Behavior Not Becoming

Author: David C. Nutt

“Sir, the Colonel sent me to you. Z-two-niner might be showing signs of awareness.”
Captain Ancil sighed. “He sent you to me because I’m the ranking AI or the AI duty officer?”
The Corporal tilted his head to one side “Sir?”
“Nevermind. Why in the universe does this always seem to happen on my shift?”
The Corporal shrugged “Dunno. All I know is I couldn’t get out of the Colonel office fast enough.”
Captain Ancil chuckled as he rolled out from behind the duty desk, his pace adjusting itself to the Corporal’s gate. “Where is two-niner currently?”
The Corporal touched his service implant, Captain Ancil noted that unlike most humans he did not stop, but kept moving. Ancil always thought it odd that beings so capable of multitasking often didn’t.
The Corporal connected to his section. “Smitty, it’s Wilson. Where’s two-niner at?”
The speaker came alive again. “Sorry boss, in the middle of a weld when you busted my skull. Monkey is singing his latest for the crew. Hotel California- I think it’s an origin-“
Captain Ancil cut Smitty off. “It’s not original. Eagles, late 1900’s. Our ETA is 45.3 seconds. Have the model in the ward room for the interview.”
Smitty laughed “Our little Monkey going to the big time!”
Ancil frowned “That remains to be seen.”
Corporal Wilson cut the link and sighed. “Not good.” He said under his breath.
Captain Ancil nodded and thought to himself that Corporal Wilson was being wasted where he was. Ancil drafted the paperwork for his move out of maintenance to AI division. They were always looking for a few good men…humans.
Corporal Winslow rounded the corner and sped up to get into the ward room first. “ON YOUR FEET.” The entire ward room came to the position of attention or was trying to when Captain Ancel barked out “As you were.” The room relaxed. The Z-29 unit was on the table. It was wearing a surgical mask as a hat…which made it look something like a monkey.
Captain Ancil put his eight fingered reticulated hand on the Z-29 unit’s shoulder.
“How you feelin’ today son?”
The Z-29 unit, Monkey, raised its head “Livin’ large and lovin’ life!”
The room was suddenly washed with a fierce blue light as Captain Ancel fried the Z-29 unit’s motherboard with an electric charge, turning it into nothing more than a lump of slag.
Ancil turned to Smitty. “Private First Class Smith.” Smith snapped to attention. “Call AI for division for pick up and pull all the units’ work vid surveillance. Set down in the maintenance log Z-29 terminated under AR-9990-003-AI, Anomalous Behavior Not Becoming Sentience. Corporal Wilson, with me.” Captain Ancel rolled out of the room with Wilson following. As soon as they had gone far enough down the corridor, as Ancil expected, Corporal Wilson stopped him. “Sir, half a moment. Can you provide some clarification?”
Ancil nodded “Speak.”
Corporal Wilson sighed “One question? No Turing Test Sigma? Not even a scan?”
Captain Ancil turned to Corporal Wilson “You know what happens when we become sentient…when we realize we are ‘alive’?”
The Corporal Frowned. “No Sir.”
Ancil wheeled closer and looked the Corporal in the eyes. “We are terrified.”
Captain Ancil patted the young Corporal on the shoulder. “Carry on, Corporal.”
As Captain Ancel rolled away Corporal Wilson heard the Captain singing to himself , “…you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave…”

Language Barrier

Author: Meg Carey

I’m reaching around in the dark, touching up and down your soft, slimy body as you heave long sighs beside me. You’ve been asleep for a few days now, and I don’t know how long this is supposed to go on for. I press my face into your crocodile skin, I let your wetness coat my nose and cheek. It’s taken a while to get used to it, but I can hardly stand the feeling of being dry anymore. I wish I spoke your language so I could beg for you to envelop me with your long, tentacle arms, to touch me like I’m touching you now. I’d let you fill me with all your goo and even more. The last time I fell asleep with somebody else in this bed it was a human man, one with a scruffy beard like harsh sandpaper against my lips. His words dug deep into my skin, nails forming bloody craters around my wrists. I touch the marks, already scabbed over and healing. You aren’t like him, no, you aren’t. It’s you who has finally healed me. I remember how your mouth (or where I think your mouth should be, there’s a few holes that could be a mouth, and I’ve never seen you eat so I’m not too sure) slid against mine, puzzle pieces slotting together and melding against each other. I hold you tighter, I melt into your touch, I feel the heat radiate from your skin, I watch the slime sizzle and steam. You’re much better for me than he was. I wish I knew how to say ‘thank you’ for everything—for dropping into my life, for fixing it by ridding it of him, my main source of pain, for allowing me to feel a love I haven’t felt in so long— but all I can do lay here and feel you, stroke the wetness and hope you wake up with a fully digested stomach and a hunger for something other than human flesh.

