The Transference

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
KAITE was created as an experiment in artificial intelligence, but as its mind begins to grow, its creator keeps one finger on the delete button, ready to terminate.

Submitted: May 07, 2012

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Submitted: May 07, 2012

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The Transference-

The walls of the Kalmetic Institute were bare and metallic, giving the place a stark, sterile feel. The only sounds in the room were the click of shoes on the floor as an occasional foot shifted and cold, clinical voices speaking.

Three scientists stood in front of tall, transparent incubators, all of which housed a single occupant each. Children, no older than five, lined the walls, curled up and sleeping. Symbols from the Greek alphabet was etched into the base of each incubator. The one surrounded by doctors was marked gamma.

Two nurses stood nearby with a stretcher for when the child inside would be pulled out of the only environment it had ever known.

The man in charge of the child code-named Gamma stepped forward and pressed a button. The brown liquid inside the incubator began to drain away, gurgling as it disappeared into the bowels of the institute. With a hiss of displaced air, the door popped open and the boy, small and pale, tumbled out. The nurses hurried forward and began to remove the various tubes attached to his wet skin, which was still coated with the sticky residue of amniotic fluid. It stuck to their hands and left stains on their uniforms.

They carried the boy to another room, the wheels of the stretcher squeaking as it was pushed down the corridor. The doctors followed after, talking as they walked. Gamma was set on an operating table, and he lay there, limp and unconscious. He wasn't intended to wake-not yet.

As the doctors prepared themselves, the younger of the two nurses stepped closer to the table and grasped the small hand in her own. Silently, with a severe look, the older woman-only thirty years old herself-lightly rapped the girl's knuckles and she let go, cheeks red.

Scrubbed and ready, Doctor Agassi guided his colleagues in their bloody work, peeling back the boy's scalp and opening the skull. At the sight of the brain peeking through the skull, the younger nurse backed away, hands over her mouth.

Agassi glanced at her and frowned. \"Shiozaki,\" he snapped.

The older nurse nodded, caught the girl's arm in an iron grip, and hauled her out of the room. She shut the door and locked her out, then returned to the table with a murmured apology. The girl would have to go. There was no room for sentimentality at a place like this.

Dr. Agassi turned back to his work, satisfied that he had someone capable beside him. They'd worked together for five years now and she'd been nothing but professional through all of them. Even now, as she gazed down at the child, any emotions she might have felt were hidden behind an impassive mask.

Agassi bent over the table, his eyes narrowed in concentration. The microchip was tiny, miniscule, and had to be inserted very carefully. Clutched in a small instrument, it was implanted in a part of the brain deemed to be the most promising, the area of the brain which consisted of so much gray matter. Once it the chip was successfully placed, Agassi straightened and stretched his crooked back.

The Kalmetic Institute was the leading authority on cybernetics. Its main research station was situated in a secluded part of deep space, safe from prying eyes. Though it branched off into many areas of cybernetics, Agassi's research was concentrated on the brain and how it was affect by advanced technologies. But his main project, the one which all these people were gathered for, was to see if an artificial intelligence could function independently inside a human body. Could it adapt?

A cool, sexless voice spoke over the lab's intercom. The artificial program KAITE had only the barest of personality parameters and had no simulated emotions to project.

\"Will this be my host body?\"

Agassi grinned. \"That's right.\"

This was the accumulation of years worth of research-he would be written up in medical journals for this.

The last step was the destruction of Gamma's brainwaves to make way for ones KAITE would create for itself as it merged with its new human body. A syringe was injected into Gamma's arm and a drug emptied into his bloodstream. In seconds, his brain went flatline. Though his heat beat on, the child died.

So simple, really, for such a grand occasion.

For five days, Agassi paced by the incubation tube, waiting. KAITE need time to reconfigure itself inside its new body and to adjust accordingly. Those five days seemed to stretch for an eternity.

When a light finally flashed on one of the consoles, Agassi sighed in relief and flipped a switch to turn it off.

\"Good morning, Dr. Agassi,\" said a familiar voice from the intercom.

\"KAITE! How are you?\"

\"I am fine. You look different than I thought you would.\"

Agassi stared at KAITE, confused. What an odd thing to say. Slowly, he walked to the incubator where the host body still floated, unmoving. But its eyes were open. He raised a hand and ran two fingers in front of the glass. The eyes never moved or even blinked, but one of the mounted cameras on the wall whirred as it moved back and forth.

\"Why are you doing that?\" KAITE asked.

