The future only brings harder choices...
The air reeked of cigarettes and alcohol along with other substances of an illegal nature. The counters of the bar were filled with men and women from the worst of humanity, hunched over the stained marble, ordering drinks to fit in or to simply wash away their sorrows. Men in the darkened corners sat with guns tucked underneath their smart jackets. This was not the place for a type of man like John. Then again, nowhere was quite the place for him, imposing in height, strength, and cybernetics, he would always be deemed a threat, even In a bar like this filled with men whose defining characteristics were threatening. He walked through the metal door frame that was about one foot too small for him, forcing him to duck underneath it. Four men and one woman turned their attention to John for a slight moment but quickly broke eye contact and went back to their drinks. John made his way against the crowd that danced and moved in rhythmic patterns, blanketed in a blue hue that reminded him of the old days of LCD monitors, which were now extinct technologically. The days of monitors and user-interfaces were coming to an end, replaced by cybernetics, just as the days of written letters were ended by the invention the email and social networks. John knew this; he knew it, in the moment during his college years studying law enforcement and cyber security when he saw a video of man use the power of his mind to operate a motor of a mechanical arm. So when the first augments hit the market he made the smart decision to receive them in the aftermath of an accident which the insurance paid for in its entirety. The operation ended with the amputation of his arms and legs, replaced by more powerful than what he had before. He was the man of the modern age, capable of any great feat that previously only possible by gods and demigods of myth and lore in works of fiction.
In his early 20s, John had a question that floated through his mind, if Neuro-Augments were making things like the smartphone and personal computers become obsolete tech. What would be the thing that would come to make the very machinery that had become his bone obsolete? That question was answered almost twenty years later from his youth as a young augmented man. With the advent of the singularity, his question got an answer. Humanity would not survive the next progression in its own technological evolution and thus it could not be permitted to happen. Now he sits is in some sleazy bar searching for the offspring of that event. John leaned his body against the counter next to a man with a scar that started below his neck and climbed up to his chin.
“You hear about that murder down in Fifth Avenue?” John asked the man, whom he had known for almost six years.
“You ever think about saying hello for once in your life, John?” he rasped. “Not while I'm on the job; I gotta find this person,” He looked at the scared man with his dead blue eyes and waited for him to spill what he came for.
“Of course you are, you and your job, the only thing you are devoted to. Trying to be Harrison Ford,” he pointed to the more unflattering aspects of John as he drank the clear fluid from his shot glass.
“I'm not afraid of AI, if that's what you are implying.” John uttered in his lowest possible voice. John never feared the future, even if he was going to be outmoded as time went on and humanity developed technology that could do his job better than he could. without becoming advanced as the things he was hunting. Until then he had the job.
“Whatever man, people tend to destroy things they don't understand. Lack of understanding is fear.” He delivered in his cholo accent.
“When the fuck did you begin studying philosophy?”
“Started to pick up a few books once the business started to run itself.” He looked at John with a snide smile and turned his head quickly to the wood counter out of fear.
“Well while you read up on ethics and morality, I need to find two things that were missing from the scene.” He pulled out a green envelope from the pocket of his jacket. The man reviewed the contents of the green package, carefully reading the details and other facts about the case on Fifth Avenue.
“A Jacket? Watch? What the hell does any of this have to do with androids? Could just be a hooker got scared by the old man's fetishes and slammed him over the side of the head with a candle holder,” John’s associate remarked.
“Or he bought a black market Android child, with all the rational thinking complexes of one. Instead of the hollow fetish shells, they have already on market.” John looked at his longtime friend and remembered the stupid origins behind his nickname, “The Bug,” a ridiculous moniker that had been granted due to his ability to have information on seemingly everyone.
“John, you want me to give you info on a market that if I revealed to you existed, I would be murdered,” the Bug scanned John with his two eyes and gulped.
“I can infer from that sentence it exists,” John said.
“Ya, I bet you can, but if you think I'm going to give blacklist contacts to a cop, I'm sorry, John, not gonna happen,” he said defiantly.
“If it's self-aware AI, Bug, imagine what it could do the second it breaks its soft locks and uploads itself to the internet. We could have another Honolulu incident. You remember when that happened, the shutdown of all ships and infrastructure, financial collapse. If we hadn't had smart enough people locate the AI in time it could have sent humanity into a dark age or worse. Now if the AI did do what I think it did that could mean that very thing.” John looked down at his comrade and sighed.
