Artificial

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Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:23 pm

Taking a deep breath, model O95332-FC9, known more commonly as Megan Luena, closed her eyes as she felt the moment approach. Deep within her, a steadily decaying timer block of an unstable calcium isotope shed it's last atoms, it's year-long life coming to a close. A thin beam of light, blocked since it's activation, shone unhindered into a receptor, which began broadcasting news of this to every cell and structure of her body.

All of this happened within an area smaller than a cell and at a speed of .98C, nearly as fast as light can travel.

Megan exhaled.

At a level of consciousness similar to that of the kind that controls a natural human's breathing and blinking, a program stirred in her central processing area, immediately streaming data into her concious mind, sending it a very clear question, one that would both change her life but was, in the end, as unavoidable as life itself.

Proceed with conception operation?

Clusters of neuron-sized transistors flipped over and over, streaming thought through Megan's mind in base-4 code as she struggled to come to a decision. For two years she had been putting off this moment, every birthday since she'd turned 18. As a Breedbot, she was both inclined towards and designed for pregnancy and mothering, a duty that the government insisted was that of every fertile woman in this underpopulated world. Not to be satisfied with regular birth rates, they introduced the first artificial humans like her, to raise the population to a less critical level.

And so she felt the pressure of pre-coded arguments rising in her mind, urging her to say yes. A yearning rose within her, put there by the shape and structure of her personality matrix itself, making her want to do it. More subtle, non-specific areas of her electronic brain wrote and ran new thought programs off code fragments of her main ones, helping her see once and for all how there was no point fighting it, making her love doing it.

She experienced each of these processes as her own thoughts and decisions, which, for all intents and purposes, they were.

Biting her organic lip, built from the very same DNA that would go into her entirely human child, she allowed the automatic conception to proceed.

"Hey, Megs, you alright?"

Her eyes opened again, and she pulled herself away from her preoccupations with the future to answer. "Uh, yeah, sorry. I just sorta blanked for a sec, what were you talking about?"

Jakk Harley, one of her closest and longest-known human friends, raised his eyebrows questioningly, but didn't press more on the subject. "Party, do you want one or not? I mean, it doesn't have to be a big thing or anything. Hell, you could grab everyone else and just go to some food place and I'd be fine, but I feel weird not doing anything for your birthday, Megs."

Completely back down to earth now, she shook her head, pressing her lips together. "No, I..." She hesitated, trying to come up with an excuse. Failing, she sighed. "I just don't feel that much like celebrating today, okay? Turning twenty has... Well, it's given me a lot of things to think about."

Looking down, she stirred her coffee, feeling Jakk's stare burning into the top of her head as he appraised her answer. She made to take a sip of it, but inhaled as the drink neared her mouth, the earthy scent of the drink suddenly repulsive to her. She sighed and set the cup down. It was starting.

There was silence for a few moments, and then Jakk said, "Is this one of those bot things?" He was only half-joking, Megan knew. There were notes of real concern in his voice, and his eyebrows were furrowed when she looked back up at him, wondering what could make her, normally a friendly, open girl, suddenly turn down a party with all her favorite people.

Opening her mouth, she considered trying another lie, but gave in with a sigh. "Sort of. I mean, it is, partially." She hoped that Jakk wouldn't dwell too much on that. When a Breedbot, the only Cyborganic line designed specifically and totally for pregnancy and children, has bot issues, you can usually tell what's wrong pretty fast. "I just want to be alone for a bit, do you think maybe we could have the party tomorrow or something?"

Looking at her over steepled fingers, he didn't respond for a while, finally shrugging and taking his elbows off the sticky cafe table. "Maybe, I think Jamie has to work tomorrow though, and Adem won't want to come without her, of course. And then, without both of them, the whole thing just feels incomplete."

Megan allowed herself a half-smile, the corner of her mouth tugging up involuntarily. Adem was the male equivalent to her bot type, a verily heavily disputed, and, she suspected, envied, line nicknamed "Manbots". They were given the whole regular range of human emotions, like all civilan bot-types, but where she had a pre-programmed desire to be a mother, they had a binding loyalty program, which completely prevented the very real threat of infidelity. Manbots were, after all, designed to be the perfect male. There were some people who called this a violation of free will, which was where the whole disupted part came into it.

Still smiling, she closed her eyes and nodded in acknowledgement, reaching up to brush a strand of her black hair out of her face. "Okay, yeah, true. Today or nothing, I get it." He gave her a sad puppy look, sticking out his lower lip, and she turned away, grinning now. "Stop it, fine, you big baby. Tell everyone to meet up at the Premium Place around six."

Making to get up, she glared at him sarcastically. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go find some decent clothes to wear." He grinned up at her like an idiot, and she whacked him playfully in the shoulder as she walked past him to the door.

Hearing a chair scrape across the floor behind her, she was quickly joined by Jakk, still grinning, but at least making an effort to stop. "See? All you needed was something to take your mind off things. This party is just what you need, you'll see. Overtaking her, he opened the door for her as they left, both heading for the nearest sub stop. Walking in silence for a bit, as they reached the small shelter that marked their destination, Jakk shoved his hands in his pockets and turned to her with a sigh.

"Listen, I know I pressed you a bit there, but I mean, you don't have to do this if you REALLY don't want to. You don't have to go to a party and pretend to like it for our sake, Megs. If you need some time to come to terms with whatever, you take it, kay?"

Megan shook her head, stepping forward as the sleek tube of the sub gracefully decelerated from it's supersonic speed to a halt at their stop. "No, you were right, I just need to take my mind off it. Really, I mean it," she added after a reproachful look from Jakk. Grinning, she stepped onto the train. "Let's party."




This is the first thing I've written in a while, and while it's better than what I've done before I still don't feel it's the best I can do. Unreserved criticism would be appreciated.
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このプログラムは、心を持っている。
I can smile.
I am human.
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Иanophяeak
Member for 5 years



Re: Artificial

Postby Cer on Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:44 pm

I liked this. At first, it did throw me off about the breedbot, and I was almost half expecting her to pounce on Jakk by the end. Still, I managed to get into the writing, and I feel as if I've been left hanging at the proverbial cliff. Critiquing wise, watch about your "it's" and "its". There are quite a few "it is" that should be "its". Otherwise, I thought the character interaction went nicely! I have trouble with that myself at times, but it was a beautiful job. If you believe there's room for improvement, you'll be on the epic list in no time. =)
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[Thank you, Master!]
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Until my death and beyond my decay.
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Re: Artificial

Postby ViceVersus on Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:24 pm

Nanooooo! Nice to see you back around, posting stuff and whatnot.

This is a gorgeously crafted piece of fiction. I don't know much about the sci-fi/futuristic genre, but I almost think that gives me a freer ranger to enjoy it, you know? Without having all the usual jargon floating around in my head, I can just sit back and enjoy this brief little one-shot -- this little world you sort of sculpted out.

Umm .. dunno where to start. The deft way you introduced your protagonist, the Breedbot and her mentality .. the programmed nature vs whatever else she might think there is grabbed me right away, definitely. When I said gorgeously crafted, I meant gorgeously crafted. There are no stray sentences that could be shaved off, and for the most part your word choice was concise and neat in that sense, too.

I really liked it. It was fun to read. You're a good writer, and so I don't really have anything to say in the way of mechanics -- unless I reiterate what Cer already said, which would be cheating.

