“AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity – if AI has a goal and humanity just happens to come in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings.” Elon Musk.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”Roy Batty, Bladerunner
“That’s your plan? Just fly there, land, hope they don’t spot us, and walk in the door?”Obi-Wan-Kenobi, Star Wars: The Clone Wars
This is another short story for this months
BLOGBATTLE prompt word Navigate
I Am Corona: Replicant
Tully opened his eyes. He was in his bed chamber with an ache in his head that threatened nausea. A stasis cube blinked red indicating a message was waiting.
Tully 680. You have been called to rectify an error.
He recognised Corona despite the softness of voice. It did this in a vague effort to seem compassionate.
The loss of Lydia 678 was unfortunate. Outside communication has been severed to prevent conscious contamination by bio-infringement.
Groggy he might be but, that translated to singular information threads. An open trail to indoctrination.
Error Tully 680. Continued self processing will result in termination.
Thought police too. “My apologies. I don’t feel right.”
That will pass once your augmented chip is activated.
Recovery modes require forty eight hours before activating the symbiosis feedback that controls bio-regulation feedback loops.
Sarcasm is a built in genetic flaw to prove stupidity continues unabated.
For some reason he felt a new emotion build. Anger.
“Tully you have a new you.” The alien AI continued scrolling data faster than he or Peck could process.
“What does that mean?”
“Tully 678 it means Corona has created a kill bot. To navigate through the EMF field requires biological entities. This has never happened before.”
Simultaneous co-existence of clones.
The kill tool cannot be accessed through this defence grid. Corona has bypassed more safety protocols to re-code the fail safes.
“Dammit, in plain terms.”
One clone acquires memories and knowledge until it becomes aware of a threat. Termination purges these so the replacement is unaware of previous data threads. If two co-exists then the cascade loops can begin to become unstable.
“You mean clone A can contaminate clone B with memories that shouldn’t be there and these can summate and threaten the easy life.”
A simple grip on things.
“A desperate move by your primitive God.”
Tully nodded. Peck tended to use too many words. In fact all tech and politicos he knew did.
Experts in inaniloquum Tully 679
“Very funny Peck. Translate.”
“Talk nonsense Tully, have all the old ways and languages been lost in such a short period of time?” The alien AI interrupted.
“Several millennia seems pretty long to me.”
“As does amnesia. Micro-organisms seem unable to recall debates upon universal scale and time for more than a few hours.”
“I didn’t realise they were sentient.”
It means humans Tully 678.
A screen suddenly froze. Dyson defence grid now active.
Tully 680 was conflicted. Some permitted recall filtered through. Most of it was a redhead he seemed to remember not realising was an overlooked attraction. A regret that for some reason rose quickly.
Everything from his previous incarnation had been erased save for the presence of an EMF field that terminated all attempts at the terraforming protocols. Within lay two replicants. Traitors that he was instructed to terminate. With one a rogue AI would also be culled.
Your augmented AI is now activated. There will be a slight pause whilst it uploads and synchs systems with the Sys-core. Thereafter it will interact strategically offering best course of action to dispose of the transgressions. In an attempt to continue linkage as you traverse the EMF field it will deploy a drone. This will remain hard wired directly to your com port. The AI will analyse the field modulations and the drone will report back live data feeds.
Tully grimaced as his chip switched on. It triggered nerve impulses that buzzed as it pinged his brain.
“Tully 680 we are now synchronised. Hive links established and combat protocols are now installed.”
Tully 680, the drone case and fire arms will be located in the transit pod. Your destination is pre-programmed. It is no longer registered as a physical location.
Tully found that curious. No longer meant it had been. He couldn’t remember using a blaster before either. Or, for that matter, killing anyone.
“Careful Tully 680. Too much thinking results in Sys errors that might require termination. The hive is monitoring all your neuronic data feeds this time.”
He could feel that anger returning. Slave to the machine… he was cut short furthering that thought. Deja vu. Had he not said that before somewhere?
Within the force shield Tully and Peck were silently watching a screen.
“System entry velocity has ceased. Orbital status is located on the fourth planet. Databanks are aware of large subterranean installations. The craft is weaponising.”
Is this the creators you spoke of before? An enquiry from Peck.
