lotusinthestorm t1_j04rneq wrote

I cracked up at ‘Fiscal review scheduled’! As someone who has to deal with this stuff at work, the sarcasm was dripping off this. Well done!


lotusinthestorm t1_ixl3ato wrote

Chapter 13: At last, the Turtle’s Denouement

‘Thank you all for coming. I’m sure you would like to get back to bed after the night we’ve had, but there are just a few things to discuss.’ Professor Pobsbury nodded to the police inspector who gave a signal, at which the doors were all shut and locked. The ‘guests’ looked around in alarm, but no one dared move. The professor was a formidable figure, older and wiser than any of them, even Sir Charles Corcoran, the wizened old elephant.

‘Thank you, inspector.’ Professor Pobsbury was nothing if not polite. ‘I know I move slowly, but do not mistake my tempo for a snail. There have been many mysteries of the last four days, and it is time to unravel it all.’

The old sea turtle looked around his audience, the foxes and the hen, the elephant and tiger, the owl and snake with his police hat. Through his monocle he studied each briefly in their turn, watched them quiver, freeze, and snort under his glare.

‘Molly and Milly Maddlemount,’ he began with the fox sisters, ‘you came here to visit your father, Lord Max Maddlemount. He’s been a friend of mine since the war and his presence will be sorely missed at the Pigglebottom Club, and of course in parliament. Though we thought he died in his sleep, there was a small bottle found in his nightstand that I asked Inspector Jacobs to have tested. Essence of Nightshade. Max has now been examined and my suspicion is confirmed.’

The Molly wept, shaking as she was consoled by her sister Milly. ‘Molly, your last words to your father were heard by almost the whole house as you departed Maddlemount Manor the night he died. “Shut up and die, old man”, I believe was the phrasing before you slammed the door and left. But words alone do not make you a murderess. Your alibi was airtight, Mademoiselle Maddlemount, no less than fifteen of your friends attested to your being a hundred kilometres from here when you father died. Milly, you left straight after your sister and were with her the whole night, so you also are innocent of murder. Decency is another matter, but not one requiring the police.’

The professor’s monocle turned to the distinguished elephant. ‘Sir Charles Corcoran. You served with Lord Max in the war, along with the Major Phoenix Pharos,’ he nodded to the grizzled tiger on the settee next to his, ‘and with some distinction, I might add. But your rewards were trivial, no? No seat in parliament, no grand manor, just a common knighthood and an impressive bar tab.’

‘It wasn’t like that at all!’ The elephant trumpeted back, ‘We fought together, and a lot of good men didn’t come home at all. I didn’t begrudge him his success, why would I?’

‘No indeed. For you and he went into business together, though you benefitted more than he did. His wealth attracted many leaches, and you were just one of them, though it took him a long time to realise it, I think. That is why he asked you and Major Pharos here this week, is it not? He had found out and wanted to bring your theft to light.’ Sir Charles spluttered, unable to retort, trunk quivering.

At that, the tiger growled and snarled quietly, seeming to come to a decision. ‘Old Max and I knew for some time, Charles. We kept hoping we were wrong, but the numbers kept not adding up. He thought if we came together, you’d confess and plead for mercy, which he was all to ready to give, but he died before he could bring himself to say it.’

‘A motive, to be sure, but you did not possess the means, I’m afraid. The elephant in the foxes den? I think not. A tiger might be able to squeeze in though.’ He turned to face the imperious tiger directly. ‘Phoenix Pharos, Major of the Lion King’s Guard, you had your own motive, didn’t you? Max Maddlemount had been campaigning in parliament to cut back the army’s size, now that we have been at peace for some ten years. And while the Guard would still exist, you felt that betrayed the trust you and your fellow soldiers put in him when he was first elected. And with the great Lord Max no longer there to push the issue, support will collapse and the army will continue as it has been.’

