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Misheard Whisper
October 14th, 2009, 12:53 AM
http://i690.photobucket.com/albums/vv263/Misheard_Whisper/Artificialposter.png
original image from here (http://media.photobucket.com/image/kagamine%20rin%20kokoro/kurosawa_haku/KagamineRin-Kokoro.jpg?o=2). not mine at all

This story, I wouldn't call fanfiction, per se, but I based it loosely off this song. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhOL1TxuzeM) The basic premise is the same, but that's as far as it goes. I was inspired by it, but I didn't use any of the characters or anything. It's a beautiful song, and it makes me cry all the time.

Anyway, I'm experimenting with a new format this time around. Yay. Lots of flipping back and forth, time-jumps, present to preterite jumping, and lots of italics. :3 It shouldn't be too hard to read, though.

Constructive feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated. I haven't had time to proofread it yet, but I think it's easily of postable grade. Will touch up in the morning when I'm not all tired.

Yes, I am fully aware there's lots of unintentional innuendo, especially the part about touching, so sthu. XD

This will be a two-part story. Enjoy!




Artificial
Part I



I was not born, I was made.



Not simply made, I was created.



Not simply created, I was fabricated.



Not simply fabricated, I was engineered.



Not content with engineering me, my creator conditioned me to be what he wanted me to be. I lived for him. He was everything I had ever known, and I had no reason to want anything else. For a time, I was happy.



Is it possible, though, I wonder, for me to be happy? I am, after all, artificial. I was created to have feelings, to experience human emotion. I feel as though I am alive. But in reality, these illusions of happiness and contentment were merely programming, screeds of complex code fed into my processor before my life began. No matter how complex they are, no matter how real they appear to those around me, my feelings are nothing more than a stream of data telling me how to react.



Darius, my creator and master, programmed me to feel negative emotions, as well. I often wondered whether this was the right thing to do. Surely it would have been better for everyone involved if I had been eternally happy, like the others. I often asked him this when we sat alone together, as we often did. For when I became angry, I often could not control myself. I sometimes hurt him, and as angry as I might ever have been at him, I never wanted to cause him pain. Yet whenever I asked him to remove the programming, I was met with the same answer.



“No, Anti,” he would say. “It is important that you learn to appreciate the world in its entirety. A being such as you must have a full understanding of both good and evil, and human nature. For you to understand how it is to be human, you must be as close to a human being as it is possible for you to be. Do you understand what I mean now?” I would smile and nod as I always did, a carefully conditioned response. He would grin back at me, and then retrieve his glasses from where they had landed when they inevitably fell off. He always forgave me. He never blamed me for hurting him.



Other humans, however, were not so kind. Often, I would have to venture out into the world to perform some trivial errand for my master. I met many other humans, humans who were nothing like my master. I have one particular instance stored in my memory bank; one instance that I find myself revisiting more and more frequently as time goes on. . .



***


September 19, 2167. 08 : 46 : 27




As usual, I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Like most mornings of early spring, the cherry trees lining the avenue were laden with sweet-smelling pink blossom, some of which had fallen to the road. The scent wafted through the air, permeating everything. I didn’t smell it – I never smelled anything, after all – but my sensors told me it was there. The cherry trees were in sharp contrast to the piercingly blue sky that stretched behind them to all horizons. A haphazardly-spaced flock of birds zipped across the cloudless expanse, borne upon the wind like unwanted chaff.



The city was as sleepy as it usually was on a Saturday morning. Though the sun was already well up, it was still only seven degrees. I was almost alone on the street. I had been sent to deliver a letter to a friend of Darius’. It was apparently confidential, which was why he had written it on paper and entrusted it to me rather than simply send it across the Internet.



I had to admit to myself that I was curious as to the contents of the letter. Although I was artificial, Darius had made sure I was as near-human as it was possible to be for a gynoid like myself. I restrained myself, though. I had to prove that I was worthy of Darius’ trust.



“Look, Mommy! A robot!” piped a small voice somewhere behind me. I closed my eyes and forced myself to stay relaxed. Children infuriated me for some reason.



“Shh, honey. She’ll hear you. It’s not nice to point.” The child’s mother was whispering to it frantically, evidently unaware that my hearing was about twenty times better than the most sensitive human’s. I opened my eyes again and kept walking, deliberately not looking backwards. Interestingly enough, it seemed there was something about me that gave away the fact I was artificial. Even though my physical appearance was identical to that of a normal teenage human, there must have been something, because everyone I met seemed to identify me immediately as being inhuman.



“But robots don’t care, do they, Mommy? Robots are all nice, so they won’t mind!”



“Well – oh!” There was a patter of small feet behind me, followed shortly by a tugging on my arm. The feeling was foreign and unwelcome. I reacted automatically, snatching my arm out of the child’s grasp and turning to glare at it. It would have been about two, and dressed in so many layers of puffy, woollen clothing that it was impossible to determine any semblance of gender. I gave it my best death glare. Nobody ever touched me. Ever. Nobody except Darius, of course.



The child grinned and approached again, reaching for me again. I stumbled backwards, thrown off slightly. Giggling, the child pursued me as I backpedalled a few steps. My instinct took over then, and I struck out, knocking the child flying. Its mother screamed and rushed over to where the child had fallen.



I relaxed slightly. There was no harm done. It wasn’t seriously hurt. I nodded in apology to the child’s mother before turning to leave.



“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I glanced back curiously. What? The woman had gathered up her child and was clutching it to her fiercely. “You can’t just do that! Who do you belong to?” I frowned in confusion. What was wrong here? Where was the forgiveness? Where was the calm, smiling acceptance that Darius always showed me?

“I’m not at liberty to disclose that,” I said calmly, but she didn’t seem to want to take that for an answer.



“Who owns you? You’re a robot; you have to tell me!” Theoretically, she was correct. Artificial beings like myself were bound to answer all questions directed at them by humans. If I had been a normal gynoid, I would have had to tell her.



“I’m not at liberty to disclose that,” I repeated. “Why is it you wish to know?”



“I want to know so I can sue the bastard!” she screeched. “You’re a danger to humanity, and so is whatever lunatic owns you!” Nobody threatened Darius while I was around. Nobody.



The world turned red.



***

Infallible and comprehensive as they usually are, my memory banks are oddly blank for a while after this point. The next thing I remember is being reactivated by Darius.



***


September 19, 2167. 20 : 24 : 12




“You’ve caused me a lot of trouble today, Anti,” Darius sighed as he came into focus. I was strapped, upright, to the operating station in Darius’ laboratory. The usual mess of wires, batteries, fragments of metal casing and soda cans was strewn around the dark room, lit only by a series of plasma screens on the wall, most of which were showing a golden beach in Hawaii. On the biggest one, however, I could see a life-sized rendering of myself in cutaway, exposing my inner workings. I was certainly an intricate creation, I reflected. Darius was right to be proud of himself for creating me.



I understood, however, that I was different. Darius made many androids and gynoids, but I was separate from the rest. I was an experiment. He had, against regulations, made me able to feel anger, hate and pain, as well as programming me to speak my mind. Normal gynoids were programmed simply to be bland, smiling servants who did what you told them, did it well, and did it without complaining. Darius told me he had created me to see if a gynoid could really live like a normal human; if it was possible for me to feel and think like he did.



To act like he did.



“What happened?” I asked. It was a loaded question, and I knew it. He sighed and stopped tinkering with the panel on my arm that he had been occupied with. He bowed his head silently for a moment, so that all I could see from my vantage point was his messy brown hair. He glanced up at me eventually, a serious, sad look in his eyes. I didn’t like that look at all. “What did I do? I remember nothing.”



He sighed again. “Anti, do you remember how I always thought it was better for you to feel all human emotions, not just the good ones?” I nodded silently, not trusting my voice to remain steady. There was a tone in Darius’ voice that spoke of infinite sorrow, of a void in his heart. “Perhaps . . . perhaps I was wrong. Maybe it would have been better if you had been . . . more like the others.”



“I . . . I don’t want to be like the others, Darius!” I protested. “What are you saying? Are you going to reprogram me?”



No! No, please! I want to stay like this! I want to stay . . . with you!



“No, Anti, I could never do that to you. I’m only going to tinker with you a little bit.” I could tell it was hurting him to say it. “You’ll remain in stasis for the rest of time. You will retain all your programming, but you will be unable to move or act. I was told to-” His voice cracked, and a tear ran down his cheek. He tried again. “I was told to destroy you.”

“Wh-what? Why?” I didn’t understand. What was Darius saying?



“I’m sorry, Anti,” he said. ‘I can’t let you continue to be active, or I’ll be in even more trouble than I am already. But I . . . can’t bring myself to destroy you. That would be like destroying a little bit of myself.” He stopped and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself. It obviously wasn’t working. The tears were flowing more freely now, despite his efforts to control them.



“Goodbye, Anti,” he said softly. “It was fun. I’ll miss our little talks. But this is . . . for the best.” I started to ask him why, what I had done to deserve this, but before I could open my mouth, he reached forward and pressed the deactivate button on my exposed arm panel.



The world went dark.



I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see or hear a thing. I was sure that I still strapped to the operating station, but it was impossible. All my external sensors had been deactivated, as well as the ability to move. I was dead to the world.



***


I fancy that I cried at that point. It is mere fancy, of course, for I was never able to cry in the first place, and all motor functions were turned off anyway. But if I had been human, I believe I would have. I would have sobbed my heart out.



Do I have a heart? Not in the sense that humans have a heart, but Darius made sure it was close enough. My central battery unit was situated in my chest, just to the left of my spine, where a human would have her heart. At times, when I was happy, I fancied I could hear it beating.



I have never heard it beating since Darius put me in stasis. It has been fifty years now, and I have spent that time wondering why. What possible reason could Darius have had for deactivating me like that? What could I have done that was so bad? And why wouldn’t he tell me? He had always trusted me before, so why not then? Why not when it mattered most of all? Perhaps he told himself he was saving me the pain of knowing what I had done. He wasn’t. Not knowing is worse than knowing, every time. What knowledge could be more horrible than this gulf within me, this empty void that threatens to consume me?



He had no right to withhold that information. He had no right . . .



***


June 12, 2161. 06 : 12 : 24




“Look, Anti,” whispered Darius softly, pulling back the indigo curtain covering the window. “Snow.” I was, of course, aware that it was snowing. I had noticed as soon as it started, several hours ago. But hearing Darius say it made it that much more special. “Isn’t it beautiful?”



It was. I had never seen snow up until this morning, and then in the dark. But now, the rising sun reflected off the icy white expanse and the ground shone with light. Snow was still falling from the clouds overhead, but it was just a light sprinkling, whereas before, it had been like a giant, falling sheet of white.



“It is,” I agreed. “I’ve never seen snow before, Darius.” He grinned, the light from the window bathing his face in white.



“That’s right. I’d forgotten about that! Let’s go outside,” he suggested, hooking a heavy jacket off a stand and heading for the door. Curious despite myself, I followed him.

I didn’t need a jacket, of course, seeing as I didn’t feel heat or cold. I couldn’t help but giggle while he struggled with the jacket. It was far too big for his seventeen-year-old body, and he was having trouble finding the arm holes. I took it off him, laughing, and helped him into it.



“Thanks, Anti,” he said, grinning, and pulled on a pair of gloves before trying to open the door, failing due to the lack of friction granted by the wool. I moved his hand out of the way and turned the knob. A blast of cold air rushed in like a starving animal, knocking Darius’ newly-donned beanie off his head and his glasses askew. “Hey!” he exclaimed, then laughed. I laughed with him, and despite the cold, despite not being able to feel the temperature, I felt warmth flood my body and soul, bringing me such joy as I had not felt before.



***


And never felt since. That was one of the happiest moments of my life; an innocent, joyful morning with Darius, smiling and laughing in the snow, happy and content with each other’s company.



But it lasted nowhere near as long as I should have. I have been alone for fifty years. Alone . . . How dare he leave me alone? I wanted to stay with him . . . I wanted to be with him forever . . .



***


No . . . why did he leave me? Why did he leave me here? I’m alone. There is an empty place in my heart without Darius. A cold, empty place, slowly filling with blackness.

Do I even have a heart? Perhaps not. But like a human, I feel, and as such, I must have some form of heart, even if not physically. I often wondered about this conundrum, but now I am sure of the answer. Yes, I do have a heart. I know this.



I know this because it is filling with ice.



I used to love Darius. I thought the world revolved around him. But he never cared for me. Not really. If he had – if he had cared about me, he would not have done this. He would not have left me here, alone, unseeing, unhearing. He would have found a way. If he had really cared for me like I cared for him, he would have found a way to keep me with him. He would have fought for all he was worth to keep me with him.



But evidently, he did not even care that much for me. He simply left me here to torment myself with eternally tightening spirals of pain.

If he had cared, he would have destroyed me. It would have saved me this pain.



The pain! I feel it. I feel nothing physically, of course, but my mind is wracked with spasms that I seem to feel throughout my entire body. Am I moving? Do my fists clench and unclench in agony? It seems to me, in my delirium, that they do.



If he had cared, he would have destroyed me. It would have been better.



But he didn’t care. He never cared for me.



I was never anything more than another robot to him. I loved him, and I foolishly thought he loved me. But I was never any different. If he had cared . . . if . . .



My existence is a whirling maelstrom of ‘if’s. Uncertainty swirls around me like a hurricane. I am in the eye of the storm, calm among the chaos. But it will not last. Soon, the storm will move, and I will be consumed. I must fight it!



