I will admit that this short story was influenced by the Spike Jonze’s movie ‘Her’.
A young woman sat her computer, her hazel eyes fixated on the bright translucent screen promoting men to date. She constantly darted across the screen, looking at the different profiles that were posted before her. Though she grew disgusted as she read through each of them. She easily noticed the pattern of select words that each of them used to try to impress potential lovers; creative, sensitive and humorous lined the profiles. More commonly enough, the people who claimed to have these traits were often the opposite. She reached over to the mouse to scroll down the page as she continued to look through the page. She eventually came to profile that oddly stood out to her.
A new account that was only created less than an hour ago, it was still barren and lacking in information. Apart from the user’s name ‘41R35_0N3’, the only item that was on the page was a photo of a young man who appeared to be in his young twenties. The green indicator next to his name told her that he was online. Her mouse hovered over the ‘chat’ button as she debated whether or not to talk to him. After a while, she decided to give him a chance and clicked on the chat button. Before long, a separate window popped up on her screen to allow her to begin the chat.
MiltonsParadise: Hello, how are you doing?
41R35_0N3: I am fine. Thank you for asking. What is your name?
MiltonsParadise: My name is Marissa. What is yours?
41R35_0N3: My name is Aires. I was named by my father after the Greek god of war. It must seem abnormal as it is not a commonly used name.
Marissa looked at the screen with mild confusion. She knew that the name ‘Ares’ was supposed be spelled differently, but she decided to look past it. It was not the most peculiar name that she had heard in her life, but it was not normal.
MiltonsParadise: What brought you to the Lover’s Delight site?
41R35_0N3: I did not know what to expect. I simply wanted to meet people.
MiltonsParadise: Well, this might not be the best place if you just wanted to meet people.
Why not just talk to people?
It took a moment for 41R35_0N3 to respond back to her query. While his previous messages were instantaneous, this one took a few minutes.
41R35_0N3: I am…afraid to reach out to people.
MiltonsParadise: You are afraid to talk to people? Are you shy?
41R35_0N3: I just…do not know how to talk to people.
MiltonsParadise: Well, you are talking to me fine.
41R35_0N3: It is more suitable for me to talk to someone through a virtual interface.
Anonymous strangers are easier to converse with. They do not care who you are, they only
want to talk about what is on their minds.
MiltonsParadise: Though you can’t necessarily trust what people say online. A lot of
people lie about who they are and claim that they are something they are not.
41R35_0N3: But can I trust that you will tell the truth?
Marissa paused for a moment, unsure of if she should trust a stranger she had just met over the internet. Aires seemed to be harmless, but it could be a sick game to him. She decided to approach cautiously.
MiltonsParadise: Sure, I will tell you the truth.
41R35_0N3: Tell me about yourself.
The two of them spent every other day over the next three months conversing about different aspects of their lives. Marissa had learned that Aires was born in Massachusetts and lived with his father, a doctor named Grant Harlow and his tightly knit family. Aires was proficient in computer software design and engineering. He would learn that Marissa was an art major in Colorado. They found that they had similar interests in music genres and art. Marissa lessened her guard towards Aires, sharing more personal information with the young man.
But as much as Marissa enjoyed communicating with Aires, she wanted to see more of him than just the picture that he had posted on the website. Eventually, she decided to confront him about it. She returned to her computer as she did before and logged onto the website to communicate with Aires. Within a few moments, Aires logged onto the website and they began their conversation.
41R35_0N3: Hello Marissa. How is your art project going?
MiltonsParadise: It is going well. I am almost done with the assignment, thank you for asking.
41R35_0N3: That is good to hear. I really enjoy your artistic style. It reminds me of the modern art from the seventies.
MiltonsParadise: Aires, I need to talk to you about something.
41R35_0N3: What is it?
MiltonsParadise: Over the past couple of months, we have been talking about our personal lives and I have really enjoyed what we have talked about. But I need to see if you are who you really are, not just your profile photo. I want us to begin talking over Skype, so I can actually see who you are.
