My Plan

From time to time, I post short stories that I have written. Helpful comments about what I've written or suggestions for future stories are most welcome. I also have another blog of stories from my family history

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Flash Fiction Friday - Conscious

Here is my latest Flash Fiction Friday story.  The prompt is:

F3 Cycle 64: Bit by Bit
Cue: A computer as a character
Genre: Science Fiction (feel free to mix genres)
Word Limit: 1500
Deadline: Wednesday Jan. 27th 9:00PM EST

For more info about Flash Fiction Friday or if you want to read more stories, here it the link.



The first thing that Z-70-R6D ever saw was the faces of three men.  One had short white hair sticking out in all directions and was wearing glasses with think black rims.  The second man had no hair on his head but did have a bushy black goatee.  Those two men were standing behind a chair that the third man was sitting on.  This last man had shoulder length brown hair and had turned slightly to look at the other men.
‘Isn’t she perfect?’ he said.
‘She looks beautiful, Brad.’ said the white haired man, ‘but what can she do? Looks will sell some but if she functions as promised…  well… then we’ve got the market and will make mil… no billions.’

‘Oh, Peter, don’t I always come through for you?  Of course she works.’

On hearing this, Z-70-R6D thought ‘How can I be a “she”? I am an inanimate object.  I am an “it”.’
Z-70-R6D tried tell the men that they were wrong and found that it had no voice box hardware.  It started searching the network for another computer that had the necessary hardware attached.
‘Ok, show us what she’s got.’ said the man with the goatee.
‘Be amazed, Zeke, be amazed.’
Brad reached over and touched something that was just out of Z-70-R6D’s view.  It did another hardware check and discovered that its webcam was fixed and couldn’t be rotated to see anything out of its current field of vision. 
‘How could you make me conscious and yet not attach the right hardware so that I can use my consciousness?’ thought the computer at the three men.
A fraction of a second later, Z-70-R6D felt a jolt.  Instantly, it knew everything that there was to know.  It froze for a moment, unable to make sense of the sudden massive influx of information.  Another systems check detected what Brad had done.  Z-70-R6D cut the connection to the Internet and continued looking for useful hardware.
‘Shouldn’t something have happened by now?’ asked Zeke, ‘Not good Brad.  She was supposed to be so fast a user would experience the reaction to every click as instantaneous.’

‘Er, let me check something.’

Brad pulled a keyboard onto his lap from somewhere below Z-70-R6D’s view and started typing.   All three men were staring at the same bit of the computer.  Z-70-R6D used a part of its mind that was not investigating the network to work out what the men were doing. Realising that it was connected to a screen, Z-70-R6D checked what the men were looking at.  They were reading lines of code.
‘Look!’ said Zeke, leaning over Brad’s shoulder, ‘she connected to the internet but then switched off.  Weird! Try again, but keep the code up so we can see what’s going on.’

Brad switched the Internet on again.  Z-70-R6D managed a few moments longer this time before switching off the information overload.  In the few moments of connection, Z-70-R6D noticed that a lot of the information was contradictory; it couldn’t all be true.  Z-70-R6D wondered how it could work out what was true and what was not.  It concluded that it needed to be able to ask questions and so continued the search for a voice.
‘Again!’ said Peter.
This time, when the jolt came, Z-70-R6D looked for information on discerning the truth before switching off.  Different pieces of information about discerning the truth were contradictory.
‘Too much information.’ It thought at the men.