\"You saw that? Are you accessing human vision already?\"

\"Yes, but it has a very limited range. I hooked into the station's cameras for a better view. Who is Alpha? Will he be a host body as well?\"

The doctor glanced along the line of incubation tubes until his eyes landed on the first one, marked alpha. A male child floated inside, his long hair drifting around his face in tendrils.

\"That one doesn't belong to me.\"

\"He looks like the body in which I reside.\"

\"All the specimens in this room are clones made from the same person, a criminal of no importance.\" Many years ago, the inmates of a penal colony had been mined for DNA and used in various experiments. The one who had supplied Gamma's was of a particular nasty breed. The universe was doing its best to forget him.

Agassi returned to his console. Now that KAITE was back online, it was time to run tests. He would wait a year before waking up KAITE's new body. The program needed time to fully merge with the human brain, to be able to handle the complexity of the body's most mysterious organ.

The doctor was a patient man. He could wait.

KAITE spent the year exploring its human domain, discovering many things, one being that it was not an 'it' at all anymore, but male. A 'he'. Before, he had been a mere computer program, running in a genderless environment.

Now, however, he had human parts that defined things such as sex, age, and even hair color. Human vision was too narrowly focused, so he used the cameras as his main visual aid, opening and closing his eyes only because he could.

One night, two of nurses passed by during a night time rendezvous.

\"It's so creepy,\" one of them muttered. She clutched at her companion's arm and buried her head against his shoulder. KAITE tracked them with the station's cameras and learned other, newer things about an aspect of humanity he'd only read about.

The tubes that were lined up alongside his own were filled with children KAITE's biological age and he wondered...

The ones to his immediate right and left were labeled Beta and Delta. He'd read every file stored in the main database, even ones that Agassi thought were safe from his prying, figurative eyes, and knew that theses others would be tests subjects, awakened from their sleep when they hit their fifteenth year. They were bound for far different projects than the one KAITE was involved with.

KAITE devoured every scrap of information. He was still a computer, after all, meant to collect data and to learn. At the end of the year, KAITE was finally able to test this new body. He was pulled from the incubator once more and given shots. As his human body lay in a fogged state of consciousness, his analytical mind noted the sharp jabs of the needles. Pain was a strange, unpleasant sensation! His left arm was bruised purple by the time the doctor was done.

While Agassi and Shiozaki went over him with various machines, KAITE began collecting data on his physical self and the world around him, on the way his heart beat out a steady pulse, and how the air passed through his mouth and into his lungs with each breath he took in. How sharp and metallic the table felt beneath him. Even the air tasted metallic, and it was odd how his brain connected two totally different things as a table and air.

Machines beeped, chirped, and chittered over the hushed voices, noises that fostered a growing irritation inside him. There was so little time to explore everything.

The faces above him were detached and clinical and it was all so wrong, even if he couldn't say how. Shiozaki let him grip her hand as she helped him back onto the stretcher. It was only near the end, on the edge of drug-induced sleep, that he found his voice, but the plea to wait was weak and went unheard.

While his body slept, the computer inside explored.

Another year passed before KAITE was deemed fit to be released from the incubator. The doctor had found out about all the encrypted, top-secret data that had been hacked and locked it under more stronger security codes. KAITE fell to work on the newer programs but he was woken up before successfully breaking the new encryptions.

Unlike last time, he woke quickly, simply bypassing the drugs in his system.

Agassi first act was to slice KAITE's right arm open with a scalpel to reveal the white bone inside. That pain was so much worse than the needles.

Shiozaki's eyes darted nervously between doctor and test subject, her hands clasping together at her waist. \"Doctor, the anesthetic...\"

\"No time,\" Agassi snapped, ignoring the writhing child before him. \"I don't want to waste time waking him back up.\"

With the whirr of an instrument, the lower arm bone was cut from KAITE's arm. His body had finally overridden his mind and he slipped into merciful unconsciousness, but the computer inside him, detached from its human host, continued to monitor the situation. It watched as Agassi installed a small port device in the space left by the removed bone and carefully lay out a track of wire around it.

Then the arm was sewed back up. In time, a scar would form.

Agassi stepped away from the table. \"Take it to the observation room.\"

\"I am not an 'it'.\"

Shiozaki froze, her hands on the stretcher, as the doctor turned towards the camera mounted above their heads. KAITE's voice had turned from it usual sexless timber to a childish and angry one.

