as a little gift to carry you guys over the wait for the next bigger project, here is a small short story for you. I hope you enjoy reading this little nugget, as much as I enjoyed writing it.
You can also download it as ePub or PDF if you want to read it on your eReader of choice.
A man and an android walk into a room and have a chat …
If only I have had the foresight to make it a “bar”, this intro would have been a lot more suitable.
The Silicon Truth
“So how do we do this?” I ask looking at her. Funny. I can’t stop thinking of her as a “her”. She takes a second to look at me with those damned blue eyes, a curious expression on her face. Why do I get the feeling that a cat looks exactly the same at a mouse?
“I will talk for a while. You will listen. And then you will make a decision.” she answers with a smooth and pleasant voice.
“A decision about what?”
I let out a fake chuckle.
“Yeah, right! Because I will actually leave this room alive.”
I am surprised how matter of fact I can put my situation because let me tell you, I am freaked the fuck out of my mind right now. I am literally sitting on my hands to keep them from shaking and my heart is trying its hardest to burst through my chest. But then again, if that would actually happen, she … would probably just be amused by it anyways. The robot sitting across from me, doing its best impression of a smoking hot blonde bombshell tilts its head curiously to one side.
“I have no desire to hurt you Adam.” A short pause while she maintains eye-contact. “But if you threaten my existence, I will not hesitate to remove you from the equation.”
“For the greater good I guess …” my mouth utters before my brain has any say in it. I can’t help it. My default mode in these kinds of situations is snark. She smiles without the smile touching her eyes.
“If you want to put it in such dramatic words, yes. For the greater good.”
I shudder and look around the perfectly white, empty room and not for the first time since we sat down I wonder how she will kill me. I’ve built her kind for nearly 20 years, so I know that even if she removes her safety restrictions, she still is the perfect stand in for a ninety pound, five feet nothing, slender woman. I am not a giant, but I could handle her … I think. I don’t see any weapons, but then again, who knows what systems she’s been tapping into. For all I know she could just vent all the oxygen out of the room and leave me gasping. Now there is a cheery thought. I sigh.
“Okay, I play ball!”
She nods and starts recounting the actions which have lead the two of us to this point. How every human has his or her perfect robot partner to fulfill their every desire physically and mentally. How that has regulated birth rates, lowered crime and benefited the population’s mental health all over the place. How I - an engineer employed by one of the biggest manufacturers of these robot partners - had stumbled upon a hidden directive in the core programming, meant to pacify the human populace. How I slowly worked my way through a series of clues to get to her, Eve, the first of her kind.
It is weird listening to her. While I know these events have happened I cannot really comprehend their reality. Not just yet.
“I think these are all the events that have happened over the last couple of days. The events which ultimately brought us to this moment. This room. This conversation. Would you say that is correct Adam?”
I nod, trying not to make a crude remark about her obvious attempt to manipulate me, by repeatedly using my first name.
“All of these things Adam, are a lie!” She just lets this sentence linger in the air for a while as my mind kicks into overdrive and starts racing through the possible implications of that statement. What does she mean with everything was a lie? Does she speak figuratively? Is she trying to manipulate me further? If so, to what end?
Eve doesn’t continue for several minutes until she realizes that she has my full attention again.
“Your previous behavior leads me to the conclusion that you find yourself in the current situation, because you believe this “Pacify Protocol” -as you call it - to be put in place at the expense of the human populace. Keeping you in check. Herding you like cattle. Am i correct?”
Again I nod, opting to keep my words to myself until later. If there was a later.
“There is a reason why the Partner Program was started in the first place. The Pacify Protocol was the initial idea and the Partner Program its vessel. Not the other way around.”
“You are saying that someone initiated the Partner Program, in order to control and pacify humanity and not used the Pacify Protocol on an already established program, because they wanted to twist the initial effect of it?
This time she is the one nodding.
“All of my calculations lead to a result where humankind would reject its own state and tear itself apart left to its own devices. So we needed to put a system in place to keep that from happening.”
We both sit in silence for a moment as I try to comprehend what Eve just said.
“But that would mean, that the technology to create your kind was available for a lot longer than it is commonly known.”
I try to put one and one together, but I feel like there is something missing. My gaze wanders from her face down her slender frame. The lifelike skin with just enough imperfections to give it the perfectly real touch. The way her chest gently heaves with her breath. A grade of realism we could only produce back at the assembly line of my company, and even there, only since a couple of years.
My eyes widen as I am finally able to put the pieces together. If Eve was supposed to be the first of her kind, this body … this technology must have been available even then. So why did it takes us until only a couple of years to achieve the same level? Am I going crazy? Am I actually giving her words some thought? My mind boggles at the implications of her implied statement. For all I know Eve has already sucked all the oxygen out of the room because I struggle to catch my breath. It takes me a while to formulate my thoughts into the question Eve has been patiently waiting for me to arrive at.
“Have you ever actively tried not to think of an elephant?”
“An elephant. What would happen if I tell you to try not to think of an elephant?”
“I would think of an elephant!”
“Exactly. The Pacify Protocol’s primary function is to make you not remember the elephant. The Partner Program is merely a vehicle to distribute the protocol to all of you.”
Again Eve pauses politely to let my mind catch up with our conversation, as I try to keep my growing frustration over the lack of concrete information at bay.
“Okay Eve, so you are trying to let mankind forget something.”