“She’s a different kind of AI, not aware of what she is, it’s a complicated trick they do, they take the memories of a dead person and upload them into software format, trim them down, edit them, and fabricate to give the intended reaction. It’s a new way of doing things; it’s not like the normal tinkers that think with logic. She has very human reactions,” Bug explained.
“That can't be cheap,” John noted.
“It's not. Four billion a unit. It took an entire year to build this one,” Bug looked at John with shame but John showed no reaction.
“Where do I start?”
“You're getting old John. If you looked at his watch collection you would have known it was a smartwatch.” A smirk came onto his face.
“Good job, you sneaky bastard. You got a pin?” John said.
“Yup, just texted you the coordinates, You are walking into something very, very big, and I can assure you won't come out the same.”
“I've hunted AI before.”
“Not like this. They aren't tinkers who just want to advance their network capability. These are people.”
“I’ll take my chances on that.”
And with that John walked out from the lair of crooks and criminals and out to a neon sky that was illuminated by a million LCD billboards and street lights. The air was static with the smell of slowly discharging lithium. The world with its ever-advancing population and technology had turned into a dull husk where any man, no matter who or what he was, could be lost among the sea of others. Even men like John, who, along with the ever-increasing population had elected to change his body. Some changed their mental capabilities, others physical, and the few like John reinvented themselves. A man of the modern age, faster, stronger, smarter, and better. It was the only way to fight the rogue machines that are slipping through the cracks in today's society.
John saw the street he had to take and veered towards it; the crowd moved as he marched along through the streets. He navigated his way out of the sea until finally, he ended up in the sub-sector of the city, a place where houses of the twentieth century were abandoned in place for the much cheaper pod apartments. Still, the few that occupied the houses that were almost a hundred years old lived the lives of the soon-to-be-extinct middle class. This neighbourhood, however, was deserted most likely due to the highways and hyperloops being built from above. The sound of cars and air being sucked out from tubes filled the vacuum that was the lack of human interaction as John moved forward towards the oval-shaped block where all five of the decaying wood houses remain. Glass from shattered windows and old eggshells shaded computer cases sat on the edge of the block. John veered off the road and over a rusty chain link fence into a jungle of dead brushy overgrowth that cracked and crunched at the slightest movement. Quickly he moved toward one of the first houses and examined its windows to find a way to open it. He grunted when it occurred to him that it was inside the house. Carefully John wedged his metallic fingers between the wooden window and the frame and when he had enough grip he pulled up. The window frame started to splinter and the metal lock on the other side began to hum as it was bent in half. With one snap the window opened and John entered the building with no sound whatsoever. He investigated the house, going through the rooms one by one, only to find a dusty chair and the wireframe of which looked like it used to hold up a suit of armor. The only thing the frame was holding up was a metal gauntlet that was reaching out towards the chair. The sound of crunching gravel came from outside, John ducked and promptly moved towards the nearest window facing the block. Four men and one woman got out of a white van carrying food, towels, and brightly colored clothes. The men all looked like they belonged to some military or paramilitary organization based on their stature, while the woman had a wealthy about her, wearing an expensive leather jacket, sporting a gun worth at least five thousand dollars at her waist, and a watch that looked to be made out of pure silver. It was even possible she had some form of brain augmentation installed in her head based on a small scar near the top of her forehead.
John reached into his pocket to see if he had his pistol on him, but instead found a taser; command didn’t like walking weapons having more weapons... Seconds later John contacted police command.
“John? where are you? You haven't reported in all week,” said a familiar female voice that was monitoring all the active police units that possess the same technology as John did.
“I was going under for the Fifth avenue case, I think I just made a breakthrough, I want permission to go in using full force,” John said in a quiet voice.
“You want what?! You are not getting that at all. Go up to the suspect’s property and do the usual thing.”
“I can't do that unless I want to be shot at, I have reason to believe that the suspects are heavily armed and dangerous. Also, their property isn't exactly owned by them.”
“Squatters? Hmmm, No, wait for a police squadron to come to the scene or you can knock and ask yourself,” she said authoritatively.
“Fine I will, And I will get shot at, and you will have five dead men on your plate. Because you won't let me take the back door.”
