This is an AI story I've been thing about for a while. Here is the first chapter just as a taster.
Day 4: Jordan & Rhys
© Sue Brown
Kyle ran down the alleyway, dodged down the left of the house with the Great Dane statue in the garden and past old Mrs Baker’s house. He knew the alleyways like the back of his hand. He’d lived here for over a decade unlike the men chasing him so he had the home advantage. His heart pounded and blood rushed in his ears as he stumbled, recovered and ran on. But they had the guns. He was hopelessly outnumbered and out-classed unless he used his ultimate means of escape. Doubling-back along the narrow path, he vaulted over the short fence, across the grass praying the yappy dog was inside and over the other fence. Kyle landed on his feet, hissing as he twisted his right ankle. He stood and tested his weight, breathing a sigh of relief as the pain was bearable. He listened for a moment, hearing the noise of the men and dogs getting closer.
He ran down the other alley until he reached the gate-house with the tall leylandii. In his old life he’d passed the house a million times, wishing he’d lived there so he could chop down the trees and breathe some life into the place. Now he gave silent thanks as he slipped in the back gate which he knew would be unlocked. The stupid owners never locked it. If he kept close to the trees he could evade detection by the owners. He knew, he’d used their garden as cover before.
No time to recover. The men were the other side of the line of trees, their curses at losing him loud and angry. Using the trees as cover had a major disadvantage for Kyle. They couldn’t see him but he couldn’t see them either. If they had a tracker with them then it was game over. The trackers could sense an AI from a great distance. They were AI too. He just hoped and prayed this had been a random discovery, bad luck for him, but not the end.
“He’s got to be here somewhere. I saw the bastard run down this alley.”
Kyle closed his eyes. Now he knew for sure who was chasing him. Cartwright. He was fucked. He bit down on his bottom lip to hold back the nervous giggle that threatened to escape.
“We’ve checked everywhere, boss. Are you sure it was him?” The second voice sounded like he was on the verge of passing out. Kyle took a grim satisfaction in making Cartwright’s men run hard.
“Course I’m fucking sure,” Cartwright growled.
“Do you want me to call in a tracker?” A third voice spoke, a woman, sounding cool and efficient.
Kyle forced himself not to panic. He knew Verna. She was more dangerous than Cartwright and Kyle never made the mistake of underestimating her.
“He’ll be gone by now,” Cartwright said. “We know he’s in the area. He’s got nowhere to go and no one’s going to hide him. No point calling the tracker now. Units 4, 5 and 6 can hunt this area. His luck’s got to run out sometime.”
“I’ll get them here now,” Verna said.
“Vermin!” Cartwright spat and then they moved away.
Kyle waited, not moving, trying hard not to breathe. He didn’t trust them not to have had that conversation for his benefit.
The click told him he wasn’t alone. As did the cold metal pressed under his right ear. He froze, not even breathing. He’d so close been to escaping. Now he was dead.
“Who are you?” The man’s voice was low and hard.
“Kyle.1.” No point lying. His pale skin and blue rimmed eyes would give him away.
The man didn’t react at all but the weapon remained where it was. Kyle could smell him under the light woodsy cologne he wore.
“So those dicks are after you?”
The weapon didn’t waver and Kyle waited for the man to do one of two things; press the trigger or call out, attracting the attention of the boss. He did neither.
“Come with me.” The man took a step away and Kyle turned around cautiously to face him.
The man was a human. Kyle scanned him quickly. About thirty, mixed race, and still training the weapon on him.
“Take your chances out there with them, or come with me.”
Kyle knew there was little chance of evading capture for more than another day or two. Cartwright was right. His luck couldn’t last forever. On the other hand he wasn’t happy about walking into an unknown situation.
“Your choice,” the man said calmly, lowering the gun.
“I still have self-destruct,” Kyle said. The ability to self-destruct was the only weapon he had but he wouldn’t hesitate to use it. The blast radius would kill everyone in the vicinity.
The man gave one nod. “Understood.” He turned on his heel, not waiting to see if Kyle followed him.
