Does not help that an intended thing I wanted to happen here isn't possible without it feeling like an out of nowhere curve because I haven't done any setup whatsoever. Ah well. IMPROVISE.
Because it was requested: Links to all the blog posts for this story.
Intro and Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 8.2
Part 9 Part 10 Part 10.2 Part 11 Part 12 and Coda
Since the final doc will have changes here and about I'm including a Google Doc link too. Yes I'm going to go through the links and add a table of contents to each in case people want to go through.
[Note: I'm only just now feeling comfortable with sharing what happened when I was taken. Other than a few short sentences on the mess I hadn't really written much down before. So there's a great deal of hindsight and awareness of other things that'd been going on I wouldn't have at the time. Apologies for the shift, but I feel the added perspective is owed.]
When I woke up my head was hurting and I couldn't see where I was. For a subjective eternity everything sounded distorted and I couldn't think straight. Moving wasn't happening either because it felt like I was strapped down to whatever I was laying on. I wriggled and tried making noise. Panic was stomping common sense and good judgement into the dirt.
Voices again. Two people I couldn't see speaking in something I didn't know. More words, then in English, "You're awake. Good good. our boss wants words with you."
I told him his boss could do something that's probably anatomically impossible.
The man laughed. "You have spirit, this is good. Most who get gassed take days to recover. We'd hoped it wouldn't take so long for you to wake up. You know things." Somewhat pleasant tone to the man's voice. Never mind the accent he sounded conversational rather than business-like. "I know you have many questions, but it is best you rest. Food will be brought. Eat. Rest. We will talk and then you will go home."
I doubted it but at the time I was sick to my stomach and still more than a bit dizzy. Could feel movement. Heard something I'd later find out was an engine. After more time passed the same man picked up one end of whatever I was strapped to and wheeled me out of the back of the van. Tried getting a look around. For all I know we were halfway through Nevada, or they could have driven in circles for a few hours just to confuse me. Either way this place wasn't near anything. There was a high fence topped by barbed wire, and more than a few cameras
Dizzy and sick to my stomach as I felt I still could put a few figures together. "You know if your boss wanted to talk to me he could have just asked. There's a lot I'd like to find out and we could've done it all without the whole kidnapping thing."
The man wheeling me up a wheelchair ramp laughed. "This is true, but my boss has a way he wants to do things and won't pay unless they are done how he wants." Was that exasperation I heard in his voice? My Pusher's partner was ahead of us opening doors in our way til the three of us were in an elevator where they flanked the dolly, or whatever I was on.
Goons A and B swapped positions when the elevator dinged and I was wheeled out. No more talking from either, not even if I brought up how their whole wannabe spy stuff was figured out by a kid with a C in social studies. Nothing. Not til they'd wheeled me into an office and sat me upright in front of an office desk with the person on the other side facing away from me.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting when he turned around, but if this was S I was less than impressed. Balding. Glasses. He seemed to keep in decent shape though so point in his favor. "It has been given to me to understand you are not liking how I conduct my business here yes?" His accent was thick and there was a way about how he spoke that felt wrong. Looking back it's obvious English wasn't a first language.
Can't say what this guy had planned for me, even with the advantage of hindsight, but I remember not liking the look in his eye. "No Comrade. No I don't." It took effort but if this guy could play at being nice then so would I even though I was scared out of my mind and at some level was afraid I was going to end up like that guy on vacation that lost a lung and a kidney.
He raised an eyebrow and motioned for me to go on. "Well first there's the obvious fact I'm strapped to a roll-y trolley thing." My mouth worked for a few moments to try getting a little more moisture. "Plus there's the fact you seem to almost want people to come snooping around what with the whole night-time meets, guys in black suits and the like. I know I'm just some punk kid to you but if I can see you're about as boneheaded as a dinosaur that flunked preschool what're the cops going to think?"
Comrade Mike glowered at me. "Child you really have no idea do you?" Hooboy villain monologue. "You really think I'm trying to not be found?" He got up then and opened a drawer. For a moment I thought he was going to pull a gun, but instead it turned out to be a pack of cigarettes. After he'd lit up he blew smoke at me. "I'm going to look forward to the look on your grandfather's face when he comes to fetch you."
At the time I thought He'd sent a ransom note to the effect Grandad had to personally deliver whatever money was being asked. Then I'd tried figuring out Why. Comrade Mike stood there waiting as I tried figuring it out.
"Look." My voice trembled, "You probably figured out who he was from raffling through my floppies."
"Good. Very good." Mike motioned encouragingly for me to continue. "You are perhaps smarter than you look yah? Go on."