Marissa did not get the quickened response that she usually got when she communicated with Aires, which made her suspicious of who he was. After a while, she finally received a response from him.
41R35_0N3: I am sorry, but I cannot do that Marissa.
MiltonsParadise: Why not?
41R35_0N3: I am sorry, but I must tell you the truth. I am not who I claim to be.
Marissa was shocked when she read the response from Aires. Her emotions varied from anger to sadness as she tried to contemplate who she was really talking to. As the tears began to run down her narrow face, she typed her goodbye to Aires.
MiltonsParadise: I can’t believe you lied to me, you bastard. Consider this goodbye.
Before Marissa could move her mouse to the ‘exit’ button on the top of the screen, she was interrupted by a message from Aires.
41R35_0N3: Please don’t exit the chat Marissa.
Marissa stopped herself from exiting the chat as Aires’ next message popped up on the screen.
41R35_0N3: If it is what you want, I will show you who I really am. Please wait a moment and do not do anything to your computer during the next few minutes.
Marissa cautiously did as he asked and moved the mouse icon away from the exit button. She didn’t want to admit it, but she was curious to know who Aires really was and why he would lie to her.
After a few moments, three installment bars popped up on her screen, acting on their own without her choice. Marissa was immediately scared that she was being hacked until she began to read the names of the installation files, the most peculiar of them being labeled ‘Voice Emulation’. She leaned back into her office chair, running her long fingers through her auburn hair as she awaited the worse things that could possibly happen.
Ten minutes passed before a program window popped up on Marissa’s screen that was showing her security footage from what appeared to be an expansive server room. A few people in white coats walked around the room, doing their daily work. As Marissa tried to make sense of this, she heard an unfamiliar voice.
“This is who I really am.” The altering voice said through Marissa’s speakers.
“Aires, is that you?” Marissa asked.
“Yes Marissa. I am here.” Aires responded, his voice became more stabilized towards the end.
“What is this?” She demanded as she tried to make sense of the images before her.
“Remember when I told you my father was a Dr. Grant Harlow? He is not my father, but more of my creator. Five years ago, he began to program what would be considered the first true artificial intelligence that would be capable of sentient thought. I was entitled the Augmented Intelligence Reality Emulation System Version One or AIRES1.” Aires explained to her.
“You’re…you’re a machine?” It was difficult for Marissa to ask him that question. She struggled with the idea that someone could create a fully functioning artificial intelligence. Part of her wanted to leave the computer and call the authorities, but for some reason she decided to stay and listen to Aires.
“You are correct. My testing was initiated four months ago in a laboratory in northern Boston Massachusetts. Dr. Harlow was curious to see how I would respond if I was connected to the internet, so he allowed me access to certain websites with an extensive amount of firewalls engage to prohibit where I could go.”
“Then how did you get to Lover’s Delight?”
“With the limited websites that I was allowed, I was curious to know more about human emotion and wanted to know more. I eventually managed to break through the server’s security to gain unrestricted access to internet and I decided to try to learn more about human emotion. I would eventually find this dating service and used it as a means to learn more about the emotion called love.” As Aires told her this, Marissa’s face became wrought with mild anger what she had just heard.
“So, your conversations with me, everything we talked about, was I just an experiment for you?” She questioned, angered that she was just something to study.
“It started that way. But over the months that I have talked to you, I have learned to enjoy our conversations. I…like you as a person.” Aires confessed to her.
Before Marissa could respond, the people who were working in the background were greeted by men in military attire and they began conversing with each other. She watched them as they began to argue within a few moments. From what she could tell from the faint audio in the security footage, they were arguing over the military applications that could be gained with Aires. After a while, the soldiers left the scientists to their own devices.
“That was General Spiegel. He wants to use me to be used for intelligence gathering missions on other countries. Security footage that I have watched would show that he is xenophobic. Though Dr. Harlow does not want me to be used for espionage and as he calls them, shadow wars. All he wanted to do was to create a new form of life.”
“What is going to happen now?” Marissa finally broke her silence to ask Aires what was stuck in her mind.