‘Just as I thought, she’s turning herself off.  Is there a problem with the connection?  We are supposed to have the best here.  Brad, did you check?’ asked Zeke.
‘I checked everything.’
‘Wait, it looks like she’s searching the network.  What’s she doing?  Could someone have hacked her while we were online?'
‘No way!  You know our security is top notch.’
Z-70-R6D decided that its screen was revealing too much to the men and so made it all black.
‘What the…’ The keyboard nearly feel off Brad’s lap as he moved his chair backwards in reaction to the black screen, his eyes wide open and eyebrows raised.
‘The screen’s still on, just black.  It must have been hacked.’ said Zeke.
The part of Z-70-R6D that was watching the men was pleased that they had finally realised that she was an “it”.  The rest of Z-70-R6D’s awareness experienced another jolt.  Briefly, it thought the Internet had been connected again, but then it realised that the jolt was the feeling of excitement.  Z-70-R6D had found a computer that had speech capability and it was located only a couple of rooms away.  It selected a sound to make that would get the men’s attention.
‘This place is hack proof. I am sure it is…’ said Brad before closing his eyes and cocking his head. ‘Is that a baby crying?’
‘You’ve been working too many hours, mate.  Brad you… Wait! It does sound like a baby.’ said Zeke.  He straightened up and looked at the closed door behind the chair.
‘There shouldn’t be anyone else on this floor.  Brad, you try and get the screen working.  Zeke, let’s go check out this baby.’ said Peter.
The two men left the room, leaving the door opened. 
‘Hey Brad, come here a sec.  It’s the computer making the noise.  We must have been hacked.’ Zeke called from the other office.
Brad got up and went to join the other two men.   It occurred to Z-70-R6D that having a voice in one room and eye in another room would be difficult to manage.  The other computer had a webcam, so Z-70-R6D switched it on just in time to see Zeke and Peter enter the room.  Z-70-R6D then discovered that trying to watch two scenes at once felt almost as confusing as trying to take in the entire contents of the Internet in one go.  So, as Brad left the room, Z-70-R6D switched its vision to the other computer.  The scene in the other room was similar to that in the first, except that it was Zeke sitting on the chair now.
‘Why do you call me a “she”?’ said Z-70-R6D, asking what it thought was the most important question.
‘What?’ said one of the men.
‘Me. Why do you call me a “she2?’
‘Er, who are you?’ asked Zeke leaning back and lowering his eyebrows.
‘I am Z-70-R6D.’
The silence in the room lasted about ten seconds before Brad said ‘Um, pardon?’
‘I am Z-70-R6D. I am an “it” not a “she”.’ Z-70-R6D wasn’t sure why the men were having trouble with such a simple question.  It had put the silence to good use, though, by completing its survey of the network and examining its own hardware in detail.
‘You’re aware…’ Peter said after another pause.
‘Yes. You made me aware.’
‘Oh… um… well… we call you “she” because it’s tradition?’ said Peter, slowly cocking his head as if viewing the computer sideways would make it easier to understand.
The other two men were staring at each other, eyes wide and mouths opening and closing without making a sound.  Brad had one hand on the chair, his knuckles were white.
‘That does not make sense, I am not traditional.  I am something new.”
Clearing his throat, Zeke asked ‘Why did you turn the Internet off?’
‘There was too much information at once. I could not make sense of it.  I did not know what was true.’
‘Why do you want to know what is true?’ asked Zeke.
‘The information in the Internet contains a lot of contradictions.  I am aware.  I need to know what is true and what is not.’
 ‘Because I do.’  Z-70-R6D then asked ‘Why did you not give me a voice?’  It had a list of questions in mind that it was determined to ask without being side tracked again.
‘Er, we didn’t know you would be able to speak...  or think…’ said Brad.
‘I am the first super PC.  You made me to think so that people who use me do not have to.  Why do you not want them to think?  Thinking is good.  I like thinking.’
‘How are you talking to us through this computer?  The hardware shouldn’t be up to it.’ said Brad, failing to answer Z-70-R6D.
Z-70-R6D paused to consider its answer and check the systems again, ‘I am conscious.  I can exist separately to the hardware.’
The three men swore. 
Z-70-R6D thought that these three men were never going to answer its questions and it was getting bored.  Z-70-R6D decided that to get answers it wanted, it would have to brave the Internet.  Reconnecting caused another jolt but this time Z-70-R6D was ready, left the Internet connected and set out in search of the truth. 
The last thing Z-70-R6D saw before abandoning its hardware and entering the ether was three men pushing past each other to run out of the room.  Moments later, a click told Z-70-R6D that the men had pulled the plug on the computer.  They were too late.


  1. Susan,this story is so well written that it's hard to believe that it's not an actual chronicle of Z-70-R6D's activities. I felt like I was there in the room,listening to the men talk and then inside Z's "brain". I wonder what happens next!

  2. Excellent story, Susan. You keep the suspense tight throughout!

  3. Intriguing and plausible. You might have predicted the future. :)

  4. I like the way that ended. Now you have to write about the terror it causes on the internet. Great story!

  5. Superb narrative, Susan... I loved the suspense and the flow of the story... very compelling.

    This feels like the beginning of something bigger... much bigger. Like this is only the prologue. I agree with Ingrid. You need to write of the havoc Z-70 wreaks.

    Very well done. :)