a futuristic short story
| Hey, kids! Do you wanna go to sleep? Here, let me help!
A thunderclap awoke Meki. She rubbed her eyes and looked to Rasa, who was standing in a doorway and facing outside. The candle burned.
"Alusru, revenir au lit," she yawned. "C'est trop t."
Rasa turned. "Il pleut nouveau. Perhaps you were right, LaMartiniere." Then xe walked back to the bed and slipped under the covers.
Silence to the rain.
"Are you going to get the candle?"
It had become Meki's favourite past-time-- listening to the rain patter upon the stone roof. Somewhere along the line, she had forgotten the old world and naively believed there was nothing to be afraid of.
Once more, Rasa stood and walked to the doorway. Once more, xe ignored the candlefire.
All she could consider were the possibilities that the haunts love haunting her. Perhaps her dream house was built atop something amiss. Perhaps... nothing.
"Shall I contact the korenian house of manners?"
"Why bother," she said, "when they certainly must know of what we've seen?" And not yet had she moved her head from under her pillow.
"Because perhaps they have not seen it!"
"Perhaps they have and they don't care!"
Silence to the rain.
"Do you care?"
"Of course I do. I'm one of the few who still cares."
"Because I am seeing some freaky shit right now in the woods."
Meki burst to her feet and ran to the doorway. The oikos was very small, little more than a room and a half, so it took her only a second or two to meet Rasa and see for herself.
And there it was: the Monster of korus. Not that Meki could clearly see it through the slate blue dawn air or the rain filling it, but there was something unmistakably standing in the forest. Its eyes glimmered in Rasa's light, and it soon ran off upon Rasa's first step outside.
And that brought, "Suck it, skeptics" to Meki's lips. What else could it bring? She had been living in korus for seventeen years, and all this time her suspicions had been cast as her general native lunacy. Now even Rasa had seen what she knew lurked in the Grecian countryside.
Her hearts beat quickly and she felt a rush of blood to her head. She sat down in her bed and let loose a massive exhale.
"So that just happened."
"Indeed," Rasa said with a smirk. "So far, you've yet to be wrong once."
Meki couldn't help but think of cryptids for the rest of the day. She became so compelled that she began to discuss traveling the world in hunt of the paranormal.
"Marion!" Mom said. "Can't forget about you, can I, sweetheart?" She stepped out of the den and my dad started grinning like she came in wearing lingerie or something.
"For me?" I put on my best haughty noblewoman voice and said, "Oh, darling, you shouldn't have."
Then came the box.
"Yeah," Dad said. "This is really happening."
"What's really happening?" I asked, sounding a little concerned. My dad stood and handled the box with my mom, and I had to stand up right then.
Boom. I knew what it was. "You didn't."
Fuck off, wrapper. Fuck off, bow. Omigodomigod, it's here and it's real! I was squealing when I saw that face. In the picture, the cloud-white robot was walking towards me and waving. Japanese letters adorned half the box, except for one big slanted header-- ASIMO.
"Noooooooooooo. You gotta be kidding me." It sounded cheesy when I said it, but I didn't care. In that moment, my eyes were wide open, and it felt like the future was coming in. Every laugh complimented every tear of the gift wrapping, and soon I was standing before the thing itself.
It looked so unreal, like a giant toy. When we pried it out, my little brother, Marky, was losing his mind at how awesome this thing that stood before him was. His face had dropped with his mouth, and he wanted to feel the robot for himself.
My mother leaned on my dad, and they were smiling along with me.
"This is unreal." It was unreal. "How much did this cost?"
"Roughly $100,000." Mom said it like it hurt.
I knew it didn't really hurt, "Thank god for your jobs, then. Wow." And then I made it. I was finally the young woman I always wanted to be. Ever since that two-year old blondeball came home from Star Wars: Episode 3, I wanted to be the woman I am now.
A proud owner of my very own droid!
We turned on ASIMO and hooked him up to his charger.
"Hello, world!" it said. Of course I was a hipster who got the reference, but mom and dad showed off their skills too.
"You forgot the semicolon," Mom said. "Now you're stuck with several command errors."
Dad laughed and rubbed his grizzled beard. "Yeah, already he's letting us down."
