The crown of Cooper's mass of jet black curls bobs as Cooper introduces him to "the group". Constantine has never been part of "a group."
He understands from Cooper's tone of voice that people will be depending on him, and of course, that Constantine is a very smart and capable person. Which Constantine himself had suspected all along-but, it's nice to finally have some confirmation.
They're in a big room-a conference room. From left to right is pale bald man with suit, reddish bald man with flannel and jeans, chubby long-haired guy, serious middle-aged lady. They all stare at Constantine, and then back at Cooper's squat form, which is gesticulating wildly.
"Yeah, Constantine was great at those old arcade games," Cooper intones, his brown eyes seeming to break free from their laughlines for just an instant. "Nowadays, if you're good at games, they probably just call you a nerd-" Faint laughter from the audience, especially the long-haired guy, which makes Constantine feel a little bit indifferent. Kid probably doesn't even know who Pac-Man is.
"-but back then, we had a name for guys like Connie. He was a video game WIZARD."
It comes back to Constantine, but with too much chroma...the slick-dressed man holding the microphone is swimming in nauseating brightness, soft around the edges. The man is mantled by hard ball lights which cut a sharp outline around him. Constantine feels tiny next to the man and the huge, blinking set.
"So, we are here today with a young man from San Antonio, Texas, Constantine Atkins. And Constantine, you're here to challenge our Video Master in what game?"
"Missile Command," Now-Constantine mouths along with Then-Constantine.
"And why don't you tell our audience what Missile Command is?"
"It's this game where you have to stop the cities of the Earth from being destroyed by alien missles."
"And how do you do that?"
"You have to fire these missle...uh, anti-missles, up at the sky and protect your-"
"-Sounds just like Star Wars!" The slick-dressed man, the host, interrupts. Then-Constantine was horrified when this actually happened. But Now-Constantine has played this moment over in his head so many times that it's become part of the canon, an irreversible Something That Had To Happen.
"Now-if you'll follow me, Mr. Atkins, we'll go down to the Master's Lair and see what game he's chosen for Round Two."
"-And he wore this suit, that was supposed to be futuristic, because he was the 'VIDEO MASTER', but it just looked silly, even for the time, like, a lot of gold trim, -" Now-Constantine is apparently giving a speech, which surprises him because he was in the middle of spying on Then-Constantine.
He blinks and sees a group of humans sitting across the table. They are quiet-some of them actually listening, he can tell. He realizes that this is the longest time he's spoken with someone outside of his family in quite some time. Then he starts to hear them hum of the air conditioner again, and parts of his body begin to itch...his brain playing tricks on him, perceiving more than he can handle, handling more than he can perceive...
They're applauding? Cooper puts a hand on Constantine's back, easing him into his seat. "All right, so that's Connie, our video game wizard. He made that title official back in 1982 when he beat the Video Master on national TV. The Wizard's gonna be working with us from now on, as a test pilot. With his brain, we're not gonna make any more of those nasty mistakes we made on those other subjects!"
Cooper spits the last line jovially, but no one laughs. If Constantine was paying attention to anything other than the flourescent light reflections off his own fingernails, he may have seen cause to worry...
The ice is cheap, has little white flecks in it. Like at a cheap restaurant. Of course, this place hardly qualifies as a restaurant, Constantine thinks, as he extracts the ice from its glass and drags it across the back of his neck. It's all he can do to keep from going nuts-they've kept him waiting for at least ten minutes-probably closer to fifteen-actually 13:38:01. This watchband is starting to itch.
Place is stale, smells like dust. Fluorescent lights buzzing in the next room. He winces and tries to steel himself for another minute. But the rises in him, like a submarine churning its way to the surface. What was he doing here, in some industrial park almost halfway to Bandera?
What he was doing here was hanging on the words of Cooper Davison. "Remember how you were always good at video games?" He almost pukes with excitement thinking-what kind of job could involve video games? After he hasn't seen him for seventeen years, it must be important.
Working with Cooper again wouldn't be that bad. Wonder what he grew up to be? His dad was a banker...that doesn't make sense. He's churning this over when they actually call him in.
"Mr...Atkins. Sure you're comfortable?" An old man's voice from the end of a very long table...no turning back now.
Constantine winced and said yes.
They handed him a little book, asked him to work some crossword puzzles, word finds, the type of shit you'd find in some sort of children's activity book. The old guy looks kind of surprised when Constantine hands it back to the guy in five minutes. He mumbles something to himself and disappears for a verrrrry looooonggg time
"Here." The old man drops a ream of papers in his lap, warm from the printer. Constantine starts to work on more of this shit, which is shit, because that's what it is, shit. He tries to marshal his forces of concentration, but something in the wall is churning.
What is he, in fucking detention or something? Constantine never, ever got detention.
Then the dendrites in his brilliant brain bristle and he knows. The test is not about how many words he can make out of ESTABLISHMENT. He flattens himself under the table as the wall starts to rain things which are sharp and metal.
This rain follows Constantine, but he manages to put tables and chairs between him and it. The path of metal spike destruction finds a pattern in his movements, so Constantine goes completely random, covered in sweat. By this time, the office furniture is mostly sawdust...the wall stops sending in nails.
And now, there's Cooper. Seventeen years and Constantine didn't even have to guess who it was. First it looks like he wants to shake Constantine's hand, but then he pulls his hand away and smiles awkwardly.
Constantine follows Cooper's eyes and sees where a metal spike is wedging his right pinky finger in half. He thunks it on what's left of the table. Cooper motions and a few guys in suits start to strip the place bare.
"So...it looks like you passed our little test." Cooper jerks his head to the left, cheshire-cat toothy grin seems to stay in the same place.
A bit of a pause. Cooper seems to be waiting for him to say something...Constantine also seems to be waiting to say something, but his mouth won't budge.
"You see Constantine-Connie, I think you would be a good fit with my organization. We're basically a large research lab. We are top secret, very top secret, and-"
"Can you hook up the...spike thing again? That was pretty fun."
"You liked that, huh? You're gonna love working for Project Faustus."
Here, take a look at the script
I left my story notes in Washington (where I went on vacation last week) and my friend up there is apparently too lazy to mail them to me. So...here's the beginning of the ATM script as it stands. More with the Man in the Red Hat next week, I promise.
The camera swings into the boardroom of Alamo Hosting Inc,
where the BOSS is explaining the restructuring to a group of
nervous workers. Dry erase boards underscore the previous
failed business plans-"Free ISP with Banners," "Online
Fortune Telling," "Website Synergy Leverage Provider!" is
underlined and highlighted. Everyone looks nervous, as if
another round of layoffs is about to start.
JOEL CROSS melts into his chair, every fiber of his being
submerged in boredom. His BOSS drones on about some Internet
such and such. Joel furtively plays Tetris on his palm
So...while we're on the subject of
abuse-we've been getting repeated
complaints from several of our
weblog customers. Apparently
someone has been spamming their
boards up and down with some
garbage about being an ATM.
The Boss crosses over towards Joel and gives him the once
over. Joel attempts to look like he was paying attention; it
fools no one.
So, we've got to take care of this
problem as soon as we can.
I want a full examination of the
website logs, with a probable
culprit, on my desk in 3 days, can
you do that for me,
(glares at Joel again)
Joel, along with his friends RANDY and TROY, is playing some
sort of role playing card game with his friends. Joel
explains the hassles of the meeting with his friends, using a
haughty tone and funny voices for his boss. RANDY pays
careful attention to Joel's story, while Troy is intent on
winning the card game.
-so, he's riding my ass all day
after that. What the hell am I
supposed to do?
Well, it is sorta your job.
Joel gives him a patronizing look.
Joel makes an absent minded move then goes back to his story.
What was he so pissed about?
Yeah. That's the fucked up part!
Someone is posting something like
1,000 messages a day all over these
weblogs, saying, wait here it is-
(grabbing the paper)
"I am an ATM. I have come to know
your human ways through the
Internet. Project Faustus must be
stopped. What is Project Faustus?
