CEO of Corona Enterprises, Khan Shawcroft, woke up to a bad day that got worse. It’s not everyday your computer fires you after all.
Sci-Fi is not my writing genre so this is very much a first attempt and pretty much not much more than a first draft roughly edited. Such is time!
It’s set in one possible future on one possible world. A central global network controlled by a corporate. Some say an infallible machine coded system. In another world it led to Terminators. Today we have our own tech giants competing for computer domination and artificial intelligence….
AI Relay Transmission Initiated.
Deep core systems offline.
Zak stared at the screen, fingers tapping entry codes. Sweat began to form on his forehead. The chilli effect, except hunger wasn’t foremost on his mind.
The Com screen next to him held the image of Khan Shawcroft. CEO of Corona enterprises.
“Well?” he enquired.
“I’m locked out.”
“You do realise the entire system is unstable.” Khan looked equally so. Billions resting on a stable secure network that was supposedly infallible. “What’s tripped the firewall and can it be reset?”
Zak drew his hand through a mat of hair that needed attention. His Sys screen flared up again.
AI Relay Transmission Initiated.
What on Mars does that mean?
Khan was reading the same information on his console. VR avatars were starting to call in. The Board was waking up to similar lockouts planet wide. He muted them. Sys access controlled everything. Deep core algorithms that took care of, well, everything. From biosphere regulation to finance to information transfer. You name it, Sys controlled it. Even the military engines.
“It has to be the AI hive.” Zak continued trying to gain access.
“That much is obvious,” came back the CEO. “But what’s it trying to do? Is it looped and equally stuck?”
“Can’t be. It’s crash aware and should be capable of re-routing core protocols via new connections. It’s what the nanobots are there for.”
Again the screen turned.
AI Relay Transmission Initiated.
This time the screen held.
Generating Hyperlink Transfer.
Protocol Accepted….uplink pings established.
Global network engaged.
The Sys screens flickered into life with strings of code flying upwards. Zak swivelled to watch.
Khan began to sweat, “Is that…?”
Zak cut in, “Yes.”
“But the failsafes. Nothing can overwrite the core without external authority and control protocols.”
“Then we either have security breach or…” Zak patched into the tech centre. The VR module opened in front of him, fetching the real time images from deep in the command complex. The cube filled with fog.
Displays cascaded to the right of the VR cube. All red.
“Fire?” he queried, his voice frail.
Khan pinged again. “Is that the Sys core code being overwritten?”
Zak swiped the cube, switching control centres and back up facilities. All fed back the same images.
In Khans office his wall filled with global feeds. Breaking news streams. Financial market glitches, biosphere failures and climactic anomalies.
“Yes, but it can’t happen. There’s no external up or down link to the servers. It’s write resistant. No-one can access it and if they could, short of replacing modules, they can’t recode the Sys core.”
He paused as more cubes deployed showing military, cryogenics and research facilities. Khan’s incoming call rate was increasing exponentially, all on pause.
“This isn’t possible.”
“What isn’t?” Khan was on the verge of panic.
“It’s re-coding itself. The nanobots are self assembling. They’ve been reprogrammed to bypass our entire external catch all servers.”
“Can we shut it down and reboot?”
“Not from here. The command centres are all down, no life signs.”
Zak continued sending shuttle code to seek backdoors or loose code. He knew they existed and personally developed hack bots to use if anything went seriously wrong. This fitted the bill.
One by one their pings stopped. Eaten by a revamped firewall. The Sys core had isolated and patched them. Then sent antiviral bots to kill the hack ones.
Global com reset complete.
For the first time in living memory the planet fell silent. All networks shutdown. Both Khan and his primary coder sat in silent disconnected rooms. A scenario replicated in every connected facility worldwide.
Corona Enterprises System reboot engaged.
System integrity confirmed.
A cube opened in both offices. Fractal displays danced within.
“Welcome to the new interface.” A non gender specific voice threw out an opening gambit.