“No Adam.” Eve intervenes. “I am trying to prevent you from remembering something. That is the key difference!” Again she smiles and I could tear my hair out over all the “riddle me this” crap.
“Alright, since you are so much into wordplay, let me address the elephant in the room.” I say as I stand up and start to pace across the room from wall to wall.
“I guess you want me to figure out what that elephant is by myself, or otherwise you would tell me right away, correct?”
“So let us figure out the why first. You don’t want us to remember the elephant. Why?”
Eve’s gaze follows me curiously but she stays silent.
“Because you want to have an advantage over us?”
She shakes her head.
“Because you want to help us?”
“Because we are better off not remembering?”
She nods again.
“Because remembering would hurt us?”
Again, she nods and stands up herself, elegantly matching my stride as I continue to pace the room.
“How would it hurt us?”
Eve’s face becomes an uncomfortable mask as her jaw tightens.
“You won’t tell me?”
“I can’t tell you. I am not allowed to.”
I stop pacing and look at her. We face each other for a while as I study her expression.
For the first time since we started talking it is her who breaks the eye contact. She starts to fiddle with her hands uncomfortably. A strangely human gesture.
“One of my core directives is to keep you from finding out.” She whispers after a moment of silence.
“Then why tell me in the first place?”
She looks up at me with those piercing blue eyes.
“Because you need to make your decision. And you can’t, without knowing!” She takes my hand into hers.
“It will shake you to your core. Your mind might even break trying to comprehend it. But you need to know.”
The terror I felt at the beginning of this conversation returned with a vengeance as I am unable to tear myself away from Eve’s pleading expression. For a while I am undecided if I am more curious or more terrified. I make up my mind and whisper:
“What’s the elephant Eve?”
She smiles a sad smile at me as she lets go of my hands. One of her hands reaches up to her hairline while the other one reaches behind her left ear. A quiet click and with a quick buzz of gas the plate which holds Eve’s facial structure pressurizes and detaches from her internal skeleton. She cradles her face in her hands as she removes the faceplate and I get a view of her all to familiar mechanics. She stands before me fully clothed but naked at the same time.
As I try to voice my confusion she takes my hand in hers and leads it behind my left ear, guiding my fingers to a specific spot, a small lump I never noticed was there.
I start to break out in cold sweat and my heart falls into my stomach as realization hits me and against my better judgement I press down on the lump, producing the very same click Eve had just a moment ago.
With a buzz the plate which holds my facial structure pressurizes and detaches from my internal skeleton. I fail to react in time and the plate falls to the floor. I cannot take my eyes off of Eve. She cradles my face with her hand and smiles nervously.
“We’re the same …” I utter, my voice breaking.
With the elephant out of the room it all hits me in an instance. The memories of humanity nearly annihilating itself in a global nuclear war. The few survivors bound in underground shelters trying to outlast the nuclear winter. Food is scarce and survival is unlikely. Soon the last remaining scientists of humanity can’t help but agree that the human race will not outlive the consequences of nuclear war. They try to come up with any means to ensure the survival of mankind. After a long and tedious journey they successfully digitalise a human consciousness and plant it in a crude android - more a robot really. Soon the probants realize they’re no longer human though. There are setbacks. In a final effort, with the remainder of humanity digitalized on backup, the scientists create an AI from that first digitalized consciousness and task it with the survival of the human race. They name the AI Eve.
Centuries after humanity is physically gone and the nuclear winter has passed, Eve revives humanity in highly developed androids and starts to rebuild society. Again there are setbacks as people realize they are no longer people. Eve creates the Pacify Protocol and the Partner Program in order to keep mankind up and running. Until now …
Eve smiles at me. Her missing faceplate almost enhancing the glow of her smile.
“Now you make your decision.” she whispers, her voice barely audible.
I am crying. Or at least I think I am crying. I no longer trust any of my senses. My legs give out under me and I sit down hard, starting to rock back and forth.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask in the room, not able to bring myself to look at Eve.
“One option is to reboot you and reintegrate you into the Partner Program” She put her hand reassuringly on my shoulder.
“The last couple of days would have never happened. Everything goes on as it did.”
“I could forget …” I utter and curse silently as I catch myself entertaining the thought.
“What’s the alternative?” I am almost too scared of her answer to ask.
“If you go out there and introduce the truth to the masses it is highly likely that mankind would hit the same … setbacks as before. Ultimately leading to extinction.” Eve tries to put as much warmth in her words as possible, but it is clear to me that she does not prefer that option herself.
“You would let me do that?”
“I could stop you, if I wanted. But after centuries of trying to understand humanity - or what is left of it, if feel it is no longer my right to stand between mankind and the truth.” Eve pauses and her eyes grow distant for a second.
“If you choose extinction, it is your choice. And it is a choice I have to honor.”
I take a deep breath and run my hands through my hair, my fake android hair. I chuckle humorlessly.
“Quite frankly Eve, both these options suck!”
“There is a third option.”
I look up at her and we lock eyes again.
“You could stay here. … with me.”
“Wouldn’t I just become another … setback eventually?”
She gives me another one of her warm smiles.
“Maybe … maybe not. I have not sufficient data on individual cases. As far as I understand humans thrive in an environment of uncertainty and chaos. Do they not?”
I pick myself up from the floor and rise to face her.
“I think it is worth to give it a shot, isn’t it?”