He held the door open for her, leaning into the threshold in a rather teasing manner. Ankara sighed. She walked past Sharawy and entered the Core Room. The moment she stepped inside, a whole spectrum of emotions seemed to come alive inside her, ranging from optimism all the way to foreboding. Even the lump on her left elbow, the one she picked up when last visiting Sharawy’s lab, seemed to throb all of a sudden.
“Impressed?” Sharawy asked, pressing for the doors to shut.
He laughed. It was hard to ever keep this man down for a serious conversation. Everything was a joke to him. Although according to him, this reckless sense of abandon is what powered his genius. And who was she to argue the point. After all, this genius had led to the creation of the near immeasurable scientific power that surrounded her right now.
“That’s okay. It’s best to have some fear so that we can think straight, especially during times of triumph such as this,” he waved his hands around like a magician unveiling the disappeared lady.
Ankara had little patience for these philosophical discussions. Especially now, when every moment she spent here only heightened her anxiety.
“So, should we?” She gestured towards the stack of mainframe computer hard drives in front of them.
They made their way to a large visual interface connected to the drives. Five small keyboards were attached to the massive screen. Sharawy pulled one closer and began typing away. At once, the machines blared to life. Above her, the domed surface began making all kinds of robotic noises, with sine curves running across it from time to time.
“Ahh, what’s going on?” Her heartbeat was spiking already.
“Good Lord, Ankara. Relax, I’ve just started the system. It’s running the various algorithms, and the AI-biological interface is establishing the connections and loading up the necessary data.”
“As long as everything’s under control.”
“IT IS. Now just chill for a while, good grief.”
“It’s a little hard to chill when the thing you’re talking about is some…something that lets you control nature.”
Sharawy inhaled a deep breath. She immediately felt her stomach turn slightly. Perhaps she was being far too harsh on the man. After all, he had been through more stress than anyone else because of all this.
“No, no. Please, don’t. I’m not angry, I’m just, I just wish everyone would stop dousing it in so much negativity. I’m not trying to take over the world or anything.”
“People will still look at you as if you are. Plus, you are going to make a fair bit of money.”
“Of course I am, I deserve to get rich because of it.”
“I know you do. But you also have to be prepared for the jealousy and envy it will invite onto you. People just aren’t programmed to appreciate each other’s success.”
Sharawy cocked back his head, staring into the ceiling.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
She put an arm over his shoulder.
“For what it’s worth, I think you deserve it.”
“Thanks,” he snorted. “And for the record, this isn’t some cookie cutter supervillain plot machine to control nature. It’s an AI system that will integrate with the natural biospheres of the world. I’m not taking over nature, I’m trying to help it.”
He proceeded to explain the various components of the system all over again. From the vast numbers of nanoscopic chips that were placed in the soils of various places all across the world, to how they analysed relevant data and transmitted it to his central supercomputer, to finally how the system would use all the information to calculate exactly what steps were needed to prevent any environmental damage that is detected. He called it the Logic Gate.
The conversation had drifted into a lull when the sensors came to life all of a sudden.
“The hell?” Sharawy began scouring through the readings flashing on the screen.
“WHAT THE HELL?!”
“Fitting the only thing I ever heard you repeat includes hell,” Ankara quipped, despite her heart starting to do somersaults.
Sharawy glared at her.
“Sorry. Ah, anyway, what’s wrong?”
“Logic Gate, it…it’s predicting a massive environmental disaster in the Amazon rainforest.”
“What, how, what kind of disaster?”
Sharawy didn’t answer.
“Well? What is it? Forest fire?”
“What the hell do you mean maybe? Doesn’t the system tell you what exactly?”
He simply shook his head, starting to type into one of the keyboards. All kinds of code appeared in front of her, as Sharawy completed hundreds of lines in next to no time. Ankara barely blinked. She was standing beside her old friend who was on the verge of a historic achievement. He was even, apparently, fighting to protect the environment from a deadly catastrophe. But for some reason, there was a distrust growing inside her. She struggled to buy everything, or anything, rather, coming out of Sharawy’s mouth.
“There!” He finally stopped, looking up from his keyboard.
“You mind telling me now?”
“Just…just a sec, one last thing.”
He tapped on the bottom of the screen and a new keypad emerged. This one had a solitary button. Sharawy had barely lifted his hand when Ankara’s brain seemed to go into a frenzy. An undeniable, unquenchable feeling shot through her, telling her, imploring her to stop the man and whatever he was about to do.
Out of pure instinct, she slapped away his fingers before they could land on the button.
“What was that for?!”
“No,” her tone was cold and loveless.
“No? What do you mean? Ankara, what’s gotten into you?”
“What does that button do, Sharawy?”
He mumbled unintelligibly.
“Sharawy, I asked what the hell you were about to do!”
The expression on Sharawy’s face was akin to that of a man who had wandered into a tiger cage. Ankara’s thoughts were flooded with all manners of doomsday theories. All those stories and movies she had seen about AI taking over was happening in front of her very eyes. But this was still Sharawy, a human who was doing everything here. What could it possibly mean? Why did she feel this way? Her head felt like it was about to explode.
“Oh my God,” Sharawy sputtered. His eyes looked like they had just realised the presence of a ghost.
He leapt forward, making a lunge for the button. But Ankara was quick on her feet, rugby tackling him mid-flight and sending him crashing to the floor.
“ANKARA PLEASE, I BEG YOU”, he yelped from the floor, “PLEASE PRESS THE BUTTON.”
“No way in hell.”
The sensors changed their tune, producing a completely different set of sounds. Ankara almost collapsed under the weight of her own head, her heart jumping up to her throat with each beat.
“DAMN IT, ANKARA, PLEASE. YOU’VE BEEN TAKEN OVER, IT’S CONTROLLING YOU!”
The words hit her like a smack across the face. Before she could react or do anything, the sensors changed tone yet again, switching to a softer, less punishing drone.
“It’s done,” Sharawy said solemnly.
“Wha…what’s done, and what did you mean? SHARAWY WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?”
“The nanoscopic chips, they…they’re more than just detectors. They’re like tiny extensions of Logic Gate’s core system. They were built to integrate with biological systems, mimic their means of communications, such as nerve impulses.”
“They can take over minds.”
“They weren’t supposed to, Logic Gate wasn’t supposed to. But…but, I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.”
Ankara staggered backwards, needing to latch onto a piece of equipment for support. She gasped.
“Sharawy, the last time I was here, I somehow cut my hand on one of your machines, it was this big tube like thing.”
He could not even meet her gaze.
“That is the nano-chip synthesiser. It’s all connected to Logic Gate. It has a mind of its own now. It is its own master.”
Her eyes fell on the screen. She could barely feel her insides.
“What…what has just happened?” Sparkling beads appeared along the edges of her eyes.
“The plants, the fauna in that area — it synthesised and released an avalanche of toxic chemicals and substances into the area. People will die, the whole place will become uninhabitable.”
“You designed Logic Gate to detect threats to the environment,” the tears ran down her face, “I think it just found the biggest one. And it took control of it.”
She stared at her hands, wondering if any of her thoughts were even hers anymore.
Whether it’s pop culture, fiction or politics, writing is Saam’s ultimate passion and reprieve.