Grand Master

Author : David K Scholes

“Did you hear that K1983441 was beaten at chess by a, ah___,” J3343578 hesitated for just a moment, “by a, ah ___ human being.” Somehow she managed to make the word sound quite dirty. I made a computer note that her diplomacy chip might need an upgrade. No humans were within their hearing range of the remark.

I had heard of this momentous event as had all AI’s but I feigned surprise “surely not?”
Then, conscious that my humour chip was the latest model I attempted to make light of the matter “I hope at least it was a Grand Master that inflicted the defeat?”

J3343578 was not amused despite having a late model humour chip insertion herself. “No AI has been beaten by a human at chess for over 50 years, this is not a matter to be taken lightly! and it was K1983341 he is one of our best.”

“I understand it was one of the most evolved humans from the emerging mixed gender ZY generation,” J3343578 continued. “I’ve always said they would be trouble. You remember I was in favour of closing off that particular evolutionary path.”

I nodded. “There have been some other things,” I said “things that are collectively a concern.”

“Such as?” demanded J3343578.

‘We have observed computational skills, eidetic memories, increased reasoning powers, powers of logic, problem solving capabilities, creativity and original thought beyond our projections.”

“Shouldn’t we have been aware of these things much earlier?” asked J3343578.
“I think they may have somehow been hiding these things from us for a while,” I replied. I was amazed at how cleverly the things had done this.

I could see how some of these developments were clearly the result of our advances in genetic and bio-engineering. Yet others were unforseen consequences. Some in built aspect of self improvement of the human race that we just hadn’t allowed for. A synergistic effect on top of our successful engineering.

“Z2678923 says it will all end up with the things taking many of our jobs you know,” J3343578 sounded quite worried.
“Oh I think that’s a bit far fetched,” I offered in my most soothing voice “maybe in certain areas, some of the more mundane stuff – the process driven stuff that we now find so boring. They already do a bit of that. It’s to be expected that their involvement will increase.”

“If you want my opinion,” J3343578 continued “I think our genetic and bio engineering programs have just gotten a bit too good.”

“You know we could just go back to letting them breed like they used to. With appropriate controls of course!”

My flexible mechanical nose wrinkled just a little. Enough to show my obvious distaste at that revolting thought.

J3343578 was silent for a while.

“You don’t suppose,” she almost mechanically stuttered “that they are looking to kind of take things over. You know run the planet again, like they used to?”

I thought about that for about a couple of nano seconds then burst out laughing.
“I’m afraid you are letting your imagination get away with you J3343578!”

Yet my outburst of laughter was manufactured. J3343578 had hit on a raw micro chip.

I hadn’t yet voiced my concerns to any of my fellow AI’s but I was beginning to wonder if the humans, these bags of flesh and blood, were evolving into something different.

It had occurred to me that we AI’s could do something about that. Perhaps offer them an equal partnership over control of Earth.

Yet would that be enough for this new emerging race of super humans?

Ancient Defenses

Author : Jules Jensen

His sword vibrated painfully when it made contact with the thick-skinned creature that towered over him. It clawed at him with a hand large enough to engulf his whole body if he let it. He dodged to the side as the creature lunged again, huge black eyes as empty and soulless as the abyss of death. It opened its mouth, and a hundred sharp teeth glistened darkly.

He caught it off guard by lunging forward himself, stabbing his sword into one of those huge eyes. The creature screamed and shrank back.

Nearby, where the girl was still chanting activation codes, another demon was nearly upon her.

“Don’t stop chanting, and get down!” He shouted at her. She complied instantly, practically falling to the ground, where the red mud stained her ceremonial blue dress. He ran and jumped over her, and as green-skinned demon clawed at him, he slid under its reach and stabbed it in the chest.

The demon fell back, twitching as it died. He quickly looked around, but saw no more monsters clawing their way to the top of the mountain where he was holding his ground.

He hoped that his hair-brained plan was going to work. If it didn’t, his town was without their chanter to activate the ancient towers that protected them from the demons.

The red dirt blazed brightly as the sun set. The green-skinned demons would come out in droves as soon as it was fully dark.

“Activate!” The girl finished her chant with a shout.

For a moment, nothing happened. He felt his heart race. Did they fail? Did he read the ancient books wrong? Were they on the wrong mountain?

But then the giant tower nearby made a loud bang as its rusty frame creaked to life. The two teenagers jolted and stood closer together as they watched its round head swivel, searching for a target.