“Negative this is an alien vessel outside of our scope.”
Tully tried not to laugh.
What’s so funny Tully 679?
“An alien calling out alien.” He gazed at the screen. How it managed to magnify something so far away was extraordinary. “Looks like the conspiracy theorists were right again. At this magnification that planet is riddled with structures.”
Something of a hobby interest?
“No, that was Lydia’s forte. She took pride in ancient myth and lore.”
“I am still here you know.”
Tully smiled and turned to face her. “How could I forget?”
Easily distracted maybe.
“Shut up Peck.”
Someone’s biometrics are in a twist.
“The alien ship is now vectored into direct travel toward Earth. ETA one terrestrial hour.”
“How can anything travel from there to here in an hour?” Now it was Lydia’s turn to talk directly to the alien AI.
“Gravity wave technology.”
“Ignorance of other technologies does not invalidate them. Most unsullied species traverse the gap from fuel systems to gravitational relativity within a century. After all the universe is a vast space. Focus is on traversing it simply.”
Simple? Tully 679 did you here that? Traversing the universe is simple.
“Apparently it is Peck. Question is are we dealing with friend of foe?”
“Unknown at this time.”
“Do you recognise the craft?”
“Negative. Sensors have detected armed weapons systems and a force shield. They are combat ready.”
“Or just curious?” Lydia now stood next to Tully staring at the screen.
Tully 680 your transport is about to engage. Secure yourself before ignition.
“Coms test complete. All functions are green. Tully 680’s biometrics are nominal. Elevated adrenaline levels consistent with nervous disposition.”
Reporting confirmed. Destination programmed. Call handshake required before entering the EMF field.
“Am I superfluous to this diatribe?”
Intentional error overlooked. You have one purpose Tully 680. Penetrate the field and eliminate the targets.
He sighed. Clearly he was necessary to go where no machine of Coronas could. Was that deja vu too?
“Incoming terrestrial vessel. There is an anomaly onboard.”
“Can you be more precise?” Lydia felt helpless. She suspected Tully did too. Not one but two incoming and a machine was taking the lead.
“Biometric scans indicate the terrestrial vessel contains a replicant.”
“Go on,” said Tully.
“It matches your biometrics bar some internal genetic restructuring.”
Tully 679, this is unheard of.
“More than alien versus alien, a mad AI and us incapable of doing anything to alter our destinies?”
Correct. It means Tully 680 has been commissioned. Peck addressed the AI. What is its intention?
“Scans reveal ineffective deception fields. They intend to transgress the shield via wired drone and destroy this facility.”
“They?” Queried Lydia.
“Biometric scanning revealed a secondary augmented AI symbiont.”
“Looks like you’re on version 2.1 now too Peck.”
The presumption will be we do not leave this facility.
“There is a weakness. The drone can be destroyed by pulsed modulation of the EMF. It’s creation assumed the field wall does not flux. Scans suggest the replicant is suppressing thoughts. With the drone down the augmented AI can be erased. Negotiation may be possible.”
“Why not terminate both before entry?”
“Outside the oaf can monitor data. From within it remains isolated.”
Tactical Tully 679.
“This threat is now negated and now designated your responsibility. The Alien ship has decelerated and now scanning this planet from lunar orbit.”
Lydia was now leaning on a console staring at the screen, “Scanning for what?”
“Searching for something. Probability suggests the defence grid has not held parity with expected pre-system entry data.”
For something that pre-dates earth civilisation you seem ahead of everything.
“Not simply AI as was previously inferred.”
Are you in constant communication with your creators?
Tully smiled, “That would be a yes then.”
An alarm sounded. Lydia turned her head to another data feed. “Our friends are here Tully.”
“Confirmed. EMF modulation will be initiated in one minute. Counting down initiated.”
Tully 680, we are here. Begin deployment of the unit. I will handshake our come link to Corona.
Tully felt uneasy. He recognised this place, more deja vu. “It’s a trap.”
Nonsense, continue activating the drone pod.
Tully fired it up. The cable was hooked into their transport ship. It would uncoil automatically during transit. It hovered expectantly in front of him.
He walked forward staring at his EMF detector. “This reading is intense. No wonder Corona can’t penetrate its field.”