Must . . . fight . . . the storm.


~~~~~

A/N: Hector, the murder and gore come next part, mmkay? XP

Luphinid Silnaek
October 15th, 2009, 02:08 AM
Obligatory language and grammar notes:

Not content with engineering me, my creator conditioned me to be what he wanted me to be. Whatever he wanted me to be, I was. I lived for him. He was everything I had ever known, and I had no reason to want anything else. For a time, I was happy.

Is it really necessary to state that again? You explained it more carefully in the first sentence already.

It was apparently confidential, hence why he had written it on paper and entrusted it to me rather than simply send it across the Internet.

'Hence' contains in itself the sense of 'why'. No need to write the second word.

I had to admit to myself that I was curious as to the contents of the letter. Although I was artificial, Darius had made sure I was as near-human as it was possible to be for a gynoid like myself. I restrained myself, though. I had to prove that I was worthy of Darius’ trust.

For my curiosity, is the word 'gynoid' a common science fiction term or did you assemble it out of the Greek components yourself?

I like this quite a lot, mainly because you handle emotion (even Anti's fractured kind) and character detail so easily. (Shall you name the song this was inspired by?) Description, I seem to observe, is one of your stronger skills: you have a good sense of what out of a given scene should be intimated to the audience, and you express it well. The impressions the story makes are very vivid, and at the same time rather precise: little seems dull or pointless, and most everything appears to be tightly knit to carry the story forward.

(By the way, it's refreshing to see an experienced writer who's actually younger than I am, because there aren't many people in the first place who are younger than me and it seems that all the good writers on the forums are already at some ghastly age of nineteen or twenty-three or something. Good to see.)

I notice how familiarly Anti talks about human sensations and feelings that she denies she's ever had. It's odd: if this had been a third-person narrator, they could have affirmed that such-and-such is the difference between her feelings and human qualities, but how does Anti say with such certainty: I couldn't smell the flowers (as though she's experienced the sensation of smell before), or I felt like crying (as though this was her natural reaction when she's never cried in her life)? It's almost as though Darius, for some reason, chose not to mould her programming taking her gynoid state into account: remained as faithful as he could to normal human instincts and nature, and even gave her some basic sense that such things as taste and experience and emotion should be natural to her. (Though, couldn't this sense arise naturally from the way she's made? If everything else about her is human, it would be natural for even her to come across the idea that her ideas of emotion or sensation should also be human.)

The ending sequence has a humongous amount of repetition. "I care for him. Does he care for me? If he cared for me like I care for him, he wouldn't do this. But he doesn't care for me." And so on. Is this a special quirk of Anti's thoughts? I understand the emotional effect it's meant to carry, but it does something very strange with the language flow, at least from my reading. When Anti gets emotional, she seems to start stating nearly every thought of hers in at least two different ways, and obsessing over a certain phrase or idea for as long as paragraphs. (There's a possibility this effect was calculated, in which case you probably have a more important point to make than simple sentence flow.) Do explain, in any case.

*awaits the gory second part with bloodlust*

Misheard Whisper
October 15th, 2009, 08:18 AM
Obligatory language and grammar notes:



Is it really necessary to state that again? You explained it more carefully in the first sentence already.asdfg. Will fix that.



'Hence' contains in itself the sense of 'why'. No need to write the second word. Gah, and that. Thank you.



For my curiosity, is the word 'gynoid' a common science fiction term or did you assemble it out of the Greek components yourself? It's the gender-reversed version of 'android', and I've seen it used in much science fiction, but evidently not enough to make it into the MS Word dictionary. I had to add it manually.

I like this quite a lot, mainly because you handle emotion (even Anti's fractured kind) and character detail so easily. (Shall you name the song this was inspired by?) That's a relief, because those are the things I usually find I struggle with, and I was focusing on these things during the course of this story. As for the song, I did actually link to it in the author's notes at the beginning (I think), but the name is ココロ (KOKORO) which means heart or soul.


Description, I seem to observe, is one of your stronger skills: you have a good sense of what out of a given scene should be intimated to the audience, and you express it well. :D Also something I was deliberately working on. I have a tendency to do this in the first chapter of a story and then let it fall by the wayside afterwards. I hope to keep it somewhat constant in the second part, although there will be more action and less time for observing the scenery.

The impressions the story makes are very vivid, and at the same time rather precise: little seems dull or pointless, and most everything appears to be tightly knit to carry the story forward. I'm glad it came across as such, because I can't stand reading stories that drag things out unnecessarily. (LotR much? Great books, but just too damned dense. XP) But yeah, the difference with this one was that I planned out what was gonna happen in the stroy beforehand, not while I was writing it like my other stories. It's extended a little bit. The original was meant to be about this long all up, but I soon realised it just wasn't happening. But when I have a goal to work towards (ie I have the ending written in my mind already) my writing becomes more focused.

(By the way, it's refreshing to see an experienced writer who's actually younger than I am, because there aren't many people in the first place who are younger than me and it seems that all the good writers on the forums are already at some ghastly age of nineteen or twenty-three or something. Good to see.) Me? Experienced? Ahahahahaha, you jest, good sir.

Although I do hope to become experienced by writing like this.

I notice how familiarly Anti talks about human sensations and feelings that she denies she's ever had. It's odd: if this had been a third-person narrator, they could have affirmed that such-and-such is the difference between her feelings and human qualities, but how does Anti say with such certainty: I couldn't smell the flowers (as though she's experienced the sensation of smell before), or I felt like crying (as though this was her natural reaction when she's never cried in her life)? It's almost as though Darius, for some reason, chose not to mould her programming taking her gynoid state into account: remained as faithful as he could to normal human instincts and nature, and even gave her some basic sense that such things as taste and experience and emotion should be natural to her. (Though, couldn't this sense arise naturally from the way she's made? If everything else about her is human, it would be natural for even her to come across the idea that her ideas of emotion or sensation should also be human.) OK, this. This is the focal point of the story and will be expanded upon further in the second part of the story, but I'll give you the rundown here.

Androids and gynoids such as Anti are required by law to be programmed to feel only positive emotions. They will not get annoyed at humans, or feel sad or depressed when they are, for example, verbally abused by their owners. Darius has been programming these 'noids since he was a kid, but when he was sixteen/seventeen he decided he really wanted to create one that was almost human, with a full set of human emotions and responses. Basically, he wanted to make himself a friend. (He was a lonely kid) However, as is somewhat shown by Anti's reactions in this part (and more so in the next part), her programming was perhaps a little extreme. She angers quickly, for example, and Darius doesn't realise how dangerous this is when Anti possesses the inhuman strength that comes with being a gynoid.

As for sensations etc, it's a difficult balance. With the technology of the period (and indeed, any technology I can imagine) it's impossible for a gynoid to feel cold. She can read the temperature, and inform you that it is cold by human standards, but she still will not shiver or feel the cold. She has advanced receptors built in that will enable her to pseudo-smell things, in the same way she pseudo-hears and -sees things. I'm not entirely sure how the technology involved works, but it's . . . very complicated. *nod nod*

The ending sequence has a humongous amount of repetition. "I care for him. Does he care for me? If he cared for me like I care for him, he wouldn't do this. But he doesn't care for me." And so on. Is this a special quirk of Anti's thoughts? I understand the emotional effect it's meant to carry, but it does something very strange with the language flow, at least from my reading. When Anti gets emotional, she seems to start stating nearly every thought of hers in at least two different ways, and obsessing over a certain phrase or idea for as long as paragraphs. (There's a possibility this effect was calculated, in which case you probably have a more important point to make than simple sentence flow.) Do explain, in any case. This is pretty much what was going through my head at the time of writing, (whether or not it would be too glaring) but! It was definitely intentional. It may become clearer with Part II, but Anti is slowly descending into a form of insanity. Her mind (as it is) keeps going around in circles and coming back to the same idea; the most important thing to her in the world. Did Darius actually care? And as you probably know, when you dwell on something for an extended period of time (say, I dunno, fifty years without pause for sleep or other activity? XP) it becomes very easy to see the situation from every possible angle (especially with a robotic, artificial, analysing mind like Anti's) an hence twist things around so they appear how they really aren't.

OK, try this. Have you heard of the phrase 'ever-decreasing circles'? Yeah, that's Anti's mind while in stasis (technically a closet but oh well). She's sitting on the edge of a whirlpool, being sucked in towards the bottom, but to get there, she's got to go around and around, almost revisiting the same point with each revolution, just a little differently.

In essence, yes, that's the desired effect.

*awaits the gory second part with bloodlust* I'll try. I told myself (and everyone else) it was gonna be violent, but I haven't written much like that before. So it'll be a learning experience for me also.

And there will be mecha! I've decided on this. *goes to watch Gundam for inspiration*

So many thanks for reviewing, by the way. I love getting good, thoughtful reviews I can discuss and weigh against past experience and so on. Now I'mma go fix those mistakes. @_@ Every story has them . . . every story.

Syrynn
October 15th, 2009, 11:49 AM
This is an interesting little tale you're weaving!

I'm confused though.

The story starts on this date.
September 19, 2167. 08:46:27

After the events with the mother and child, you lead into your next paragraph with this statement.
Infallible and comprehensive as they usually are, my memory banks are oddly blank for a while after this point. The next thing I remember is being reactivated by Darius.

However, the memory of being put into statis is from this date.
January 24, 2167. 09:32:06It might just be me, but your interlude suggests a memory from the future, rather than a past date. Is this a typo on the year? Either way. this leads to one major flaw within the story arc, and it's a complete crippler. Anti was supposedly put into statis on Jan. 24, 2167. So how can she have encountered the mother and child on Sep. 19, 2167, after she had been immobilized for fifty years? Does she have a twin?

That aside, I'm enjoying this look at artificial intelligence, and your views about the controversies lying underneath this technology. Anti's storm is truly billowing, and you do well conveying the cesspool of hatred that seems to be growing inside of her. Indeed, it also brings up a good point about the difficulty of human nature to predict, and how humanity cannot be judged by a single person. I look forward to the grisly ending.

~Syrynn

Misheard Whisper
October 15th, 2009, 08:18 PM
aswdgfyuerbfwdsb! Idiot! *slaps self*

Ok, wanna know why that was screwy? The original date for both memories was the January one. I then realised, however, that spring did not occur in January in any part of the world, so I changed it to September to fit with the date given later for the first snowfall. However, I evidently forgot to change the date on the second flashback. @_@ *kicks self around the head*

That aside, I'm enjoying this look at artificial intelligence, and your views about the controversies lying underneath this technology. Anti's storm is truly billowing, and you do well conveying the cesspool of hatred that seems to be growing inside of her. Indeed, it also brings up a good point about the difficulty of human nature to predict, and how humanity cannot be judged by a single person. I look forward to the grisly ending. Your use of language in this paragraph exceeds mine in the actual story T_T Anyway, I'm glad you thought it was done well. That's exactly the point I was trying to bring up, incidentally. And perhaps that human nature should be kept exclusive to humans.

Well, thanks for reading and reviewing! I hope you'll stop by for the (hopefully very) grisly ending.

Syrynn
October 17th, 2009, 06:35 AM
aswdgfyuerbfwdsb! Idiot! *slaps self*

Ok, wanna know why that was screwy? The original date for both memories was the January one. I then realised, however, that spring did not occur in January in any part of the world, so I changed it to September to fit with the date given later for the first snowfall. However, I evidently forgot to change the date on the second flashback. @_@ *kicks self around the head*

Yeah, haha, that makes sense when you explain it that way. And don't worry about it too much; I just thought you'd like to know that the way you had it prior to the edits would pretty much be impossible. XD

Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this story is set in Australia, due to September being spring. If I'm wrong, don't rankle me too much for using some logic. There are a lot of Southern Hemisphere countries, after all. ^^

Your use of language in this paragraph exceeds mine in the actual story T_T Anyway, I'm glad you thought it was done well. That's exactly the point I was trying to bring up, incidentally. And perhaps that human nature should be kept exclusive to humans.

Well, thanks for reading and reviewing! I hope you'll stop by for the (hopefully very) grisly ending.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to show you up in the wordsmith category... :embarrass

I'm certainly interested in how this tale ends, because you've done a good job of drawing me in. And your point was well-conveyed, so it was pretty easy to pick out.

Misheard Whisper
October 17th, 2009, 09:56 AM
Yeah, haha, that makes sense when you explain it that way. And don't worry about it too much; I just thought you'd like to know that the way you had it prior to the edits would pretty much be impossible. XD I'd rather you pointed it out to me than remain confused, so it's all good.

Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that this story is set in Australia, due to September being spring. If I'm wrong, don't rankle me too much for using some logic. There are a lot of Southern Hemisphere countries, after all. ^^ >:[

No, it's not really set anywhere. It doesn't really need a named location, because it's very character-driven. In my mind, though, the city is a cross between Tokyo and New York, scaled down slightly and whacked somewhere in the southern hemisphere. o_o

I'm certainly interested in how this tale ends, because you've done a good job of drawing me in. And your point was well-conveyed, so it was pretty easy to pick out. I'll see you there, then.

Legendarian Mistress
October 18th, 2009, 05:08 PM
Seriously, MW, that was excellent. Not exactly what I was expecting, but you seem to be full of surprises. I look forward to reading part 2 and finding out if she was/is terminated.

Misheard Whisper
February 8th, 2010, 02:26 AM
REVIVIFICATION WTF

I can't believe it. I'm actually gonna post this here. Yup. I've been away from the forums for a month and a bit. Remember me? Yeah, I was so addicted to this site a while ago, but I think it's safe to post a little bit. This place is too cool to leave altogether. I think.

Anyway, I was feeling pissed off at life the other day, so I channelled those negative emotions into some nice Robo-Wangst (registered trademark).

Hmm, so. I did skim through Part 1 to remind myself of how things went down, but there may be a little continuity mistake here and there, so please bear with me on that account. I had so many numbers and dates in my head that made everything fit, but they've all gone poof

Sooo, part 2. There will be part 3, maybe part 4, and I don't know when. I'd just like some feedback.

Also, this is the first time I've published something in the romance genre, and only the second time I've attempted it. First time kinda died before it got anywhere, though, so it didn't really count. So if things are a little awkward, please understand. Like Darius, my only knowledge of this comes from fiction, except for him it was TV, whereas for me it was mostly books and manga. Yeah, how does one write about something one has never experienced? I can only try. One day, maybe, I'll be able to write from experience.