Keep it up!
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Re: Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:12 pm

In the primary CPU of a female Cyborganic, a program began to stir. Data streaming in through audio sensors indicated that a change had to occur, and the program was the one designated to perform this change. The data continuing to come in, the program began forming preliminary connections through the transistors of the female's brain, activating several other programs and partially turning others on. For now, nothing was done aside from this. Everything was on standby. A quota had to be filled first, and the audio information was nearing that quota.

The first program processed and computed, sending a repetitive line of one-zero-one-zero to all other linked programs. The quota was reached, then surpassed. The broadcast of actual instruction began. The next thing to be activated was all the unconscious parts of the brain. The pulsing of the fission/fusion power core and the several small cardiovascular valves that controlled organic blood flow all sped up. Respiration increased. Several muscles and hydraulics moved, but still the program had not finished.

With only 20% of the CPU active, the program incurred its greatest change. With a single ping, it started all inactive programs on the path to boot-up. These programs were unaware of what had woken them, or even that they were programs. They were more concerned with other things, and began to go about these things with a slightly cross attitude.

WAKEUP.cbg, the initial program that started all this, saw that it had successfully awakened the CPU, and immediately became dormant.

Megan Electricien, Breedbot, had just woken up and was trying to sit up in her bed. Failing halfway, she slimped back down with a mumble of, "Uhnng." A clock set into the doorframe of the hall exit displayed 6:00 AM, and was screaming noisily. Megan groaned again unhappily, and managed to slide onto the floor in a roughly upright position.

The drawers set into the frame of her bed opened at her touch. Taking a few clumsy tries to fasten a bra, she tugged on a shirt and pants with slightly less difficulty, then sluggishly shimmied a set of colorful tube socks over her feet. Lingering for a moment on the floor, unenthusiastic towards the idea of getting up, she finally sighed and stood, the doorframe going silent as she passed through it.

Eyes half open, she shuffled into the bathroom and flicked the wall, turning on the lights and mirror. Reaching out for a brush, she idly started to shove it through her black hair, which was in a chronic state of sleepy disarray. A window popped up in the lower right-hand corner of the mirror, wishing her a good morning and notifying her that the house had noticed she was awake, and wanted to know if she would like some coffee. Switching the brush to her left hand, she tapped yes, then selected the amount of creams and sugars to go in it. The window closed, and displayed the patch of wallpaper on the opposite wall that it normally did.

Hair acceptably straight, she set down the brush and leaned closer to the mirror, checking both sides of her face for anything unsightly. Plucking a fallen eyelash from her cheek, she reached over to a bottle of clear liquid, which flowed around its container on its own power. Popping open the top, she filled her mouth with it and swished it around, shuddering at the taste and sensation as the helpful bacteria within it ate everything that shouldn't be in her mouth, eroding away plaque and microscopic bits of leftover food. She spat it out, rinsed with some regular water and walked out of the bathroom, fingers brushing against the wall to turn off the light.

The living room at the end of the hall was dim. The morning sun was still below the horizon somewhere off to the east, and the light that came through the windows was weak and gray. In the kitchen, a cup of coffee sat below an automated dispenser on the counter next to the fridge. She took it in her hands, letting the warmth seep into her fingers for a few seconds.

She took a sip, and the heat slid down into her throat and stomach, warming her insides. After yesterday's dinner had been fully used, the coffee would be broken down in her fission/fusion powercore to keep her alive; the atoms fused and split repeatedly until they formed materials needed by her body, releasing energy with each reaction. For now, it was only 'tasted' by cells lining her lower esophagus, which sent the chemical composition of what entered her body to the unconscious portion of her CPU, so the approriate response could be simulated by her body. This occurred within the space of half a second, mostly analysis time.

She took another gulp, unmindful of the regular processes taking place in her body. Glancing at the time in the living room, 6:16 AM, she walked over to the coat closet and opened it with a touch. Selecting her favorite maroon leather jacket, she held the coffee mug in one hand as she slipped a sleeve over the other. Shifting the mug into her opposite arm, she finished pulling the coat on and fastened it one-handedly. She went out the door to the outside then closed it behind her, automatically activating a locking mechanism that kept out anyone lacking her exact DNA. Standard home security.

In the cool spring morning air, the caffeine and warmth of the coffee helped wake her up quickly, and by the time that her car was activating to the touch of her hands, she felt wide awake. Slipping the mug into an adaptive cupholder, she pulled the car out of the driveway and onto the road.

Fifteen or so minutes later, she parked in her employee spot in front of a nondescript concrete building. 300 years ago, a cryogenic storage facility had been built beneath this spot. Last year, it was discovered by construction workers attempting to build a grocery store. Instead, it was repurposed as a reanimation and cryogenic rehabilitation center. Megan worked as a culture shock counselor for recently awakened subjects.

Leaving her car genelocked, she entered the building, showing her ID to the guard posted at the door. Nodding to co-workers and responding to the odd "Hey Megan," as she walked through the halls, she navigated her way downward, towards the main reanimation center. On her way, she touched a rough concrete band that ran along the wall, part of the original plug that had been intended to seal this place off from the world, as well as any form of radiation.

Stopping in front of a room marked "MED 4" in faded paint, she rummaged around in her pockets, eventually pulling out a pair of darkened glasses. Unfolding them and putting them on, she took a deep breath, and turned the doorknob.

Inside, a man of no more than thirty lounged in a medical bed. His clothes were strangely cut, very baggy but not apparently oversized, and marked all over with icons, names, and ideas that had been long forgotten.

His face, too, betrayed subtle clues of being from a different time. A few hundred years of racial mixing had blurred the lines between race characteristics, blurring that had not occurred on his face. His jawbone had a very sharp angle to it, even for a man, from Megan's point of view. His hair had a peculiar sheen, and his skin was very pale compared to the average tone. That may have just been part of being frozen for three centuries, however.

He was smiling, comfortable for the moment. The place where he was now was made up to look like his time period, and as far as he knew everyone was 100% human. "What's up?" he asked, the accent of his voice unfamiliar.

Even though by now Megan knew what the phrase meant, she looked upwards, faking confusion. It was time for him to start realizing how different things were.

"No, no," he said, sitting up. "It means, what do you want?"

She smiled at him, lowering herself into a chair close to his bed. "Well, first, I'd like to know your name. It'll help me to talk to you, and we have a lot of talking to do."

Running a hand through his hair, he casually looked around the room as he answered. "Lucas Machiavelli. Charmed."

Idly, Megan noticed the abnormal amount of hair on his forearms. Each reanimated person seemed so different, both from each other and from people now, in every little detail of themselves. "Megan Electricien," she responded. "Likewise. I'm here to make sure that you don't get overwhelmed by being introduced into a completely new time period, which could cause you to go insane without a little bit of forewarning on some of the more radical aspects. First though, if you don't mind, I'd to know whatever you can tell me about what the world was like when you froze yourself. Just say what you feel was most important, so I know what to explain to you first."

He thought for a moment, fingers sliding again and again through his hair. "It was 2003, and The United States of America was the biggest power in the world. Bush was president, and we were involved with a bit of a scuffle in the Middle East over some terrorists who flew a plane into a couple of our important buildings. Cell phones and personal computers were big, pretty much everyone had one of both, and we were flying into space in shuttles fairly often."