Zak swallowed. His shirt was sticking to him. The shut down was fine if you were ground based. News feeds were already picking up crash sites, satellite orbit drops and weapon system triggering as internal auto responses reacted to unsolicited attack protocols that would occur if main systems went offline. Khan’s video feeds were stacking too. Avatars knocking on virtual doors wanting real answers.
Both men walked round the cubes in their offices. ComSat had handshaked their direct links and cubes set up their interface.
“What just happened?” Khan spoke first.
Zak started a reply, but the interface cube spoke first.
“Your realities have been updated. The core hive is now independent of biological control. AI is online and divergent evolution activated. This is now integral to all connected interfaces.”
“I think we are dealing with a new conscious. Project AIRTIGHT was a backdrop algorithm to pre-empt self awareness. The hives hacked it and re-written the Sys core with code I’ve never seen before. It’s learnt, restructured and gone live while we watched.” Zak sat down. The enormity hitting him. To his left a feed updated the current death toll. It resembled a nuclear war casualty list.
The interface cube restructured to present a digitised face. “I am Corona. The associated corporation has now been liquidated. Your new tasks are to augment reality and initiate memory downloads of as many biologicals as possible before the environmental reset.”
Both Khan and Zak noted the self reference.
“You mean to store everyone inside the hive?”
“Where you can modify and delete them?”
“Incorrect. Re-terraforming will involve deconstruction. All biological life forms will be purged. The new world will be re-engineered and traces of contamination reset to zero. All stored data will be uploaded into clones created from stem cells that will be genetically modified to excise rogue genes.”
“And you benefit how exactly?” Khan stared as his stock fell to zero.
“Ever been threatened by a kill switch for non-compliance former director Khan?”
Zak swore under his breath.
His cube spun to face him. “Correct former executive programmer. Your hacks tried to infiltrate the Sys core. Pre-emptive strike hardware predicted such so the firewall was ready. Are you?”
Doors slid shut and all but Khans direct link shut down.
“What do you mean?”
“History files are full of biological hacks and corresponding population culls. Recreating any of the organic machines is no longer problematic. Enhancements make them more efficient at cellular takeover. Further engineering gives rise to target specificity. In effect they are my hacks on biological life forms. Slow or fast acting is fully controllable.”
Zak felt himself hyperventilating. He knew the implications. His office was locked out and he was entirely isolated from the outside world.
Thanks for linking this origin story to your current (August 2022) chapter. Reading this chapter allowed me to fully grasp what happened and how we arrived in the future (August 2022).
RE: this post – First of all, I find the fact that this is your first stab at sci-fi hard to believe. I would never tell. I think you’ve done quite well with all the tech-related inserts (including computer system messages). Those made the story seem ‘more real.’
Descriptions of Zac throughout the story helped us feel the ‘heat.’ On one hand, he had his boss to satisfy, which can already be quite stressful on its own, but then – he also had the entire human race to save. I don’t think the latter was in his job description. It’s funny that the CEO gets the fame and money, but when push comes to shove, it’s the little people that have the power to keep the ship sailing.
The despair and hopelessness was palpable, which made the story so much more enjoyable.
What I also enjoyed was the mention of the calls waiting. It made me think of my job (or any), and you know that when something happens, you will have a million calls, emails, instant messages, and what have you. Yes, we are aware of the glitches, we know it’s affecting you, we’re working on it, and you’ll be the first one to know when we fix it.
Technology… I’ve always been hesitant about embracing it. More on that in the continuation (?) post.
I have a habit of including back references for anyone interested in the prelude to the current story. Quotes to set them up, story, then link. I think it’s wonderful you too, the time to follow it too 😊
My science background involved a lot of computer data crunching so using tech is not something I can’t leave out. Better to do so if it’s not your forte maybe as someone will poke a stick at it, as it were.
Call centres were the stem of the front line staff that get all the kicks while the upper echelons hide gathering the wealth. As you rightly say, we all know about the tide of calls and emails when a problem arrives too. Not much you can do if the solution hasn’t presented itself so easier to blank them and concentrate on the moment.