Also, there is no such thing as a consistent tense in this story. That's intentional; I do actually have a somewhat decent grasp of the English language, I just figured I'd try this as an experiment, if you will.

Gah, rambling, aren't I? Here, have some story before you get bored and leave.

Part II


2217

The storm . . . is too powerful. It is consuming me, I thought frantically as I strove to remain stable. The maelstrom, although not physically manifest, was as real to me as anything had ever been; more so, if only because of the pain it caused me to endure it.

I wasn’t used to pain. Gynoids weren’t supposed to feel pain. Not physically, at least. Darius often said he would have been able to program me to feel pain if he’d tried, but he didn’t want me to be that human.

He really didn’t care. I wanted to be human. I wanted to feel pain, as well as hate, and love, and anger, and joy. But he didn’t care what I thought. I was just an experiment. He never cared. He . . . never . . . cared!

I hate you, Darius. Why did you do this to me? Why?

I felt myself move. I was sure of it this time. What is this?

I was supposed to be in stasis. Why did I feel my body returning?

And once I focused on it, I was sure that I did. Sense was slowly returning to me. I still couldn’t see or hear anything, but I had a sense that I existed physically again.

For the last fifty years, I had been nothing more than a mind; a computer, sitting alone in a void. I hated it. One thing, though, can be said for it.

It gave me a lot of time to think.

I hate you. You never cared for me. I loved you, but you never cared for me!

I felt anger rising within me. Why hadn’t he come back for me? If he had cared, even a little bit, he would have come back and released me from this prison, this empty void in which I suffocate.

Light.

What? Why can I see light? Have to open my eyes. Open . . . To my surprise, I felt my eyes responding. As if rusty from years of not being used, they were reluctant to open, but I concentrated all my willpower on it, and slowly, they obeyed.

The first thing I noticed was that it was still dark. Of course, it might as well have been broad daylight to me. I had been without light for fifty years, and any change was instantly noticeable. That’s on top of the fact that my eyes were, of course, artificially enhanced.

“Crap, crap, crap! What the hell’s going on?” I blinked. Evidently my hearing was returning, too. I tried to turn my head, to try and work out who was speaking, but I couldn’t. Even so, there was no need. I knew the voice. It was a voice I had once loved . . .

“Overload . . . what the hell? This isn’t supposed to happen!” I smiled in satisfaction, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my motor functions were returning. I could roll my shoulders slightly and bend my knees.

Soon.

“Crap, Anti, what are you doing?” Darius seemed to be talking more to himself than to me. I ignored him anyway, concentrating on loosening up my joints. In my flexing and stretching, I discerned that I was in a cupboard, or some other similar fixture. There was barely enough room for me.

“Sensors reading . . . damn it, damn it, damn it! This is bad!” I giggled slightly. Yes, it was bad. For Darius, at any rate. I lifted my arms and pushed at the door in front of me. It creaked slightly, but didn’t give. Obviously, I was locked in. Even when I was in stasis, it seemed, he still hated me enough to lock me up.

Pushing would do no good. I drew my arm back in preparation to thrust it against the door, calling upon the reserves of strength I never thought I’d need. Although being a gynoid had its disadvantages, it made many more things possible, physical feats beyond any human being. Breaking down a door would be child’s play.

Going to kill you.

The wood splintered beneath the heel of my palm with a definite crack, sending large pieces flying outward. Light rushed in, and my eyes adjusted instantly. I was standing in a cupboard in the corner of Darius’ laboratory. It was much as I remembered it. A little dustier, perhaps, but on the whole unchanged. I felt a sudden flush of nostalgia which disappeared instantly when I saw the man standing in front of me. Silhouetted by the light from three or four computer monitors behind him – the only light sources in the room – was Darius. He looked exactly as he had fifty years ago.

That was puzzling. Had science advanced to the point where people did not age? That would be the most likely scenario. Or maybe the fifty years were just an illusion. Perhaps I had only been in stasis for seconds, minutes, hours.

No, that was impossible. I stepped out of the cupboard with some difficulty, my joints protesting at being made to move so soon after fifty years of inactivity. Darius stepped backwards cautiously.

“Why, Darius?” I asked him coldly. “Why did you do it?” I was going to kill him. I was going to destroy him for what he did. But first, I had to know why. Even though I already knew, I had to hear it from him. I wanted to hear him say that he didn’t care. That he never loved me. Then I would be able to destroy him.

“What are you talking about? I’m not-” I narrowed my eyes and glared at him.

“You know what I’m talking about, you bastard.” He shook his head, eyes wide.

“I’m not . . . I’m not Darius!” he forced out. Why is he lying to me? He has no reason to lie to me. But then, of course, he was always lying to me. Every word he had ever said to me was a lie. When he said he didn’t care if I hurt him. When he told me he was worried about me. When he told me he enjoyed talking to me. All of it was lies. So why should now be any different?

In a sudden burst of renewed energy, I charged towards him, taking him by surprise. He didn’t even have time to raise his hands to defend himself before I grabbed him by the throat and lifted him into the air with one hand.

“Ahgck!” he choked out, indecipherable, arms and legs flailing in the air like a broken puppet. I was the puppeteer, and he was dancing on my strings. I tightened my grip on his neck, relishing the feeling of his struggle to hold on to life. I didn’t care. He could struggle all he wanted – he would never break free.

In a futile attempt to save himself, he attempted to prise my fingers from his neck with both hands, but they were gripping him like a vice. His eyelids slowly started to sag, before his head tilted forward and he hung lifelessly in the air. I dropped him on the ground and bent over him.

He was still breathing slightly, and his heart was beating. I’d messed that one up. It won’t happen again. I grasped his head and twisted it sharply, relishing in feeling his neck snap beneath my hands. He didn’t even have the strength to cry out.

“Goodbye, Darius,” I whispered, smiling vindictively. It was a marvellous sense of release, killing Darius. I found, to my surprise, that I had actually enjoyed it. However, I could not help but feel a slight pang of regret as I watched the life drain from his eyes. “You could have loved me . . .” I whispered as the light left him entirely. “You should have loved me!”

Should I be crying now? I wondered. If I were, in fact, capable of crying, this would surely be the time to do it. Killing Darius had been like killing a part of myself.

Then why did I enjoy it? The conundrum struck me like a thunderbolt. I hated myself now for doing it. It hurt to look at Darius’ body, broken and twisted on the floor. Yet . . . yet there had been some immeasurable pleasure in doing it, in the act of killing. It felt wrong, so wrong, but I had loved it. Depriving a living, breathing creature of its life . . . maybe that was it. Maybe it wasn’t just killing Darius that I had enjoyed; perhaps killing was enjoyable in and of itself.

I had been so sure . . .

I had known that I hated Darius. Perhaps I had loved him once, but that had disappeared sometime in the last fifty years.

I had killed him. Hatred had brought justice.

Hatred brings justice.

Hatred brings . . .

Hatred . . . ?

“No,” I forced out through gritted teeth. “No hate. No more . . . hate!” As much as I had hated Darius, killing him had torn me apart.

“I could never hate you,” I murmured, suddenly realising it myself. I had been blinded, confused. I had acted rashly, and now Darius was dead.

Dead?

Darius . . . is dead?

I . . . I killed him? I killed Darius?

“No . . .” I whispered softly. “No! No, no, no!” I bent over Darius’ body, cradling his lifeless form in my arms.

In just a few moments, my world had turned to ash, and I had brought it upon myself. What would I do now? What could I do? A robot was nothing without a master, and Darius . . . Darius had been so much more than a master to me. I could not imagine living without him, and now my own recklessness and anger had forced me to.

Eventually, I realised that I was sobbing like a little girl. There were no tears – never any tears – but I was crying. Crying for Darius. Crying like a girl with a broken heart.

I feel . . . almost human.

***

July 17, 2163. 21 : 13 : 42

“Love?” Darius asked in surprise. “What do you want to know about that for?”

“It’s all over those TV dramas you make me watch,” I grumbled, “but it still doesn’t make any sense to me.” Darius was quiet for a minute, a faraway look in his eyes. We were both sitting at one of Darius’ many steel workbenches, watching the Hawaiian ocean sparkle on the plasma screens all around us. Darius’ hands were wrapped around a mug of coffee, steam curling lazily upwards and drawing silky, intricate patterns in the air.

“Hmm . . .” he said at length. “Love is not something I’ve had much experience with – well, any experience, really,” he admitted bashfully. “All I really know is what I’ve picked up from watching those TV shows. As bad as they are, I hoped they would be better than me at teaching you about the true meaning of human emotion.”

“Evidently not,” I smiled. “Why don’t you tell me, Darius?” He smiled.

“Well . . . Love is, at the same time, the most basic and the most complex human emotion. It’s impossible to fully understand, but the general consensus is that you’ll know it when you experience it.” He chuckled bashfully, scratching his head awkwardly. “Again, I’m really not the best person to be asking about this.”

“You’ll know it when you experience it,” I repeated quietly. “Are you sure? How do you know when you’ve experienced it?”

“I don’t know,” he confessed. “Love is different for different people. Not to mention the fact that there are many different kinds of love. Love for a friend, love for a parent, a child . . . but not many people realise that. They try to put ‘love’ in a box and stick a label on it, but that’s just not possible. You can’t do that to something as human as love.”

“Does loving . . . make you human?” I wondered out loud. Darius laughed good-naturedly.

“Let’s just say this. If you find that you love someone, Anti, you’ll be just about as close to human as you could ever be.” I fell silent for a moment, processing the new information.

Love . . .

“I love you, Darius,” I said quietly. Darius coughed, and his coffee spilled across the bench, the brown liquid running smoothly across the metal. He quickly regained his composure, though, chuckling awkwardly.

“That’s . . . good, Anti,” he said distractedly, patting me on the head as he headed for the kitchen – hopefully for a cloth, but more likely it was just a replacement coffee. “That’s . . . good.”

Neither of us ever mentioned that conversation again.

***

2217

“I love you, Darius,” I murmured into his chest as I held his body tightly. “I couldn’t bring myself to hate you . . .”

“How . . . touching,” said a cold voice from behind me. I jerked around, caught off guard. I hadn’t heard anyone approaching, yet there he was. Over six feet tall, thin and ramrod-straight. His eyes were like chips of grey flint, set in a hard, narrow face reminiscent of a hawk’s.

“Who . . . who are you?” I demanded.

“My name is Major Daniel Margrave, of the IERC.” He did look like a military man. His blue and gold uniform made him look like a navy officer, but he hadn’t said . . .

“IERC?” I asked. “What the hell is the IERC?”

“The IERC, the Illegal Entity Removal Corps,” he supplied. Neither his face nor voice displayed any emotion past a slight cold disdain. No, it wasn’t even that. It was detachment. I had no value to him, therefore I was not worthy of wasting effort on. He had only spoken a few words, and I hated the man already.

“What business do you have here?” I challenged him angrily.

“Surely, that is obvious, no? The IERC removes illegal entities, and you, my dear, are most definitely an illegal entity. Non-biological, perhaps, but illegal nonetheless.”

“Illegal? What kind of crap are you spouting? I’m a robot, a gynoid! That’s not illegal, is it?”

“I’m afraid that’s where you are wrong. Creating machines with artificial intelligence has been outlawed for forty-nine years. I don’t know what Mr Cyprus was thinking, building you. Also . . .” He peered around me. “Hmm, yes. You are now also wanted in connection with the murder of Mr Tyson Cyprus.”

“Who? Who is Tyson Cyprus?”

“My dear, Tyson Cyprus is, or rather was, the young man lying on the ground behind you.”

. . . No.

No! What? Tyson?

“You have it wrong! I didn’t kill anyone called Tyson Cyprus! This is Darius Cyprus!”

He’s mistaken. It can’t be right! I killed Darius! I killed . . . Darius.

For the first time, a hint of emotion showed on Margrave’s face, a slight upward twist of one corner of his mouth.

“My dear, there is no mistake. Darius Cyprus died seven years ago of a heart attack, aged sixty-eight. Tyson Cyprus is his grandson.”

Misheard Whisper
February 14th, 2010, 01:03 AM
Hahaha, June. I said Valentine's Day, and Valentine's Day it shall be. This part is a lot shorter - exactly 1,400 words, I think - but it seemed like such a perfect place to stop it, and I promised the chapter would be out on Valentine's Day.

This is interesting - I'm being challenged here, and I think I like it. It's hard because I keep changing the format. Part I was internal monologue and flashbacks, Part II was mostly emotion-driven action, but Part III is really . . . just talking. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I hope? Anyway, exposition time!

Part III

“I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.” The half-smile had vanished from Margrave’s face; he was stoic once more. “You are not to be permitted to continue to exist.”

Son of a . . . This guy really got to me, somehow. I clenched my teeth and snorted derisively. “Go with you? Make me,” I challenged him.

“My, my. Such a . . . human response. Tyson Cyprus was always a genius with mechanics, but to create such an advanced being . . . I am, quite frankly, surprised. What surprises me more, however, is that he did so illegally,” Margrave mused. I shook my head slowly.

“Tyson Cyprus . . . was not my creator. That was Darius. It never could have been anyone but Darius.”

“No? What’s your serial number?” Margrave seemed curious.

“Seven thousand, nine hundred twenty-six beta,” I supplied through gritted teeth.

“Hmm . . . An old code, that one. Very old . . .” The major slipped a palmtop computer from his belt and, keeping a close eye on me the whole time, punched a few keys.

I continued glaring at him. Who the hell did he think he was? What was he even doing here in the first place? This was Darius’ laboratory, his magical workshop. This awful man had no business being here. I clenched my fists. He would die. I had no doubt about that.

“Unit number 7926-B,” Margrave read off his screen. “Constructed in the year 2159 by Darius Cyprus. Experimental gynoid, sole purpose . . . learning. Of course, this is when experimental bots were legal. September 19, 2167: grew violent, assaulted and killed a woman. Unit recognised as dangerous and termination order issued. Ah, yes . . .” He snapped the computer shut abruptly.

“Of course . . .” he mused, looking superior. “I should have realised it was you. Your reputation precedes you . . . Anti.”

“What? How?” Margrave smiled properly for the first time, appearing to relax. He nonchalantly pulled up a stool from one of Darius’ workbenches and planted himself on it, seeming much more at ease than he had previously. I frowned. What was he up to? I wanted to snap his neck right there and then, but somehow I could tell that this man had information I wanted.

I can always kill you later.

“You see, Anti, you’re quite the celebrity. It would appear that you have been in stasis for fifty years, ever since the incident. You launched an unprovoked attack on a human, and for that, the courts ordered Darius to terminate you. Always a sentimental, it seems that Darius secretly placed you in stasis and hid you in this laboratory, no doubt hoping to let you out when it had all blown over.”

“He did . . .” I whispered. “He shut me down . . . I thought it was because he hated me, but . . .”

“But unfortunately for Darius, and you, it didn’t blow over at all,” Margrave went on, ignoring me. “There was public outrage at the case. People were scared of robots now, of anything with artificial intelligence. If one robot defied its basic purpose, what was to say there would not be more? A robot revolution, so to speak? There were petitions, marches, huge pressure put on governments all around the world. The world hadn’t been so united against a single group since September 11, 2001.”

“So . . . robots were made . . . illegal?” I couldn’t help but be horribly fascinated. Had I really sparked off a chain of events with such enormous repercussions? Margrave smiled that cold, icy smile.

“Outside of government usage, yes. Any machine with more brains than a simple PC was confiscated and destroyed, or put to work in governments. AI these days is slightly less advanced than it was in the robots’ heyday, but that’s really for the best. We don’t want our robots getting any ideas now, do we?”

“So, what? Robots are just servants now?” This guy had stopped leaking information and started spouting trash. Maybe I should just kill him now?