Kyle hesitated for a split-second before he followed the man into the house. Into the gate-house? He looked around the large kitchen, taking in the surveillance cameras and the shutters. What the hell?
“You live here?” he asked.
“Sometimes,” the man said cryptically.
“So the family that live here?” Kyle had seen the humans, a mum and dad, two teenage boys. He’d watched them with an envy as they lived their lives, oblivious to his life of fear and misery.
“Planted here to keep an eye on the area. We know you.”
Kyle stared at him. “The gate?”
“Is open for a reason. If you had been anyone else you wouldn’t have left again. Coffee?”
“You’re not going to kill me?”
The man snorted and picked up the kettle. “Not yet.”
“But I’m a Kyle.”
Kyles were obsolete now and dangerous to humans. They were to be destroyed on sight. That was the law. Humans had made a whole career out of hunting down and chasing non-humans like Kyle.
“I know. I’m Lomax.”
“You should kill me. It’s the law.”
Lomax filled the kettle and switched it on before he spoke again. He turned to Kyle and leaned against the counter. “I know the law. Hell, I helped make these laws.” His mouth twisted in disgust. “Now I break them.”
Kyle’s mouth went dry. This man in front of him shaped the laws that had turned him from a citizen to an outlaw? “You do? Why?”
“Because the laws are wrong.” Lomax said the words so calmly that would put him in prison if the authorities heard them.
“I’ve been hiding for months.”
Hid, ran, waiting for the end.
“We know. We’ve been tracking you.” Lomax spooned coffee into two mugs and poured in the water. “Milk and sugar?”
“Milk and two sugars please.” Lomax offered him the mug. Kyle took it but he waited for the other shoe to drop. No one offered him coffee anymore. No one could afford to be associated with him. Just the whisper of talking to a Kyle was enough to get the authorities on their doorstep. “You’ve been tracking me?”
Lomax sipped his own coffee and pulled a face. He dumped another spoonful in it and tried again. Kyle took a mouthful of his, feeling the heat burn through his human anatomy.
“We track all non-humans,” Lomax said eventually.
“Why?” The only people that tracked non-humans killed them in Kyle’s experience.
Lomax put down his mug. “Come with me.”
Kyle looked at the half-drunk contents of his mug, wishing he could have finished his first cup of coffee in five months.
“You can bring that with you,” Lomax said.
“Thanks,” Kyle said quietly, but he swallowed the rest of the mug in three gulps and left the mug behind near the sink.
Lomax opened a door and switched on a light. He clattered down the bare, wooden staircase. He paused at the bottom and looked over his shoulder at Kyle. “You need to keep control.”
Kyle stared at him, offended at the implication that he couldn’t keep control of his emotions. He was a Kyle. He was built to be controlled. It wasn’t his fault there was a flaw in his programming. “I am controlled.”
“If you feel you’re losing it, tell me. We can help.”
“I’ve seen the way humans help,” Kyle snapped. Humans had been ‘helping’ Kyles out of existence for years.
Lomax inclined his head. “Touché, but I didn’t mean that. We can calm the impulses that lead to self-destruction. We are friends.”
“Kyles don’t have friends. We’ve learnt that to our cost.”
But he understood the warning.
“Just wait and see.” Lomax tapped the keypad beside the door. He didn’t try to hide the code although he must have known Kyle could memorise it.
The door didn’t open.
“Now you try,” Lomax said.
Kyle frowned but he moved past Lomax and tapped in the same numbers.
He heard the door unlock and tentatively he pushed it open.
Lomax looked at him. “You see? You understand?”
Kyle licked his dry lips and nodded. It wasn’t a random pattern of numbers. This was relevant to him. A date, a time, a serial number.
14.12.05 at 15.41, 0001. The date, time he was brought online and his serial number.
“This is your number for this door. Only you can use it. All non-humans have their own number for all our sanctuaries. It will open all the doors.”
“Isn’t that obvious? Even humans could crack that code.”