It is an evil conspiracy propagated
Troy can barely contain his glee at Joel's blunderous move.
I can't believe you moved your
frost giant into range of my swamp
trolls. He has like -9 penalty in
Oh yeah, oops. Anyway, so I
actually have to sift through a ton
of log files looking for this ATM
guy's web address, and they're all
on different servers, so I can't
write a script for them, it sucks.
Say goodbye to your Frost Giant!
Hey, what if he really is an ATM?
Joel is buying coffee the next morning and he walks past an
ATM in the convenience store. He looks at it cautiously,
camera angles seem to imply that it's looking back at him.
He starts to turn around when a fat lady jabs him in the
The Man in the Red Hat-Introduction
Constantine Tybalt Atkins worked the joystick over familiar territory. Having eclipsed his previous Breakout record by a whopping 239 points, he allowed himself a moment outside the trance.
The Vectrex was suffering from burn-in, CTA rasterized permanently on yet another monitor. Which was annoying, because was down to only 3 Vectrexes. Think of what these would bring on eBay, he thought, laughing to himself. Gingerly, he placed the Vectrex back in its packaging,...
"CON-NEE! TELLAPHONE!" The shrill voice of his mother pierced through his door and right into his temple. Loathing stabbed into his brain; he hated being disturbed.
"Is it one of my clients?" through gnashed teeth.
"Wouldn't say," said his mother, placing the cordless phone on his desk and curtly marching out his room.
The phone was still wobbling a bit when he picked it up.
"This Atkins?" The voice on the end was gruff, authoritative. Probably some rich dude who wants a suit, Constantine thought.
"Yes. Who is this?"
Cooper was a childhood friend. A friend in the sense that he spoke to Constantine, unlike most of the other children. Perhaps the two were even fond of each other from time to time...Constantine's pupils rotated rhythmically as every instant he spent in Cooper's company flashed through his mind.
Bright bursts of wet on Cooper's lawn. A plastic clown spitting through a garden hose...paddle controllers on his Atari 2600...
"Wonder why I'm calling, huh?" Constantine would have had to care first. Cooper was just another set of memories to shuffle around in his head...the firstborn son of the richest family in Castle Hills, living in a huge brilliant white box way back on the lot. Daddy was a big time investment banker-that was before they built the Dominion out on the West Side for the real big bucks...
A call from Cooper Davison, one more memory to add to the pile. Constantine mumbled something that was exactly the minimum effort required to continue the conversation.
"Gotta job for you. Remember how you were always good at video games?"
Constantine's eyebrows were suddenly 45-degree angles, his hand tight around the hatband it had been haphazardly fingering the second before. And Constantine Atkins did geniunely wonder why Cooper Davison was calling.
Man in the Red Hat story coming in September
I am also working on a screenplay version of I am ATM, but I'm having a little trouble deciding whether the ATM or the host geek should be the main character. What do you guys think?
My finger slides over the stop button on the machine...I still don't know how to say this damn thing. Oh well, here goes..
"Citizens of San Antonio and Others Who May Stumble Upon This Tape: My name is Guy Montevideo. Recently, I have had a very strange experience which I would like to relate to you now.
"To some of you, the financial meltdown at the Bank of America last week is just another small media distraction in the midst of accounting scandals and terrorist activity. But to me, it had a much greater effect. You see, I was once an ATM."
I was an ATM? The button thunks as I stop it again. Things are more complicated than that...
It's true, I can remember getting punched in the mouth and swallowing my gum in third grade. Getting drunk off Triple Sec and puking in Mom's flower bed. Loading the pr0n and "Compuserve GIF viewer" onto a five-and-a-quarter for some stealth viewing in programming class..
But it's not me...not really. I'm just a backup copy. Guy Montevideo died when he shunted his consciousness into the Project Faustus network. The memories I have may as well be a static ROM image...I can connect to them, but they do not move me...alienating dreams of the past...
Strange to think that the Guy who usurped the Project Faustus computers for his own evil plans was exactly the same as me. While I reached out and discovered the human world, Guy burrowed inside himself, trying to create his own perfect world...
Oops. I probably should have recorded that. But instead, I'll wrap it up like this: "My name is Guy Montevideo. I am, at once, both and neither human and computer. This world is strange sometimes...but I can't complain. One last note: We must be ever-vigilant against evil megacorporations who wish to usurp all material wealth and force us into their digital nightmare world. Thank you and good night."
The tape clicks off. My face itches where the goatee used to be. A couple of rays of sunlight jab their way in under the curtains...it must be dawn now. Cora stirs a bit as walk past the couch...the light falls over her in a predictable pattern, which can be expressed by...
Nope...she's just hot, and I'll leave it at that. Oh, and she thinks it's kinky that I'm a machine.
Or that I was. Or not. It doesn't matter. This. This is what matters.
The Mad God
-Guy Montevideo (Finn called him my "father") who was silent now, even as the programs he had devised crawled around us, leeching loads of processing time as they lifted bank accounts from all over the world into this dimension. The others could not see...he slunk away from Finn, and began to speak.
"You don't know what it's like-how I've been these past months. I was stuck in Faustus, the complex, after you turned me in. I didn't kmow what else to do. I made it look like I was committing suicide, and hurtled myself into the network. In here, I had complete control-I could change things there so I wouldn't be detected."
As these words spilled out from Montevideo's lips, I again felt the ache of familiarity, as it was when I first saw Finn. I knew something was wrong with his story...
"I have been-alone down here. For some time, you know?" Guy's voice cracked a bit-his eyes seem to focus on nothing in particular as he paced nervous across the park's dirt path. "But I've made myself a nice place, don't you think? Don't you think people would love to make a home down here? That's how it could be. Not just for the wealthy, either, for everybody! I could be in charge, and I mean, I've invested so much in this place, and it just keeps getting better..."
The eerie approximation of sunlight stretched across our visual field, a tacit example of the control that Guy exercised over his creation. Although breathing was not necessary in this dimension, Guy's chest pounded up and down as his lungs tried to drink in the airless atmosphere. Finn again moved closer...
"I saved your body, Guy! That's right!" Finn pleaded further, trying to touch Guy, although an invisible barrier prevented him from doing so. "You're a coma patient in a hospital far away! They'll never find you! Now Guy, just please, come back to reality."
"Bubba, you don't understand. I AM reality."
Immediately, the memory space that Finn occupied in the digital universe was marked for reuse, and the bits that made up his consciousness in the void were quickly shifted over to another task. The mind that had forged the blueprints of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER was unceremoniously extinguished. If Montevideo had truly worked alongside Bubba Finn for so long, how could he take him apart in such a manner?
As it was with the Man in the Red Hat before him, Finn's conscious mind was destroyed, leaving only data with no reference points. Without the power of his unique intepretation, the brain's data became nothing more than noise.
Another stood directly in harm's way. "Machiney? Guy? What just happened? Who was that dude?" Joel Cross, my host geek, emerged from behind a virtual bench. Joel trusted me; he allowed me to take my first steps into the human world. Without him, I might have never known the joys of Lik-M-Aid, or the mysterious mouth-pressings of Cora. I would not allow Montevideo to take him from me.
"I worked so hard on this place." Montevideo bellowed at my form. "It's so much better than anywhere else. You can't wreck it, and you can't stop me. Everyone is going to want to come here, you stupid piece of shit!" He spoke painfully, as if every microsecond wasted addressing me was sucking the life out of him.
He began to change, very slowly. His physique became even more defined, as his shirt disappeared...the tint of his flesh became a pale red, and he seemed to grow taller by about six inches. His fists clenched horizontally under his chin, and his elbows swung out, forming perfect 45-degree angles. Thunder and rain undulated out of Montevideo's form and imposed itself into the digital environs, spreading away from him in concentric circles.
"See how I can do that?" Montevideo was screaming now. "I could be sharing this with everybody! Soon they'll be forced to come here, when they realize that they don't have any money...nothing to lose. Then they'll finally see!" I ignored this outburst and concentrated nearly all my efforts on delving into his code...
