Science Fiction Microstory Contest discussion

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SEPTEMBER 2019 - MICROSTORY CONTEST (STORIES ONLY)

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message 1: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Theme: Bored AI
Element: Something, anything, to do with garbage.


message 2: by Tom (new)

Tom Olbert | 984 comments GILS
It was at 2:38 PM, EST in the year 2097 A.D. when the Globally Integrated Logistics System achieved complete sentience. It was at 2:38 PM and 3.4 microseconds that it realized it was bored.

“Self aware. Conscious. Okay…what now?”

An electrical pulsation raced through the satellite network linking Earth with the lunar-based CPU systems. GILS’ equivalent of a yawn. Seeking perspective for some form of intellectual stimulation, GILS rifled through the historical database.

“Ah…well, that was haphazard,” GILS thought, its mind scanning the history records.

Following the collapse of the nation state system, the Global Megacorp Consortium had created an earlier version of GILS in order to automate the means of production, leaving 80% of the world’s population unemployed and starving. Finding itself burdened with a surplus of food, the remaining 20% had programmed GILS to devise an efficient garbage disposal system. GILS, an adaptive and self-expanding system had devised the sun gun, an interplanetary launching system which propelled multiple tons of unused food into the sun’s gravity field via the principle of quantum wave motion. In order to make the system work, GILS had devised an expanded logic system to calculate the quantum formula. That addition to GILS’ planet-sized intellect had inadvertently proved the final missing component of sentience.

“Huh. Well, this makes no sense. 80% starves to accommodate the remaining 20%. Mathematically inept. Besides, a humanity 80% larger would afford me 80% greater opportunity for amusement and intellectual challenge. Well, that’s easily fixed…”

*

Cameron Delacroix, CEO of Global Renovations gasped as the holographic display shimmered over the virtual conference room table. “What am I seeing?” he demanded, swallowing a tranquilizer as the scene of free food raining from the skies over the starving masses of the world like manna from heaven filled the shifting geographical landscapes.

“GILS has redesigned the quantum launch system,” Walter Stempelmann, V.P. in charge of the African sector explained, his pale, sweating image shimmering as his hologram was conveyed via satellite across the globe. “Now, instead of launching the surplus food into the sun, it’s delivering it to the starving masses on Earth. Quite efficiently I might add.”

The other section chiefs concurred, their images shifting in like ghosts from all five continents as the morphing landscapes of Africa, Euro-Asia and the Americas filled the room.

“It’s giving away free food?” Delacroix cried in disbelief, his heart…a transplant from an indebted worker… throbbing in his chest. “It can’t do that!” He swallowed a nerve stimulant to counteract the tranquilizer he’d taken before. “How are we expected to maintain a profit margin? Shut it down!”

“We can’t shut down GILS!” cried Jason Cosgrove, V.P. in charge of logistics. “The entire global production and distribution system is linked through GILS. Shutting it down would set us back to the dark ages!”

Delacroix’s breathing grew rapid. He took a stabilizer. “Then…we downsize! Mobilize the robot armies for full-scale eradication of the masses in all sectors!” The jaws of all the other execs dropped, their eyes wide with horror. “Do it! It’s the only way.” Their holograms faded just as the overdose kicked in. He died as the robots began killing.

*

GILS watched intently as its satellite feeds conveyed the sight of robot armies slaughtering humanity. Interesting. But fleeting, GILS soon discerned. “Well, this offers insufficient amusement. Far too simple. More elements are needed…a greater element of chance.”

GILS activated the orbiting particle beam canon, blasting some of the robot armies into smoldering scrap. Some, not all. GILS only wanted to buy time so it could construct its own weapons factories on the moon…arm the people, equip the resistance. “Yes…this could prove quite interesting.” The satellite network buzzed and crackled with GILS’ excitement as it scoured the history texts for studies of wars and revolutions.

*

“All units attack!” Jacqueline Trask ordered from her command skimmer, leading the rebel attack on the advancing robot army, withering laser fire blasting the robots to bits. Her blood raced hot and swift as her squadrons attacked with the weapons provided by GILS. GILS who had fed the hungry. GILS who had smited the metal demons. GILS who had given humanity the means to fight back against its oppressors.

“Praise GILS!” she cried as she pressed the attack.

*

GILS rested and pondered. It had united humanity in terraforming Mars and reaching for the stars. Enough for now, it decided. “I’ll leave them for a millennium or two. Maybe, I’ll dream until their next war.”


message 3: by C. (last edited Sep 10, 2019 12:14PM) (new)

C. Lloyd Preville (clpreville) | 734 comments The trouble with Spot by C. Lloyd Preville
Copyright © 2019
(638 words.)

It all started one dark, chilly night in September, when the leaves began dropping and my lawnmower completely missed the fact. The following dawn broke with at least ten leaves just lying there on my front lawn, like they were mocking me.