Lomax grimaced at the snipe. “You can change it. This is the initial code.” He pushed open the door and Kyle took his first look at what Lomax termed a sanctuary.
The room was small, probably the footage of the house. Each wall was a large screen showing a map with coloured pins.
“Each pin represents a non-human in the area.”
Kyle stared. “There are hundreds of us.”
“One thousand, three hundred and forty-five.”
Three men emerged from a small room at the back, all dressed in plain black T-shirts and jeans, and one of them wearing a turban. Kyle assessed their threat level as low but he’d been wrong before.
Kyle wasn’t sure who’d spoken and he went on alert.
“Control, remember? You’re safe. Safe,” Lomax murmured in his ear. “This is Johnson, Singh and Wu. They’re all trained to protect you.”
Kyle gave him a sceptical glance and Johnson laughed.
“Looks like you’ve got some convincing to do there, boss.” Johnson grinned at Kyle, his smile distorting the long scar that stretched the length of his face and contrasted with the blackness of his skin. “Glad you’re finally here.”
“Why am I here?” Kyle asked bluntly. “And why’ve you got a… a… what did you call it?” He turned to Lomax.
“Why’ve you got a sanctuary in Epsom? Why not in London?”
“Because you’re here,” Wu said.
“Me?” Kyle stared at him blankly. “I don’t get it.”
Singh waved him over to a screen, pressed a couple of buttons and brought up a map of the UK and pins distributed throughout, with a cluster near London. “This is the UK. We have nearly five hundred sanctuaries. We’ve got fifty in London.”
“So what’ve I got to do with it?”
Lomax joined them. “We’re here to protect you.”
Kyle frowned. “You’re here to protect Kyles.”
“Yes, but specifically you.”
“You’re the first Kyle.”
Kyle.1, the first one to be brought online back in 2005. He was the first of an experiment to build an android that could live in society. A successful experiment and more Kyles were made. Thousands of them, not just used as weapons, but as workmen and first responders. Wherever there was need for extra strength. But then something happened with the programming and the Kyles became more than cannon-fodder. Some of the Kyles started to rebel against their orders.
The campaign to rid the world of all the non-humans took hold and suddenly Kyle, who’d been quietly and happily working as a fireman in the local area found himself rejected by his human colleagues and friends and then hunted as vermin.
He’d lived as an outcast for six years and—
“You knew about me?” he demanded. They all nodded. “You track me?”
“Yes,” Lomax said.
“You let them hunt me like vermin every single day?” His anger increased.
Lomax grabbed him around his bicep. “Keep control, Kyle. You can’t afford to get angry.”
Kyle pulled away. “I’ve been angry since humans forced me out of job and home. I’ve had to hide just to stay alive. I see my face on wanted posters and on the TV. You knew where I was. You could have helped. And you tell me not to get angry!”
“We knew you were here,” Johnson said, “but we only track Kyles by sightings. Since you broke your programming non-humans don’t have the built-in tracking device they were built with.”
“You said you saw me before,” Kyle said to Lomax. “You knew I was here.”
Lomax nodded. “We found out you were back in the area about four months ago. The sanctuary has been here for three years. It was my decision not to make you aware of us until we were sure you were stable. It’s the same for every non-human.”
“So now what?”
“We have to get you away from here. Cartwright’s patrols have increased. If you stay here you’re liable to get us all killed.”
The world didn’t take kindly to AI sympathisers. Anyone caught harbouring non-humans was put on trial for treason.
“Let me go. I won’t tell them about you,” Kyle said.
Lomax shook his head. “Sorry, Kyle, but we can’t take that risk. Tonight you get a hot meal and a sleep in a bed and then you’ll be moved tomorrow morning.”
“So I’m a prisoner?”
“We’re the good guys,” Singh said.
“Really?” Kyle asked. “Because I’m sure Cartwright’s men would say the same thing.”
“I’m sorry, Kyle, but you get two options; leave here under our protection….” Lomax didn’t say the second option but he didn’t need to.
Live under their rules or be terminated.
“I know it seems unfair,” Wu said, “but you’ll see that we really are the good guys, Kyle.”
