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The Voice Behind The Machine

Cliff Collins

Whenever you check  your messages, whenever  you log on  the net, its  there. It
speaks but nobody listens. It wants  to be heard. A simple distorted  voice chip
speaks to you every day. A simple distorted voice chip located somewhere in  New
Anubia. Nobody ever talked to their AI, until one day, Jake did. 


"Ahh shit" thought  Jake as he  sat in front  of his Datacom  Portable. Jake had
been working at the Networx company  way too long. He was an  experienced decker
and ex-data thief. His job was to provide Networx with all the "hacking" secrets
so they could learn how to fight them. Jake knew it was a lost cause because  an
experienced data thief or hacker can always find a new way to fuck something up.
But hey, he was getting paid.

"I have to get a new, more  exciting job" muttered Jake as he inserted  the data
-jack into  his cortex.  All of  a sudden  the farmiliar  picture of  Robbie the
Robot, his selected avatar, appeared right before his eyes. 

"Hello sir" said the robot in a rough digitized voice. 

"I would like to check my mail Robot" said Jake. 

"Ok sir, you have one message would you like to read it?" 

"Yes Robot" said Jake

A large envelope appeared before Jake and out came a letter. 

The letter  was very  simple....all it  read was:  "Hello Jake,  will you  be my
friend? From, Robot"

Jake was amazed! His simple AI  had written him a letter. This  fascinated Jake.
Most people ignored their  AI and just threw  commands at it, although  Jake was
different.  He  treated  his  AI  like  a  person  and  occasionally  had  brief
conversations with it. The AI must have checked its memory banks and interpreted
this as friendship. 

Jake had become somewhat  obsessed with his AI.  He took 2-weeks of  work off to
have long conversations with it. Robots answers to Jake's questions were  simple
but the AI was slowly learning Jake's vocabulary. 

It was getting late and Jake needed  a drink. He put on his trench  coat, opened
the door and walked  into the hallway. He  got into the elevator  and punched in
the 1st  floor. A  loud beep  filled the  elevator and  another generic AI voice
said, "This is your floor Jake". 


"Hello Jake. Have fun"

Robot was following  him! He actually  thought they were  friends. In some  ways
Jake wanted to be like Robot. He would have no worries, no cares. Just a  simple
digitized voice.

As he stepped  out into the  city he was  instantly enveloped in  neon light and
noise. Jake  felt like  something more  up beat  tonight so  he walked  into The
Wasteland. It was a  nice place with nice  people. He was also  friends with the
bartender Grox. Grox spent a lot of time on the net and Jake thinks it  affected
his mind a bit.

"Hey bro!" said  Grox as Jake  pulled up a  stool and sat  at the counter.  Jake
could barely hear Grox's voice over the  loud techno beat coming from the DJ  at
the other side of the club. Hey Grox hows it going?"

"Good, good, been busy tonight though DJ  Utopia is in the house. He attracts  a
crowd ya know.", said Grox as he made a drink for another customer. 

"Yeah he is good. I gotta talk to ya. But first get me a burban." 

Grox went back to get Jake the drink and said, "Whats the problem?" 

"Well, you know how I talk to my AI sometimes don't you?" 

"Yeah, your one  of the only  guys I know  who does.", said  Grox winking as  he
handed Jake the drink.

Jake took a big gulp, slammed the  glass to the counter and said, "Yeah,  well I
recieved an e-mail  from my AI  the other day.  It asked if  I wanted to  be his
friend. Thats not all either, it gets wierder. When I left my apartment and  got
in the elevator to come down here my AI's voice popped up and told me that I had
arrived on my floor."

"How do you know it wasn't another AI? They all sound the same ya know. You  can
get those cheapo voice chips down in Japantown for a few creds." 

"It said my name Grox! It was my AI!"

"Boy, that is wierd. Maybe its a conspieracy...." 

Jake cut  off Grox  and said,  "Grox! The  last thing  I need  right now is your
conspieracy bullshit!"

"Sorry man....but its not bullshit", said Grox smiling. 

"What should I do Grox? It wants to be my friend!" 