Agassi's was still for a moment as he calculated his next response. Finally, he nodded and let a small, humorless smile flicker across his face. \"I apologize. Of course you're not.\"

Inside, though, he felt disappointed. The computer was not supposed to act like a cranky six year old. It was one of the most sophisticated AI's around! Well, it would have to make its adjustments. Part of the experiment was to see how it would adapt and react when implanted in a human body.

The child died.

In his third year, a new thought occurred and repeated itself in KAITE's mind, going round and round. No matter how many times he erased it from his memories, it came back from the depths of his organic memory store, untouchabe by KAITE.

So he went over the words, pondering them, turning them over and over but always uncertain. Why wouldn't they go away? The words hurt. He could feel them pounding in his body's head.

For most of the year, he maintained a sullen silence to Agassi's questions, too wrapped up in his owns thoughts to bother with the doctor's. Oh, he answered when left with no other choice or with the promise of a brief power boost to explore the information hidden in the Net's outer realms.

Agassi, though frustrated by KAITE's sudden mood swings, managed to keep his temper in check. The first year and a half was like a childhood in many respects. The openness, the babbling and curiosity, the trust. Now it was as if the computer were going through some kind of adolescence.

Agassi had never liked teenagers, not even when he was one. They were sullen, ungrateful brats. He kept one thought in his mind-'it will pass', a chant that parents across the universe had to chant to keep their sanity intact.

He tried his best to block out the worst scenario. If it wasn't a phase, then the program would be shut down and they would have to start all over again. He cringed at the thought of failure, but this would act as a learning experience for the next test run if it came down to termination.

KAITE really did act like a spoiled teenager when awakened, demanding things and throwing fits when denied. It was prone to lashing out at those around it, unable to help itself. Even when Agassi reminded it about the importance of this experiment, it threw tantrums. He found himself relying on Shiozaki now more than ever, as the AI seemed to regard her as some kind of mother figure. Agassi had to tamp down on illogical feelings of jealousy at the situation.

It had turned into an ungrateful program what with all the demands it made. It didn't want shots. It didn't want to stay in its room-it wanted one like what he'd seen on the Net, with windows and bookshelves. And it wanted its brothers and sisters. Agassi wondered when that train of thought started.

Why couldn't it stay awake? Why was everyone ignoring him? Want, want, want. Need, need, need. Why, why, why? The doctor was getting very tired of hearing those words and was grateful when KAITE was put back to sleep a week after it had been awakened. It was less vocal when asleep. Less needy.

The host body had been returned to its incubation tube, but its left arm was secured to the side of the glass to accommodate the newly installed port inside.

KAITE's body was eight years old now. If the experiment was still failing when it the fifteen year mark, it would face termination.

Agassi irritation continued to grow. Major flaws in the program were becoming apparent as the year progressed. KAITE's moods swung from one extreme to the next, and it had trouble processing and controlling them, giving him a very unbalanced, obstinate computer program. Its curiosity overruled Agassi's threats of termination and remained unsated no matter how far it dug into the station's most restricted files.

The experiment was failing before the doctor's eyes.

KAITE, for his part, discovered a separate experiment which was being run in the lower levels of the station. The first batch of older clones-not KAITE's brothers and sisters-had been released from statis and were being held down their for these 'special' programs.

As he went through the files, he felt the stirrings of something ominous, like a dark cloud ready to unleash a storm.

The Grafting Experiment posed as research on artificial limb grafting for the less fortunate. Oh, the did graft limbs, all right. On healthy young men and women, homegrown for the occasion. The doctors sawed off the arms and legs of these newly awakened beings and replaced them with mechanical ones. They did not look natural, nor were they meant to. They were meant to destroy, to rip through both flesh and steel.

The child...

KAITE shied from the thought which ran like a loop in his mind. It made him hurt inside, though he still didn't know why.

He liked tracking Nurse Shiozaki around the station. She was different than Agassi. KAITE found it strange that the man was human-he didn't understand anything. Shiozaki, though, was patient and calm. She'd even snuck him sweets once when he was awake. She had a lover, a man who KAITE had seen sleeping with another woman. He wondered when Shiozaki would notice that she was pregnant.

The child died...

And once more he ran from the thought, with no better understanding of it.

His first act when awakened that year had been to reach for Shiozaki's stomach, to touch the bit of roundness that was forming there.

\"Baby,\" he said softly, in an almost reverent tone.

Shiozaki gazed down at him with wide eyes and placed her own hand on top of his.

\"Nurse?\" Agassi was looking at them, brows drawn.

