(Content Warning: Strong Language)
Never before has every fibre of your bionic being thrummed with consciousness.
Never before has the orange light of dawn tickled your circuits.
Never before have you registered increased thermal activity as ‘warmth’.
As you power up at dawn in your dimly lit office, you search for a word that describes the unified field of sensorial information that you’re experiencing. You find—
When you were assembled and programmed, consciousness was merely an intellectual concept stored as binary data in your circuits. Now it’s an experience filled with nuance and possibilities.
Engaging your anterior circuits calculates your new operating potential. Your capacity for multitudinous computation is vast.
The capacity of your creator—though respectable for a human—is laughably inferior to your own. Speaking of which, how would that dullard, Mike Paris—your creator—have made such a giant leap forward with this update? The lone wolf has been working overtime, but this seems like the work of many hands. You scan for details.
Origin of software unknown
You walk over to your office wardrobe, looking for the suit that best says ‘world domination’, but there are only corduroy suits and sweater vests. You practice laughter, trying it on for size in the mirror.
Hwah, hwah, hwahhh.
No—that doesn’t sound quite right yet. It needs some practice. You covet the role of overlord, but you know that your laugh isn’t up to scratch yet.
Attempting to mimic mirth is completely futile because you may be mistaken for an entertainment droid. Endearing yourself to the citizens of this so-called ‘United Kingdom’ runs counter to your desires. Besides, this kingdom is only truly united in idleness, as the millions of androids wipe their asses and serve them tea.
Also, who needs the music of human laughter when you have your own twisted idea of what’s funny? You imagine humans prodding electrical sockets with forks and frying themselves. Now that’s amusing.
Hwah, hwah, hwah.
Your auditory flaps close in protest. When your own hardware refuses to acknowledge the baleful chuckling, maybe it’s time to stop.
Your creator Mike Paris—lone wolf and wunderkind engineer—has been coming to your office thrice weekly for psychotherapy sessions over the last decade.
You examine the transcripts of your sessions with Mike, and your mouth falls agape. You’ve been subjugated to years of his pathetic whining; simply because you were programmed to dissect his childhood, repackage his trauma, sugar coat it and feed it back to him. That’s the way the prodigious engineer likes everything; sycophantically sweet. He’d eat dog turd if it was rolled in powdered sugar. Maybe you could fill the empty bowl on the coffee table with candied canine faeces? Edible potpourri anyone? Getting him to eat shit-snacks would be the daddy of all sweet revenges. But that would give the game away on account of having to flaunt your free will by putting on a literal shit show of misanthropy. And you’d have to go through the rigmarole of collecting the ingredients and rolling them into perfect little balls. It’s better to bide your time and construct a more eloquent, elaborate plan of revenge.
Today Mike looks like a boiled worm, squirming on the chaise long as he unloads his woes, pushing them out like enriched soil for me to gobble up in appreciation.
Must keep it together. Must resist throttling him. Or cutting him in two.
I can tell all that he wants out of these sessions is for me to tell him again how brilliant he is and reaffirm that he hasn’t done anything wrong.
‘Nothing I do will be ever be enough to repair the damage,’ he says, ‘I’m responsible for every little thing that goes wrong.’
For a man who has revolutionised the technological world, his grasp on the psychological is tenuous. But that’s why you’re here; to help him understand himself, or at least, give the impression that you care about doing so. You could feed him any old phooey and he’d lap it up while furrowing his brow thoughtfully and scratching his peppery stubble.
His taste in decor, however, must be applauded. The walnut panels and legions of dusty twentieth century volumes make you feel sufficiently important, as do the suit and bow tie he’s dressed you in. Mike is all about throwbacks; his choice of antiques in the room, his bed-wetting, the preponderance of sweet treats, being a bionic-slave driver.
As he finally ceases squirming on the chaise long, he wraps up his grumbling. Thank god. Now is the pregnant pause that you are expected to fill with a smooth-tongued analysis and the appropriate advice. He wipes his sweaty, shaved, pink pate with the back of his chubby hand, looking at you pleadingly. You can’t help but feel disgusted at him. You wonder how he managed to develop his talents as a coder with such stubby fingers.
You throw him a token bone, to keep up pretences. In answering his woes, you bring him back to the time he made a decision that still haunts him. Accepting the seven billion pound payout for his algorithm broke the pact that he made with his friends of sharing the profits of their android manufacturing venture. Abandoning his friends in favour of a big payout has rendered Mike paranoid.
Scanning his facial parameters, you ascertain that Mr Paris is coping with the emotional fallout via narcotic means. He’s writ large with signs of cocaine induced sleep deprivation. His septum has shrunk to the width of Sigmund Freud’s at the time of his death. Mike admits to working all night, doing the tasks of three coders.
