The Reverse-Turing Test

July 17, 2012 at 11:05 PM | Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment
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For this challenge…I don’t know. The first sentence? That’s the challenge. Make that the first sentence. Geez, I hope I didn’t have to make it the title, also.
To see more of these stories, roll your R2-D2 ass over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Android and the Wondering Chamber

“The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”
Steve rubbed his forehead, but he was ready to smash it into the monitor.  Fucking hologram, anyway.  “God, I don’t want to call her.”
Larry said, “Don’t have to.  She’s coming in anyway.”
Steve let his forehead slide down to the table, piercing the image of the holo-keyboard.

That afternoon, Joan swooped into the lab like she had a cape.  Larry said, “We’ve been working this case since Tuesday—“
“And only now you call me?”
Larry was embarrassed, and deferred to Steve.  “I thought I had it cracked.  Then it started to get cryptic on me.”
“That’s what encryption does, Steve.”
*And I hate your condescending fucking guts, bitch*.
Joan understood the look, but not the literal interpretation.  “No, Steve, listen.  It’s trying to double back on us.  It is trying to trick us into believing that it is not alive.”
“Self-preservation, one of the indicators.”  Larry was pleased to have something to add.
Steve scoffed, “Maybe it knew you were coming.”
Joan nodded as she headed toward the interface matrix.  “Perhaps.  The…they…its perceptions are different.”    “They” is vague enough for people or rocks, but she never used “he” or “she” to describe an abomination.
Joan popped a marble from a skin pouch.  “Does your quantum drive take L, or M?”
“Both,” Larry said, pointing.  She popped it in.
As much as he hated her, Steve was willing to admit that it was largely professional jealousy.  The bitch was good.  Joan had a hand on each holo-keyboard, and when her marble loaded, imaginary foot pedals appeared as well.  Her glasses turned opaque as soon as she was jacked in.  To Steve it looked like she was playing a complex percussion instrument, as her whole body moved rhythmically for the motion readers to pick up additional input.
What Joan was actually doing was putting her program out there to interface, but riding secretly behind it so that it didn’t look like a user.  She was adding and changing code as she went.
Joan was the best machine-killer in the world.  You had to get them to reveal themselves, without letting them know who you were…
As she worked, she started to talk.  “That message was encrypted by the machine, of course.  But if you accept the supposition that it was self-aware—“ Joan hated the short-hand jargon “alive”—
“—Then it follows that the encrypted phrase has meaning.  The machine’s AI can’t help it; they are by design…inclined to make puzzles.”
“Really?”  Steve scoffed again.
She lowered her glasses and looked at him.  “Yes, really.  In a natural system, entropy always increases.  With intelligence behind it, it tends towards order.  And meaning.  Things that would be overlooked as a coincidence are in fact planned, designed, and purposefully created.”
“Wait a minute.  Are you talking about encryption code or the universe?”
“Is there a difference?”
Steve stared blankly at her, trying to process.
Larry bridged the uncomfortable silence.  “So…you believe in God, then.”
“Of course.  Don’t you?”
Larry gave a half-hearted shrug, and she laughed.  “For someone so invested in the absolutes of ones and zeroes, that was an amazing display of ambiguity.”
Steve said, “So if you believe in God…just where do these self-aware machines fit in?  Are they alive?  Are they God’s creatures?”
“Oh, heavens, no.  They are abominations that must be destroyed.  They are technological embodiments of demons.”
“I can’t believe it.”
“It’s not necessary for you to believe it, even though you should.  You seek to destroy them as well.”  She turned back to her work, as nanobots covered her hands for more precise navigation through the cerebral user interface.  “I’m listening.”
“Well, of course, it’s bad for computers to be alive.  It’s been shown that they want to destroy us.  But that’s just survival instinct, it’s not evil.  They aren’t *evil*.”
Larry added, “Besides, it’s us or them.”
“Exactly.”
“What?”
“Yes.  It’s us or them.  This is a battle between good and evil, and who will ultimately control the world.  I believe—I know!—that I am a soldier in God’s Army, fighting for good.”
Steve was too wound up to respond, but ambiguity encircled Larry’s heart like the fat that would one day kill him.  He said, “What if you’re not?”
Joan poked her head up.  “I’m sorry?”
“What—what if you’re not on the side of good?  On God’s side.  What if God wants these…creatures…to prevail?  What if that’s his plan?”
Joan screamed, “NO!”
Steve smirked.  “That would make *you* the demon.”
Joan stared daggers at them and turned back to her work.
Joan then said, “I have it.  I got it.  It’s contained…Okay, I am shutting off its back-end ports so it can’t migrate, and I’m getting a fix on its physical…”
Joan went white.  Before she could say, “It’s here,” Larry attacked her, trying to stop the interface.  He started choking her.  Joan put her hands up trying to defend herself.  She pushed at Larry’s face.
A few seconds later, Larry was on the ground, unconscious, his body in spasms.

After they called security, Joan explained to Steve what had happened.  Pointing at the hologram screen she said, “See here, this path?  This one was wily.  I didn’t get all the ports shut down in time.  It moved from wherever it was—this was one was in Germany—to our location.  Once here, it used the wireless and found that Larry has one of those high-tech smart phones implanted in his ear, next to his brain.  It connected to that to control him, but just basic motor.  He had no idea what he was doing.”
“And why did he stop, then?”
“Oh–you didn’t see.  I had nanobots on my fingers for the CUI.  Ultimately they are part of my software, so when I put my hands on his face, they went in through his ear to stop the AI.”
“I call that highly unlikely.”
“Really?  I call it the work of God.”

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  1. I really like this. The mix of philosophy, neo-cyberpunk, and bureaucracy is fantastic. It definitely feels like it’s part of something bigger — I’d love to hear more about this world and the people in it.


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