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Malfunction At The A.I. Bar
"Ma'am, the Bar10 did not malfunction."
By Yoga Arif Posted in Short Story on 2023-01-24 0 Comments 11 min read
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“Why did you bring me here? You know I don’t drink alcohol,” Alan whispered to Capri as they entered a big room along with a dozen others.

“This event might be the answer to that issue,” Capri whispered back while her eyes were intrigued by a big object in the middle of the room. Almost as tall as the ceiling & covered in burgundy cloth.

“Oh, so now it is an issue?”

“After this, it won’t be,” a sharp whisper this time from Capri. “Besides, this is a hella exclusive event. Invite-only and I get to bring a plus one. So, why wouldn’t I take you with me?”

Alan has no reply for that side point. The fact that the room is in the VIP section of the most luxurious restaurant in Arum Reda did not escape Alan. Neither were the tiger-and-ox-themed tall white vases at every corner of the room that must be worth millions. Nor the dozen of the subtly wealthy type guests around him — something that Capri taught him to notice in one of their early date nights.

It is precisely why he was whispering in the first place. A woman in a green dress is already eyeing Alan with a look of disapproval. There’s a pressure to keep up appearances, to behave among these wealthy folks. More than what he is accustomed to. Alan doesn’t feel more out of place than the usual, nor he feels underdressed, but he did notice the sly pieces of accessories these people wore. Some rings there, timepieces here, necklaces and earrings, bags, shoes, custom pins, and even tattoos. Exquisite items that only the immensely wealthy can obtain out of boredom or identity crisis. It’s quite hard to understand, these humans. How Capri scored the invite is also another mystery to Alan, but it’s an exciting kind of mystery. Alan likes that.

“I appreciate that,” Alan then replied, “Scratch that — I appreciate you.”

“I know, silly. Now shush,” Capri whispered again, sweetly, to end the bickering.

The room then got dimmer, making quietness reigns almost instantly. A casually dressed man emerges from behind the object with the air of a magician about to introduce his newest trick. Capri has a suspicion that whatever it is inside that cover, it’s gotta be this man’s baby.

“Thank you for showing up, everyone. As you know, I’m Irwin. And this is what you’ve been hearing about and dying to try,” he yanked the velvet burgundy cover, revealing the object, “The Bar10.”

Alan held his chuckle well at the wordplay, but Capri still notices. They shared a smirk.

It was a bar. Not a bartender robot, as Capri expected, but a bar. A tall bar with bottles of drinks on the tall shelf, a four-meter wide bar top with a marble finish, and three bar stools connected to the whole thing. No one is behind the bar. Which somehow made the impression of a fancy bar-shaped vending machine to Alan than a classy bar where the bartender is crouching down. He didn’t say it out loud because it’s not the right time to crack jokes.

“This is the first A.I.-powered bar, your personal artisan bartender,” Irwin continues to explain why everyone in there should be more in awe. He did add a joke about him naming it 8Bar but not sure if he can make 16Bar. Capri & Alan agreed that one was hit-and-miss.

Based on what Irwin is explaining, the guests — who came in pairs — are to stand in line at the barstool to experience the mindblowing drinks made by Bar10. After yapping for about three minutes, Irwin finally mentioned one of the unique features that intrigued Capri in the first place: Bar10 can determine one’s favorite drink based on a person’s biology. A precise mix to satisfy one’s palate, with a 97% success rate. Irwin proceeds to demonstrate the Bar10 capabilities by making him his perfect cocktail  — and he’s a neat drinker who didn’t even like cocktails.

Capri likes Negroni, but Irwin said Bar10 might surprise them by coming up with something better than their favorite. Something that even they probably haven’t tried. This is especially good for Alan: his first try at alcohol is going to be his favorite. Capri gets giddy just thinking about it.

“This machine really works?” Alan whispered again. The woman in green glanced at both of them, this time with annoyance mixed with disgust.

Capri doesn’t care one bit. “He said 97% and Arum Reda is the fifth city Bar10 visited. I say good odds.”

*

Bar10 beeps repeatedly when it’s Alan’s turn. Irwin’s responded with what Capri knew as a “huh” face. His face basically said “that’s weird” or “that’s a first.”

Irwin and his IT assistant came over to the first barstool where Alan is seated. Everybody else has already enjoyed their drink. The woman in green got a dirty martini from the second barstool, and now already slurping her second drink with little grace. Capri knows who that is, she knows what to say if that woman ever wants to cause trouble this evening.

“Sir, could you try again and put your palm on the bar?” Irwin said.

Alan shrugs and does exactly that. Bar10 scans Alan’s hand for the third time and beeps again. The other hand gave the same result.

“Let me try,” Capri puts her palm on the marble bar top. She allowed Alan to go first, but now she’s curious.

A delightful sound of a bell rings from Bar10, signaling a success. In less than 90 seconds the bar top opens up. A glass of Negroni rises up from inside the hole. Capri mumbled “Mmmmm” quite loudly on the first sip of the best Negroni she ever tastes.