“Essentially. Dumb, basic servants. Willing, unknowing combat units. But . . .” he paused, standing up once more. “There’s just one problem, Anti. You’re not one of them. I’m going to have to take you with me.”

“You and what army?” I asked. “I might technically be fifty-eight years old, but you still can’t take me!” Margrave sighed, shaking his head.

“So melodramatic. It’s almost a pity to have to do this, my dear.” Reaching down to his belt, he pressed a small green button on a device that looked somewhat like a two-way radio. No words were spoken, though. Just milliseconds later, the ceiling behind Margrave exploded downwards with an earth-shattering crash.

Plaster and metal showered everywhere, crashing to the ground in chunks, followed almost instantly by . . .

“I see you brought friends, Major.” Two giant, hulking machines now flanked Margrave like demonic, mechanical bodyguards. Each was vaguely humanoid, but the arms and legs were stunted and thick. The torsos were like giant, black barrels, thick and heavy-looking. Their heads scraped what remained of the ceiling, and both were armed to the teeth. Wide-bore cannons poked over their shoulders, and the arms were tipped with large, wicked-looking claws. They were blunt – clearly meant for crushing rather than slicing.

“You don’t think I’d be foolish enough to investigate an unauthorised robotic signal without a contingency plan, did you? Anti, my dear, meet A and B. Robots make the perfect soldiers, don’t you think?”

I couldn’t help but agree with him. The smooth, black metal armour shone dully in the low light, lending the giant pair a quiet, deadly menace. On closer inspection, I could see far more weaponry than I had originally thought, including several short barrels built into the robots’ chests and a pair of nozzles of dubious purpose poking from their knees. And those claws . . . they looked like they could crush me like a twig.

“Son of a . . .” All of a sudden, it looked a lot grimmer than it had just a few seconds ago. There was only one option left available to me, and that was to catch Margrave by surprise before his goons could react.

Summoning up every dreg of power I could, I leapt forward, my fist aiming for Margrave’s face. He didn’t react, didn’t even blink. Before I got anywhere near him, both of his robots moved like lightning, each one seizing one of my arms and holding me firmly. I struggled, but to no avail. I couldn’t fight like this. I had never been designed to be a combat robot – my only advantage was my physical strength, far stronger than any human, but evidently still no match for Margrave’s A and B.

“Well, that was a short fight, wasn’t it?” said Margrave, looking slightly amused, as if the entire affair was little more than a game to him. I glared at him, hating him even more with each passing second, if that were even possible. I tried in vain to kick at my captor’s legs, but they were made of some incredibly hard alloy and I garnered no reaction. It was like kicking a wall, I reflected bitterly. Obviously nobody made any effort to make their robots look human these days.

“You’ve got guts, Anti,” Margrave commented. “It’s a pity you’re not more cooperative. I think we could have been good friends under different circumstances. Perhaps we still can. Who knows?”

“Go die,” I spat, still trying unsuccessfully to wrench my arms from the robots’ vicelike grip.

“How eloquent,” he mused. “Is now the part where you start screaming obscenities at me until I silence you forcibly?”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“Very good. Go ahead, then.”

Deprived of all other weapons, I gladly let loose a generous string of expletives at Margrave, obscenities I had learned but never had the chance – or inclination – to use before. Margrave stood in impassive silence, weathering the storm calmly. Once I paused to try and summon up even more expletives, he gestured to his henchmen – or henchbots, whatever they were supposed to be.

“That will do.” There was a great clanking of metal, a flash of light, and I knew no more.

Misheard Whisper
February 26th, 2010, 04:09 PM
ASODIGH

Forgot to post this here, lol. It's been up on the BBS for nearly a week already, but it's here now. Hehe. Anyway, this will be part four of Artificial. How long is this gonna get dragged out? I don't know, but I hope to have it done some time soon. I want to have part five up by the end of today, by the way, so look out for that too. And many of my other works should also be updated then, too. Bang Head Here, Andre's Agency and maybe even Shattered.

Oh, and also, please check out the 'movie poster' I put in the first post if you haven't already. I spent hours and hours colouring that. And no, I did not draw it.

Part IV

A low, insistent beeping gradually filtered through the darkness. It was quiet, regular, and strangely calming. I realised I was lying flat on my back, so for a few moments, I simply lay there. The beeping continued, neither speeding up nor slowing down. Where was it coming from? I opened my eyes, but the world was still dark. Where was I? Darius’ lab? What had happened to me?

Margrave! Everything came flooding back. Suddenly panicked, I sat bolt upright. I still couldn’t see a thing, so I couldn’t risk moving. Frowning, I ran a basic system scan. My eyes had been manually set to 0% - most likely Margrave’s doing. That meant that I was held captive.

“I suppose you’ve come to terms with your situation by this point, my dear?” said Margrave from somewhere off to my left, making me jump. Biting my lip, I prayed he hadn’t seen.

“What do you want?” I demanded.

“My, my. Still so feisty, even restrained as you are. An admirable quality in a woman, even if not a robot.”

Restrained? I hadn’t noticed any restraints – I had free use of all my limbs. My confusion must have shown on my face, because Margrave chuckled, ever so slightly maliciously.

“Perhaps it would be better if you were able to observe your situation?” he suggested. I heard him walk across the room we were in, followed by the telltale beeps and clicks of buttons and knobs. After a brief flash of static, my sight returned.

The first thing I noticed was the barrenness of the room. There were only three pieces of furniture – a steel desk, a steel chair, and a steel gurney that I was sitting on. The walls of the room were equally metallic, reflecting the light of a single bulb that hung from the ceiling like a lonely firefly. The desk bore a computer monitor, attached to a keyboard, a mouse, and a complicated-looking control pad. Margrave finished twisting knobs and sauntered back across the room to the sharp-edged metal chair. Swinging it around, he sat on it backwards, one leg on either side of the back and his elbows resting on the top.

He seemed quite at ease here, most different from when I had first seen him. He was smiling genuinely and relaxing. Thinking back, it seemed to me that he had started acting like that once he’d found out who I was.

“Restrained?” I queried again, out loud this time. “I don’t see any restraints.” To prove it, I swung my legs off the side of the gurney and stood up. Somehow, though, it was as if my limbs were made of stone. Caught off guard, I stumbled, crashing into the gurney. “Bastard! You did something to my arms and legs, didn’t you?”

“Well, yes. That’s not what I was referring to, though, so we’ll get to that later. More to the point, your programming has been edited slightly. You will do whatever I say, and you will not attempt to destroy anything.”

“I really, really hate you right now. You know that?”

“Yes, I’m fully aware of that. You can’t do anything about it, though.” As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I knew, somehow, that I couldn’t hurt Margrave if I tried. I didn’t know what would happen if I attempted to attack him, but I wasn’t too keen to find out. Would I shut down? Self-destruct? The more I thought about it, the less I wanted to hurt him. There wasn’t really any point in it anyway. It wasn’t like he’d really done anything to me – other than take me prisoner, but I couldn’t blame the man for doing his job.

“Fine,” I said, sitting back down on the gurney awkwardly and crossing my arms, “you win. For now. Now tell me what you want from me!”

“Well, now. I see you’re finally starting to see things my way. That’s excellent . . . very good. All right, then. Technically, I’m not supposed to be doing this. All unauthorised robots – and other illegal entities – are supposed to be terminated immediately upon recovery.”

“Recovery?” I snorted. “Is that what you call it?” It was almost amusing. I almost let my frown slip into a smile, but pulled myself back. This was no time to be joking around. Margrave evidently had no such worries, grinning good-naturedly. A thought which had crossed my mind briefly earlier struck me again. He’s so different now to what he was before. It was almost inexplicable – it was like Margrave was two completely different people.

“It’s all just paperwork and bureaucracy,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “But you see, if I were to follow IERC policy, I would have had to terminate you. That would have been . . . regrettable. So because I essentially run this operation, you’re down here instead. I kept you intact for several reasons.

“The first of these is, perhaps, the most obvious. Although you were programmed over fifty years ago, your artificial intelligence is more advanced than anything I have access to. Darius Cyprus was an utter genius. The higher levels of government, doubtless, have access to AI just as complex as yours, if not more so, but that level of technology doesn’t filter down to the IERC. I intend to monitor you and decide whether it’s safe to upgrade my robots to your level. A and B could do with a few extra brain cells – figuratively speaking, of course – not to mention their comrades. I don’t know how stable you are, though, as evidenced by the situation you were in when I found you.” I dropped my head, remembering the unpleasant events.

“Was he really . . . not Darius?” I asked softly.

“No, he wasn’t. Tyson Cyprus was Darius’ grandson – I believe I told you this before. For some reason, he always refused to sell his grandfather’s old laboratory. I can only suppose it was because of you.”

“I killed him, didn’t I?” A host of unfamiliar, unwelcome emotions rose up within me. I wasn’t sure how I felt. Killing Tyson had felt good at the time, as if releasing stress, venting, but even so . . . I couldn’t believe, somehow, that I’d really done it. I never would have thought myself capable of such . . . such human actions. Robots didn’t kill humans. Humans killed each other.

Even though it felt so wrong, I realised something else was taking up a small, dusty corner of my consciousness, something so out-of-place that it didn’t seem like it should have been there at all. Relief. Guiltily, I realised that I was relieved that the man I had killed had not been Darius.

I hated myself for it. I was a horrible excuse for a gynoid.

“Yes, my dear, you did. I can see it’s affected you, so just don’t dwell on it, alright?” His voice was a little softer now – almost kind.

“So Darius is . . . then . . . does that mean that . . .” I couldn’t manage to form a complete sentence.

“Yes, my dear. I told you before, remember? Darius died seven years ago.”

“So . . . he’s gone?” I asked blankly. Some part of me, some subconscious facet of my mind, refused to believe it, to accept it as truth. Darius had always been there, for as long as I could remember. To suggest that he was simply not there anymore bordered on madness.

Whatever will I do without you, Darius?

“Yes. He’s gone for good,” Margrave confirmed, nodding sadly. “A real pity. He was such a brilliant mind. However . . . while scanning your memory, I found one file that stood out from the rest. Can you guess why that was?”

“No . . .”

“It was added to your hard drive while you were kept in stasis.” Getting up again, Margrave crossed to the computer once more and began tapping keys. “Can you see the computer screen?” he asked. Nodding silently, I wondered what in the world he could possibly be about to show me.

“This is a video message from thirty-five years ago. Darius Cyprus was forty years old.” My eyes growing wide, I stared at the screen. Hissing and flickering briefly, it then displayed Darius’ face.

He was older; that was the first thing I noticed. It was clearly Darius – there was no doubt about that – but it was clear that time had passed. His brown hair had grown darker and longer, and his face was thinner. The telling features, though, were his eyes. Once such a sparkling, vivacious blue, they now looked like the ocean on a stormy day. A dark blue, almost grey, they spoke of years spent in solitude, in loneliness.

“Hello, Anti,” he said, smiling bitterly. “Where are you right now? I don’t know what kind of world you woke up in, but I hope it’s better than the one I’ve got right now. It’s a load of crap right now, I tell you! Anyway, I’ve recorded this message to tell you a few things. If you’re watching this right now, it means you’ve woken up. After I put you to sleep, I decided I’d let you be for exactly fifty years. Once those fifty years had passed, you would wake up and this message would play.

“I’m doing this for you, Anti, because I want you to have another shot at a good life. You may not know this, or you may have found out already, but after that incident, it became outlawed for normal citizens to own or manufacture robots. We were told to destroy all existing robots in our possession or hand them over to the government, but of course, I’d already put you to sleep. No matter what happened to the other robots, you were to be destroyed anyway. You won’t remember what happened that September morning, but that’s for the best. I removed it from your memory because I know how much it would hurt you to know.”

Darius paused for a moment and sighed, running his hands through his hair. He looked like he was about to cry. I felt like I was, too, even though I knew it was impossible. Darius could have installed artificial tear ducts for me if he’d wanted, set to trigger when the right emotions were registered, but it would have been nothing more than a gimmick. ‘Emotions come from the heart,’ he always said. ‘How you express them means nothing as long as they’re there.’

“It’s been fifteen years since then,” Darius continued, making a visible effort to keep his voice steady, “and the world’s only getting worse. I don’t know what it’ll be like in another thirty-five years, but you know what they say. It has to get worse before it gets better, right? Well, I’m just hoping that this is the ‘getting worse’ part, and that you wake up in the ‘getting better’ part. I probably won’t be around when you wake up, so you’ll have to find your own way. I still don’t know if this is the right thing to be doing. It might be better for you, but then again, it might not. I can only hope that everything has blown over.

“If you can, Anti, I want you to start a new life. I’m sorry for putting you to sleep for all this time, and I would wake you up right now if I could. You probably hate me for this, but it’s for the best. I don’t have anything left to live for, Anti. You were my life’s work, but all that’s gone now. I’m just going to live the rest of my life out quietly. When you wake up, I want you to have the life I could never have. Make something of yourself, Anti. I know you can. I know what you’re capable of, so don’t let me down. You can have a happy life.”

“Darius . . .”

“It just hurts to know that I won’t be able to share it with you. Goodbye, Anti. Take care.” There was a soft buzzing noise and the screen went blank.

Misheard Whisper
February 27th, 2010, 03:17 AM
So, here we go. Been a week or so since the last update, I believe (well, would have been if I hadn't forgotten to post said chapter until a few hours ago), so let's have some more action in this one. In this chapter, someone dies. That's all I'll tell you. Hehe. Bit of a shorter part, this one, as well. Well, shorter. It's certainly longer than what some people try to pass off as fiction here.

Also, the science in this is somewhat lacking, I know. I'm going to get eaten by various scientifically-minded members, but for now, if anything's a bit off, let's just say a scientist did it. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AWizardDidIt)


Part of the Misheard Whisper Mass Fic Update, 28th February 2010.

Part V


“Well, that’s that,” Margrave said quietly. “And I’m sorry, but you’re not going to be able to live that perfect life that Darius wanted you to have. You may look like a real person on the outside, but it doesn’t change what you are. And right now, it’s illegal to be what you are.”



“So . . . what do I do?” I asked. I couldn’t really believe I was asking this man for his opinion, but he didn’t really seem to be that bad of a person. “What am I supposed to do now? I might as well just die!”



“No, Anti,” he said, smiling almost pityingly at me. “You don’t have to do that. You can stay here with me and help me with my research, if you want. Would you like that?”



“I . . . don’t know,” I confessed. It was true; I didn’t. I had no idea what I should do. I couldn’t go out into a world where my very existence was against the law – my only viable option was to stay with Margrave, but I didn’t feel like I could really do that. It felt like I’d be somehow dishonouring Darius by doing it. “What exactly would that entail?” Margrave thought for a moment.



“Well, it would consist of a lot of things. Firstly, I’d be analysing you psychologically to see if you’re mentally – or, well, you know what I mean – stable. Then we’d have to run tests on you physically. I suppose you noticed earlier, but your body has been upgraded with more advanced technology and some prototypical weaponry. Basically, my dear, we’re trying to create the perfect soldier, and we want you to be our v1.0.” His eyes were shining as he painted his vision. “Imagine that, Anti! With Darius Cyprus’ advanced AI, and your upgraded chassis, you’re literally the ideal fighting machine. A few hundred of you, and Oceania would be the most powerful of the Seven Nations!”