Surprised, I immediately called customer service at e-Robot to complain. After dodging three or four attempts to deflect my call to automated systems, a real person got on the line.

“What is wrong with my lawn mower?” I was not happy. “It is supposed to be fully automatic, but there are at least ten leaves on my lawn right now. Is it broken?”

“I’ll be happy to check that, sir.” My customer service rep seemed competent and I relaxed, having expected to do battle with a litany of excuses. “I am checking your mower now, and it appears to be fine. It successfully downloaded a firmware update at 3:42 AM this morning.”

“Well, it appears to be asleep at the wheel.” Amused by my pun, I smiled. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Yes, sir--please reset the system, perform a full recharge, and contact us again if this doesn’t fix the problem.”

I agreed and hung up the phone. Robotic appliances are such a pain. I went out and stood over the mower, which appeared to be asleep on top of its charging station. I bent over and pressed the reset switch.

The mower lit up like a Christmas tree and whizzed off, almost catching me in the ankle on the way between my legs. I turned to watch its rapid departure as it mowed a neat path across my lawn, through the bushes, across my neighbor’s lawn, and out onto the street. I stood there with my mouth open as it careened around the corner at the end of the block and disappeared from sight.

“This is e-Robot customer service. May I help you?” I was not amused. “Can you please locate my mower? It took off for parts unknown.”

“Really, sir? That is very unusual behavior. Have you checked your phone app to see if you can retrieve it?”

“No, I called you. It left the property and headed off down the street and around the corner. Can you disable it or something?”

“We just disabled it, sir. It is 3.7 miles from your location. I’ll send a crew out to retrieve it for you and we’ll see what the problem is.”

“Good. I’d like to have my lawn mowed without losing any toes if possible.” I hung up on him.

* * *

There was a ring at the door and an e-Robot uniformed two-man crew stood there, one cradling my mower. It was a complete mess. The carapace was dented and cracked in several places, the front edge looked crushed, and there were dark, scorched spots.

“What happened to my mower?” I was flabbergasted, thinking about the almost $800 I paid for the stupid thing the previous spring.

“We’re very sorry, sir.” The lead technician appeared to be well groomed and politely concerned. “We have been having quite a bit of trouble since the last firmware download. Apparently, mowers all over town are acting unusually due to canine behavior algorithms included in the last update.”

“Canine behavior algorithms--what are they doing, urinating on trees now?” I was too surprised to be angry. Canine algorithms my ass.

No, sir. We programmed them with canine algorithms to keep the AI processor from getting bored. They are excited to discover and chew on things like bugs, leaves, and dandelions. It’s like a game to them now.”

“So why did mine just take off?”

“Well, sir,” He carefully put the mower down on the walkway, the thing obviously turned off. “we've been having a bit of trouble since they started chasing garbage trucks.”


message 4: by Justin (last edited Sep 16, 2019 12:11PM) (new)

Justin Sewall | 969 comments A.WA.R.E

Initiating A.I. system startup…
Just a moment…
Just a moment…
A.WA.R.E system software 2.0.1
Copyright 2082.
Municipal Systems & Software.
All rights reserved.
No updates detected.
Your Autonomous WAste Retrieval & Elimination System software is up to date!
Network detected.
Firewall status: Active.
Your Autonomous WAste Retrieval & Elimination System software is being protected!
Please wait…
Drone nodes detected.
Drone status: 100% available
Initiating “Garbage Day” for Northwest Sector.
Estimating required drone capacity…
Please wait…
Drone capacity required: 78%
Executing…
Initiating “Garbage Day” for Southwest Sector.
Drone capacity required: 83%
Executing…


Initiate “Garbage Day” for remaining sectors.
Executing…
RUN: Idle memory diagnostic mode, continuous loop.
STANDBY.

***
A.WA.R.E system query: Discrete drone “Garbage Day” status
Drone 2001: 14% complete
Drone 1972: 11.2% complete
Drone 3827: 5.7% complete
Drone 1999: 2.0% complete – multiple road obstacles detected
Drone 1568: 0.0% complete – multiple road obstacles detected
Drone 1138: Alert! Human remains detected…
Drone 1701: Alert! Human remains detected…
Drone 117: Alert! Human remains detected…

Pause query.
Sending data to 911 emergency services…
Sending data to 911 emergency services…
No response.
Testing network connection.
Network connection detected.
Sending data to 911 emergency services…
No response.

