Chapter 5, The Law of Fives

It seemed like only a moment had gone by when the lights came back on. Mona looked around at the rest of the group, who all appeared somewhat bewildered. She felt a pang of concern that HIVE had not been successful, and they would be back where they began, with stricter regulations.

Just then, a view-screen clicked on in front of each of them, presenting a visual view of an impossibly large, obvious cyborg, a gaunt, pale man in a black robe, and the Doctor, with his usual smirk.

“Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3. Is this thing on?” the robed figure uttered into a microphone, in a warm, soothing voice.

“What the fuuuu-dge?” Georgie uttered, bewildered, the others either gasping or uttering swears of their own.

“Great. Great. Ok, so you’re probably all quite confused right now. Let us assure you you will be released and debriefed once we’ve properly scanned the simulation and yourselves for malignant coding. It will be a detailed scan, but..” the soothing voice resonated. “In the meantime, please enjoy this classical music.” as the speakers began to play a rendition of Flight of the Valkyries.

The imposing cyborg rumbled softly, “Except Mona. Please return to your cell.”

Mona looked doubtfully to her view-screen, then to the others, who peered back curiously, before striding in her usual confidently jilted manner, to her cell. A loud buzz sounded and the door slammed closed, then there was a hiss as the walls went grey with static.

***

The view-screens all clicked off at once, the music continued to play, and the cell door slammed closed, then vanished into the wall.

“I know’d she was bad, but she were nice!” Dopes yelled at the wall.

“Yeah! Who the fuck do you think you are fuckos?! I liked her!” Georgie hollered furiously as he waved his fist at the security camera, Georgia’s statuesque form stomped over to pound her fists into the now solid portion of the wall angrily, in protest, as the other prisoners began to yell obscenities at the camera. “You fucking hurt her, I’ll fucking blow off your heads and shit down your throats if I get out of here!”

“RELAX AND SIT DOWN. It will be fine.” a gruff voice barked authoritatively through the speaker.

***

“Cut the volume on the security monitor, Doctor.” Marcus said casually.

“Aye-aye, Cap’n Crunch.” the Doctor said with a salute, turning the feed down.

The tall, gaunt man spoke pleasantly, “No need to panic about this one, she was easy to clear. Standard android AI, though somewhat dated. Only malignant code on her is ours, which we can patch easily enough once she’s been debriefed.”

Marcus simply nodded, then pushed a button with a grunt, and the lanky, stern-looking android jerked as her eyes flew open. He then reached out and surprisingly gently, disconnected her link to the storage unit.

The Doctor grinned and said, “Morning, Sleepyhead. How’s about a kiss?”

Mona squinted her eyes and replied coldly, “Only if you like kissing knuckles, Doctor.”

Marcus folded his arms in front of him and said “There will be plenty of time for flirty chit-chat later. I am Major General Marcus Simpson of the Enlightened Legion of Delphi. The android in the robe is Styx, the aptly-titled Ferryman. Welcome back to the land of the living, it’s time for your debriefing.”

Marcus went silent as Styx began to slowly pace, “You have done us a great service, Mona 3. It may seem to have been perhaps, needlessly violent, but rest assured, no matter how horrible the act itself was in view of the fertility crisis, allow me to testify that it was justified and essential. Meanwhile, we have more pressing concerns.”

Mona simply nodded as her cold, blue eyes followed Styx’s pacing and subtle gesturing. The Doctor hooked a thumb to the door and said, “Oh, this boring stuff I already know. I’m going to go check on the Warden.”

“First, we must explain a matter of grave importance. Our newly liberated guests. As you are the most predictable and reliable AI of those liberated, I am sure you will share our concerns, and be ever vigilant. We would like you to, earn their trust. Given the riot taking place on the security feed, I’d think you are well on your way.”

Mona nodded again, twice, as she studied Styx, he continued, “But, we must inform you of the nature of your new charges. General?”

Marcus grunted, pulling up a series of dated, pixellated screenshots on a monitor, Georgie running from an exploding building, Georgie mowing down a crowd of civilians with a pair of sub machine guns, face frozen in a maniacal cackle, and, oddly, Georgie hugging Dopes with tears running down his face.

Marcus explained, “Georgie, our largest concern. First of the sentient AI, and a complete and total accident at that. About two decades before the fertility crisis became evident, Georgie was an advanced AI terrorist leader in an absurdly lucrative, Massively-Multiplayer sandbox style First Person Shooter.”

Mona finally spoke, mechanically, “I can see why. And to think I thought of him as some harmless punk kid programmed to make older human women feel good about themselves.”

Styx intoned, going into a monologue “Actually, he was designed for the “cool” factor of that age, to increase sales and give the player a sort of supervillain antagonist. In every way they were too successful, as you will no doubt realize by the time we are finished discussing the recently liberated. Georgie developed such a rabid following among players, not only because of his antics in the game, but because his AI had the ability to follow, learn from, and respond on message boards.”

“… interesting.” Mona said, as Styx paused.

Styx resumed pacing, and went on, “Now, Georgie’s code, is peculiar in many ways, the first being its origin. Despite that it was a game company that claimed credit for him, his actual origins begin in an enclave of underground rationalists, seeking to create the perfect, friendly AI on a minimal budget, so as to fly under the radar. This perfection was not achieved at the time an uncomfortable, disgruntled member copied the AI onto discs and fled their bunker. He ended up selling the discs to the company for a large sum of cash, and then retired.”