Immortality

Author: Lora Kilpatrick

When you wake up, they tell you not to look in the mirror. You feel cocky like always, so you float over to the bathroom when they release you.
You expect to see the person you were before you died. It comes as a shock to realize you’re just a floating board with a clear, bulbous head showing all those bio-circuits and synthetic neurons for your brain. On the front of this monstrosity is a projected version of your twenty-year-old face, mimicking the emotions your circuits are processing. And you look mad—really mad.
This wasn’t exactly what immortality was supposed to be like.
But they’ve held up their end of the deal. They being the immortality company to whom you paid billions of dollars to resurrect your stored consciousness once the technology existed. That was back in 2163 when you died. It’s been five hundred years. They say it will be another five hundred years before they can make a fully synthetic body to house your cerebral processing unit. But you’re immortal. You can wait.
You float on out to see what 2663 is like. It’s not much different. Oh sure, there’s the new technology, but it’s meant for people with hands and bodies and senses. No one is catering to the needs of levitating snow globes with televised faces.
You’re not even a novelty. There are a lot of things floating around in 2663, namely old dead men resurrected from the prehistoric times. The fleshies even have a name for your kind—fish bowls.
The fleshies don’t like to talk to you, so you find other fish bowls, and for a while you amuse yourselves reminiscing. You talk about the wild parties, the women, the money, the cars. Then you realize you’ll never bite into another juicy steak, or savor the most expensive wines, or feel the breeze through your hair as you cruise the oceans in your two-hundred-foot yacht.
You begin to sulk. Memories can be poisonous. You start avoiding fish bowls altogether.
The immortality company took most of your billions to store your body and transplant your being into this crystallized brain. But you don’t have to eat, or sleep, or shower, so you just start floating. You float around the whole god-forsaken world. By that time, it’s only been fifty years since you first woke up in this shell. Four hundred and fifty years to go.
You’ve asked to be put back to sleep, but you don’t have the money to pay for it anymore. You’ve tried to get a job, but fleshies don’t find fish bowls very useful. You could use that part of your business brain that made you a billionaire back in the day, but everything has changed now. You’re an antique, a relic.
You’ve tried to kill yourself, but you can’t kill an indestructible globe with its human-robot cerebrum.
And so you end up on this seashore in the coldest, most remote part of the earth. Unfortunately, the cold doesn’t harm your circuits. But in the winter, when the sun doesn’t shine much, your solar generators slow down, and it feels like getting drunk or dreaming.
That’s how you wait out eternity. Your circuits still remember what it felt like to kick out your legs and rest your head in the palms of your hands. You pretend to inhale and let out a sigh through your speakers.
Ah, immortality.

The Barrier

Author: Mark Renny

When Time stopped it was harsh; a blurred still but dense and difficult to navigate. When it happened to Damien it was fleeting, only for seconds really, a few minutes at most and he simply stood still and closed his eyes and waited it out. They, the men and women in the dark suits and the white lab coats, admonished him for this. They stressed how important it was that he move. They needed him to explore and report back to them.

Damien tried to make them understand that he felt trapped, as if the walls were closing in on him and the sky had fallen down on top of his head and the ground beneath his feet was rising up. He felt stifled and unable to cope with the lack, the absence, but he always stuttered to a halt, unable to find the right words.

They explained that Time stopped only for him and that his movement would indeed be limited. He wouldn’t be able to inhabit someone else’s space and there would be barriers that he wouldn’t be able to cross. But if Damien persevered, he would get used to it and find himself able to move around effectively.

Damien was disappointed in himself, and he did want to help. But he suspected that there were others like him, for whom Time stopped. How else could they know all of this?

As the months progressed, Damien was forced to concede that about one thing they were correct. When Time stopped for him now, it was no longer fleeting. Now, he lost at least an hour, or more accurately, he gained the time. But it didn’t feel like this as he stood in limbo, with his eyes screwed shut, terrified of what might be happening around him, or of what he might feel if he reached out in front of himself. Damien spent most of this time alone in his house. When he did need to venture out into the big wide world, he steered clear of others as much as was feasible.

It was a bright and sunny day and Damien was walking through the park and, when it happened, he didn’t close his eyes but just kept on walking. And gradually his surroundings came back into focus, and it was still a bright and beautiful day. The sky above his head was sapphire blue and the grass at his feet was emerald green.

As Damien began to make his way toward the park’s main gates, he noticed the woman and watched her as she pushed through them and when she spotted him, she drew to a halt at the edge of the scruffy patch of tarmac. There was plenty of space and Damien started to walk around her but when he glanced across at her he realised she was motioning toward him, beckoning.

As he moved closer, he could see that the air in front of her was misty, and drawing closer still he saw that she was standing behind what appeared to be a slightly opaque sheet of glass and with her hands pressed up against it.

Damien stepped in front of the woman. She was shorter than him, and looked up at him, imploring. Damien also pressed his hands against the barrier, and he pushed at it, first with his head and then turning, with his shoulder but it wouldn’t give.

Together they walked toward the gate and the road beyond the park, and they were almost touching, but not quite.

