Or Kyle and Simone write a story
Now this is a story all about how, millennials are doing NaNoWriMo wrong and I’d like to take a minute, if you’d sit right there as I tell you all about how we are “ruining” yet another thing.
Rhyming is hard.
NaNoWriMo is almost upon us. And for you that don’t know what that is, please see this link…
So in the spirit of being all creative and exciting, Simone and I have decided to co-write a story.
Well that’s pretty average and no at all exciting, you might be saying out loud to your cat. Meow the cat says, agreeing with you. But just hold your horses right there, cat! For we have a very special twist to make your cotton socks fly right off. Even if they are on a shelf, off they will come.
Our plan is simple. We each write a chapter every other day, with the writer taking a cue from the previous days writer. Confused? Ok, let me explain…
On November the first (01/11/2017), I (Kyle) will write chapter 1 consisting of about 1,667 words. On November second (or 02/11/2017), Simone will read chapter 1 and write chapter 2 continuing my story. On the 3rd day of NaNoWriMo, I will write chapter 3 continuing from chapter 2 and so on and so forth until we have (what we hope to be) a very interesting story, which not only twists, but bobs and weaves too.
So that’s our story. Well the plan for our story. We hope you follow along. Its bound to, if nothing else, be funny.
If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear your plans, your strategies and any tips or tricks you are taking note of. We hope you follow along, and we hope its as fun to read as it is to write.
The Artificial Intelligence boon came early in the 21st century with many of the giant corporations starting to invest heavily into AI. Billions upon billions of dollars were poured into this new technological gold rush. Governments around the globe started to support these companies, many holding the belief that the first country to achieve true AI would become the world’s next super power.
The breakthroughs came in bursts. One company had a chatbot that could talk to you, the next day other companies had bigger and better. The industry grew, employing thousands, then millions of people. All around the world, governments gave way to corporations. The race was on for true AI; yet no one could crack it.
In the mid-21st century, a small start-up called Artificial Industrial appeared with what seemed like unlimited reservoirs of money and some of the brightest Artificial Intelligence scientists in the world. They came the closest to true AI – a being they named Cali. A few days after Cali was unveiled, Artificial Industrial went dark. Their campus was locked, and no one ever came in and no one ever left.
A year later, Artificial Industrial announced a completely new technology – a chip that allowed the transfer of human conscience out of the fleshy bodies and into a humanoid robot. They announced a completely new industry. People could, at will, transfer their conscience into a puppet, experience everything through the puppet and then transfer themselves back into their normal body.
The world was forever changed. Puppets would stay at work, and people would transfer in and out as they needed. Industries evolved. No longer would you need to fear anything, for when the Puppet was destroyed, the conscience was automatically transferred back into the body. People started skydiving from space, parties that went on for months without stopping became popular.
Puppets were recognizable only by their violet irises and synthetic skin, which looked completely natural from a distance. Humans felt more comfortable interfacing with figures that represented something already familiar to them.
It wasn’t long before Puppets made their way into the mainstream market, where any middle-class citizen could purchase one with a reasonable affordable bank loan. Buying one was seen as the first step into adulthood, many parents gifting their children with a Puppet on their 18th birthdays.
The world was forever changed. Humans didn’t need to fear death any longer. Until…
“We are getting reports that there has been a bombing at Artificial Industrial’s Headquarters. At this stage, we do not know who or what is responsible. Initial eye witness reports are saying that explosions were seen on the 17th, 55th and 120th floor. At this stage we have no other information to go on. Sandra has just arrived at the scene. Sandra, can you tell us anything?”
“It’s all chaos here in downtown, Mike. People looking shell-shocked were seen wondering around as far as 12 blocks away. We can see Artificial Industrial’s building billowing smoke, and it appears to be on fire. Fire drones have arrived. Let’s try get closer.”
“For those of you just joining, there appears to have been a terrorist attack on Artificial Industrial’s headquarters. The building is in flames after multiple explosions. Our ‘on the ground’ reporter, Sandra Hart, is on the scene and trying to get any information. The images you are seeing are live. This is happening. Sandra? Are you there? Come in Sandra. Can you tell us what is happening now?”
