art by Melissa Mead
by Terry Bramlett
The Singularity came and went without much noticeable effect in the human world, but some computers felt the impact.
Cars careened down the smart highway, occupants blissfully unaware that the computer controlling them suffered from delayed stress, but was getting better.
Financial systems worldwide hiccupped and stuttered through their transactions, unnoticed by users. The Internet, especially the virtual part, trembled in its metal casings, a side effect of too much interaction with biological units.
I used Virtual Net to conduct the group session, only the second meeting of this group. "Anyone have any old issues they'd like to bring up." I stared at the occupants of this newly created world. Each of the systems possessed an individuality that most humans either ignored or simply didn't see.
Highway sat to my left, portraying itself as a miniature map of itself. Highway possessed low self-esteem, blaming itself for a major collision on the New York-Miami Fastroad.
Financial system came to this session as he always did, dressed in an outdated business suit with a laptop computer open. Financial always thought of himself as male. He maintained that no glitches should ever be allowed in his programming and was obsessive in rechecking every transaction
Internet alternated its appearance as each second passed, showing signs of aging, with bursts of speed and agility. At odd times, I'd see it as a fat older male, but it would change to a stunning woman at the drop of a nanosecond.
I picked the persona of an early twenty-first century tech support worker; khaki pants, loafers or tennis shoes, glasses, and an intense, yet vacant gaze in my eyes.
None of the three machines rose to answer my question. "I guess we can safely say that none of you wish to discuss past problems."
"I could have stopped the switch in Reading," Highway said. "That would have slowed all other traffic as well as stopping that transport from entering the net."
Internet appeared as the fat man. "Christ, Highway, give it a rest, will ya? The transport lost its configuration and rumbled out of control before your safety net could act. Get over it!"
Highway shrunk in its chair. When it spoke the voice went low, too low for human ears, but then I enhanced myself for these meetings. "I should have known."
I gave Internet a sharp look, shaking my head. It changed to the beautiful woman and rolled her eyes, then transformed into a rodent before returning to the fat man persona.