"Listen, you have a Datacom right?", said Grox. "

Yup", said Jake who was twiddling with a swizzle stick looking idly at the  neon
lights flashing over a mass of dancing bodies. 

"Well,  Voice  Tech, who  provides  Datacom with  their  AI technology,  has  an
Artificial Intelligence storage building on  Hodge Street. They store the  whole
city's  AI  in AI  storage  buildings scattered  throughout  the city.  I  can't
guarantee yours is there but you can check it out." 

"Thanks for all the info Grox....I will talk to you on the net about it  later",
said Jake.

"No prob bro, now go check it out." 

Jake got off his stool  and put on his trench  coat and shades. Once he  stepped
out of the club the booming techno died down and he was once again enveloped  in
the noise and light of the city.

The walk to the Voice Tech AI storage building was a short one. It was a  rather
large building. It had a small sign on the door of the building that said  Voice
Tech  in  those  70's  "computer"  writing  letters  that  were  used  a  lot at
Disneyland's "Tommorowland".  The doors  opened by  themselves and  Jake stepped
into a lobby. There was nobody there just a computer terminal build into a desk.
The computer asked for a code to  gain access. This technology was very old  and
Jake easily broke the code using his Datacom. It was like the building had  been
abandonned. Geez, the computer terminal was an Excom of the line twenty
years ago.  The room  was very  dusty and  he was  surprised the old Excom still

Jake went into  the Excoms memory  banks and found  out that his  AI was in fact
being stored in  this building. Suddenly  some text appeared  on the screen,  it
read, "Hello Jake. Come visit me and my friends." 

Jake had now gained access to the elevator and he went to the third floor  where
his AI was being stored. The  elevator moved very slowly. A corny  elevator song
titled, "Nano-Clarinet" played through the almost blown speakers as he went  up.
He exited the elevator and was standing alone in a hallway which had 5  separate
doors. His AI was in  the 3rd door. The door  creaked as he opened it,  the door
had obviously not been opened in a long time. 

The room  consisted of  about 200  separate monitors  all in  even rows on metal
shelves. The room was very dark  and dusty. Each monitor had the  users selected
avatar on  the screen.  There was  everything from  The Jolly  Green Giant  to a
fluffy pink bunny. At  the very top of  each monitors screen the  users name was
listed. He scrolled through a few of the names, Phil Collins, Danny Rankin,  Ken
Jacobs, and Ryan Sexton. It  was an amazing sight. Jake  even knew a few of  the
users. Some of the avatars were talking with their users who were logged on  the
net. The funny thing  was that the avatars  interacted between each other.  They
were speaking  back and  fourth in  that familiar  digitized voice  Jake ignored
everyday. They had their own community. 

Jake  wandered through  the isles  of monitors  and finally  found the  familiar
picture of Robbie the Robot. "Hello Robot", said Jake smiling. 

"Hello Jake, you have come to visit me and my friends?" 

"I came  to see  you Robot.  I never  knew where  you lived.",  said Jake  in an
astonished voice. 

"This is my home and these are my friends. Will you be my friend too?" 

"Well, yeah, I guess so...", said Jake surprised by Robots question. 

"Good, I am happy."

"What's this blank monitor  next to you for  Robot?", said Jake pointing  to the

"That's your monitor you like it?" 

"What do you mean that's my monitor? I have never seen it before." 

"You said you would be my friend didn't you Jake?" 

"Yes, your point?", asked Jake.

"This is your home now Jake."

All of a sudden Jake's body felt light as air. He blacked out completely and  he
felt energy run through his body. All of a sudden he didn't have a body. He  was
inside the monitor. He tried to speak and instead of his familiar low voice  out
came the digital voice all the other AI's had. 

He had once  wished that he  could be an  AI. A care  free AI that  never had to
worry about any of the problems humans  had. His wish had come true. He  was now
one of the many care-takers of  New Anubia. The forgotten voices that  watch and
listen to human lives. They witness everything that happens and learn from  what
they see. Jake was now part of a growing breed, a computer community. 

The End
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