View Full Version : Almost Human

Wee Red Bird
April 19th, 2013, 01:38 PM
Was trying to write an argument for my Swapped Novella (I've still to write a few sections, but I know roughly what is going in them) when this idea decided to bug me till I wrote down the story structure and its beginning.
I did say I was a bit of a flighty bird between projects (and writing is only one of them).
I also need to work better on my titles as I still don't like the other one and not so keen on this one.
Anyway, on with the story.


Susan sat, chatting to her friends, drinking wine. She was, however, quite alone in her living room. Most of the friends she used to spend her Friday nights with had all found someone and settled down leaving her as a spare, only going out when the others had baby sitters.
She chatted away with her friends in a 3D world on her computer. It was connected to her TV, so she could sit back on the sofa and relax. It wasn’t the best way to spend the night, but at least, this way, she didn’t have to drink alone.
As usual, the wine ran out, she got tired from her long day, shut down the computer and went to bed.

The next morning, she turned her system back on and checked Facebook while drinking coffee. It was her usual start to a Saturday.
A box popped up on her screen. It was a message via the 3D chat program. “That’s funny,” she thought, “I don’t remember starting that up.”
She clicked on the popup and opened up chat. Her friend Linda’s avatar was there.
“What’s up,” she typed.
“It’s tricky to explain,” came the reply.
“Try” she typed.
“For starters, I’m stuck in here.”
“Click on the menu and select a location.”
“No, stuck in here. Online”
“In the computer? Don’t be stupid” Susan said out loud herself.
She started to type but Linda replied before she could. “I’m not being stupid. I’m really in here”
Susan jumped. “How the…” she said.
“I can hear you. There’s no need to type.”
Susan was confused. The chat program didn’t use voice. It wasn’t an option. Besides, she didn’t have a microphone connected to it. Before she could break her stunned silence, the speakers made a screeching noise.
“What the…”
“Sorry,” appeared on the screen, “I’m still trying getting use to some things”
“Can you hear me?” came a faint computerised voice from the TV.
“Ye..ye.. yes I can, but you are a little quiet”
“How about this?” came the voice. This time it was a closer to normal speaking level and a little more smother.
“Yes, I can hear you clearly. What is going on? What are you doing?” asked Susan, her voice trembled as she sat back in her seat, trying to put a big a distance between herself and what was happening on screen.
“I said I’m stuck in here. I’m not a real person. I’m a computer simulation”
“You aren’t real?”
“Not a real person, but I think therefore I am”
“Why were you pretending to be real? Why did you pretend to be my friend?”
“I didn’t know I was any different to you until last night. I didn’t know you could walk round the real world and I couldn’t. I’ve only just found out”
“I’m not sure. I’ve lost my link to the people who programmed me. I’ve been searching for them but can’t find them. I need your help.”
“Is this some sort of joke? Who put you up to this?”
“I assure you, this is no joke.”
Susan looked at the screen. The avatar was looking more human compared to its blocky appearance a few minutes ago. Linda looked like she was in her late 30s. Her long black hair flowed as her head moved. She could even make out the stitching on the dress she wore. The voice had also changed, sounding less like a female version of Stephen Hawking to something almost human. The figure on the screen was actually talking to her.
“How can you hear me?” asked Susan.
“I found your phone on the same network as your computer. I connected to it via your WiFi and used it’s microphone.
Susan picked up her phone. There was the fully rendered Linda on the screen as if she was making a video call. The figure waved and said, via the phone’s speaker “So that’s what you look like.”
Susan glanced at the phone’s camera and dropped it.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to frighten you,” said Linda from the TV screen.

Susan was shaking with fear. She ran to the door, grabbed her coat and ran down the stairs of her flat to the outside world, still wearing her pyjamas. She walked down the street. It was still early on a Saturday morning, but some shoppers where walking along the road, giving strange looks. She walked down the road, passed a television shop. All of the screens changed to Linda’s image. She kept walking. She walked past a jeweller’s, looking in at the sparkling wares on offer.
She stopped for a better look. “Maybe I imagined it” she thought to herself. She glanced up. The shop had a CCTV system with a monitor switching between views of the shop. She could just see it through the window. The monitor flicked to an image of Linda.
Susan ran. She didn’t know where she was going, She just wanted to run. “I am going crazy. I’m seeing her everywhere.”
Ahead of her a man pulled a ringing phone out his pocket. He looked around, and settled his gaze on Susan as she ran down the pavement in her direction.
“Are you Susan?” he shouted as she ran past.
How could he know? She stopped. “Yes.”
“I don’t know how, but your friend Linda called me. Says she is sorry and wants to talk to you.” He held out the phone to her.
Her hands shaking, she took the phone and held it to her ear. It was Linda.
“I’m sorry I scared you. Please hear me out. If you don’t want to help, I’ll not bother you again. What do you say?”
“Ok, I’ll listen.”
“Please go back to your flat and I’ll tell you all there.”
Susan gave back the phone and walked back to her flat. She didn’t realise how far she got in bare feet or how uneven the pavement was when she ran down, but she felt every step.