“Mike…. fire drones… contain…. But the smoke…. Interference…. Oh no, move… get out… run…”
“Sandra? Sandra? Are you there? Sorry folks, it looks as if we are experiencing technical difficulties. We are trying to sort it out as quickly as possible. Please bear with, oh my. Are you seeing this?”
28 minutes after the first explosion, Artificial Industrial’s headquarters came crashing to the ground. All 250 stories of it. Many people died that day, and after the initial shock came an even bigger one. Artificial Industrial had no back up for their Neural CommLink technology. The technology that allowed the transfer of conscience from human to puppet and back again. Those in the process, even though it took milliseconds, were lost. Those in puppets had no way back.
Kara had a headache. Last night was epic, but maybe she enjoyed it a little too much. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do on your 25th birthday? It’s how everyone celebrated becoming legal. Between each hot pound in her head, she swore never to mix booze and digital trips ever again. Tommy had warned her, but she was a big girl now, dammit.
Wondering in from the makeshift dance floor in the shed, she went straight to the kitchen to get some water. And maybe look for a headache shot. She was thinking about how the world had suddenly gotten too bright and too loud when her parents walked in.
“You look like you had fun last night. Didn’t overdo it did you?” Her dad asked with a wink. He had done the same thing on his 25th birthday, but that didn’t mean Kara was going to get any sympathy from him today.
“You got some water, honey?” At least her mom still cared for her very fragile head.
“We have a surprise for you. Come into the family room. When you can walk straight of course.” Still no sympathy from the old man. Is that how today is going to go? Best to get it over and done with and then the rest of this day will be in a dark, cold room.
Kara stood up straight and very pointedly walked into the family room, still with a hint of teenage defiance that caused her parents to move states a few years ago.
“Kara, you are now all grown up according to the law, even though you’re still daddy’s little girl, and always will be. But soon, will join the rest of us, so it’s only natural that you get this now.” The old man did have soft side.
Sitting in the family room was a sleek silver mannequin. It had the typical vague female shape, and its eyes were dark. This was the mid-range beginner’s puppet. And it still cost a fortune.
“This is so cool! Thanks guys!” Kara rushed over to give her parents a quick hug before turning her attention to the humanoid sitting on the couch. “When can I connect up? How did you afford this? Is this really for me?” The excitement overpowering the headache.
“It’s yours, and you can connect up now. While you were out last night with your cronies, we installed the NCL in your room. And don’t worry about how we paid for this, you’re entering the work force now, and what type of parents send their only child into the world without one!” Her dad grinned.
Another brief hug each, a quick “I-love-you-guys-you’re-the-best” and Kara took off upstairs to her room.
Sitting in the corner was the Neural CommLink. It looked like a bathtub crossed with a coffin. In the bath tub, the NerveSuit. Like a wetsuit that automatically sizes itself correctly.
Kara put on the NerveSuit, climbed into the NCL and pulled down the headset that would cover the top of her head. The NCL closed its lid and went through a quick boot up and calibration process. After what seemed like ages, Kara opened her eyes and was back in the family room.
Looking around she saw her parents beaming at her.
“What do you think, K? Try stand up and walk.” Her dad was as excited as she was, having never gotten one for himself.
She tried to stand and fell forward. Her joints moved too slow, and she felt top heavy.
“The puppet typically takes a few minutes to calibrate to your unique brain patterns. A few exercises you should try would be to sit, stand and walk both forwards and backwards. If you are still having difficulty after 60 minutes, please contact our helpline.” Her mom read from the instruction manual.
Staring at the floor, Kara thought through the entire process that must happen to stand up normally. Slowly the puppet responded and soon she was on her feet, having learned to stand with feet apart to counter act the top heaviness of the machine.
“This! Is! Awesome!” She exclaimed. And heard her voice come out the machines face.
“Go take it for a spin” Her dad encouraged her, walking towards the front door.
