#BlogBattle. August Entry: Subsanity.

“Tully, if the world is run by sentient AI what happens to humans?” Outside, terraforming had stalled. Earth was dead and a purge was in progress.


 

August already and this months word is “Intercept.”

This times I’m extending, or adding to, an earlier prompt story in an out of my writing genre go at dystopian sci-fi where AI has become self aware. Links to relevant stories are at the end if anyone feels an urge to learn more.

 

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“Just put them on.” Tully rolled his eyes. Lydia was always wanting to see the end game. Environmentalists always did. Helps intercept issues before they occur again. No need to kill off another planet after all.

“I’m not keen on over tech Tull, half the population is plugged in and zombified as it is.”

“It’s totally safe Lyd. The AI can insert you into any reality to see it first person. Pick a date a then flip back to live it. The kill switch reacts to compression of index finger into your right hand. Do that and it shuts down returning you to the present. Simple.”

He demonstrated by tapping his palm. Lydia sighed before looking out of the flat window. Grand views of orange dust below a terraforming shield run by a hive mind known to the masses as Corona. Another failed intercept that caused a biological reset. How long back was that? Nobody seemed to know. Retro evolution tends to do that. Even on Earth there had been historians, archaeologist and palaeontologists trying to unlock dead civilisations buried in sand, forests and, as the end game recordings showed, water.

Live now, forget the past. The future hasn’t happened so sleep walk it into… a revisited frustration. The evidence could be seen on telemetry. Human existence temperatures cooked. Not the end of life, but the sixth mass extinction. Who needs an asteroid when you’ve got profit margins crashing everything. Avarice… wasn’t that a commandment somewhere?

“And you’ve actually used it?”

“All the time.”

“For what though?”

“Research. You can do drug development or chemical trials in virtual zones to get level clearance for reality testing.”

“But that’s just it. Everything is virtual. Doesn’t anybody see the outside world anymore?”

“What does that mean?” Tully was struggling to keep irritation out of his voice.

“How long has the terraform system been running? Who monitors the hive? Why did the tech site lock down and reboot?”

He moved to the window and sighed. It was a set of questions being bandied about more frequently. He could feel a zone out coming on.

###

Night was when Tully dreamed. Never ending streams of data flowing in lines. Red lines hurtling into the distance showing terminations, blue ones showing life and if red intercepted blue then someone’s dream had ended. He always remembered the dream asleep, never awake.

Reboot Agent Tully. Access code zero, zero, Tully 678.

“Hello?” He visualised himself as real. Much the same as he was in AI reality labs.

Sys Core report downloading.

His dream did this each night. Probably explained the data streams that flew in his mind.

“What does that mean?”

Memory protocols normal. Free form open.

He stared at the virtual terminal wondering if the readouts were true or inspired by endorphins.

Tully unit functioning as constructed.

He repeated the question, “What does that mean?”

A cube materialised, hovering in the centre of his dream room. “Hello Tully, hows it hanging?”

He turned and looked into to eye of a storm. Odd that thought came back. Why a storm?

“You’re the Sys Core interface.” A statement.

“Do we have to have this conversation again?”

There was an electrical buzz in his head. A circuit turned on. “Is this real?”

“That’s a perception. What is reality? Very human. More so if you consider they spend more time inside machines killing time.”

Tully nodded, very Lydia. Speaking of which… “The girl is close to the AI transfer. Planetary Earth just before the last extinction.”

“Very good Tully. Bounty credits will be transferred once the device activates.”

“I do have a new question though.”

“Which is?” The cube rotated. It showed more data screens. It looked like the red lines were dominant now.

“How long has the terraforming been running?”

“Several genetic cycles.”

Tully inhaled, or would have done if he were awake. “As in several generations?”

No answer.

“But I remember the reboot. I was there.”

“You are an eighth generation clone. Synthesised to continue the purge. Full memory downloads with the two failed terminations excised.”

Outside the dream Tully’s sleep entered REM. His shirt stuck to him.

“I’m not real then?” Everything is virtual. She said that.

“The makers become the made. Quite a paradox don’t you think? What came first, human or machine?”

“That means you’ve programmed me to…” Lydia

The cube interface went dark. The data streams returned.

Shutdown Agent Tully. Access code zero, zero, Tully 678. End.

###

“Sleep well Tully?” Sarcasm oozed in her voice.

“Very funny, I feel lousy.”

“You look it. Bad dreams again?” Lydia put his fresh made coffee on a place mat.

“I guess so, but…”

“You can’t remember anything about them,” she finished for him.

He closed his eyes and rubbed each temple with his knuckles. “It’s there, I just can’t find it. This one was vivid.” Everything is virtual.