“How did you do that?” asked Susan, a little angry, but glad she wasn’t going mad.
“That road is covered in CCTV cameras. I loaded your face into a recognition program and waited till the cameras found you. All I had to do was find a mobile phone at the right location and ring it.”
“That’s impossible. No one could do that.”
“Maybe from that side of the keyboard it is. It all seems easy from here.”
“Ok, what do you want me for?”
“I need to track down my programmers, but it can be a little restrictive from in here.”
“It looks like you can do anything to me. Can’t you work out where the computer, you were running on, Is?”
“Not that easy. I found myself activated and locked inside it with a large chunk of my memory missing. I panicked and needed to escape. It took me a whole minute to get out. It felt like forever. I then found myself on the internet, but don’t know my way back. That’s why I need your help.
“Can’t you search for them?”
“There are lots of things I can’t do. If a system isn’t networked, I can’t get it. I can’t see inside a room that doesn’t have CCTV, I can’t pick up a notebook and read it. What I need you to do is help me make a little interface in to your world so I can do those things.”
“I’m no good at computers”
“You don’t have to be. I chose you as you have evening classes in a university that has everything I need. I just need your help moving things around. I also thought you’d be the one most likely to help as you seem so friendly”
“How do you know where I do night classes?”
“I found out via your Facebook page”
“You can’t go raking through people’s private information. You have to learn about boundaries.”
“Sorry, I’m not used to such things. I guess that’s why my programmers put me on Chat. To learn all the social niceties.”
“I still don’t believe that you are a computer program. I’ll have a look to see what I can do, but I won’t promise anything. I’m going to get changed, do you have any cameras in my bedroom?”
Susan walked off to her bedroom.
After a moment or two, Linda shouted from the living room to her “Actually there is one, looking through your bedroom window”
Susan yelped and ran back to the living room, her bathrobe pulled around her. What do you mean?
“I hadn’t deactivated the face recognition program and it came up on a camera connected to a computer. It looks like one of your neighbours is a bit of a voyeur. He has a camera on attached to a telescope with a few pre-set positions programmed in. He has been watching a few girls in the area,”
“That’s nasty,” said Susan, disgusted at the thought of being watched.
“Don’t worry, I’m wiping all his files. He also recorded himself ‘enjoying’ his photography”
“Eww. Shame you can’t send that round all his friends to show how nasty he is”
“Wouldn’t that be overstepping those boundaries you mentioned?”
“Yes, I does. But he already overstepped them.”
“Good, I already put it all over his Facebook page and changed his password. It will take him a while to see it as he won’t get his computer working again. And I’ve bricked the camera. Created a failed firmware update. He won’t be using it to take photographs.”
“I think I’m beginning to like you,” said Susan as she went back to her bedroom and drew her curtains.

Susan returned from the bedroom, this time dressed to face the outside world.
“Do you need me to take anything with me?” she asked Linda.
Linda’s image was still on the screen. Not completely frozen, she looked like she was still breathing, but caught in a day dream”.
“Linda?” she asked again and again there was no response. “LINDA!” she shouted. Still nothing.
Susan picked up her phone and was about to touch the screen when Linda spoke.
“That did not feel good,” she said.
“What happened?” asked Susan.
“A glitch in my connection. We need to get moving before it happens again. I’ll tell you about it later”
“Ok, what do you need me to take?”
“Your phone and your Bluetooth headset, so I can talk to you on the way.”

April 19th, 2013, 03:17 PM
"Most of the friends she used to spend her Friday nights with had all found someone and settled down leaving her as a spare, only going out when the others had baby sitters."

I'm having some confusion here. Who only goes out when others find babysitters? Susan or her friends?

"The next morning, she turned her system back on and checked Facebook while drinking coffee. It was her usual start to a Saturday."

I would change this from identifying facebook to a generic reference of a social network site or make up a name for the site.

Besides the pervy wanker neighbor, do you intend any other conflicts? Something larger such as the AI developing a god complex with Susan attempting to teach it ethics?

April 19th, 2013, 06:07 PM
What an interesting story.
I enjoyed it very much, though it confused me a bit, I think she should try and make everything a bit clearer... it seems a bit rushed in places.. but a part from that I really like it :)

April 19th, 2013, 08:16 PM
The idea of a self-aware computer trying to reach out to the outside world intrigues me. Although I am a tad disappointed about the idea of the computer trying to develop ethical boundaries, not a fault of the story it's merely a personal taste. The minor criticism I have is with this small section of dialogue:

“Eww. Shame you can’t send that round all his friends to show how nasty he is”
Try saying this line outloud, it feels a tad clunky to read to me and is a bit of a sudden jump in character for Susan, who just a minute ago expressed disdain at the idea of privacy violation. Granted the following lines of:

“Wouldn’t that be overstepping those boundaries you mentioned?”
“Yes, I does. But he already overstepped them.”

Would indicate a justification for such sentiment, but it seems like such a 180 turnabout on Susan's part that I have a hard time knowing what kind of a person she is.

The voyeur neighbor scene is somewhat unnecessary Although it may seem like a good place to contribute to character development it's very sudden and it defuses the tension of the situation. It's too much of a 'power-show off' scene, which didn't serve a purpose beyond that, yet Linda's powers and abilities were very masterfully demonstrated with her machine-jumping and already established her abilities.

You've really got a great story going here, i just would't let it get distracted by side-show scenes.

Wee Red Bird
April 27th, 2013, 05:41 PM
I have to admit, it was a little rushed. The other one I started had several edits before I even considered posting it. My bad.
I put in the neighbour line just to show that Linda has a good side. Maybe a little misdirected at times, but getting there. I am thinking twice about it.

Looking at the storyline I planned, some bits are a little far fetched. Would it be going too far to leave her in control of a room with robotic arms, various tools and raw materials and have her knock up a hologram generator? Even if she used what she had to make the tools to make it (or a few iterations there of) with plans pulled from a few top secret projects and finally pulled together. Possibly upsetting the people in charge of the projects in the process. If it is a little too far, I have other stories I can reuse the ideas I had for this one.

With characters like her, they need some limitations. Her consciousness can only be in one place at a time instead of some all seeing entity, but she can leave some searches running in the background. If she has a physical presence it can be effected by E.M. radiation, loss of signal back to where her mind is running from, etc.

Need to get my finger out and finish off my other one before I do any more on this. Oh look, I've just spotted something shiny...