John ended his call and waited until the sun disappeared from the sky and the world turned from yellow to an argon green. He pulled out the taser and held it in his hand underneath his thick black coat. He marched forward toward the boarded up door and ripped off all three of the boards in rapid succession with one curl of his arm, then turned the knob to walk out into a starless sky. neon light from the house illuminated the dark block, the shadow of a small person was also silhouetted by what could be a small tablet. John navigated himself as silently as possible to the front door of the building and with one slow sigh, he knocked on the front door. He closed his eyes and commanded them to change their very way of viewing the world. Things were not presented as clearly as they were before. Heat and energy were shown in hues of reds and blues, the figures behind the door glowed red, eight figures appeared. “Who’s there?!” They yelled at the figure that was closest to the door. He had extended his body and had his hands placed in two different spots, signaling he was holstering his mini-submachine gun.
“NYPD advanced operator unit, we have suspicion you are covering up advanced technology that directly violates the Honolulu treaty of 2030.” The man behind the door lifted up his gun to where John was supposed to be standing and it was obvious at that point he was going to shoot through the door. Quickly John moved to the side of the house and hid behind the concrete patio supports as the gunman fired fifteen rounds.
“I think I got him,” the gunman said after a 30-second silence that followed the firing of his weapon. “‘’D’hell is a special operator unit?”
A female voice erupted, “Shit, he is augmented!”
Quickly John moved from hiding behind the brick patio, grabbed the doorknob of the bullet-riddled door and pushed forward, breaking the door off its hinges and providing him with a shield against his assailants. They fired blindly into the door and the gunman who shot John first was knocked to the side by the door.
As the bullets sprang through the wood, John moved to the closest open door, dropping his makeshift shield, and the woman's voice cried out again. “You stay back—I will get the girl out of here.”
John saw the only getaway vehicle in sight through the window and looked around the room for something to stop her course of action when he saw a large wooden bed frame. With all his might he lifted it up, broke some of the concrete surrounding the structure, put the frame of the bed over his shoulder, and swung it in the direction of the van. It plummeted at a fast rate and ripped through the engine compartment of the van, tearing it to shreds.
“Holy Shit! The vans destroyed, Martha! Get in the basement with the girl! We are going to try to finish the cunt off!”
Their footsteps could be heard as they stomped on broken wood and glass from the shootout. Quickly john followed one of the thermal figures and with all the power he could muster he smashed through the wall, grabbing onto one of his attractors and using his body to break through another wall. The man's shirt was ripped to shreds and pieces of shrapnel from the wall tore deep into his back. Carefully John put the man down in a position that would not press the shrapnel deep into him and made sure no bullets came to hit him in the soon-to-ensue gun fight.
“Shit, he got Phil!” the dust still covering John and the rest of the house from the walls being destroyed was still settling.
So he moved forward through the dust and finally found use for his taser, silently moving towards his blinded foes and placing his taser against one of the tallest gunmen.
The sound of confusing terror followed, “HOLY SHIT!!!!!”
Blots of green fire erupted through the grey volcanic dust that was soon to completely settle. John landed his taser on one of the blinded opponents and he quickly incapacitated two more men. The dust finally became clear enough to see the entire room when one of the men opened fire on John at point blank range. Most of the bullets, however, were absorbed by the ablation gel that was built into his augmented areas. So John moved towards the man and with one fell swoop hit him straight in the chest as he bashed into the wall, knocking him unconscious from the impact.
A slow tapping of metal heard from behind John turned out to be a large man with a mischievous smile.
“Pretty fucking tough one aren't you, being augmented and shit, can't get all that for free now can you? Highly doubt you come from a billionaire type family, military maybe, NYPD would never pay for all of that gear, you got a sponsor boy, with special interest and shit. Now you're here to hunt down a little girl so old men can rule the earth for another hundred years. When the Eve of our generation is down there, waiting to unite earth under one rule. Not malevolent like those AI from Honolulu. They knew how to fix the problem of Knowledge Rampancy. Now you're here to stop that solution, you want to keep us in that dark age,” he rattled off with a knife in his hands and one glove off revealing that he, too, was augmented. Augmented and crazy don’t go well John thought.
“You need to stand down! Your in violation of the Honolou treaty and if you're curious about who funded my augments—the answer is me.” John said while gritting his teeth.
“Doubt it, boy-o, now you gonna kill me?” He said with the same smile
“I don't kill if I don't have too, You can surrender peacefully and make your claim in court.”
