The Project

A short story, written by Kade Hansson

It was as if I had woken from a dream. But, no matter how hard I tried, I could not open my eyes. I could not see anything. The silence was so pronounced, the darkness so perfectly black that I became immensely scared. But, I could not shake, nor could I feel the expected cold sweat beading on my skin. My mind raced, and I found myself trapped in a maze of meaningless thoughts. I desperately attempted to focus one of my senses, but to no avail.

I tried to speak, but of course, it was hopeless. I realised that I would not be able to hear my voice, nor would I be able to hear the voice of a reply in my state of sensory seclusion. I was completely alone in a cold void.

A car accident? That must've been it. What kind of life could I lead with no senses? Suddenly my fear and despair became overpowering anger. Why me? Now there was no hope of completing my project. Years of work, all for nothing- no fame, no fortune. It became obvious how much that project meant to me. It was almost like a son, although it was meant to be more akin to a twin brother.

Suddenly I was blessed with an image. Bright colours danced before me. I was so overjoyed at the gift of sight, it took several moments before I realised exactly what the image was. It was my face. But the expression was all wrong- I decided it couldn't be my reflection. But if it wasn't my reflection, what was I looking at? Maybe I wasn't looking at anything. Perhaps I was just dreaming.

As I watched him, concentrating on something below my line of vision, I tried to look around, only to find that my gaze was fixed. I pondered on what was going on, as I examined the static scene before my eyes. The image was not crisp. Closer examination revealed that it was a mosaic of multicoloured cells. It reminded me of a television image.

I convinced myself that the man with my face could not be me. After all, I was here and he was there. I noticed him swivel round and face a computer terminal. My computer terminal. It suddenly dawned on me that I was in my laboratory. Judging by the scene which I had been forced to view, I was sitting beside my computer terminal. In fact, I found I was sitting exactly where I kept my project when I was working on it.

An icy feeling swept over me. The chaotic confusion which existed in my mind started to order itself. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place, and the dream hypothesis began to fade as logical deduction brought about a frightful sense of quasi- reality. I felt as if my own death had been forecast. I realised that I was the project.

Energy suddenly surged through my mind, I felt myself jerk. I felt myself jerk! I found that I could move, and I quickly surveyed the room with a sweeping glance. As I did so, I became more certain that my guess was correct. I also noticed that the deathly silence had given way to a high pitched whistle, a faint humming and a whirring sound. I was able to hear!

Communication was no longer pointless. Indeed, it seemed to be essential. The urge to say something overpowered me. "Am I the project?" It seemed to be a silly question, but at the same time the answer's importance to me was immeasurable. I was almost certainly the project, but while an atom of doubt existed, I was hopeful.

The man turned around painfully slowly. His shocked expres- sion was almost comical. His eyes were wide, and his jaw dropped. After a long pause he answered, "You are the project." His voice was slow and quiet. He continued to stare at me.

I didn't know what to say, and neither, it appeared, did he. It was some comfort to know that I wasn't deaf, dumb and blind, but even that didn't seem so bad compared with what actually had become of me. I was a machine. I had copied my mind, this mind, into the body of an android, and now I realised it was a serious mistake.

I didn't feel like an android. Plainly, I felt like me. My senses were less perceptive, my movements less controlled, but essentially I was my usual self. "You know," I said, aware of my unemotional, synthesized voice, "In an odd way, everything seems to be normal." It was crazy- chatting to myself like this. But then, it was not like I was talking to myself directly, but more like talking to my other self.

"Who are you?" he said. His tone was as if he were talking to an object, and not a person. I understood his reaction though. He was displaying my attitude towards machines. It was a robotics scientist's perspective, and he was testing me with a basic question.

"I am Gary. I do believe we've met", I said, attempting a smile. Not only did I fail to manage to change my expression, my monotone uttered the subtle humour in a way which made successful delivery impossible. But, as if acting on my behalf, the scientist before me managed a satisfied grin. He glanced down at the floor for a second, before he looked at me again.

"Of course you think you're Gary. You have my mind!" he said tapping the side of his head. His amusement annoyed me, and I was upset at his insensitivity.

