Inhuman (4)

Find the rest of the story here: parts one, two and three.

(4)

Amanda laughed, realizing she sounded a little hysterical. This was ridiculous, something straight out of science fiction. She took a deep breath and hoped she sounded reasonable. “But he had parents, family, a childhood… I’ve seen photos…”

“But you never met anyone from his past, did you?”

“No, he’s an only child and his parents died just a few years ago. Before Brian and I met.”

“And what about your wedding? Any old friends on Brian’s side? Extended family?”

“N-no… he’s not close to his family and he grew up clear across the country, so… no none of his old friends were at the wedding.”

Lydia nodded. “There are no old friends or extended family. SAIW-02 was created in a laboratory a little over five years ago.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Amanda, we realize how inconceivable this sounds. Maybe you’d like to see for yourself,” suggested Alexander, rising from his seat. “Let us take you to Brian.”

He held out a hand to help Amanda up from the sofa and tucked it in the crook of his arm as he led her from the room. Lydia and Nathan followed a few paces behind. They followed the long hall to the elevators at the far end. When the four of them had entered and the doors closed behind them, Nathan used another retina scanner to direct it to a floor only accessible via this security. As the elevator descended, Amanda tried to recall anything, any tiny detail that she might have overlooked. Was the lack of family and friends enough to cast suspicion on his background? He had a college degree, friends from university, work friends. He excelled at his job —maybe that was no surprise— but he had made friends, he’d fallen in love with her, he had told her he wanted to have children eventually. Were those the actions of a machine? And his memories… He believed he had parents and a childhood, old friends and a family home. The truth hit Amanda like a ton of bricks. Brian didn’t know.

“Why? Why would he not know? Why would he think he was human if he’s not?” Amanda asked. “If he knew he was an ‘android super soldier’ (she air quoted) why would he have ever agreed to go to the doctor? He would have known what they would find. If what you’re telling me is true, how does Brian not know?”

“One thing at a time, Amanda,” Lydia said calmly. “I promise, we’ll tell you everything we can.”

Everything we can. Not everything, then… Amanda thought.

The elevator stopped at Subfloor Three and after a pause, the doors slid open onto another hallway identical to the one they’d left above but for one exception. There were no doors interrupting the walls on either side, just an unbroken corridor that terminated in a similar set of secure doors at the end. Alexander, still holding Amanda’s arm against him, led the way. The ubiquitous retina scanner admitted them into a glass foyer.

At first, Amanda was overwhelmed by the space. The vast laboratory seemed to take up the entire floor. All the surfaces were gleaming white and the handful of workers within were dressed as surgeons would be —white gowned, capped, masked and gloved. Alexander plucked a white jump suit from a hook on the wall and handed it to her. “It’s a clean room. We keep the dust and debris to an absolute minimum. Preserves the sensitive instruments.”

No one spoke as they suited up. When Amanda had slipped into the suit, Lydia passed her a pair of elastic booties to fit over her shoes and a cap and mask for her hair and face. Finally they each donned a pair of surgical gloves from a dispenser on the wall. After everyone was appropriately attired, Alexander opened the inner door. The dominant sound was a low hum —machine noise— with no distinct source.

Alexander led them to an area behind another wall of glass. Behind it were four bays with computer interface hardware mounted to delicate scaffolding where —in two of them— a human form was resting. Amanda’s eyes were drawn to Bay 2 where her husband lay semi-supine with a thick cable threading into his nostrils. Without Alexander’s arm supporting her she might have collapsed. “He’s been deactivated, Amanda. We’re purging the current programming and restoring him to default mode.”

She shook her head to clear it. “I still… I don’t… how…?”

“These androids were in beta testing.” Alexander gestured to the bays. For the first time Amanda noticed the second android in the bay next to Brian. Another male, this one with African American features. “They hadn’t even been introduced to the armed forces.”

Nathan cleared his throat. “They were programmed with basic human functions, only interacting within the confines of the laboratory and with the workers employed here. But their programming is intuitive, they are capable of learning and adapting.”

“Rather quickly, it seems,” Lydia interjected. “They developed some unintended and unexpected characteristics.”

“Quite right. They developed ‘feelings’,” Alexander said with obvious distaste. “Emotions, concern and sympathy, conscience, accountability, and em… guilt. Not particularly the sort of thing one wants in a weapon…”

Amanda flinched and Lydia shot Alexander a warning look. He mumbled an insincere apology as Nathan continued. “Remember, this is an experiment, Amanda. The actual deployment of the SAIW units may be years away.”