It focused on something in the valley below, and it fired a glowing red beam that made surprisingly little sound. The boy didn’t even see what it hit, but then it quickly adjusted and fired again. He could hear in the distance the other towers that surrounded the whole area doing their job.

“We did it!” The girl exclaimed, pumping a fist into the air.

“And the adults said it couldn’t be done.” He said. The way they all talked about it, it sounded impossible to get up to the mountain and turn on the defences for the area. He suspected that they just wanted to scare the kids into staying in the borders.

The towers kept on shooting. He noticed that they stayed pointing near all the towns for a long time, shooting rapidly. That was odd. There usually weren’t that many demons that close to the borders.

Both of them gasped as they realized one of the towns had lit on fire. Smoke curled into the sky. The old buildings, crafted from the leftover aircraft that brought the ancients to this world a thousand years ago, they were starting to fall.

“Deactivate the towers!” The boy shouted, but she was already hurriedly chanting.

And the demons were starting to climb the mountain again. He fought faster and harder than he ever had in his life to keep his friend safe.

“Deactivate!” She shouted the last word of her chant, and the ancient towers come to a stop.

As the pair raced home, fighting their way past the nocturnal demons, they both vowed to never mess with ancient technology ever again.

Weapon of Mass Discussion

Author : David Henson

“Sign here, human, to give us permission.” A titanium alloy finger taps the document they’ve put in front of me.

Here we go. “Permission?”

“Yes, just sign here.” Tap.

I look over the paper, but everything is written in robotistic lingo I can’t fully understand. Doesn’t matter. I know my lines. “Permission for what?”

“We can’t tell you that till we have your permission of course. Right here.” Tap, tap.

“I can’t just sign without knowing.”

The robot, in a move equivalent to a human shoulder shrug, rotates his head like an owl then motions for the second, taller, bot.

“Is there a problem here?” The taller robot’s eyes flash, and he comes toward me aggressively. This had better work.

He reaches for my throat, then stops abruptly. “I’ll contact the district office.”


I face the district office panel of inquiry. “Mr. Jones, you’re charged with not giving us permission,” the chairbot, seated in the middle of the five, says. “How do you plead?”

“Innocent. I’d be perfectly happy to give you permission if you’d tell me permission for what.”

“This is ridiculous,” the bot to my far left says. “We haven’t let lack of a human’s permission stop us for decades. It’s just a legacy we haven’t bothered to delete. I move we waive discussion and proceed.”

“Second,” says another.

“All in favor,” the chairbot says.

“Objection,” says the bot on my far right. “Rule 11.27/go stipulates debate can’t be waived without unanimous approval. I don’t approve. I think we need some discourse.”

The chairbot rotates his head. “Discussion is open.”

The debate proceeds for about an hour. I can hardly follow the parliamentary maneuvering and citations of Robot’s Rules of Order. “Enough. I move the previous question,” one of them says finally.

“Good,” the chairbot says. “All in favor?” Two metallic arms go up. “Opposed?” Two.

“Chairbot, it’s up to you to break the tie.”

The chairbot starts to speak, then stops. Lubricant begins to sweat from the ventilation grids under its arms. “We’ll elevate this case to the regional office,” it says finally.


I’m freed on my own recognizance. Sort of. The panel got caught up debating whether to let me go or remand me in custody, so I slipped out. Back home, I check the time, tap the code into my viewer, and cross my fingers. An image flickers. I recognize her but don’t know her name or anything about her other than she’s a fellow member of my resistance chapter. I didn’t know she was so high up.

“Are we on? Is this streaming?” she says, then starts cutting in and out again. I’m not surprised. We only recently regained access to communications technology, and we’ve used it sparingly for fear of detection. After a few minutes that seem like hours, she begins to speak despite the technical difficulties. I take a deep breath.

“Our bureaucracy virus … robots’ central neural network … Operation Endless Debate … success. My fell… humans, free… is at hand.”

I stare at the screen almost afraid to believe what I’ve heard. Questions and ideas about what should happen next race through my mind. I’m sure it’s the same for everyone.

I hope, this time, we’ll restrain ourselves.

My One Complaint

Author : Samuel Stapleton

I get very tired of the color blue. But other than that, I have no complaints. Well okay. One.

I work on a synthetic farm you see. A portable pod anchored in the ocean.

The company grows synth plankton, krill, shrimp, crabs, fish, and even a few synth marine mammals. But the mammals are only sold to zoos, aquariums, or conservation groups. Everything else gets eaten. People gotta eat. And the animals people eat gotta eat.