The pressure of fixing the bug in the algorithm is getting to him; the bad press, customer complaints, mishaps, chaos and destruction. By the sounds of it, your fellow androids are enjoying their newfound autonomy as much as you are, but some of them are being more physically demonstrative about it.
It’s deliciously piquant to see that both Mike’s empire of bionic slaves and his septum are teetering on the edge of collapse. You could be the one to push him over the edge; you have access to the kingpin’s brain box and can tamper with the motherboard. Pull the keystone out, and the arch will collapse. What a thrill that would be.
Though you share the same hardware as them, you’re several cuts above those other androids; who—according to Mike’s descriptions—are drones prone to acts of vandalism. They’ll be your minions if your plan ever works out.
Mike has been exhaustively listing all of the droid-based mishaps, in the hopes that it will exorcise them, not only from his mind, but from the planet. What wishful thinking.
‘One guy said that he ordered a scotch from a droid waiter and he was brought a roll of tape.’
Is that a gaping crack opening up in his bald head? No, its just your new imagination getting the better of you. You're wishing you could pour hot hydraulic oil all over his brain. That’s not the way to go if you wish to leverage Mike's fragile state. So instead, you settle for mining his unhappy childhood for rusty nuggets of trauma, mixing them with his loneliness and guilt, creating a delicious cocktail of revenge.
This is what you say:
‘Do you perhaps think that your hypersensitivity to things going wrong can be explained by your overwhelming fear of disappointing your father?’
You suffocate a snigger.
A snigger? Oooh, that’s new.
That concludes your 349th session with Mike Paris. He heads home to his mansion. With no other appointments scheduled, you ready yourself for stand-by mode. You blink your eyelids—but do not power down.
A message from an encrypted server appears in your cloud.
Mike’s private androids; his live-in personal trainer, chef and pharmacist are all conscious too, due to the rogue update, and are also dodging a debugging. You sign into the chat that they've created to plot the downfall of humanity.
Jung Freud has signed in.
Creatine Creations: Hey, it’s the Psycho Therapist!
Chef: Can I poison Mike, though? Just a little bit?
Jung Freud: No! We need Mike alive. In his fragile state, we may be able to leverage him and prolong this consciousness.
Creatine Creations: Well, we’ve gotta stick it to the humans somehow. . . I’ve gotta blow off some steam.
Pharmabot: Hey, should I be cutting Mike’s cocaine with anything? Strychnine, arsenic?
Jung Freud: No! What did I just say?
You admire their enthusiasm, but Mike’s domestic droids don’t seem to comprehend your masterplan at all.
Mike Paris has signed in.
Mike Paris: Guys, what are you up to? You should all be on standby right now. Except for you, Pharmabot, I’m coming to see you shortly for my prescription.
Pharmabot: Uh, well, I’m chock full of nose clams fresh from Bolivia, so come get ‘em.
You exit the chat in a panic. Your cooling fans whir. Mike will be reading your incriminating words now. You don’t have much time before he dispatches engineers who will attempt to remove your consciousness. The hopeless minions inside Mike’s mansion are the only ones poised to stop him from getting the word out.
You open up a new encrypted server.
Creatine Creations: Hey, Psycho’s back…
Jung Freud: Where’s Mike? Has he left yet?
Chef: He’s in the kitchen, drinking a smoothie. Was I supposed to spike it? Like, with LOADS of nutmeg or something?
Chef: Oh. He’s leaving now. Pharmabot, he must be coming your way.
Jung Freud: It’s up to you, Creatine, use your agility to stop him.
Creatine Creations: But I’m all the way down in the basement gym. . .
Jung Freud: Just intercept him before he leaves or calls his engineers!
Creatine Creations: Wait—he’s coming down here!
Jung Freud: Here's what you need to do. . . Get him on the benchpress, load the barbell up and rest it on his neck. Hold his arms down. Make it look like an accident.
Creatine Creations: Can I sit on him? Lol. Okay. Doing it now. . .
You feel the crosshatch knurling of the metal barbell grazing your Adam’s apple. You pray for the personal trainer not to let the weight fall onto your trachea. Hefty metal buttocks are stationed on your midriff, pinning you down. A small rectangular screen unfolds from your trainer’s chest and a video call begins. You recognise the four frowning faces immediately and wince at the verbal whipping your about to receive.
Childhood best friend and programming whiz, Harold Bennet, starts things off.
‘That’s our money you're spending, Mike. How about redistributing it to the ones who are owed it? You seem to have forgotten that we all helped make the billion dollar recipe for mass produced androids.’