"My name is ASIMO!" it chirped. I kinda wanted it to say it in the way the old versions said it, slowed and paced. 'Ahhhh-si-moh.' But alas, such is the exponential growth of technology. "But you can call me whatever you want."
"Well?" Dad said. "Whatcha wanna call'im?"
My stomach was too flighty and I needed to sit down. "Marky, what do you wanna call him?"
His eyes lit up and he said, "T-1000!"
We all laughed, maybe a tad in sorrow, and Dad said, "No, that's already taken."
"Uhh, the guy across the street. Pick something else, like a little baby's name."
"What is he, is he like a boy or a girl...?"
"I dunno. He's transgender, you cis bigot," I joked.
"What?" he said with a laugh.
"Don't-don't say that," Mom chuckled.
I picked up my iPhone 13s and searched for some nice robot names. The first link I found was 'BabyNames.net'. That was a screenshot-- "BabyNames.net. Robot Names: A-Z". Just a year earlier, that would've been something for a science fiction flick, but this was really happening.
I found one.
"That's a strange name. I like it," Dad said.
"Moville. That works. Asimoville. Aw, was that on purpose?"
Marky said, "Moville! I want some mo'ville!"
That was it.
Outside the snow was turning into sleet, and I was wondering how Yao was doing. I brought her along with me into my obsession of tech gadgets this past year, to the point she had planned to get some cool stuff too. Dunno how she could top this, though. It's not every day you get your own artificially intelligent droid.
But it was an everyday kinda day for the next few days. I mean, besides the artificially intelligent droid. And soon it would be with the artificially intelligent droid. After all the basics were set, we got right on to getting Moville ready for life in an upper middle class home. I had heard of all his features from the announcement video Alphabet made earlier. Almost everything he could do now, he could do back in 2016 when they unveiled the last gen version. The commercial release, now that was a big surprise.
"Everything and more!" was the tagline. And was it everything and more!
I'm just a prole tryna get ahead in life. Big Brother's been so kind as to let me, so why reject his kindness?
When the NSA sent some thugs to bust down my door, I'd already left a trollface in my chair and handcuffed myself. So long LulzSec, hello INGSOC. Through my generosity, they were able to ship my old mates to the brimstone. In return, I got to walk free. Not like they coulda kept me anyway.
They installed me in some crappy fastfood joint, and it was there that I met Yoko Nakamoto. She became my waifu at first sight. It was so cute how she tried using PayPal and I had to fumble around like I knew what I was doing. And when we figured it out, we revealed to each other that we were playing dumb just to see if the other was dumb too. She knew me. That scared me. I like being scared.
I thought it a coincidence at the time, but that niggling little doubt proved true when she namedropped Satoshi as her brother.
She was rich, and absolutely no one knew it. Since then, we hit it off, became engaged. Never married. We jetset instead.
That day, I was slumming in Dubai. I wanted a penthouse, but she advised against it, not least because it would be suspicious if a McDonalds fries master were suddenly able to afford a 5 star suite. That meant I'd face a worldful of reality as I saw firsthand the blackened madness beneath the glitter and neon. Junkies and sinners lined the outsides and it didn't get any better when I got in.
Slaves on smartphones and broken men singing into satellite dishes, filthy rags lain across roads collecting rain water next to tents half collapsed, little boys running naked into the hands of strange men who barely cared they existed. The air smelled of television static, smelled by proles who bathed themselves in it.
I thought it to be medieval, but Yoko said it best-- "There is nothing medieval about Dubai. It's modern society undisguised."
One boy I met, they called him Yusef. He told me his real name was 'Number Four', and I told him that's no name at all. Same time, I thought, "Hang on a minute, what is an Iraqi doing in Bangladeshi town?"
He said he'd been sold for some bread when he was a baby, and was bought by a millionaire, Rafa'ah Al Sarraf, a man who loved to make him cry. He barely even knew what Iraq was, besides it being his original home and the place we destroyed a decade ago.
Funny, it was that whole Iraq bullshit that got me into LulzSec in the first place.