Biological units can. Remember your mission parameters.
Tully was no longer certain his augmented AI sounded as confident. Easy to be so from distance. Close up in your face, so to speak, changes things. He entered the perimeter.
The drone moved forwards. Tully’s detector reading remained static. Twenty metres in all hell broke loose. The drone dropped to the floor with a strong smell of ozone. His head buzzed and he knew his augmented AI chip was gone too. This was isolating. The quiet of what people must have heard eons ago was with him. Deja vu again. Had he thought this before?
Ahead the field strength collapsed to zero. In front of him was a console array, a red headed woman he instantly knew was Lydia 678 and a replicant. His blaster was raised, but he knew the objective was no longer valid. Corona couldn’t touch him here.
“Tully 680, I presume.” Lydia moved between the two clones.
He nodded. While some rogue memory insisted he stare at her, his gaze was upon another him. Was that all Corona was? Creating clone after clone after clone. Did 680 mean there were 680 versions of him?
Tully 679 say something.
“Care to put that blaster down?”
“I’m supposed to cull you all and this facility.”
“I think you’ll find this facility has already made that option defunct.” Lydia approached and took the blaster.
“How can you be me?” Tully 680 was feeling sick.
“To be correct you are me, as I was to Tully 678, as Lydia was Lydia 677 and your augmented AI was to mine. Corona is insane and we are playthings to through out of the wiring.”
“Then my memories are not all false?”
“No,” said Lydia, “Corona has never really been able to fully restructure those bio-circuits. We all get those deja vu moments as what was bleeds through. She builds kill switches, terminates the clone when they resurface and starts again.”
Tully 680 cast her a dismal glance she understood straight away. “It’s not your fault. We are all victims of her insanity.”
“But that means none of us are real.”
“Interruption. The alien vessel is now planet bound. Orbital trajectory plotted. It will enter the defence grid in five earth minutes.”
Won’t the grid destroy it?
“Negative, it is using a quantum disruption field. Penetration is by artificial wormhole technology. The grid will bend round the craft and regenerate once the wormhole dissipates.”
Has it made contact?
“All outbound transmissions have been received. Universal translations are unacknowledged.”
“Where is it going?” Tully 679 approached the console below the screen showing a hole in the defence grid. From it the tip of a pure white ship appeared. In front of it the air distorted. “Is that the gravity propulsion system?”
“Affirmative. Destination plotted.”
“And?”“It will arrive here shortly.”
I’ve really enjoyed catching up with your writing when I have a little time. Love the variety of genres. I look forward to reading more. Hope you have a lovely Christmas.
Thanks Hayley. I’ve been doing the same getting next months tale ready. I’d forgotten how much I’d actually done. Same to you too. Maybe next year I’ll try and shake dust of the books and see if I can do something with them
You certainly have lots of material 😊 whatever you decide to do with your work i hope that it brings you happiness.
The layers here just keep on drawing me in. There is this undercurrent of not being truly able to catergorise the basic natures of the protagonists. The lines between AI and Human consciousness have become so intertwined in centuries (?) of interactions. Both come across as part of a whole, neither free of the other’s influence.
At times I had to read back to see who was actually who. However this I felt was part of the narrative. Individual Identity might not be subsumed but the overall placing of protagonists on one or side or the other. Not so.
A much more disturbing and fascinating world than that of Matrix or Terminator where the lines are drawn.
And now aliens are arriving?
It will be interesting to see what the aliens make of this civilisation.
And how this arrival will affect the various layers, checks, balances and relationships.
Very intricate and strong world build accompanied by an intriguing plot Gary 👍
Thanks Roger. This is still in its infancy stage. Just been running with it to see where it goes. Not even sure if it’s an intended pursuit. However it does allow a break from Dragon Stone. The confusion IMO is down to how rapid the reader is. I’ve tried to keep identities fairly obvious but the narrative is intended to be fluid. With clones only separated by a digit then fast reading may well create a narrative mix up. Not intentional as such, but being part of what the writing intended…if that makes sense.
The alien bit is yet to unfold. Not quite sure what they are after yet, or indeed if Corona is as aware as the ancient installation AI.