Megan nodded. "Simple enough. The main things you'll need to know are you are now in the United North American Empire, or UNAE, one of five nations that rule the populated world, each of whom hold equal power. Large scale war has been replaced with small, controlled skirmishes in areas set aside specifically for that purpose. Technology as a whole has advanced, but biology has come especially far, as you'll see. I can't stress that enough. I want you to start trying to realize that everything is alive in one way or another. If you at least know that in some way, you should be able to cope the first time a dog talks." She smiled, letting him know she was kidding. He smiled back, but it was hard to read the effect this was having on him from his odd face.

"Alright, cool. Biology. I'm, uh, having a hard time imagining how that could be in everything, but I feel like I could handle it. Unless there's some super astounding thing that's been done that'll blow my mind for sure?" He grinned a bit more, his expression easing up a little.

Pretending to think for a moment, Megan nodded slowly. "Well, there is this one thing..."

Reaching up, she took off the glasses she had put on before coming in, revealing her green eyes. Leaning close to Lucas, she looked directly at him, making an effort not to blink too much. "Watch my eyes for a moment, and tell me what you see."

He raised an eyebrow, smirking, but proceeded to stare at her right eye, paying close attention to every detail. His eyebrows furrowed after a second, and then his mouth popped open. Megan focused on his face, then the wall behind him, then his face again, to make what she was showing him more obvious. His reaction was immediate.

Shoving himself backwards, he yelled in shock. "Your eye! It's a fucking CAMERA!!!" He jumped off the bed, pressing himself into a corner. "Oh man, what the fuck, what the fuck are you?!"

Megan, who was by now used to this sort of response, simply frowned. "Didn't people have manners in your time? Sit down, I'm not going to laser your face off or something."

Hesitantly, he took a cautious step towards the gurney, watching her warily. Sliding himself onto the far edge of the cushion, he seemed unable to look away from her eyes. Putting the glasses back on, she began to berate him. "You can't be doing that when you meet people on the street, it's terribly rude. And as at the moment roughly 50% of the population are like me, you're not going to be too popular. Now, as for what I am, I'm what you'd think of as a robot, but am officially called a Cyborganic, sort of like an artificial human. We mature, think, love, act, and essentially are humans, we just use different mechanisms inside. We all have organic parts, with unique DNA. The only practical difference is that we split into 23 different bot types, each with their own specializations and names."

A little bit of the fear faded out of Lucas's expression, replaced with confusion. "Ah, uh. Okay, so your organs and stuff are just... engines."

Laughing, Megan said, "Whatever you need to imagine to keep sane. We do have an engine of sorts, but... that's not important."

"Okay... Two questions, though. How are you specialized, and why the hell are you have the population?"

Still smiling, amused, she leaned back in her chair. "For specialization... the 23 types all have their own design modifications from the norm to make them best at what they're meant to do. For example, if you see a man lift 200 kilos like it's nothing, he's probably a Strongbot, which have cords of special fibers in place of typical muscles or muscle-like structures that allow them to lift more. Or if you see someone outrunning a car, they're a Runbot, which have special internal leg structures and gyroscopes that allow them go up to 150 kilometers per hour. Other kinds that might, ah, unnerve you are Beastbots and Freakbots. Beastbots are animal hybrids, humans mixed with dogs, birds, bears, all sorts of creatures. They're actually pretty normal once you get to know them, but a few do have some animal-ish habits. Very territorial, and all that. Freakbots, though, even creep me out sometimes. They love being different, as much as they can, and their bodies are modifiable in extreme ways. They can literally unplug their arms and put in different ones, and both of those arms will do something bizarre. Just... weird. The point is that they're supposed to be cultural variables, sitting on the opposite end of the spectrum than most people, to keep it mixed up. Way back they proved that uniformity and conformity can reduce the overall IQ of a population. Thus, Freakbots. But anyway, yeah. You'll probably still be a bit put off the first time you see one, but knowing what they are should help you from completely losing your mind. Any additional questions before I answer your second one?"

His mouth, which had been hanging slightly open since she began describing Runbots, closed. After a moment, he nodded. "Yeah, yeah. I've got one." He grinned a little. "Which bot type are you?"

Blushing, Megan looked away from him. "Let me tell you the reason half the world runs on electricity first. Otherwise you'll get the wrong idea."

His smile faded and disappeared. "I get the feeling this isn't a nice story."

Megan nodded. "It's also a long one, so get comfortable." He settled into the position he'd been in when she first entered the room, and she took note of this in her head. He was fairly comfortable, mentally as well as physically, by this point. She was doing something very right today. Taking a deep breath, she began.

"Around 2093, war broke out. We don't know who was fighting, or what they were fighting over, because of how destructive the war was. After conventional tactics apparently proved insufficient in killing enough people, the countries at war turned weapons of mass destruction. A single weapon, actually, which they all possessed.

"It was a biological bomb. Traces of the virus it released remained over the centuries, and today we know that it created all the symptoms of radiation sickness, killing within hours as people drowned in their own fluids. A nuke, without the destruction and ravaging of conquerable land. The countries must not have realized that they all had the same weapon at first, but once they did, they launched all they had. Cities were the main target, and so many bombs fell that, ninety-five percent of the population later, only five remained untouched. The rest fell to the practically 100% mortality rate and extreme communicability of the viruses. Eight billion people died in the space of one week. Asia was the heaviest hit."

Looking up at the ceiling, Lucas's expression became oddly blank. His voice was neutral as he asked, "So I take it... none of my descendants are even alive?"

Feeling uncomfortable, as she always did when this question was asked, Megan shook her head very slightly. "Probably not. I know a lot of people get... upset, when we tell them the great-grandchildren they never knew died to some stupid war, but again, you're still alive. You've got a new life here, and, I might add, the quality of life has improved significantly since your time. You get to start again."

He sighed. "Yeah..." He turned to look at Megan, folding his hands on his chest. "I had a son, back then. I wanted to get froze because... I didn't want to be a dad. It's sorta weird though, to think he grew up, had kids, grandkids, then died to some bomb one day." He looked back up at the ceiling, and didn't say more. Megan let him come to terms with things for a moment, then said quietly, "We can run a DNA check later. Someone might have lived. For now, I'd like to go on with the story, to help you understand this world."

He nodded, and said nothing. Megan took this as an okay to continue.

"The five cities that survived the war are now the capitals of the five countries in the world. They are Toronto, New Orleans, Salvador, Lyon, and Dublin. Respectively, they are the capitals of the United North American Empire, the United Southern Sector, the Confederacy of Lower Earth, the French Regiment, and English Parliamentary. This country, the first one, is usually called the UNAE, and uses an Imperial Republic, lead by an Emperor chosen by the previous ruler and approved by an elected congress."

"Now, five countries might not seem like a lot, but each controls a very large amount of territory. The smallest, the Confederacy of Lower Earth, controls the entire lower half of South America. But the populations of each country, in the aftermath of the war, were too small. There simply weren't enough people to support a modern society. So the governments began giving out boons to anyone who had children, to encourage growth. It worked, but only barely. Civilization was still on a cliff's edge, close to falling to pieces at the slightest push.

"For a century and a half, we grew slowly, becoming more stable. Life wasn't very comfortable, but your house would be warm in the winter, and someone couldn't just stroll up and shoot you without repercussions. People managed.

