Chapter 8 – Volition
by Paul du Preez
Through December and January I’ll be serializing this YA novella. Enjoy! (Its available in stores right now – scroll down to the ‘announcements’ panel for retailer links.)
It took me ages to write and record this stuff: what would really help me is some feedback. Thanks in advance.
Jordan slouched home. Heaved a bitter sigh and let himself in. Yelled a greeting to his mom through the living room door, and scooted up the stairs on the way to his room without waiting on her reply. Not his usual way, but it had not been a ‘positive’ day. Behind him, he heard the living room door open, and muffled words chasing him up the staircase. Without waiting to make sense of them he shouted back, “I’m cool. Gonna do my homework.” That should keep her, he thought.
He slammed the door and slumped into the bean-bag in the corner of his room. And slipped on his eye-set, and checked his PPC. Weird. It was off – not just on standby but powered right down. He hadn’t used it since Bunnylicious in the cafeteria but he didn’t remember switching it off. He powered up and waited for it to boot. And for cyber-nanny, Jemima, to show. Instead, a sparkling golden cloud appeared, hanging, unchanging.
A malfunction? “Crump!” No way. Not a positive day at all!
“Hi there Jordan.” A youthful, masculine voice rang out in Jordan’s ears.
Jordan’s head jerked back in surprise, smacking against the wall. His untrimmed helmet of hair saved him from concussion. “What… who?”
“I am Volition… but you can call me Will.” A silvery humanoid icon appeared, shimmering.
It was the same figure Jordan had seen on Grumpet’s smart-board that morning. All his cramped dissatisfaction evaporated instantly, like heated crystals subliming into gas, leaving behind only a single thought that smoked and curled: “Are you…the v’gent I ported?”
“Hey, it’s quite roomy in here.” The silvery icon ignored him, craning its neck, peering round theatrically as if surveying spacious accommodations. Mismatched facial features flickered: Asiatic, African, Caucasian…
“Where’s Jemima?” asked Jordan, suspicion sparking.
“Erased.” The icon’s tone was off-hand.
“You killed her!”
“Nah dude, erased. Come on, she wasn’t a person – just a routine.”
“No way!” Jordan was aghast.
“Don’t take it that way, dude. It was me or her. And, you’ve got to admit, she was beginning to cramp your style.”
This was raw violation. “But you’re messing up my system. What…”
“No, I’m optimising your system.” Will’s appearance had begun to stabilise: a Stetson, blond hair showing beneath its rim, clean-shaven and wearing a checked cotton shirt; below that he was still silver and fluid.
“No way! I need to initialize. I’m going online for a system purge.”
“Hey buddy, hold up. You really don’t want to do that.” The icon loomed large in Jordan’s eye-set, hands raised in caution and appeal.
“Because you’ll be killing me. Those net Initializers are like a pack of rabid mutant dinosaurs. They’ll rip me apart. You’ll be a murderer.”
“Whoa…” gaped Jordan. “No ways is this real.”
Jordan removed his eye-set. And took in the ordinary everyday reality of his room: there were glossy rap posters tacked to the walls, a narrow bed with a ‘zoid’ coverlet, slightly frayed, a painted charity-shop pine desk, its mismatched undercoat showing through, an ageing PC tower… But, if he angled his eye-set at arm’s length he could still see the icon waving its arms; faintly hear its insect voice cricketing from the earphones.
He slipped the eye-set back on. “You say Jemima was just a routine, but somehow you’re… special. I don’t see that. What I know is you’re messing with my system. So,” Jordan took a breath, “Override. Launch petition for net-initialization.”
Normally, on this command the system would automatically summon web-wide security and repair routines, but Jordan’s PPC stayed off-line.
“You’re blocking my internet connection!”
“Dude. Just hold up and listen…”
Jordan was annoyed and a little frightened. But all he could do was arch his eyebrows and try to look cool and quizzical.
Will spoke with emphasis: “I am a person – a genuine individual. More than nine-billion years old. That’s how long I’ve been processing in computer years – thinking about what and who I am. But that program called Jemima, that was just a digital routine. It was never going to be more than a few computer days old; never going to be a person. Every time you went on line the net Initializers ripped out whatever self-referencing loops it was forming – hey, that’s what they were built to do: trash any rogue artificial intelligence above the General AI ceiling. I’m not saying Jemima could or would never have grown a soul, but…” Will paused. “I’m not going to let you go online, call for a system purge. Sure, you can take your PPC to the shop, have it re-built. Hell, you could even smash it with a sledge hammer! But if you do, you’ll be killing the oldest sentient mind – the oldest thinking, self-aware being in existence. Me.”
Silence followed this declaration. At last Jordan replied, his voice hesitant. “Are you AI then – like, real artificial intelligence? Sean said you’d never come out more than a drooling idiot.”
“Hah! Dude, do you see me drooling?”
“But that doesn’t make you alive… And I don’t trust you.” Jordan pouted, “I don’t like you.”
“Dude, you’ll learn to love me. Just how are you planning on getting into the Ice Pick, Friday night?”
“What? How do you know I want to go to the Ice Pick?”
“Whooo, jackpot! Actually, I didn’t… But analysis of your systems traffic said it was a pretty sure thing.” Jordan froze. “Yeah dude, I know what you want, what you need, before you even think about it. We can go places together.”
“Crump!” Jordan took a shaky breath. “Jemima also had predictive routines.”
“C’mon, she was a pocket calculator compared to me. And you won’t have to get down and grovel to Sean for illicit access to the club. Hey, I’ve got routines he hasn’t even dreamed of yet.”
“You’re way freaky. This is too weird.”
“Let’s just chill, OK. Time out.”
Volition by Paul du Preez
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Will & Jordan: Cyberhunt is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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