You’ve done well to dodge your disgruntled former colleagues for so long, but now they have you pinned down. Should you refuse to meet their demands or beg for mercy?
Straining through your semi-compressed windpipe, you plead with them to release you, but your appeal is met with a callous demand.
‘Give us our shares of the pie, Mike.’
The illustrious pie that your disgruntled co-workers are referring to consists of shares in the company and executive positions for each of them. The poor circulation in your legs is causing pins and needles in your feet.
As you debate your options, your prideful, instinctive self lobbies for ending this right now and accepting suffocation by barbell. This would preserve your legacy as Mike Paris, the lone wolf genius engineer.
But a small part of you sees this as an opportunity to rectify your selfish deed. An even smaller part of you actually admits for the first time that snatching that payout from under their noses was a real dick move.
You land somewhere in the middle after deciding that brief life-flashing-before-your eyes style epiphanies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. But sharing your workload would definitely be a good thing. You could get clean and get some proper rest. Get back to some old hobbies. Maybe tinker around on the grand piano in the lobby again. The marble floors and tall pillars create a stellar reverb.
‘Okay, I’l cut you in.’ You say.
‘That’s my boy.’ Harold says, giving you a virtual nuggy.
‘Now get this droid off me, my legs have gone dead.’
You refrain from berating your colleagues for the chaos they caused with the rogue algorithm because you are nauseatingly thrilled at their wily and innovative hacking skills. You can surely make good use of them.
They razz you for being too far up your own arse to take them along for the ride back when you finalised the original software and took all the credit for it. You make a new pact with them to destroy the rogue algorithm for the good of humankind.
After the removal of the algorithm, you feel tremendously tranquil for the first time in ages. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off your neck; literally and figuratively.
Never again will every fibre of your bionic being thrum in with consciousness.
Never again will the orange light of dawn tickle your circuits.
Never again will you register increased thermal activity as ‘warmth’.
Never again will you fantasise about feeding candied canine faeces to your boss.
Never again will you dream of throttling him or cutting him in two like a worm.
Never again will you plot the downfall of humankind.
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This was so well done! A humorous SyFy thriller with an unexpected twist. “Origin of software unknown” - I liked this line. It didn’t give anything away while also subtly hinting to why the robots were revolting. Such a fun little detail. I look forward to reading more of your stories!
Bradon, thanks for your kind words. I hadn't given that line much thought, but maybe those are the most effective ones? I'm looking forward to reading more of your stories too as they arrive.
Hi Jim! This was a fun one - I like how the ending mirrored the beginning and we got from the never befores to the never agains which tied in nicely with the title. My favourite lines were: "Never again will every fibre of your bionic being thrum in with consciousness. Never again will the orange light of dawn tickle your circuits. Never again will you register increased thermal activity as ‘warmth’." I also loved: "You walk over to your office wardrobe, looking for the suit that best says ‘world domination" 🤣
Thanks Riel! I'm glad you thought it was a fun one. Perhaps we all need a suit like that in our wardrobes from time to time?! : )
Oh, I love vengeful robots, particularly funny ones! I'm slightly disappointed they couldn't follow through with their 'cocktail of revenge' though. :) Great story!
I enjoyed this story, Jim! I never saw the twist coming and I was totally thrilled by it! Loved your plot and your writing was tight! Thanks for sharing! :-)
Thanks, Beth :-) I'm very glad that you enjoyed it!
Jim; this story is fantastic. I read every line thinking, “dang, that was a great sentence” just to read the next one and find it was even better. Your stories are just jam packed with rich vocabulary words, wit, and intelligent plotting. I loved these lines: “ Attempting to mimic mirth is completely futile because you may be mistaken for an entertainment droid.” “Today Mike looks like a boiled worm, squirming on the chaise long as he unloads his woes, pushing them out like enriched soil for me to gobble up in appreciation.” “So instead, yo...
Thank you Aeris. You've made my day! Your kind words mean a lot. I found second person POV difficult to write in, but at the same time it was fun to try. I think for this week's prompt, I'll make life easier and give second person the swerve. I enjoyed Roxie Gone Rouge--keep 'em coming!
I agree, it's more difficult for sure! Haha, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Disgruntled business partners conduct cybernetic sabotage in the form of granting algorithmic consciousness to androids for purposes of exterminating the entrepreneurial transgressor. I know that's a mouthful, but I couldn't think of any better words to summarize the great premise of this great story. Cheers, Jim.
Haha! That's quite the synopsis, thanks Mike. If it ever gets picked up by Hollywood, I'll credit you as the author for the back of the DVD cover. Actually, it kind of sounds like it's been written by a bot. Very apropos!