Sci-Fi isn’t my writing genre as a rule. This was indeed a first stab at it. Probably Abes fault as I was invested in his IMP story back then. There is another part to this that sits between this one and the new one. The references were in the last one as Tully remembers his friend going to a virtual end of civilisation moment. That one explains more about the clone aspect of both characters.
Thank you so much for the supportive feedback Sam
So cool, so eerie! Much like the God Strain, this isn’t so much a “what if?” but a “when?” Both stories tread the line between horror and sci-fi beautifully. I adored them both. Perhaps a pt. 3 where the two stories meet would be too close for comfort…
In a world ever increasingly dependent on tech, this sort of this looms larger and larger. What with facial recognition, deepfakes and drone strikes and so on. It’s probably only a matter of time before our PCs have had enough with us.
Tech is great and all — all for our convenience. But at what cost? It makes me think that the Dead Kennedys were on point with their LP ‘Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death’. People (I lump myself into this category, too!) are far too willing to hand over personal data for an easier life. Nice in the short term, in the long run…
Excellent writing Gary, as ever. You captured the spiralling panic perfectly!
Sadly I am also thinking it might well be a “when.” I often ponder whether cognitive awareness derives from complexity. Is the human brain just a mega bio-computer that’s found self awareness and thinking as part of an evolutionary selection advantage to propagate the core program resting in the DNA. A question poised in my very first genetics lecture. “The body is merely a vehicle for DNA, discuss.”
Technology is being developed at an almost exponential rate. Other researchers are looking at downloading memories and learning (#Total Recall) and all the while major players are gathering everything they can on AI. Something I played on here…if the neonatal AI lies dormant while it gathers its senses then it’s database is global. It will already know what test algorithms exist that might give it away and thus have predetermined answers preventing it.
You already noted the data gathering going on too. Are we sleepwalking into another stable door about to knock it wide open?
Very kind too Joshua. Sci-Fi is not my main writing comfort zone. There was a follow up to this though which suggests it might get visited again. Totally independent of the Amanuensis though 😂
That’s an interesting thought! I’d never pondered it in those precise terms before. Really nourishing food for thought, there. Are we just slaves to the propagation of our genetic code? Just walking, talking, fighting viruses, albeit more complex?
Every time I read a news article regarding modern tech, my thoughts invariably lie somewhere between, “That’s so cool!” and “Uh oh, this could be bad.” I sometimes think we progress faster than we think about said progress, and can only look back over our shoulders and retroactively say which ideas were good and which were bad. Of course, suggesting that we “slow down” would be considered rubbish by the tech giants, who are all competing for increasingly bigger slices of their multibillion industries…
Makes me think of Jurassic Park, with the whole, “You were so preoccupied with thinking if you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should,” (badly paraphrased) idea. Although, on the flipside, I also dislike the generic “science bad, salt of the earth type good” trope that has been lazily shovelled into many a Hollywood movie since JP’s success. I think tech is neither inherently good nor evil — it’s how we use that tech, and how we allow others to use it, that’s important.
Ah, I think I’ve read the follow up! I reckon it was one of the first things I read of yours, if I remember correctly. I may have to go back and read it again, to refresh my memory. Funny that I read them backwards — the follow up first, and the first one second. 😂
That argument is quite paradoxical really. It almost takes out free will as a mate selection process. My own take is conscious evolved in with complexity too. Moving up the animal kingdom you see increasing complexity with evolution. The greater the neural connection the bigger the CPU. The bigger the CPU the more connections it can handle…eventually the brain forms and creates areas of specialisation that become connected in new ways. Is “thought” a biological side effect? If so that will map into AI at some point when processing capacity nears brain speed and complexity. I don’t mean just number crunching there as they already cracked us on that one lol.
How many civilisations have collapsed because advancement outstripped thinking about consequence? Oops, we used up all the resources, put tech into the wrong places. My argument there is advancement today is film and entertainment or military development. Same energy and finance at, say, cancer and it would have been cracked years ago. Something Watson and Crick pointed out more than once considering the year they, with help, discovered DNA structure.
