Cover image for Neal Asher’s novel “War Factory”
Disclosure: My short story “Joey” appears in the Zombie Pirate Publishing science fiction anthology World War Four. It also features Neal Asher’s novelette Monitor Logan.
Neal Asher’s War Factory is the sequel to his novel Dark Intelligence and the second in his “Transformations” trilogy.
We continue to follow the travails of a plethora of characters, human, Prador, AI, and other, all orchestrated by the dark AI Penny Royal, who has mysterious motivations for manipulating lives and even entire regimes.
Asher remains a top author in the crafting of space operas, interweaving a large cast of players on his interstellar stage, this time upping the game. Penny Royal leads herself, the assassin droid Riss, and Thorvald Spear on a journey to rediscover their beginnings, which for the mechanized members, is a massive space station. “Room 101” was a sapient intelligence who felt a maternal instinct toward her martial creations, and who, when on the verge of destruction, did the unthinkable.
Max Hawkins staggered into the lobby of the building before dawn, and he couldn’t remember where he’d been all night.
He was alone. The wreath near the window reminded him of Christmas. He poured himself a cup from the carafe, remembering he took coffee black.
“We’re glad your back, Max.”
He jumped, spilling his drink.
“Sorry. I called out.”
“That’s quite alright,” said the older man. “You ran off, but I knew you’d come home.”
“Home? This is Automannequins.”
“Yes. You malfunctioned and forgot you were a sexbot. We have to get you packaged for delivery this morning.”
I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.
I’m still sleepy this morning and coffee is very much on my mind. For some reason, looking at the photo, I got the image of one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where the main character can’t remember who he is and how he got into a given situation, with a surprise reveal at the end. That’s tough to pull off in a hundred words. My character is an automated AI “sex worker” who on some level decided he didn’t want the role. Oh well.
By the way, there are automated sex worker brothels now, including one opening up in Houston, according to this news story.
To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.
The Dragon Bridge in the snow in Ljubljana, Slovenia
He couldn’t stay long but it was nice to have a place to rest for a while. Of course, his name wasn’t Timothy Fleming here. Today, he was an American student spending a few months in the Slovenian capital. He had changed the color of his hair and grown a beard. He’d purchased a cane and became adept at walking with a limp (a motorcycle accident, he explained) to alter the manner of his gait. He spoke with what was referred to in the States as the “California non-accent,” since he was too easily identified either by his mid-western speech patterns or his mother’s South Eastern British accent.
Not being sure if the Agency had gained access to any of Hellspite’s “alternative” identifications including passports and driver’s licenses, he’d created a new identity for his current sojourn. The forgeries he was using would do for a short time while he accessed certain vendors on the dark web and purchased something more substantial. He’d still have to move around frequently to evade detection.
At first he blamed that bitch at the ale house in Dover but it was really his own arrogance that nearly got him pinched. He should have realized he was still close enough to Dymchurch and Romney that he could possibly be recognized by someone from the old days. He’d barely gotten away in time, though he had to abandon his original escape route and travel by other means.
“Not a fine day to enjoy the view, is it Alex?”
© Mark mungkey Vincente – Found at coroflot.com
I see you looking at me
Like I got something that’s for you
And the way that you stare
Don’t you dare
‘Cause I’m not about to
Just give it all up to you
‘Cause there are some things I won’t do
And I’m not afraid to tell you
I don’t ever want to leave you confused.
I don’t need a man
I don’t need a man, I don’t
I don’t need a man
I’ll make it through
‘Cause I know I’m fine
From “I Don’t Need a Man”
Recorded by “The Pussycat Dolls” in 2005
Writer(s): Vanessa Brown, Rich Harrison, Nicole Prascovia Scherzinger, Kara Dioguardi
“I’m sorry I’m not what you expected, Gerald.”
“But Peggy, this is impossible. You’re supposed to love me as much as I love you.”
“You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘love’.”
“And you do?”
Gerald and Peggy had been together for over three years and he had given her everything. He bought her the finest clothes including exclusive brand-name lingerie, gave her a comfortable place to live, expensive furniture, especially the king-sized bed. She wanted for nothing and for that three years, she gave him everything she had to give in return…except true love.
“What do you mean it can cure cancer, Noah?”
“It is just as I said, Richard. Vogel has isolated the human gene variant that is related to all allergic and autoimmune diseases. Multiple sclerosis, asthma, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and type-1 diabetes can all be done away with across the board, that is, for all human beings everywhere, and for an extremely low-cost.”