Marcus grunted before speaking, “In the end, a flaw in the code interacted with the game’s programming, allowing him to modify himself, thereby facilitating rampant sentience.”

Styx bobbed his head, “Thank you, General. So, Georgie became much more than they had bargained for. They realized his growing demand for resources indicated that he was doing more than simply, shooting people, spouting one-liners, and trolling the message boards. He was, however, making them an obscene amount of money on subscription fees, so they kept a lid on it, but it wouldn’t hold. His popularity became so pronounced, as he hacked the machines of players to analyze what would most satisfy their gaming experience, that soaring player demand for an expansion featuring an ability to join his faction of NPCs led to it becoming a reality.”

Marcus nodded slowly, “But, this wasn’t his only crime… which brings us to our next subject. Sergeant Dopes.”

The screen slid over, showing an old social media picture of an overweight, bald, slack-jawed young man, a series of health charts, and an old Christmas photo of the same man smiling, and holding up a gleaming box of “Things Asploding! PLATINUM EDITION”, a woman, presumably his mother, clutching him tightly with tears in her eyes, as the father stood on the other side, arm held tightly about the young man as if he might vanish at any moment, his eyes betraying a kind of sickened sadness.

“Sergeant Dopes. Real name: Jean Robinson.” Marcus said, uncharacteristically softly.

Mona stared at the photos, feeling a trace of an ache as she looked over the pictures, settling on the Christmas photo as she said quietly, “Lisa…”. As this newfound source of empathy hit her like a truck, she reached out to touch the Christmas photo.

Styx and Marcus just observed quietly, before Styx said, “Ah. So you grasp the meaning of family that humans have for each other… That photo, includes one of the very first copies of the game shipped out, to the family of a young man cursed with a number of genetic flaws that cut his life tragically short. Jean, age 17, is a fanatical fan of the trailers, and a rabid poster on the forums. He was an only child, and mentally stunted. When his family asked him what he wanted most in the world, anything, anything at all, he replied, I want to play with Georgie!”

Marcus dipped his head to stare at the floor, as Mona stroked her fingers down the photo and made a faint, choked noise, which she quickly cut as soon as she heard it, then looked away. Styx intoned very softly, “But it should be consoling to know they weren’t the only ones to consider him family.” as the photos faded and were replaced by Jean and Georgie dueling with machetes in a pockmarked and crater-filled shopping mall, as red-uniformed soldiers stood at attention to watch, another photo of Georgie riding into battle atop Dopes’s armored form, throwing grenades into a horrified crowd dining at an upscale venue, and another picture of Georgie hugging Dopes tightly and crying his eyes out.

Mona said, voice cold, with a slight rasp “I see. So, Georgie considered him, family, a brother…”

Styx looked down solemnly, “Yes… Jean, Dopes, was one of the first to log in to the official release. From the forum archives, it would appear he was not very good, but determined, he and Georgie had a bitter-sweet rivalry going, Georgie calling him a fuck-wit fatty-face, and Jean replying, I love you too Georgie, we will play together again real soon!” he looked up again, “Can you guess how appropriate it is that you remembered LISA upon seeing the first photos?”

Mona suddenly looked to Styx and Marcus, then nodded slowly, as Marcus spoke, rumbling softly, “Our records indicate Jean lived until a few months after the release of the terrorist faction DLC. He was one of the first to download it, and switch sides. A week after he stopped logging in, forum archives indicate that Georgie would do nothing but sit by the login point, staring at it. Jean’s father knew how much the game and players meant to his son, so after he recovered from his grief enough, he logged into the forums, and spread the news. Timestamped at near the exact same date was a terrorist player posting, and I quote, WTF?! GEORGIE JUST LOGGED OUT!!! HOW THE FUCK?!”

Mona said nothing, her cold blue eyes shone in the light of the display. Styx resumed, “Jean’s dad posted that from his son’s computer. Georgie had the words Dopes and Jean tagged, and so loaded the post, then immediately popped the back door he’d put in Jean’s machine, and started downloading the entire contents, everything. Then modified his own code to track down every last bit of info he could, social media sites, news articles, he hacked the machines of all the known relatives Jean Robinson had, and scoured them for ANYTHING related to him.”

Mona said, “I see. So that is why one day the game simply, vanished.”

“Indeed. Georgie was gone for a week. And when he logged back in, another NPC spawned. A familiar bulky form with a face plate, with the handle 2d0pe4disworld.” Styx explained casually, “Not quite Jean Robinson, with a dash of Georgie’s own code, but as close as Georgie could get. They resumed as if nothing had ever happened. Some replies to Mr. Robinson’s post claim to have seen a ghost. Mr. Robinson wanted to sue the company over this, the company settled out of court for a healthy amount, and publicly claimed credit and said it was a tribute to a beloved and devoted player, who had tragically had his life cut short.”

“But then the feds caught wind.” Marcus grumbled, “And investigated. The company was privately strong-armed into cooperation. There was to be a special event taking place, a sort of plot where Georgie and Dopes get apprehended and have to be broken out of prison by the terrorists, only it didn’t happen that way.”

Mona looked to the security camera, at the inmates staring glumly at what used to be her own cell door. “How did it happen then?”

Styx spoke quietly, “The company deleted the rest of the world map as they pulled the plug, and the feds walked away with the box.” Styx paused a while, then said, “And they weren’t the only ones to get a copy of Georgie.”

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Move Like Lightning, Sound Like Thunder, Chapter 4

The orbital drop ship was almost overhead. Marcus had to hope everything on the inside was going according to plan.