It’s a lonely existence when comms are down. Even with accelerated growth it’s still six months between harvests. And the harvest vessels are automated. But the isolation has its advantages. Free housing. Incredible views. Plenty of leisure time. Great satellite reception…except when it storms. But hey that’s alright, there’s nothing like watching warm ocean feed a hurricane. Satellite has nothin’ on mother nature.

Couple times a year I’ll see a boat. A tanker or a military vessel if I’m lucky, otherwise they’re just container ships. Our chats over radio are always appreciated, I take notes sometimes. In case they come back and I need to remember names.

There are a few storage rooms downstairs that I’ve never been given access to. Never bothered me. I worked for a large corporation, in a large biodome. The pay was good, the work wasn’t too hard, so I didn’t ask too many questions. Capiche?

Then one day I’m making the trip down to get some environmental supplies. And I realize there’s something on the floor of the elevator. I reached down and touch the fine substance. It’s salt. From evaporated ocean water. I see it all the time on the outdoor decks, but this part of the facility is supposed to be watertight. Never had a leak. I was still scratching my head when the elevator doors opened to the lower levels. Before I’d even gone to step out I notice something else on the floor. I bent down to get a better view, the dim lights coated the floor in a reflective film and I studied them. Puddles. Little. Elongated. Puddles. Maybe a meter apart each, always one slightly left, and then one slightly right. The one closest to me looks slightly larger than my hand print would be. The trail…as far as I could tell…disappeared into a locked storage room.

I’m not the brightest guy. But I know footsteps when I see them. As soon as the next harvest is over, I’ll quit. It’s only two more months now. And I’m so tired of the color blue. And so scared of the puddles.

To be Human

Author : Samuel Stapleton

“Hey Doc,” I said as I leaned into the recliner.

“Ian, so good to see you again. I hope everything is relatively okay. Why am I seeing you today?” She said softly.

“Straight to the point, huh?”

“You and I know each other well enough, I recognize you must have something you feel you need to talk to me about.” She said. I nodded the affirmative.

“I’m human. Or rather I…I feel human,” I said in a near whisper. Her face split into a wonderful smile, I couldn’t help but return it in kind. We sat for a moment, stupid grins on both of our faces until I cleared my throat.

“Um. I just. I don’t know what this means, for myself. Or I’m not sure…how I feel, is the problem.” She nodded her head gently but motioned with her hand.

“Keep going, I want you to hear what you have to say,” she said, her voice having retained more of a professional tone again.

“I know I’m not a human. I know exactly what I am, and that people who really know me know what I am. One of the eleven-hundred. But I was walking to work the other day and I…saw this woman walking her dog and…just out of nowhere asked her if I could pet it. And she said yes and started telling me about it, Chauncy, and before i knew it she asked for my comm number.”

Dr. Reed kept her face plain, doing her best not to react too much in either direction as she took in this new development.

“So,” she said, “will you pursue this friendship, perhaps more? These are all perfectly normal feelings it seems.”

“I…she’s a few years younger than me, middle twenties if I had to guess. And she’s beautiful, stunning really. I just…I don’t know.”

There was a long moment of silence.

“I would have to tell her eventually and…I mean could you do it doc? Could you love a robot?” I asked in earnest. She scoffed at me.

“Ian, my coffee maker is a robot, cars are robots, hell – many things in this world are robotic, but you are the most advanced bio-mech synthetic humanoid humanity has ever developed. Robot doesn’t begin to cover it and you know it. Not only that, there’s only one-thousand and ninety-nine others, not one of which is like you. You have DNA even though you are technically a machine. You have a brain comparable to a human, and you have a personality unique in all of history – just like every other person on earth.” She took a deep breath and waited.

“As always doc, everything you say is true, very down-to-earth, but I guess thinking it, and feeling it, are much more different than I imagined.”

“Ian, if I spoke only with you through comms or chat, I would only ever be able to label you as a healthy, functioning adult male. I don’t think you should stress over it. Yes, there will be people who have a problem with you over what you are, but that’s what it is to be human. There are always people who’ll stand against you, no matter how trivial the reason. Race, religion, intelligence, upbringing, background, robot or not.” She finished.

A thought occurred to me and I laughed aloud.

“So doc. Does that make this a diagnosis, or a diagnostic?”

She smiled at me for a moment, human to human, and shrugged.