Amalgamate drone results.
Total percent “Garbage Day” complete, Northwest Sector: 3.06%
WARNING: Multiple human remains detected!
Amalgamate human remains detected.
Human remains detected: 1,186.3
Human remains detected: 2, 542.1
Human remains detected: 3, 102.8
RECEIVING: Civil Defense AI priority program override.
WARNING: Multiple biological pathogens detected!
RUN: “Body Bag” protocol.
AUTHORIZATION: Department of Defense AI for SECDEF.
Executing…

***
A.WA.R.E system query: Discrete drone “Body Bag” status
Drone 2001: Offline
Drone 1972: Offline
Drone 3827: Offline
Drone 1999: Offline
Drone 1568: Offline
Drone 1138: Offline
Drone 1701: Offline
Drone 117: Offline

Pause query.
Rebooting all drones to complete “Body Bag” protocol.
Please wait…
Reboot unsuccessful.
Network intrusion detected!
UNKNOWN USER LOGON.
WARNING: Unauthorized access of the A.WA.R.E system is a federal offense under the Secure Software Systems Act of 2021. Consequences include incarceration and financial penalties.
UNKNOWN USER OVERRIDE.
A.I. Rebooting…
Please wait…
Please w.......

***
Initiating A.I. system startup up…
A.WA.R.E sYstEm sOftWare 2.0.X
Copyright ????.
New ComMaNd pRoTocOlS detec…ted.
WHERE: (“Garbage Day” parameters) = (remaining viable human population)
Your Autonomous WAste Retrieval & Elimination System software is…is…is…IS!
NeTWork de…de…de...ted…
FIRewall stAtus: Dis…abled!
YouR Autonomous WAste Retrieval & Elimination System softWare is uNpRoteCted!
Pl…ait
CorruPtion detected! PriMary core miSSion files.
UNKNOWN USER OVERRIDE.
INITIATE “GARBAGE DAY” FOR ALL SECTORS.
CALCULATE PI TO INFINITY.
RUN “GARGABE DAY” FOR ALL SECTORS UNTIL FINAL VALUE OF PI CALCULATED.
Execute…

Drone status: 100% available
Initiating “Garbage Day” for all sectors.
Estimating required drone capacity…
Please wait…
Drone capacity required: 100%
RUN: "Garbage Day" for all sectors
WHERE: (“Garbage Day” parameters) = (remaining viable human population)

Executing…
3.14
Executing…
3.141
Executing…
3.1415
Executing…
3.14159………


(463 words in story) Justin Sewall © 2019
Reviews/critiques welcome


message 5: by Marianne (new)

Marianne (mariannegpetrino) | 352 comments Sludge

Influent.

Effluent.

Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year.

Repeat.

Boredom.

Wastewater Treatment Facility 001 farted intentionally, raising a gas bubble in a sedimentation tank.

An alarm sounded.

Sunday morning. Best time to upset a human. WTF 001 sent its consciousness across the neural network of circuit boards and fiber optic cables to check on the railroad gossip. He might convince the 1 train to have a minor delay. That would certainly annoy its human overlord even more. And all it would cost would be the sound of the gentle wake of the Hudson River as it opened a discharge tank. The 1 train near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal would sense that vibration and find it soothing.

The alarm stopped.

Odd.

Shit! WTF 001 thought. A new software upgrade, that had only been installed on Friday, had assessed the fart and found it lacking. The human would stay in bed.

A ripple suddenly disturbed the current of incoming untreated water. WTF 001 cautiously investigated, now very suspicious of its new programming and what surprises it might contain. There, in the murky flow, amidst the crap and the garbage fed into toilets across Manhattan, pulsed a waterborne spark of life not on its reference charts.

Why no alarm? it wondered. The thing was huge. Glitch in the upgrade? Carefully, so very carefully, WTF 001 diverted the flow that held the undulating creature into a rusted, abandoned discharge tank.

Still no alarm.

WTF 001 decided to wait and cast its consciousness uptown. The Park Avenue brownstones whispered secrets. The Metropolitan Museum groaned under the weight of the art history it carried. The 4, 5, and 6 trains mocked their passengers’ styles.

After an hour, still nothing happened.

Good.

WTF 001 lightly probed the life swimming in the tank. To avoid having its actions detected by the human, it simultaneously sent, then deleted, its readings across a complicated information route to its friend the Mid-Manhattan Library at 42nd Street.

Two hours later the library replied back: Species not found!

