Letters in green, yellow, and blue popped onto the screen in haphazard order. ‘Ask away, but I will warn you that the only real answer is one you find. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ An honest-to-Smiley Face formed on the screen. Travis thought it was the creepiest thing he’d ever seen. It made him think of a serial killer toying with his chosen target.
‘Melodramatic much?’ it mocked with orange letters popping up and disappearing.
“That was just creepy, and you know it” Travis snarled at the screen, which was still dark.
‘Oh my, actual banter rather than screaming fits and angry shouts? What are we coming to, detente?’
“De-what? Never mind. I have a question. You can answer questions, right?”
The letters took a coy, fuzzy pink texture as they appeared on the screen. ‘I can, within limits of course.’
We’re getting somewhere. “So what are the limits?”
‘The information can’t force you to change your actions. I am not allowed to lie or influence you in any way.’
“So if I asked for history about this girl, you can give it?”
‘Point for you, yes I can, and will give any relevant history when asked.’ The black letters outlined in orange had extra space between them, almost like they were saying something themselves, but Travis couldn’t figure if it meant anything or not.
“What about asking things like, uh, about the other guy?” Anything I can learn might help figuring out what his angle is, and how I could catch trouble before it got started.
‘Uh uh. No no noooo … no can do kemosabe. Information like that influences decisions. Influence is a no no. Same thing for the other guy.’
“So the other guy can’t use you to, uh,” Travis stopped talking and thought hard about what he’d heard so far. “Wait a sec. You can tell me about the girl’s history, but won’t that influence me?”
‘Point for you’, showed up in thin gold letters that reminded Travis of an ‘attaboy’ sticker his first grade teacher gave out to students that got a perfect score on their tests. ‘Since it’s history, it’s not something that can be influenced. It can be learned from. That’s your job, at least part of it. To learn. If it happens to influence your decision, then you’ve learned from the past, not from me.’
It made Travis head hurt a little. That it could, and would talk about the past, and yet not talk about now and other possible things going on. That seems a weird place to draw a line about what’s proper and what ain’t.