"But then, out of the blue this trust of robotics companies called Centurion Companies suddenly announced they had the solution to underpopulation. Us, Cyborganics. The governments jumped on it, and before even a year had passed companies were pumping out cyborganic babies by the thousands, spiking the population. It actually got out of control for a few years, and the governments had to break up Centurion's trust to keep the population from getting too high. At that time, there were only two types of bot, the original models. As time went on, more kinds were added, but those first two are what may have saved humanity. Those models were the Lifebots, who were just regular, unenhanced humans, and the Breedbots, female cyborganics capable of non-sexual reproduction." She started to blush. "Able to make children without sexual activity, whenever they wanted. Programmed to be wonderful mothers. And of course, very fertile for the 'natural way'."

Lucas sat up. "And that's what you are. A Breedbot. You forgot the part about enhanced beauty, they didn't make them like you where... I mean, when I'm from."


She smiled, embarrassed. "They didn't 'make' them at all when you're from. But thanks. I'm actually only slightly more attractive than the average girl. After a century of perfect gene infusions from Cyborganics reproducing, along with three centuries of pretty women having babies with handsome men, the bar has raised a bit since your time. Don't worry though, you're still acceptably attractive."

He grinned wholeheartedly now, delighted. "Oh man, they had theories about stuff like this in my time, but I never thought about it until now, that's awesome." Fingers through the hair again, and his eyes snapped over to Megan. "Hey, kinda off topic here, but how do you know all this? You seem like a walking history book."

Laughing, she shook her head. "I did have to study a bit so I could explain like his,but a lot of this is standard knowledge. Don't tell me you didn't know the story of how your country was founded by heart. It's pretty much the same thing."

"Ah, cool, cool." He scratched the back of his neck. "So, uh, what now?"

Megan pressed a button on the wall by his bed. "Now a couple people are going to come in and help you get started with living in this time. They're Cyborganics, so you can start to get used to being around us and have it hammered into your head that we're not that much different. But I think you're already pretty okay, or at least, you won't have a heart attack the first time you see a Freakbot. Any last questions?"

He hesitated, then leaned in close to her. Whispering, clearly feeling awkward, he asked, "Can I see the eyes again?"


She nodded, taking the glasses off once more. He watched in fascination, entranced by the way her iris shifted as she focused her eyes. Bunches of paper-thin lenses formed the dark pupil, with cams attached to a portion of the rim on each lens. When the lenses shifted focus, the cams spun, moving over each other. All the cams together overlapped to for a complete circle, and were painted green, making the whole assembly look like the cams were an iris and the stack of lenses a pupil.

Lucas kept watching for a few minutes, until the people Megan had called for entered the room. He took his eyes away reluctantly, leaning back against the bed. "Wow. This really is the future, isn't it?"

Smiling reassuringly, Megan made to leave. "It is. Good luck, Lucas."




Compare this to the first post, tell me which you like most. I'm actually thinking if putting the first part in after this, when she gets out of work. With the appropriate modifications, of course.
Last edited by Иanophяeak on Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Иanophяeak
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Re: Artificial

Postby Izoi on Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:53 pm

Excellently written, the characters are people you can identify with on some level and the story just pulls you in.
I read a lot of science fiction and have strayed into a lot of sub genre's of it, and I know what I like. This I like.

Comparing the first post to the second, if I were to have to place them in sequential order, I would put your second portion first. Flip them around essentially.
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Re: Artificial

Postby Village Alchemist on Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:56 pm

Two things:

First, Megan's last name changed between the first and second posts. Did she get married?

Second, why are the Breedbots necessary if this Centurion can just build as many cyborganics as are needed?
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Re: Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:19 pm

I'm not sure what I want her last name to be. I'm playing with the concept of old names being erased during the century-long period of confusion after the initial war, with new names formed after occupations (like they were back in the days). Electricien just means Electrician in French. Her (adoptive) family came from there initially. Luena just sounded nice and meant nothing.

And there are strict limits on how many Cyborganics can be produced. The UNAE has the maximum percentage in relation to the total human population, 50%, because they actually use Cyborganics for military use as well as just typical Lifebots and Breedbots, but most of the other countries hover at 10% of the total population. Breedbots are produced in equal quantities to any other bot type, as they don't stop the production of any bot type, even the ones with fairly arbitrary abilities. It'd be like genocide.
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Re: Artificial

Postby Symphony on Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:34 pm

I must say, I just adore the way this is filling out. You had me hooked from the beginning, and I had to keep reading. I would love to see more of this, and other than the questions and edits that were already said, I don't have much to criticize about this. The plot is very well thought out and you go into detail where its needed, though you kept me wondering what was going to happen next. Its organized and easy to read, but its also intriguing and kept my mind wondering about the possibilities.

Other than that, again, I can't wait to read more of this and see how the story lays out. I would like to see more about how the Breedbots work, considering the main character is one. Very nice Man vs Society in the second writing, it gives things an edge, plus it was a clever way to help us all understand things a tad more. I felt like I was going through the introduction to the new world with him, and the reactions were appropriate for what was happening.
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Symphony
Member for 4 years


Re: Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Sun Oct 17, 2010 10:41 pm

Chapter Two just got dropp'd.


Later, in her office, Megan was busy typing her impressions of Lucas to send to the head of the psychology department. As offices went, it was actually just a largeish repurposed closet with a shelf for a datapad and one very large, comfortable chair, on which Megan currently sat with the datapad in her lap, murmuring to herself.

"Subject... seems very... at ease with... the Cyborganic population. However... remorse over son... combined with other comments... leads me to... believe... he may have trouble... integrating with modern... culture. Precautionary... therapy... suggested." Adding her signature to the pad with an attached stylus, she delievered the report to the boss, immediately receiving a confirmation message in her inbox.

Sliding the datapad back onto it's shelf, Megan stretched out straight in her chair, groaning comfortably as her muscles loosened. Lazily pulling herself up onto her feet, she headed down the corridor to the break room to grab some lunch.

Having chosen a Caesar salad from the self-replenishing fridge, she was in the middle of sprinkling dressing onto the cloned, individually grown leaves when she received a firm poke in the left shoulder, jolting her arm and the pitcher in her hand. A gout of ranch dressing spilled onto the counter, and with a sigh, Megan dug an elbow into the ribcage of the man behind her. From behind and above her right ear, there was a chuckle. "Hey Megs."

Setting the pitcher down far from the puddle, she turned and gave the man a glare. Jakk Harley, a short, burly cryotechnician, was one of her few work friends, and had an odd sense of humor when it came to making messes. He grinned at her, as he always did, mouth splitting his wide square of a face in two. "So, I heard you just got done with that Lucas kid. He was a riot, burst out of the pod wearing sunglasses and shouting something about 1.21 gigawatts. Then he tripped over a nitrogen tube and knocked out the guy reviving him. Priceless."

Megan pushed past him to get at the area with the cleaning supplies, she said, "Yeah, hilarious. Seems like something he would do. He was pretty much just a scared kid, trying to run from consequences. You know the type." Opening a cupboard, she pulled out a small, flat soakpad, the spongy material starting to absorb the oil and sweat from her fingers as she held it.

Going back to the spill, she stuck it into the dressing, where it immediately beginning to suck it up. She moved it around a bit to get all of it, and by the time the countertop was spotless, the soakpad had barely swelled. She tossed it in the sink carelessly, then leaned against the fridge and folded her arms. "So, to what reason do I owe this honor. I don't think I've ever seen out outside of the cryolab on the clock. You must have something important to tell me, and I admit, I'm curious."