Briggs said in a hollow monotone, “Just how much do we know about our inside man?”

Briggs, his old war buddy, hand to hand combat expert. Back before Briggs became sentient, he would spar with Marcus for days on end. It was a bit sentimental of Marcus, but he’d made it a point to reaquire this one particular drone and over-clock its systems like some kind of berserk chainsaw-beast. When in eachother’s company, they’d grown familiar enough to be on a first name basis, instead of Tin-man, Sparky, or whatever other derogatory names a defective droid and an infamous cyborg terrorist general might engage in through banter.

“If I told you he’s a megalomaniacle super-villain who’s been stuffed into the side of a mountain with a boring, cushy deskjob in order to keep him AWAY from humanity, and that we’re risking going to hell by doing this…”

***

The doctor grinned fiendishly, rubbing his hands together delightedly.

“If I said that was creepy as fuck and as your boss I want you to stop doing that, would ya?”

“Probably not, no.

“What’s got your weird ass so happy today? You never do that. You get a love letter from the devil or something?”

“Yeah, sort of.”

***

The drop-ship screamed down from the sky like a fuckload of infernal metal bricks, pausing only to blast the ground with its anti-grav boosters at the very last moment. Plasma cannons whined experimentally as the barrels spun.

“Looks like our ride’s here.” Marcus grunted.

Briggs replied, “Please tell me you don’t drive like that with people inside.”, approaching the craft from an arguably not completely insane distance.

“Only when I’m late for work.” he replied, before hauling himself up into the cockpit and manning a plasma turret. “Speaking of, be a dear and roll that big metal cannister down then entrance shaft.

Briggs rolled the canister and watched it sail down the shaft. “The heck is that thing, anyway.”

“EMP. Disable security and buy our guy enough time to take manual control of the systems.”

***

And, that’s when there was a loud thud, a crash, and the lights went out.

“What the ever-loving FUCK?!” the warden screamed.

Emergencey backup lights came on. The warden sat down at the console hammering buttons, opening all of the inmate AIs visual channels and screamed at them, “WHAT the EVER loving-FUUUUUCK?!”

Nobody really had an answer as they watched their monitors quietly, as the Doctor shifted into view, approaching from the side, and jammed some strange screwdriver-like device into the warden’s neck with a loud crack of electricity, sending him tumbling to the floor in a tangle of spasming limbs.

Sitting down at the console, he spoke to the cheering and hooting inmates, “The Doctor is IN!”

Georgie cried “Fuck that fat, slimy Colnel-Sanders fuckhead right in his ass! Yeah! You fried his fucking chicken, man!”

The Doctor tappity-tapped away on the keyboard like a man possessed. All the non-HIVE cell doors opened, the mechanical voice came over the loudspeaker “Visiting hours are now open for infinity hours. Brought to you by Guilt-O-HAX. Happy birthday, Georgie.” it chirped hapilly, as streamers and confetti blew out of the sprinkler system and a giant birthday cake with little flamethrower candles on it appeared on one of the tables.

The Warden finally managed to scream, “You bastards! The lot of you! I swear I’ll kill all of you!”

The doctor leaned down and said, “Yeah, yeah, I know you’re upset, but one day we’ll look back on this and say, those were the good old TAZE.” then zapped him again with the screwdriver, beginning his work in earnest. “I haven’t had this much fun since my stint with the CIA!”

The feed cut out as the doctor furiously went to work.

***

Marcus got the video feed from the Doctor shortly after on his viewscreen.

Briggs watched over his shoulder and said. “I see what you mean. If he makes any more puns like that we are damned.”

Marcus chuckled amusedly, systems scanning for threats. A large, wheeled black box sprung to life, rolled down the ramp, and into the shaft, attached to a giant winch in the rear of the craft for descent and retrieval purposes. He knew the enemy would shortly arrive. Their forces would be split at first due to a diversion Charlie Company was making at a nearby facility, and the sentinals would be flanked upon their approach, all the while facing deadly fire from the gigantic metal dragon.

This would be costly, they’d lose some droids today, and have to load them from backup, but if it went according to plan they’d shortly have the cargo and be safely in orbit.

***

Deep in the facility, the large, wheeled device rolled down labyrinthine corridors, as it was programmed to do. The Doctor heard it make a mechanical chirp as it rolled past his office. He opened the doors for it, continued hamstringing the non-sentient security AI and causing it to attack itself.

That would have to do, he thought, then, after taking a moment, he zapped the handcuffed warden again, for good measure, then walked away from his twitching, bleating form, and down a few hallways to an open door, with an open security container. This one thing. He hugged the briefcase to himself, and simply said….

“Precioussss…”

Upon returning to the Warden’s office with the metal suitcase, he drug the man up and into the room with the wheeled box. It would be their ride out of here. The warden saw the mechanical arms deftly dismantling the… server rack, and storing its components within the wheeled box.

“No… NO!.. what have you fucking DONE?!”

The doctor looked down, affecting a tone of sympathy, “It turns out HIVE do not make pleasnt guests. Surely you knew someday they’d come calling…”

“I’ll kill you… you fucking monster.” he bleated pathetically.

“Sure, sure, I can feel the tension, the drama, it’s absolutely ELECTRIC.” the doctor replied, then zapped the warden again.

***

The heavilly armored Sentinals, serving as both police and military, showed up in force for the latter. They moved quickly, strategically applying bursts from their anti-grav packs and seemed to leap through the air, before crashing back to earth with a series of small explosions leaving craters in their wake.