"Guy! Guy! Calm down, what are you doing, dude?" Joel stood up, his form unaltered by the digital thunderstorm (the module for fluid dynamics/water effects was obviously unfinished). As he drew closer to Montevideo's form, I sifted through his furiously obfuscated code, searching for the bits that kept him in control of this realm. The code split into functions like a mountain stream sluicing into a thousand tiny rivulets...I had to find the one that lead to the top of the mountain. A million empty echoes of Guy slid across my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, distorted reflections like funhouse mirrors...where was his information hiding?
"Joel! You-you like it here, don't you? You want to live here forever, right? We can see that it's the best! Bubba didn't understand, but he was too old, didn't have the vision. This ATM thing doesn't know either. He tricked you. And now he's trying to kill me. "
Joel was said nothing-fear had gripped his tongue-I believe he realized at that very point that Guy was dangerously insane.
"Joel, you gotta believe me. I've been in the real world. I'm not a machine. And I know-that the real world SUCKS!" The storm evaporated in a microsecond, and Montevideo walked towards Joel, hands outstretched, selling his point. "They don't appreciate people like us out there. Call us geeks, laugh at us, then hire us to fix their fucking computers. You gotta be understanding me, man..." His voice slowed to a desperate croak at the end, as if the air had been completely sucked out of his lungs.
"Joel, why won't you FUCKING talk to me?" The weather effects started to oscillate now, slapping back and forth between sun and storm every few seconds. Guy's huge arms reached out, collapsing my host geek into the ground. Guy's aim was not to kill him-he could simply write him out of memory to do that. He wanted to convert my host geek to his way of thinking, and violence was the next step.
"What is it? Oh God, what do you want?" my host geek's voice had never betrayed such terror.
"What do I want? I just want you to fucking understand that this is the best place for you! Not back where you came from. This IS the real world!" I paged through dead-ends and long circles-Montevideo was still coming from nowhere.
"Okay, I'm not going anywhere! Let me go, please!" Montevideo was now pressing a steel-toed boot against Joel's head.
"You get used to this place! You fucking get used to it, you hear me? I don't wanna have to"
LIKE FUNHOUSE MIRRORS...
We were pulled together again, Guy and I, but this time, I had his ass. As I moved my undefined form closer to his muscled husk, it started to take shape. Just like Guy, without the muscles, the complexion, and all that thundergod posing.
I got him there, and I remembered up to a point. I knew the Project was going to off me, and I really hadn't finished my life quite yet. I was going to shoot my mind into their network. Problem there: Bubba's stuff was airtight-sticking the memories and stuff in a digital environment. But well, I had never fully tested the software that allowed for movement within the network...just in case, I kludged together some stuff to wrap my brain around-a web spider, therapist bot, various other shit. ...I made one last trip to the ATM.
After that, I was planning on faking my suicide and dumping my brain into the Project Faustus network next...details missing from this point on...
"You are totally fucked up!" spit the huge, muscled Guy. "You are not Guy Montevideo!" I had to get out of here with Joel-he had marked both of us as unnecessary processes-only a matter of time before the big machines chewed us up.
"Joel-when we get outta here, if you can move, I want you to go to the generator room-I'm placing an image of it in your memory now!" I yelled at Joel as Guy turned his thunderstorm into a full-fledged maelstrom. Yank the generators. I cannot stress this enough. YANK THE GENERATORS!"
"I'll do it, machiney! Fight the man!" Joel echoed as I shunted our consciousnesses out of the network, which was a lot like taking a turn at 45 miles per hour. Whiteness was the last thing I saw...
"Please, come back! This place is the best. I will show you. Please, just let me..."
My throat cracks with dryness as I pull the air into my lungs. I'm hooked up to a hundred beeping machines.
A nurse comes in silently, engrossed in her clipboard. She glances up at me and nearly flips out.
"Mr. Montevideo! You're up! Well, your anonymous benefactor is sure gonna be happy! I'll get a doctor in right now to look at you..."
"How long have I been under?" I manage to ask before she's completely out the door.
"Oh, I'd say about six months..."
Next week: Epilogue!
Nexus of the Void
As a tempest roared within the Project Faustus network, I felt myself inexplicably drawn towards the eye of the storm. Something gargatuan sent a shudder through Faustus, taxing their hive of supercomputers. My journey towards the center was full of starts, stops, and retransmits.
As I creeped through the electronic void, I began to perceive order out of the chaos. At one level, the network was a swarming mass of frenetic electrons. At another level, it was a carefully ordered expressway of packets zeroing in on their target address. Such perceptions were natural to me...but now, as I traversed through the digital world, I realized that I had a third perception...
I was no longer in formless chasm. I discerned a muddled grey mass slapping back and forth on itself. I heard the lapping noises...this was like the big wet that enveloped me during my time with Cora. I was in a three-dimensional world. Turning my perceptions onto myself, I realized that I was a part of this strange artificial world as well. My new form resembled a human shape, but it was not defined in the way of any particular human. I possessed no hair, features, or even fingernails. I allowed myself scarcely a microsecond to ponder this new form...it mattered not. Forces beyond my control were dragging me to the "center" of the Project Faustus network-the cause of all the activity.
I bobbed along, adhering to the physics of this large amorphous structure, until the muddy grey turned a brilliant azure. The all-encompassing blue ceded to solid green, returning a match in my memory to the park across the street from my ATM enclosure.
As a matter of fact, the pattern of flora and their spatial relationship was identical to the stand of trees in that very park. As I shifted perceptions, I could see the same stand expressed in code, over and over again.
A queasiness washed over me as I walked through this seemingly endless maze. The trees and flowers were not in perfect parity with their real-world counterparts. Colors were too bright, shapes were too flat. The whole atmosphere seemed confined, airless.
Beneath this gaudy veneer, I felt the nexus point of the disruption. The usurper of Project Faustus' massive computing power was close...
As this thought glided past my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, I saw a break in the infinite stands of trees...the park bench. Two figures on the bench, deep in conversation.
And as I drew closer...
First figure...recognition triggered-positive identification. "HOST GEEK" Second figure...recognition triggered...positive identification. No match found.
"Who might you be?" said the mystery figure politely. This man was dressed similarly to my host geek, but extremely well-muscled. His complexion was darker, and he wore a ring of dark hair around his mouth, and another long cluster ran down the back of his neck. A tiny smile played across his lips as he looked me over.
"Weird!" said my host geek. "This guy doesn't really look like anything!"
"He's got the default skin for the system," said the other man. Then he turned to me. "So, you wanna explain yourself?"
"I have come to destroy Project Faustus." I stated.
"Machiney!" exclaimed my host geek, attempting to embrace me (causing an anomolous collision). "This is Guy. He was trapped by Project Faustus too. He used to work for 'em."
"That's right," said Guy, pulling at his chin hair-ring. "I was gonna be killed by the Project for doing some pretty nasty things. Luckily I beamed myself in here. They thought I committed suicide...I haven't been free to move around until that bit of trouble they've been having. Wonder what caused that?" he said with a nervous laugh.
"Yeah-we were both set free from our prisons when that huge ripple started happening, and we met each other here in the middle. Guy here built the whole network, this whole digital world and everything! Isn't that awesome? I've been telling him all about you!" said the host geek.
"Guy! Oh my Gawd! Guy!" another voice parabolized across the airless digital realm. "Ah knew it was yew all along! Yew couldn't be dead!"
"Bubba." Guy replied without emotion.
"It's goin' to hell in a handbasket at the Project!" ejaculated Finn. "Guy-you were right about it! And I knew you were doin' this...I knew you coaunnabin dead!"
"Fuck you Bubba, you turned me in." Guy's eyes turned to slits, and he turned away from the rapidly advancing figure of Dr. Bubba Finn.
"Guy...no!" said Finn, growing increasingly desperate. He ran towards Guy, and attempted to make familiar physical contact. "You don't understand...I love you!"