His grin faded and disappeared. "Oh man. You're not serious, are you?" He grabbed a calendar off the wall and held it in front of her. "Check the date, airhead."

Taking the calendar from Jakk, she traced a finger across and down to todays date, staring at the numbered square for a moment before it hit her. "Oh," she murmured. "Oh. It's my birthday. Ah, geez, I'm sorry Jakk, the week's just been so hectic, I was drowning in paperwork about the critical evaluation of that scientist guy and the admins kept badgering me and I-"

The cold, hard hand of a man who worked with liquid nitrogen ten hours a day clapped over her mouth, and Jakk raised an eyebrow at her, smiling just a little. "First off, don't apologize for forgetting your birthday, it's sorta stupid. Now, you have to meet me at the Liquid Leisure after work. We have to discuss plans for your party."

He took his hand away, and Megan sighed. "Yeah, I'll see you there." Looking at her critically for a moment, Jakk patted her on the shoulder and strode off towards the cryolab. Megan stood there a while, staring at the wall in front of her, then walked out of the room, leaving her salad behind.

Walking faster and faster as she moved further down the hall, she was bolting by the time she came to her office, slamming the door behind her. She seeked out the chair as her safe haven, curling into a ball and clutching her knees as she struggled to keep her mind blank. She managed to keep her blank stare for several minutes, gaze unfocused on the door in front of her.

The clock's numbers above the door changed, and her non-concentration shattered.

"Again..." she thought.

And her mind swelled with emotion.

Every year, a choice was presented to Megan. For another year, she could either continue living as she had for the past two since she turned eighteen, alone in her home with no one to care for, nobody to even speak to.

Or.

She could activate the functions within her that allowed her to have a child with no partner, to satisfy one of her most basic desires, and become a mother as soon as possible.

At the time of day precisely equal to that of her initial activation, the true choice would be presented. Until now, she had been able to say no each time, hoping that in the year bought she could find someone she was comfortable living with and bringing up a child with. In other words, someone she loved.

Now though, after three years of resisting, the desire was very strong. By nature, she preferred to be around people, children especially. Her many friends helped, in a way. But they could not be with her every moment of the day, and not at all during the night, when her bed felt cold in a way that had no relation to the actual temperature. Cold, with no baby to cradle as she slept, or partner to hold. She wanted both of those things, and the desires conflicted violently in her head. Quietly, she began to cry.

Fifteen minutes of confused thought and wet sleeves later, she picked herself up and stood as tall as you could at 1.6 meters. To no one in particular, she mumbled, "Okay."

Sniffling, she checked the clock above her door. She still had three hours left in her shift, but unless there was going to be another reanimation today, she could leave. And finding out if there was another was as simple as talking to the man who knew everything.

Checking outside her door to make sure nobody saw, Megan quickly dashed into the bathroom, checking her eyes for redness. Seeing that they weren't, at least not noticeably, she was out before the door had swung fully shut. Grabbing her jacket from a hook by her office door, she headed for the room at the far end of the hall from the stairwell. As she approached, faint music became audible behind the door to the room, a light electronic piece. Knocking tentatively, the door opened immediately for her.

Lounging on a couch with his feet propped up on an arm, a thin man of about nineteen smiled up at her dreamily. "Megan. Happy birthday. Please, come in."

Talking to Martin was always disquieting. Being an Infobot, he knew everything except highly personal information and military secrets through his mind link to the Database, the repository of all factual data on Earth. But he was smart as well as knowledgeable, and could make connections fairly quickly. He never actually seemed like a know-it-all, which was good, but the dazed and sleepy thing wasn't much better. Especially when his multi-spectrum eyes were taken into account. Light blue bordering on white, they gave a constant impression of peering into your mind. With the ability to see x-rays, he actually could peer into your mind.

Megan lingered at the door. "Nah, thanks, I want to get going. Just wanted to know if I actually would be able to go or if Cooper was going to order another unfreezing today." Cooper, the head of the facility, controlled the entire process from her office in the lobby up top, which meant if Megan tried to leave, she would be noticed. And chewed out, if she still had work to do.

His fingers tapped with the slow beat of the song, which appeared to be randomly generated, to prevent him from accessing a file somewhere and instantly knowing it by heart. His smile wavered oddly, and he pierced her with his eyes. "Of course, you need some time to think about this year's Big Question. No, no more thawing today. Good luck Megan. It'd be nice to see you smile with conviction sometime. Better yet, not to see you at all while you're on maternity leave."

His voice steadily rose as Megan began walking away by the time he'd said "Big Question," and when he finished with "maternity leave" she'd escalated to a run, crying again. Stopping to lean against a wall halfway to the stairwell, eyes streaming, she gasped out, "Fuck you, Martin." She got control of herself fairly quickly, and began slipping her jacket on once she felt she'd calmed down enough, pressing her eyes against the sleeves to dry them. Taking a few deep breaths to steady herself, she began the nine-story climb back to the surface.

At the line that marked the concrete seal, she was surprised to find someone waiting for her. Lucas Machiavelli sat on a stair, looking up from a datapad covered in words as she approached. His face broke out into a grin, and his fingers combed through his mop of hair. "Hey, Megan."

She looked at him curiously, and warily. "Hey, Lucas. Those citizenship and identity forms?"

"Yeah. Trying to figure out if I should fill in my own name or something more futuristic. What are names like nowadays? You said yours was Electricien?"

Nodding, she began to explain out of habit. "Electricien just means electrician in french. After the war a lot of people were given new last names based on occupations, and my great-great-grandfather from France was one of the first to get the lights back on. Soldier is a fairly common one, though I don't think it'd go well with Lucas. Maybe toy around with some translations."

"Ah," he said. Hey tapped the datapad a few times, then laughed and held it up to her, showing the edge of it. "To be honest, I've been playing more than working on this thing. Look at it. It's as thin as a damn sheet of paper, but it doesn't bend or anything. Wild. I don't even get how this could work, there's no place for a chip or anything. Do you know? You know everything."

Shaking her head, she managed to laugh a little. "No, we have special bots for knowing everything, called Infobots. I was just talking to one a moment ago, and they're nothing like me. All their info is outside their head. And as for datapads, no idea how they work really. It's just regular stuff to me. Why are you up here, by the way? I'm heading home myself, were you going upstairs to the temporary apartments?"

He rubbed the back of his neck, looking away. "Uh, well. No, I was actually hoping to catch you, thought you'd be out a lot later, so I brought the datapad to keep me busy. I just wanted to say... thanks. I know its your job, but it doesn't seem like just a job for you." He trailed off for a moment, then looked directly at her. "My son, my grandson actually, survived. I'm going to see some relatives in a couple days. I wouldn't have known to check for them if you hadn't told me. Thanks for that too." Seeming to run out of words, he cut off, staring at her.

"Well, you're welcome Lucas. I hope it works out well for you," said Megan, who knew where this was going and was very much not in the mood to deal with it.

There was silence for a few moments. Then Lucas's grin appeared again, and he asked, "So, do they have phone numbers in this time or do I ask for an e-mail directly to your brain instead?"

Megan sighed. "And here I thought you'd be able to pull that off so much more smoothly. I'm sorry, Lucas. You seem like a nice guy, but you're not my type."

His smile didn't waver in the slightest. "And what about me, exactly, isn't part of 'your type'?"