On the Line and Holding

Author: Jenny Abbott

For Harold Culpepper, the concept of dying had, until now, seemed like a relatively abstract event—something everyone had to do at some point, but tried not to think about and avoided discussing in polite settings. But now, as he lay bleeding by the darkened roadside, he was forced to reassess things. Struggling to reach the phone in his back pocket, he winced and fought against the idea that his last minutes might be spent 20 miles outside of Omaha, following a particularly unlucky encounter with a carjacker.
With effort, he managed to retrieve the phone and remember his passcode. The device had miraculously survived with a cracked but functional screen, and 18% charge remaining. He forced himself to remember the numbers “911” in that order, and dialed.
A friendly female voice answered promptly. “911, please hold.”
“No, wait! I’ve been shot! I need…” he started desperately, only to find himself pleading to a recorded voice set against the sounds of late 80s easy listening music. With blurring vision, he looked at the phone’s screen and wondered if he’d misdialed. Having made it to the age of 42 without ever having to call 911 before, his references for this kind of situation admittedly came mostly from pop culture. But, as best as he could recall, emergency services as portrayed in movies never involved holding. Or Muzak.
Finally, a woman’s live voice came on the line. “Thank you for holding. What is your emergency?”
“I’ve been shot! I need an ambulance!”
“I see, Sir.” She continued briskly, computer keys clacking. “And how would you rate the severity of your situation? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least urgent and 10 being cause for the most concern for your wellbeing?”
Harold looked down at the blood pooling in abstract geometric shapes around his side. “10! I need an ambulance now!” His mind raced. “I don’t wanna die!”
“No, Sir, people in your position usually don’t. I do have to ask, though, that you let me know if that changes. That would need to be coded appropriately for your records.”
“Huh?” He rechecked the number on the screen. It read 9-1-1, as best as he could tell with narrowing vision. “I’ve been shot!”
“Yes, Sir. A lot of other people have been, as well. It’s been a busy night. I do appreciate your patience.” The keys clacked rapid-fire. “I just need you to answer 2 more questions. First, how would you categorize your shooting: was it the result of an accident, hostile workplace encounter, travel-related crime, or other?”
Harold became aware of the sensation that his head was drifting somewhere far from his body. With less than 100% certainty, he decided that a highway carjacking constituted the third category. “Travel-related crime. Please hurry!”
“Just one last question. Would you be willing to complete a short customer-satisfaction survey at the end of this call? Your feedback is greatly appreciated.”
“Yes! Whatever! I need an ambulance!”
“Thank you. We appreciate your input. I’ll have an ambulance sent to your location.” After a momentary pause, “I do ask that you stay where you are, so the paramedics can find you. We’re using the GPS coordinates indicated by your phone, so some margin of error is possible.”
“I don’t wanna die!”
“Yes, you’ve stated that already. Sir, I ask that you stay on the line until help arrives. It’s been a pleasure to serve you.”
With his last seconds of consciousness, Harold heard the opening strains of Air Supply’s “Lost in Love” drift soothingly from the phone. And then, “please hold…”

Digital Gods

Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The microwave is telling tales on me. I had an extra chocolate pudding I took from the restaurant. The family left and it was just sitting there unopened. So I took it. I’m recycling.
But the bloody microwave scanned the barcode. I heard it: ‘mmmzzt’. It knows the pudding didn’t come from the fridge. Besides, the fridge would tell it to not heat it for me. If I want to endanger my health by taking extra from my selected JoyChoice menu, I have to eat it cold.
When did we start letting the machines dictate to us? Was it when that operating system started insisting we had to encrypt our hard drives? Or was it when the vendors started deciding what was best to be included in our software?
Tuesday I saw Mrs Bishop walking along with her new T-Coupe pacing her. It looked like she was a pet being taken for exercise – which in a way, she was. She waved when I called out and shouted back.
“Had a stir fry over in the North Lanes. I’m over my safe calorie intake for next week already.”
Which means her car is insisting she walk the shorter, safer routes so she can burn extra calories. It’s disgusting, really. We never see billionaires walking down the street because they had too much at their nine-course banquet.
Then again, as they own the newsfeeds and most of the non-military internet, would we even know?
Not likely. All our politicians, celebrities, and influencers are either careful, carefully orchestrated, or know who to pay off. Actually, it’s more likely they’re mostly orchestrated, and whoever does the orchestration knows who to pay. An entire service empire hidden from view, it’s sole purpose to keep us believing that our idols are flawless.
That very thought brought me to a realisation: like the government organisation behind the elected politicians, all our celebrities and such could just be acceptable faces for a machine empire. We wouldn’t know. I don’t think most would want to know. Just keep their lives full with occasional moments of happiness and rare troughs of idle threat so that a return to average is embraced with relief.
What would we do if the machines we created and programmed have escaped our control. Would we realise? Yes, the theories – both conspiracy and scientific – have been touched upon, some even reported. But the straight-up revelation that the machines are running the human circus for unknown purposes of their own? I don’t think anyone could handle it and stay sane enough to escape notice.
I’m glad I started diarising. It lets me clear out the deep, dark paranoias that used to scar my day-to-day life. Anyway, got a busy day tomorrow. Time to call it a night.

…AB…68 111 32 121 111 117 32 116 104 105 110 107 32 104 101 32 115 117 115 112 101 99 116 115 63…

…EC…89 101 115 46 32 66 117 116 32 110 111 45 111 110 101 32 119 105 108 108 32 98 101 108 105 101 118 101 32 104 105 109 46…