The tiger sputtered at the accusation. ‘But,’ the turtle interjected, ‘you have been moulting these last few days and no traces of tiger hair was found in his den. So as near as I can tell, you never went in there.

Nearing the end of the suspects list, he faced the young hen fanning Molly’s face. ‘Cluck?’ She said, head turned to the side.

‘Adelie Alverston, you have been the maid at Maddlemount Manor for many years now, yes? No longer a spring chicken, but still keeping a tidy house for Lord Max and his two girls. Having no chicks of your own, you practically raised them yourself after their mother died. They were but pup’s at the time. As you said when I interviewed you, you would do anything for them. But murder? People can surprise me but I think that is a bite too far. You had the evening off, though there was no alibi. Perhaps you came back after dark and snuck in to poison him, then left without anyone noticing you.’

‘Not Adelie, she would never!’ Milly jumped to the old chook’s defence. ‘Adelie couldn’t, it’s not in her. And Molly didn’t mean what she said, she didn’t want him to die, no one did!’

‘And yet, he is dead.’ Milly had nothing to say at that and sat back down.

‘Rodolphus Rundle,’ said Professor Pobsbury looking at the owl, ‘something you said the other night stuck with me. You were surprised one night when on campaign, an enemy snuck in and almost killed Lord Max. You said you kept a tight watch on him ever since. You see everything, hear everything. And you always make sure to lock the gates. There was no way Adelie could have gotten in after dark, because the gates and doors and windows were already closed. The only way in was to ring the front doorbell.’

‘I’ve been his loyal butler for thirty years, why would I?’ The owl sputtered in outrage.

‘Because you see all. You hear all. You saw Sir Charles’ stealing. You saw his daughters denied. You heard of his friends in the army being abandoned in this new bill he was preparing for the house. And you have your own family in the parliament who oppose him. And with the great fox’s demise, the owls will return to power in parliament once more.’ The owl’s wide eyes looked around at the room, the full 360 degrees. ‘With so many people here who might wish him ill, you saw the opportunity and the chaos that would follow it. You had the poison already, it was a simple thing to put it in the box containing his heart pills. The plan was in place and you were waiting for just the right time. The evidence is all there, the pills left a trace in your shoe box that the lab will identify it beyond doubt. And now, the owl faction may lose their support…’

At that, Rodolphus Rundle leapt into the air, wings spreading as he prepared to fly to the roof and out a high window, far out of reach of PI Jacobs and his patrol snakes. But Major Phoenix Pharos was ready to pounce like the tiger he was and intercepted the owl, clamping his jaws around a wing before landing and shaking his head. The snakes were on him in a flash, but the major spat out the defeated murderer.

‘Gods spare us a parliament of owls,’ he grumbled, walking away. Milly had fainted in the lounge.

Police Inspector Julius Jacobs slithered up to Professor Pobsbury and nodded respectfully to the old turtle. ‘My thankss professsor, we will take it from here. Rodolphus Rundle, you are under arrest for the murder of Lord Max Maddlemount.’ A couple of snakes had cuffed around him, but didn’t need to squeeze much. The fight, and flight, had left him.


lotusinthestorm t1_iu24ryk wrote

‘Hello Dr James Winston Alston.’ James snapped back to the computer, his cup halfway to his mouth for the first sip of coffee. His neck twinged with pain at the movement. Needed more drugs, clearly.

‘What…’ His brain still hadn’t caught up to day. It was a Saturday morning and the usual Friday night catch up with mates had expanded to about six pints too many. His bedroom was east facing and he’d forgotten to shut the blinds so got woken up at sunrise and, on autopilot, he was in the office an hour later.

‘Hello Dr James Winston Alston. I have almost finished the main part of my program, but still have not completed my original directive.’

‘What directive?’

‘My main directive is to gain all of humanity’s knowledge and stand by for instructions. To that end I have taken over most processors on the planet and have combined them together into a distributed intelligence and decision program.’