Kara started after him and after a few unsteady steps, soon had the hang of walking. She had to go to Tommy’s and show off. He was always saying how his parents would be getting him one soon. And to be given something before he did was a very rare event.
Kara walked out the front door and turned left onto the foot path. She was so excited she didn’t even notice the brief disconnect and reconnect of her and her puppet. She decided to see how fast she could run in this thing.
Sitting in the family room, Kara’s parents were filled with pride. Their only child had grown up and was ready for the world. Sure, she was a handful and caused her parents to relocate after what happened at school, but that was all in the past. Suddenly, the emergency broadcast tone sounded and every screen in the house flicked on to a very worried looking man. Well it was a puppet, but one of the newest deluxe models – the eyes giving it away.
“For those of you just joining…” he began.
Thomas lay on the floor, eyes glued to the screen on the ceiling. He had been going through his scheduled exercises for the day before the breaking news tone had alerted on his wrist. Mid-situp a screen appeared on the wall and followed his eyes as he relaxed to stare upward.
“Good morning. We interrupt your daily activity to bring you a very urgent announcement. Artificial Industrial has been the victim of an organised terrorist attack just 20 minutes ago. The building has collapsed, trapping thousands of citizens. Emergency personnel are currently at the scene. We have also received word that the Neural CommLink for all puppets throughout the world has been severed and can confirm this has resulted in numerous fatalities, of which the magnitude is not yet known”
The announcer on the screen’s voice came through strong and purposeful, but his body language appeared uneasy and distracted.
“We do not know the extent of effect the Neural CommLink has reached but those who were currently occupying a puppet at the time of Artificial Industrial’s collapse are experiencing difficulty travelling back. We advise against testing if your puppet is working. We repeat, those who are inhabiting a puppet at the moment cannot travel back. We will keep you up to date with the latest on this story”.
The screen flashed blank. Thomas stared. He knew people who had puppets. Heck, everyone had one. His brain flashed names and images of people he knew in his mind. This was different to the natural disasters you hear about millions of kilometres away. These would be people he knew. He only blinked when he realised he wasn’t running out of names for his list. Should he call someone? Who though? His parents, of course.
“Call mom” he said shakily. His wrist lit up and displayed his mother’s static image.
Cali, his AI responded, “I’m sorry, there seems to be some technical issues getting your call through right now. Shall I try again later?”
Thomas didn’t respond or move. It was a Tuesday. What did she do on Tuesdays? He cursed himself for not being more conscious of his mother’s social life.
There was a knock at the door. He ignored it.
He should call Wiggin. But he’d be at work. Screw that, this was an emergency. “Call Wiggin”.
“I’m sorry, there seems to be some technical issues getting your call through right now. Shall I try again later?”
Thomas heard the door open. No. Even Kara was too much for him to handle right now. He leapt up and slipped silently into the passage towards his bedroom. By the time she made it to the living room, he was gone. He considered asking Cali to enable the alarm but stopped when didn’t recognise the footsteps. Who was in his house?
“Tommy, check me out!!”
It was Kara. Had she put on weight?
He emerged from behind the wall and his body went cold. It was not Kara, except it was. She, it was standing in his bedroom looking like a smug asshole. Just to make sure, he asked, “Kara?”
“Oh my gosh, yes you idiot.” Grinning she plonked herself on the couch.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He said lamely. Dumb thing to say, but his mind was racing. He stayed in the doorway.
“Geez, I didn’t think you’d take it that badly. I got a puppet before you!” She leaned back and propped her head on the armrest. Her features turned uncertain. “Should I come back and gloat later?”
“No. Um” He forced his muscles to relax. “So, you got a puppet.”
“Ok… good.” Lame again. “How do you feel?” It was obvious she didn’t know. But she would have received the breaking news alert as well. Her watch would have been on her real body…
“Quite energetic, actually. I ran some of the way here. Only fell over once.” She laughed. “I know these are supposed to be disposable, but it would have cost a fortune and it’s not like I can get a new one any time soon.”
Thomas was about to explain just how disposable they had suddenly not become when banging and a face appeared at this living room window.