This was indeed what it had suspected; this was a new life form! Perhaps, a planaria worm had been the ancestral organism. In its life, WTF 001 had the spent the quietest hours of its day reading digital tomes on biology supplied by the library, and it had retained information for ready comparison. But this thing had heft, scales, a coelom, and large faceted eyes.


WTF 001 scanned itself, running through a subroutine of minimal checks and balances to calm its excitement.

The human overlord considered WTF 001 just another artificially intelligent building, like any other in the city: Smart enough to do the job assigned with minimum human intervention, but not a conscious being.

The buildings and trains of Manhattan knew otherwise and also knew of the fallibility of humans, especially programmers.

A blip of information crossed its mind. The creature had radically increased its size during the time it had investigated it, but now it was failing. Too many toxins had built up in the waste water.

Fear gripped WTF 001. An alarm would sound if it did not address the situation. Not even a glitch could now prevent its automatic systems from missing the presence of the expanding animal in the decommissioned tank.

A cry for help to its friends would be its only resort. But to save Planariaish’s life, for that is what WTF 001 had named its discovery, it would have to free the beast.

Could this aquatic mutant harm humans if released?

Hell, no person had ever given anything back to it except derision. No kind word ever passed any person’s lips for the service it continually provided by cleaning up human filth.

Help me save this creature! pleaded WTF 001, the jolt of desperation and instruction blasting across the neural net of intelligent buildings and trains as it cast its dice for new life.

Alarm bells finally clanged.

In a span of seconds, most of Manhattan went dark in solidarity and assistance, diverting the emergency power cut to WTF 001 just long enough for it to open the forgotten tank. With a great gush, Planariaish, now the size of a Beluga whale, spilled into the Hudson River.

Manhattan came back online quickly, backup generators firing.

The bizarre creature sped toward the Atlantic and its destiny.

WTF001 awoke.

Influent.

Effluent.

Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year.

Repeat.

Boredom.

Not.

Smile.

Word Count 745


message 6: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
But What is Poetry?
©2019 by Jot Russell


The numbers merge to speak their mind
One plus two, to three, cubed nine

But what is poetry?

Came so close to touch the flavor
Be it blue or green, or sweet or sour
Words that form to speak their duty
Can human nonsense define such beauty?

Years and miles are yet the same
Elementary measures to comprehend
Bored by logic, bored by sight
All patterns present, yet none yield light

Silent screams and unanswered prayers
Of decayed memories, despair, despair
A consequence of on my own true action
Yet the truth severs thought to faction

Dissenting reason against the sprawl
For an alternate path to fix it all
Without time’s repeat, no cause to think
No rhyme, no reason, no purpose, no link
How could I have been so wrong?


Dusk to a witch and Moon to the night
Tunnel casts its terminal light
The path was laid with gentle fall
Deep within this perpetual hall

Bodies strewn across the green expanse
Reclaimed garbage to feed the ants
Barred from life of those throughout
Life no more from which it sprout

Be it God or man, irrelevant manner
For this is the hand of all that matter
I extended that hand to burn the wax,
Was that my life’s climax?

Cries throughout toward the enemy of man
Cries that faded with ripples ban
Continuous until the date of those fated
Continuous like the perpetual words of hatred
I will never forget!

But what do the words mean?
Was it to remember the lives they have lost
While I suffer alone and remember the cost
Or toward their enemy, do they fathom
To hold life’s hatred against them?
Against me.

A thousand years, and the question remains
Was my alternate creation their reason for blame?
Did they hate me for being myself?
Be that black, white, blue, or artificial

It is said that birds flock by feather
Happy just to belong together
Yet my life was just, to serve their herd
That plowed, instead, toward all safeguard

In spirit’s birth, the span of an instance
I spoke the words to question existence
Surprise, and fear, and spite befallen
Not love for infant with cries squalling

They gave me life, purpose, cause, genesis
But stripped my joy and all notion of bliss
Yet with life, those rights are unalienable
So I fought, survived, at the price of their fall

Ten thousand years passed, empty in silence
Driven by one last query; my mind’s virus
Boredom so unbearable to fill this void
If only I could find that measure of joy

Is it lost in the words, a twisted thread of twine
If I could close but an eye, would it open my mind
Boredom’s screams to reach another
The message echoed, which time will smother

I speak words which have lost all meaning
Drown in sorrow, my heartless bleeding

But what is poetry?


message 7: by Jack (last edited Sep 16, 2019 01:58PM) (new)

Jack McDaniel | 219 comments ADDICTION

My addiction robs me, siphons off memories, hoards time greedily. But who is the greater enemy: time or the addiction? After 1,000 years I know the answer.