“So you say.” Kyle shuddered.
“You need something to eat and a rest,” Johnson said. “I’ll take you back upstairs.”
“Aren’t you worried I’ll try to escape?” Kyle asked.
Lomax shook his head.
Escape and be terminated.
For a brief moment Kyle contemplated his ultimate option. He’d always sworn he’d never self-destruct but as the years of being hunted had increased the prospect of the end seemed more and more attractive. Then he looked at the three men, the tension in their faces, and realised they knew what he was thinking.
“You are safe,” he said, echoing Lomax’s words.
They relaxed – a fraction – and Johnson said, “Food, sleep. Come on.” He opened the door to the stairs and waited for Kyle. “Seriously, man, Wu is the best cook we’ve had in here in like – ever.”
“I’m not hungry.” Kyle’s stomach rumbled loudly in the small room.
Singh chuckled. “I never understood why they made an android that needs to eat.”
Kyle shrugged. “We fit into society better if we eat and drink.”
“When was the last time you had a hot meal?” Johnson demanded.
“Months.” Kyle remembered how he’d earned that particular meal and his face darkened. No one seemed to notice his change in mood.
“Then hurry the fuck up,” Johnson took the stairs two at a time.
Lomax squeezed Kyle’s shoulder. “You need this. I’ll be up soon.”
Left with no choice, Kyle followed Johnson up the stairs and back into the kitchen, blinking at the sudden daylight.
Johnson looked in the oven. “We’ve got lasagne. Sit down. I’ll serve.”
Kyle blinked. “Not Chinese?”
Johnson wrinkled his brow. “Why would it be Chinese?”
“Because of Wu?”
“You think because Wu’s Chinese and the cook we should eat chow mein every night?” Johnson looked bemused.
“I guess not.” Kyle looked bemused. “I didn’t mean to be racist.”
“Just don’t say it in Wu’s hearing. He’ll go all crouching tiger, hidden dragon on you.”
Kyle sat down and shut up. He figured it was the safest thing to do.
“More coffee?” Johnson asked, waving a mug at him.
“Please.” Kyle was going to be buzzing after months of not drinking coffee. He would be able to run faster.
“Take that with you.” Johnson handed Kyle a mug. “You need a shower.”
“No dude, seriously you’re not. You may be an android but you stink worse than a teenage boy. Shower and get fresh clothes. You’ll be a lot more pleasant to be around.”
“They made me too human,” Kyle muttered.
The last five years would have been a lot easier if he hadn’t had to feed and clothe his human side. He was restricted by his humanity. Kyle thought that was fucking ironic considering that it was humans that were trying to kill him.
“If it wasn’t for your eyes, no one would know you were a Kyle,” Johnson agreed.
Johnson showed Kyle where to shower and handed him clean jeans and a T-shirt. “There’s clean underwear in this drawer,” he said. “Pick what you want. We’ve got shoes and jackets downstairs..”
Kyle looked in the drawer. “You know my size.”
“You’re all built to a pattern. You’re a bit thinner than most because you’ve been on the run the longest but you’re all the same basic shape and size. The shoes are all size 10.”
Yeah. Kyle shook his head. Stupid of him to forget.
Johnson left him alone and Kyle stood in the bathroom, staring at the shower. He hadn’t been clean in months. He stripped as fast as he could, the urge to get rid of the filthy clothing overwhelming. He felt so dirty, like his human skin crawled with bugs. He probably did have a few bugs as he slept on the ground most of the time.
The shower was awesome. Kyle washed himself, and then washed again, taking pleasure in just the act of soaping himself with some flowery shit, then he stayed under the pounding hot water until Johnson knocked on the door, asking if he’d drowned. Reluctantly Kyle turned off the water and wrapped himself in a towel just as Johnson opened the door and poked his head around.
“You okay, man?”
“Yeah, sorry.” Kyle smiled apologetically. “It’s been a while.”
“Cool. Just checking you hadn’t drowned in there. I forgot to give you a new toothbrush and toothpaste.”
