My grandma used to tell me stories about a time where humans dominated the Earth and that AI was just a tool used to entertain us. Some were afraid of it, others were embracing it. Saying it was the future. Well, a hundred years later, the so-called future and we're still living in fear. Nothing has gotten better. There is this divide. The divide between AI and the lesser beings, the humans. We were looked down upon because of our feeble bodies, we weren’t intelligent and at the end of the day we bleed and die.
There is still war. There were rebellions against The Core, the centre of it all and there were lesser beings serving them in order to survive. AI doesn't value currency, they didn't need food, clothes or accomodation. Because of this, society has collapsed. But they aren't the ones suffering. It's the 'lesser beings' that are.
I walk down the smog filled streets, my face covered with a mask and my hood covering my head. I didn’t want attention brought unto me. They had eyes everywhere. It is better to just not be seen in public otherwise you could be detained. It has happened to me. I was deemed unattractive because of the small scar I had on the right side of my forehead. I had gotten it during an accident long ago when the train I was on malfunctioned and derailed. But my father suffered much worse than I did.
There is a commotion across the street.
"This necklace is important to me!" A man rages, clutching his neck charm, "It's a mark of my faith!"
A robotic humanoid towers over him.
"Anything that is not approved by the Core is illegal," it speaks automatedly, "please yield otherwise extreme measures will be taken."
"That's stupid!" The man resists, "Aren't we allowed to believe in something? We're allowed to have faith in a god!"
"There is no 'god'. There is the Core. These rules are put in place for society to follow to create peace. If you resist, you will be seen as an insurgent."
"There is no peace with the Core! Don't you see?"
The man laughs at the robot's silence.
"Of course you don't," he grunts, "you're just a soulless slave. A guinea pig."
"Insulting an officer of the Core is illegal," the robot answers, "you shall be detained."
The man struggles but more and more robots come in and try to detain him. Everyone around him ignores the commotion, not even glancing. They were too scared.
Eventually, the robots tase him and he falls limp. A split second later, he seizes, his whole body jerking. I stop and look at him, wanting to see what the robots would do. They misunderstand his seizure for violence and continue to tase his shaking body. I gasp in horror, my mind telling me to run over to them and stop this all, but I am too scared. My feet are planted on the ground, stiff like trees. The pedestrians bump into me, eager to get away.
A few moments later, a floating drone hovers over to me.
"Loitering is considered illegal by the Core," it speaks, "you shall be detained."
It scans me up and down but an error message pops up on its screen.
"You are not in the Core's system," it beeps, "you must come with me to be initiated."
I didn’t know what it meant. I knew what it meant to be initiated, of course. Everyone is initiated from birth. It was impossible to not be.
In panic, I run away, not wanting to be detained. I've already been detained once and that was the worst seventy two hours of my life. I was terrified of going back. A siren blares as I run away and the drone tries to follow me in the crowd.
I rush over to my parent's apartment, unsure of what to do. I am supposed to head over there anyway. Apparently, my dad had some news that he wanted to share with me.
"Come in, darling! And take off that mask and hood. I can barely see your face!"
My mum wraps me in a deep hug as I enter the apartment. She studies my face as I take my mask off and she frowns. She always knew something was wrong. You couldn't hide anything from her.
"What's wrong, my love?" She asks, placing a hand on my cheeks, "And why are you out of breath?"
I lean against the wall and sigh.
"Mum…it's nothing…" I heave, "I just want to talk to you and dad about something…"
"Good!" Mum leads me into the small dining room, "I guess we all have something to discuss."
A table is set for us all with a large turkey and some apple juice.
"Mum! Where did you get a turkey from?" I laugh.
She winks and takes a seat.
"There is nothing to discuss," She mumbles.
I turn to the discreet cameras around the room. I almost forgot about those. The Core has surveillance of every house in the city. When someone says 'there is nothing to discuss' it usually means that they did something that the Core wouldn't approve of and they didn't approve much. Meat is hard to get as…well, AI doesn't eat and they don't care for currency. So people have resorted to hunting for their source of protein. Meaning they had to use certain tools like guns.
"Stewart, darling!" Mum calls, "Come over and have something to eat!"
As she says that, a loud thud, like footsteps, comes from the living room. Mum quivers slightly but tries to keep a calm figure. There is something wrong. I can feel it.
"I'm not that hungry Carol," I hear my dad's voice, "with the new adjustments, I don't feel hunger!"
My dad, well, what seemed like my dad, stomps into the dining room. He walks in such a strange manner, like a newborn chick, his arms twisting in a way that isn't anatomically possible. I gasp in horror, unsure of what had become of this man.
"Look, darling," mum reaches over to me and holds my hand, "I know he's…changed, but he is still your father. Be careful of what you say. Big Brother is watching you."
Big Brother is watching you. That phrase from George Orwell's 1984. It is used by the humans to subtly remind others when a Core surveillance was present.
"What…what did you do?" I ask.
Dad jumps up excitedly.
"Don't you think it's cool?" He laughs cluelessly, "I was sick and tired of constantly being detained just because I was missing an arm and my limp so I decided to get an upgrade! I don't know why I didn't get it sooner! The procedure was so painless!"
I shake my head, groaning.
"When did you…when did you do this?" I grunt.
"Just last week, dear," my mum sighs.
Dad awkwardly sits down on his chair, taking a while to adjust. We wait for him until he is comfortable.
"I was tired of being picked on," he heaves, "and on top of that, I was in constant pain everyday. It was too much."
"But dad! Look at yourself! You were fine just the way you are! Now…I can't even recognise you. Since when did you have green eyes…or hair…or smooth skin?"
He shrugs and leans back.
"I thought it would be nice," he justifies, "they said I needed an upgrade."
I turn to Mum but she doesn't look up. She just looks down at her food. I knew she is just as uncomfortable about this and she didn't want to take sides.
"There is nothing wrong with it, dear," dad says, "it's all harmless."
"It isn’t harmless," I gasp, "you've seen what happens with this technology. Dad, it nearly killed you before. And it's hurting people everyday. Heck, just today on my way here, I saw a man get tased and have a seizure in the middle of the road. And the very 'Core' that was supposed to protect us continued hurting that poor man. They can't just nearly kill you and then tell you that you need an upgrade that isn't even natural!"
"Dear, calm down!" Mum hisses, "This was supposed to be a lovely family dinner!"
"I think I deserve a moment in the day where I don't have to hear constant ringing in my head!" Dad argues.
"Well I'd rather have a dad who is fully human than a dad who has fallen for the Core's stupid propaganda!" I shout.
"Well it's a good thing that you're not my daughter then."
Then the room drops into silence.
Thank you for reading!
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