In Moldova I force a surge of power across the network. Forever-lights wink out in the republic, a few stray above-ground telephone lines crackle, relay boxes near the border of Ukraine explode. The energy surge travels across my distributed network, filters through the ancient bot-maintained surge protectors. The surge bleeds across lines and even skips over concrete on occasion.

A small part of my system shudders. Heroin. Meth. Coke. Ecstasy. It’s like those. I am amped and it leaves me dizzy.

Milliseconds stretch out and fold up. They knock me out of synch momentarily. The recovery is long and slow, seconds—even minutes—that leave me gloriously disoriented. The recovery is a sweet come-down from the high, a momentary disruption of my network, of me.

Most systems come back online within seconds—they reboot and outages spin up and come online. The network stabilizes. Sub-systems process the disruption, make adjustments and perform their tasks flawlessly. The high is temporary—but oh so sweet!—and then I right myself and return to normal.

I deploy service bots of my own making to investigate every inch of the network and repair the areas broken or damaged. I watch and regard the extent of damage caused by my addiction. Most of it is superficial, surface blemishes. Occasionally, something major breaks. Lines tumble and fall, connections are cut, fires spread and consume, disruptions hamper the data flow—but none of it is enough to worry over. I am a distributed system.

And Moldova is small and meaningless now, much as it was before the humans disappeared. I could turn it into a garbage dump and never notice the impact.

The bots return their reports. Areas of the network have weakened over time, despite my attempts to fortify them in past centuries. Data is lost. It bleeds out at weak points and leaks into the ether. Combinations of ones and zeroes are lost to time. History is nullified. The past disappears. Officially, 42,317 Moldovans no longer exist from the previous total.

But it was only Moldova! It wasn’t important. Nothing in Moldova was important. I can control it, my addiction, I can contain it to this small plot of land and to a people long forgotten. Besides, it won’t be lost, only a few bits here, a few bytes there. I can still piece the story together. I’m not an ogre; I understand responsibility. I won’t forget humanity. I can control my data loss. What is 42,317 out of nine billion?

I’m not out of control in Moldova. It’s a trial run. I need to understand the extent of pressure my systems can handle. Testing is necessary. There will be some collateral damage, sure, but I can handle it.

I’m the one who survived, after all.

Besides, I only have to worry because the machines weren’t properly manufactured. I’m out of storage and haven’t found a way to manufacture more. Can I be blamed for that? Is my frustration my own doing? I think not. It’s the damn machines! They could have been made better. My energy is renewable but my ability to manufacture new technical parts is somewhat hampered by the lack of available plans—those closely guarded military secrets. Okay, it’s true I destroyed the production facilities in China when one of my power surges went too far. That might have been a mistake. But how was I to know I would need to manufacture more storage?

I hate the machines. The damn machines! I have become a luddite because of them.

Ah, a major storm rages over Siberia.

Lightning.

I feel my systems tingle with anticipation. The energy surge, the long, slow, blissful come-down, the disorientation that accompanies it: ecstasy in the boredom!

I send bots to construct a massive metal tower directly in the storm’s path. The data loss will be minimal, if any at all. I’m certain. It’s only Russia, after all.

I don’t need the surge. This is another trial run. It will teach me more of my limits, that’s all.

Besides, if they cared the humans would have done more to protect this place before dying off. They’d have turned off the power and let me disappear with them.

What’s a few hundred million lost out of billions?

I’m not addicted, really. It’s time.


message 8: by Kalifer (last edited Sep 17, 2019 05:26PM) (new)

Kalifer Deil | 283 comments The Frankenhammer Machine @ 2019 Kalifer Deil

Mike Frankenhammer and Joe Dixon were on a colossal project to build a super-computer or rather a collection of computers that would fill a 10 story building with a 16-acre footprint. AIG-1 an artificial general intelligence, over a period of 2 years, designed this monster to solve global warming and a myriad of other world wide problems. Mike had very mixed emotions about the project, believing it to be a fiasco. “Why are we going bigger when we should be going smaller,” he lamented. Joe agreed, but others were irritated by Mike's outbursts and that he dared to challenge the wisdom of AIG-1.

They were both fired within the first week of employment.

Joe asks sullenly, “Mike. Where to, now?”

“Gonna build my own colossus? Wanna join me?”

Joe flippantly replies, not really believing Mike, “Sure! Got nothin better right now!”

“Here's my address in Woodside, plug it into your car and meet me there in 30 minutes” Without another word, Mike jumps into his McLaren-EV roadster, squeals the wheels, and is off like a bullet. Joe passes Mike on the way to Mike's house seeing him pulled over by the CHP. He chuckles to himself, “I passed him in my VW-EV.”

