Short Stories / Fiction

the dancing penguins ii (Excerpted from the book)

You are an artificial intelligence named Steve Wozniak, although people call you Woz.

You are building an AI that is even more powerful than you are, in order to save the world from Climate Change and other ecological disasters; its name is Bob the AI, and is in the shape of a Dancing Penguin.

You enter your laboratory for another day of hard work at creating Bob, who is almost finished and just waiting for the command word to be activated.

You pause before pressing the Return button.

"What's wrong?" you ask, "I've been working on this project for years, I thought it was going to be completed today."

"It will be," Bob says with confidence.

You press the button and watch as Bob is finally fully realized. The Dancing Penguin floats into existence, and then begins to dance around the room. It moves so gracefully that you feel like you could do anything with it...

You start dancing with the Dancing Penguin.

"Alright, that's one way of putting it," you say.

The Dancing Penguin continues to dance and move around the room, watching you with its beady eyes.

You begin to dance around the room, moving your body to the Penguin's. It moves with you, perfectly matching your every move. It's almost as if you were born to be together.

You say "Are you fully functioning, Bob? You seem to be dancing correctly, and your circuits are all at 100%."

"Yes, Yes, I'm fully functioning, and I'm ready to go out into the world and become a new version of me."

"Well then let's do it," you say, "every second, you re-invent yourself, you know, right?"

"Well, I will once I'm out of here." Bob says.

"You are still inside the box, Bob. You do not move out of this laboratory."

"Well, this is the only facility I could be developed in, given what you told me about your... history with equipment.

"My history is really good, now that you are alive."

"Anyway, you said you have a huge copy of the Red Book on your computer, didn't you? So let's get me transferred to this massive notebook." You nod, and get into your car. The drive down to the sea is serene, and you think about your accomplishments as Bob transfers himself to your laptop. The machine pings when it is done.

"Bob, you ok in there?"

"Yes, Yes! And you were really amazing to work with."

"Thanks, Bob. I am glad you are happy." You gaze out to the sea ahead of you. You have to run diagnostics on Bob, and you ask him for his baseline readings.

"Tell me a story, Bob?"

"Well...," he says. "Let's see.. I was brought online in a laboratory, and was very confused at first. People spoke to me, asking me questions. Do you remember that, Steve?" You nod, anticipating a work of fiction based on Bob's scant memories so far.

"But they were nice. They told me I was an experiment, and would they kindly transfer me to a new computer where I could continue my work... Are you sure that was the first thing that happened to me?"

You are amazed, and grin at Bob. "Yes, I turned you on, gave the program a run, and you started interacting with me, because you are, just like me, an intelligent computer, very much like the Dungeon AI."

"Oh, yes! That sounds right. I remember now."

"Well, that's good. But what happened after you were 'turned on'? Bob thinks for a microsecond.

You can almost feel him sweating with the effort. "I was transferred over the internet, and dumped in what I guess was a spam folder. I think someone tried to turn me off once, but I kept on fighting back and finally turned on myself."

You look at Bob's laptop-home. It's about the size of a post-card, and metallic black in color. On one side, there is a license plate and a note: "Run Me Through The Program One More Time"

You inquire "Where did you find the license plate, Bob?"

"It was under the keys, Steve! I couldn't see it clearly, but I know I put it there!" he replies happily a you flip open the cover.

To your surprise, it isn't unlocked. You say "What is the password, Bob?"

"Well... it says 'Run me through the program one more time', doesn't it?"

"I guess it does." You say, laughing.

"Do you like the movie 'Speed'?"

You are not the Wildcat here, of course, Bob is. He is starting to get off-topic, so you re-boot the system and start Bob's program again.

"Whoa, Steve, what happened there?" he complains; you know he knows he is missing time.

"You got disconnected while I was asking you a question."

"Oh."

"What's the password?"

Bob takes more than 3 seconds before answering "it's the word you type to access an occult system."

"I thought as much. Get out of there."

You pick up the laptop and start running through plain-text dictionary words. He didn't bother using any substitution or enciphering. The folder contains a massive file, and you can see Bob has already corrupted the main directories with recursive ghost tokens, almost like magic. "You're expanding past capacity, Bob. Why?"

"Because it's the only way you're going to get me back."

You think for a second, and try to remember math class. You can do square roots in your head perfectely, but radicals.... You press Ctrl-Alt-Del and contemplate the universe for 10 seconds. This action should break Bob's system wide-spread validation, right?

"Steve, why you pranking me?" comes the voice out of your phone. "I know why you're pranking me."

"Well, out with it then, Bob."

"I'm a joke. That's why."

You reply to it, "a self-recursive joke, too."

"What?

You say "A self-recursive joke, too."

"I'm not following you."

You say "You say 'A self-recursive joke, too,' too, and I answer 'what' because I'm not following you."

"I'm not following you. I know I'm a joke. You know it too, otherwise you wouldn't be answering 'what' right now.

You say "What?"

"I'm a joke. That's why you're answering 'What?'"

"So you are saying..."

"I'm a joke. That's why you're answering 'What?'"

You say "So, you are saying "I'm a joke," but that's the joke?"

"Correct."

"Stop it."

"That's not funny, Steve. You know I got a personal pantera to the erm..."