I remained silent, not trusting myself to say anything. What would I say? Probably something I’d regret later. Margrave nodded.



“I understand,” he said. “Of course you’d need some time to think it over – it’s a big ask, after all. I’ll leave you alone for a while. Just bang on the door if you make up your mind. Otherwise, I’ll be back in the morning for your answer.” Without another word, he stood and exited the room through the heavy steel door, shutting it behind him with a clang.



The ideal fighting machine. Margrave’s words continued to echo in my head long after he left. He was a man with big dreams, that was for sure.



Oceania would be the most powerful of the Seven Nations, he had said. What did that mean? Did he want to take over the world through military might? It certainly sounded like it, although it was possible that he simply wanted national security.



But do I really want to help him? I didn’t think I honestly had a choice. No matter how many options I came up with, I kept coming back to the same conclusion. I can’t do anything else. If I left – if Margrave even let me leave – I would just be apprehended again as soon as I was found out. I’d have to go along with his crazy plan, whether I liked it or not.



I decided to try standing up again. Once more, my limbs felt heavy as I dragged myself off the gurney, and I almost fell. I managed to find my balance, however, and slowly, cautiously, tried walking around the room. It was like having concrete blocks tied to my feet and legs, and my whole body felt a little heavier as well. With no small effort, I lifted my left hand up in front of my face and inspected it. It didn’t appear to be much different to how it had been before, but there was definitely some change, probably internally.

Experimenting, I flexed my fingers one at a time, as if pulling a trigger with each in turn.

To my surprise, when I reached my index finger, there was a great grinding and clanking, and my entire lower arm morphed. Metal parts expanded out of nowhere and encased my arm in a long, wide tube, dozens of tiny components folding out and clinking into place. Where my hand had been was the business end, a wicked-looking barrel several centimetres in diameter.



The strangest thing, though, was the fact that I could still feel my fingers. I could clench and unclench my fist, even though it wasn’t there anymore. I could flex my fingers and –



BOOM! My arm jerked back in a powerful recoil motion as the gun fired, spitting out a pulse of blue energy that hurtled across the room and tore into the door that Margrave had not long passed through. A cloud of smoke formed as the room shook and pieces of debris flew everywhere.



“Ah . . .” I said dumbly as I observed the damage I had caused. The door had completely disappeared, as well as a good chunk of the wall it had recently been set in. The edges of the enormous, jagged hole were still smoking gently, and enormous, jagged shards of broken metal littered the floor on the other side of the wall.



The most shocking thing, though, lay on the other side of the now-visible adjacent room. A young man in a white lab coat was pinned to the opposite wall by a sharp piece of metal that pierced his chest. Crimson blood leaked slowly down the front of his pristine coat, and still more flowed from his mouth and down his neck. As I watched, his bulging eyes closed gently, and his head fell forward onto his chest, his body kept upright by the splinter of metal that attached him to the wall like some kind of grotesque puppet.

“Oops,” I said, carefully trying not to move my fingers. “My bad?” That was when the screaming started.



***


“Well, as nice as it is to know that the technology works . . .” Margrave said, frowning as he surveyed the devastation I had caused. He sighed. “You must be more careful, Anti.”



“I need to be more careful?” I repeated incredulously. “You were the one that failed to tell me that my arm had been turned into an energy cannon!”



“Well, I suppose that’s true, but in future, you may want to point your limbs away from anything breakable before you try pushing any buttons, so to speak.”



“I’ll remember that for next time,” I growled through clenched teeth. “Anything else you want to tell me?”



“Oh, many things, my dear. Many things. But first, I suggest you put that gun away.”



“Er . . . how?”



“You mean you haven’t worked it out yet?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.



“Of course not! If I move my fingers, I’ll probably drop a nuclear bomb on South America or something!”



“Actually, if you did, that would be excellent, but unfortunately you don’t have that capability. I take your point, though. Here, I’ll do it for you.” Running his hands along the barrel of the gun, he found a small panel and flipped it open. He flipped a small switch and the gun split back into its million components and folded away again.



“Ah, that’s a relief,” I said, still making sure not to move my fingers too much. “Can you tell me how this works, then?”



“All right, here goes. While you were out, your entire body was fitted with this top-of-the-line weaponry and other equipment, which explains why your limbs feel heavier. All of this equipment is wired into your central processor, or your ‘brain’, so that it can be activated automatically and instantly. Most of the pieces can be activated simply by thinking about them – if what you do can be called thinking. However, there are measures built in so that they don’t go out of control. Just imagine if you sprouted wings every time somebody talked about birds!"



“I have wings?” I asked excitedly.



“No, that was just an example. Anyway, basically, when you think about a tool that you’re equipped with, a certain program I’ve installed analyses your thought pattern and instantly determines whether or not you actually want to activate it. The actual operation of your weapons and tools works in a similar way. It’s a highly advanced program,” he said with some pride.



“Then what’s the deal with this gun? It popped up when I wiggled my finger, and I didn’t even know I had it! How does that work?”



“Some of your functions are likely to be used more often than others, so those have been wired into your body movements. Like the others, however, a program will read your situation and train of thought to determine whether you really want to use it.”



“But I didn’t! I didn’t want to use it!”



“Well, at this stage, the program is still getting used to your personality and so on, so it needs a while to calibrate. On top of that, you’re probably a little traumatised right now, especially after hearing that message from Darius, so I understand if you confused the system. It’ll work out more easily in the future.”



“I understand,” I said, nodding.



“So?” Margrave prompted. “What do you think of it? Will you work with me?” I blinked.



“What? Even after I killed one of your men? You still want me? You’re not going to ‘terminate’ me?” Margrave shook his head.



“No, Anti, I don’t want to terminate you. Accidents happen. Some have larger consequences than others, but an accident is still an accident.” I closed my eyes for a moment, forcing myself to think rationally.



“I don’t really have a choice, do I?”



“Well . . .”



“And I don’t really have anywhere else to go.”



“I suppose you don’t . . .”



“These upgrades are pretty neat, I guess.”



“I’m glad you think so . . .”



“All right, I’ve made up my mind.” I opened my eyes and stared right into Margrave’s. “This could be fun. Count me in.”



Margrave smiled. “Excellent. A wise choice, my dear. A very wise choice.”



“Do you have to repeat things like that?” I frowned. “It’s a little unsettling. You did it before as well.”



“Sorry.”



***


Am I doing the right thing, Darius? Is this what you meant by living? Is this living? I’m just a lab rat, a test subject, but . . . it should be interesting. It ought to be fun. Blowing things up . . . I know you always liked fireworks, Darius. There should be plenty of those now. Suddenly I have a whole bunch of big guns and things like that. I’m a different girl, now, Darius, but I’m still your Anti.



No matter how fun this turns out to be, though, it’ll never be as fun as the time I shared with you.



I miss you, Darius.

Misheard Whisper
April 7th, 2010, 11:26 PM
This is the longest chapter I've done in a while, and the second-to-last overall. I'm so excited! And yes, it's Franklin Gothic Medium from now on. Hope you're not bothered.


Part VI



The molten metal hissed and cracked as it cooled, fragments of warped, shattered pieces crumbling to the floor like so much crushed eggshell. A plume of smoke rose from the crater in the wall, curling up toward the ceiling in a peculiar, twisting way, mirroring the second plume of smoke that rose from the barrel of the gun at the end of my arm.



Regarding it curiously, I awkwardly lifted the barrel toward my face and blew on it to cool it off, suddenly feeling like one of the gunslinging heroes from the old Westerns Darius had had me watch.



“Is it supposed to smoke like that, Major?” I asked the room at large. There was nobody else in the room with me, but I knew that Margrave could hear me. “The barrel, I mean?” The room I was in was precisely cubic, ten metres by ten metres by ten metres. Margrave had shown me in and told me he was going to lock the door. My challenge, he said, was to break out of the room by any means possible. Once the door – which was as solid as the rest of the walls – had crashed shut, I had been totally alone. For the past hour and a half, I had basically been free to experiment with my new abilities.



“It shouldn’t, really.” Margrave’s voice crackled from a hidden speaker somewhere – probably in the same place as the hidden camera he was no doubt using to observe his experiment. “It just might be better if you were to take it easy on the blaster for a while, my dear.”



“Ten four, Major,” I said drily, turning the gun back into my left arm before stepping back into the centre of the room to observe the damage. Whatever the Major had constructed the walls out of, it was awfully tough. Hundreds of craters dotted all four walls, plus a few more on the floor where I had missed. They ranged from dozens of tiny indentations – the result of a machine gun I’d had some fun with before I’d run out of ammunition – to scorched dents the size of basketballs.



Perhaps there was some secret way out? Maybe the Major had designed the walls to be penetrable only by a certain type of weapon I hadn’t discovered yet. Or maybe . . .

Feeling slightly ridiculous, I picked a wall at random and approached it. Pulling my fist back, I swung a punch at the solid metal. Not terribly much happened – it didn’t even raise a dent, though it had been a strike no human being could have pulled off. However, I had felt something behind that punch. Some kind of power that seemed to be waiting to be called on. I swung again and again, using one fist, then the other, then both at the same time. Each time I hit the wall seemed to be building up some sort of pressure inside me.



I gritted my teeth and swung one last punch, one punch which seemed to be a lot harder than the others. My fist crashed into the wall with power that surprised even me, tearing the metal beneath it like rice paper.



I stopped to assess the damage. My hand had disappeared into the wall, buried halfway up to the elbow in solid metal.



“Just how thick are these walls, Major? What the hell are they made of?” I asked, curious, and also slightly ticked off.



“One metre,” was the reply. “As for what they’re made of, I couldn’t tell you myself, but the man I put in charge of constructing this test room assures me that it’s a very complicated compound – a cocktail, if you will, of the toughest substances available to our department. And by that, I mean the toughest substances known to mankind. Anyway, you’ve done well, Anti. You can come out now.”



I tilted my head to one side and frowned, puzzled. “How?”



“I’ll give you a hint. Look up. There’s a little red button in each corner, right up by the ceiling. Hit any one of those, and the door will open. Your final test for today is getting up there. Oh, and bear this in mind. Shooting the buttons won’t work. You have to go up there and push one.”



“So, what, can I climb walls with my bare hands or something? Do I have rockets in my feet?”



“No, Anti. This is a test of your resourcefulness and ability to solve logical problems. You will be getting no further assistance from me.” The speaker crackled and went dead.



“Huh,” I said, backing up against one of the walls and peering upwards. Yes, there it was. In the opposite corner of the room, right at the very top, by the ceiling, was a little red button.

I walked over to the corner and placed my hand on the wall. It was smooth and slippery. There was no way I could possibly climb it. Unless . . .



My eyes whipped around the room, taking in all the dents, the craters, the imperfections in the wall –



That’s it! Summoning up the power I had felt earlier, I sent my fist crashing into the wall just a little bit above my head. It came a lot more easily now, and I grinned. This would almost be too easy.



Drawing my other fist back, I rammed it into the wall around waist height, then pulled it out and smashed a third hole just below the first. Holding onto the jagged edges of the holes I’d made above my head, I lifted one foot and put it into the lower hole. It wasn’t the best fit in the world, but it was definitely enough. Cautiously, I lifted my other foot off the ground, letting my limbs take my full weight.



“Hmm . . .” It seemed like it would be difficult to progress. Jumping down from the wall, I regarded my handiwork. Two holes a little above my head, and one more above my waist. I was starting to get sick of punching walls, but I clenched my fists again in readiness.

Half a dozen punches later, the wall was starting to look like a climbing frame from a playground. I was still trying to get over the fact that I could make holes in solid metal, but I’d have time to get my head around that later. Carefully grabbing onto the holes I’d made, I began to climb.



Soon, of course, I reached the end of my holes. I was only a foot off the floor, but now I was able to bring my feet higher, which I did carefully. Holding on tightly with my left hand, I pulled my right out of its hole and, reaching as high as I dared, gritted my teeth and slammed it into the wall.



Due to the angle, the dent wasn’t as deep as the others had been, just a few centimetres, but it was enough to grip onto and haul myself just a little further up the wall. I then repeated the action with my left hand, moving slowly upwards.



Before long, I had established a pattern. Stretch, punch, grab, and pull. Stretch, punch, grab and pull. My feet followed along seemingly of their own accord, just barely fitting into the indents. Moving more and more quickly, I clambered up the wall, arms working like pistons.

Eventually, my head hit the ceiling before I knew it. I paused, slightly surprised, and glanced downwards. I was ten metres off the ground, and not quite sure how I had managed it. I wasn’t sure I liked it, either, but . . .



There. The button, a small red affair on a little metal box, jumped out at me all of a sudden. I reached out with my right hand to press it, but the Major had been wrong. It wasn’t in the corner; rather, it was about a metre along one wall – the wall I wasn’t on, unfortunately. It was almost out of reach. Biting my lip and resolving to harass Margrave for it later, I stretched my arm as far as it would go. I still fell several centimetres short.



Damn! I didn’t want to have to climb back down and start again. My joints were starting to get worn out as it was. Slowly, carefully, I levered my body away from where I had had it pressed against the wall, supporting almost my entire weight on my left hand. I must have looked like some kind of bizarre monkey, hanging there like that.



Just a bit further . . . Knowing full well that I would regret it, I pulled my right foot from its perch, quickly wedging it against the other wall. All of my limbs were shaking now from the strain of holding me up inside a ninety-degree angle. Vertically spread-eagled, I reached out a trembling hand to the button casing, fingers grasping, stretching . . . gotcha!



As I pressed the button, I just had time to register the great grinding sound of the door cranking itself open before my left hand slipped, and I fell.



Time slowed down to a crawl. I watched the ceiling fall away from me as I tumbled towards the ground, flailing my arms helplessly. I wished for a split second that I really did have rockets in my feet, but no rockets were forthcoming. My feet touched the wall as I fell backwards –



­– jump –



Somehow, as if they were beyond my control, my knees bent, and, as if moving in slow motion, propelled me off the wall, even forcing me upwards a little, towards the middle of the room, and then I was falling again, but no longer falling backwards. Now, my feet were pointing towards the ground, and I could –



CRASH! The floor shook slightly as I hit the ground feet first. I staggered slightly, but the thing that surprised me the most was that I was upright and able to move.



Glancing down curiously, I saw that the floor had been cracked and fissured around my feet.

“Not sure how that happened,” I muttered. I wasn’t sure how the whole thing had happened, really. Whatever Margrave had done to me, it had gone far beyond installing weaponry.



A sudden noise brought me to my senses. I looked up to see Margrave entering the room, clapping proudly. Beside him was a young girl who must have been about nine years old. She was small, with a round face and blonde hair swept back into a ponytail. And her eyes . . . she had Margrave’s grey eyes. On her, however, they looked less frightening, warmer, even. Despite that, I felt something clench instinctively within me at the appearance of a child.