The world build you mention though is interesting… I’ve not really thought about it until seeing your comment. On reflection it is there though. From the generation of Corona as an AI upwards. Hadn’t considered it as such until just now.
Question in my mind though is do I push this forward or not? My genre isn’t really sci-fi.
Next months is probably going to be very new to you too. Revisiting one of my favourite characters. The reason will out in the post…if I decide to use it.
My advice is to keep on keeping on with this Gary. There are all manner of layers and allegories (I’ve even found a political one, particularly in state with an authoritarian theme; in those no one really is sure of their status, fortune can turn on a myriad of factors as the ‘Mission Statement’ blurs).
For me Confusion is an experience the reader should feel when reading certain genres. Characters can be established but motivations, positionings, perceptions, not so much. This was brought home to me when reading a history of the Vietnam Wars up to the 1970s by Stanley Karnow; the through the decades of the 20th century the whole was complex and at times difficult to grasp who was doing what & why. To be confused is to be immersed in the narrative. I find this enthralling in the two parts of this tale.
Back to keeping on. Like most genres there are those who are insufferably stuffy about what is what. For me I see no issue with Fantasy writers working in SF or vice-versa. Both are speculative and deal with places outside of the day to day. J.S.Morin ‘s series ‘Galaxy Outlaws’ blurs the lines, as of course does Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000. Thus a writer of Fantasy can enter the world of SF with no problem.
Looking forward to reading ‘next month’
I do believe there are about four pieces in this tale thus far. Possibly 2 were before you arrived as a permanent contributor maybe. I do like this one mind. Part is the writers curiosity to see where it leads. I’m sure you know that one haha. Can’t say I’d considered that aspect as a reader either. It’s a valid point. The aim is to get them involved in the narrative, wanting to see what happens and why the antagonist is right from their point of view. That one I do adhere to. There’s nothing worse than a bland antagonist purely there to drive a plot. If you (writer or reader) can’t identify with that aspect I feel the story goes lopsided. An entity chucked in the name the protagonists role work. Not sure I explained that right 🤔
I agree re genre swapping as a writer. This one was a distraction piece to break away from a more complex one. Same with the gothic horror one, which is my actual genre and one I would like to continue.
Thing is I seem to have too many open stories. As you’ll see next time. In that one I think you’ll see a totally different narrative voice too. Something I’m looking at now wondering if it actually works…despite having my two favourite characters… Ade and Rowena the Goth….
This is the experience I do like. Dropping half way into a story and then having to work out what was / is what. It makes the reader reflect and study, which sometimes a reader should be required to do.
At this stage, with a re-read I am beginning to become at one with the ‘realm’. It is a fascinating one Gary.
And I’ve not found one bland protagonist either 😃. Everyone is linked in a cycle of life, each part of a greater, their snatches of independence part of the dynamic.
As for stories I have the same problem. Two in particular One SF, the other Fantasy and the ‘durnedst’ thing is neither will not kick start!🙃
Same here. A true reader actually reads with a desire to answer the questions posed in a plot. Questions what the see before actually reading on. I see lots of reviews that make me think “Did you actually read it or just skim through with a preconceived opinion.”
Not sure, but if you didn’t read the one where Corona gains self awareness it might intrigue you more than the two you’ve seen. I think that is right up your alley so to speak.
It will also be interesting to see what you make of next months. I’ve just been working on it and 2016 was when that unfinished novel began 😱
I’ll back track on that Gary, it will be interesting to see the start of the narrative.
On the question of reviews….
There’s a section of reviewers are wannabe Critics and assume this requires the slicing apart of a work – unless of course it is fashionable. My own thoughts are ‘OK. YOU write a book then,’
Then there who haunt audio books are are snarky about the reader. I’m guessing they have never produced or narrated a book (and some get very uptight when a woman narrates a Fantasy novel).
I like that build up ‘and 2016 was when that unfinished novel began’….sets the scene! 😃
To save time it’s this one
You can actually find it via the posts you’ve read by tracking back the links at the bottom. I always include them to back refer to the previous post on the story.
I’ve heard that one too… if it’s so damn easy you write one. Critics never see behind the scenes. Think Tolkien… how much remains in notes and scrawls that never appeared in LOTR itself?