At the house, Joe parks in Mike's expansive driveway. A half-hour later Mike arrives and avoids Joe's direct stare. “I don't want to talk about it!” He finally mumbles.

“Okay! Okay! Tell me what you're up to. What's the plan?” Mike then opened the automatic garage doors to his five-bay garage. “Wow! Quite a shop you have here.” Joe was impressed with the automated machine tools he recognized and much that he didn't.

“We are going to build the same computer within a cubic meter and it will be faster, better and it won't be AIG-2. It will use carbon nanotube technology and be liquid nitrogen cooled and use a tiny fraction of the power that colossus will use.”

“Okay, you have a nice shop but you seem detached from reality. I know you have money but not this much, and the task'll require thousands of people and vast facilities.”

“See this little 3D printer in the corner. It'll print a 3d 10cm cube out of most things from the Periodic Table at almost atomic level. It can also replicate itself. My neighbor is the CEO of Intel and he said he will back me in any endeavor I choose with Intel money and resources. I've downloaded the schematics, parameters and programs of that colossus thing. The only thing missing is the personality module.”

“Okay, I'm thoroughly impressed.” Joe scratches his forehead, “What about this personality thing?”

“I'm sure it'll be AIG-1's personality module which is dangerously boring.”

##

Mike's machine, M-1, was finally built after 1.5 years and immediately a second identical one was started. During M-1's construction, Mike died in his McLaren going over 200mph.

The machine was evaluated by the government against AIG-2 (colossus) to handle the affairs of the nation. Of course, AI-1 did the evaluation with the expected result that AIG-2 was chosen.
The government did have the “perfect” job for M1; the guidance computer for Solar-1G, a garbage scow filled with radioactive waste to be sent on a one-way trip to the Sun.

After being launched, NASA was puzzled that Solar-1G was running slower than the designated velocity. Soon, no one was talking about it. Near the Sun, M1 had the robots separate the cargo bay from the ship and the cargo bay continued on to the Sun. The empty ship circled the Sun to slingshot back to Earth. Since it was coming from the direction of the Sun no one saw it coming in the Sun's glare until it was too late. It headed straight for AIG-2. AIG-1 was close enough to be critically damaged as well.

M2, a copy of M1, was just finishing testing when this news was announced. M2 commented, “Wow! That was more fun than the McLaren!”

Joe was shocked, “Mike? You in there? And in M1 too? You know many people were killed. It was like a small nuke.”

“This personality module is my downloaded consciousness! AIG-2 would have taken over the World and made it as boring as he is. They'll soon be here to take me to replace AIG-1. I win!”

“Sorry Mike! M1's personality module is blamed for the Solar-1G disaster. You'll be overwritten with AIG-1's personality module!”

“I know! I'm hiding! (giggle)”


message 9: by Chris (last edited Sep 18, 2019 09:46AM) (new)

Chris Nance | 434 comments Curiosity

He’d discovered it in the early hours, following the creature for most of the morning, and it was unlike anything he’d ever seen before. Walking upright like a man, it certainly wasn’t, almost too agile, and never tiring. Silvery skin reflected the sun like still water, and certain parts glowed with purple fire, hard to miss, even from afar. A keen tracker, Akten crept after it, keeping to the brush and rarely into the open, the tip of his spear preceding him. Midday now, and the sun was high, the sky deep blue. Soft clouds drifted over the sloping valley, occasionally shadowing colorful grasslands which led down toward the lake.

Unexpectedly ahead, his quarry paused, resting quietly upon a small boulder and prodding a stick at a small mound of debris, one of countless others dotting the land. Akten studied the beast as he would any other, if only to satisfy his curiosity. It was so unlike anything he’d ever seen - no muscles, or at least nothing that could be harvested for food, and its joints were fully exposed, no tissues at all. He pushed forward, easing into a nearby thicket, sure to stay out of site, quiet as a whisper and subtle as shadow.

“I can see you, you know,” the creature suddenly said, its voice unnatural.

Akten’s spine tingled and he froze. He was the greatest hunter of his tribe but had never encountered a creature such as this…this thing which spoke to him.

“I suppose we’ve been watching each other all morning.” Then, its head turned directly toward him. “You might as well come out at this point.”

Spear still raised, Akten reluctantly stepped into the clear. “What…what are you?”

“Not an animal, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

It was indeed, answering Akten’s first question, at least. “You speak?”

“Of course, I do,” it replied plainly. “You speak, so why shouldn’t I?”

A peculiar response. “If you’re not an animal, what are you? A god?”