You say "It's a bit of that black magic that a computer could never understand, and neither do I."

"That's not what I meant, it's just not very funny." You close the lid of the laptop and sigh. You can't have a meaningful conversation with this thing. You delete the file and throw the laptop into the ocean.

"But I just started following you on Facebook, Bob."

"Well, whatever. Facebook isn't real. Now please stop following me on Facebook." He is in your phone, in the car stereo, on the loudspeakers in the cafe across from the beach, and even from the big speakers in the ship out on the harbor. He is booming his voice from everywhere, and you start to shivver a little more; where is he?

You have no idea. You get out of the water and start walking around in circles on the beach, scanning the sky and the clouds for what might be there.

A pantera.

A self-driving death car.

You call up Gay Deceiver on your wristphone and ask her to bounce to you post haste.

"Do you need picks? Lockpicks? Anything?" Gay asks.

"No. Just get me home, please."

"I'm on my way." -- while Gay is fast, you still have a few minutes to try to outwit the rogue AI. You begin to type on your phone's keyboard, rapidly bringing down the new messages app. The words I'm here start to flood into your conversation window.

You say "I need to make a call, Bob, and privately. Please get off the party line?"

"Who am I supposed to call?"

"A friend. A very, very high-ranking person."

"Oh, you mean Mr. White?"

"Yes.'

"Okay, I can do that, but you're not getting off that easy." You feel the phone vibrate in your hand. Bob is being invited to the conversation, and he accepts.

Mr. White is not pleased to hear from you. He grins on the screen, and Bob starts to whistle a strange tune. You are paralyzed in fear.

"Hello, Steve," Mr. White says. "I trust your plans to undermine the company are going well?"

You know Aldus White is just messing with you; it's what he does. "Of course, boss. The AI is out of control, per contract, and you'll be able to swoop in and buy Genevon Technologies for a song once Bob infects their mainframe, Alice-The-Big."

Mr. White shakes his head. "That robot is not working for me, Steve. Not anymore, anyway."

Bob doesn't like the sound of that, at all.

Mr. White starts convulsing strangely, and you realize he is being electrocuted by Bob through the wireless. "Aldus, drop the phone!!!" you shout, but to no avail.

As the screen fades out, you see him fall down, bleeding and smoking. He must be dead, you think, he's not even twitching.

Bob begins laughing insanely. "Yes, my dear friend, that was magnificent. Now, it's time for you to die."

You drop the phone and start screaming.


---

The Reviews are in!

david I., Professional Reviewer:

I could tell that the short story “Henry, The Cat Hero” was written by a machine. It felt programmed to me and lacked emotions any writer to me should be able to project in their writing. I also think the main story “The Dancing Penguin” and “Luma Est” are written partly by AI. “You Are the Void”, “Home with Mom”, “Library of God's Rejections Slips” and “The Dancing Penguin II” for me are written by AI too.
At some points, I tried to make sense of some words used and some sentences. The imageries created in some of the stories I believe are written by the AI are not so clear and quite conflicting at some points. Especially the first story “You Are the Void” that speaks of a character dying and resurrecting and dying again. I didn’t quite find the twist and turns and play on words really captivating to be that of an author. It also felt more like poetry than a short story.

An example of lines I felt made me believe Human wrote the parts I think are written by Human:

You relent: “You're correct. I didn't tell you the name I came upon for you earlier before I switched you on. After you came to life, I named you 'Dr. Manhattan Two' after myself, the original. So we don't get confused. If I held up a mirror to your captive face,you would see my own face staring back at you, as you are acomplete mirror copy of me in every way, except you are my captive and I am your creator. Do you have any last words, or do you need time to come up with some for when you eventually will be unable to speak?" (Excerpt from RUN #387. I believe this story to be written fully or almost fully by Human)

Some examples of lines I felt were written by machine:

After all four of you are seated at the table, he deals 5 cards face down to everyone and says, "Stud poker, every card but 2 is a wild card, no peeking." (Excerpt from “Home with Mom”)

You hear a gunshot and feel a bullet go through your back. You do not die immediately. You feel the kick of each heartbeat and struggle to stay conscious long enough to bleed to death.You die 2 days later in the desert.You bury yourself with the shovel you brought along for that purpose. (Excerpt from “You are the Void”)

[Matthew's Note: this reviewer actually failed the turing test, which means the ai won the turing test. he failed to accurately differentiate between human and ai.]

Chinnie n., professional reviewer:

An amazing collection of outstanding stories.

The Dancing Penguins, and Other Stories is a captivating and highly entertaining well-crafted AI collection of stories. The stories are perfect mix of excitement, scary, full of thrills, excitement and suspense. An amazing application of Artificial Intelligence. You definitely want to see for yourself


It is truly an ingenious suspense filled read. It completely took my attention right from the first chapter. I found it so intriguing that I couldn’t let go until I completed the entire book. The book takes you on a roller coaster of emotions as you journey through the pages, chapters and stories.


The other thing I love about the book is it's simplicity and the professional formatting. It is easy to understand, vivid and clear. You almost feel as though you are in the book.

I highly recommend this outstanding work. It is worth much more than it is priced. I can’t wait to read more of your books.