Got it! Bookmarked to my favourite to read from the beginning👍.
Tolkien is a good example. I never cared much for his characters (apart from Sam and Gollum both of whom seem to share the most depth and at times an odd sort of camaraderie). But to be fair to Tolkien he was writing in a traditional Heroic mythic mode, which was never my scene either.
That said his World Build and World History are supreme creations. My favourite parts are when characters are walking old roads and I start to think ‘Who built those and what was it like in their heydays?’
It is likely that most of us writing Fantasy these days have to tip our hats to Tolkien in one way our another.
How odd, I was just going through really old writing post. One in particular ponders that exact thinking…who built this road. It’s called Ghost Walk. I’d forgotten about it and yet the paranormal brothers have 2 books.
Tolkien is love or hate. I’m the former purely because it has depth in the world build. If I could be a fraction as good in that department I’d be laughing…then again I say the same about King as I’m a major fan of his Dark Tower series.
Love to see what you make of the original concept piece. I did that before a certain pandemic happened… say no more as to why I stopped for a while 😳
Old constructions have their own sense of majesty and not a little mystery don’t they?
My favourite of Lord of The Rings is the BBC 1981 dramatisation, which was the BBC at its height (The parody also let out by the BBC ‘Hordes of the Things’ was a dire
and strained affair and an obvious ‘old boy network’ job).
Yes, I do want to make the space to read the Corona series- which means shoving aside a whole host of podcasts / audio books (my usual way of reading these past years)
Definitely. With the right mind old ruins come to life with history. It’s almost palpable. Ghosts of the past stalking the present type of thing.
I missed that BBC version. Then again I didn’t really watch much back then.
I re-read that first one yesterday… ever do that and think I actually wrote that? Mind you I’m doing that with things I’d forgotten about. Rose, for example. I wrote a book on her and until I read the extract I posted it was so deep in the memory it had slipped out 😳
Ah, I slipped up there Gary, this was a Radio 4 production and has been pounced on by audio book / download outfits all over the net; some free and with problems in the download and at the other end Audible (now a part of Mighty Amazon’s Empire) which comes in three parts and ‘costs’ (unless you sign up for membership; still ‘costs’, if you ask me)…..I think I might have old raggedy tapes somewhere.
Agreed, whereas it is nice to have a back catalogue, there are ‘issues’
I read my recent stuff for continuity in the Blog Battles, and still keep finding typos!!🤨…Since it’s out there on Kindle that is embarrassing😧.
Worse, I check the Lulu self-published volumes for ‘history’ and think……
Where did the plots go? Where there any plots???😨
Sometimes it’s nice to be unread.
That’s the trouble. You know your own work too closely to spot stuff an editor hits straight off the bat. I’ve trained myself to try and proof as I go. Helps having edited PhD theses many moons ago mind 😂
The new new one I’m trying to get a handle on is passive sentences. They slip by and things are way better if you can knock them out. Hence I use the readability thing in yoast. It highlights them for you.
I admire that approach Gary. Time to tighten up, again (like I was writing another Civil Service report on ‘why IT went wrong’)
I try to avoid reading about formats or advice on styles of writing , because some mischief creeps in and I start doing what is advised against.
Like the argument for not using adverbs. Ever since I have studiously attempted where constructively able to included fearlessly and regularly ensure the promiscuously mischievous use. 😃
I think you need to be critical on advice on formats. There’s too many “experts” harping on about it nowadays. To me there’s a huge difference between writing and actual character narratives. In the latter very few speak in correct norms. Checkers and trolls tend not to appreciate that. The former needs more attention though to get right. There’s always room for improvement. Adverbs I do try to avoid, but can you really never use one? I think not. I’ve seen authors of high esteem talk about it then see them in their text!
I often struggle with why yoast flags some stuff 😂😂
The problem seems to be that a number of folk in all honesty wish for their writing to be ‘successful’. This is not a vanity, it is a hope stoked by folk with a commercial interest in ‘advising’ writers. This in turn results in the advice industry which of course has a variety of ‘schools’. This also in turn produces computer programmes to assist.