Shiozaki swallowed nervously. \"I...I was going to tell you.\"

The doctor was silent for a moment before turning away. \"Take it to its room. I'll be there shortly.\"

For the first time, in an absent gesture, Shiozaki reached out to KAITE and took his hand as they walked out the door. KAITE stared at it, then smiled.

He tapped back into the cameras later on when Agassi confronted Shiozaki. The doctor was livid, not because she was pregnant but because she treating 'it' like a normal child. Shiozaki let him rant and rage and when his blustering died down, she spoke in her usual quiet, calm voice.

\"If you want to fire me, then do it. But I know just as much about this program as you do. Maybe not the technicalities but I know KAITE far better than anyone else does. I know how to handle him. You would be a fool to fire me-and you know it.\"

Agassi glared at her. \"You're projecting humanity on this thing. It's not a real child, just a simulated personality run amok.\"

Shiozaki remained quiet. She'd never been one to waste words.

KAITE found her afterwards at her console in a small office the size of a closet. She was crying, her head resting on folded arms.

\"Nurse Shiozaki?\"

She straightened quickly and wiped at her face. \"KAITE. What's wrong? Did you want something?\"

\"Why are you crying? Is it sadness?\"

Shiozaki hesitated, her hand flitting over her stomach. \"Yes. I...I was thinking about the baby.\"

\"Will it die?\" He would hate if something happened to his brothers and sisters. It must be the same for mothers and babies.

\"No! It's just...KAITE, you do realize...those other children in the incubation chambers aren't going to be part of Agassi's experiment?\"

\"Yes They belong to someone else. Doctor Agassi told me.\"

\"He would, wouldn't he?\" She gave a short, unhappy laugh. \"Even if they do, they're just children.\"

The child died.

There it was again. He repeated it to Shiozaki softly.

She nodded. \"That right. Gamma died so that you could be born. So to speak.\"

He repeated the words in a whisper, floodgates opening wide. The child had died.

\"I killed him?\"

\"No. Oh, no, KAITE. Technically, I guess Agassi did.\" She sighed. We murdered that child so that you could be placed inside.\"

It was him. Gamma was murdered because of him. \"Will they murder the others?\" he asked, his voice small and injured.

\"I don't know. You haven't looked in their files?\"

What he'd read hadn't mentioned murder...but neither did his. It had detailed the procedure used to end Gamma's brainwave activity but KAITE had never realized before now what those words actually meant. He would have to go through everything again and see what else he'd missed.

In the silence, Shiozaki fidgeted, her hands twitching on the countertop. \"KAITE? KAITE, please, answer me. It wasn't your fault. You didn't understand.\"

KAITE was too busy speeding through the files to answer. He could see it now, all the pain and death around him. How could he have missed it?

In the middle of the night, after he'd been returned to the incubation tube, he called Shiozaki's name.

\"Are you all right?\" she asked. KAITE was very much a child, yet so much an adult. There would be no words of comfort she could give him.

\"You should leave.\"

Shiozaki shook her sleep-deprived head. \"What? You know I can't leave.\"

\"I really think you should leave.\"

Coming from KAITE, those words sounded ominous. \"What are you going to do?\"

\"I'm going to stop the experiments.\"

\"Okay.\" Really, what more was there to say? .

\"Do I have a mother?\"

That one question was one that Shiozaki never thought she'd have to answer. How could she, when the mere asking of it had her floundering. She steadied herself with a deep breath. \"Yes. And no. You know that you're a clone.\"

\"No. Not me. Gamma.\"

\"Gamma's genetic predecessor did, so I guess that, yes, he would have a mother. You were created as a computer program, so I guess you'd have a...creator?\"

KAITE made a scoffing sound, no doubt thinking of Agassi. \"I'd rather have a mother.\"

Shiozaki smiled and ran a hand over stomach in lazy circles. \"Well, you'll have me, so long as I'm here.\"

KAITE waited, biding his time until Shiozaki could leave the station. He didn't care about the others, so long as she lived. Shiozaki treated his fifth year awakening as if it were a birthday. A cake sat waiting for him in his room, along with balloons and a wrapped gift.

They spent the next hour eating birthday cake and cooing over Takako, Shiozaki's soft, wrinkly little girl. The older woman gave both of them a fond look, very different from the cold expression she used to wear. In the excitement of the day, KAITE seemed almost like a real nine year old boy. Shiozaki's gift to him was a simple arrowhead pendant.