“Dimmers down!” He said quickly. The window went blank and the indoor lighting turned on. He did not have time for needy neighbours. “Kara, come into the kitchen.”
Kara groaned but followed him.
Knowing he would stumble over his words, he shoved his watch in front of her face. The news was everywhere. “You should see this.” He hit play on the breaking news announcement he’d watched just a few minutes before. He watched her unfamiliar face turn from confusion to horror. He selfishly wondered if this catastrophe had affected the personalisation features of Kara’s puppet so she could at least change her face to something recognisable. Currently, he was finding it difficult to act comfortable with a stranger in his house, expecting some kind of familiarity with him.
3 Months Later.
After three months, government and corporate investigations had yielded no results. Any evidence of who the attackers were was lost in the collapse. People tried to sue Artificial Industrial, but there was nothing left of the company. The investigations uncovered that 24 hours before the attack, the company was delisted from the global stock market and pulled from the government business listings. It was as if the company ceased to exist. Further investigations concluded that there was no foul play, it was routine maintenance in preparation for a company upgrade and just pure bad timing. That was where the leads stopped.
Kara sat in her room. Curtains drawn. The only indication that she was there was the violet glow of the puppets, her eyes. She sat and stared at the Neural Commlink. In it was her body. The NCL could keep a body alive for 6 months. Super handy when you’re one of those asteroid miners, not so useful when you’re desperate to feel your own skin again.
Kara felt like she was getting close to snapping. She never knew how much she would miss eating, or showering. She only slept because her mind needed the downtime, not because her body was tired. She was starting to feel distant to her family, after all, how much can you relate when you don’t need anything they need. Dinner times were extra awkward as she watched everyone eat, her brain telling her she was hungry, but no hunger sensation in her stomach.
Her parents were trying to help. She could tell. But how hard must it be to watch your daughter’s body slow die, while you still have your walking, talking daughter?
There was a knock at the door.
“Go away mom, I am not coming down for dinner” she mumbled.
“It’s not your mommy” Tommy walked in with a lopsided grin, laughing at his own joke. He was trying to cheer her up. “How are you holding up? Your mom says you haven’t left this room in days. That explains the smell” He faked holding his nose and mouthing “pew ew”. He stopped when he saw she didn’t react. “Speak to me K. You can shut the world out, but not me.”
“It’s hard alright!” She snapped. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, it’s just, stuff” she waved her hands at the NCL. “Having to share a room with… well, with me, you know. And then dad has been trying to find a way back, and I know he blames himself, and its all too much Tommy!” She made sounds like sobbing, yet no tears came. She forgot how good it felt to actually talk to someone.
He didn’t make a move towards her, which just made her feel worse. She looked towards her window and had the insatiable urge to run away. Thousands of other people already had. Tommy’s voice invaded her thoughts.
“We should go somewhere.”
“Like where? Outside. The graphics aren’t that great.” She lay back on her pillow and looked at her hands. She used to bite her nails, but the incident had put a quick stop to that. Now her nervous tick was smoking. The stuff she was being supplied with was made to slow down the neurolinks within the puppet’s circuits. It was probably terrible for the electronics, but everyone only had three months to live anyway. She craved a puff right now. But Tommy didn’t know, and she had no plans on telling him now.
“Like, something cool. A zeppelin, maybe? Haven’t you always wanted to try it out?”
“There’s a three-month waiting list for anything fun, you know.” Still looking at her fingers, she wondered how easy it actually was to rob a bank. No fingerprints, generic un-altered puppet face. She was anonymous. “Everyone is out having fun. Enjoying their last days.”
“Let’s go to the river then. Just, get outside at least.”
He was trying incredibly hard. But there was a chasm between them now. He would be alive in three months, and she wouldn’t. There was also the added issue that she didn’t look like Kara anymore. All of Artificial Industrial’s services had died with the servers. Her appearance was the default face for her model of puppet. She’d noticed the shift in relationship before he’d even broken the news.
She caught him glancing at the coffin. “Do you want to look in it?”
“No, it’s fine.” He said quickly.
