Chapter Thirty Three – Another World: Five
Tatiana had felt curious as she read through her messages, musing about the endorsement she’d accepted for her stream.
All thoughts of the advertising money she’d begun making evaporated the second she’d seen the subject line. She’d immediately opened the message, as soon as she saw it.
She was getting quite famous in-game and received almost constant messages lately, but not enough that she didn’t try to read them all.
This one sent a cold chill straight down her spine. Someone else had found her.
… anyway. Sorry to bother you with all that. I’m just incredibly concerned for her and we cannot for the life of us figure out what she is. Is she an incredibly well programmed NPC, or a person in a coma? Someone trapped in the game? With all the conflicting information I wouldn’t rule out an A.I. at this point. It’s frustrating, you know? Sorry for the long message and thank you for your time.
She opened the screencap, terrified of the Jellyfae she knew she was about to see, then stopped in confusion.
The character was… beautiful. But not Gell. Rather, she looked like Gell would if the little jellyfish were anthropomorphized. Her skin was a teal-green-blue. She couldn’t quite tell, and the job was made more difficult by the glowing freckles.
The effect was eerily reminiscent of the glowing Jellyfae, too, though that was where the similarities ended. A teal skinned woman, with a young body that would make an in-game avatar envious, was covered by a ragged tunic that was also familiar. The fucking bugbears wore those!
“Oh God,” Tatiana breathed, reading the message over and over again.
Goosebumps rose on her arms and her neck as she took in the message with trembling fingers. The image of the avatar presented before her was not familiar. Not directly. The ways in which she was familiar haunted her though. The tendrils that formed her hair shimmered blue just like the creature she’d killed so many times. They even floated unnaturally just like the dungeon mob had.
“It’s really her,” she thought, still unable to shake the shock of it.
This creature. This human-jellyfish thing was the same NPC she’d killed over and over again to become as strong as she was! She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she was sure. Looking at the screen cap, the wide smile on a childish, curious face.
This was Gell, the Jellyfae.
“She looks so happy,” Tatiana thought.
Part of her wanted to just continue on. Maybe one day she would run into the creature in game and they’d nod to each other. Gell would understand, would know that Tatiana had never meant to hurt her.
A shiver crawled down her spine though.
She remembered those words that day. It was weeks ago now, but nothing she did could erase that horrible wail from her mind. ‘Why are you the only thing that changes?’ and ‘When will you be satisfied?’ Both echoed inside her mind like hammers whaling on a giant bell of guilt.
‘She thought I was eating her!’ Tatiana thought with a shudder.
Knowing she was able to think. Sentient? Sapient? Fuck she always confused those two. Just thinking of how awful it had been to realize that she had been systematically torturing that creature and being called on it had been bad enough. Now, seeing the happy expression and knowing that the little creature was out there, with a very justified grudge against her made her…
She grabbed for her trash can and dry heaved, thankful that nothing actually came up.
‘I… need to do something about this. Apologize, if I can. Before it's too late,” she thought worriedly.
Gell wasn’t a person. She was sure of that, but that didn’t make her any less dangerous. She shiverred as another realization came over her.
‘The developers at Tread the Sky are experimenting with A.I.,’ she thought with rising panic.
No one had been messing with her. There was no plot to trick her into leaving her favorite farming mob alone. No. Gell was just… alive. And…
And possibly loose.
‘What the hell could they possibly be thinking?’ she thought, worriedly. A.I. dungeon mobs? That was… monumentally stupid. Were they trying to find out what they would do? Figure out how an AI would react? Were they so desperate to make engaging enemies that they were ignoring the implications of creating a sentient digital creature that was set against humanity?
More importantly, what the hell could she do if Gell actually held a grudge? She’d somehow gained her own damn body. What else might she be capable of?
Gell’s only experience with people was being murdered by them. If she’d been a person, Tatiana didn’t know what she would do with herself. She covered her mouth with shaking hands. She was guilty and terrified in equal measure.
She could apologize, but what if Gell didn’t care? What if…
There was no way to know what a sapient A.I. would do. Would she have the capacity to forgive? Would she understand remorse? Or would engaging her just invite more anger?
The lump lodged in her throat refused to go away. She’d killed a person dozens of times!
“Would Gell try to do the same to me?”
She’d never been much of a computer person. Could Gell read her emails? Could it use Tatiana’s webcam to spy on her? Oh god, could it access her nervous system if she put the VR helmet on? What about her money!? Fuck, when was the last time she’d even seen physical cash?
She didn’t know if what was possible. Artificial Intelligence had been a part of her life since she was born, but not just from her favorite movie series. Companies constantly advertised “A.I.” but until now what they’d always actually meant was “automated learning.” Their… “A.I.” could pick up on what she probably wanted based on what she’d done before. Convenient. Private. Time-tested. Targeted advertisements had been a thing for years, and while they’d become more sophisticated, that was all they’d ever been.
No one had ever actually had to worry about sapient A.I. because one had never actually been made, as far as she knew. Year after year, the projected dates for when they might really pull it off were pushed further and further back.
She’d never been against them either, and didn’t think she would be in the abstract. At least, in that she’d never cared about them and the idiots trying to develop them. If she hadn’t personally pissed one off she might even be excited about it!
But she had. She had. And if she didn’t stop it while it was… hopefully still imprisoned within the game, who knew what might happen to her?
“I’ll… I’ll apologize. I’ll try to reason with it. If… if it attacks me though… ah fuck, what can I even do? Never use a computer again!?” She screamed in frustration.
These morons who’d developed this game should be thrown in jail.
She opened a message to reply to Iron Crock, but was seized by another thought. Did Gell know about this? Was she being watched right now…? Inside the computer?
If it didn’t respond to her apology… if it were still hostile to her, then it had to go. If it was evolving inside a video game who knew what it might do. That said, there was nothing she could do about it.
She looked at the clock. Work in two hours.
She opened an email to Joanna Prescott, deciding that if the A.I. could monitor her, it would've made itself known by now. Hopefully her private life was still private, but who knew what an A.I. could do? The lump in her throat didn’t go away as she began to type.
The idea of reporting the problem to the mods in Tread the Sky was laughable. Who knew what Gell might become by the time they actually got around to doing something? But a gaming company like Gypsenergy was subject to the media, and Tatiana was confident that people would be very interested to find out that there was a Sapient A.I. learning how best to kill humans wandering around in their most popular game.
Luckily, Joanna, one of her friends from high school, had become a journalist, and she doubted any reporter would turn down a story like this.
Hopefully going so public with Gell’s identity wouldn’t be necessary. Hopefully it would forgive her. Maybe they could even become friends?
But if it didn’t, she wouldn’t let it have its revenge.
She finished the email, saving it to her drafts before taking a deep breath and grabbing her headset. She had to try. She owed it that much, at least.
Support "Artificial Jelly"
- United States
I'm Materia-Blade. I've been a long time fanfiction writer, and have recently decided to toss my hat into the original fiction arena. I love fantasy, sci-fi, and Lit-RPG's and have read hundreds of books from each genre.
My new story Artificial Jelly has released and is currently being pretty well received! Excited for it to hit trending! Thanks to those who support it, and me, and I hope it continues to impress!
Hope to hear from you soon!