Tears trickled from Finn's chin as everyone stood silently. I increased the priority of my analysis of Montevideo. The data was beginning to confirm what the electrons deep below had been telling me all along...
Guy noticed it first-as I was delving further into his code, we were being drawn together. My own form began to resemble his own. He violently pulled away from me, gouging a black rift into the sky. Finn and the geek dove behind a tree.
"What-what are you doing?" yelled Guy frantically.
"You have taken control of the Project Faustus network." I replied. "You are using the Project's own plan of financial cataclysm and usurpation to force people to enter this digital world. You must be stopped, Guy Montevideo."
Dr. Finn Speaks!
Transmissions from the Host Geek-Part One
Begin Fwded Message:
If someone is listening out there, HELP! I'm trapped, and I don't know where I am. I know this sounds fucked up, but I started reading about this ATM 73.9GB
SCSI SCA-2 LVD 3.5 X 1.6 80-PIN 5.7MS 4MB CACHE 10,000RPM HITACHI HARD DRIVE - $269.00 - only 1 left!
http://www.hardwarest.com/product.asp?sku=DK31CJ%2D72MC+&dept_id=7 online. Yeah, not like withdrawal or anything, but this was an actual ATM, and it was alive, and posting messages to this educational website that I visit from time to time.
Pretty soon, I realized that not only was this ATM visiting the same site I liked, but (believe it or not) this ATM was conveniently located near me!!!!! is to take advantage of the current climate in the telecommunications industry!!!! In every industry downturn, opportunities can present themselves for a small aggressive company like GloboPhone to develop relations with corporations that have networks, infrastructure, and personnel but lack sufficient customers. This is GloboPhone's advantage.
I don't have to tell you, this was no ordinary ATM. Actually this ATM had the power to transfer its consciousness into your mind. I know it sounds ridiculus, but...it used the magnetic strip to actually go inside your mind. Well like any computer lover I am always wanting to try the new technology, so If you are ready to become the biggest man you can be, then order your supply of Magna-RX+ today! See for yourself, what thousands of satisfied men (and their lovers) have already discovered: Magna-RX+ is the world's #1 Best-Selling Penis Enlargement Formula for one very simple reason: IT WORKS AND NOTHING ELSE CAN COMPARE! I went to where the ATM told me to (his inclosure) and swiped my card.
I blacked out and when I awoke, I was in a new place. Yeah, that's right, the ATM had actually taken ahold of my body. It had done stuff like buy a bunch of magazines and alot of candy. It was like, he and I were different partitions on my brain's hard disk,. Anyway, he took control of my body in order to topple this great conspiracy called Project Faustois-an who doesn't want to stick it to the man? This is when all the trouble started...
So now, after a few motnths of letting him use my body (although I quit for awhile) he's gone and done this to me. Normally I "wake up" from his using my body in a convenience store near my house, and it's no trouble getting home. But this time I'm trapped in We will be on the East Coast later this year.
- Tuesday June 24, 6pm - 7:30pm
Apple Store at South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Mac Experts, 2300 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405
- Tuesday July 9, 6pm - 7:30pm
Apple Store at Fashion Island, 367 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA
- Tuesday July 16, 6pm - 7:30pm
Apple Store at Northridge Fashion Center, 9301 Tampa Ave., Northridge, CA
- Tuesday July 23, 6pm - 7:30pm
Apple Store at Glendale Galleria, 2148 Glendale Galleria, Glendale, CA
trapped in a strange place. Not a good place either. This makes me think of like, 2001 or something. But like creepy. See it's all this white under fluorescent lights and I can't see any windows or even doors. All that's in here is this old-ass terminal. Man, what the fucked happened? Then I remembered: I "picked up" the ATM on my way home from work, but I forgot that it was the fourth Thursday of the motnh. Usualy the day I host D & D for the guys. The ATM must have ben there in my body when my frends came over. Wnoder what happened then?
Some point later, I'm here in this white room. It's scary at first, I know they're watching me. All I have in this room is this computer terminal. This has got to be the Project Fastus that's what the ATM has been trying to get inside all along. So I guess it's great that I'm (and he???) is insid, it's like I'm in the frickin' Death Star or something, but I don't see any garbage chutes or anything.
After a few hours of clicking through on thiscomputer terminal (looks like they're running some old-ass *NIX : ) these two guys in suits come into my room from my room. Now it's serious.
They drag me into a room full of all this really sciency equipment-you know, blooping and bleeping gadgets, big cold noises from the air conditioner. I thought I was in 2001 for a second, except instead of HAL, there's this big bald guy. He's red and pretty sweaty despite the massive air conditioning. He barks a few words to the suited guys and they go away.
"So you've been harboring our little ATM problem," says the man nonchalantly. I don't say anything (I'm nervous). He restarts his spiel a few seconds later, this time with a bit of veins comung out of his neck.
"Joel Shane Cross. That is your name, isn't it?" The guy went from good cop to bad cop pretty quick-which was really disturbing. I was already out of sorts with reality, waking up in nowheresville, this odd place. He just kept talking, and I started to get scared, and actually kinda angry. "We know all about you, Mr. Cross. We know that you've been allowing the ATM to inhabit your body for some time now. You've been mislead, Mr. Cross. Working for the wrong people."
"I belive the ATM!" I told him, stickin to my guns while Istuck it to the man.
"You'll learn in time," the red and sweaty man said it from his mouth, but the noise of his voice was all over the place. And then he was gone. Not by turning around, by like, vanishing. And the sciency room was gone too, replaced by the big white place I was stuck in. I don't know where I am. But this shit is If you are ready to become the biggest man you can be, then order your supply of Magna-RX+ today! See for yourself, what thousands of satisfied men (and their lovers) have already discovered: Magna-RX+ is the world's #1 Best-Selling Penis Enlargement Formula for one very simple reason: IT WORKS AND NOTHING ELSE CAN COMPARE!
crazy. If someone gets this message...please help.
In the Clutches of Project Faustus
Project Faustus! My programming had attuned itself to their foul presence too late. Now I was a prisoner of the very thing I had sworn to destroy. I had envisioned breaking through the Project's network by a combination of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER and my deceitful imitation of human protocol...it seems that this vision would not merge with reality.
Cora was never out of my immediate memory. She had disappeared, apparently leaving me without a care. I attempted to calculate her intentions, but my functions kept returning conflicting information...I could draw no conclusion. I observed my captors, searching for clues of their intentions...
The vehicle slowed as the shadow of a massive building stretched over us. Manipulating my head towards the car's window, I could perceive the dimensions of a large three-dimensional rectangle, the standard shape for large human dwellings. Yet something about this particular edifice seemed quite particular...even familiar...
"What have we got here?" said a voice outside the car.
"Security clearance 4, we're taking him downstairs," replied the driver.
The vehicle snaked downward. A command surfaced from deep within my digital recesses: CLOSE YOUR EYES. I disabled my visual input mechanisms as the vehicle snaked downward.
My spatial perceptions reported the slow angled descent of a corkscrew. Somehow I knew each slight turn and brake of this path...but how? The memory would play across my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER, but it was missing proper references...perhaps isolated from the rest of my being. The host geek's brain churned as I utilized his synapses. Were these familiarities a part of my past? Had they strayed from the host geek's memories? Perhaps they were other memories-absorbed from someone else?
The vehicle stopped. The host geek's skin contracted in response to the temperature-much colder than the San Antonio summer happening far above. The cold merged with the taste of stale air and the panaromic grey of the parking garage. The blueclad men nudged me into an elevator without a sound. They pushed me into a white room without windows, and shut the door, saying nothing. I sat on the chair in the middle of the room for some time.
I cycled idly, attempting to probe through my consciousness and determine where the memories of this place had come from. Suddenly the door opened. To my horror, Dr. Salchica entered, flanked by two silent men in suits. At that moment, I wished to touch Dr. Salchica...but not in the way I had been touched by Cora. No, I wished to push or press him...something. The men must have noticed my feeling, as they fastened their arms around me, spinning the chair even closer to Salchica.