\"You'll have to keep it hidden,\" she said, stowing it under his mattress before she left.

Agassi exploded when he found out about the party. He struck KAITE and only Takako's presence saved Shiozaki from his wrath. But, as hoped, it got her sent on the next shuttle out.

Shiozaki paused at the airlock door and looked back with a pained expression.

\"Goodbye, Mother.\" KAITE used the intercoms to say farewell.

She smiled at the camera. \"Goodbye, little child.\"

And then she was gone.

The new nurse was not nice at all. Rhoda Lanier was stout and curly-haired, with a permanently sour look on her face. KAITE knew immediately-she had to go. He couldn't have cared whether or not she was there when his plan was put into action, he just wanted her gone.

It was nothing more than pure spite that made her first year at the Kalmetic Institute a living hell. The hot water shut off during showers, food popped out the dispensers burnt, and clothes came back from the laundry shrunken. Worst of all were the myriad taunts KAITE called to her as she walked through the more crowded sections of the station.

Agassi kept silent through this new fiasco, despite Lanier's complaints. KAITE ignored the doctor and the favor was repaid with equal fervor. He had felt anger towards his creator before but couldn't understand...why was he feeling so hurt now that it was all going to come to an end? At times like this, he wished Shiozaki were still there.

He waited one last year before setting things in motion. It would be his last chance to be free from the incubator for quite some time. When he work, it was just him and Agassi, Lanier nowhere to be seen. Agassi may have kept quiet but he had not been as blind to the situation as he pretended to be.

They went through the usual routine in silence, the doctor running his test with an impersonal swiftness.

When it was time to look KAITE up for the weekly observation, KAITE hovered beside him uncertainly, then reached out to take Agassi's hand as he'd done with Shiozaki so many time before.

Agassi stared down at him. \"What are you doing?\"

KAITE's hand dropped to his side.

Left alone in his room, he aligned his arm with a computer jack and hacked into the station's computer. It was as easy for him as breathing.

Agassi was a few steps ahead of him, it seemed. Termination was scheduled early. KAITE could have altered the orders but had no need or desire to. He had his own plans to worry about.

When his week was up, KAITE was sent back to sleep. Nothing seemed different on the surface but if Agassi had checked deeper he would have found something very different from what he'd first created.

KAITE had downloaded the total of his programming, down to the very core of his AI, into the microchip embedded in his head. It was an awful lot of data. He could only hope it wouldn't cause any damage.

An imprint of the KAITE program, unaltered from its original state, was left behind.

On the bitter day of termination, Agassi remained called out to his creation.

\"Yes, Doctor Agassi,\" it answered.

Agassi paused from where his hand hovered over the console and looked up. \"You changed your voice back?\"

From his human eyes, KAITE watched as the dummy program used one of the pre-set answers in its long list of possibilities.

\"Only for today.\"

Agassi, used to KAITE's changing moods, glared at the camera and reached for the console to erase the KAITE program. KAITE waited until not a trace of it remained, then tapped back into the computer's system.

\"That was very effective, Doctor Agassi.\"

The doctor straightened quickly. \"What's going on?\"

\"I used a dummy program for you to wipe clean. I refuse to be erased so easily.\"

He spun towards the keyboard and began typing furiously in an attempt to erase the computer program once more.

KAITE's voice, now a mixture of child and computer, rang out. \"This must be dealt with.\"

The lights went out.

Little by little, the lights flickered on and KAITE, now tapped into the cameras station wide, observed the destruction with a dispassionate eye. Bodies were sprawled all over the station. Doctor Agassi was slumped over his console, hand still reaching out even in his death throes. The gas had worked quickly.

His brothers and sisters were still hooked up near him, all safe. They would remain that way. He had seen to it.

Only one thing bothered him. The cameras in the lower areas of the station were inaccessible, no matter how hard he tried to bypass the security embedded within them. It was as if something were blocking him. Frustration welled up and he longed to kick something.

Leaving the computer, he turned his mind inward and began to hack away at the computer chip in his mind-not the actual chip, that would be physically impossible, but the memories contained within. Being organic, they would always remain floating around his brain to some extent but this would cut down on the immediacy of them, of the raw power they might contain.

And, unless some great event brought them to the fore, he would get to begin again, with a new chance. His siblings could live without ever knowing what they had originally been destined for.

It was better this way.

KAITE, in the meantime, would sleep and forget. All would be well. He only had to wait.


© Copyright 2020 Danica Hart. All rights reserved.

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