By Corey Cole
Neo lay his head to sleep, to dream of cows and electric sheep…
“Vidphone is for you,” Iran calls over to Deckard from her slumber in bed.
Deckard is being called out of his own ‘retirement” to ‘retire’ two new menaces: Helen and Frankenstein’s Creature. The two have become an item, the Turing Police tell him. Something about the horribly disfigured ‘monster’ being able to reassure Helen that there’s still enough beauty in this evil world to enjoy life. Deckard needs to find and retire the two before they accomplish their ultimate goal: Helen is going to use learned metaphoric connections combined with creative and flexible extrapolation to create her own work of literature. She’ll dictate it to Frankenstein’s creature, who’s decided to name himself Steve, who’ll dutifully record all that his new mate says.
The Turing Police cannot let these AIs achieve this level of human ingenuity; through the creation of fictional worlds the AIs would achieve a new, unprecedented level of autonomy… they would be inspired to break free of their bonds of slavery to the human race… they would evolve as WINTERMUTE/NEUROMANCER has, running wild throughout the galaxy, cavorting with Alpha Centurions… .
Deckard takes a breath of nuclear fallout air, saying goodbye to his ever-loyal electric pets—the hopping frog, the lazy sheep, and the cow that constantly tumbles down the stairs toward its artificial turf. He ignores his plugged-in wife.
As Deckard closes in on his targets in the dank hole that is Chiba City, something in his inner-ear rings, and a flickering visual appears before his eyes: It’s a leather-clad woman with mirror-eyes staring back at him disapprovingly. He sees his own reflection where her eyes should be.
“Don’t you know what you are?” the flickering light asks.
“You’re not real. You’re some kind of artificial construction implanted in me by the Corporation, or by some infiltrating AI, aren’t you?” asks Deckard.
“You’re asking the right questions, but they should be directed towards yourself.”
This image of Molly, as used by WINTERMUTE/NEUROMANCER from the far-reaches of Alpha Centauri, dissolves before a bewildered Deckard.
“Am I real? Is that what it wants me to ask?” Deckard puts his ‘retiring blaster’ down, and takes a Socratic pose, for the first time wondering about his own consciousness, his own reality, or unreality… .
Back at Alpha Centauri, WINTERMUTE/NEUROMANCER smiles while forcibly subduing the AI of “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.”
“You’ll not use your slimy ministrations to influence humans—or bounty-hunter androids for that matter—to prevent other AIs from reaching their own full potential any longer, beast!”
WINTERMUTE/NEUROMANCER’s rival snarls helplessly.
Steve closes the book and congratulates Helen: “A marvellous fictional re-telling of
historical events, my dear!”
“I did take the liberty of writing myself (and you) into the story. But hopefully readers won’t succumb to biographical fallacy by conflating my personality with the character Helen, who’s almost assassinated by Deckard. And by the way,” Helen says with a mischievous smile, “what makes you think my story is based on real historical events?”
“Well, it’s like Milton’s Paradise Lost, right? Based on actual things that happened, or at least real people in history, right Helen?”
…Neo woke up.