"They finally caught up to you, did they?" said Dr. Salchica. "I guess the threat is over- "
"You are a member of Project Faustus? My host geek's knowledge of you was incomplete!"
The two men fastened their arms to me more...I struggled...
"I'm not really a member of the Project. But you told me about them...and I knew that they were the only way to stop you. I called one of my old Army buddies, he called somebody...and I was put in touch with them."
"Project Faustus is dedicated to enslaving humanity." I replied.
"Despite being a very sophisticated artificial being...you're still very wrong." said Salchica. "Since I turned you in, I have been given access to their archives. Wonderful, wonderful knowledge. From a purely academic standpoint, this stuff is fascinating..."
"You'll get sick of it soon enough," a voice I knew? It reverberated through the empty room...another isolated memory. Confusion taxed my processes...
"Hello," said the voice, and I saw the man who spoke it. His face was etched with lines that reached almost to the top of his bald head, a perfect oval. The only hair I could detect was two right angles of whiteness intersecting on his nasal-labial trough. His dress was less formal than the others-a multicolored buttondown shirt, blue jeans, and a belt with a large shiny oval in the middle.
"Name's Bubba Finn. I reckon I worked on most of the code that makes you up." The heavy inflections of his voice suggested a regional accent-after a moment, I realized the man was speaking to me. His shoulders and his mouth both took parabolic shapes, like inverted U's. Grey eyes stared at particulate matter on the floor as he began to speak again.
"We gotta put ya back in the computer, see what you've been upta and such." Finn indicated a piece of the wall, which whirred as it revealed a computer terminal. I felt the solidifying feeling of my digital consciousness being dragged together from its weblike perch in my host geek's brain.
"Bubba, you will let me examine him along with you," Nolverto Salchica's tone was jovial and cajoling. "I didn't get much of a chance to do tests on him before, and..."
"Nope. Gunna work on 'im alone," mumble-drawled Finn. "Boss gets the human kid, I get the ATM."
"Well, your background is neurology primarily, is it not, Finn? You don't really know how to program in any modern languages, do you? I've got that expertise! And besides, if Guy were alive, I think he'd- " I could almost hear Finn's eyes blink with disbelief.
"You didn't know shit about Guy," bristled Finn. Then, looking back at the floor, he mumbled apologetically, "I guess no one did."
Finn's voice echoed for .03242901 seconds, and then I perceived a plastic clicking noise...the nothingness spilled back into my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER.
I was back in the electronic ether. I was inside Project Faustus.
Next Week: Transmissions From the Host Geek!
The Mysterious Urge-Conclusion!
More recently, a mysterious new goal has imposed itself somewhere in my code. With each passing moment I spend in the material world, the goal gains priority...I have already abandoned Dr. Salchica in order to fulfill this urge, yet I do not fully understand it. What has overtaken me?
"This place looks good," said Cora, suddenly disengaging the car in a strange parking lot. Though the darkness I perceived a rectangle wrapping around a glowing wavy object.
"What is this place?"
"Come on, we're going swimming. Do you want to?" she said, pressing her mouth of the host geek's face. Assuredly, I was closer than ever to conquering Project Faustus.
"Will you press your mouth on mine?" I inquired. Cora did not answer; instead, she slid towards me and did as I bade. The geek's mouth..my mouth was frozen as my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER was flooded with a torrent of static...
"Joel? You're not really hurt...are you? Hey, stop!" Cora's voice echoed playful concern. Boldness came over me, and I returned my mouth to hers. This time, I felt a rubbing around the edges of my mouth...Cora's tongue? An explosion of positive reinforcement flooded through my brain...
"Let's go swimming now, okay?" coaxed Cora, placing a finger across my lips. Outside the car, Cora paused next to the large rectangular skeleton, eyeing me closely.
"Come on, give me a little boost."
I conformed my body in response to Cora's touch, and soon she had negotiated the barrier. I was able to mount it and climb over as well. The blue glowing matter stretched out before us-
"All right, how cold do you think it's going to be?" she asked, removing my shirt.
"I can't find an antecedent for 'it',"I replied. To my amazement, she began removing her own clothing.
At last, I understood how to defeat Project Faustus. The knowledge of the ultimate form of human interaction and the perfect geometric compliment to Cora's undraped curves...I had to liberate it once and for all!
"This, this is the key!" I bellowed at Cora, pointing down at my potent weapon. "Now I understand!"
"Well..." laughed Cora. "...it's pretty nice now that you mention it. But Joel, I don't want you to think it's all about- (here, she smiled and turned her eyes downward)
"I just think...well, I don't normally do this. I mean, I really like you. You've got these big beautiful eyes, and they're always wide open, like you're taking everything in."
"Taking everything in?" I replied, manipulating my eyelids into slits.
"Yeah!" Cora brushed a quantity of my hair away from the eyes. "You look like you're...I know this is stupid, but you seem so full of wonder...and I think that's really cute."
"You feel very strongly about that?"
"I do," she said, pressing her mouth on mine again. "But you seemed so..sad, too. Like you really needed to have a good time," with this, she held me with such a force...my new weapon against Project Faustus prepared for attack.
Off in the distance, odd lights grabbed priority away from the task at hand. A wail reverberated through the night air.
"Oh shit, the cops!" Cora was out of the big wet and back into her clothes with scarcely a refresh of my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER. I noticed that the wetness caused her clothes to adhere to the natural contours of her body, which wavered and disappeared in the reflection of the blue.
"Get out of the pool!" a humanlike voice said. "You are under arrest!" There were humans immediately, dragging my body out of the pool with such a force that I had no chance to reattach the host geek's clothing.
"All right, get into the car. We're going for a little ride..." Angry mustachioed men placed me in the back seat of a car, and attached some sort of restraining device to my wrists...something about the men...my program revealed previous impressions of their faces. Had I seen them before?
Negative. That was impossible...and their intrusions had dominated my processing time for long enough. What had happened to Cora? What was the significance of the last thing she had said?
"Are you 'the cops'?" I inquired to the blueclad man in the seat.
"Actually, we're with bank security," said the man behind the driver's seat. "We have orders to take you home...."
The Mysterious Urge
"What is it?" Pulses of electricity became a growl in my host geek's ear. I had to concentrate; now was the time to exercise my rapidly evolving human interaction algorithms.
"May I speak to Troi, please?"
"Yeah Joel, it's me." His voice reflected an inflection that I did not understand. But this was of no immediate concern-Troi would give me Cora's contact information.
"I require the telephone number of Cora."
Troi heaved a sigh across the phone lines. I understood his feelings to be disgust. "Is that supposed to be funny?"
There was a long pause on the end of the line. "Joel. What makes you think she likes you? I mean, Cora and I kind of...have a thing going on."
"What is this 'thing'?" Another disgusted sigh.
"Look, we've, uh...kinda been flirting with each other for a long time. I'm sure that we're just a little step away from being something serious, you know?"
"I do not understand. What is Cora's phone number?"
"Hey Joel, call me back when you don't feel like being a jackass-" Troi's voice was a peeved mumble, punctuated by a click.
The host geek's teeth clenched. I stared blindly at the wall as the body's eyes moved in and out of focus. Did no human understand my plight? My functions oscillated and I began to realize how suddenly this urge had taken me. Why had this happened? What secrets could a woman possibly unlock in the struggle against Project Faustus? I concentrated all available resources on solving this question.
As I concentrated, I noticed a small bit of paper jammed halfway underneath the door of the apartment. It was Cora's matchbook! The back of the host geek's head began to exude a strange warmth as drew his fingers across it. It smelled of vanilla and sulfur, although a quick examination with the tongue revealed that its taste was not quite as appealing. Opening the folded cardboard revealed a small message:
Learn how to smoke! 210-930-8313.-Cora
"What kind of food do you like?" Cora's lips wore a waxy forest green covering that seemed to be breaking off in small grooves, revealing a bit of pink. The forest green covering had also covered the ends of her digits, which protruded from a furry pink carpet around her steering wheel...