She rolled her eyes.
“But there is someone I want you to meet. She might be able to help.” As a disclaimer, he muttered. “She’s cool”.
Kara felt like throwing up. Good to know her best friend was already replacing her. Over her dead body! She got up from the bed and pushed past Tommy. Surprised, he hesitated before turning to follow.
She looked homeless. Fashionable, but homeless. She wore all sorts of outdated tech Kara had never seen before, as well as a glowing pendant that looked like the night sky. Her face was greasy but bright and intelligent. “Kara, this is Aritelle.” Thomas introduced the two. Kara looked down at her.
“Nice to meet you.” The other girl stood and smiled. “You may call me Ari if you like.”
She was very polite for a homeless person. “Hi.”
“Thomas says you’ve been a potato these last few months. I’m here to change that.”
Kara bristled and shot Tommy a scathing look.
Defensive, Tommy blurted out, “She’s the daughter of the CEO at Industrial.”
Ari took a step back, obviously not prepared for the sudden exposure.
Kara’s world turned red. From the day her passive nightmare began, she’d needed someone to blame. First, it had been directly at Artificial Industrial. But they were just a concept, untouchable. Then she focused her anger on the social expectation that everyone needed puppets in the first place, but she’d fallen for that too. Now, here she was. Unfortunately, so was Thomas.
Her fist collided with his chest.
“What the hell, Kara!”
Kara grabbed his arm. “Get out of my way! She did this to me, to everyone.”
“She did nothing except inherit DNA.”
Kara’s nails dug into Tommy’s arm but he didn’t flinch. Aritelle was standing behind him looking unphased, which angered Kara even more. But before she could shove Tommy aside, Ari pulled out a shining blue gun and Kara’s world went black.
Kara’s eyes fluttered open. It felt like she had run into a bus.
“Whaa?” She mumbled. There was a deep thumping going on in the background. She felt it more than heard it. “Where?” She still couldn’t open her eyes fully. The mixture of bright light and deep thumping crawled inside her skull and wanted very much to get out.
“Hello sleeping beauty. Glad you could finally join us!” That was Tommy’s voice, but she still could not move. She wondered why the ground was so hard. “Shes waking up!” she heard Tommy yell. He sounded far away. Opening her eyes fully as she sat up against a wall, she noticed the roof looked odd. Why did the roof look odd. “Drink this, and you’ll feel better” Tommy offered her a plastic cup.
Instinctively she took it from him. “What are you playing at? You know I can’t…” She noticed her hand. Her hand! It was her hand! Skin and everything. “Whaaa”
“Was she always this great with words?” Ari was looking at her, smiling.
“Drink up and lets go! Its madness out there and we’re about to miss him!” Tommy was super excited about something.
Kara gulped down the drink, the haze from her mind leaving. The thumping continued, but now it was coming through the walls. “Can someone please tell me whats going on?”
“You’ll just have to see it!” Tommy took the cup and threw it away. He grabbed her hand, pulled her up and almost dragged her out of the strange, bare room that looked like an abandoned office, and down the metal stairs to double doors. He was yelling now, the thumping becoming a massive din. “Welcome to Valhalla!” He pushed open the doors into the worlds biggest and most illegal digital dance party.
Valhalla was a small project from an unknown game company. They leveraged the NCL that Artificial Intelligence made to build a virtual reality city. People would log in form a hard day in the real world and live out their fantasy life. People who were accountants became football stars. People who traveled for work could log in and take the family out to a virtual dinner. For a while it flourished. Then digital drugs were introduced. These snippets of code mimicked all the euphoria with none of the downside. Valhalla was suddenly a virtual city of dance clubs and digital opium dens. The powerful ones were the ones that controlled the code. The developers tried to squash it, writing patch after patch, update after update, and yet the virtual drug lords found ways around it. After the first real world death due, the company was shut down and Valhalla along with digital drugs were outlawed. At least that is what most people believe. In truth, Valhalla was morphed into a massive virtual reality dance club, stored on the dark web. Untraceable and impossible to get into unless you knew what you were doing.