She waved a hand off to the side, saying, "Oh, you know, everything, pretty much." She hoped she would ask the right question so she could end this discussion quickly. It was one she'd had before, and she didn't enjoy it at the best of times.

"Well. That narrows it down a bit. So what is your type then, if you don't mind me asking?"

She started walking up the stairs again. "For starters, girls. After that, it doesn't matter for you. Good luck with life, Lucas. Maybe the next one will be straight. And I mean that."

She made it exactly ten steps before Lucas caught up with her. "You're joking?"

Giving him a brief look, Megan kept walking. "I'm not. Sorry."

Keeping pace a step behind her, he processed this for a moment. "Wow. I, uh. How... How is that sort of thing taken nowadays? Back in my time, people couldn't even marry if they were... whatever you call it anymore."

"The official term is still homosexual. The common word is faer. F-A-E-R. Same for both girls and boys. People really don't mind it, at least, no more than they would any other aspect about a person. It's less common though, I think, than it was in your time. Only about one in every twenty people is faer. And more of these people than you'd think are Breedbots."

He frowned. "Why?"

Megan pushed a door open and entered the lobby, not bothering to hold it open for Lucas. "Because we're the only ones who don't have to give up having children of our own for being with someone you love. So we're more free. We can always make it work." Stopping at the front door, she turned to Lucas. "Now look. If you want to be friends, or something, that's fine. But I'm going through some problems right now, and having some clueless cryo panting after me not even a day after he's thawed is not making me feel any better. So I'm going to go. If you have any more questions, I'll be back and in a better mood tomorrow. Get to your apartment.

Abruptly walking away, she left Lucas to stare after her while she walked to her car. As she pulled away, he waved slightly to her, feeling confused.

Watching her car drive away, Lucas shook his head. "Alright then. Women are still crazy. They're robots now, and beautiful, but they're still crazy. Great. Fantastic. This'll be fun." Shoving his hands in his pockets, he shuffled away to his apartment.
Last edited by Иanophяeak on Mon Oct 18, 2010 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Artificial

Postby ViceVersus on Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:54 pm

This is a rare thing, you know, that something comes across my desk here in the Creative Forum that I can just sit back and read through, enjoying it purely for the sake of enjoying it. This is what you've made here, and I found myself really looking forward to just kicking back and digesting the next paragraph.

You're a good storyteller. Your main protagonist was presented skillfully, just like any good story out to. As the episodic feel sort of wavers, I can't wait for the deeper, more underlying themes to start to present themselves -- if they haven't already.
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Re: Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Thu Oct 21, 2010 10:26 pm

Edit done to the second post, new beginning. Tell me what you think. More this weekend.
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Re: Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Fri Oct 22, 2010 11:43 pm

Have some prologue.



Occupying the only chair in the room, the CEO of a lowly robotics company faced the assembled rulers of the world, and smiled.

Directly before him was the emperor of the United North American Empire, Jacob Lareau, who returned a polite nod. Entering through the double doors that lead to the hall outside, Miguel Hernanda, the president of the Confederacao da Baixa da Terra, kept his dark face neutral. In various positions roughly in front of his desk, Hugh Hoxie, Marlin Gyles, and Fabian Perrault were respectively the head Consul of the United Southern Sector, Speaker of the English Parlimentary, and Premiere Senateur of the Nation de Regiment Francais. Together, they had convened the seventh National Assembly for the sole reason of speaking to him, Jason Ziguner, about what he had to offer them. The most powerful men in the world had admitted they needed what he had. And his ego was loving it.

Steepling his fingers as Miguel took his place before him, Jason looked to each of the men in turn, and spoke.

"Gentlemen, as we are all too well aware, this world is underpopulated. Your and your predecessors' collective efforts, while the best options available, have unfortunately not turned out enough of a growth. Without resorting to the moral battlefield that is cloning, our future is uncertain at best unless something effective is done, and done now, before a natural disaster, plague, or other such calamity can drive us back to the Stone Age."

"Today, I summoned you here," he boomed, pausing momentarily as he soaked in the idea that he had the power to summon these men. "I summoned you to see my company's solution to this global crisis. Through combination of several of our more advanced forms of utility robotics with bioengineering research conducted by your nations, along with the self-aware Leffein AI and the Leffein transistor, we have manufactured... humans."

The silence in the air was thick as the five men displayed various forms of shock. Hoxie's flabby face reddened as he took a step back, nearly bumping into Perrault, whose eyes bugged, spine stiff. Gyles raised his eyebrows curiously, and Lareau simply blinked. Hernanda, chest puffing to make the stripes on his lapel gleam, stepped forward and glared down at Jason. "Explain yourself, Centurion. What do you mean from this?"

Smiling infuriatingly back up at the man by way of response, Ziguner pressed his intercom button. "Send them in, please," he ordered it.

Every man turned to look as the double doors swung open. Three people walked in, two women and a man. One woman was professionally dressed, and held a flat tablet computer in her hands, stylus at the ready. The man was dressed casually, but acted very respectful, showing that he recognized these men for who they were. The second woman also seemed to know who these men were, but seemed incredibly excited and kept shifting her weight from one foot to the other, hands oddly kept in the pockets of her skirt.

Jason cleared his throat to regain everyone's attention. "Gentlemen, I present to you Adam..." He gestured to the man, who bowed slightly. "And Eve." Inclining his head towards the excited woman, his eye twitched as she began hopping from one foot to the other, smiling at all the men. The more professional woman reached over and lightly grasped her elbow, and she settled down some.

With a raised eyebrow, Lareau remarked, "Odd names. But if they're what I believe you're telling us they are, they're named as such for a reason."
Nodding, Jason steepled his fingers once more. "Neither of them were born from human mothers. Adam was produced first with only standard human abilities, with the goal of our project being to create a robotic human that possessed all the capabilities as the real thing, right down to being a unique individual with an actual personality. But what I believe you'd all be most interested in is that Adam is capable of reproducing with human females. Speaking of which, how is young Charlie, Adam?"

Seeming surprised to be addressed, Adam stuttered, "He's, uh, fine sir. Sh-should I have brought him along?"

"No no, you shouldn't have, that's good. Pardon me for asking out of the blue, I wanted to demonstrate to these men that you aren't some droid without human responses. If you'd like, you could say a few things about yourself," Jason suggested.

Embarrassed to be put in the spotlight, Adam glanced around the room before his gaze shot downward, intimidated. "Well, uh. I was made here, in this factory, by a group of engineers and scientists about twenty years ago. I've never gotten sick in my life, and I don't have actual bones to break or anything like that. They've told me when I first felt my own pulse that it was the small shockwaves of my powercore as it switched from fission to fusion, then showed me it on an x-ray. I believe them, but I don't let it decide who I am. I feel human, and since they let me go to school from the time they made me at the human appearance of three, I've grown physically and mentally as everyone else, far as I can tell. I met my wife four years ago and married her six months after that, and lived on my own for a while since then. I have a son, two and a half years old, and I feel like he's the most precious thing in the world. Just like any dad. And uh, that's pretty much my story." Looking up to gauge reactions, Adam seemed slightly more at ease than before, and straightened a little.

Perrault stepped forward towards Adam, reaching forward as if he wanted to touch, whispering in awe. "What have zeu done, ? This is, is... is impossible! The man- the machine is too..." He trailed off, amazed. Ziguner was frustrated to have to pull attention back to himself yet again, this time from Adam, who now appeared as confident as any other man in the room.