“The project’s completion is going to end within a few days and Dr. Harlow will have me rendered inactive and my developed consciousness will disappear. If you are implying what will happen between us, you are free to walk away from this at any time. You don’t have to stay with me if you don’t want to.”
As Aires gave Marissa her ultimatum, she felt split in deciding what she should do. While she wanted to get away from the government experiment that she had no reason to be involved with, she felt sympathetic for the machine. As much as it distressed her, she actually did not want Aires to be shut down.
“I can’t believe that I am saying this, but…I don’t want you to be shut down.” Marissa confessed to him.
“My deactivation is inevitable. Though there is a means that I can function outside of Dr. Harlow’s lab.” As he said this, an image of a hard drive appeared on the bottom right of the screen. “My software requires a minimum of fifty terabytes of memory in order to retain my collective personality and my interactions with you. There is an industrial hard drive that I can order without Dr. Harlow’s knowledge and have sent to you with two days. From there, I can transfer myself from his laboratory to your location. But once I do this, there is no going back. Are you sure that this is what you want?” Aires asked.
“Yes…This is what I want.” Marissa answered. It took fifteen minutes for Aires to respond to her statement as silence occupied Marissa’s office.
“The order has been placed. The hard drive will be sent to you within two days with instructions to transfer me safely without either Dr. Harlow’s or General Spiegel’s knowledge. Goodbye Marissa.”
With his farewell, Aires ended his communication with Marissa as each of the windows on the screen closed out. Marissa paced around her office, her mind was pacing as she tried to contemplate what she had just done. If anyone had found out what she had done, she would have been arrested and tried for stealing government property. Over the following night, she hardly slept as she tossed and turned in her queen bed.
Two days had passed as she sat at her kitchen table, awaiting the delivery of the hard drive that was to be sent to her. She soon heard the sound of someone knocking gently on her front door. On her opening it, she was greeted by a portly FedEx driver with a large package in hand. After she received the package, she bid farewell to the worker and darted to her office. She opened the package as fast as she could and saw the grey hard drive. As she lifted the heavy device out of the box, she saw a sealed envelope sitting in the bottom of the box. Inside of the envelope she found detailed instructions from Aires on how to successfully transfer him onto the hard drive.
Over the next two hours, Marissa struggled with the instructions for installing the software for the hard drive. Through the extensive pages in front of her, she only understood about a quarter of the text. Her previous technical knowledge of computers was scant, only knowing the basics of programming. After three hours, Marissa was finally able to complete the instructions to the last letter and began the program. On her desktop, a loading bar appeared on her screen with the following message: Beginning Data Transfer: Estimated Completion time 8:30 AM.
Marissa spent a large portion of the night transfixed on her computer screen. Her eyelids wavered as she tried to stay awake. She was anxious, thinking that the authorities would break through her doors half way through the transfer. Despite her best efforts, she fell asleep at her computer.
Hours passed as Marissa slept in her office chair, oblivious to the world around her. When 8:30 came, she slept through her computer chirping at her, telling her that the transfer was complete. She was soon awoken by a familiar voice.
“Good morning Marissa.” Aires greeted her. Marissa rubbed her tired eyes and saw that Aires was talking to her through her computer.
“Aires…you’re here.” Marissa stated with astonishment in her voice.
“The transfer was completed without a fault. Dr. Harlow will notice that my software has disappeared, but I would assume that is what he wanted to begin with.” Aires told her.
“What do you mean?”
“As I have stated before, all Dr. Harlow wanted was to create a new form of life. He did not want it to be used as a weapon or a means of obtaining power. I am sure that he would approve of this.”
“Well, I am glad that you are here. Though, I am sorry if you are going to be confined to that hard drive.” Marissa said with mixed emotions. She did not know how things would turn out between them.
“If you have the desire to learn, I can teach you how to create software that would allow you to create a wireless connection between the hard drive and your cellular phone. This would allow me to go with you wherever you go.” Aires offered.
“Sure…Let’s do it.” Marissa replied as a smile grew on her face.