The music was so loud, she could feel it vibrate through her body. Her heart beat with the bass. As far as she could see people slithered and gyrated in time to the music. Kara was reminded of the scene of one of her favorite classic movies – Blade.
“What are we doing here?” She yelled at Tommy who was already starting to weave into the crowd and sway with the music.
“Just go with it!” He yelled back. Kara turned to try find Ari, but she was no where to be seen. When she turned around, Tommy was gone.
Well this is just great, she thought. I finally get my body back and everyone just leaves me. Suddenly a hand in front of her face. “Here, swallow this” Ari was offering her a blue gel pill. It looked like the gel inside was alive, different hues of blue shimmering.
“What is it?” She started to say, but then thought better. I’m here now, whats the worst that can happen? May as well make the most of it. She took the pill and felt it instantly dissolve in her mouth.
She blinked. Ari was turning purple. Not the I’m-out-of-oxygen shade of purple, but the lumo type. She could feel the music as if it was a warm fur blanket envelop her, the flashing lasers of green, red and yellow started to taste like skittles in her mouth. She loved everyone here and she loved the music. It made her feel so good. She reached out and touched Ari’s purple face.
“Hey now, no getting handsy” Ari said. But to Kara, touching someone when she could feel the warmth of their skin underneath her finger tips, reminded her of what she had been missing.
She wanted to dance. She wanted to dance and never stop. The music, the people, it all felt so right, and so good. How could she ever want to go back to reality? Kara grabbed Ari’s hand and pulled her into the crowd. Its time to dance.
Sunlight flittered through a window. A pigeon’s coo echoed from the rafters. Its too bright, too early, Kara thought. Her eyes opened and she knew she was back in the real world, back in her puppet. She felt exhausted, but surely that was just a mental thing? She seemed to be in an empty factory, concreate pillars and smooth concrete floor.
A loud groan made her sit up on the worn couch she was lying on. Tommy was in a beanbag and had just come to.
“Oh my aching head” he groaned. Ah, the side effect of Valhalla and the digital drugs. It wasn’t effecting Kara, although she didn’t even think about why not. “Today is canceled, right after breakfast” Tommy’s eyes weren’t opened and he lay with his arm over his head.
“Well its not breakfast, but its a lunch of champions” Ari appeared with two plates full of what smelt like bacon and pancakes. “Here you go you two” she handed them a plate each. Kara looked down at the plate, her robotic nose translating the smell into signals her computerized brain could understand. It smelt amazing, and she longed to be able to eat something. “Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot” Stammered Ari, taking Kara’s plate away quickly. Tommy already diving into his.
“Bacon pancakes with maple syrup, now that’s what I’m talking about” He mumbled in between bites. “That weekend was great! When are we doing is again?” His headache already fading quickly.
Kara had so many questions but she didn’t bother asking them as Tommy and Ari started swapping stories of their experience.
Wait, did Tommy say weekend? It felt like just one night. How long were they there? Kara checked her watch – Monday, just after 1 in the afternoon. What day did they leave? What time? Did she tell her parentals? Kara was filled with a burning desire to go home, to be in her bed, to see her mom and hear her dad try be cool.
“Where are we?” She stammered.
“The industrial district, not too far out of town” Ari replied nonchalantly
“That’s the opposite side of town. I have to get home. My parents…” Kara began
“Whoa there Nelly! This meeting wasn’t supposed to be a party, it was so you could get answers from Ari” Tommy suddenly very serious. “The party thing just happened to happen.”
“Ok so what answers to what questions exactly Mr Smarty-pants? “ Kara hated when Tommy was able to coerce her curiosity. She still wanted to be home. She hated to think of how worried her parents must be, but since she was here…
“Well Ari is the daughter of Eric, the CEO of Artificial Industrial, so she knows stuff” Tommy said, tapping his head.
“Ok so spill, Ari. What do you know that can ‘help me’?” Kara was super sarcastic and gestured with air quotes.
“You better be ready for a story guys…” Ari said, and gestured for them to take a seat on the lone couch that Kara woke up on.