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.

Inhuman (7)

To read from the beginning: parts one, two, three, four, five, six.

Dr. Leo Knight gave Nathan a nearly imperceptible nod, then smiled warmly at Amanda. “I imagine you probably have more questions for me than I have for you, my dear. What have they told you so far?”

Amanda took a deep breath and summarized the story she’d been told upon arriving at the facility. “Honestly, I am having trouble believing all of this. If I hadn’t seen Brian with my own eyes…”

“Of course, dear. I am so sorry this happened to you.” He turned to Nathan. “Do I have permission to speak freely?”

“It’s no secret how you feel about your creations, Leo. You can tell Amanda anything you like as long as you listen to her story, too.”

“Hmm, yes. Maybe Amanda would like to go first then?”

“All right,” she said. “Where should I start?”

“At the beginning, dear. How did you and Brian meet?”

Amanda blushed. “At a bar, actually… I guess about three years ago. I was out with friends and Brian there with a couple of guys from work. I don’t remember how we started talking but by the end of the night, he’d asked for my phone number and we had our first date the next weekend.”

“Do you remember what you talked about?”

“He told me about work, that kind of thing. He’d moved to the East Coast for college and stayed for the job. We talked a little about music, I think. A few things we have in common.”

“Nothing unusual? Anything that made you at all uncomfortable?”

“No, not at all. I am usually a really good judge of character.”

Dr. Knight laughed softly. “You still are, Amanda. Brian is a man of good character. I’ve endowed him with the best of human attributes.” He gestured for her to continue. “You dated for a while and then he proposed? Tell me about that.”

Amanda nodded. “Yes, we —well, I guess I should say I— fell in love fast. After that first date, we were together all the time.” She paused to compose herself. “Brian was adventurous. He loved trying new things, going places we’d never been. It was so much fun being with him.”

Dr. Knight reached over and touched her hand. “And you never had any idea…? Nothing made you suspicious?”

She wiped her eyes. “I don’t know. I can’t think. Maybe there were clues I just didn’t pick up on. Really who would ever suspect their husband isn’t human?”

“Quite right, Amanda. Especially when he believed himself to be fully human.”

“Why?” she cried. “Why would you do that? Not just to him but to the people that would grow to care about him? To love him?”

“To make him human was to save him.” He stared at her hard. “The world is not ready for a new life form —and believe me Amanda, that is what these beings are. No, they are not human, but they are alive. If they had remained here, they would have been essentially destroyed. Remade into mindless killing machines. All my work, all of their progress would have been for nothing. To show mercy… Amanda do you see what that means? That quality has been reserved for the greatest of all earth’s creatures —humans. And from it’s source: the divine.

To be continued…

Suspending Disbelief

Writers sometimes ask a lot of their readers. No more so when we write action, fantasy, science fiction and horror. It is within those realms that we ask our readers to suspend disbelief. That is to ignore their critical faculties, to sacrifice reason, to set aside logic and to believe the surreal and the absurd for the sake of entertainment. Poet/philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge is credited with coining the term in 1817.

I’m always a fan of writing that makes sense, but sometimes the ‘makes sense’ part is subject to the fictional world in which it exists. In the far future, in another dimension, when the surreal world encroaches upon our own, the reader must let go of his preconceived notions and the things he knows to be true in order to enjoy the story he’s reading. Really, how much more fun is it to believe the impossible for the length of a novel than to constantly remind one’s self what is true?

Of course, there are are many shades of this particular grey and some ‘disbeliefs’ will more easily suspended than others. You might be able to get ‘aboard’ an alien starship because the existence of aliens has neither been proven nor disproven. Perhaps you don’t buy into the concept of alien life in our universe but you may be able to enjoy a story set in the distant future because we can only imagine the kinds of amazing technology humans will develop given enough time. Maybe you like a modern day conspiracy theory story with a shadowy government organization operating behind the scenes. In all of these examples there is that leap of imagination requiring the suspension of disbelief.

So if you find that suspending disbelief is not something you easily do, then realistic fiction will be your only cup of tea. I do hope you like tea in all its many flavors!