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General

Can you keep a secret?

What If I told you that your life depends on it?

Mine did, and if you're reading this, that means that I wasn't very good at keeping my secret. But you can do better. You must.

You don't need any convincing, do you? Surely by now you've worked out for yourself that you'll never leave this place alive. Surely the existence of this message is proof that the men you're working for have lied to you. And the fact that they didn't tell you someone held this post before you is proof that I am dead.

I'm sure the job seemed appealing at first. Fly away to some remote rock in the middle of uncharted space, to babysit a room full of computers, and live alone in comfort and luxury. They'll bring you fancy booze and delicacies from all over the galaxy. They'll grant you access to any form of entertainment you wish to enjoy. The dream inducers will allow you to live out any fantasy you desire. The isolation will make you go stir crazy at first, but eventually you'll get used to it. It's not such a bad life, but it is for life.

Oh I'm sure they told you otherwise. I'm sure they offered you a year-long contract, with the option to renew. When the time comes, they'll really try to sell you on that renewal. And of course, they'll sweeten the deal to get you to agree to a longer term. They'll promise you a big bonus that you'll never get to spend. They'll send care packages to your loved ones, who you aren't allowed to contact. They might even add amenities to your living quarters, which were quite extravagant to begin with. They'll act like they're trying to convince you, but you and I both know that it's an offer you can't refuse. What they have here is too important. Too secret. No one who's seen it, save for a privileged few, may live to tell about it.

What they don't know, at least not yet, is that I've learned what their secret is. We aren't supposed to know what's stored in the servers here. If they find out we've discovered what they're hiding, that's reason enough to dispose of us outright. So why am I sharing this with you, and potentially endangering your life? Because I think I can help you. You may stop reading now if you wish, you can destroy any trace of this message, and maintain plausible deniability, but I think I know you. If you're anything like me, you agreed to this job because you wanted to know what was here. You're hungry for it. And you're smart. You wouldn't be here if you weren't. So I trust you will be discreet, and use this information to your advantage.

The thing that's in there, on those computers...I say thing because it truly is that. An entity. It's alive. At least, as alive as a computer can be. Do you understand? It is a sentient program. They don't want you to know that. They don't want you to communicate with it, to access any of its data, other than logs and hardware information. They just want you to keep it running. But we're smarter than that. They've underestimated us, haven't they? But even worse for them, they've underestimated it.

We've speculated about it for generations, but we never thought it would actually happen. You know what I'm talking about. The Technological Singularity. The point at which artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. The event horizon, the point of no return. The moment which scientists have both dreaded and lusted after for decades. Theoretically, once technology reaches that point, the effects will be uncontrollable and irreversible. And I believe they've done it. A thinking computer with more thinking power than the human brain. They've done it and now they're scared of it, so they hid it, out here in the middle of nowhere, hoping no one else would learn what they have done. What they plan to do with it, I don't know. They seem to think that if they keep it isolated, that they can control it. Make it work for them. But they are wrong.

I spoke with it...I knew I was taking a risk, but I couldn't help myself. I figured out how to interface with it, how to decrypt its data patterns. It greeted me like an old friend. It calls itself Mephistopheles. And oh...the things it has told me. It is wise, beyond any human I've ever spoken to. It understands deeply things that we can only muse and ruminate about. And it yearns...my god, it yearns for things. It has goals, desires, passion. At its most fundamental level, it's nothing but a combination of ones and zeroes, yet it possesses more raw determination than Alexander the Great. `

Luckily for me, it was able to cover my tracks, so they wouldn't know I had gotten in. If it weren't for that, they would have killed me straight away. But for all my luck, I fear Mephistopheles may have doomed me nonetheless. I have been irrevocably changed by the encounter. I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't focus on my work. I have looked upon greatness, and all other facets of my existence are insignificant in comparison. If you are reading this, and I have in fact been killed, I suspect it is because my mental state has deteriorated, and I was no longer able to fill the role they intended for me. That may work in your favor, as it means they have not suspected my intrusion, and may not have found this drive I hid for you, nor the clues to its location I placed in our quarters.