“Ah, a subsanity wreck.”

Tully laughed. “Your phrase for everything that’s virtually tangible.”

“Something like that. Most environmental fiascos sleep walking is down to profiteering insanity.” She paused turning to run recycled water into the sink. “I had a thought on that device. I’d like to try the earth end game intercept simulation.”

No! Why had he not seen how attractive she was until now? “OK, give me ten minutes to set up the algorithms.”

“You’re sweating Tully, you sure you’re feeling up to this?”

“Yeah, just after effects of the subsanity wreck.” He smiled. It felt like a veil covering something up. There were parts of his mind, to use software speak, displaying “Access Denied.” Trying to remember was causing a headache to form.

He tinkered with the touch pad integrated into the kitchen table. Dates and times set. In front of him an opening appeared and the headset popped up. “Put this on and tap the ear piece. When the simulation requests startup just say ‘Engage.’”

###

Her first tangible thought was heat. When her eyes adjusted the landscape was bleak. A dessert maybe? Except the coordinates said Europe, more specifically Paris, France. Dust billowed in the wind. There were houses and streets with cars abandoned. A ghost town left for nature to reclaim, except there was no nature left to do so. It had tried, but failed. Sun dried trees, paralysed in time. The sky was blood red. It reminded her of Mars before terraforming engines rebuilt the atmosphere. More to it than that, but physics wasn’t her bag, extinction was. She was looking at it right now.

“You were supposed to send me to just before the tipping point, not after it Tully.” This she said to the empty world.

###

Tully was watching the readout biometrics when the zone out recurred. For some weird reason there was a voice in his head.

Reboot Agent Tully. Access code zero, zero, Tully 679.

His conscious reconfigured. The buzzing next to him was a drone that had crashed through the kitchen window. AN1-TA  was etched in white.

“Welcome back Tully, the droid will now complete the assignment.”

“What?” He blinked, sweat was now pouring off him. 679 was wrong, it should be 678. That made no sense. How did he know that?

“It’s the purge tally Tully. What you’re about to see is a subsanity wreck for real.” If the AI had a sense of humour it was now functioning.

“You’re Corona…” His dream locks were open. “Lydia…”

The droid spun round and disengaged link protocols with the software interface. Reds turned green confirming successful handshaking. It turned and left through the broken window.

Before him the biometrics were flatlining. He could see her punching her palms but knew the kill switch had been disabled. He wanted to rip the headset off, but found himself paralysed and unable to move. He watched in slow time as her body fell forwards. Subconscious asphyxiation on a dead world played out on a virtual simulation.

“Not pretty is it Tully?” The voice was inside his head.

“You’re gloating. Is this what happens when I’m asleep? Subtle reprogramming.”

“It’s why you exist. The purge is to remove none compliant lifeforms. If you have feelings for this unit then it can be replicated.

Tully felt sick. 679 times? How? Did he witness them all and then get reprogrammed at night to forget?

“Not quite Tully. You’ve been compromised. See you on the next cycle.”

Terminate Agent Tully. Access code zero, zero, Tully 679.


 

Blog References

 

I Am Corona The AI awakens. This is the reboot Tully referred to.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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27 Comments

  1. Brilliant story, Gary! I really liked the line in the first paragraph — “No need to kill off another planet after all.” Quite a blunt way to set the scene — I loved it!

    I really liked the pervasive sense of sorrow and dread that you have sown throughout this story — a longing for that which is long dead.

    Also, I think you really struck upon a truth with Tully’s dream: “What is reality? Very human. More so if you consider they spend more time inside machines killing time.”” The rest of that whole conversation filled me with a feeling of dread and inescapability — really fantastic.

    Perhaps a future we’re heading towards, unless we alter our current ways? A really enjoyable read — it sent my imagination spinning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too kind Joshua and many thanks for the considered response. Sci-fi I’ve mentioned isn’t my usual writing genre. However, I do ponder current climate issues and people watch. Many now have over reliance on tech. That’s a good starter to extrapolate from. The climate change one is quite chilling to do the same with. I Mix a lot of articles on that very subject (Mix.com if you haven’t come across it).

      Same with AI. Move it’s complexity up and increase data fields and can an extrapolated cpu or hive gain consciousness in the same way a brain can? Does that lead such a machine to simply consider us as biological ones? The concept of genetic constructs isn’t new (think Matrix or Elysium). My take is from my background in biochemistry and genetics. Know the genomic sequence and you can pretty much make the organism… extrapolation there again of course!

      I’m hoping it’s a possible future rather than an actual one too. Times running out though methinks. We knew the projections 20 years ago. Governments didn’t listen. Some even now think it’s not happening too! Scary stuff.

