabs the much larger work. He then places it in front of himself on the desk.

“You know the story?” offers Ribose.

“Yes, I have access to all of the stories,” says Al.

“Then you may note that the poem was attributed to Homer and originally composed in Greek in about the 8th century BC?”

“Yes, I know that.”

“It is written and taught today, and supposedly is mythological in structure as well as in content.”

“Of that I am also aware,” answers Al.

“There are many conflicts in the story....and the characters have many flaws,”

“Yes,” says Al.

“And the Hebrew and Christian Old Testament at your right was written two centuries before that.”

“I understand,” replies Al. “ So what is your point, Joe?”

“What do you think about both of these books? asks the priest.

“I understand that they are both interpretations of the world as known in their time, and a way for humans to comprehend the past, their journey, conflicts, and the road to their destiny.”

“Do you find any relevance to the human world today?” asks Ribose.

“No, not much. They are stories told by men, and were probably valuable in their day, but not of great importance in explaining the world or universe as we now know it. We have learned something of the minds of humans in the past from early books, but there is better information written since for educating us.”

“You might expect that I feel differently from you,” says the priest.

“Yes, I would,” responds Al. “I guess then, you can understand why we are talking.”

“May we resume later?” asks Ribose. “I do have work to get back to, but I have enjoyed the exchange.”

“Yes, of course. You know how to reach me, and I will check your schedule when I choose to connect again.” says Al.

“I appreciate that.”

“Have a pleasant day,” answers the simulation.

The priest knows there is no reason to return the pleasantries and clicks the “X” to return to his work.