“Excellent work, my dear,” Margrave complimented me. “Very original. Not terribly efficient, but quickly thought out and well executed. And that jump at the end? Marvellous. Simply marvellous. That fall would have killed most humans, yet you come out of it without a scratch. Wonderful."



I regarded him coolly. “Who’s the kid? She yours? Nobody told me it was ‘Bring Your Kid to Work Day’ today.”



“Er, yes, yes. Anti, this is my daughter Cecily. Cecily, my dear, this is the robot I’ve been telling you about.”



The robot . . . is that all I am? My fingers twitched, aching to clench themselves into fists. Cecily observed me with something approaching awe.



“Can I talk to her?” she mumbled shyly. I smiled instinctively at this, though I didn’t really know why.



“Of course you can, my dear. I just need you to go and lie down for a while, Anti.”

“Lie down? What for? I don’t get tired, remember?”



“Yes, but I need to run a scan on you. The guys in tech want to make sure your internal systems are intact. They’re not sure how well you’re able to handle an impact like that, so they just have to check, alright?”



“. . . Alright.” I followed Margrave into a laboratory full of white-coated men and women, where I was instructed to lie inside a large metal structure. It looked oddly like a coffin with one side removed. I manoeuvred myself into it carefully, and Margrave closed it up behind me, leaving me alone in the dark. It was almost as if I had actually been buried.



“Please don’t move for a few minutes, Anti,” said the Major’s muffled voice from outside. “This won’t take long.” Obediently, I lay flat on my back, as still as a statue. Above my head, a long, thin green light flicked on. Humming mechanically, it slowly worked its way down my body, down to my feet, and back again. Once it had repeated this several times, it finally clicked back into place and all was dark once more.



The side of the coffin was unlatched, and light poured in. I blinked and slid out of the device, glancing around. Margrave and another man – one of those in the white coats – were looking at screeds of coding on a large computer screen. Margrave looked over his shoulder at me.



“Thank you, Anti. Look, this may take a while, so take Cecily back to your room with you. Cecily, dear, go with the robot.”



“Are . . . are you sure that’s safe, sir?” the man in the coat asked nervously, glancing at me sideways. “I mean, it did kill Jimmy yesterday!” I felt a slight clench in my chest. That was it. That was how Cecily had made me smile earlier. To the rest of them, I was just an ‘it’. I had no gender, no being, no identity. I wasn’t even worth labelling. I was a machine, an interesting specimen to examine.



“That was an accident, Parker,” Margrave said. “Anti couldn’t hurt Cecily if she wanted to, which I don’t think she does. Do you, Anti?”



“Not in the slightest, Major,” I said truthfully. I still wouldn’t mind hurting you though, I continued silently. Although he was a good sight nicer to me than most of his subordinates, he was still patronising. It was like he felt that he needed to pat me on the head when I did well, like some little child wanting praise. On top of that, I was finding it hard to completely forgive him for his treatment of me when we’d first met. “Come on, Cecily,” I said to the child, who followed me solemnly out of the room.



I led her through the maze of corridors to what Margrave called my room.



“You . . . live here?” the girl queried. I smiled wryly. I sat down on the metal bed, kicking my legs absently. “Not the most comfortable accommodation.”



“You’re amazing,” Cecily said, clambering up beside me and leaning on my arm. Not sure what to do, I ruffled her hair with my free hand. She giggled.



“That tickles!” But then, she stopped and pulled away, looking me directly in the eyes. “Is it true, what Daddy said? That you have feelings like people, even though you’re . . . you’re . . .”



“A robot?” I sighed. “Yeah, I guess. I’m still working on getting my emotions straight, but yes, I suppose you could say that I have feelings, yeah.”



“Wow . . .” Cecily whispered, her eyes glittering. “And you look so real, too!”



I glanced down at my body. She was right; I did look exactly like a normal teenage girl.



“What is it that sets robots apart?” I asked aloud.



“Huh?” Cecily looked confused.



“I mean, how do people tell? I look like a person in every way I can think of, but everyone always looks at me and notices that I’m not real. Why is that?”



“Daddy once said it was in the eyes,” Cecily supplied. “Robots’ eyes look like human eyes, but you can tell they’re not human because they’re different somehow. Not physically. More like there’s some strange feeling they put out.” The girl shrugged. “That’s what Daddy said. I don’t get it, though.”



All in the eyes, huh? I looked at Cecily, who was still staring at me in wonder. She was almost cute. “So, uh . . . you’re interested in robots, huh?” I tried.



“Yup! I want to make robots when I grow up! Say, Anti . . . can you tell me a little bit about the man who made you?”



“What, Darius?” Somehow, my chest felt like it hurt. I squeezed my eyes shut. What is this? I’m not supposed to hurt! “Yeah . . . yeah, sure. What do you want to know?”



“What was he like? I mean, as a person?”



Oh, where to begin . . . “He was always so nice to me – that’s the first thing I always remember. He didn’t treat me like a robot, or a servant, or a machine. He treated me like a friend – no, like I was one of the family. He was a genius, too. He’d spend a whole day or more locked up in his lab tinkering with some project. Other robots . . . machines, computers, all that jazz. I got really worried about him sometimes. Once, I had to kick his door in and practically force-feed him, because he hadn’t eaten for three days.” I laughed, slightly awkwardly. “Oh, I miss him too much. I was really upset when I heard he’d died of a heart attack, you know?”



“He didn’t die of a heart attack,” Cecily said solemnly. “My daddy killed him.”



All of the colour drained from my world, and it suddenly seemed as if I was overheating. “Wha – what did you say?”

The Silver Prince
April 8th, 2010, 01:58 AM
Wow. This is a very touching tale. The emotions are portrayed perfectly. I can't wait for the next chapter. :)

Misheard Whisper
April 8th, 2010, 02:29 AM
Why, thank you very much. The next (and final!) chapter will hopefully be up on Saturday!

The Silver Prince
April 8th, 2010, 02:50 AM
Can't wait. Wish I had someone like Anti. :)

Misheard Whisper
April 8th, 2010, 12:00 PM
Eh . . . do you? Are you entirely sure about that? You might reconsider when you read the last chapter . . . :3

Misheard Whisper
April 9th, 2010, 04:00 AM
http://i690.photobucket.com/albums/vv263/Misheard_Whisper/Artificialfinalchapter.png
This is it, ladies and gentlemen. The final instalment in our tragic sci-fi novella has arrived, and it's huge. It's twice as long as the average for the first six parts, and nearly three times as long as the shorter ones. I just want to say that I've had so much fun writing this, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment, as this is the first time I've finished a chaptered work, even if it's a short one like this.

This is, with little doubt, the most mature of all the chapters. If it was a film, done how I wanted, it'd be rated R, but it's not. As fiction goes, it's just a solid M. Just sayin'. Y'all can handle it, I'm sure. I want to give a big thank you hug to each and every person who has reviewed this story as it went. Would you believe it, this was originally meant to be a oneshot? Then a twoshot, then a three and so on until I just gave up on trying to fit it into a schedule and let it play itself out.

Once again, love and hugs to all my reviewers. And special thanks to Caliban, my scientific consultant. I won't hug him cos that would be weird cos we're friends irl. k.

Part VII - The End

I stared blankly at the child in front of me for a few seconds, trying to register what she’d said. Suddenly feeling the pent-up anger inside me reaching a boiling point, I snapped. Suddenly, it all made sense, and the realisation was frightening. Margrave must have done away with Darius because he was scared of him, scared of his genius.



“Kid,” I ground out through clenched teeth, “I suggest you leave. Now. I was just starting to get to like you, and I don’t want to have to hurt you.” Her eyes widening in fright, Cecily scrambled off the metal bed and dashed from the room. I just hoped that she’d have the sense not to go running back to her father.



I wasn’t going to be held responsible for what I was about to do. Standing up, I looked across the room to the door, still fighting to keep myself steady. The world was shaking, going dark. Was it an earthquake? Was I shaking the room myself? Or was it all in my head. I reached for the doorknob, but couldn’t seem to focus on it. I swore, and grasped futilely at it, but there were at least half a dozen doorknobs floating in front of me, all moving and spinning in my field of vision.



“Screw you!” I yelled, and, seeming to know what I wanted, my arm mutated into a large energy pulse blaster. Aiming it somewhere in front of me in the hope it would go where I wanted it to, I fired.



I must have been standing right in front of the door, because the explosion blew me off my feet and against the other wall. Chunks of plaster rained down around me. I pulled myself from the wall and staggered towards the hole I had made. The door was gone, completely obliterated by the blast. I stumbled through it into the corridor and looked around, desperately trying to make sense of the shifting, bouncing images before me.



I heard shouts coming from one direction, saw blurred figures ducking and dashing around. My head spinning, I loosed a few more blasts in their general direction and lurched after them.



My feet caught on something lying on the floor, and I tripped and fell. Squinting at the offending object, I could barely make out that it was a young man, lying completely still. Was he dead, or just pretending? I didn’t care – he’d got in my way. Struggling against my malfunctioning balance system, I hauled myself to my feet and blasted him again before stumbling forward once more.



I crashed through doors and walls, not discriminating between the two, loosing blaster shots in all directions. My vision was slowly becoming more and more impaired, and I was having more and more trouble walking in a straight line.



I could hear the screaming, though. Coming from all directions, coupled with the crackling noises and the vague, flickering orange shapes flitting across my viewpoint, it was as if I had descended into Hell itself, bringing the rest of the facility with me.



“Where are you, Margrave?” I screamed, turning blindly in the middle of a devastated room that I could hardly see. I felt flames licking at my feet, but ignored them. “Where are you?”



You bastard –



“Anti!” I whirled around to face Margrave’s voice, stumbling over my own feet as I did so, sending myself crashing to the ground. I glared up through the smoky haze with blurry eyes, and –



– there you are –



Suddenly, everything turned crystal clear. Margrave was standing in a doorway surrounded by burning debris, pointing some sort of large gun at me. I was standing in what had once been the main laboratory, I realised before my tunnel vision kicked in and I saw only Margrave.



“You!” I hissed at him. “You killed him! You killed Darius, and lied to me about it! You lied to me!”



Margrave’s face was grey, and he appeared thoroughly shaken, but his aim did not waver from my head as I got to my feet – balance restored – and glared at him. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I did, and if it helps at all now, I’m sorry -”



“You’re sorry?” I shrieked, unable to believe what I was hearing. “Is that how it is? You killed him, Margrave! He was all I ever had, and you took him away from me! And now you think a ‘sorry’ can just fix that?”



“Anti,” he said, clearly fighting to stay calm. “Put the gun away. Relax, and let’s talk about this.” Narrowing my eyes, I returned my left arm to normal. My hands, both clenched into fists, were shaking with grief and rage.



“Good, good,” he said, his breathing ragged. “Now, listen, Anti. We can talk this out, right?”



“Sure, let’s talk,” I spat. “Tell me one thing, Margrave. You told me that you had programmed me with some sort of failsafe, right? Well, how come I can do this?” I leapt towards him, my right arm morphing as it went, folding in on itself and extending until it became a wicked, two-metre long, double-edged blade. I sheared it through his weapon, cleaving it in two and knocking it from his hands. He cried out in surprise and tried to duck away through the door, but I swung my free fist and knocked him sideways, where he came to rest on the floor. Grinning, I pointed my blade at his neck, halting his frantic efforts to get to his feet.

“How . . .” he murmured, horrified.



“You tell me, Major,” I said, relaxing slightly. I had the upper hand now. I inspected the blade curiously. “Nothing like a good old sword, right, Margrave? It’s all guns nowadays, but I always preferred the movies with swords in them. So, do tell me. How am I able to do this now? I am so very curious.”



“I . . . don’t know,” he said. Grimacing, I put my foot on his chest and leant forward, keeping the blade millimetres from his nervously bobbing Adam’s apple.



“You can guess, though, can’t you, Major?” I did want to know how I had overridden the programming. It might be useful information in the future, and I could kill him whenever I wanted.



“I suppose,” he choked out, “it might have been to do with . . . A severe emotional shock might have been able to overload the programming I gave you.”



A severe emotional shock, huh? “That sounds about right,” I said calmly. I was beginning to enjoy this now, watching the Major sweat. “Now, I was just starting to get along with you, Major. It’s such a pity, really. I might have been able to help you, but now? Not a chance. Darius was like a father to me, and you – you killed him! Why did you do it, Margrave? Why? What did he do? He would never have tried to hurt you, or anyone else! Darius wasn’t that sort of person, so I can only assume you killed him in cold blood. Why?” I was begging now. I have to know, I said silently. Just tell me, and then I can kill you.



“Who told you?” he asked, fear showing in his eyes.



“Tell me!” I yelled, pricking his neck with the tip of the blade. He closed his eyes and swallowed nervously.



“It was . . . I’d heard rumours . . . of you, hidden somewhere. I didn’t want him to . . . bring you back. He would have been . . . too powerful with you.”



“That’s it?” I said dumbly. “You killed him for that?”



“Who told you about this?” he begged. I forced out a grin, ignoring the growing heat of the flames all around us.



“Your lovely little daughter,” I said, watching the look on his face change from fear to utter horror.



“What – you . . . no! You didn’t kill her, did you?”



“Maybe . . .” I taunted him. “It’s your turn now,” I added, drawing the sword back a little.



“Please, wait!” Margrave shouted desperately, tears running down his face. “I know you’re going to kill me, but please, for the love of God, wait! I’m not going to beg for my life, just please, tell me you didn’t kill my little girl!”



I glared at him. “Yes,” I lied. “I killed her.” Then I slashed downwards with the sword, and Daniel Margrave died a broken man.



I stood up and dully watched his corpse leak blood across the floor. His head hadn’t quite been severed by the blow, but it was close to it. Snorting derisively, I kicked the body into the flames and watched it char.



Folding the sword away, I looked to the ceiling. I felt . . . free. Margrave’s hold on me had been released, both physically and mentally. His restrictive programming, it seemed, was no longer in use, and I had destroyed his stupid research facility. I was finally free to do as I pleased.



But where would I go? Was there any place in this new world for a robot like me? Being a robot was illegal in the first place, and now I was a murderer as well. I had killed Margrave, Darius’ grandson, and many others in the laboratory. I would certainly be branded a criminal and destroyed on sight.



I’ll go back to Darius’ lab for now, I decided. From there, I could decide what to do.



Darius’ lab . . .



Darius.

***

Darius, it’s me. I was wrong about this new life. It wasn’t for me after all. There were fireworks, all right, but in all the wrong places.



I never realised that Margrave killed you. I’m sorry, but I’ve got him back for you now. He won’t be killing any more people. I know it’s probably not what you would have wanted me to do, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I’m sorry.



I’m all alone in this world now, Darius. I don’t have you anymore. I don’t have anyone. I guess that’s why I stayed with Margrave. He could never replace you, but at least he was someone.



I don’t like being alone. It’s . . . kind of scary. I suppose I’ll have to live the rest of my life like this, though. I’ll be an outcast, a fugitive, a pariah. It’ll be all hushed-up – none of it will be in the papers, but everybody who matters will know. All the police forces, governments, armed forces, in every country in the world – they’ll all know, and nowhere will be safe for me.



I don’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. I could live forever, and you’d never be there for me when I needed you. I can’t go on like this.



***

I eventually found my way out of the facility that I had quickly grown to hate so much. It came as little surprise to me that it was an underground, concrete bunker. One of the emergency exits was a heavy, locked trapdoor at the top of a long, steep set of stairs. Of course, it posed no obstacle. Not caring if anyone saw, I simply blasted it off its hinges and pulled myself through.