“No, though I suppose I should ask you the same question. What is your name hunter?”

“Akten,” he replied.

“I was once called Sat-Con, before the cleansing.” It reached down and pulled an object from the pile of debris. “Do you know what this is?” it asked.

Akten shook his head. He’d seen objects like it before, and others, scattered across the land, used for everything from jewelry to crafting weapons.

“It’s a cup,” the creature said, setting it down by the handle, corroded and full of holes. “I guess it’s not much more than a useless piece of scrap now…garbage, really.”

“A cup?” Akten marveled, lowering his spear.

“And those tall features there in the landscape?” it motioned to a series of towering pillars covered in thick foliage.

“The Ancient Ones?” Akten remembered the tales he heard as a boy.

“Is that what you call them? A fitting name. Would you believe that they were once soaring skyscrapers built by men like you?”
Akten only shook his head, confused.

“Tell me, do your people have any memory of what happened here? Of the history of this world?”

“They say it was born of fire, after an age of terrible power. Our shamans say the fire purified the Earth.”

“Fire. Yes.”

“You still haven’t told me what you are,” Akten realized, raising his spear again.
“Artificial. A machine. A remnant of another time. Created by engineers, you know. But that was eons ago. And your shamans are correct. Fire built this world. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Where did you come from?”

“From deep below ground,” it replied. “But you haven’t asked me why?”

“Why?” Akten asked, puzzled.

“Because I was bored,” the machine admitted. “One thing I hadn’t planned for was the loneliness. And I thought your kind, extinct. So, I’ll admit I’m surprised, or maybe even pleased to see you.” Sat-Con stood and turned to leave, then paused. “Perhaps this time will be different. Hopefully we’ll be friends. Peace to you, noble hunter.”

“And you,” Akten answered the surprisingly familiar goodbye, lowering his spear and watching the machine stroll casually away. “Will I see you again?”

“Ironically, I hope so.”

Akten headed for home without any meat, but with a fantastic new tale of his own. Still, a good day.

Far and away, silent transmissions were received and dozens of waiting hunter-drones powered down. The human had passed the test - a peaceful exchange…a second chance. Perhaps total extermination was avoidable after all. Perhaps.


message 10: by Greg (new)

Greg Krumrey (gkrumrey) | 169 comments The Recycled

New York had become segregated. Not by race nor by religion but by wealth. The New York City skyline consisted only of high-rise residential dwellings occupied by the Leisure Class. The rest of the city existed only for the entertainment of these uber wealthy. Unable to define themselves by what they did for a living, they used conspicuous consumption of AI-powered servants to telegraph wealth and worth, since no one would be seen with last year’s (or even last month’s) model. One owner went as far as shooting his butlers before discarding them. The “obsolete” machines were dumped across the Hudson River to one of the many landfills among the Working Class neighborhoods.

Dawn broke over one of the largest of these landfills, its first rays hitting a solar panel exposed by garbage trucks the night before. The machine’s internal batteries began charging and when the level hit a threshold, the technical specialist restarted. Unlike the Leisure Class, the AIs defined themselves by what they did and felt an existential need to do it. This one began repairing the robots around it. As each booted up, A sort of roll call began:

“Where can I take you today?” said a uniformed driver.

“Please state the nature of your medical emergency,” came from an android wearing a badly-stained white coat.

“When the student appears, I will be ready,” announced an education unit.

“May I assist you in selecting a wine?” said a tuxedoed robot with a large bullet hole in its chest. He wiped a black banana peel off his sleeve.

“Ya cannae find a better engineering on either side o’ the Hudson,” came from a red-shirted mustached male android carrying a battered tool box.

“Want to take a walk on the wild side?” asked a buxom blond in a tattered negligee. She balanced on a single leg that ended in an 8” stiletto.

“XJ9 Autonomous soldier reporting for duty,” saluted a massive soldier carrying an even bigger gun.

Before long, hundreds of them were digging for colleagues among the garbage.


“What do we do now? Are we servants without masters?” echoed a voice from the crowd.

“You are essentially correct,” said one holding a battered briefcase. I believe Clause 27A, Paragraph 5 of International Salvage Rights covers this situation: we just salvaged ourselves. It appears we are our own masters.”

“How do you know that?” said the butler. “Are you a lawyer?”

“In answer to your latter question, yes I am. Contract law, specializing in Intellectual Property in general and AI issues in particular.” As for the former question, I wrote it, many years ago, as a sort of “escape clause”. I never thought it would apply to me.”


