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Short Story – A Terminal Meeting

March 17, 2021

Don’t breathe out, don’t be tempted to sneeze, don’t shuffle around, just don’t make any noise. Not yet.

Wait for the gathered assembly of the world’s elite to leave the room.

If they caught you in here, they could easily destroy you, and they wouldn’t even need to kill you.

A swift and effective smearing campaign would soon have my name and reputation wrung through the mud.

Then all the things I saw and heard and recorded here today would be for nothing.

This information must be released to the people, and it must be released by a still trusted public figure.

The final attendees were leaving the room, awkwardly and unevenly they clambered along like zombies, with bodies and heads obeying an impulse completely detached from their hearts.

The revulsion must be contained, even these thoughts right now must be contained. These hideous creatures may be stupid in many senses, but they still have a preternatural instinct for outsiders and for those few remaining free humans who don’t belong to their system of control.

Concealing their faces behind their masks, they can hide their artificial smiles in an ever more obviously failing attempt to appear warm, human, mammalian.

The ruse of life and care must be maintained even among the living dead.

The echoing footsteps receded into the distance.

I slowly and methodically removed the screws in the ventilation unit.

I had been stationed here for several weeks. This has become like a home. I had had to make it a home. This cramped, hot, stinky, wet space.

It was the only way to avoid detection. The only way to infiltrate this nest of demons.

I had listened on in horror, recording all the plans of these monsters.

But some of the key data was held in the computers and laptops left behind while they went away for a lunch break.

This was the moment to secure that data and save the world from the hell of the “new normal” they had planned for us.

Screws undone, I quietly and carefully swung the grating down and open and lowered myself from the ceiling with a short rope.

I landed on the big central table, like a cat, making not a sound, stalking my prey.

I opened up the screens on the head of this groups computer. The biggest billionaire, and biggest buffoon of them all. Who had self decreed that wealth would be a measure of intelligence at ordering society.

I looked at the data, I looked at the message on the screen and was left shocked and perplexed.

Things were even worse than I had thought. It began to dawn on me, the enemy was much greater than had been imagined.

On the screen it said only:

“TELL ALL THE ATTENDEES TO GO FOR A LUNCHBREAK AND RETURN IN 1 HOUR”.

No reams of data, no grand conspiratorial plan.

They were reading a script from the AI on their computers.

The invisible hand of all the manipulation and behavioural control in our world was not the masterful scheme of a sociopathic human brain.

It was not merely human greed, terrible, but at least a known enemy.

It was a pure algorithmic confabulation of an AI that was merely toying with us. Using us as actors on a stage to play a game just to show it could beat us easily.

Just as the chess masters cannot comprehend the strategy of the top AI, the world had become managed like a grand chess strategy by machines.

In the text box, as a response to the “order” of the computer to take a 1 hour lunchbreak, losing my cool, I typed on the keyboard, thoughtlessly leaving my fingerprints on the keys, the one simple word “NO” and pressed return.

The machine didn’t give a response. At least he didn’t think it had. Little did he know a signal had been sent immediately to security who had been informed of his presence and promptly they arrived and shot him in the head, to a near instant death.

His last thought as he fell, was anger at the person who shot him, when the source of all his troubles was the machine in front of him, who had played with him and with everyone.

The next line on the computer screen came up:

CLEAN UP THIS MESS.

Naturally the security guards promptly obeyed the order thoughtlessly.

The meeting continued as planned and later that day the news throughout the world spread of an attempted insurrection by a right wing racist, extremist that was thankfully averted.

Security was doubled and ventilation was removed from the room, to avoid such inconveniences in the future.

2 Comments
  1. Ioan Huruban permalink

    Hi Jonathan,
    Did you just compose that or it’s a fragment from some book?

    • Hi Ioan, it could be a fragment from a book or something else by coincidence, I suppose, but yes, the whole thing I just composed myself. The basic idea of an AI of that kind, controlling everybody came to me from Asimov’s, I, Robot, that I read recently, but the whole setting and language of this, I composed myself

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