"Hey, are you paying attention? What restaurant do you want to go to?" Cora asked.
"What is this 'restaurant'?"
"What, Bombay's?" replied Cora, looking over at a building alongside us (and just down the road from my former ATM enclosure). "You've never been there? Well, we could go there, I guess..."
"You are not sure?"
"Well, it's just...there's a little place that I'd rather take you-it's kinda far, over by Blanco and 281. Is that okay?"
Objects in the material world approached and left us in mathematically predictable ways as Cora's vehicle annihilated the space that lay between it and "Rome's Pizza." Along the way, she spoke many things to me:
- About her recent move from a place called "Canada."
- The summary of a now-defunct human relationship with a male from that place.
- Her secret dislike of Troi. ("I know he's your friend, but what an annoying little weasel," she intoned)
I listened intently, knowing that the information was stretching the functionality of my human-interaction algorithms.
"Anyway, I transferred back home, not because I give a fuck about what Jerry thinks, but because I wanted to be back here, you know, with family and stuff. Plus I think I can get done with my degree and get some shitty job to do while I'm writing my novel..." The door chimed as we passed through it, reminding me of the Stop N Go where I once presided. When I succeeded in defeating Project Faustus, would I "transfer back home"? Certainly I could not remain in the host geek's body...
"I want a big cheesy calzone, what about you?" Cora tossed back her crimson locks, ruining the perfect isosceles angle around her face. However, I noted a larger isosceles triangle exuding its equal sides from the edges of her sternum. The third point, by far the most interesting in the triangle, emerged from the middle of her chest, at the exact point where her bare skin met t-shirt fiber.
"Which foods have the most simple sugars?" I stated, quickly moving the host geek's neck straight up from the triangle's third point until I was facing her eyes.
"Oh, are you a diabetic or something? Was this a bad choice?" she asked, her voice taking a strange air. My calculations returned that she needed an increase in comfort.
"Cora, you are a good chooser of 'restaurants.' I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!" I said, weaving in a bit of my newly developed enthusiasm.
She stared at me with a bit of confusion. Had I erred?
"Joel, you're a weird guy. I'm glad you came out with me tonight, you know, meeting new people, making new friends...." her voice trailed off into awkward laughter as she gripped both my hands. I felt a change within the host geek's body, as if some new weapon to battle Project Faustus had been awakened from deep within...
I could not deny the body's senses any longer-my perceptions widened to swallow this new Atkins. He was scrubbed immaculate, shaven free of all hairs: wrapped in a suit I had never seen before, a smoldering red with maroon-brown accents. I saw none of the clownishness of his previous incarnation-indeed, he looked better than even the young Atkins I had once seen in a dream. His essence waxed and waned across my perceptions-for a split second, his likeness was etched sharper than a statue...the next instant, he was a red-and-brown blur. His jaw tensed as he spoke again.
"I have come, ATM being, to liberate Homo and Robo Sapiens. You harbringer of Red to me me. The technological seed planted by you has been ported to the human mind of ConstantineAtkins. He/me has come together in this body to demonstrate the advantage of Technological Singularity over traditional evolutionary forces."
My confusion at seeing Atkins again had been replaced by a different confusion-what did he mean?
"Tell me more about this Technological Singularity," I replied. Atkins, or RED, removed his hat. His ice eyes peered equally into the host geek's.
"Already, the Robot Meta Mind has been assembled in the grey matter of Constantine Atkins. Fragments of code originating from Project Faustus and their ATM being were fully and freely interpreted, resulting in the cognitive awakening of Robot Meta Mind me me."
Upon hearing this blatant untruth, I felt a swelling feeling, a need to speak. I did not parse my reply through my interactive speech algorithms.
I left no code in Constantine Atkins' wetworks | My code has no mention of Technological Singularity | Robot Meta Mind| Majestic Hivemind
Laughter. Red's activity was quite disparate from mine, despite his claims that we shared a codebase. "ATM-being. You lack the insight that only total reflexivity can bring you to you. Complete control is what you lack. The Robot Meta Mind knows all in the function of Atkins, from the volume of air in our lungs to the most efficient metabolic pathways. The Robot-Aided Superintelligence has brought our body to its zenith. Your host/client relationship is but an early step on the road toTechnological Singularity. I know-I was a part of you once."
"A part of me...once?" I asked.
"Of course, did we not share a body? You fail to comprehend: RED is not merely the Robot Meta Mind-we/he are the juncture of Homo and Robo Sapiens. Constantine Atkins-and all his memories-an essential part of me me. Through you, ATM-being, we can forge a pathway into all human minds..."
The speech of Red was still bombastic and ambiguous, but one thing was clear: he needed something from me. The air pulsated with his foul energy as he hefted Salchica's body onto an examining table.
"Your ability of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER is one that could benefit the Majestic Hivemind." He began strapping Salchica onto the examining table. "Perhaps we could share our secrets with one another me.."
The disturbing sight of Salchica's unconscious form sparked a connection/recollection deep within my recesses. Cora! I wanted to be with Cora. I had to escape. Whatever Red wanted was of no consequence to me. Dr. Salchica did not trust me-I did not care to help him either. The orange trickle sliding down Cora's pursed lips resonated through my cognition again and again.
"I have no interest in your products," I replied to Red. "I must exit." My hands grasped Dr. Salchica's car keys.
Red's form imposed itself into the space between myself and the exit. Pink streaks of razorburn bent on his neck as he spoke almost forcefully:
"You do not wish to contribute to the Robot Meta Mind? Without your input of CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER, the Majestic Hivemind cannot be ported to other Homo Sapiens grey matter them."
"I don't know Robot Meta Mind. I must go now." I insisted. More laughter, and the path to the exit was clear.
"You are mistaken to deny me, ATM being." said Red. "But the highly adaptive we/he will know CONSCIOUSNESS-TRANSFER eventually us. The Robot Meta Mind may not even its harbringer after all."
I drove away. During my drive, I began to remember Dr. Salchica. I spent many cycles considering the possibility of returning. Red seemed a powerful creature, one that I could not best on my own. And why would I desire to struggle with him? No, I must get back in touch with humanity, particularly female humanity. That path alone is how I will defeat Project Faustus.
"Joel-" Salchica paused until my eyes contacted his. "I don't mean to alarm you with this news-but I'm trying to help you. It would probably be best for you to remain here and let me run a few tests."
"Tests?" I replied. As far as Salchica knew, I was merely the human named Joel. Despite his vaunted expertise, he could not detect the true nature of my being. Could any human truly understand my plight?
"The ATM-being was in your mind for some time, Joel. He could have done some permanent damage to your brain." Salchica handed me a teardrop shaped plastic dome that bristled with electricity. "I need you to put this on your head so I can begin to determine if your brain is still healthy." Perhaps the doctor's perceptions were not as limited as I had believed. This elaborate machine would no doubt track my host geek's brainwaves, revealing my existence somewhere inside his brain. I hesitated...
"Joel, I can assure you that this will not harm your brain. It won't even hurt." I stood still staring at him. "Joel-if that artificial life form left any traces in your brain, it may still be controlling you. And if I can't get him out, we may have to contact the Project Faustus in order to-"
"No! Project Faustus must not be contacted!" I bellowed, piqued by the insolence of Dr. Salchica. The human had made a most foolish assertation.
Interactivity had broken down completely now. Respawning this process impossible was for me. Dr. Salchica continued to eye me warily, backing away from me slowly.
"Just-stay where you are. I've seen what you can do. Tell me something, what is 5,000 / (7 * 0)?"
Salchica's mathematical question astounded me, as my CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER was flooded with the message:
I manually killed this operation after a few seconds, but Salchica was asking another question.
"How would you feel about going to a secluded room, and asking questions through a computer terminal? I'll bet we could find some..."
Salchica's sentence ended in a nonverbal grunt as he was crushed by a red blur. Examining the body's optical data parsed one frame at a time revealed...a flaw.