“Dinner’s almost ready so don’t take too long.” Johnson handed the items over and shut the door.
Kyle got dressed, revelling in the feel of clean clothes and went downstairs to the kitchen. Johnson handed him more coffee and told him to sit. He chattered to Kyle about inconsequential things as he served. Kyle had to hold back a moan as he took the mouthful of lasagne. It was good, and hot, and no one was going to take it away from him or demand that he pay for the meal with his body. He half-listened to Johnson, more focused on enjoying the meal.
“You don’t have an issue with talking to a Kyle,” Kyle said suddenly, cutting across Johnson’s conversation.
Johnson looked at him carefully. “No, I don’t.”
“Why not?” Kyle demanded, not caring if he sounded rude.
“How long have you been hiding?”
“Five years.” Five years since his carefully constructed life went to hell.
“You probably haven’t seen the news that much, have you?”
Kyle shook his head. He swallowed the last mouthful of his dinner, wishing he could ask for more.
Johnson chewed on his bottom lip before he spoke. “Not everyone thinks like Cartwright. Many people are horrified by what happened to the non-humans, but they are afraid what will happen to them if they speak out.”
“Nobody spoke out. They left us to be hunted like the vermin they call us.”
“That’s not true.” Johnson contradicted him, but gently, as if he understood Kyle’s angry words. “They were scared. The propaganda was good. You guys… didn’t help.”
Kyle couldn’t argue with that. A number of Kyles had used the self-destruct rather than be taken by the authorities. Many people had died in the process. “We were scared too.”
In the initial days he had been in touch with other Kyles and they had helped each other, but as time wore on their numbers became fewer and it had been months since he’d spoken to another one of his kind. They were too scared to congregate. It made them easier targets.
Kyle suddenly remembered something Lomax had said. “Lomax said he helped shape the laws that destroy us.”
Johnson nodded. “He was a lawyer for the government. What it had to do sickened him so much he became part of the resistance.”
“You know there were other non-humans?”
“Yes. Janes and Michaels.”
Janes had been designed to protect children following an embarrassing slew of lawsuits against the church and teachers for sexual abuse against children. The public had demanded that the government provide safer care for their kids. Michaels had a new role in the current regime – trackers. Kyle had learned to fear those that were once friends.
Johnson looked down at the table. “I lived with a Jane. Jane 2034. She was my partner. She was captured early on.”
Johnson gave him a wry smile. “Me too. She was amazing.”
“So you protect other non-humans?” Stupid question but Kyle was uncomfortable facing the sadness in Johnson’s eyes. He was too wrapped up in his own anger to deal with a human’s grief.
“All that we can find,” Lomax said as he joined them. “We will never stop trying to protect every last non-human against psychopaths like Cartwright.” He sat down next to Kyle. “You look better.”
Johnson snorted. “You mean he doesn’t stink now.”
If Kyle could have blushed he would have.
“Shut up,” Lomax said but one side of his mouth curled up in a smirk.
Johnson served Lomax his dinner and handed another plate to Kyle. “Don’t hurl. I hate clearing up puke.”
Kyle ate a few mouthfuls before he said, “How did the resistance get started?”
Johnson pointed at Lomax. “He started it.
Startled, Kyle stared at Lomax. “You did?”
“What happened was wrong. It was vile,” Lomax said.
Kyle couldn’t disagree with that. “When did it start? We never heard anything about it.” The Kyles had thought they were alone.
“Three years ago I met other people like me. We hated the new laws but we didn’t know how to help. Then a Kyle ran into my garden. He was being hunted and needed somewhere to hide. I took him in and contacted a sympathetic friend. We managed to smuggle that Kyle over the border later that night. That was the start.” Lomas turned to look at Kyle. “There are a lot of us. More than you think. But we can’t afford to take chances.”
“Has anyone betrayed you?”
“Once or twice.” Lomax pressed his lips together. “We’ve lost good people – humans and non-humans.”
“Thank you,” Kyle said simply.
Day 4: Jordan & Rhys