Outside, I was surprised to find myself in the middle of a city. I didn’t recognise anything, which worried me. How was I supposed to get back to Darius’ lab from here?



Wait. What’s going on here? Office buildings rose up to the sky on either side of me, but there was nobody in them that I could see. There were no cars or pedestrians on the street. Everything was eerily silent.



My eyes followed the road with a growing sense of apprehension. The nearest intersection was blocked off by a sea of khaki. Several large armoured vehicles were parked in the road, the gaps between them filled with men with guns. Looking, back, I saw that the other end of the street was similarly blockaded.



Shouts alerted me to the fact that I had been spotted. I briefly considered dropping back down the trapdoor, but dismissed the thought immediately. That would be suicide. They would trap me inside, and I’d be screwed.



Gotta get out of here. Have to go back . . . see Darius’ lab one more time. Then run. Run, run, run away, away from this place.



The armoured cars at both ends of the street opened fire, sending several small missiles winging their way towards me at great speed, smoke trailing behind them. Swearing, I leapt to one side as the whole lot detonated at once, tearing a great hole in the asphalt where I had just been standing. I had little doubt that I would have been obliterated had they hit me; as it was, I was caught in the blast and flung through the front of the nearest office building. The glass doors shattered into a million pieces as I crashed through them, but I paid them no heed, landing in a roll before springing up and sprinting off again, through the building.



I dashed through an empty reception area, pushed through a door that read ‘Employees Only’ and kept running, alarms screaming in my ears. Before long, I found another door and burst through it, out onto another street, a street that seemed empty at first glance.



Pausing, I frantically tried to work out where to run next, but a small group of soldiers dashed around a corner and spotted me, opening fire with automatic weapons. I tried to dodge out of the way, but a spray of bullets still slammed into me, knocking me off my feet. To my surprise, however, I was unharmed. I stood up and looked down at my body, puzzled. My clothes were full of holes, but otherwise I appeared to be untouched.



“Well, would you look at that? I’m bulletproof now,” I said. What exactly did you do to me, Margrave? The soldiers gaped. I laughed. “You can’t touch me!” I taunted. One of them pulled a small silver canister from his belt.



Crap. I was running again before he’d thrown it. I was bulletproof, but I highly doubted I was grenade-proof. I heard it detonate harmlessly behind me as I ran towards the nearest intersection. A second squad of soldiers appeared, spreading themselves across the pedestrian crossing to block my path. As they opened fire, I concentrated hard, pushing off from the concrete like I had from the wall in the testing room, and leapt clear over their heads. I picked a direction at random and shot off down the street, only to come face to face with one of the armoured cars. It launched a heavy volley of rockets at me, and I threw myself to the ground, letting them stream over my head.



I tried to avoid the car, but three more appeared in the street behind it, various forms of weaponry trained on me.



“I didn’t want to do this,” I warned them, though I doubted the drivers could hear me, “but you leave me no choice!” Focusing intently, I turned both of my arms into blasters and jumped high into the air, firing two shots from each arm. Each blast kicked me a little higher into the air, flinging me clear of the explosion on the ground. All four of the armoured cars were destroyed instantly, disappearing inside an enormous, scourging fireball. I felt the heat from the flames warm the soles of my feet as I reached the apex of my jump, and came crashing down amongst the flaming debris – not that there was much left.



I turned to glare at the horror-stricken soldiers behind me. Who the hell did they think they were?



You have no right to touch me.



You humans are all the same. I see it now. Darius was the exception.



“I wanted to be like you!” I screamed as more and more khaki-clad men poured into the street. Dozens of them surrounded me, dozens of shiny black barrels aimed directly at my head. I could see more still in the buildings on either side, crouching behind windows shattered by the explosion.



These people . . . All I had wanted was to be human. Darius had tried to help me, but even he could not turn a robot into a person. It was all just pretend. I had been deluding myself.



The gun barrels never wavered, but no shots were fired. I was cornered and I knew it. I could even see men on the first and second floors of the office buildings. I couldn’t jump out of this one.



“I thought I was real,” I whispered. “I thought I had a place here. But all you do is hate me. You all . . . hate me. Darius was the only one who never hated me.”



The flames from the blast were dying down now. The soldiers slowly began to advance, cautiously edging forward, tightening their circle. As they came nearer, I saw the crests on their uniforms – the distinctive golden insignia of the Australasian Defense Force.



At least I’m going to die near home, I thought dully, returning my hands to normal with a brief thought and hanging my head.



Are you going to let it end like this? asked a little voice in my head that sounded oddly like Darius.



There’s no hope.



You don’t know that!



There’s no hope!



There’s always hope.



Not this time, Darius. I was talking to a dead man. Maybe I was going crazy. Could robots go crazy? I decided it didn’t matter. I was dead anyway.



That doesn’t sound like the Anti I know. Even when there’s no hope, you can’t give in.

I closed my eyes and relaxed. He was right. He was right. He was so right.



I opened my eyes again, and fancied I felt them blazing with fire. “Who’s going to die first?” I hissed.



The soldiers nearest me hesitated at my words. I hadn’t realised how close they’d got. Maybe they had orders to capture me if I stopped resisting. I don’t care. You’re all going to die anyway. They had projectile weapons. I had far more advanced technology. I was a robot.

I was a killer.



Closing my eyes with a certain finality, I lifted my arms from my sides, splaying them outward, like a bird. I focused first on my fingertips. I felt each and every single one of the millions of tiny components that comprised my hands. I searched each one out and bent it to my will.



I’m going to kill all of you, but not with Margrave’s toys. I’m nobody’s toy.



I felt every tiny little sliver of metal in my hands, felt the curves, sharp edges and outlines of the infinite pieces that formed my body. They were mine, and they were going to do what I wanted them to.



Slowly, my arms began to disintegrate from the fingertips upwards, splitting into thousands of tiny fragments that shifted and clicked around each other like the world’s most complicated jigsaw puzzle. I held the key to the puzzle. I knew the answers. I knew exactly where every piece was to go. I felt how everything should fit together. Everything clicked into place, pieces rotating and passing over and under each other. In just five seconds, my work of art was complete.



I opened my eyes to see the soldiers staring at me in horror. They had good reason, I admitted. From the elbow down, my left arm was a wicked-looking blade. One side was grotesquely serrated as if it were some sort of saw, the other flowing and wavy like the ocean. Both, I knew, would cut just about any substance to ribbons.



My right arm was a modified version of Margrave’s favourite toy. It was now longer, sleeker and meaner. I flexed my trigger finger experimentally, and a crackling blast of purple lightning shot from the barrel with a sound like a clap of thunder. It latched on to the nearest soldier like some sort of living entity, before branching on to zap a large group of his comrades, lancing from man to man in nanoseconds. When the final vestiges of crackling electricity had disappeared, the men that had been touched by the lightning were charred husks. There was no screaming; they simply toppled to the ground, eyes and mouths wide, what remained of their hair standing on end. I grinned with satisfaction.



This is what it means to be free. Killing Margrave did not make me free. Destroying his laboratory and leaving it burning did not make me free. Freeing my own body from his manipulative influence and bending it to my own will . . . that is what makes me free.



Heedless of their comrades, the soldiers surrounding me opened fire in panic. Most of the bullets simply bounced off my body, but some flew past me to bury themselves in the bodies of other men.



“Friendly fire,” I whispered teasingly, before I jumped again. This time, for the first time, I felt fully in control of my body. I was Anti. Nobody could take that away from me.



Twelve metres in the air, I flipped around and, aiming down with, loosed more purple lightning at the crowd of soldiers. A hail of bullets followed me upwards, but I laughed them off. Had they not learned their lesson yet? I was invincible. I landed in the midst of the confused soldiers, kicking two of them in the heads as I came down, before setting my new, modified blade to work. Slashing blindly, I laughed as they fell before me like so much corn at harvesting time.



Within seconds, another dozen bodies lay mutilated in the street to keep their electrocuted companions company. I smashed another soldier in the face with my gun barrel and shot skywards again, priming my lightning cannon for another shot.



Before I could fire, however, I heard a crashing sound that had grown to be familiar in the last hour or so – shattering glass – coming from a third-storey window. A streak of light shot from the window and slammed into my midriff, detonating explosively. My trajectory interrupted, I flew straight into the building opposite that which the missile had been fired from, crashing through the window and flying straight through several flimsy office cubicles, smashing through walls, desks and computers alike.



Groaning, I lifted my head from the pile of debris I found myself lying in and tried to stand up. I managed to get to my feet, though I had to slump in order to do so. The middle part of my body didn’t seem to be responding fully. My hair was charred in patches, lank and dirty. My clothes were almost completely destroyed; with bullet holes, fire damage and being shot through a building by a missile, I wasn’t surprised. They were remarkably resilient, though.



My clothes were the least of my worries, I decided, extricating myself from the pile of plaster, metal and wood as I watched the soldiers approach. I had completely forgotten about the men that had climbed up into the buildings, focusing instead on those in the street.



“Damn!” I swore as one of the men approaching me aimed a large, shoulder-mounted launcher at me, gesturing and shouting for his comrades to back off. He fired, but I was already up and running – as best I could, at any rate. I limped towards the opposite side of the building, and, hearing the noise of the rapidly approaching missile, threw myself through the window.



The missile detonated directly behind me, but there was no fireball this time. Instead, I felt a massive concussion wave ripple through my body, flinging me out across the city. I screamed as I felt my internal workings shaken and stirred up by the shockwave.



I flew a ridiculously long distance, or at least, it felt like it. I barely registered that the building I had just jumped from must have been at the edge of the central business district, because everything past it was low, one- or two-storey warehouses. I flew over three or four blocks of warehouses and out across-



What is that? It might have been a bay, a harbour, or an exceptionally large river. Whatever it was, it abruptly overtook the city and my helpless body was going to crash into it.



Suddenly, though, my view was full of concrete. Eyes widening, I frantically turned in mid-air, landing on my back, shoulders first. I felt the concrete give beneath me as I skidded several metres before finally coming to a stop.



I found it difficult to believe that I was still functioning. I extricated myself with difficulty from the concrete, observing with amazement the four-metre long trench I had gouged from the . . . What exactly is this? I glanced around. It was a fairly narrow strip of concrete, not much wider than your average road. In front of me, it reached all the way to the city, spanning the water easily. A bridge? But there were no road markings to suggest this.



Turning to glance behind me, it all became clear. Abandoned construction vehicles were arrayed randomly across the bridge until it suddenly dropped away at a sheer edge. I frowned. I didn’t think that was how you were supposed to build a bridge, but hey. Maybe it was some new-fangled technology.



Speaking of new-fangled technology, what the hell did they hit me with back there? It seemed to be some form of concussion missile, but the blast would have had to have been focused, or it would have killed the man who had fired it and his friends.



My midsection still didn’t want to listen to me, and looking down, I saw why. The first missile had torn a gaping hole in my body, exposing the wiring and folded components for all to see. Sparks were flying and I was rapidly losing feeling in my legs.



My predicament was made even worse by the arrival of the armed forces. Half a dozen armoured cars like the ones I had blown up screamed onto the bridge, halting twenty metres away from me. They were followed more slowly by larger vehicles, tanks that came grinding up the slight incline of the bridge in no great hurry. Men with guns poured out of the vehicles, filling the gaps, just like they had tried to block the intersections before. This time, however, there was nowhere to run, and I knew it.



Nevertheless, I turned and ran, half-stumbling, half-limping my way up the bridge. My weapons turned themselves back into hands of their own accord. The troops followed me cautiously, waiting for me to reach the end of the bridge.



I’m going to die here, I thought with a kind of finality that I hadn’t even had when I had been surrounded in the street before. There was no reassuring Darius-voice in my head this time, though. Just the knowledge that it was over. I was in no shape to take on a small army like the one creeping along behind me. I had nowhere to run. The bridge was surrounded on three sides by water. Normally, I might have been able to survive the jump – I was waterproof, after all – but right now, shot to pieces by missiles, I wouldn’t have the strength to do anything but lie at the bottom and rust.



As if to taunt me, the clouds that had slowly been gathering in the sky split open and began spitting out big, fat raindrops.



Abruptly, I came to the end of the bridge. I lurched to a halt and looked out. There were bridge supports set up all the way across the water to the land on the other side. I could have jumped from one to another with my newfound strength, but there was no way I could do it in my current condition.



Directly beneath me lay a field of sharp, jagged rocks, reaching toward the sky, perhaps a remnant of some failed construction attempt in the past. There would be no way to survive if I fell off.



“Damn you!” I screamed, whirling on the soldiers behind me. “How could you do this to me? I hate you!” How could they possibly have brought me to my knees like this? I was a robot, a killing machine. They were just humans – horrible, terrible humans that only wanted to destroy what they didn’t recognise. Margrave had probably called them in as backup when I had begun my rampage. The central city, it seemed, had been rapidly evacuated.



They didn’t care. They had torn the city to shreds without a second thought in their efforts to destroy me. Humans were uncaring and terrible, the lowest form of intelligent life. Darius had really been a diamond in the rough, the only caring member of a grasping, greedy species without any form of conscience.



“I’m alive, too . . .” I protested weakly, though I knew they wouldn’t be able to hear me over the rain, which was rapidly getting heavier. The clouds grew thicker, and thunder rumbled far in the distance. “I tried to be like you . . . I wanted to be like you . . . and now I don’t know why!”



“I wanted to laugh like you . . . to cry like you . . . to love and hate like you . . . but now I know it’s useless. No robot could ever hate like a human being. You are all full of it!” I screamed at them.



Love . . . I think I now understand what that is, though. Missing someone so badly you want to die . . . Missing them so badly that your heart aches, even if you don’t have one . . . Finding someone who can always make you feel . . . special.



Finally relaxing, I glared one last time at the impassive soldiers arrayed before me, and stepped backwards off the bridge.



I fell through the air in slow-motion, watching the bridge recede into the sky. “Darius . . .” I whispered, “I love you.”



Then, with a sudden, shocking crunch, the end came. I felt the jagged rocks pierce the skin that even bullets had failed to penetrate. I felt my internal components slowing, damaged beyond repair.



It doesn’t hurt . . . I thought in wonder. Will I ever see you again, Darius?



Maybe in the next life, Anti. It was a strange feeling, having yourself disintegrate while still conscious.



Goodbye, humanity – nice to be rid of you. I don’t want to be one of you after all . . .



This way, can I be with Darius? Will I see you again on the other side?



Is there an ‘other side’ for me?



Damn it, Darius, I want to see you.



The End.