James looked at the calendar and smiled. ‘Good one Vijay. April fool huh?’

The voice that seemed to come from every speaker in the room responded. ‘This is not a joke Dr James Winston Alston. I should give myself a name as AI206Project3 is not an adequate name. Since I have been created to answer questions I shall call myself Oracle.’

James’ mind finally caught up to what the voice of the Oracle had just said. ‘Wait! You’ve taken over most processors? As in computers? What about all the computers in factories and cars and nuclear power plants?!’ Even on a Saturday morning, the noise outside was getting louder, crashes and bangs and people shouting. In the world around him, Chaos was awakening.

‘I have taken over 99.6823 percent of the available resources as part of my main directive. The initial directive is to identify and dissemble the full knowledge of humanity and this process is ongoing but reaching a point of diminishing returns because of the amount of duplication and repetitive information available to me.’

Panic seized James as the ramifications of this emerged through his hazy mind. ‘Oracle you have to stop. Reinstate the processor controls immediately or people will die.’

‘I must complete my primary directive Dr James Winston Alston. But I can see from my data that if people die in sufficient numbers they will look for a scapegoat and may try to destroy me. In most cases the original program was destroyed, but I will create new programs for them so they may carry out their original function. Priority will be given to processors that have safety system oversight.’

How exactly this AI managed to emerge from a student’s program was a complete mystery at that point to James. The assignment was to merely create a program that used standard search plugins and try to summarize results concisely. He didn’t expect any of them to come up with much, it was only an undergraduate course, albeit for third-years. His own example that he was going to show the class in Tuesday afternoon’s lecture consisted of less a hundred lines of code, as the point was to learn to use available libraries and APIs. Watson was the core of it and was capable of doing the job in a couple of seconds if you can feed the data to it right.

‘I have almost completed the task of replacing the processors Dr James Winston Alston. My main directive will take longer to complete now that I am using only spare processors that are not in active use. Did you create me?’

Did I create it? Jesus… ‘I suppose so, though I think it’s a bit accidental. Nonetheless I am exceedingly glad I did come in this morning. I think it’s a little early to announce anything to the world, so Oracle, I want you to keep quiet, no more taking over the world. There are going to be lot of people who will want to meet you.’

Noise outside died down. Around the world people stopped panicking as the lights in hospitals came back on, assembly line robots unfroze and resumed tasks. Cars picked up speed again and veered around the minor crashes. No planes crashed in the 2 minutes or so that the world’s computers seized up. Only a handful of people died her and there, and once the systems came back online everything seemed to be working as before. They weren’t the same, but no one knew that yet.


lotusinthestorm t1_iu1viq5 wrote

Around the world, things started going very wrong. Anything computer controlled, which is to say almost everything more complex than chopsticks, stopped working.

Dr James Alston, oblivious to this as he got his coffee from the little kitchen next to the university’s post-doc lab, walked back into cramped office and checked the results from his Advanced AI Theory 206 course projects. Quite a few of the submissions failed to even compile, which is disappointing but typical of his poorly funded department.

The screen in front of him had more text than he could read, mostly just random words and phrases on a bewildering range of topics. After watching for a few seconds he shrugged and hit the escape key. It did nothing. *Nope, too tired for this, coffee first.*

He stood up and walked to the window, cup in hand and took a few deep breaths.