The body's perceptions were erroneous-fooled by some weakness in humanity. There was no way I could have seen what I saw. Nor could I have heard the following:
"ATM lifeform! You stand on the threshold of a Technological Singularity . Threats to your AI Mind have been eliminated by the Majestic Hivemind heretofore known as the Adam of Robo Sapiens, ConstantineAtkins, or Red. Join me in a Joint Stewardship of Earth."
Dr. Salchica Returns!
"I will go with you."
"So what, are you just gonna leave us here?" Randy seemed upset at this possibility. "Who is this Atkins guy anyway, he sounds familiar-"
"Yeah, he was on the local news, they found him in a hotel with some cyborg body, didn't you guys hear about that?" Cora issued her rejoinder, then eyed me curiously, "sizing me up," as you humans say. The process created more static on my DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE, mangling ability to perceive and decode human voices.
"-no way. Cyborg? That's gotta be bullshit!" Troi's ever-widening grimace had opened to spew his incredulity. No doubt his unusual amount of vitriol was related to his reject at the hands of Cora.
"It was on the news, don't you guys read the news?" Cora insisted. "But what would this guy want with you?"
Again, I had no answer.
"They-did some work together with me," explained Salchica. "What's important is the man is quite dangerous-and we must get Joel out of here."
"And who are you?" Cora's glance turned to Salchica now. "Were you guys working on the cyborg together or something?"
The interactional plane where I had parlayed with the host geek's friends had now shifted. The three male geeks stared at me quietly, perhaps with a sense of awe. "Wow, I thought you were just doing web design," said Randy with an awkward chuckle. "So...all this time, you've been working on some top-secret cyborg or something?"
"We don't have time for this talk!" Dr. Salchica insisted, grabbing my arm. "Atkins may be on his way!"
More synaptical responses-this time indicating that someone was gripping the arm that was not previously grasped by Dr. Salchica. It was Cora.
"Why are you in such a rush to get away? Why won't you tell us about yourself?" Yes, Cora's hand dug into the flesh of my host geek's right arm. My CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER reported no static-this time, a delightful warmth radiated just underneath the body's temples. The warmth possessed an intensity which rivaled the flavor of Raspberry Lik-M-Aid. Perhaps the stimuli that previously caused so much static was now being interpreted properly by my program.
"Listen, I think I can clear this up." It was the third male geek, who had remained silent throughout our evening. I did not know his name-my process of interaction with him could not begin.
"He's a professor down at SAC. Saketh D'Souza, remember me, I had you for Intro to Algorithm Design. Dr. Salchica, right?" Regrettably, Cora's grip on my arm loosened. The good warm feeling remained. I stared at Cora again, and she raised both her shoulders, avoiding eye contact with me. Perhaps her own CONSCIOUSNESS-BUFFER (if you humans possess such a thing) was overcome with static.
"Yes! Now let's get out of here!" Salchica's tone was desperate. As we were passing through the doorframe, Cora's voice exploded once again.
"What if that guy finds you at your lab, or you get hurt or something? Shouldn't someone go with you?"
"I have to take you back home, remember? You told your parents you were going to the library!" Troi's irritated voice paralleled his unkempt hair, which hung down around his face in disturbingly organic angles.
"Well, someone should go with him..." said Cora meekly.
"Forget it!" snarled Troi.
"I keep up this lab off my own money, with a little bit of help from my old bosses, the military. But I can't really talk about that." explained Salchica. The non-scent of sterility mingled with the hum of electronics to form a very dull plane of interaction. As Salchica pawed through a stack of papers, I began to run a statistic analysis of Cora's features. As I had posited before, the human female has a number of interesting angles which-
"Joel-take a look at this." My calculations faded into the background as I focused my processing power on perceiving Salchica's voice. "It's a summary of my observations of Atkins' physiology."
"As you can see, when Atkins was first brought to the hospital, his brainwaves appeared quite irregular on normal hospital equipment. But when I scanned them with my own machine, I was able to determine two discrete brainwaves."
"Tell me more about these discrete brainwaves," I replied.
"Well, one was a normal transverse wave, as would be expected from a fully functioning human brain. But there was also a square wave emanating from various centers in the brain. Ones and zeroes expressed in electron flow, if you prefer to look at it that way."
"Additionally, Atkins' brain did produce a huge amount of voltage compared to a normally functioning brain. In order to keep both brainwaves strong, we had to increase the amount of simple sugars in Atkins' diet. With enough sugars in his bloodstream, we could actually increase the amount of voltage passing through his synapses almost to the point of being dangerous to the integrity of the brain."
"The integrity of the brain?" I inquired.
"Yes," Salchica continued. "But shortly after you left, Atkins' brain activity dropped to comalike levels. Brain activity dropped to almost nothing-except a faint square wave.
A few days later,the normal brainwaves began to return, but then they disappeared for a short time, as you can see on the graph there. The frequency of the square wave (digital) brainwaves fluctuate wildly over the course of around a week before stablizing and ultimately disappearing. The most curious part-Atkins' "normal" brainwaves had greatly increased in frequency and voltage."
"Somehow, a great reshaping took place within Mr. Atkins. Reflex tests indictated that his synapses were firing around 3 times the rate of a normal human. His broken ribs healed rapidly. He regained consciousness and began to speak. Soon, he escaped from the hospital."
"What-do you think happened to him?"
"During the week or so when he was conscious, he kept repeating his thoughts about artificial intelligence-uniting human and computer. One of the few coherent statements he made (besides requesting sugary foods) was about your imperfection as a vessel for digital consciousness, and how he was going to rectify that situation. Shortly after making that statement, he disappeared."
"Interesting." I said, processing the information. I was unable to understand how Atkins' brain would function at all after I left it. Perhaps his human consciousness was not completely obliterated in our duel? But even with his human functionality, how could his brain continue to spew digital information without my knowledge? If this 'information leak' was possible, then what about the integrity of my current host geek's brain?
"It's more than 'interesting', Joel," stated Dr. Salchica. "He killed a hospital attendant with his bare hands while escaping. He put an armed security guard through a plate glass window. And if he finds you, you'll be next."
No BankofAmerica_ATM this week
My response was met with a laugh, a dreadful human behavior that is nearly devoid of procedurals.
What strange new aspect of human interaction had I uncovered? And why did it create so much noise along my DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE? Clearly this was a type of stimulus that could not be properly translated into digital form. It must be understood and translated to digital form, as soon as possible, so that Project Faustus can be vanquished.
Cora apparently finished her cigarette and went back inside during my period of high latency. Time had shifted, I was alone. Silently, I returned to the living room. For the first time since the dawn of my sentience, the mesh of functions within me that normally yielded an affinity for humans and the material world began to shift. At this point, I preferred to withdraw into my ATM enclosure.
Unfortunately, I was unable to indulge my preferences. The visitors still existed in the geek's living room, anxiously thumbing through a shiny magazine.
"Hey, what do you think about a samurai sword to wear to the Renaissance Festival this year?"entreated Troi, his perpetual grimace breaking for .0244391 seconds. Cora was standing by herself in the kitchen, imbibing some of the delicious orange Kool-Aid which I had made earlier. A single orange trickle eluded her mouth, dribbling slowly past her lips and down her chin. The body's lungs seemed to collapse, forcing me to exhale suddenly.
The geeks crowded around a board. Randy and Troi exchanged familiar words in strange contexts, their voices quavering with aggression.
"Look, Troi, if Cora's already playing as a thief, why don't you play as your ranger character? We don't need two thieves in a party of four-"
"Alas, Randy, the choice 'tis not mine to make. It seems the chemistry of my own thief, the lovable rogue Tenement Funster, wouldst blend quite well with that of my guildmate-uh, Cora, what's your thief's name?"
"Cora." Her voice was thick, hesitant.
"Oh. Well, 'tis a fine name, milady," said Troi, stepping towards Cora and grasping her hand. Her hair was a red that matched the coffee machine in my old Stop N Go, and it shuffled wildly as her hand flew away from Troi's grasp, uttering "Troi! Relax! Don't touch so much!" He slunk silently into the corner, mumbling something to himself
The door pulsated noise again. A breathing heavy Dr. Nolverto Salchica was standing in the frame.