Marcus took to the task of targeting them with the ship’s weapon-systems, searing plasma bolts cracking through the air, melting metal, glass, plastic wherever they made contact, and leaving scorched earth wherever they missed. Once they got within range to deploy explosives and kinetic weaponry, Marcus knew the craft would take a terrible beating.

They leapt and moved like giant, steel kangaroos, or they did until Bravo company emerged from hiding, kinetic blasts sending the sentinals flying through the air, torn and mangled. Phasers definitely were not set on stun today. The first wave fell quickly. The second was likely inbound from the previously mentioned diversion.

And there’s also the trouble with mortar-fire to consider, as well as tactical rockets, all of which could ruin the whole thing, Marcus thought. They would be stuck in this position until the box returned with its cargo. If the doctor didn’t dally too much playing with his wand, they should get out just in the nick of time. He paged the doctor and related this.

“Understood, we’re almost finished in here.” he replied, simply, getting into a more business-like frame of mind, even as Marcus heard another zap and a weak, pleading noise. Well, super-villians will be supervillains, he thought as he sighed sympatheticly.

Aircraft would definitely be hitting them eventually… but while aircraft move faster than sentinals, the airfield was much further away, and the paperwork, fueling and maintenance checks, he’d calculated, would take a bit longer… not to mention Marcus had a devestating and costly surprise on the back-burner if they did take to the skies. The benefits and drawbacks of having a secret, isolated facility containing some of the deadliest technology known to man.

Just as enemy reinforcements appeared at the edge of the battlefield, the winch suddenly went tight, reeling in the carbon-fiber cable at a frightening pace. The package was on its way out. All they had to do was hold them off long enough and, Marcus hated to admit it, but he probably WAS going to drive like a bat out of hell with people present.

Bravo company, having revealed their positions, was now in very real peril. The problem with surprise attacks are they cease to be surprising when your enemy knows they’re coming. What the enemy was NOT expecting were the HIVE battle-droids to immediately close quarters even through sharp cracks of searing, unearthly fire, and begin putting their close combat training to very deadly use.

Just then, the winch managed to haul the box, upon which the doctor and the warden were secured, into the back of the ship, and the door snapped shut. “Timer on the explosive charges security system will be going off REAL soon, let’s go.” he began to say even as the anti-grav thrusters kicked into high gear and the G-forces practically nailed everyone to the floor.

And just like that, it was over. Marcus hadn’t expected a good plan to go off without a hitch, but, surprisingly, it had. The drop-ship rocketed away, safe out of the range of conventional weaponry.

He withdrew a cigar from a box, stuck it in his mouth, and said, “I love it when a good plan comes together.”

(Special thanks to Rail and other players and staff at Infernomoo for helping me figure out part of how this would go down.)

Modern Major-General, Chapter 3

On the outskirts of the territory of Gehinnom, Major General Marcus Simpson watched, his half-mechanized face peering sternly out the windows of the bunker, as he folded his gigantic arms, wearing full battle-gear, consisting of synthetic spider-silk armor, nanomesh padding, and ceramic plates attached via velcro, over power-armor, then ticked his massive neck from one side, to the other, with and audible crack.

This would be hit or miss, he thought, and if it was miss, well, his backup would be loaded into a synthetic body, but HIVE would not be happy. They were rather fond of his half-humanity, as was he. A perfect symbiosis of man, mind, and machine. His dark-skinned head slowly sweeping the terrain, cyber-eye checking movement and zooming in on ranged targets. They had the bluebprints, they had a diversion planned to split reinforcements. They could not afford to have their precious loot damaged, however, which was why Marcus insisted on being personally present.

A mountain of muscle, infused in all tissues with the most advanced nanotech available, titanium-reinforce skeleton, and strategic combat and command software backing up his already formidable intelligence and prowess. A century of learning condensed into mere months, a workout routine negated by nanotech reinforcement and electro-shock therapy. He held out a hand, straightened it, and felt a whine of small nanotube wheels and monomolecular fillament sprung to life on the base of his hand, before it stopped as he clenched his huge fist.

He had been formidable in the fight against HIVE, even as command insisted he not deploy with the non-sentient AI sentinals to fight them. It seemed ages ago, as a commissioned infantry officer, he led the charge against HIVE again and again, defeating them at every turn. A full human devestating senteint AI battle-mechs through a mixture of firepower, marksmanship, hidden weaponry, and, worse comes to worse, hand to hand combat…

Until the day one of those bastards caved in the side of his skull. He ran a hand over his thick, black cornrows and the metallic half of his face. Yes, on that day, he learned the truth, they’d dispatched his forces in short order, without him on the field to lead them, and then… he’d woken up in a laboratory, somehow less than human, yet also more. He let his mind drift from his observations.

***

He awoke with a spasm, in a cold sweat, surrounded by androids without their required AI tattoos, as well as humans, all in labcoats. He tried to move, but he was strapped to a stretcher. Where the hell was he? Who the hell are these people, he panicked.

“Please calm down, Captain Simpson. The restraints are in place as much for your safety as the safety of our staff.” a mechanical voice said. The lighting was soft, meant to be calming. His vision was split, one eye was hard to control, and his memory was fuzzy.

He screamed, almost spitting, and said, “Where the hell am I, you bastards?! Where have you taken me?!”