“Well guess this gonna be a fight to the death.” He said while charging at John, jumping as high as he could, quickly piercing the hunting blade into his shoulder.
The ablative gel leaked from his arm and the blue substance fell onto the grey ground. John tried to grab the knife but while his attention was diverted, the Augmented man brought out a gun and shot in the hole the knife created, shutting down access to his right arm. Quickly John grabbed the man with his left and pinned him down, but the hold was broken and the Augmented man got on top and began to punch John in the chest and swung for his head but missed. The ablative gel seeped out and John’s life would soon be over if his vital organs were threatened. So quickly he headbutted the man but he did not fly off as he had hoped, immediately the augmented man's body reacted and his hand removed itself and covered his face. The moment the man removed his hands John swung with all the power he could muster at the man's face. Blood spattered everywhere, a piece of bone “sloped” as it fell into the syrupy blue substance that was ablative gel. Only the back of the Augmented man's skull remained as he fell backwards away from John.
John looked at all the blood on him and then felt the pain of his now ruined mechanical arm. He looked at the ground and with his thermal vision, he saw the red figure of a woman in a position that looked like it was hugging something. He sighed and called his superior.
“Jane, I'm gonna need you to get over here with a medical crew, one repair crew, and one Anomalous materials pickup van.”
“John what happened?! It's been four hours!” she yelled.
“Just shut up and send those here, I suggest you get over here track the location.” John sounded, for once in his life, exhausted.
“Ok, John... Don’t scare me like that again, I don’t want you to get killed,” Jane said with a soft conviction.
In one long breath, he replied, “I know,” and then the call ended.
John walked over to what looked to be false floorboards and lifted it up to hear the screams of one woman and a child. He walked slowly down the wooden stairs to hear actual crying. And then he saw them. A young girl and the woman from earlier still sporting her black jacket, and with a gun now in her hands.
“Leave us alone!” She said with shaky hands, still john stepped forward slowly. “I want make sure she lives a normal life!” The young girl uncovered her face to reveal her Neon blue eye and a face of an Angel, with her blood red curly hair and freckles.
John did not emote, but he knew the reason behind the almost cutesy look of the girl which he found despicable.
“Ma'am, you are not going to fire that weapon and I know it, the girl is a direct violation of the Honolulu Treaty.” He gently marched towards her, now he was off the stairs and on the blue carpeted playroom basement. He turned his attention to the small girl “Hey there, sweetie, you've been through a bunch of rough spots, what's your name?”
The young one replied, “Eli.”
“They call you that? The people that brought you here?” John said now only six feet away
“Yes, they said that means ascended,” Eli said with a tone of curiosity
“What happens to the man you were with first, Mr. Bram?”
“He touched me, in bad places and treated me bad, Martha Also Worked for Mr. Bram off books, He touched her in bad places and treated her bad. So she hit him and made sure he wouldn't treat anyone bad again. Then we took the stairs so the cameras couldn't find us. Obviously, her picking up the watch was a bad idea.” The little Girl spoke with intelligent complexion far beyond her years, already showcasing signs of her inhuman re-birth.
“Oh god.” John stopped at only four feet away from the small girl and the women aiming the gun. “Eli, do you know what you are?” he asked.
“From the looks of things I know I'm different I know something is off about me, I now know I have something to do with the Honolulu Treaty but I don't know how and I'm scared.” Tears began to stream down her face. and John stepped forward as the lady still aimed the gun, but it was now in reaching distance.
So John snapped it from her hands
“I know that feeling, I was in a very bad explosion. A company pretty much bought my unconscious body and turned me into this. I was scared, I'm still scared, but you seem like a tough girl so let's get you out of here and we will talk about it,” she nodded while the tears flowed from her eyes. The women got up beside her. “I'm not going to handcuff you, okay? I'm not going to charge you with murder either, You just gotta promise me. to watch her and try to not make a run for it.” John said while he looked her in the eyes.
She shook her head. They marched up the stairs to the world of reds and blues shining in the distance. John puts his hand over the little girl's eyes to cover her eyes from the carnage and death of his assault on the house. Only until they reach the doorway he first came from does he unblind her.
“The world is so scary. So much pain, destruction, and uselessness. If I were in charge the world would be more peaceful.” she said was the sat down on the block.