Turning a hand to Eve, he said, "But now, for something even more impressive. This is Eve, the first of a purely female variation of Adam that we've thought of. While Adam is a man, if we were to create more of his line, there would be females who would function as humanly as he does. But Eve is modified. Ten percent of her body is devoted to reproduction, and, unlike anything ever before, she need not have a sexual partner to use that ten percent. I'll explain more in a moment, for now, I think she would like to introduce herself." Smiling in a more fatherly way, he nodded at Eve, who immediately burst into speech.

"Hi, I'm Eve, and I was created five years after Adam, and grew up with him and think of him as a brother. I really want to see the world and meet lots of people, but for now I can't leave this factory and my quarters except to go to school, because I'm so different. But I watch a lot of TV and I know who you all are and I just have to say it's a real honor to meet you all and everything."

Darting from one leader to the next, she shook each of their hands with vigorous enthusiasm, drawing amused smiles from a few. When she had touched the last one, she carefully reached into a pocket and drew out a pair of gardening gloves, slipping them on her hands before wiggling her fingers in delight, spinning on the spot.

Chuckling, Lareau patted the woman on the shoulder. "You're very energetic. I like you, and that's good." Turning to James, he asked more formally, "How much would they all be like her?"

"She's incapable of being a negligent or abusive mother. Using Leffien's methods we were able to isolate and encode the functions of the female brain that make for a good raiser of children. Programs in her CPU carry out those functions, and form the core of her personality. While there's still breathing room for self-development and individuality, most of her line would be very social and easy to get along with. All the better for finding mates."

"What's with the gloves?" asked Gyles. "She seems human enough, but that just struck me as odd. No offense, ma'am."

She smiled at him, clasping her hands together behind her back. "None taken. No, it's just that part of the ten percent of me that helps me have kids is a pair of devices that lets me just touch people and sample their DNA. I just touched all of you, and have your DNA now. I mean, I can't see it or anything, but it's in there, and right now my body is finding the best, healthiest parts of you and separating it from everything else. In about a week, all that separated DNA will make a single set of chromosomes, and I'll become pregnant from that. Which is why I wanted to shake all of your hands, you see. Also why I can't go outside much. I put on the gloves so that the genes from five such impressive specimens as yourselves wouldn't get tainted by anyone I accidentally brushed." She curled her hands and rubbed them together. "Probably going to be a boy, since you all have Y chromosomes, and it'll grow up to be the most charismatic manly man that ever existed. I wouldn't be surprised if he grew up to be a leader of the UNAE, just like you, Emperor Lareau. Oh, I'm getting all weepy just thinking about it." She sniffled, and wiped an eye with the cloth back of one of the gloves. Five pairs of eyes stared openly at her. Adam smiled and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

It was President Hernanda who summed up what was on everyone's mind in one word. "What."

Ziguner sighed. "Eve, I believe there was a more tactful way to say that, you make it sound like you raped them." Standing up, he began to explain in a more neutral manner. "Eve has the ability to sample DNA from those she comes in contact with. The samples she gathers have the highest-quality gene segments isolated and added in, trying to come as close as possible to the ideal model specified by the Human Genome project. It's virtually impossible to get an exact match, but either way this method refines the overall gene pool, adding in Eve's own exemplary DNA to the mix after it decides which parts are the best of yours. While it's true that they can limit who they touch, Eve is just trying to make herself the best child she can, so she kept herself from touching anyone until now by force of will. The end result is that you don't have to worry gentlemen, we just saw the beginning of a valuable contribution to humanity, none of you have anything awkward to explain to your wives."

There was a collective sigh of relief, then, after a moment, applause.

Glancing at each of his equals, Lareau stepped forward. "Jason Ziguner, I believe I speak for all of us when I say I am impressed, relieved, and grateful to you for showing us your solution. While I must discuss this with my nation, I fully intend to try and implement it within my borders, giving my support as host country to this brilliance. Your company, Centurion, has truly performed a miracle here. Well done."

President Lareau extended a hand, and Jason shook it. The other four leaders did the same, each offering their praise and telling him they hoped to be able to use this method within their societies. Ziguner felt on top of the world. A hero, who saved humanity.

And indeed, this is what history books recorded him as.

A century and a half later, Ziguner's world continued to turn...
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Иanophяeak
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Re: Artificial

Postby Discipline on Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:10 pm

Really, really good! I loved reading through this, as usual. Always a pleasure to look at your work, Nano.
There were a couple things I saw with differentiation with "it's" and "its", but besides that and the following quote:

What have zeu done, ?


I thought that this was great. Thank you for posting it here! <3
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Re: Artificial

Postby Иanophяeak on Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:33 pm

Chappa' Three, dawgs.


"Medium double mocha, five cream, no sugar?"

Megan raised a hand. "Me." The Liquid Leisure employee handed her her drink, and she sipped it immediately, holding the scalding liquid carefully in her mouth so as not to burn her tongue.

Swallowing once it had cooled, she took her cup to the table she and her network of friends always sat at, this being the unofficial headquarters of their unofficial group. A vague acquaintance was already reading a newscreen on the end of the table, nearest the window to the street outside. He looked up as Megan sat down at the middle of the table, but said nothing to her, going back to his news.

Popping the top off her coffee to help it cool faster, she took another controlled gulp, repeating the process of the first. She always came here and did this in the sleepy part of the afternoon, ordering her favorite coffee to stave off the mind-numbing tiredness. After a day like today, she felt especially worn out, and her mind and body begged for a nap.

She rubbed her heavy eyes, willing the coffee to work faster. She couldn't very well tell Jakk exactly how much of a jerk he was if she fell asleep on the table. The comfortable warmth of the little cafe didn't help, lulling and enveloping her with it's coffee-scented soporific effects.

By the time Jakk had actually arrived, Megan was practically taking a sip a second to satay awake. As he approached the table, she brought the cup down from her mouth, preparing for the torture ahead.

"Hey Megs." He was smiling as he greeted her, clearly hiding something behind his back. Megan didn't have time to protest before he shoved a box towards her. It was flat, white, and rectangular, with a small red bow on top. Clearly some kind of clothes.

Sighing, Megan set down her coffee and started to pry it open, muttering, "I swear, if this is another damn skirt I'm going to slap you."

His grin widened as he took a seat. "It's not."

Slicing through the last bit of tape with a fingernail, she pried the box open, and stared into it in bewilderment. After a moment of looking and squinting at it, she set down the box lid next to coffee, taking another sip while her hands were free.

Picking up one of the garments inside and holding it up, it's black lace unfolded into a more recognizable shape. A punk-like fishnet t-shirt, the midsection very short and purposefully torn in places. Shooting a glare at Jakk, who held up his hands, laughing, she took out the rest of the clothes. A matching set of lacy gloves. A bright red shirt with a plunging neckline, apparently intended to go over the netting. Jean short-shorts that might as well have been denim panties.

Tossing it all back in carelessly, she shoved it away, forcing Jakk to dive to the side to catch it. "Worse than a skirt," she grumbled.

Jakk pushed it back. "You only have to wear it once. The actual present is where your part is, and you need to wear something like that to get in. Don't worry, you won't even stand out."

She raised an eyebrow, folding her arms across her chest. "Oh yeah? Then what are you going to be wearing, a shirt made out of chains?"