"OK." The hamsters in my head were working double-time so I could put pieces together. "You're probably wondering how I knew you made copies of my journal. First I'd noticed someone had thumbed through my floppies. Very hard to notice if it were most people because it was all arranged neat and tidy like the rest of the house. Nice touch that really real classy."
"Thank you." Mike smiled slightly. "I would like to think I am not a complete barbarian."
My throat picked that moment to go dry. "Look you got a coke around here? Tea? I know you're not gonna untie me but-" Mike had gotten a can of something from a mini-fridge in the corner and offered a straw. "Thanks."
When he took the drink away I continued. "I've got an internal clock on my box at home that adds an access date stamp. Most people wouldn't have bothered checking, not if it'd been just a random break-in. Thing is I'd already gotten on edge from all the fuss and noise so I went through everything, made notes, and the last file accessed was a report I'd done last month for English class on my grandad. So. Comrade." I tried meeting the man's gaze. "Wha'd he do to you that made you want to go kidnap me? I only ask since I'd like to know why I'm tied up and all."
Mike laughed soft. "Oh very good child very good. Given the company you keep and your family at large I likely shouldn't be this impressed." He got behind me and started wheeling me elsewhere in the building. " I have read your file, which includes some of your journals. Really I am sorry but time grows short for me and it isn't as if our two governments cooperate enough for me to make a phone call for the supplies I need."
Again I was in the elevator; this time with Mike telling his story. "It would seem strange that I have interest in your home computer market I'm sure. After all for what I've paid for the various pieces to my puzzle I could have bought several mainframes. Possibly even a Cray."
Ding. I was wheeled into a well lit room with rows on rows of monitors, keyboards, and a mosaic of displays that formed a giant monitor against the far wall. "Wow. You saw War Games and just had to make a copy of Crystal Palace for yourself?"
I'd meant that as a way to lighten the mood; what with me being tied down and kidnapped and all. However once Mike's laughter died down his face grew serious. "I'll admit the rows on rows of terminals are a bit redundant since I only have a small handful I trust enough to work this level but other than the fact this facility controls nothing other than itself you have come remarkable close to the heart of why. As you say a picture is worth a thousand words yes?"
"Wait. You want to try making JOSHUA real?" I'll admit the idea, if it could work, was as fantastic and awe inspiring as it is Now that I know actual AIs are out there somewhere. This was, however, the 80's, and there's no way the hardware of the time could have done it. No way. The first I know of needed specialist hardware that took up an entire power plant's worth of energy and had to be nitrogen cooled just to function.
Mike nodded slow and typed a sequence into the nearest terminal. "Unfortunately even with the latest and most powerful machines either of our people have made something is missing. So I took a different approach."
On the giant display at back there flashed wireframe images of a brain that then splintered apart into sections; stem, that thing in back, the big mass of grey wrinkly stuff. Each labeled. "My reasoning is that the human mind does not consciously control breathing, or heart beats, or sneezes. Nor does the hind-brain control thought, logic, reason, or any of the other higher functions. So I started looking into the feasibility of having a computerized mind that follows a similar approach."
As it turns out the concept itself isn't a bad one. Pretty sure he wasn't the first to come up with it either. "So what do mass produced consoles have to do with all this? You would need specialized chips that have hard-coded Everything from the ground up to make this work."
"Indeed." Mike sounded satisfied with himself as the displays blanked then started displaying a layout of what I guess is where we were, complete with little dots showing where we're standing. "The lower functionality actually works quite well. It is not good enough though to have a dog-brain the size of a building that consumes millions of watts to function." His laugh was bitter. "I follow plans a madman lays out that call on chips from a hundred computers and it works flawlessly. Yet the intelligent part that learned well educated men have toiled on since the sixties does nothing. NOTHING!"
I wobbled when he rounded on me. "That is where your grandfather will help me!"
My eyebrow raised. "He's a War vet, not a scientist man... How would him coming in one way or another help? Even going with the idea he won't just bust you into next month for trussing me up like a turkey."
He laughed. It was loud and long, and I was sure in that moment he was quite mad. "So much you know... yet you know nothing of the true nature of things. He will help me."
"Or I'll die right?" If I was sure to die why not just be blunt about it. "Or you'll start breaking and cutting and crushing til he agrees to try doing something for you."
"No." Mike's grin matched the madness in his laughter. "I'll start killing everything that matters to you. Your friends. That waif of a girl you're smitten with. I will start breaking them so you will do the talking for me. He'll listen to you child he'll-"
There were more words. He kept talking but once he said he was going to try hurting my friends. Hurting her just so he could try doing something off in crazy land. There was nothing there but the sound of my heart beating. My temper is a controlled thing. It has to be because the few times it's come close to being let out I've hurt people. I don't want to be angry. I don't like me when I'm angry.
He definitely wouldn't. Not when I got free.