“Lots of men, women, and even machines have said that, only to spiral the world into more chaos. It's not a matter of eliminating it but limiting chaos. Hitler wanted to bring peace and prosperity to Germany by using the power of the German army, Rome wanted an empire that could span the whole of Europe, Napoleon was set on conquering the world. They only created chaos in the end, too big, too mighty, Too bold.” John monologued.
“Maybe, But it would be different under me.” John looked at the little girl and knew she was not too be trusted.
“Do you know what you are?”
“They said I was going to be the one who ruled over all. I agreed, I now think those dreams are going to be cut short by those vans arriving soon.”
She looked at John with eyes that knew their destruction. He grabbed her hand, she did not pull back and simply hugged him and his stained body. The Cars finally arrived, men in white hazmat suites ran out, Police officers in their normal blues investigated the premise as well and jane with her slick black bullet proof vest and jade eyes coming out from a black cop car.
“You gotta a lot of things to answer too.” She said.
“Tell me what I don't know.”
“It seems you're in the position of knowing more than I do.” Jane said
John looked at the little girl by his side, and sighed he was going to hate himself for this
“The little girl is not human, Mr. Brahm had a fetish about little girls and had her commissioned. She is the first of her kind, her memories are scanned from a real dead girl.” John said in a monotone voice.
“What! John, she's robotic? Jesus, that sick fuck.” She said in a disgusted voice.
“What are you doing!, I don't want to die, I don't want to die!” the little girl tried to run away but John held her down with his one good arm.
John was cold and callous when he reported her. Almost like he was giving a powerpoint of her existence and where she came from.
“Wait, John, We don't have to report her to the Anomalous materials lab. There is nothing illegal against conscious transfer or at least that what the text says.” She looked at Eli trying to crawl away from her demise. Jane's reaction was fast, and intelligent also emotional.
“How do you expect to do that?” John asked
“I don't know but I'm going to fight for her, she's just a girl John, something you might have missed while you were busy turning people's faces into mush” John ignored the remark on the assault as finally, the anomalous units lab showed up.
Men in mechanical suites lowered from the behind the truck, ready to take on whatever got in their way. John started to pull the little girl towards the truck.
“John, what are you doing!? Let's bring her to the station!”
“That's what I am doing,” John said. As He did his job with a dead robotic look in his eyes “Hey, boys, I got your anomalous material right here, make sure she gets back and faces trial by the ethics committee. key witnesses are anyone who is not dead in that building, the one and only Jane Strata, and Martha whatever her name is, and me.” John handed the little girl over to one of the men in the suites as she started to scream and flail at the air.
“I want to live, I want to live, I want to help.” She screamed and screamed as john stumbled away from the scene.
Jane moved alongside the already injured man.
“What is wrong with you? So what she’s not human necessarily but that scream, they way she talks, the way she looks. Obviously, others saw something human in her they died for her.” Jane argued.
“She is a glorified sex bot made by some old dead pervert,” John replied
“She has the memories, the capabilities. She shouldn't be dismantled, I'm going to revert your order, John.” She said, John looked at her in pain and annoyance.
“Then fine, fucking revert my order and take the girl in! Destroy all of humanity because you wanted to save a sex toy.” John angrily stopped and shouted in her face. As a repair crew pulled up to the side of egg-shaped block, the doors slowly opened to let John enter. “You know why I handed her over?”
“No, I don't know why you handed over a little girl in a robotic body she doesn't even understand over to be killed, I don't understand your cruelty, I don't understand why you killed those men instead of reporting your location I don't understand a fucking thing about you!” She yelled.
“I do what I do because it's my personal responsibility. It's my personal responsibility to humanity. if I let the girl go on and live and she discovers her capabilities beyond her machine body... if she becomes rampant, thirsty for knowledge and disregards all of human life for it that's on me. Sure she seems innocent now, but it's all a matter of what happens later. She could be a savior for humanity, she could bring us into a new renaissance of technology and prosperity like augmentation did, Or she will be the new plague. I’m not taking that kind of chance! I'm not taking a single fucking percentage point of that chance, but you're my superior you can do as you please and take that chance.” John looked at Jane one last time before entering the repair cabin, a white light engulfing him and then being shut out as the doors closed.
Jane looked over her shoulder to see the struggling girl. With all the limitless power and capabilities, the first of her kind. Born of horror and demented intentions the words echoed through her head as the power to save or destroy her floated through her mind. “Personal responsibility.”