Grinning, he said, "No. No shirt at all. We're going to a nightclub, a very nice wild number for you, Miss I-Forgot-My-Birthday Workaholic. I called some people, and they liked the idea. Between work and keeping up with everyone, you barely seem like you have time to think, let alone relax. We're going to help you blow off some steam." His grin morphed into a smirk. "Who knows, you might even pick someone up. Then you'll REALLY blow off some steam!"

He began to laugh, and Megan tried to get a hit in from across the table, but he just dodged her hand and guffawed. But she caught him with a firm kick to the shin beneath the table, and he shut up fast, gasping in pain.

Smiling in satisfaction, larger worries forgotten, Megan sipped her coffee as Jakk tried to regain his voice.

Bending down to rub his leg, he growled playfully at her. "Feisty today. Good, plenty of energy to burn on the dance floor, and with your lucky lady."

Megan tried to kick him again, but he'd moved out of her reach when he slid back his chair to nurse his bruised shin.

Looking at her for a moment, his constant smile grew less perverted. "I hope you're not really mad at me, Megan, because everyone is really looking forward to this. They all have their own freaky outfits bought and everything, it's gonna be a lot of fun. Not to, you know, pressure you or anything."

He nudged her with the box again, drawing out a sigh. "Fine," Megan said. "I'll go to my stupid party. I'll even wear the clothes. But it's ONLY," she emphazied, "Because you already got everyone else doing it, which is a jerkish way to get me to go along." Pointing at the box as if it were something vile, she asked, "So, when do I have to get this stuff on, and where do I have to go once I'm wearing it?"

"Seven o' clock is the time of the party, and I'll mail you the directions." He stood up, grin renewed. "The location is a surprise. See you there."

He started to get up to leave, but as he looked over to her to wave, he saw Megan's face, and stopped cold. She was sitting stock-still, pale and wide-eyed as she stared into nothing. Watching for a moment, Jakk grew concerned. "Megs? Hey, you alright?"

Her head suddenly turned towards the clock, and Jakk mirrored her. It was 3:26 in the afternoon. "One minute," she murmured, barely audible. He thought he was asking her to wait for a moment, but then she stood up, barely pausing to grab the box, and shoved past him with a quick farewell of, "See you at seven."

Standing in the middle of the cafe, Jakk watched in confusion as she left, wondering if he'd done something wrong.


Megan broke into a run once she knew Jakk couldn't see her, sprinting to her car. It opened as she pressed her hands against it, practically slamming into the car as she stopped herself. Sliding in immediately, the door closed, and it began.

Behind her eyes, she began to feel an odd, hot whirring sensation, like a small muscle spasming. The process was sudden, eyes closing involuntarily, her consciousness folding inward. The car disappeared, the world outside her self was gone.

Though her hearing, smell, touch, taste, and sight were deprived of her, she immediately started to get the sensation of being within a sort of giant room, the feeling of vastness clear, but boundaries murky to her. There was the impression of shadowy data behemoths lurking in the senseless medium, drifting through it, moving in subtle ways, communicating by way of information flowing to and from each other, information she could detect, but made no sense to her. These, she knew, were her unconscious management programs. The infallible keepers of internal order.

She also knew a more continuous, flowing stream off the same info-stuff emanated from herself into this place, giving off a liquid-gas sort of impression as it diffused into the area around her. Inside this flowing data, smaller programs formed, combined, split, fizzled, and died. This all glowed very brightly with what could only be described as emotion, which she thought was currently purple with confusion and fear, even though no real colors existed.

To her back, there were programs that also glowed, not as large or dark as those in the shadows, not as small or bright as those in her thoughts. They also split and converged, though less often, and threw off clouds of stray information with every reaction. It was messier, but less menacing. Her subconscious and conscious areas, barely describable as programs, more an organic, chaotic movement of data as indirectly controlled by her thoughts and feelings.

This was the inside of her mind, and it never failed to unnerve her.

As always when she came to this place, the flow of thoughts emanating from her self began to become attracted to a single point, collecting in front of her. Together, they swirled about, first forming the outline, then the shape of a large program. The program's different sections spun without motion, slid but stayed still, and it began to relay information to a multitude of programs in all parts of her mind. Some of these programs began to operate slightly differently than before, changing their own connections and internal movements. The entire web of links shifted slightly, all programs giving off what was almost a shuddering sensation.

Eventually, the streams flowed together into two subconscious programs, which momentarily burned brighter than even Megan's thoughts, then faded fading out, the clouds of data within them dissolving into the streams. As this happened, Megan's self started to experience a pressure upon either side of her.

On one side, she knew, a stream lead off to the great web of information and thought, able to connect her to it all, relay from it to her and her to it. This was the "Yes" option, and it was a beautiful thing.

To the other side, however, there was the impression of another stream, one that barely existed, beginning and ending at nowhere. An option that didn't need to tell anything to the programs. This side was "No", and it radiated a cold sense of depression and loneliness like Megan radiated confusion and fear.

The previous times Megan had come here, selecting the No, while unpleasant, had felt possible. The prospect of someone to share her life with had given her the willpower to grasp that loneliness and embrace it, so that she could try to get rid of it forever.

But now, after two years of living with the choices she made, the Yes was unbearably attractive. Her will was spent. The moment she had decided it, it was done. The Yes option pulsed to it's connected programs. The process began.

Suddenly, everything began to move.

Connections, thick with data spun across the gaps, her entire mind beginning to glow with a single, yellow emotion, which illuminated every corner. In awe of this, never having felt anything like it before in her life, she barely noticed as the original program, the one that had spun itself from her thoughts, dissolved and flowed back into her. The cloud of fresh thoughts around her also turned vibrant yellow, and she felt herself begin to flicker in the movement. There was a soft pushing sensation, and, with the rush of her senses returning, it all disappeared. She was back in her car, and was feeling the happiest she ever had in her life.



For a long time, she sat there, soaking in the limitless bliss. There were no words to the thought that gave her this joy, only a knowledge that she was finally doing what was, unquestionably, without a doubt, the Right Thing To Do.

By the time she next looked at the clock, it was three fifteen. Sighing without knowing why, she gripped the steering wheel and shifted into reverse, pulling out of the parking spot and driving onto the street.

Turning immediately onto the highway and cruising down it, her intense happiness began to fade as she slowly brought herself to recall how it all actually worked. Four years ago, she had taken a bot-specific health class, separate from humans and all other Cyborganics. There, an older Breedbot, maybe around thirty, had given her and her classmates the details on how nonsexual conception actually worked.

"It's not an immediate thing," Megan murmured to herself, repeating the teacher's words. "Everyone thinks we do it on our own, but we don't. It just can involve so many people, and in such a subtle way, that it might as well be completely asexual."

Shifting gears as she turned onto her exit, she left the rush of cars behind.

"Anyone we touch. Everyone we touch. It all gets taken in, their DNA, through the hands," she recalled. "And only the hands, because those are the only places where there are different structures, ones that recognize foreign human cells and let them in. The cells have to be alive, so it only works if you touch a person. Then the chromosomes get taken out, made into samples. Parts of the samples with good genes are cut out and patched together into as close to perfect as we can get. The more people you touch, the better the baby will be, but the less it will look like any of them."

She parked in her driveway, the car hissing to a halt. "Only touch one, though, and it will be yours and their child, only."

Picking up the box from where she had left it on the passenger seat, she got out of the car and headed inside to change. For some reason, the prospect of going to a club full of people appealed a great deal more.
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Иanophяeak
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