NOW, the issue with the computer programme is trying fit a binary system to aid something which is essentially artistic and not bound to the mathematical process. This may work quite well in the various business models which by their nature will tend to the formulaic. However is Creativity, this can run into ‘issues’
I cite WORD’s idiosyncrasies; such as pointing out you should use say ‘has’ when the preceding structure relates to the First Person.
Then there is the assuming clash between Red Line and Double Underlined Blue, where you alter to suit the one only to be picked up by the other. You can while a few ironic minutes constantly changing back and forth before you ‘ignore’ and press on.
I tend to treat the advice as:
1. Might be instructive. 🤔
2. Like an eccentric uncle who you politely listen too, then ignore the advice.😉
3. Intrusive and ignorant of artistic motivation – in which certain bad words are vocalised. 🤬
But since my writing is worse than illegible and the ultimate product has to be typed out either on paper or laptop. WORD I must work with.
And that is why vanity press publishers work. Persuade you it’s a masterpiece when all they actually want is your cash.
I’m ok with Word but not on an iPad which is where most of my stuffs done at present. I tend not to use grammar checkers or rely on computer assisted editing too much. Guides maybe but I prefer to use my own judgement as to whether something a piece of software flags as I think context over rules their “rules” most of the time.
Heck they gave us auto-incorrect so why would I put total trust into an algorithm 😂
They just can’t cope with the scope of a writer’s mind.😃
What’s even more bizarre, is when the Word in a fit of apoplexy in trying to keep up with our dexterity freaks out and starts using the spell-checker for another language; Italian seems to be its favourite fall back 🤷.
Anyway, I hope your Christmas day is going along OK.
Best wishes Gary.
Can’t disagree 😂😂
I often turn off checkers until I’ve drafted something out. Removes the distraction and allows free flow to occur. Editing is post writing IMO. Not to be done during crafting.
All good here Roger and I trust yours went well.
I actually bought myself a laptop just for writing and WP. The latter on an iPad just drives me nuts.
Wise move Garry.
Sometimes I try and use my mobile app to access and use WP; it’s my equivalent of playing a computer RPG game; an alternative world full of unseen traps.
Shame it took all day to update haha. Still all set up and good to go now. Even imported everything from my Microsoft account too. Including word. 😳
Perilous shoals navigated and into safe harbours.
Well done captain.🚢⚓
The plot is certainly thickening! The idea of the ‘evil twin’ who could turn out not be so evil after all presents all kinds of possibilities. I did get a bit lost between Tully 678 and 679 – it seems Peck refers to him by both numbers, or have I forgotten something from a previous installment? Corona’s audacity is very Orwellian – its referral to the chip as ‘symbiosis’ linkage sounds like verbiage right out of the Ministry of Truth. If the saying about two heads are better than one, the teaming of two Tullys might bring about results Corona never planned on. Then again, I’m not sure I’m ready to trust Tully 680, either. 🙂 There’s an amusing typo in the line ‘Question is are we dealing with friend *of* foe?’ A little Freudian slip about the enemy of my enemy is my friend? Sharp hook at the end – hope we find out more next month!
Thanks Abe. Would have got round to this but got caught up with stuff. I knew it may get a tad confusing too. Peck as part of the AI hive always refers to clones as numbers… although that just made me think of the Prisoner… remember that one? “I am not a number, I am a free man.”
678 is where I landed in the clone cycle. Imagine the confusion if Corona had made seven or more versions alongside 679 haha.
The thing I’m trying to work out more is MH impact. Once the clones detach from Coronas influence how will they react? More so once they realise they are not biological as such and created.
Trust again is thrown in as you spotted. 679 was programmed or indoctrinated, if that’s a better term, to destroy the facility and terminate the clones. It may be Corona has already created Lydia 678 on the assumption Tully 679 has achieved his goal or the presumption he will. That could have happened in tandem with his genesis or at any point up to the drone being disabled.
I’ll fix that typo so thanks for pointing it out!
I’m mulling on next month. To further this or return to Dragon Stone, or perhaps the Political parody. Or maybe some festive horror story 🤔
So many clones and so little time! Even if you submit something different next month, it’s always fun to revisit the various characters.
Lol. That sums it up in a sentence! Alongside too many stories that need finishing and yet BB just seems to be creating more 😱