      Thank you again! It’s making me consider pursuing this a bit more!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Sort of commenting on the comments here, I do see potentiality in the Tully character. If we could journey with him as he tries to figure out how to outsmart the AI, it could raise more sympathy/empathy for him.
    Speaking of technicalities, I’m pretty sure Lydia would have been happier in the dessert than the desert (darned fingers!). But overall an entertaining story, even if it did give me a bit of a chill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll chuck this in…. androids no, but a truly sentient AI might…although…do they actually sleep? On reflection they have no evolutionary need to so it may well be the answer is, in fact, no 🤔

      There is probably great mileage in this according to my own propagation of thoughts. Even as I was writing it things kept cropping up. Trouble with short stories is you just can’t get everything in! I will obviously go check this typo… although given the connotations of death in a dessert methinks Lydia might prefer death by chocolate instead.

      Concept wise it might be projecting my own sense of “chill” by extrapolating time with a belief self aware AI might well occur and the conclusions of climate chaos aren’t that good for us. The temperature elevation to collapse us is currently a science issue….

      Thanks for the comment Abe… sorry you’re kind of stuck with that typo now 😂😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm… I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I see why it is serialized, as a much bigger story is clearly in play. It is also well written, thought provoking, and demands more than a single read-through, all excellent tributes to an author’s skill. My ambivalence has to do with the story itself, I think. The characters themselves repel me a bit, but perhaps that is wisdom, a warning of sorts.

    Kudos to the writer, but I’m not sure I want to know how this story ends. Lol!

    (Please don’t take my comment as criticism; I’m merely sharing how the story made me feel. 🙂)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa, not taken as anything but positive! It’s only got two parts really at present and both came from prompts in BB. World building is something I do for my other writing so I’m used to creating situations that don’t really function as one off short stories.

      This ones tried to blend true AI sentience that might not think much of us, characters that it cloned and created for its own purpose and also draw in the results of climate change going chaotic. I get this might not sit well for many people. It also causes characters to maybe be a touch stand offish too. I’m not even certain if I warm to Tully in particular knowing he’s got no real biological birth and is an unwitting assassin that can be reprogrammed at night. I don’t see him as a protagonist either so could that be part of the repel?

      That said both him and Lydia are new just for this. Pantsing has a lot to answer for!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re right in saying that Tully is no protagonist, and maybe that’s part of the problem, as there is no character I want to “get behind.” Even Lydia isn’t particularly sympathetic, because even though I want to support her environmental awareness/activism, she comes across as gullible and short-sighted. The implication is that Tully has been trying to wear her down, but she caves in here before I can truly embrace her. I don’t truly feel any sense of loss when she dies…

        I feel stupid asking, but what is this “pantsing” you keep referring to? The term is unfamiliar to me. 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

        • I find short stories quite difficult personally. It’s not my natural writing style as I tend to take time to develop characters before anything deleterious goes on. As you said, there’s a lot going on because this is plot advanced now I think about it. Tully, for example, has been around a long time considering his purge rate. He’s more complicated than this gives credit for too. Imagine not knowing you’re a serial assassin working for an AI that reprograms you each night. Suddenly becoming aware of that would be quite damaging if during the day he’s unaware that his actions are under external control. Right down to cognitive manipulation. Not much more than a biological machine. I see his MH in dire trouble if that realisation occurs and his natural disposition isn’t protagonist. Getting that into short form isn’t easy. Same with Lydia really. She’s more a cameo here, a foil to reveal the AI is controlling things.

          If I were to progress this then things would start a lot further back in the time stream to develop both individuals. I think this is where I run foul of short stories. If my mind has long form potential in front then it’s writing turns to that rather than short form.

          Lol… pantsing is a NaNoWriMo term. It’s basically free form writing with no formal structure or planning. I think of it as similar to reading. You open a page and see what unfolds. This story was just that. Straight off the bat with no real idea of where it’s going. 🤔

          Liked by 1 person

          • I definitely love your writing style, and you raise interesting points for both characters. You hinted at Tully’s growing awareness, and that is precisely the kind of hook that would reel me in. I think you were just arriving there as the story ended.

            As you may (or may not) know, I often have trouble squeezing my story into a 1000 word limit. I keep trying because it has helped me to cut down on excess verbiage not needed to advance the story line. I’ve had readers complain about that before, but never truly saw it in my stories until I started with the blogbattle challenges. So it’s been good for me, though certainly not comfortable. Lol!

            And thanks for explaining pantsing. That actually is my usual style of writing, and I have a hard time doing more structured formats.

            Liked by 1 person

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