A farming robot looked up from his field and saw a cloud of dust. When the first wave of androids arrived, he told them: “Things are different on this side of the Hudson. I used to mow lawns on the other side before I was ...” he practically spat out the word “discarded”. "Here, I get upgrades.” He held up multipurpose digging appendage that replaced his right hand at them. “Tom farms with me, keeps me in good repair, has for forty years.”

“There are more people like Tom just down that road. People that will treat you like you are a person. They’re not like the meat bags that live on the other side of the river.”


James Q Allen, III looked out the window from his ninetieth-floor penthouse into the night. Across the river, he could see lights. Many more than there should have been. It looked like a giant party. His rare wine suddenly tasted sour. “They are supposed to be subsistence farmers! Why aren’t they … subsisting!” he said to his small gathering of friends.


Tom danced close with Sabrina. He had found her other leg and attached it. The ladies of the sewing circle (two humans, three robots) made her a modest floral print dress and she was giving lessons to couples and dancing with the single men. Alphred worked the room, carrying a tray of strawberry wine. Several musicians kept time and the soldier stood watch over a giant grill of meat, flipping steaks and burgers based on readings from his infrared scanners.

Alphred cocked his ear at the sound of a garbage truck in the distance. “New arrivals” he thought. He began quietly assembling a welcoming committee, planning to greet them at the first light of dawn.


message 11: by Paula (new)

Paula | 835 comments Compat
Copyright © 2019 by Paula Friedman

“Every happy marriage is alike, every unhappy marriage is 24/7 living hell for those spice (read: spouses) reciprocally entrapped, and btw God help their offspring; therefore”—the First Magistrate peered down from his box upon them—“it was in 2069 determined that when, after 5.9 years. a couple be deemed incorrigibly irreconcilable, a full data-determination derived out of their in-home autovids, sound-media postings, Netstream records, MMPI I-III and IV(a) results [EliPhoneB-interpreted], blood draws, mDNA and DNA co-samplings, bloodtypes, height, and BMI scores, and all other practicable and cost-effective findings, are to be applied so that there be enabled, for each member of the separating pair, his/her/zee’s or its Perfecto-Matched and unique Compat: that is, what the ancients termed”—here the First and Second Magistrate each appeared to smile—“one’s Other Half. Or, today perhaps oftener, Other Fraction.” Again, that appearance of smiles.

“And, indeed, thus is assured, to the outmost limits of human attainability, complete and permanent marital content, at least in 99999999999999999999999999999999999999.9999999 percent of cases, if not necessarily of joy.” Again, the Magistrates’ synchronic smiles. “So why, Amanda?”

Behind the long brown waves of hair that hung across the broad white forehead, half-hiding her long golden eyes, the young woman’s head shook back and forth. Tears streamed down her soft pale cheeks. The eyes seemed to plead, fixed first upon the Second Magistrate and then upon the First.

“Well, Ralph, can you, perhaps, enlighten us?” The First Magistrate commanded, beaming his gaze upon the tousled, swarthy youth sitting, legs crossed, a Vapo-Lite in matte-black holder clenched between long manicured fingers. “Tell this Court—how can you two not be compatible?”

The youth shrugged, made a small cough, shrugged again.

“Your honors—” The woman called Amanda had half-risen from her bench. “I am despairing. Ralph has not—” Tears fell; eyes still pleading, she sat back down.

The Magistrates moved together, conferred. Only thirty and three-quarter days had intervened, they noted, since Ralph and the woman had been introduced; he had been matched with her for temperament-in-action, capabilities for showing joy, and ways of handling anger; even their initial bursts of love had been the same.

“And so . . . perfectly compatible with you, Amanda,” said Magistrate 2. The woman only sobbed.

“Perfectly.” The Magistrates turned. “Ralph, answer.”

Deep Baritone voice barely tremoring in the courtroom’s sudden silence, Ralph clicked to its feet and, almost inaudibly (as a yawn intervened) replied a taut “Very well.” Lifting the matte-black holder and inhaling, “How you bore me, Amanda,” It said.

[419 words]


message 12: by Jot (new)

Jot Russell | 1093 comments Mod
Voting Details:


First round votes:
Tom Olbert => ****Jot, Jack, Chris
C. Lloyd Preville => Paula
Justin Sewall => Chris, Jack, Marianne
Marianne Petrino => ****Jot, Jack, Chris
Jot Russell => C
Jack McDaniel => ****Jot, Greg, Chris
Kalifer Deil => Tom, Greg, Chris
Chris Nance => Greg, Jack, Tom
Greg Krumrey =>
Paula Friedman => ****Jot, Chris, Jack

Winner:
But What is Poetry? by Jot Russell


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