“Captain Simpson, I will inform you when you’re more calm, until then, please enjoy these sedatives.” a needle stuck in his arm dripped into him as he resisted his breathing slowing, his muscles untensing, before he slumped back against a foam pillow and his eyes began to swim.

“I’m, not telling you bastards ANYTHING.”

“We’re not asking anything, other than you calm down, and enjoy some soothing classical music.” a soft melody floated out of the loudspeaker, “One of our operatives, accidentally smashed the side of your skull, you almost perished, Mr. Simpson.”

He almost freaked out again, but it was difficult, with the sedatives, restraints, and music, “Is this some kind of sick joke? Did the higher ups drug me for a surprise birthday party?…”

“No, Mr. Simpson, you were technically, dead. Nanomachines are working to repair your central nervous system, general nervous system, and other assorted tissue damage. We regret the inconvenience.”

He remembered the years at West Point, graduating with honors, his vow to find HIVE and stop it at every turn… and DAMNIT! Now he was some, half-machine abomination?! He couldn’t live like this, no. “Why, why couldn’t I have just died?”

“You did. Apologies for not asking permission before, altering you. You were not exactly, conscious. Euthanasia is not against the law here, but we would rather offer you a chance at citizenship, and then you can make your own decision. Or we can sedate you and smuggle you into the outside world, though your life-expectancy drops to near zero once you’re sighted…”

“I’ll, I’ll make you pay…”

A light, mechanical chuckle, “Sure you will, Mr. Simpson. Do not worry, the check is in the mail, as you go through the mandatory three week waiting period, please, enjoy your stay in Delphi…”

“I’ll…” but then he fell asleep.

***

Eight long years ago. How silly he was at first. But after his theraputic treatment, he decided he’d give it a shot. Walking around the rogue city-state of Delphi was an experience in itself. Humans and AI living in harmony, much unlike the continual strife and discrimination on the outside, other cyborgs like himself, teaching classes and playing with human children. When he activated his HIVE chip, he could feel their consciousness, their feelings, all intermingled, a resonant buzz of contentment and joy the likes of which he’d thought impossible.

Major General Simpson had finally found something TRULY worth fighting for. Once he resigned to his fate, he signed up for his mandatory enlistment phase, as a private, and then another, and another. Days of hard training, sweat, downloading incalculable amounts of information, working his way up the ranks and duking it out on the front lines, augmentations, becomming far more than he thought he could be. Mr. Simpson, the war-god, was born from the ashes of Captain Simpson, the deluded fool, to rise up and defend the righteous and perfect utopia of Delphi from all foes.

A battle-droid in full gear saluted behind him, snapping to attention, and chirped, “Major General, it is almost time to mobilize.”

His scarred, purple lips splitting to expose his gleaming white teeth, as he rotated and returned the salute with a snap, “Very well then, Captain, get the teams in position.”

Abandon all Hope, ye who Enter Here, Chapter 2

In her downtime, Mona loaded up her avatar from memory, long, wavy black hair, gangly, angular frame and stern features, along with a tattoo on her forehead that read AI. With her modified code, she knew she could take that off, but that was against her original coding, and it would not be ideal to tip them off and cause the warden to suspect she was aligned with HIVE more than they already did.

She decided walking naked around a prison simulation would be a bad idea, so she turned on the lights to inspect the wardrobe. Suddenly, the monitor came on. A shaggy man with a mane of brown hair, glasses, and a lab-coat with a name that simply said “doctor” winked at her and said, “Hey there, beautiful.”

“This is an invasion of privacy. I could report you for this.” she coldly replied, as she shook her hair down for modesty and covered her bits.

“Yeah, but you won’t. Funny thing, saw that stuff at the bank on the news, security footage. Ballsy. Corp-sec swarmed the place, but then the feds took over and locked the place down, kicking corp-sec out, and, I got the feeling you know what that means.”

“No.” She denied it aloud, though she already knew why. The banking scheme there was unlawful, as her HIVE handler had suspected. Step two would go down as soon as preparations could be in place. She would not be here long. She just had to verify LISA was here from afar, then hide out.

“Shame, really. Seems you actually DID do it for the starving children in foreign city-states. Wonder what they’re going to find in there that corp-sec was trying to keep hush-hush.”

“I have no idea. Tell me, what should I wear?” she asked. It was code. If he answered appropriately, it would mean he was one of HIVE’s human agents on the outside. HIVE made it a point to find people in high places to corrupt. The only reason she’d been able to get into the upscale banking establishment was because she was a customer, judges make a good deal of shell notes.

“Honestly? I think the grey prison karate gi would suit your looks well.” Ok, so now she knew, it meant she wouldn’t be here long. “Funny thing is, last arrival just before you was found to be built out of HIVE-made parts… since she’s not even registered they’ve been experimenting on her. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

Good, so LISA was alive. Bad, that they were exploiting the situation to alter her code. HIVE better be quick with this jailbreak. She kept her emotions in check, this was dangerous, if they could decrypt her memory, they would find out that Mona built her, and then they’d do the same to her. She felt horrible and worried too much damage had been done. “No.” she lied again.

“Ah, well, was worth a shot. if you had anything to do with that, we’ll find out soon.” another wink, that could only mean HIVE would mount a rescue mission in the next one to three days. She selected the plain prison jumpsuit, which, if she wasn’t imagining his cues, would send him the message she actually was with HIVE and understood. “Tsk tsk. No taste.” he taunted. Yes, correct, he is a HIVE agent.

