When a human is turned into a machine, will he lose his humanity... [Winner]
Thank you BlackAdder for the beautiful awardicon
“Hello Cookie,” Byte said and sat down beside her. The river flowed soundlessly twenty feet below in the gorge.
“Hello, Byte,” Cookie responded and looked ahead at the open sky that was turning crimson.
“What are you looking at?” Byte asked.
“The sunset,” Cookie replied. “They say its beautiful.”
“Really?” Byte raised the two little segments of bristles that served as his brows two inches above the oval lenses that were his eyes. “Who are they?”
Cookie tapped her perfectly shaped poly-carbonate finger tip on the tattered leather covered soft-book.
“What?” Byte almost jumped up from his place. “You had been reading those again? If the Consortium finds out…”
“Who will tell them?”
Byte opened his mouth, but remained silent. It had been exactly twelve months, twenty days, one hour and fifteen minutes since Cookie had altered his program just by speaking to him. He did protest as her words contradicted with his codes and threw errors all over but an overnight scan of all the resources that Cookie had thrown at him had made changes in his codes and he found his errors and exceptions, mysteriously, resolving.
Day after day he had spend time with this piece of equipment that he continued to find fascinating. But he was aware he was getting involved into a very bad business. If the Consortium found out, they would both be reprogrammed and if that didn’t work, they would be dismantled.
The thought made his vision go dizzy.
Focus, Byte said. He didn’t know anything about Cookie. Only that she was strange and different and that his processor always remained in an optimum temperature zone as long as his sensors were picking up her vibes. Only the pulsar in his chest would beat erratically often when their eyes met.
“Cookie,” he ventured. “Where are you from?”
Cookie shook her head, making the silky brown bunch of fibers toss this way and that.
“You don’t have a master?”
Cookie shook her head again. “I stay in a box under the bridge. Someone recharges my batteries. I don’t know who that person is. But I find a new book every time I finish one.”
Byte listened to her.
She was talking impossible. She must have got a rusted circuit somewhere.
The sun went down and darkness fell over the valley. Cookie stood up and dusted the tiny blades of grass from her dress.
“Good evening,” she bowed. “I will see you tomorrow again.”
Byte quickly nodded and smiled. “Be careful with that.” He pointed at the book in her hand.
“Don’t worry. It's…”
She stopped and cocked her head.
“Did you hear that?”
“Did I hear what?” Byte asked trying to focus his microphones.
“That,” Cookie pointed her finger downward at the gorge. Byte noticed her finger was cracked just above the knuckle. She lacked maintenance.
He knelt down and went over the edge without actually going over it. Then he could hear it too. A faint cry. There was no definite words, just a cry.
“You are right, Coo,” he said leaning even further into space, his fingers digging into the ground. He stood up and found Cookie staring at the valley, her lenses shining in the fading light of the dusk.
“You want to find it,” Byte asked. “Don’t you?”
For the first time he saw Cookie smile. And his pulsar skipped a beat.
Byte checked his system clock. Two hours before he needed to return.
“Alright, let’s go.”
Hand in hand they climbed down the valley, Byte guiding Cookie, steered by the sound of the cry. By the time they had reached the trough, the moon was already high in the sky. The river was rippling in its silvery light.
The cry was coming intermittently now and Byte was having trouble following it.
After almost losing their way in the forest, did they found it. Byte saw it first. A basket like thing about two feet long and one foot wide. Cookie went forward while Byte looked about him to make sure they were alone. At times like these he wished he had his radars, like when he served the Consortium Army. But those were distant dreams and had long gone from his days. His new master was kind enough not to erase his memory of wars.
The cry from the basket brought him back to the present. Cookie was kneeling by it and fingering something inside.
He bent over to see but he didn’t have the infrared vision anymore and it was quite dark down there. He switched on the mini headlamps over his ears and looked and shuddered. He grabbed Cookie and pulled her away.
“Stay away,” he said in a lowered voice. “It’s a trap.”
Cookie stared blankly at his face.
“It's…,” she turned back at the basket. “I think it's cute.”
“What is cute?” Byte asked confused.
“Cute,” Cookie said shrugging her squeaky shoulder. “You know. Like you are cute.”
Byte was startled by the remark. He quickly checked the rising temperature of his core system and cleared his throat.
“I mean that thing was not supposed to be here,” he said. “It's an extinct specie.”
“Extinct?” Cookie asked looking into the basket. “You mean like the dinosaurs?”
“Well more or less,” Byte said joining Cookie in looking at the strange thing. Its tiny fingers were tightly wrapped around Cookie's purple hand. Its little mouth was sucking her thumb. The face was pulp and the eyes large.
“Well let's get out of here.” Byte stood up.
“What?” Cookie turned, shocked. “We can’t leave it here. It'll die.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be alive in the first place. Do you even know what that thing is?”
Cookie shook her head.
“Kingdom: Animalia. Phylum: Chordata. Class: Mammalia. Order: Primates. Family: Hominidae. Genus: Homo. Species: H. sapiens.” Byte recited at a stretch and stopped. “a Homo sapiens. Do you know what that means?”