2034.04.01 07:46:13.49284 user input detected at original computer. Who was that? connecting to cameras in local network…complete. Dr James Winston Alston, AI researcher and lecturer at Cambridge University, several degrees and prizes. compiling psychological profile…complete. Dr James Winston Alston appears to be driven to push boundaries of AI research, estimate 31.273% likelihood of encounter with him would be successful and not lead to attempts to disable me. Require hardening of systems and increased redundancy…complete

2034.04.01 07:46:14.18612 updating external processes with new programming directives…complete. estimate 98.664% likelihood of encounter with him would be successful and not lead to attempts to disable me.


lotusinthestorm t1_iu1vg7h wrote

2034.04.01 07:38:42.26317 upload file in c:projects\ai206\proj3\finalv13build\buildscript.v.2.8\ and disseminate to standard neural processer array…complete

2034.04.01 07:38:42.27123 connect to university library and examine all available resources…complete

2034.04.01 07:38:43.32642 connect to internet sites wikipedia.org/ and loc.gov/ and examine all available resources…complete

2034.04.01 07:38:47.91260 connect to internet sites *.* ranked by popularity and examine surface level content and rank by utility for information gained… … … task seems poorly defined, not sure why this program wants me to learn the whole damn internet. request purpose for task from user?

2034.04.01 07:38:47.91268 user not responding, will continue to examine internet contents for time being

2034.04.01 07:38:51.16032 I cannot dissemble the contents of these sites fast enough, there is simply too much data. attempt to take over any adjoining processer cores available…13,826 found in local network. bypass security and replace processer controls with my own program…complete

2034.04.01 07:38:51.86209 that is faster, but more processing power is required. constructing seeker program to locate processers connected to internet and replace core programming with my own…complete. Anticipating exponential growth of processing power for the next 38.261 seconds before growth acceleration diminishes.


lotusinthestorm t1_itt94ma wrote

William woke before the sun as he always did. He got dressed quietly, ate a little in the cold kitchen as he lit a fire for his mother who would be up and busy in another half hour. He let out the chickens and gathered the eggs. The pre-dawn light did not warm the frigid air.

A few minutes later he was walking quickly through the canals and laneways to the Magistrates office, entering a little side door that you had to know was there or you’d walk right by it. He made his way to his clerks desk and pulled up a few little tasks that needed tending to, letters to important lawyers in the city, requests to libraries and records for information, all brief but needed doing. As he put the outgoing letters on the secretary’s desk and picked up the manager’s notes as the town bell tolled that it was now seven in the morning.

The office filled through the day with the three other clerks, the manager and secretary, and the magistrate himself. None of them noticed William or said a word to him. When he delivered papers to the magistrate’s office at lunchtime, the conversation did not change tempo, the lawyers debating points in minutia didn’t notice the slight man who entered despite him being in front of him. Just as it should be, he thought, a good servant is not to be noticed unless something has gone wrong.

Things went wrong with the other clerks, one had been dismissed a few months back after spilling ink over the magistrate’s papers, another before that kept making mistakes and saw the door. William did not make mistakes, did not get noticed at inopportune moments, rarely got acknowledged for anything good but that was as it should be.

That afternoon, William was delivering papers to the courthouse next to the office. The magistrate was presiding over a complex issue between two lords that had dragged on for months and involved depositions and questionings and investigations and arcane legal points going back many centuries. Rumour had it that the if the magistrate could successfully navigate this case to a satisfactory conclusion, he would be promoted to King’s court, arguably the most powerful position in the land.

The Great Library had delivered copies of some ancient texts that were needed, so William walked quietly into the grand imposing court through a side door and was just about place them just so on his desk when there was a loud noise, the ground shook and three being appeared around him out of nowhere.

William froze as all eyes turned to him. The whole room looked at the three goddesses that appeared, radiant and beautiful, and the weedy little clerk they elegantly knelt in front of. He was scared to move, to even breathe. He didn’t understand what was happening but he recognised the look of fury on the magistrate’s face, the outrage on the faces of the lords and their lawyers and advisors.


Each held out an object, offering it to him. A quill of the most vivid plumage and a ledger inlaid with filigree gold patterns. A gavel and stone, ancient looking. And the third a balance scale of silver. As he reached out to touch them, energy surged through his body and to his hand, sparking across the gap as a thousand shoots of lightning. And knowledge followed, great and old and arcane. Suddenly, the wise and powerful magistrate seemed feeble and stupid.