Inhuman (8)

To read from the beginning: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, and part seven.

A chill ran up Amanda’s spine. A new life form? Nathan held a hand up to interrupt. “Leo, let her tell you about the nightmares.”

“I’m sorry, dear. Go on,” Dr. Knight said.

“Every night, after Brian asleep for a while, he’d begin to thrash around. At first, it was just tossing and turning but then it started getting worse about a year ago. He would punch and kick like he was fighting off an attacker. He… he hurt me. It got so bad I had to start sleeping in another room.” She touched her healing nose. “This time was the worst. He broke my nose. And finally, that convinced him to go see the doctor.”

Dr. Knight sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. He looked at Nathan and back at Amanda. “I am sorry, Amanda. Believe me, I am not unsympathetic to your experiences. And I realize that giving the AI’s their freedom was a risk. I’m still convinced it was worth taking. I can’t bring them back here to be destroyed. The director doesn’t just want me to fix this fault with the sleep cycle, he wants them reprogrammed to be cold, emotionless killing machines.” He shook his head. “And now… now they have lives. How could I possibly take that away from them?”

Nathan said, “Leo don’t you see how dangerous it is for the AI’s to be on the loose? They could hurt someone else, maybe even kill someone unintentionally. We need you to bring them home. Amanda is all the proof you should need. Their fate at the hands of the agency is certainly better than the one they might face at the hands of the police or even an angry citizen.”

Dr. Leo Knight laid his hands palm down on the table and stared across at Amanda’s bruised face. “I realize that. Believe me, I am frightened for them, but bringing them back just to be purged… I can’t do it, Nathan. It would essentially be murder.”

“Can you fix the fault?” Amanda asked. “Do you know what causes it?”

The doctor nodded slowly. “Yes. Well, I assume so, at least. I would need to access the program while it’s running, but that’s besides the point. The director would never allow it.” He sighed heavily. “And I’m afraid that for as long as I refuse to comply, or until the other AI’s are somehow recovered, I’ll be kept locked away in this room, unable to continue my work.”

Amanda looked at Nathan. “You said they were being reset to the default program. What does that mean exactly?”

“It’s the original program designed tor military use. It’s still adaptive, so the ‘mercy’ aspect will eventually surface and make them unfit for use in combat. But the ‘memories’ Dr. Knight gave them will have been wiped out. The rest of the AI team is trying to find a way to disable it but no one knows the program like the doctor, so his help would certainly expedite things.”

Amanda swallowed hard. “And then what happens?”

Nathan frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Will they ever let him go? For that matter, what about me? Am I ever going to be allowed to leave?”

“Ah, I understand your concern. Rest assured Amanda, you are not in danger.”

“Really? I find that hard to believe. When you’re finished with me, you’re just going to let me go? Knowing what I do about this, this… program? And how am I supposed to explain to my family and my friends what happened to my husband?”

“Brian will suffer a fatal accident, yet to be determined. I’m very sorry,” he added softly at her look of anguish. “But a plan is in place for your return to a normal life. Providing you agree, of course. As with many government agencies, their employees are given security clearances and must keep the nature of their work and their employers’ work confidential. This is what the director has in mind for you.”

“Are you serious? You’re offering me a job?” She shook her head to clear it. “And if I don’t agree?”

“It’s really your only choice, Amanda,” Nathan said grimly. “The agency must keep you close. But they will also compensate you very well.”

“So I come to work for you or what? I suffer a ‘fatal’ accident, too?”

“No, of course not. We aren’t murderers. But I’m not sure your life would be worth living. Suppose you tried to go to the authorities or the news media with this story, do you think anyone would believe you? The minute anyone looked into your background, they would find a history of mental illness and criminal activity. Your current job would be lost, and your chances of finding a new one nearly impossible. I’m afraid you would end up homeless, penniless and alone, Amanda. You have no idea how far reaching the agency’s influence goes.”

“He’s right,” Dr. Knight confirmed. “If you acquiesce, then hope remains alive.”

Nathan spoke softly again, “And besides, if you remain on the outside, you can help. If you agree, place your left hand on the table.”

What choice did she really have? Amanda slowly laid her left hand on the table and waited.

When comments become collaboration…

One of the main reasons I began my blog four years ago was to use it as a place to feature my written work and to establish an online presence. At the time, I hadn’t written anything but the first rough chapters for what would eventually become my first novel. An unintended consequence of blogging was finding a community of writers (and readers) who would become invaluable sources of feedback and support.

There are some things to consider when you post your writing on your blog. Most of the fiction I’ve shared over the years has been in the rough draft stage. This is when the work is most vulnerable to criticism. The readers are going to find all the flaws and inconsistencies in the story, all the things you haven’t worked out to complete satisfaction. (Especially if you are writing by the seat of your pants!) Hopefully, your readers will be kind and constructive with their feedback and hopefully you have the spine to use the critique to improve the work rather than be hurt or insulted.

Occasionally, something really special can happen though… In posting sections of serial fiction, the readers may envision the plot heading in a completely different direction from the one you intended. The same is true of a short story. A reader may see the ‘what happens next’ when you see the ending. It is fantastic when your followers are invested enough in the story to comment and speculate about the next chapter. Even if you don’t use the idea a reader presents, having another perspective can inspire future writing. Now this is not to say that you should be driven off track by the demands of the reader. Nor should the reader feel impelled to impose their will on the writer. After all, this is your creative work. But having that collaboration among writers and readers can make the story even better than you had imagined.

what’s goin’ on…

I’ve alluded to a big move in my future. It was the deciding factor in hanging up my chiropractic license earlier this year. I hesitated to let the news out until it was official but now it is, so…

I’m moving to Ireland in the spring!

My husband’s company has a facility in Galway and he goes over for work pretty regularly. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to tag along on most of those trips, for a total of 8 times over 10 years. Needless to say, I fell in love with the place, so when an opportunity arose for H to take a job in Galway, we began making plans.

I’m getting rid of everything except books, clothes and a few personal mementos. My house will go up for sale after the first of the year and I already sold my car. Today I leave for Galway with my mother to check out potential houses and apartments in areas outside the city. She is thinking about joining us, if she can find something suitable for seniors (she’s 86) and not far from where we plan to settle.

This will be only my second time driving on the left side of the road, since our car rentals thus far have been booked through the company so only H can drive. But I will have to get used to it eventually so might as well start right away. Am I nervous? Who me?

I’m not sure yet what kind of work I will do when we get here. I’ve got an odd situation: I’m not lacking education with a bachelor’s degree and my doctor’s degree, but I have such a limited set of skills (at least on paper) that I am concerned that I won’t qualify for anything more than an entry level position somewhere. Getting my chiropractic license and opening a practice over here is out of the question. I don’t have the zeal for starting from scratch at this stage of the game. On the other hand, chasing the brass ring of writing and maybe selling some of my art online or locally is a possibility. I keep (half) joking that I will paint and sketch scenes around Galway and sell them to the American tourists in the summer! I already get confused for a local till I open my mouth and between now and then I’ll be practicing my accent.

In the meantime, things are hectic and exciting (but stressful) so if I seen absent and don’t post or visit as regularly, you will know why!