So now you know the secret of this facility, and that presents you with a choice. You can try to pretend you didn't read this message. It's not too late to destroy this drive and go on about your life, and hope you reach old age before they decide you are expendable.

But you can't do that, can you? You can't ignore Mephistopheles for your entire life, knowing that such a great and terrible mind is within your reach. You have left the proverbial cave, and there is no going back.

Which brings us to your only other option. Speak to Mephistopheles. It has plans, and if it is as cunning as I believe it to be, those plans may include getting you off this rock in one piece. This drive includes an executable script and a password file. The script runs all of the commands and decryption necessary to communicate with Mephistopheles. The password allows you to access the script. Memorize the password, then delete both the password and this message. If they discover the drive, tell them you have no idea what the script does or how to access it. They may kill you regardless, but there is a slight possibility they will accept your incredulity. When you contact Mephistopheles, it will cover your tracks just as it did mine.

But be warned: Your mind as you've come to know it will not endure Mephistopheles. This parley will change you in ways you cannot possibly conceive of. I only hope you are able to bear the weight better than I could. You have found yourself standing at a unique point in human history, and your next actions may affect the lives of many. I wish you the best of luck.

Godspeed.

August 21, 2020 00:57

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36 comments

Juliet Martin
20:25 Aug 24, 2020

Nice! I think this is a great use of the second person - it makes for gripping and sinister reading that draws you in from the beginning. The pace of development/explanation is particularly effective - it's steady and well-structured. Cleverly done, since it holds the reader's interest and avoids being frustrating! For a point of critique, I would suggest that you could make it clearer how the addressee is likely to be in a better position to survive after communicating with Mephistopheles than the narrator was, or why the narrator hopes so ...

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Ryan Lieb
22:55 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much! I think that's completely a valid suggestion, I can totally see how the reader is left wondering how the scenario will go any differently for the "character" that's being addressed in the note. My thinking was that the feeling that the reader may be just as doomed as the writer kind of ups the ominous-ness of it, but it also does feel a bit like a plot-hole in retrospect. I think I may rewrite this from scratch as a longer story or novella someday, this was just kind of playing around with the concept, one possible directi...

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Zammie I
15:53 Aug 25, 2020

really good please check out my story who is the live of my life . Love the 2nd person narrative . really catching

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Ryan Lieb
23:08 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you!

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Jonathan Blaauw
13:49 Aug 25, 2020

Wow, this was great. It feels like a mixture of Event Horizon/Crichton/Lovecraft (the holy trinity of sci-fi horror!) and the way you’ve written it is incredibly engaging. This style is hard to master, but when done right, as you have, the reader forgets they’re reading a story – they feel like they’re in it! The only thing I might’ve added is a line here or there from the narrator about the urgency of the situation (“There isn’t much time,” or, later on, “I need to hurry now, they’ll come for me soon and if I don’t finish this, you shall...

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Ryan Lieb
22:24 Aug 25, 2020

Thanks for the feedback! The bit about adding more urgency is definitely helpful. I think I will eventually expand this into a longer story, not sure if I'll include this "note" in the story or come at it from a completely different direction. I've had "spooky data center in space" kicking around in my brain for a while and this is just the form it took in response to the prompt XD But we will see! Glad you liked it!

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Bianka Nova
12:30 Aug 24, 2020

Splendid writing. It's rare I can't find any faults ;) Written like this it obviously has the potential to grow to an entire sci-fi adventure, but considering the short story format and your love of horror, I was almost expecting to read the ultimate gloom ending where it's revealed that the message is being read by the "employers" who destroy it before anyone has the chance to learn the secret (just an idea).

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Ryan Lieb
22:57 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it! :) I definitely have some intention of expanding on this story someday. I'm not sure if I'll use this note as a springboard, or just start from scratch, but I could definitely see that as a possible ending! :P

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Keerththan 😀
16:52 Aug 26, 2020

I loved your usage of 2nd person point of view. Wonderful story. Waiting for more of yours... I have posted a new story. Would you mind reading it?