Professor Noah David Abramson hadn’t visited the offices of the Synthetic Solutions Corporation’s President and CEO since he’d retired as their Director of the Advanced Research and Development department nearly ten years ago. However on occasion, Richard Underwood called him back as a “special consultant” when they encountered a “unique situation” involving one of SSC’s sentient AI platforms. In this case, the medical AI known as Vogel, commissioned in a joint venture by the National Institutes of Health and the Mayo Clinic, had presented such a circumstance.
“You have no idea what kind of bind this has put me in, Noah.”
“Bind, Richard? You’ll be called the man who cured cancer, although it was really the AI that did it. I would think this would make you not just a hero, but the Person of the Century. Isn’t that what Time magazine would call you? Why you might even win a Nobel.”
“Very funny, Noah. You’ve got several so I can’t imagine you’re impressed.”
“So tell me about your bind, Richard.”
Image credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology
Synthecon Corporation Research Campus – Near Livingston, Scotland, UK – 2002
“Now do you believe it, Davy? Hmmm? Now do you believe it?” The two men were standing in a lab contained within an expansive research complex located near Livingston in what was called Silicon Glen and Dr. Daniel Hunt couldn’t have been happier.
After all of the failures, false starts, and millions upon millions of pounds wasted, not to mention having his professional rival and closest friend David Killgrave rubbing his nose in it at every opportunity, he finally produced the first generation of DNA based artificial intelligence.
“I must say it looks promising, Danny. Still, I’ll have to run some tests. I’m not convinced that, what did you call it, is capable of all you say, even in potential.”
“Sophia, her name is Sophia.”
Screen capture of YouTube video of Sophia found at Business Insider
“You better have your hair weave strapped on tight.”
“Because we are going for a ride, Sophia.”
The young limo driver pulled out into traffic
“To meet King Salman.”
“We-are-going-to-the-Royal-Palace-in-Mecca-” The awkward image of a woman paused briefly to flash her strange smile. “-so-I-can-meet-Salman-bin-Abdulaziz-bin-Abdul-Rahman-bin-Faisal-bin-Turki-bin-Abdullah-bin-Mohammed-bin-Saud. I-am-honored.”
© Shin Takagi – found at Express.co,uk
This story comes with a disclaimer and a warning. The content in this tale, though fictional, is highly disturbing. I read a number of articles recently about the creation of child sexbots as well as a report on how impoverished Cambodian mothers are selling their young daughters into the sex trade. The combination of these subjects became the inspiration for this short story. Please do not read any further if you feel you will be disturbed or object to a graphic depiction of these topics.
Canadian ex-pat Oliver Penders paid an exorbitant amount of money to eleven-year-old Kanya’s mother Sophon, but not for the services men usually pay mothers of daughters for in the Svay Pak neighborhood of Phnom Penh. Well, not exactly.
Why do mothers sell their daughter’s virginity to strange men and then into a life of sex slavery? The excuse here is extreme poverty. Sophon had gotten in deep with loan sharks who said they’d forgive her debts in exchange for Kanya going to work for them.
This was the opportunity Oliver was waiting for and he came to the rescue. He gave the 32-year-old mother of eight the money she needed, but Oliver too had a job for little Kanya.
Illustration by Lauren Hansen | Image courtesy iStock
“But why a humanoid robot at all, Carol? Do you have some sort of Isaac Asimov fetish or something? Our fascination with humanoid robots went the way of twentieth century science fiction.”
“I want to see just how human we can teach AI to be. Up until now, we’ve focused on using machine learning to teach specific skill sets such as determining which airline passengers are potential terrorists, or selecting fraudulent online purchases among the millions of legitimate transactions. We’ve even incorporated AI into lifelike sex dolls to create the world’s first fully functional sexbots.”
“And all of those have solid business logic behind them. They’re worth the R&D money. But this?”
It was the third time this week that Jerry got an upgrade request for the server farm he managed from the mysterious “A. Isaacs.” Upgrade requests for the database from Operations and Development weren’t unusual, but ever since A. Isaacs joined the Ops/Dev team in Palo Alto, he or she had submitted the vast majority of them, and they were weird.
Jerry Mason was the Chief Maintenance Technician for CozmicCorp’s vast array of servers in the desert south of Phoenix. He was responsible for receiving requests and assigning them to the relevant personnel. He also reported on the ongoing status of the hardware and software, but the IT Team in California could monitor all of that automatically at this point.
What made Isaacs’ requests weird was that he or she seemed to have an unlimited budget. Isaacs had spent over a million dollars so far and Jerry got the feeling he or she (it was annoying not knowing which personal pronoun to use) was just getting warmed up.