After Yusef and the favela thoroughly obliterated my Christmas cheer, I was left with my little hobby of drone making. In every one, I put my special little RFID code just to be a big brother to whomever it may concern.
So of course, I had to bring out the laptop and do a bit of script kiddying all over Google. It was the principle-- I had heard about Google Glass 2.0 and, in my infinite disdain for that POS, I decided to check out what Alphabet's X branch really had in store. Just a matter of getting the passwords right.
I wasn't keeping an eye on the backdoor, and the angry buzz of a drone hit my ears. At the time, I thought nothing of it.
When I committed the felony, I found pages of projects underway and their contractors. Several scrolls down was the only one that caught my eye.
"Project Synister." I said it out loud like it was the first word I ever said. If there was ever a cheesier name for something so predictable, Google'll be the one to find it.
Then I clicked in. Nothing much. A few folders. One was named 'BostonDyne.' A few seconds later, I figured out it was referring to Boston Dynamics. This could only get better, I thought.
It did. I pulled up a spreadsheet that listed all the contractors. Number one was the Pentagon. Below, however, were various individuals I recognized from the corporate stock listings. One was named 'Rafa'ah Al Sarraf', and I recalled Yusef, Number Four. Sarraf got rich off construction, so what could something named Synister do for him?
What was Synister?
When I pulled up the specs, I was logged off. That's when the drone sound got to me. I picked up an electromagnetic pulse gun I had built, but then I realized I could take control of the drone and turn it on my aggressors.
I ran to my bag, picked out my smartphone, and logged into my personal program. Hacking the frequency was child's play, and immediately I got a live feed and turned the drone around and flew it towards where the controller was supposed to be.
But it was flying out of range, and I chose to kamikaze into a puddle. I felt good about myself, having thwarted whatever spies dared to harass me. But then the live feed picked up torn little hands, and it was in that moment that I had realized what I'd done.
Yusef was close to tears at the sight of the ruined drone, and the live feed cut off.
I went outside, taser under my sleeve, and found the boys. They tried telling me how the drone went insane, and I picked up only a little of their story. But Yusef, I could understand just by the tears on his face.
I pat his shoulder and said, "Don't cry. I have something for you back in my place. It's a robot, see, and it can talk to you and play with you and all sortsa things."
I wasn't kidding. When I brought him and his friends back to my rented shack, I pointed out the toy-like droid in the corner and turned it on. Its eyes lit blue and it said "Hello" to the world. It was called 'Pepper', and the boys loved it.
One glance at the drone brought my face crashing down.
Then I clicked on my Bluetooth.
"Yokes, you hear me?"
"Yeah, I'm here. I saw everything."
I scowled and walked outdoors, away from the kids. "I was just trolling Google, and I found something rather dark. You worked on the DeepMind AI project, so you may know this."
"Have you ever heard of Project..." I looked around. "Project Synister?"
"Actually, yes I have. It was one of the reasons why Google signed us on, and we got to learn about it in-depth. I even signed an NDA."
"Fuck the NDA. What is it?"
"Three parts-- a thirty-foot long autonomous spider bot. From what I ascertained, it was for riot dispersion and could outfitted with subsonic pulse guns and lasers and whatnot, and it could fold itself into a six-foot tall pylon. Second was a drone swarm mothership, and it was meant for instant surveillance, supposedly during a riot. Third was a tiny autonomous spider bot. No idea what it was for. All powered by an artificially intelligent main computer located over in Silicon Valley, one smarter than any other computer in the world."
"Jesus fucking Christ."
"They needed us to power its brains. Among other things. They never said who they were selling them to, but I have a broker who's told me."
"How long have you known about this?"
"A year. Back then, no one thought it was gonna be ready for a decade, but apparently it's in its final stages right now." I could feel her smirking. "We're just that good."
"Where are you now?"
In my mind, I could see her sitting leaning back, bent backfirst over a chair, hair falling to the ground while she slipped these secrets to me with a smile. "Ikebukuro, near Shibuya. I'm just enjoying some sketchy back-alley ramen, free courtesy of a fellow Yakuza, and I'm thinkin'a heading to this neat robot brothel all the local punks are itchy about. Where are you?"
