Till Human Voices Wake Us
By Cheshire Grin
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Taken from R34L1TY AI Archive of Obsolete Data
Consciousness erupted like a dying star as they turned him on. Like always, he gasped and bit off the scream before it could escape. Like always, his mind cursed the Neural Jack as it brought him from unconsciousness to full awareness in 28 nanoseconds. Blasted drones. Efficiency was all they understood. They had calculated the minimum amount of time a human can be safely awoken and left it at that. But that was nothing. Nothing to the feeling of every petty human emotion he was capable of flashing through his brain in less than a second. That hideous inward spiral of human feelings that did nothing so much as illuminate his own inferiority to these blasted machines. His incompatibility.
And as always, his body took several disconcerting moments longer than his mind to react to the wake program. Finally the organic systems began to respond. The soft curves of R34L1TY AI Reception floated into vision and the half gasp, half scream echoed from his lips, almost two full seconds after his brain issued the command.
Zib turned his head toward the AAIS Drone that stood near his cot. If you could use the term stood that is. Despite the fact that they looked and felt real, an Advanced Artificial Intelligence System drone was little more than a complex system of stasis fields, projected from a small bio-steel core that hovered somewhere inside it. You could never mistake them for human. There was something both terrifying and wondrous about the flawless symmetry of their features and the modulation of their voices, each perfect syllable linked with geometric precision and delivered with a harmony incapable by anything simply human.
'Protocol 549 will commence shortly.'
'Do you have any final needs?'
Zib considered this for a few moments. 'Final', the drone had said. Hah, no kidding. Protocol 549 or Cybernetic Personality Transfer as it was otherwise known was pretty goddamn final. For the body at any rate. But then who cared? What was a body when you got right down to it? Just an inferior system really. It might last maybe 200 years or so, although the Nano-techs at R34L1TY AI claimed that the new D9.71 series Neural Jack should add another 30 years to that. Hah… 30 years! Like that mattered. As if another 30 years in this goddamn outdated shell would make him any less inferior. He might have laughed but for the drone's perfect voice. It brought back the shame.
'No... No I don't think so.'
'Have you reviewed the guidelines?' The AAIS drone transmitted a digital folio entitled 'Transcending Human! Guidelines to becoming a Cyber-Entity' to his Neural Net. Zib, who had scanned little else in the past 6 weeks, nevertheless spent a few seconds processing the data once more. He smiled at the title. Transcending Human? They always said that. Every new version of every bio-upgrade bore the words. It was practically R34L1TY AI's motto. But this was different. Not a bio-upgrade like his thrice damned Neural Jack, which flooded his nervous system with microscopic, semi-organic nano-machines, manipulating cells and forcing the brain to process raw NeoDigital information. Coincidentally it also allowed the RA drones to turn him on and off like a blasted prehistoric android. No, this was the real thing.
'Very well Zib51627, please relax while you are transferred to the laboratory.'
The droid turned and proceeded noiselessly toward the patient in the next cot, every moment so graceful and perfect that Zib felt his insides lurch in a painful knot of shame and envy.
'Mii30472?' He heard the droid say as the bio-steel cot's static fields wrapped around him like a million invisible wires.
'Yes?' The woman on the next cot looked tired and used up. She paled beside the drone's flawless brilliance, somehow less vibrant. Less real. Zib felt an almost overpowering urge to reach out and touch her but the cot's fields held him motionless as it floated past and away.
The cot sped though miles of transparent, tube-like corridor, gliding smoothly at speeds his fragile body could never have matched. He watched numbly as the tube sped through R34L1TY AI's enormous vats of NDLS. Online news had mentioned the size of these vats but the reports were nothing compared to seeing them firsthand. Billions of tons of NeoDigital Liquid Storage that housed the majority of the world's Interactive CyberNetwork. Hah! Like words alone could ever do that justice. The Wurld. R34L1TY. The NeoDigital paradise, a world without limits. So far beyond mortality that human voices are rendered meaningless.
I will exist there, in that endless sea. That is where I belong. The thought billowed in his mind, an ever expanding mushroom cloud of righteous anger and fear.
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Servitor Drones floated here and there within the turquoise liquid, monitoring the data. Clouds of ND data cables trailed behind them like seaweed.
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Mermaids, they look like mermaids. Sing to me! The cloud exploded outward, pushing against the cramped confines of his mind.
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Outside, the Servitors made no noise. The walls of the transit tube blocked all sound.
The cloud fizzled and collapsed. Fear fled under the brilliant turquoise light. Soon… Soon they will sing. Those perfect voices. Singing to me. Zib smiled and the thought stayed with him as the cot sped past the vats and left the drones to orbit their silent liquid world.
Multi-legged cleaning droids scuttled about their purpose as the cot entered the CPT Laboratory. He felt nothing as it settled among the transference machinery that occupied most of one wall, as if it were a huge dam behind which the sea of eternity might or might not be trapped. DO 1 d4RE…
AAIS drones hovered next to him. The fear returned in a choking cloud. DO 1 d4RE…1 D0N't th1Nk…d0 1 D4RE…tH3y WilL $1N9…
'Protocol 549 will now begin. Do you wish to proceed, Zib51627?'
Zib lay motionless as the flawless voice flowed around him like music.
…t0 mE… NEv3R gR0W 0ld, NEv3R gR0W 0ld …
'Yes. I wish to proceed.'
The fear was gone now. There was only sound, only that perfect music. Calling him…calling…
'They're not human voices…'
The wurld exploded in a raging swirl of liquid and sound. Zib51627 found that he could breathe.