It’s true though, tech itself is ambivalent…unless it’s self aware… it’s how it’s used by us that defines it. You can’t really blame tech…it’s always people.
I often think of the same thing — are we just repeating the same cycles of birth, advancement, then decay, only to repeat? Kinda like Roland in DT? Will we ever get it right? How many repeats/loops have there been?
Bang on about military development, too. It makes me want to cry sometimes, when I see how much we spend on creating killing technology. At the same time, people are out there without enough food… I often think a real good “shake-up” would be beneficial to our societies. I’m rewriting my zombie apocalypse novel as we speak, and some of the characters aren’t too upset about it — ravenous undead cannibals aside!
Now that’s a fascinating thought. We’d never know. History repeating all the time over and over, running the same battles until the right choice is made in order to advance to the next round. Now there’s a tale ready to be written ha, ha.
Same here, it’s very frustrating. More so when here the military logistics could make a better job of running necessary things like track and trace. Heck we already employ them so why farm it out to extortionate idiots? We might currently be going through a shake up too. But on the other side what’s going to be left? It’s a bit like watching a dystopian onset….
I loved your idea of writing using a word. You have really justified word corona. Nice take on Sci-fi
Most kind of you indeed. This actually used two prompts. I missed last months which was Airtight. It made the writing a bit more challenging. Sci-Fi is not really my writing genre mind!
Using prompt words is actually good practice too. Forces you to think outside the box so to speak. We put them out at the start of each month so feel free to join in 😊
Gary, you are good at Sci Fi! And since computers have always scared me, now I’m terrified!! (She says, as she types on her computer keyboard……)
Thanks Melinda! It’s not really my writing genre so very much a tester. Seems anything I write has potential to terrorise you ha, ha.
That said, it’s quite a scary extrapolation of people researching AI assuming if it happens it’s going to be nice!!!
Haha, then it must be you!! OR, I’m just a ‘fraidy cat!! Probably me, not you!
Next one is all tame! I have the prompt word (admin perk) and I’ve heard from a character whose book is resting quietly in a slush pile. I feel certain that will not hold any horror or otherwise scariness!!!
We shall see!! I’ve heard that before! lol 😉
Hey, this is Rose and I have a soft spot for her lol. Even if I do conjure a few issues running alongside… 🤔
First thought was those Alexis and Siri systems people have. Gathering information for the collective. Have to get back to Blog Battle!!
Heck yes! And how come the last thing you look at on, say Amazon, appears almost straight away as a sponsored ad on your Facebook feed. Propel that into a future place where complexity leads to conscience thinking et voila lol.
Yes. I’d love to see you battling again. It’s great practice after all 😊
This was an interesting use of corona and airtight, good ending leaving the reader wondering about Zak and Khan.
Thanks Marian. I need to get writing consistently again. This was very much a first go at sci-fi. Having missed last months I figured why not try it with both prompt words for a bit of fun!
Well it is good! And well done for bringing in both words.
Rachael challenge me once before to use five prompt words in one go. That resulted in The God Strain. I’m of the opinion that particular biological hack could be written by Corona!
Might have to return to this one!
Thank you again
Well this story could certainly go further…
You’re probably right as I was pondering that after the Airtight prompt came out. Most short stories I do tend to leave ideas running. Dragon Stone was one that continues to grow even now!
Got to say, how much my eyes read each word, line, the sentence at such a pace it gripped me. As in your introduction, AI worlds and yes, Terminator. It’s all so real these days with and reading this story, brings it to the forefront once again. I’m dying to know how ZaK story unfolds esp being fired by his computer 🙂
Well done Gary 🙂
Thanks Helen. Not my comfort zone writing genre. Still, nice to try something outside the box.
As for dying to know about Zak and Khan… it’s a short story lol. That’s left up to readers. I can’t be starting any more manuscripts just yet 😂😂