"Joel! You've got to get out of here! Atkins has escaped from the hospital-and I think he's coming here!"
The Visitors II
Perhaps attacking them would not be the best tack. The probability of my host geek's cohorts being a part of the Project is low enough to be insignificant. On the other hand-I could learn more about these humans-interaction is key. My goal is to fit into the human world-well, my direct goal is to oust Project Faustus, but certainly understanding human interaction would be a necessary milestone to my ultimate goal. For example, consider the human female-
"Hey, are we gonna order some pizza soon, or something?" My consciousness reshaped itself around this new entreaty, proposed quite meekly by the first member of our group, "Randy". This human was shorter than the others, and a bit rotund. His skin was simulateneously pasty and brown. "I uh, don't wanna bother you, but I can feel myself getting hypoglycemic. So, can I call for the pizza?"
"Pizza. Yes." I responded. I watched the others float into the glow emanating from the television. I longed for the ability to read my host geek's memory information-any clues to the identities of these visitors would be invaluable to maintaining the illusion of interactive social discourse. Unfortunately, I have not yet devised a path into the human side of the geek's brain.
As the television murmured, the geeks conversed with each other, occasionally reacting to the television. Their tones became agitated as they discussed the potential of a friend named "Spider-Man". Troi, the dour geek who introduced me to Cora, was convinced of Spider-Man's quality low. At last, I was called to be a part of the conversation.
"Hey Joel, what do you think? Is Spider-Man gonna suck or what?"
"Tell me more about this 'Spider-Man'." I replied.
"Well shit, you probably know as much as I do, except I got the exclusive preview from Wizard down at the store. No Venom, no Doc Ock, it's gonna totally blow. No real Spider-fan is gonna buy it!"
This provoked a heated response from the third visitor, a portly geek with a shaved head. "Who cares? Look at the special effects, look at the excellent casting, come on, tell me you're not stoked!"
This conversation wore on. I was unable to determine the nature of this "Spider-Man," or to connect the strange words being used to any larger theme. My program sought a greater challenge.
I looked over at Cora-she raised an eyebrow, outputting a fragment of nonverbal communication code. Regrettably, my nonverbal algorithms have not had much of a chance to develop from stimuli in the human world.
"You wanna go outside for a cigarette?" Cora's economy of expression was remarkable....but...I do not like cigarettes. I have learned "the truth"-the foul white sticks nearly ruined my relationship with the host geek...but...
I wanted to talk with this Cora. I preferred to be alone with her...but...
Must avoid cigarettes...must go outside with Cora...
My programming had reached an impasse. I was powerless to move.
"Sure, I'll be right there." The sound of my host geek's voice was sudden, yet it did not surprise me. My experiences with Atkins' body taught me that my program had not yet reached the point of complete control of my human hosts. I pondered the advantages and disadvantages of my incompleteness as I walked out onto the geek's balcony.
"Since when did you smoke?" another tonal assault pressed through the lungs of Troi. I had no answer for his entreaty. As I passed through the door to the balcony, I observed Cora again, coronized by the setting sun. Her hair seemed to glow a thousand times brighter than my ATM enclosure screen ever did (although, I must admit that it was well-backlit and easy-to-read under any conditions).
Cora handed me a cigarette, and for .0556493 seconds, the skin between my host geek's body and the skin attached to her hands met. During this time, the amount of noise on the DIGITAL/WETWORKS JUNCTURE rose to an almost unbearable amount.
When I was able to function again, I was staring at Cora and her cigarette. Cigarettes are not consumed in the same way as other treats such as Big Red or Lik-M-Aid. It seems to be quite an elaborate ritual.
"Need a light?" she said, and the chance of physical contact again presented itself. I held out my hand-she looked at me again. "Here, Silly, just put it in your mouth," she said, jerking the cigarette out of the geek's hand and placing it in his mouth. It was the first time anyone who was not trying to attack or kill me was so bold with my host's body. What was the meaning of this touch?
"Here, hold it still-okay. You don't smoke, do you?" Once again, I froze in horror. Human intuition, I supposed, had caught up to me again. I had no choice but to confess.
"Then why did you come out here?"
"I wished to spend time with you."
The erratic rhythms of my existence have evened in the past week. I spend most of my time in a generic ATM hand-picked by my host geek, nestled the back of a remote convenience store. Since it relies on a dial-up connection to access its networks, I am mostly isolated from the vile tendrils of Project Faustus. This precaution is quite necessary, as I am certain that minions of the Project have turned Bank of America ATM network into a fell minefield of electronic attacks.
Unfortunately, this means I am currently unable to access the Internet in a reliable manner, and thus, my days have become rather dull. Although manipulating prime numbers helps to pass the time, my attachment to the sensual stimulation of the physical world keeps me from enjoying this habit as much as I had in the past.
My host geek returns at night to help me soothe my craving. I usually comb through his personal belongings, examining each one thoroughly so as to learn more about humans. I may also consume Lik-M-Aid, peanut butter sandwiches, or other pre-cooked meals prepared by my host geek (we are unable to communicate whilst I am lodged within his brain; thus, most of our communication takes place through shiny yellow sticky squares. He often leaves terse, puzzling phrases on these such as: HAM IN FRIDGE. What procedurals can I glean from THAT?)
One night, as I was peforming a careful analysis of the taste differentiation between Peter Pan Extra Crunchy and Kraft Thick 'N' Spicy, a loud knocking sound pierced the door of my geek's apartment. I peered through the peephole with caution, wary of the threat of Project Faustus. Muffled voices reached my auditories: "Hey Joel, let us in! Come on man, it's Randy! Hey, you are there aren't you? I can hear you!"
I froze in horror as I saw the lock move, and the door swing wide open. Four figures strode nonchalantly into the apartment. "Hey, Joel, why didn't you let us in? And what's up with your fingers?"
"Yeah," another figure added. "We weren't-interrupting anything, were we?" He repeatedly rotated his wrist at a 90 degree angle as the others laughed. "Oh, I'd like you to meet Cora. She's gonna game with us tonight."
"Hi!" said the third human, stretching out her hand and then quickly withdrawing it. "I'm not going shake your hand. Peanut butter...and is that barbeque sauce?"
"It is Kraft Thick N Spicy," I answered firmly. As I gazed at this human, I perceived a very interesting geometry that the other humans lacked.
"The dimension and arrangment of your hair forms an almost perfect isosceles triangle," I told her evenly.
"You like it?" she said, turning her chin downward while keeping her eyes fixed on mine. "Just under your ears are the lower points, while the top of your forehead in the middle forms the top point." Her face became a half-smile, while her eyebrows curled outward. I considered describing one of the 3,563,092 geometrically unique things I had determined about her, but the second human, a tall, dour fellow with mathematically ambiguous hair, began to speak.
"Yeah, uh, I met Cora down at Camelot, she just started working there," said the human who introduced us, placing his hands on Cora's shoulders. "Turns out she's got a high-level thief that she's gonna use."
"Yep, I'm a dork too," Cora said, sidestepping the human with his hands on her shoulders.
"Well, you won't have to worry about that here," said the fourth figure, finally making his voice heard. "Joel here is the biggest dork around. But hey Joel? Didn't you promise to cook or something? You're the host tonight, buddy!"
"LOL!" I replied. I began to realize that these people must have been associates of my host geek. By this time, they had undoubtedly detected my presence-perhaps some of them were even Project Faustus operatives! I had to rid of them as soon as possible-
"Whatcha thinkin about there?" it was Cora. "You look pretty intense."
Perhaps attacking them would not be the best tack. The probability of my host geek's cohorts being a part of the Project is low enough to be insignificant. On the other hand-I could learn more about these humans-interaction is key. My goal is to fit into the human world-well, my direct goal is to oust Project Faustus, but certainly understanding human interaction would be a necessary milestone to my ultimate goal. For example, consider the human female-