This stumped Irwin. He studied the modest-looking man in front of him with care, searching for something out of the ordinary. His lifework can’t be tricked, so what’s happening?

“Sir, do you carry anything that might interfere with the technology? Or do you have any implants, any metal planted in any of your palms?”

Alan shrugs again, “None whatsoever. I just brought my phone, here.”

Alan gave his phone to Capri. Irwin asked him to try again only for Bar10 to beep again. Irwin knows the probability of a phone interfering with his tech is minuscule, now that it’s out of the way, he needs to figure out the real cause. The scene starts to intrigue the rest of the guests. Some of them gather around to see what’s up, though a few Capri bets also want to see how Irwin deals with problems.

Irwin keeps his composure. He instructed the crew to bring Alan water to wash his hand. A fancy silver basin with warm water and a small towel arrives. Alan did what was instructed. He tried all three stools and Bar10 beeps still.

At that point, Irwin sighs and goes behind the bar.

“Apologies, Sir. This is very unlikely to happen. As a matter of fact, this never happened after we launched Bar10. The calibration was perfect, never off.”

“Nah, it’s alright. Maybe it’s not my lucky day.”

Irwin chuckled, “Luck has and must not have anything to do with this, Sir.”

All calibration is intact, and nothing changed. A few of the other guests including Capri tried the Bar10 again with no issues.

“Does me never drink any alcohol have something to do with it?” Alan asked.

“No, it’s not,” Irwin responded instantly, “It shouldn’t matter.”

“Shouldn’t? Is it really unlikely?” Capri chimed in with her third glass of Negroni, hiding her annoyance quite masterfully with a curious tone, “If it’s not that, what’s the matter then? What’s more likely and what’s more unlikely than that?”

Irwin, still composed, crosses his arms. His empty stare shows his brain is going full speed to determine the true issue of why his Bar10 doesn’t work only on Alan. It’s clearly not Alan because he had him do every procedure necessary. The calibration has no fault either, as proven by how it works exactly as before for every other guest. And yet, the A.I. still can’t process Alan’s information.

“You must’ve missed something, young man,” one of the guests said.

“Or the Bar10 finally malfunction for the first time. This is good because you can fix it now,” another one added.

“He did say 97%, maybe this guy is part of the 3%.”

“Maybe he doesn’t belong here.” It was the woman in green. Capri turns around and gives her a look like nothing in this world is worth any less. Not even shit.

“You say that as if you belong on that 30-under-30 list just because your step-father owned your company and he just happened to fuck your mom.”

Some of the guests reacted with “ooh”, confirming the truth in what Capri said, and some others barely managed to hold their laugh.

“HOW DARE YOU?!”

“Ooh, nothing strikes true like the truth, huh? Go to the corner, you basic nepo-bitch, and fuck that oxen vase. It looks like it’s your type.”

The woman in green was about to come at Capri to slap her but seeing Capri holding her now empty glass with the intent to throw it at her face, she seeks shelter behind her cowardice and stands down as if she has any dignity left.

Alan doesn’t seem to get any of the insults but he’s glad the room takes Capri’s side and that he doesn’t have to physically intervene. Capri throws a wink at Alan, which made him want to come over and kiss her right then and there. But he knows now is not the place for that. Alan looks back at Irwin who’s standing behind the bar with a serious face, indifferent to the scene happening with his guests.

After a few moments, Irwin took a deep breath. “Let me try something. Please wait here.”

*

Capri just finished her fourth glass when Irwin came back. A few technicians and security persons came out from the back and outside into the big room. They seemed to load something in the back of Bar10 while Irwin was tinkering with the calibration. Alan has said a couple of times that they should just leave instead, but Capri said it’d be impolite. The Negroni did not help much to Alan’s cause either.

“Okay, we’re ready,” Irwin finally announced, “Sir, please put your palm on the bar.”

The sighs of relief of every guest except Alan filled the room when Bar10 rings that delightful bell. A glass of clear liquor with ice came up the bar top. Alan shared a glance with Capri, who gave him her shrug. Irwin gave a nod, with a held-back smile. Alan shrugged, took the glass, and drink the whole thing. Alan placed the glass back down with a satisfied face that he trained all week.

Seeing Alan still sitting comfortably and fine instead of passing out on the floor and vomiting all kinds of hell, every technician and security personnel in the room pull out their guns and pointed them at Alan. Irwin, too. A few guests shouted profanities out of shock. Capri froze and dropped her empty glass.

“The fuck is this?!” Capri shouted in protest. Alan, however, stays calmly seated where he is. As relaxed as he probably shouldn’t be.

“Ma’am, the A.I. did not malfunction. Bar10 couldn’t read him,” Irwin said calmly. Alan sees the sweat rolling down Irwin’s face, “and what he drank was jet fuel, which proved what I feared. No matter how unlikely.”

“Jet fuel!” Alan grins, “Irwin, you clever man.”

“Everybody stand back,” Irwin said. His voice trembles, “He’s not a human.”

Fantasy Short Story


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