She pulled her arm from Alexander’s grasp and wandered over to the glass wall to stare at the being she had believed was her husband. “You haven’t answered my question. Why did Brian believe he was human? And how on earth did he find himself living a normal human life? With me?”

Nathan stepped forward to stand beside her. He watched as a single tear trailed down her cheek. “I’m sorry Amanda. This never should have happened.” He sighed heavily. “But some of the issues we wrestle with go beyond mere science. They’re better addressed in the realms of ethics and philosophy. What is life? What does it mean to be alive? If it is alive, does it have rights?” He glanced at her. “Those are the fundamental questions. The answer to which our lead scientist decided for himself.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

He gestured to the area behind the glass wall. “Brian’s creator decided to set him —and the rest of them— free.”

To be continued…

26 thoughts on “Inhuman (4)

    1. Thanks, Dee! I love science fiction but my technical knowledge is limited so I’d never attempt anything beyond a short story! I’m so glad you like it!

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  1. Meg, this story is so good that followers like me could start a forum discussion on the ‘Ethics Of Brian.’ So much I want to know! – Brian is in the beta stage. Why would the creator set him free? How could the military not know about this? Big Brother is always watching. The unintended characteristics developed mean Brian passed the Turing Test, which means he has a conscience. He deserves to know that he is artificial. Amanda is married to a robot! So unfair. Enjoying the installments. It’s a captivating sci-fi fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Darnell! All excellent questions and actually the idea for this story arose from an article I was reading about the future of AI and how it’s actually causing humans to evolve. It’s a fascinating subject and I wonder what the future really holds for ‘machine life’ … Anyway, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. I hope the story (although not comprehensive) treats the subject with the gravity it deserves.

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  2. If it’s alive does it have rights? If it’s almost human, does it have rights like a human? Your question, and mine all very important in your sci-fi serial I think. It’s very well done you’re such a versatile writer Meg. I don’t know if you saw the last Jurassic World this summer, but I see a lot of correlation with the end of the that movie.
    Dinosaurs which are not only cloned, but genetically modified, are brought to John Hammonds (old guy from the first Jurassic Park) estate run by his old friend whose ill, and a younger man who believes the dinosaurs can be sold off as weapons. The old friend of John Hammonds has a little girl. We don’t find out until the end that she’s a clone, advanced too, with the same technology as these superior dinosaurs. She’s a clone of the friends daughter who died in a car accident years ago. But he calls her his granddaughter. She’s inquisitive and smart, and perhaps, the undoing of the younger guy (the bad guy), trying to sell dinos as weapons.

    Of course, all goes wrong, the actor Chris Pratt’s character, and the lady from the first Jurassic movie who is his girlfriend (on and off), in the end decide that these dinosaurs now on land that is the US and near all kinds of human populations — a danger to them, need to be destroyed. They don’t want to, they want them to survive on some distant island as they did, but the first Jurassic Park Island, even though they tried to revive it in the First Jurassic world movie, is destroyed early in the movie & only these dinosaurs at John Hammonds old mansion are left.

    So, as they’re getting ready to destroy the dinosaurs, the little girl who was cloned stops it. They ask her why she did it. She says something like. “Because they’re like me too.” Showing perhaps, that these creatures brought back to life some 25 years ago in the first Jurassic Park Movies, do have a right to life. Anyways, this theme very much reminds of your scientist who lets these artificially intelligent soldiers free. But I think, even more than dinosaurs, they deserve it. They shouldn’t just be cannon fodder. Sorry to ruin the movie if I did. I just think the theme relates very much. Your what does it mean to be alive, and what rights are associated with that. To me, it’s a kind of racial discrimination, except races implies races outside of humanity as a whole.
    Very cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Phew, I hadn’t seen any of the newer Jurassic Park films but I must catch up obviously! 😃 I was pondering this idea of AI being alive after reading a philosophical article on the subject. The more advanced and autonomous the machines become the more murky the ethical issues become. Not only that, we are beginning to integrate certain AI technologies into our own bodies. Will replacement parts be grown from stem cells? Or will they be super advanced machines? We may eventually be part machine. Especially in the realms of organ transplants. The whole subject fascinates me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah it’s so interesting. It made me think a lot too lol. It’s a fine line isn’t it in some cases. Hopefully for Amanda and her husband this is something they can work out. I’m not sure how, but I can’t wait to find out.

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