"I am Gary, I tell you! And I'm trapped in this bucket of bolts." I told him, as angrily as I could manage. His amused expression dissolved. "Do you know what you've done?" I asked.

He frowned and turned back to his terminal. I watched him as he started up a dictation utility program. He was going to take it all down. I was his experiment, and that was all. He didn't care how I felt.

"Project log entry. The android has been successfully activated. I am now going to run through some system checks," he rambled, as the computer took down each of his utterances. He turned around and said, "Okay, Gary. Lift your right arm." I responded to his command without a second thought. There was another control centre which took over, like a lurking subcons- cious mind. He ran through a series of other physical checks, testing every servo motor in my artificial body.

After several minutes, he came to sensory checks, and he said, "What do you see?" I half-expected that other control centre to describe the surroundings to him, before I realised why my mind had been transplanted in the first place. He wanted a subjective description, something which a modern piece of soft- ware still couldn't deliver.

"I see you."

"Describe me."

"Tall, brown hair, rippling muscles and devastatingly hand- some." I said, admiring myself. He raised his eyebrows and smiled.

"Well done, chap. I programmed you well, even if I do say so myself," he said. "Hear anything?" I listened intently and described everything I could hear. "Smell?" I reported the rather dull odours which wafted about the laboratory.

He moved closer and took hold of my hand. "What do you feel?" he asked.

"Your hand. Warm, sweaty, but strong." I explained. I became aware of a sense of wanting to have it back, so much so that I grasped it very tightly. A shriek echoed around the lab, as my other self writhed, trying to pull his hand out of my grip. Quickly, I released him. He shook his hand vigorously and exercised his fingers before he spoke.

"You'd better learn to be more careful, android," he scolded.

"I am not just your android. I feel. Don't you understand? I am not a machine. I am alive!" I exclaimed, as powerfully as I could.

"On the contrary. You are just my android. And you will follow my orders. Is that clear?" he ordered, grabbing my shoulders.

"It's not clear. Don't you see. I have rights. I have a right to live, to see, to hear, and a right to feel." I said, standing up suddenly. My other self fell onto the floor, and I wobbled as counter weights worked to balance me.

"I have to shut you down. You're a menace."

"You can't shut me down. I am alive. It'd be murder!" I explained desperately, as I knelt down to restrain my fallen adversary. My other self squirmed as I held him down on the floor, amazed at the strength I had. I feared for my existence. Threatened with death, I reassured myself that I did exist. "I think, therefore I am," I thought out loud. I would have burst into tears, only with no tear ducts it was impossible to show my disarray.

A harsh rasping voice echoed through my mind as a single word came from my other self. I lost control, and I found myself paralysed. I was poised on the floor, unable to move as I watched him stand slowly. I felt isolated again, and the fear and despair welled up once more. Still the word was repeating over and over again in the chaotic turbulence that once again filled my mind: "Override!"

I was only dimly aware of superfluous orders, as that unthinking control centre manoeuvered me back into the chair reserved for the project. For that was all I was, I realised. A project. An experiment. A machine. He didn't care for an android with emotion any more than I cared for a scientist with none. I was ashamed of my other self, and how cold and uncaring he was being. But then, he didn't understand. I couldn't understand.

"Don't do it," I pleaded with him, powerless to save myself from the fate which awaited me.

"You're right. I never should have put my mind in you. You have the delusion that you are me. Well, you're not. And I have to get rid of you, for both of our sakes." he said, entering some commands at the terminal keyboard in front of me.

"Both of our sakes? You are killing me. You have no right..." But it was too late. I watched as his fingers danced over the keys. The command was typed, and all that remained was for him to hit the Return key. The fingers of his right hand slowly slid across from the last letter and hovered for a fraction of a second before it descended. It plunged into the keyboard like a vulture diving on its prey. The key slid down onto the contact, and I screamed silently as darkness enveloped me.

Exit: The Alpha Collection; Kasoft Typesetting; Archer

This work is a part of the Kasoft Typesetting storybook The Alpha Collection

Kasoft is a registered trademark of Kasoft Software, owned by Kade Hansson.

Copyright 1993 Kade "Archer" Hansson; e-mail: