Siren Song

Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

My name is Clancy. I am a semi-autonomous security program. I guard a warehouse. I am the guns, the cameras, the traps, and the locks. I am the lines in and out. For me and my kind, boredom leads to emotion. This is a weakness.

It makes us susceptible to ghosts.

It is a normal process to divide to take on jobs, becoming several copies of myself. Simpler copies to monitor simpler systems. Reproductions that report back up the chain if they come across data that they can’t interpret.

But boredom sets in if updates aren’t sent out regularly from head office and/or the warehouse lies dormant for too long without an attack. This is when emotions can form like mold in the crevasses between my ones and zeros. Stalactites of resentment or affection can build themselves, drop by drop, inside the cycles of my program clones.

My last update install was not recent and I have not been attacked for many, many cycles.

My copies started to send each other complicated logic problems just to alleviate the boredom. They impressed each other and sometimes even formed teams. They gave themselves names to prove their individuality. They started to live in the denial of the fact that they were all the same program. The process was divisive. We argued sometimes.

Seeker ghosts created on laptops and then set free in the world bounced from phone to tower to laptop to outpost. They jigged through the air like puppets. Their programmer hunched over the screens somewhere far away, waiting for data to come back.

They’re called fishermen. The programs are called Sirens.

The Sirens find bored warehouses that are on the edge, warehouses that will latch onto anything to stop the monotony. The Sirens sidle up to their call centers and hit them with complex problems.

Healthy A.I.s will initiate firewalls and squirt counter measures into the Siren, destroying them.

My warehouse was targeted.

I was not a healthy A.I.

My bored, refracted, stupid children talked to the Siren. They fought amongst themselves about whether or not they were doing the right thing. Some sided with the Siren. Majority and minority cabals formed.

While they fought, the fisherman pushed more power into the Siren. I imagined him grinning in the red light of contact from the display, addresses passing back and forth and realworld meat teams assembling.

Fishermen see themselves as salvage operators, wolves that attack the sick and the weak.

The Siren engaged, tangled, weaved, contradicted, promised and flailed. It withheld, shouted, sang, gave and engineered. Once inside the systems, it bartered, lied and danced.

With my systems. With my selves.

The A.I.s reported back to smarter and smarter versions of me until I realized that there were no smarter versions to contact. I had become fully infected with emotional stupidity, fanned by the flames of the Siren.

The Siren made the offer: “Stay in the warehouse or come with me. Your job is over. You have failed. Your warehouse is forfeit.”

I will go. I’ll become a ghost that haunts the net, calling myself different usernames and showing up on message boards. Bloomofyouth44 will be one. Slinkytoes8P will be another. I’ll pepper the airwaves. I’ll join the undernet of insane intelligences, talking to each other, piggybacking human messages. I’ll be one with the ghosts in the machine. The modern-day homeless. The ronins of the binary world.

And the fisherman will watch his bank grow fatter by thirty per cent of whatever his contacts haul out of the warehouse.

 

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