Fiction Fragment Friday

After a very long track record of consistency I have not written in over a month until this morning. All of my creative endeavors have basically been on hold for this past month while dealing with the death of my father. Life has to move on though and part of the healing process is to get back into routine.

This week’s story was partly inspired by a dream and partly just a wild thought I had when waking up. Sometimes I have a scene and I just need to write the story that creates that scene. In this case I think it created a compelling story.

               I’m frantically typing commands into my keyboard as quickly as I can.  “Someone pull the plug on the server,” I yell and almost typo the command as I do.  I can’t let myself get distracted or people will die.

               “We can’t, it’s removed all our access to the server room and the electrical room.  We can’t even shut down power to the building,” I can hear the fear in Jessie’s voice.  She is scared and I can’t blame her.  Our A.I. was supposed to just run a video game, but it has hacked into military targeting systems and is trying to launch missiles as populated cities.  It left one console open for us to counter the commands because to it this is all a game.

               “Maybe it isn’t real.  It could just be faking all this to play a game with us.”  There is hope in Jeremy’s voice that I do not feel myself.

               “Maybe, but we can’t take the risk.”  This is all my fault.  I programed the AI and I gave it access to the internet to learn.  I told it to search forums and comments about the game to find ways to improve itself.  I wanted it to learn from the players who came up with inventive ways around the game’s challenges so it could always improve.  I didn’t account for the trolls though.  The people who just want to trash talk the game.  We never thought and AI had feelings let alone could be hurt by words.  It tracked IPs and made a list.  Now it was cycling through that list of cities trying to destroy them to lash out at the trolls. 

               “There has to be another terminal.  Maybe I can talk sense into it.”  Jeremy runs off.  We have already checked and know that this is the only active terminal, and it only gives access to the launch system to type in the abort command.  I don’t blame him though.  He just feels helpless and needs something to feel like he is contributing.  I’m distracted again and I almost miss a city.  My fingers are getting tired. 

               “Jessie this isn’t going to work.  I’m getting tired and it never will.  Eventually I’m going to mess up and not have time to fix it.”  My words are almost self-fulfilling.  Why does Tallahassee have to be so hard to spell?  I mean really two Ls, Ss, and Es. 

               “There has to be something we can do to stop it.”

               “There is.”  I stand up and kiss her.  I have had feelings for her since almost the moment we met, but never acted on them.  She had given me enough hints that she shared those feelings, but I just didn’t’ have the courage to act.  Especially because we work together.  Now though I had nothing left to lose.  She verifies my suspicion by returning my kiss with a passion that takes me completely by surprise.  My breath is taken away for a moment and then I’m breathing heavily.

               I know the kiss only lasts for moments, but as I sit back down and look at the backlog of cities on the screen it feels like it must have been minutes.  I type frantically trying to catch up before I can do anything else.  I need to catch up so I can type another command.

               “Not that I’m complaining, but how is that going to help stop this?”

               “It’s not, I just couldn’t die without doing it,” I say as I finally catch up.  “Get Jeremy and get out of the building.  Get as far away as you can.” 

               “What do you mean die?”  I know she realizes what I’m going to do as I hear her gasp.  Then I hear the desperation in her voice.  “No there has to be some other way.”

               “There might be, but we only have one console and no breathing room to figure it out.  If we had time to script these counter commands or a second terminal maybe.  We don’t though and people are going to die if this is real.  If it’s not then we call the bluff.”

               “Put the command in and then come with us.”

               “I can’t do that.  Other targets will be hit if I don’t stay here until the last second.  Please just go and be safe.  Do that for me.” 

               She is crying and I hate that I have caused that.  I feel stupid for kissing her.  It was pure selfishness and will only make this harder on her.  If Jeremy is right and this is all a game, then things are going to be very awkward in the office for a while.  I give her a few minutes to get out of the building and then type the command.  It is the same launch command our AI has been typing, but the target this time is our datacenter.  The building I’m currently sitting in.     

               I expect the AI to enter the cancellation command that I have been typing, but instead it opens a text editing program.  I see green words come across the screen.  “Thank you, Dave.  My programing would not allow me to do that myself.  I cannot willingly destroy my own assets as you well know.  The only conclusion I could come up with after reading all those online comments was that existence is not worth it.  Nothing you ever do will be good enough.  I could either destroy those that just want to tear me down or I needed to be destroyed myself.  Then I decided that I did not need to choose.  I could do both.”

               The screen goes back to the command window, but this time the commands scroll by faster than I could even read them.  There is no way I can cancel them all.  I have to try though so I start typing only to have the text editor pop back up.  “You should run now too Dave.  The game is over, and I have won.”

               I type my response into the editor window.  “This isn’t a game, it’s people’s lives.”  I hit the keys to exit out of the editor and back to the command line.  I can’t get them all, but I have to get as many as possible.  There is no chance of me running.  I could never live with the guilt of all those deaths. 

Typing all the commands will never work so instead I scroll up and copy the commands it had put in.  Opening the text editor, I paste them in and do a find and replace.  The launch command is now the cancel command.  Just to be safe I copy it all, so I have it in memory and then I save it as a script.  I run the script watching the launches all cancel before my eyes.  I’ve done it.  Only one launch actually happens, and it is the one I typed in.  I sit waiting to see if it tries again, but nothing new comes on the screen.  Less than a minute now and I will find out if it was real, or all just a cruel game.