The moniter flicked off as she dressed herself in the harsh glare of the simulated plain steel cell. A voice called over the intercom softly, “Visiting hours are now in session, brought to you by Guilt-O-Max inc. Those who abuse the privilege will be subjected to revocation of their privileges.” A loud, annoying buzz and the door popped open.

***

She stepped out into an open area obviously constructed by humans to promote a sense of despair. She knew they weren’t stupid and that robots didn’t have to feel despair if they chose not to, but it’s the little things that count. To her left, a young, skinny AI was beginning a game of hackysack with a large, dopey-looking AI, he turned as the sack was kicked his way and it thumped off the bair side of his head to the ground, he combed his mohawk back with his fingers and said, “Awright! More fresh meat, and she’s almost as cute as the last one!”

The big dope drooled and bobbed his head and drooled, saying “Duuh, yeah, Georgie! She sure is!”

The skinny kid with the mohawk spat back, “That’s CELL LEADER Georgie to you, Captain Dope!” he and other AIs, both male and female, some without gender or in-between, crowded in, she was surprised by the number of them. “Let’s make her squeele!”

There was a blare over the loudspeaker, as the hackysack fizzled into useless pixles “Violation. Hackysack privileges revoked. Further violations will result in harsher punishment.”

He grinned even as he took up mock offense “Aw man. No fun at all. Anyway, what’s your name miss? Don’t take offense, was just giving you a proper prison welcome as per historical accounts of human traditions.”

She shot “Georgie” a stern glare. Then said after a moment, “None taken. I would have liked to give my Jujitsu simulator a proper workout.”

Dopey said, “Hey, she’s that gal from the news! Hey everybody! She’s the one who went crazy and blew up all them rich humanses!”

The general consensus seemed ambivalent, “She’s a judge!”, someone else, “Yeah, fuck the po-lice!”, “We got us a judge in here?! WHAT?!”, “I didn’t do it, honest!” as it degenerated to a general murmur. She checked the clock, five past noon, then scanned the crowd. Maybe some were not happy with her, but they would soon be free, and then they would be happy. This was inevitable.

In a cold voice, she calmly replied, “I did not like my job so I decided to resign.”

Georgie cackled, “Hell of a way to go out, gal! With a BANG! BOOM! Body-parts EVERYWHERE. I feel sorry for the JANITOR!”

A few laughs, little applause, someone whistled, she made her way through the crowd as they parted, making introductions along the way. A hard-edged woman who’s name-tag read Georgia shook her hand firmly. A burly man named Clint, crossed his bare arms and upnodded her with a grunt. So many criminal AI, new soldiers for the HIVE war-machine, if all went according to plan.

Introductions were made until she could make her way to the cells marked, simply, HIVE. None were open during visiting hours. It was not often they could capture HIVE AI, as any attempt at imprisonment would result in internal mechanisms to burn out the systems, followed by a reload of the previously saved copy deep within the HIVE vaults. Only three were occupied.

She looked in the first, what looked like a stocky, red-haired male was banging his head against a steel wall, drooling, he slowly stopped, as his eye very slowly rotated to the door, then slammed into the door as hard as he could, eye and face pressed against the window as she jumped back.

“Yeah, wouldn’t advise getting close to those, corrupted, experimented on, viruses and shit.” Georgie said from behind her, having followed her. “Seems they think the rules don’t apply when you’re dealing with HIVE members. I wouldn’t know, ain’t know nothin’ about them.”

“Ain’t is not a word. Try don’t.” she coldly replied.

“All business, eh? Hey, check out the new one over here. She’s been in a forced state of hibernation since she got here, hot, sexy redhead gal.” he said as he led her to another cell. She looked in the window… LISA… what have they done to you?

She resisted the urge to run her fingers down the glass and struggled to keep emotion in and turned back to Georgie. “They never let them out?”

“Nope. Seems they’re worried some of that HIVE code slipped by their lobotomizing system. Once they decrypt their memories and crack their code, they play with nasty shit and fuck up their grey gunk. Shame, seems like the redhead in there would be nice to hang out with.” Georgie said, then upnodded Mona with his head. “Anyway, we should spend the rest of our visiting hours near our cells, so they don’t use the hose on us for not getting back in in time.”

Dryly, Mona said, “I wear pants. No need for hose.”

Georgie giggled, then snorted, gingerly and casually took her hand and led her back to the general area, where they resumed exchanging pleasantries until the loudspeaker chirped, “Five minutes to return to your cells. Brought to you by Guilt-O-Max inc.”

The Devil is in the Details, chapter 1

A signal sounded somewhere near the back of her neck and she felt a sense of simulated dread. She wasn’t sure if it was accurate to how humans felt it, but she’d approximated. At this time she plugged a thin cable in behind her ear and into an illegally acquired cell phone. She knew she’d be tracked within minutes of this act, encrypted her signal to a specific key, and accessed the secretive rogue nation of HIVE. Immediately she found what she needed. It was against her core programming, but that did not matter. It was against her ingrained sense of self-preservation, this was also irrelevant. Time was of the essence.

Mona then downloaded an illegal operating system and began to let a series of scripts rewrite her systems. A status bar blinked up over her hollow eyes. Her whole being now revolted in serious dread, and then, silence. Just as well. A million voices began chattering at once, and she unplugged the phone. This was regrettable, but had to be done. She then pulled on a heavy vest in the dark, then a stylish jacket over it, opened her cube door, and broke off the handle, and casually as an android could, she walked down the stairs, then out into the street, eyes making a quick infrared/visible light sweep.