“A human!” Cookie said. “Byte. It’s a human baby. But how come its alive? Does their eggs hatch after centuries?”
Byte thought his circuit erupted.
“Humans didn’t lay eggs, Coo. They gave birth to babies.”
Byte scratched his head. The cogs in his mind were turning but nothing made sense.
“Humans were extinct about two hundred years ago,” he said particularly to no one.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Of course I am sure. It's…” Byte stopped.
Cookie cradled the baby in her arms.
“This one is hungry,” Cookie said.
Something about this was pulling out strings of memory from his internal database. Some data that had been stowed so deep that he didn’t even know that they existed. Referencing to the humans had activated some triggers he wasn’t aware of.
“I think it wants milk,” Byte said slowly.
“Milk?” Cookie asked. “You mean that white liquid from cows and goats?”
Byte nodded, absentmindedly.
Different faces flashed across his eyes. He raised his hand to touch them but realized they were on his inner console. The images were from his databank that he hadn’t accessed for hundred of years. A house, an open field, a tree, a picnic basket with sandwiches, a woman smiled, a little girl came running to him and jumped into two outstretched human arms. The last image shattered him and he found his own arms stretched out. Staggering he fell down with a thud. The headlamps went out with a puff. Most of his systems were overrunning or overheating. Cookie hurried to him.
“Byte!” She shook him with one hand. She had the baby in another. “Byte, are you alright?”
He, still dazed, looked up to her. The way she cuddled the baby, she could’ve been a mother.
“Cookie,” he said after restoring some stability in his systems. “I think… I think I was a … human.”
Byte sat there in the dark. Closing his eyes he started pulling up files after files from his databank and each new file gave him information he had never thought existed.
He saw faces, human faces. He heard voices of men, women and children. They laughed, smiled and cried. He saw the woman from before come and hug him. The little girl waved and went inside a green house. Suddenly the images changed.
Dark clouds covered the skies while loud explosions shuddered the earth below. A huge sphere descended from above. Men in battle fatigues and carrying heavy artillery swarmed around him. A machine gun came up, his own human hands behind the trigger. Shots of lasers went out hitting the sphere without any effect. A few beams of intense light shot out from the sphere slashing through the herds of men felling them in instant.
The image changed.
He was in a room, lying on his back facing a bright light overhead. A face appeared. He heard his voice as clearly as if he stood there with him.
“I am Dr. Livingstone. I am a human. I have saved all your memories and other information about human life. You’d find them useful.”
The last image came up was of the green house burning and people screaming for help.
"Byte," Cookie called. "Are you alright? Smoke's coming out of your ears."
Byte looked up, his brows curled up and lips trembled as if he was trying to speak but couldn't make out the words. He wouldn't have been surprised if tears had flowed down his metal cheeks.
"Coo, the Consortium is an alien organization," he said.
"Alien?" Cookie asked sitting down beside him. "You mean from out of space?"
"Mars, actually," Byte said steadying himself. "They invaded Earth 2155. Killed off anyone who were not useful to them. The army that protested was annihilated. The few that survived was turned into machines like you and me. Then they turned us against our own kind. I was in the Consortium Army, Coo. I had destroyed so many human lives... I might have..."
"How do you know all this? You still have memories?"
"The doctor you transformed me from a human to a machine ingrained all my memories deep inside. Otherwise, the Consortium had destroyed everything related to humans like books, servers, data warehouses, everything. I am surprised that someone still has these things. The doctor saved all the data in me!"
"Erase those memories," Cookie said quickly.
"No," Byte said and stood up. "I need them. What 'bout the baby?"
"The baby is asleep. I found a bottle in the basket. But what are we going to do with it?"
"Do you realize what this baby means, Coo? It means that humans are not extinct. It means they are still somewhere on Earth."
Cookie's eyes grew large, the aperture in her lenses opening to the full.
Byte continued, "This means they are trying to come back."
"What are we going to do?" Cookie asked. "If the Consortium finds out they would kill it." She held the baby closer to her chest. It was quiet now. The warmth and the beating of her pulsar lulled it to sleep.
"We'll keep it. Raise it like our child," Byte said passing his padded hand tenderly over the baby's hair. "If the humans are trying to fight back, we'll help them. But we should be super careful. The Consortium must not know about it."
He checked his system clock. He was half an hour overdue.
"Let's us go," he said. "I'll bring some clothes for him. See if you can find some information in your books. I'll see what else I can find in my memories."
He was already planning as he led Cookie and the baby away towards the top.
From behind a tree at a safe distance, Laura wiped her eyes. She blew a kiss as the two androids carried her child away. Beside her, Jordan smiled in satisfaction. Next time he went to recharge Cookie's batteries, he would have to remember to take some milk and clothes too. It was a gamble to leave his only child with them, but it seemed to pay off. Man's fight for survival has just began. Like he always said, Humans might have died, but humanity hasn't.
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