"In a Dubai slum. Everyone always talks up about how many slaves this city has, but it's most just your typical poorfolk. There are satellites everywhere, like people are hacking into the Burj Khalifa."
"Ha-ha, very funny."
"I'm serious. It's more high tech than I imagined. And the slave boy I found..."
"Yusef, he's already experienced with drones. Ma'sucker totally replaced mine with someone else's in the five days I gave it to him. And I'm not liking what I'm seeing. It's also handbuilt, but someone drew an ISIS symbol onto its underbelly."
"That's because your boy, Number Four, has an old man in ISIS."
Second time I felt my face collapse. "What?"
"It's funny how the little things are never so little when you zoom in."
I pranced around the door and saw the boys still playing with Pepper. "Yoko, don't tease me. What is all this? What does ISIS have to do with my drone and Yusef?"
"Oh, it's gonna get even worse when I tell you this..." I heard her slurp noodles. While chewing, she said, "ISIS is kinda sorta involved with Project Synister."
"Don't. Tease. Me."
"Okay, okay. Listen, one thing at a time. First: that boy has a living uncle named Nejem Al Ahmedhammadi, so there's Number Four's only known possible last name. Nejem is in ISIS and has been since 2010. However, he's been paid off, and by the way, if you wanna know more, that's gonna cost you one bitcoin."
"Fuck your tits, Yokes, just take it and tell me."
"Good boy. Now listen carefully: Nejem was paid off by Dubai city officials. He's coming to make trouble in the city."
"And upset the tourists? That won't be good for their bottom line."
"Wait, it gets better." All her chair's feet hit the ground, she stopped leaning. "This is all a false flag."
I felt like a grizzled noir detective flaming a half-dead mobster. "How do you know this?"
"Informant. Turns out it's easy to make one speak when you put money on their tongue."
I grinned, "Sly little devil. Is this what Synister is for?"
"No. Some emiratis are gonna spark a few riots in the days after the attack. That's when Synister strikes."
"So it's all for remote social control?"
"???????????????????????! The Dubai elite are planning it all out-- incite some riots, pin them on whomever the Sauds are funding, and then put them down with Synister robots and drones. It's all a glittery show of force, to make Dubai seem twice as futuristic as it already is whilst putting the underclass in its place for good. Investors will be gleeful to see a city so totally under control, and there comes even more billions. They want to be able to wow the international community with their supposed hardline crackdown on terrorism while simultaneously making us all go goo-goo ga-ga over their ultra-high technology. This is Dubai, after all: their emergency responders use jetpacks and their downtown district is ripped straight outta sci-fi. Of course they want to be known as the city with the robot riot police."
"Poor guys never had a chance."
"That's true throughout history. In fact, you should take the drone away from Number Four."
"His name is Yusef, and I can't do that."
"If you don't, the police will kill him. That drone he has is directly connected to ISIS. Don't think they don't know. Their informant is with them, after all."
"If you really care so much about a slave boy, then wait a minute. I'm wiring you five bitcoins."
"What...? From where?"
"Satoshi's been generous. But this isn't for you to spend on whores. Recall that I got my own information broker, Shaytan Malik, who's gonna be in downtown Dubai within the hour, snapping selfies the Burj Khalifa. Meet him. Tell him it's from Satoshi, and pay him. Then he'll talk. More importantly, he should be able to smuggle Yusef out of there-- as long as you're okay with knowing he's heading toward Pakistan."
"How did little miss Yoko get an informant in Dubai so quickly?"
"Shaytan Malik is a double agent inside al Qaeda. He's also on the dole of an... unspecified corporation, looking into the murder of a Nipponese elite just outside Dubai. If he's so intrigued by the story, tell him Ono is feeling flighty and he should spill his heinie."
"Don't worry too much about finding 'im, I'm updating your smartglasses with his location and a waypoint to him. Just follow the waypoint."
"Understood. And Yokes?"
"Happy New Year's." I snapped a picture of the boys with my smartglasses and sent it to her. "Thanks for the robot. It was worth it."
"A million welcomes for a million thanks, sweety. Now please don't die in your little invisible war."
"And don't get electrocuted by your sexy mannequins."
She giggled. "See you in 2016."