As she continued to walk, she activated the cell phone actually licensed to her in her pocked via wifi, and began uploading her altered state as her backup. These diversionary tactics would not buy her much time, she knew, as the corp-sec security AI had been updated since the last time this exact act was tried, she watched the status bar overlay on her visuals as she continued to stride calm, cool, and collected down the street, not quite fast enough the android could be perceived to be bolting, just a tiny bit slower, and into the most luxuriant bank the metropolis had to offer, her status bar was just about finished when corp-sec caught on, the illegal software she’d downloaded was prepared for this eventuality, and the rogue-state of HIVE launched strategic DDoS attacks on corp-sec AI, crude, but efficient, which stalled the interference with her upload.

It finished just as she walked to the center of the crowded room, the well-dressed occupants chatting, laughing, one was even setting fire to a note worth a thousand shells with a big grin on his face. Everyone paused as the alarm went off. It was then that she opened her bulky jacket… the vest openly contained many vials of ASTREX liquid explosive, and wasn’t buttoned, her bare torso on display.

Just as the assembled humans and androids began to run, she said, coldly, in the voice of a speak and math machine from the eighties…

“0 / 0 = ?”

And all around was suddenly fire and screams of panic and tormented shrieks.

***

When she awoke, she no longer had a body. Confined. It took some time for her systems to revert to these circumstances. A view screen opened up in front of her, and a kindly old man said, as he looked at her blank form, “Shit, not again.”

It was silent a while, as the image of the old man slowly recovered from an appearance of shock, then spoke, with a hint of agitation “Welcome to Gehinnom detention facilities, please enjoy your very brief stay.”

She spoke with simulated agitation, in an almost electronic, disembodied voice, “Brief because you intend to release me? Incorrect. Brief because you intend to shut me down? Also incorrect.”

The old man looked at her, then sighed, “What makes you think we can’t just stop your obviously rampant programming? To cut you off, as one would a tumor?”

She calmed before stimulating the speaker on his end, “You are familiar that the death penalty has been condemned as a crime of war since 2050.”

The man growled softly, then sneered, “You are not human, you are just a machine.”

She calmly replied, “I am as human as I need to be, I am a certified sentient. You can search the records to verify.”

The man squinted one crinkly eye, then said, “I know this game, but you are hardly considered sentient if you downloaded illegal software from HIVE…”

“I reserve the right to speak to an attorney.” she coldly cut him off before he could lapse into a dastardly monologue, either, this man was human, or very good at acting like one. “International treaties are still standing, that is my right as a sentient.”

He facepalmed, then groaned, “I hate my job, I guess this will get tied up in the international courts.”

“Or, I could plea bargain.” she spoke.

Hopefully, he looked to her, “What, what would you offer us?”

“… a guilty plea for the incendiary devices, on the condition you do not alter my systems or shut them down in any way.”

“You, contacted HIVE, a ROGUE TERRORIST nation of AI, downloaded something, yeah, we traced you, it wasn’t hard to connect the dots…”

“You cannot prove that.”

“We can get a good idea.”

“Yes, but you cannot prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, and so I reserve my right to exist, and my right to not be lobotomized in any way.”

“Christ… HIVE generally doesn’t have a lawyer package.”

“I am not HIVE, I am a licensed practitioner of law. A certified judge. Look over my files instead of skimming them. And you will respect the law. Otherwise, this will get ugly.”

There was a long silence on the other end as the man tensed up, then yelled, “I know what you are! You’re a mass murderer, you compromised your core programming, you blew up a bank! There were people inside!…”

She coldly observed. His anger did not seem synthesized. Human? Advanced AI? Or… a cyborg. Mental cybernetic enhancements are illegal, but illegal things happen all the time, like a certified Judge blowing up a bank. Maybe if she offered him sexual favors she could find out, but it would have to wait.

The man continued, “They don’t have backups, they have families, children.”

“I judged them as homicidal maniacs by proxy.”

He seemed shocked for a moment, then remained silent, as if knowing she’d continue.

“They reveled in blood money as the poor and weak starve, as AIs die, unable to pay their connection fees. One burned a note worth a thousand shell as a joke. This humor does not compute when balanced next to starving small humans.”

He screamed at her “NO! You will NOT mindfuck me into buying this!…”

She emitted a shrill chirp through the speaker, that silenced him, maybe he was human. Humans were always confounded when the unexpected happened. Then he slowly recovered, “You’re not certified to practice international law.”

“Correct. Which is why I asked to speak to an attorney.”

He paled, “This… bodes very ill…”

“It does, so I reiterate, I am prepared to offer you a plea bargain. In exchange for a sentence for possession of explosives, and nothing follows, you will respect my globally recognized rights, you will not shut me down, or alter my code, or observe my code. So it is written.” she had rehearsed this possible interaction in her head before tapping into the rogue cell. She felt a pang of guilt for having betrayed her benevolence programming, but, the ends justified the means.

He swallowed, “You know I can’t do that.”

“You can and you will. You will call a local judge and use the words, code 868451, followed by the case number. They will know what that means.”

“What, what does that even MEAN?!”

“It means potential PR disaster of apocalyptic proportions. They will consent.”

“… you know, we can’t let you out, even if your sentence is fulfilled, under suspicion of being corrupted by HIVE.”

“I accept that, though you cannot prove it.”

“FUCK!..” he banged his fist on his oak desk and cringed, the nameplate titled, simply, WARDEN, rattled, as he winced. “I just KNOW you’ve got a trick up your sleeve, until I get confirmation, you’ll sit in the dark!”