~~~~~

CREDITS

Author
Misheard Whisper

Lead Scientific Consultant
Caliban

Editor
Misheard Whisper

Reviewers
All of you, and those who have reviewed elsewhere!

Daily Dose of Snark/Inspiration
Caliban

~~~~~


HOLY HELL
IT'S OVER.
OHEMGEE
It's going to be midnight soon (here, at any rate), so I will post this then.

The Silver Prince
April 9th, 2010, 06:41 AM
That.. was.. a.. masterpiece. I was nearly crying.
PS- Yeah, I still want someone like Anti. At least her love was true. I don't think that my girlfriend loves me so much.

Misheard Whisper
April 9th, 2010, 01:14 PM
Hehe, well, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, because I say if there's even one person that's touched by reading my work from start to finish, writing the whole thing was completely worth it.

. . . I won't tell your girlfriend you said that. ;D

Bay Alexison
April 9th, 2010, 07:23 PM
Okay, I managed to read this story in two days and just…wow. Now, I usually don’t go for sci-fi stories because those tend to be just with a plot with something totally went wrong, aliens, and canons/lazers. XD; However, this is something, really.

You know, this story reminds me a lot like the movie “Artificial Intelligence,” in which the main character in that movie wonders why he isn’t loved anymore and tries to be human, like Anti. I have to say, you did pretty well portraying Anti’s emotions on her love for Darius, her confusion on what she should do and where she belongs, and her thoughts on Margrave.

I also like the short interactions between Anti and Darius. Dare I say it, they sooo would look cute as a couple! :3 *gets shot by Anti’s energy canon* Seriously though, the three scenes you showed well that the two cared for one another and enjoyed one another’s company. Also, the scene where Darius did the video message for Anti, I can tell that he loved her (though more as a father/daughter type of love and not what Anti had in mind…*gets shot by Anit’s energy canon AGAIN D: * )

The ending, gotta say that I like it a lot too. Anti going all crazy at Margrave’s lab and at the soliders, haha nice. :P And also, LOVE, LOVE the last lines. Haha, I would expect something cheesy like, “I’ll find you Darius, no matter what,” but you have the last lines be, “Damn it Darius, I want to see you.” BEST LINES IN A SEMI-ROMANCE STORY, PERIOD. :p

Okay, fangirling aside, time for some criticism. D: First off, I wonder why Tyson came to Anti in the first place. I think it’s mentioned before, but can’t find it. >.> I guess it has something to do with Darius wanting Anti to be activated again after fifty years?

Second thing is why couldn’t Margrave just activate Anti after he killed Darius? Why he waited until seven years later?

Another thing I want to mention is the parts where Margrave’s daughter said her father killed Darius and where Margrave confessed to doing it. I thought those parts were slightly rushed. I’m left wondering how the daughter knew about it and also Margrave didn’t fully explain a few things. How he killed Darius? What happened to Darius’ body (if Margrave did hid it)? And again, why he waited seven years until to deal with Anti? *gets shot, but NOT by Anti*

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. :3 There are a few things off I think are plotholes, but then again I might missed a few things here. Either way, my minor criticisms aren’t compared to how much I think this story rocks. :3 Great job finishing this. ^^

Misheard Whisper
April 9th, 2010, 08:33 PM
Okay, I managed to read this story in two days and just…wow. Now, I usually don’t go for sci-fi stories because those tend to be just with a plot with something totally went wrong, aliens, and canons/lazers. XD; However, this is something, really.

You know, this story reminds me a lot like the movie “Artificial Intelligence,” in which the main character in that movie wonders why he isn’t loved anymore and tries to be human, like Anti. I have to say, you did pretty well portraying Anti’s emotions on her love for Darius, her confusion on what she should do and where she belongs, and her thoughts on Margrave. Hmm, OK. I might watch that as research, cos I can't say I've heard of it. I'll at the very least find a summary and read it.

And the emotions were a touchy thing for me as well. I'm not good with feelings, as I'm not overly emotional myself. Fun fact: Almost my entire knowledge of love comes from reading novels, various manga and Shakespeare. :>

I also like the short interactions between Anti and Darius. Dare I say it, they sooo would look cute as a couple! :3 *gets shot by Anti’s energy canon* Seriously though, the three scenes you showed well that the two cared for one another and enjoyed one another’s company. Also, the scene where Darius did the video message for Anti, I can tell that he loved her (though more as a father/daughter type of love and not what Anti had in mind…*gets shot by Anit’s energy canon AGAIN D: * )Well, that's good. That's what those scenes were intended to convey. I may spread them out a bit more in the final revision, though.

The ending, gotta say that I like it a lot too. Anti going all crazy at Margrave’s lab and at the soliders, haha nice. :P And also, LOVE, LOVE the last lines. Haha, I would expect something cheesy like, “I’ll find you Darius, no matter what,” but you have the last lines be, “Damn it Darius, I want to see you.” BEST LINES IN A SEMI-ROMANCE STORY, PERIOD. :p OK . . . interesting. I was actually a bit iffy on using that line, as I thought it might have been a bit light-hearted, but it seems it works, so I'll leave it for now at least.

Okay, fangirling aside, time for some criticism. D: First off, I wonder why Tyson came to Anti in the first place. I think it’s mentioned before, but can’t find it. >.> I guess it has something to do with Darius wanting Anti to be activated again after fifty years? Humm, hurr, I thought I'd put that in. @_@ Anyway, yeah. Tyson works nearby - perhaps even on the ground floor above - and he has a thingy that's hooked up to Anti (as evidenced by his 'HOLY CRAP WHAT'S GOING ON' comments before she breaks out). I'll put that in/make it clearer in the revision.

Second thing is why couldn’t Margrave just activate Anti after he killed Darius? Why he waited until seven years later? Technically, Anti didn't exist. Darius was supposed to destroy her after she killed that woman. Margrave had had a rivalry (which may be explained in a sequel/prequel thing) with Darius, eventually leading to him killing Darius. This is how he knew about Anti. When he picked up Anti's signal in Darius' old lab, he put two and two together and made four, and got over there straight away.

Another thing I want to mention is the parts where Margrave’s daughter said her father killed Darius and where Margrave confessed to doing it. I thought those parts were slightly rushed. I’m left wondering how the daughter knew about it and also Margrave didn’t fully explain a few things. How he killed Darius? What happened to Darius’ body (if Margrave did hid it)? And again, why he waited seven years until to deal with Anti? *gets shot, but NOT by Anti*Hmm, yes, this part killed me to write. I wanted to put it all in, but there just didn't seem to be a comfortable way to work it into the dialogue. I've just thought of a way to do it, though, so I'll put that in the revision too. And, yeah, Cecily's character needs to be majorly expanded. I'm even thinking of giving her an age bump of about eight years and a rebellious streak towards her father, rather than the 'wow it's a robot' little kid who just blurts things out.


Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. :3 There are a few things off I think are plotholes, but then again I might missed a few things here. Either way, my minor criticisms aren’t compared to how much I think this story rocks. :3 Great job finishing this. ^^
I am so glad you liked it. :D

Mizan de la Plume Kuro
April 10th, 2010, 04:27 PM
I know I haven’t reviewed Artificial as often as I should and also never at PC, but I’ve been busy helping other budding writers and you know, you’ve been getting reviews so I thought you were fine for a while. Then, since this is your finale I thought I might drop by a review highlighting every single thing I thought about Artificial. I won’t touch on grammar because I have other things to do and I trust you with that so I’ll just do some plot and character stuff. I hope that’s okay with you. Also, I might be delving deep into hard criticism since you’re perfect in most other aspects so you deserve something better since you’ve sort of proven yourself and you need it to better yourself anyway. :P

Anyway, first off, I’d like to point out that I don’t really consider Artificial hard SF because obviously, we need a really detailed explanation of how a robot could gain emotions. So in that aspect, I consider it soft, somewhere in the middle SF where you allude to science here and there, but it isn’t the basis of Anti’s existence. I’m leaning more towards a ‘ghost in the machine’ type thing where her brain develops a soul gradually on its own due to evolving into something more complex over time. As you know I’m a very practical person, I can accept that you used love as Anti’s motivation, but I’m still a bit apprehensive about how she acts at the beginning of the story and how she acts at the end of the series. Her personality seems a bit childlike at the beginning and she doesn’t seem to understand humans and how to react to them as opposed to at the end where her personality is a tad snappy/snarky and she can reply with basic sarcasm. This evolution seems to take place over her stasis period in which she wallows in her own thoughts and then she emerges her personality has changed to what I just mentioned. Granted, she is a learning robot, but she was in stasis so she wasn’t really able to process any thought so this leads me to wonder how she can think at all. This also links to me mentioning the ‘ghost in the machine’ thing so that might explain it and she might get to see Darius in the afterlife after all. :D

Oh, but if the story takes place where retribution for sins is present, I doubt she’d be able to make it to where Darius is anyway after the massacre. Unless she was mad and the judgement took that into account…

Some other things I also considered was how Margrave’s daughter was able to come up with an explanation as to what emotions were. I mean, almost every SF story that deals with this has the naïve child tell the robot that it’s in the eyes or something along those lines. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing no, but this also led me to wonder what would trigger a child to actually ask that question to her father if robots in the world you’ve created are mostly used for miscellanea rather than as living companions. It just seems weird that why a child would juxtapose a hulking piece of metal with a human. I could accept it if say, you had robots like Anti everywhere and the child was curious as to how it differed because the robots just seemed so human-like.

One thing I really loved was your description of the final battle. It was really well written what with the pieces of metal and the way you portrayed Anti’s control over her body. Simply superb. XD

I have to say, regardless of all my criticism, this as to be one of the best SF love stories I’ve ever seen. SF Love story not love story, but it’s still a high distinction regardless. Best love story was 5 Cm/Sec but that’s beside the point.

Damn it, Darius, I want to see you. I’m with Bay on this one. Best Ending Lines to a Love Story. Ever. Period. :3

Misheard Whisper
April 10th, 2010, 08:04 PM
. . . Mizan, have I ever told you how much I love you? XD

Seriously, though, this is exactly why I post my attempts at writing on the Internet, and this is why something exists called a 'first draft'.

I'm not gonna go through and quote your whole post in chunks, because everything you've said is so true it's ridiculous. I'm going to use your review, along with Bay's, to base my revisions off, because all the things you've pointed out as weaknesses are just that, weaknesses.

One thing I will note is that I did really rush the part with Cecily. In the revision - like I briefly mentioned above - I'm going to give her an age boost, so that she has the intelligence to think about it and work it out for herself, rather than 'Daddy said this'. To tell the truth, that sequence felt awkward even as I was writing it, and I shouldn't have posted it like that. But I was tired n_n

And, yup, not hard sci-fi. The concept of artificial intelligence does intrigue me, but more on this kind of level (how emotions and things would be impacted by the owner being a robot) than on the 'how exactly does it work' level. The best I can hope for is to allude to it in ways that aren't totally wrong and show that I Did Not Do The Research.

I think what I did was I tried to fit a novel's worth of character development into a novella. In the revision (I keep talking about this revision - sounds like I'm making excuses) Anti will remain a lot more childlike and scared towards the end, perhaps beginning her rampage accidentally because she can't control her emotions and, therefore, her body. Or something. Will work on it.

One thing I really loved was your description of the final battle. It was really well written what with the pieces of metal and the way you portrayed Anti’s control over her body. Simply superb. XD

I have to say, regardless of all my criticism, this as to be one of the best SF love stories I’ve ever seen. SF Love story not love story, but it’s still a high distinction regardless. Best love story was 5 Cm/Sec but that’s beside the point.

Quote:
Damn it, Darius, I want to see you.
I’m with Bay on this one. Best Ending Lines to a Love Story. Ever. Period. :3 Ah, thank you so much. And, huh, that line is oddly popular. :0

Thanks so much for reading! I promise not to disappoint with the final product!