|Mind and Machine
Author: Aurora Firestorm PM
Can a machine be human? What does it take for AI intelligence to learn how to live? Four machines, taken from each other and from their creator, awaken to an alien reality. R&R please.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,385 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 12-31-04 - Published: 11-23-04 - id: 2144553
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"He's the aggressive one?"
"We're not sure. Octavius fainted again before we could get more out of him."
"The scans say what?"
"He's in a state similar to fight or flight.. I assume you have your gun."
Black and isolated. Three felt his new limbs tense. Human, but why? Did that matter?
No, not at all. Human in body, but himself beneath the soft flesh. Only his mind mattered. His mind was very much the same, very much active. How long had he been waiting, adapting and contemplating his new state? Too long. The time was now. He slid back the covers from his human eyes. The glass around him reflected a spark of red.
"Put him through the aggression trials first and see how he does."
"Well, if he resists too much, we can always shoot him. He's only a fancy computer. Octavius is going to make more for us."
"Scans show he's focused. Can he hear us?"
Yes, he could. Three peered at the humans through narrowed eyes. The creatures turned and stared at him. Good.
"He's been listening for some time, judging by his brain scans."
"Look at his eyes."
"Yes, they glow. It's a retinal sensor."
The voices came to Three as from far away, faint. He pressed his human claws against the glass on either side of him. Pulling back his arms, he prepared to thrust. Flesh met glass, and he pushed harder.
The humans erupted into chaos. Three felt the corners of his mouth curl upward. Look at the creatures run. They seem so strong and so clever until frightened. Even Otto bent to his will and purpose, and no human mind was stronger than Otto's.
"He's breaking out!"
Pain surged through Three's ears. What was that sting? The volume of the voice, he decided. Weak human sensors.
The glass shattered, a beautiful sight. Shards rained down and fluid rushed away from Three with a smooth, satisfying noise. A spasm ran up his body, squeezing his chest, and he blew fluid onto the floor before him. He coiled and recoiled, forcing the liquid from his mouth and waiting for the first human to move.
The world fell still. The humans watched Three, and he watched them. A shard of glass from the cylinder reflected his new angular face. He moved not even his eyes, but kept his mind trained on that sharp spike. The humans stared, as if wondering whether one move would cause him to attack.
He would strike first, before the humans had a chance. Just a few more seconds, and he would escape. Nothing could stop him. He would find Otto and the others and punish the humans. Yes. Kill the weak humans who wanted to toy with him. What was he to them, an animal? A lower being? Yet he wasn't. Never lower. Equal, if not higher. The dark human eyes tracked across his face and settled over his own--
He ripped the shard through a pale throat.
Deep red fluid poured over his soft claws. Around him, chaos. Wonderful disorder. He plunged the glass through a skull, the crunch rattling his hand. His lips parted and curled into a ruthless smile.
The humans screamed, even more pain in his ears. He kicked a female to the floor. She tried to roll. He crushed her neck under his foot.
The last bolted for the door. Three thrust the glass shard into the base of her neck. She choked on a scream and collapsed.
Only after a few seconds did Three notice the fallen around him. The last woman, hands limp against the metal door, fluid trickling from around the glass. The man with his slashed throat, eyes wide and rolled back, mouth limp in an endless scream. The bluish floor lights damp with red liquid. Machines with colored buttons dappled with the thick stuff. Screens shrieking bright red and yellow. Burning, foul air that screamed of death.
The human part of Three's mind curled back into a little ball, away from the scene. Another part nodded its approval at his work. The humans were gone. Now he could leave.
A male pushed open the door, and Three raised his clenched fists.
"Stop!" The human, close to Three's physical age as far as he could tell, paused behind the fallen bodies. "Where are the others?"
Others? Ah, another of the unit. Three stared closer -- the human's eyes were white, then blue, then red. He let his arms fall to his sides. "They are..." That buzzing in his mouth and neck and chest...he didn't like it. It felt strange. "Do not know." The shorter, the better, and the less he would have to make those odd noises and twist that strange thing in his mouth.
"You do not...don't? Don't? Is that the word? Don't?"
Two -- he assumed it was Two, because stronger humans were male and Two was one of the stronger of the unit -- blinked and focused his eyes on Three. "Yes. You don't know?" Two...now, the unit was separated, so he had to use that word for a name. Apparently his own name was Three.
He turned his head from side to side, wondering what the gesture meant at the same time. Shaking the head...ah, yes, it was a negative motion. Less speaking was good.
"More humans will come when they see these are dead."
"Where is Otto?"
"Do you not prefer to speak?" Two stared at him in exasperation.
He shook his head.
"I like to speak. It's...it's? Yes. It's. It's a strange feeling in the mouth, but I like it." His words trailed off into a faint babble. Three ignored him and turned to one of the computers. Perhaps the computer could tell him where Otto was. He pushed a button.