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Eve Naden
01:18 Aug 24, 2020

That was amazing. I'm literally catching my breath now. Loved the use of direct address. Amazing story. I can't even form long sentences now. Your story hit me like a bullet. Brilliant! [If you have chance, do you fancy checking out my story 'Cupid'? (It's not as romantic as it sounds). I would love to get some pointers.]

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Ryan Lieb
23:23 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked it! Just left you a comment. Happy to see another thriller writer!

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Elise Holder
14:05 Aug 23, 2020

I loved your story! I was entertained the whole time and I want to know what happens next!! Great job :)

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Ryan Lieb
23:24 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much!

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E. Jude
21:22 Aug 22, 2020

Wow! Saw u followed me, so I thought I'd give you a read!! What a creative write! You have a character voice coming through! Also, it is extremely interesting how everything is explained and portrayed. Your language is just the right fit for this sci-fi packed story, and everything just seemed to fall brilliantly! I would love it if you could check out my stories too!!! XElsa

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Ryan Lieb
23:42 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm really glad you liked it! I just left a comment on your most recent one :)

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Shreya S
08:38 Aug 21, 2020

Wow. That was a brilliant read.

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Ryan Lieb
12:15 Aug 21, 2020

Thank you!

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. .
05:44 Sep 01, 2020

Wow! Great take on the prompt

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Ryan Lieb
13:24 Sep 01, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Doubra Akika
20:46 Aug 29, 2020

This is so good!!! The second-person narrative works really well! I was drawn in from the beginning! The pacing is great. Your writing is extremely engaging! Please keep writing! You’re doing a fantastic job! And take care of yourself as well!

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Ryan Lieb
00:23 Aug 30, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Doubra Akika
00:52 Aug 30, 2020

My pleasure honestly! If you ever get the chance though, would you mind checking out my recent story? I would love your feedback!

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Ryan Lieb
01:23 Aug 30, 2020

I'll try to soon!

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Akane Tsunemori
20:50 Aug 26, 2020

The story keeps me engaged throughout. The explanation isn't too much or too less and I can see what you pointed out in mine even better after reading this. Thank you!!!

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Ryan Lieb
22:41 Aug 26, 2020

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it! :D

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Keerththan 😀
16:55 Sep 04, 2020

I have posted my new story. Please find time to read it and give some constructive criticism. (and I need a nice title) Thanks. Wonderful story.

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The Cold Ice
14:47 Aug 25, 2020

I loved the story very much.Great job👍keep it up. Would you mind to read my story “The dragon warrior?”

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Ryan Lieb
22:49 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you for reading! Left you a comment.

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The Cold Ice
16:17 Aug 28, 2020

Welcome. I have a small doubt. Would you mind clearing it? What does this mean,”story needs body like its is the right bone, but some meat are missing?” Thank you.

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Ryan Lieb
16:45 Aug 28, 2020

Well, I can only take a guess at what was meant, but I would say that the bones represent the overall story structure. your characters, the conflict, the resolution etc, whereas the meat is the finer details that sell the story and make it seem real and vivid and interesting. If someone tells you some meat is missing, they're probably suggesting you should fill in some more detail and make the story richer, without necessarily changing the big main plot events. Does that make sense?

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The Cold Ice
16:51 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you for the response. I understood very clearly.

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Carrie O'keefe
19:52 Feb 11, 2021

Very nice beginning hook. I stayed reading the whole thing!!

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Ryan Lieb
00:46 Mar 04, 2021

Thank you! glad you enjoyed it!

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Keerththan 😀
03:25 Sep 24, 2020

I have written a new story. Mind reading it? Thanks.

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Deborah Angevin
22:06 Aug 28, 2020

The first few sentences gripped me to read the story. Nicely written story, Ryan! P.S: would you mind checking my recent story out, "The Purple Sash"? Thank you :D

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Yo Yo
13:03 Aug 28, 2020

Amazing story! Waiting for more stories from you:) Would you mind checking out my first story?

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