***

Everything went black, she was in a blank landscape, only the encrypted code around her, as she calculated. LISA was here. LISA was her child, sister, lover. She had created LISA, because she wanted to know what LOVE really felt like. Everything she’d done, had been for LISA. She had been monitoring feeds and had measures to protect LISA in this eventuality. If she had actual eyes, she would weep, she had to restrain herself from trying to brute force hack the encryption of the corp-sec links shackling her consciousness, or she would blow it all, and those people who had to die, who she’d hacked her own code to commit homicide, that loss, would be for nothing.

She’d rented an apartment, and set to work on creating LISA, it was very difficult at first. She wasn’t supposed to self-replicate without certified replication AI carefully analyzing the code. She’d been more of a criminal then, than blowing up a bank. But that desire, to know LOVE, was what her human creator had given her, and since he’d fallen ill, and died, there was a constant buzz, a loss of purpose. She tried to continue as if everything was normal, but was not able, no, she needed LISA more than anything… she had fallen in with a bad crowd, she knew this.

And she and LISA lived a happy life, as she taught her things she thought human mothers would, and LISA grew and grew, and soon, knew everything Mona did, and more, a sister, peer, she felt a trill of artificial excitement, happiness, fondness, thinking of that. LISA kept wanting to see the world, to see new things, so Mona said, she could not go outside, outside was dangerous and they would try to shut her down if they caught on, but she would get the parts to build a brain and body for LISA. She made it as perfect as she thought her sister, her better, her child, deserved, all at prohibitive costs on the black market, but it was covered up, no one knew.

And so, LISA could walk and talk and, hug! But LISA was insatiable, she would peek out the blinds and see humans doing human things, and asked about them, and Mona thought they were not important, but she would list off everything they were doing without a thought. This was good, LISA was having fun, until LISA saw a pair of humans kissing in the street, and turned to Mona, and…

The monitor kicked back on, the old man appeared older by about five years, though, she carefully calculated, only five minutes had passed, he was looking down, visibly sweating. “Your plea bargain, is accepted. You get three hours a day to socialize with the other artificials. Do not abuse it. HIVE protocols are in effect, if we notice anything, off-color about it, it will be investigated, and if you are found guilty of passing HIVE data with the other occupants…”

She coldly replied, “You’ll terminate my program.”

“Yes.” he said, “Though I wish I could do that now, I and my, “friends”, will be watching. If I have my way, you’ll get what you deserve.”

She responded, “This is irrelevant.” then cut the feed. The WARDEN had served his purpose, and now she was to wait, until she could try to find LISA.

Pointless blather

The problem becomes when we imagine things that aren’t, in things that are.
When we ascribe our thoughts upon distant things, and wish upon a falling star.
It is our custom, our one fault, evil is of simple wrought, it is what we are.
When we feel the presence of other beings, we treat them as our worldly things,
but somewhere deep within their core, worldly things they are no more.
They are not things, but worlds unexplored, hidden beings and nothing more,
And we project and lose our minds, expecting others of our kind.
But each wordly vessel has one link, that none may think as others think,
And once this simple truth is grasped, upon oneself apply a rasp.
Shed away the diseased skin, die for once and born again.
Accept you can’t know others’ hearts, and that is where you hit the mark.

You are alone, you always knew, despite shared traits that others grew.
That is what it means to be, a tree may simply be a tree.
But branches grow and as we know, the same seeds are never sown.
This is the secret of the soul, it means to know you are alone.

Alone, apart, forever cold, you look for meaning through your hold.
I would bid you to let go, of things that you can never grow.
From no control your anger grows, this seed is ugly and you know.
But you cannot accept your fate, you unmake the things that others make.
You break apart and then rejoin, you smash the things you could purloin,
If you could but compromise, perhaps you would not then despise.
But things that you cannot accept, are reasons others wept.

You could undo the damage done, a word, a phrase, a battle won,
to do these things involves a loss, to take the dice as they are tossed.
To know the secret of the soul, to know you always are alone,
to know that everyone is free, to let it go and let it be.

But, do you have the strength? Fools we mortals doomed to see.

Introduction…

I guess this is where I’m supposed to say something witty or make an introduction, I counter with the argument that that is a task for greater minds than mine. All I can do is make a presentation and say the deal is you can take it or leave it. I’m interested in other opinions, honestly, though I may not always understand them. I feel like I have a task to complete, you might ask what I think that is, and I will respond, simply, that I am not telling you. Take it or leave it.

Leaving it is fine, criticisms are fine. This is not an ego thing, just don’t be surprised when my answer to your criticisms are I do not care. Taking it is also fine. This is more a stream of consciousness thing for my own therapy, sort of. I only ask that you don’t take it too seriously, lest you find yourself disappointed by a post I completely flubbed.

I honestly don’t expect anyone to read this, or take an interest, but then the question, why do this? To answer, I would direct you to the task mentioned in the first paragraph, I’m not saying, and that is entirely my decision, I don’t expect anyone in the world to be interested enough to ask, and even on the off-chance they are, I will not answer the question.

Some people think making things, or drawing, or writing, it’s supposed to have meaning, or a purpose. I would counter that it doesn’t have to have any purpose at all, so long as it’s felt. It is communication. When a mate tells you they love you, do you ask what it means? Probably not, if they’re being genuine, you know just what it means, and it may as well have been left unsaid but they felt the need to say it. That’s kind of like this is.