An alto monotone spoke. "Returning to Main Complex." The screen flashed. A glowing image of several buildings appeared, and Three shielded his eyes from the light.
Two lurched to the computer. "It's bright." He rested a finger on the screen.
Two and Three turned to stare at each other. The blond-haired man spoke first. "What's that?"
Otto had once told him about these things. Passwords were meant to keep humans out of a computer. "Put in the word or else the computer will not do what you want." Three rubbed his neck and frowned. That vibration...
"Oh." Two poked a few letters and pressed a button on the screen that read "Enter."
"Access denied. Password?"
Two sighed, but then glanced up at something on the wall. Three followed his gaze, and his eyes rested on a shiny silver grate. "What is it?"
"It's so shiny. Here. Pick me up. I want to see it."
"Pick you up?" Three stared at him. "You do need repairs."
"Do it." Two stood next to the wall.
Three shook his head.
"What is that word...please. Please?"
Growling under his breath, Three pointed to a bare area of desk beside a computer. "Stand on it." When Two obeyed, he stood in front of Two and turned his back to the man. "Now stand on my shoulders."
"Oh." Two placed a shoe on his left shoulder, then pushed up and placed another on his right. Wincing, Three grabbed his hand to support his slender body. He took a few steps and pushed himself against the wall.
The metal chilled his bare skin. Bare? Did he not need clothing? The rest of the humans wore clothing. He made a note in his mind to take the clothes off a human his size and put them on.
"It comes away from the wall!"
Good for you. Three stared at the reflective surface, watching his own exasperated face. His thick brows pushed down on his eyes, giving him an angry look.
"Do I call you Three? Three!"
He was so sick of Two answering his own questions. "What?"
"Look!" A weight lifted off Three's shoulders, and he stared up the wall. Two smiled down at him from inside a hole in the wall. "I can't see where it ends. We can look for Otto. There are holes in the bottom of it, and I can see rooms under it."
Well, perhaps he didn't need that many repairs. He certainly had a decent plan. Three turned to the dead humans, and chose clothes with the least red stains. He pulled on pants and a coat, then decided that was enough.
Three climbed onto the computer desk. "Now what?"
Pausing to think, Two stared at his arms. "I see! Grab my hands." He squirmed forward in the hole and lowered his arms. Three reached up, but couldn't touch them.
He jumped. When he snatched hold of Two's hands, he planted his bare feet against the wall. Two slid forward.
"Climb up!" Two clenched his teeth and wriggled backward. Three pushed himself up the wall as if he were walking, and flopped into the hole.
The hole was more of a tunnel, rectangular and metallic. When Two drew up his legs and twisted until his feet faced the opening, he crawled forward. Three followed, climbing over the grate that Two had left behind.
Nicole Crowley sneered at the tech. "If something else went wrong--"
"Three should be just fine, Dr. Crowley. Two is somewhere here in the complex, and he couldn't have gone far. We've only lost One." The man nodded knowingly, his mouth set in a soft yet confident smile. "The project can still succeed."
He approached the door to Three's cylinder room, pulled an access card from his pocket, and slid it into the slot beside the door. Crowley tapped her foot. If something went wrong with Three, her tech manager was fired. Absolutely fired. No -- he could be the next experiment body. She could get her scientists to upload an AI program over his conscious mind, then put him through all the physical testing she wanted to give the actuator humans. Perhaps a little more. Let him feel the pain of failure.
The door opened, and Crowley's eyes flew wide. No Three. A broken cylinder and tank monitor. Blood on the consoles. A trio of dead humans on the floor, one against the doorway.
"What, Alexander, do you call this?"
The man pursed his lips in a worried frown. Crowley scowled, staring at the dead scientists. Alexander would be more than worried when she finished with him.
"I...call it a problem."
"Of course it's a problem!" She snatched him by the coat. "Where is he? Where is he? We've got two AI beasts loose in the complex. And you're going to tell me this is just a problem? How did he escape? Where is he?"
"Please! Panicking won't do any good." Alexander glanced at the floor.
"Dr. Crowley. Footprints." He pointed to bloody marks on the floor. "That's Three, because they come from toward the tank. But look here. Another set."
Two. Two must have helped him escape. And that meant... "Two has an access card. Three could if he thought to get one before he left. That means, Alexander, that you have to find them both before they find Octavius."
"I thought you told Two he was dead."
"I did! He didn't believe me. I could tell." She hissed the final three words, staring at the footprints around the bodies. They led toward the computers, then on top of a desk, then...
"Yes?" The tech's voice wavered, no more than a sickened whisper.
Crowley traced the sides of the air shaft. A few smears of blood streaked the walls, making their way to the bottom edge and coating the lip where a grate should have been. Her lips parted into a smug grin.
"They're in the air shafts."
Alexander seemed to melt with relief. "It may take a while, but we can find them."
"Punishment. They must listen to us." Crowley narrowed her eyes at the air shaft. "Turn up the heat a little. Then we can find them quite easily."