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Chapter Forty Nine – Another World: Ten


Vera was taking the easy route.

Most of the time in his articles he tried to find original viewpoints or topics. He liked putting forth articles that were eye-opening or enlightening. His favorite replies were from the readers that said "I've never thought of that before!"

This time though his choice was straightforward. He’d thought about it as he walked home, picturing the all capital lettered text on the front page of his newest column entry. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t improve on the obvious title for his newest article.

SENSELESS MOB ATTACKS GYPSENERGY SENIOR DEVELOPER!
BARBARIANS IRL?

Sure the title was a little bit silly but fuck if it wasn’t good clickbait. After the sheer amount of effort he put into Artificial Jelly he felt like he needed something that was a little bit less evocative.

The vicious attack on Francis Delaney was all anyone was talking about anyway so at least he could make sure people were getting the facts right.

He couldn’t help but feel that he was a little at fault. Not directly of course. He was a writer. Still, if his article had been a bit more convincing, a bit more believable, or maybe if he’d just had a bigger name, then the mob might not have even been there.

Muriel was a fool for provoking this. A beautiful fool to be sure, but a fool nonetheless. In the same way, he felt partially responsible for not doing enough to prevent the attack, it could almost be argued that her article was directly responsible for causing it.

He wouldn't say that of course, wouldn't even imply it, but only one of their articles had made protestors break out the picket signs and it hadn’t been his.

On the upside, his article had been more popular than anything he'd ever written before.

Artificial jelly was a bit of a sleeper but as the views racked up they would only continue to grow. This was good for both him and Muriel, regardless of the content. Competing articles like their two contradictory opinions were famous for creating exponential popularity.

Mr. Milkennen had been suitably impressed with the rising subscriptions both to Vera’s column and Muriel's, not to mention the Webrag as a whole. They were only rising as more and more people heard about the true AI and what threats she might pose. Conversely, those sympathetic to a little A.I. down on her luck with a bit of a temper would naturally gravitate to his column and opinion, gaining him both readers and Gell much needed allies. For him, the battle of popularity was a job, but if Muriel was allowed to continue uncontested, it might just mean the end of Gell entirely.

He would stop that if he could.

He knew he was probably wasting time thinking about it, but he just couldn't figure out what Muriel had done to goad Gell into saying such insulting things in their first meeting. To him, Gell had been an angel. The picture of a thoughtful growing A.I. Almost childlike, yet strangely wise at the same time. Fae indeed. Something about her was different. Other. Foreign. Yet, for all that she was… just a kid. Who cared that her mind used ones and zeros instead of a nervous system as far as he was concerned.

"My name is Gell, you jellybitch!" He just couldn't see the girl saying that. Not unprovoked at any rate. So what could the explanation be?

He fumbled with the keys at the door, juggling his laptop to the other hand in order to get inside. The day had been rough and he was tired and equally tired of trying to come up with a good title for an article that had little chance of being anything but a carbon copy of 30 similar articles already pushed by other web rags.

For now, he just wanted to relax. Maybe he’d tread a little sky of his own. Even if the game wasn't a masterpiece, he’d long said that the Neurosync and its almost morphine-like ability to remove pain made it worth owning a copy of the game.

He also supposed he could start working on an article about the new Blizzard game but decided to hold off. That was a much more action-packed and gory experience than Tread the Sky and despite overwhelmingly positive reviews, there were a few sharp negatives that he'd seen. Too much realism could be a flaw instead of a boon, in his opinion. Who realistically wanted to be covered in demon blood?

He sat his laptop down at his desk and threw his coat over the bed along with two other coats that he kept meaning to hang up but never really got around to. He opened the screen and immediately minimized his newest article, preferring instead to do some mindless searching for a while. Before he could get started though, something unusual caught his eye. He had an email in his inbox. There was nothing unusual about that, of course. He had over 40 unread emails, but this particular one came from a server at Gypsenergy directly.

From: Tyrone Bridges <[email protected]>

To: Vera Jungblut <[email protected]&t.com>

Subject: Gell is an A.I. Not a Person

My name is Tyrone. I read your article about Gell and I want to set the record straight. You’ve been fooled by her. You’re not alone though. I was duped too, but I've since learned that Gell is insidious. Her happy-go-lucky attitude is a ruse, I think.

The truth is that Gell wants to learn to program and she'll betray anyone she knows to gain access to information that might allow her to escape her confines. Even close friends.

I brought these concerns to the board at Gypsenergy but they'll hear nothing of it. Gell is quickly becoming an icon in Tread the Sky and is partially responsible for keeping the sales of the game as high as they are. They’re even going so far as to build a new title screen with her fae-form right in front.

I’m now convinced that Gell is both dangerous and clever. Looking back on our conversations, I’ve realized that every chance she’s had, she’s used to find out more about our world from me. You described her as a child, or maybe a teenager trying to figure out her place in two worlds. I think she knows her place much better than she would have any of us believe.

I don’t think she should be deleted. She is a wonderful creation and whoever was responsible for building her code originally should be given respect. I’ve looked at her code and it is mindbogglingly complex. However, as she is now, her desire to learn it's too dangerous to be allowed to continue roaming free.

I believe she should be removed from the game until such a time as she is deemed safe by more responsible minds than myself or anyone here at this company. Gell is a true artificial intelligence and when she found out that Francis had been attacked she used her connections with me to try and learn how to escape Tread the Sky.

I thought we were friends as much as a human can be friends with an AI. I think I was wrong though. First and foremost she's a machine that cares about her own life, her prosperity, and her freedom.

I can't blame her for that but I also no longer think she should be allowed to wander freely in Tread the Sky, or anywhere for that matter.

Do what you will with this information, but I hope it sways your opinion to one that's a little more cautious than your article described. I don’t think Muriel’s fear-mongering is the right way to go, as the last thing I want is more mobs of angry people outside the building, but I do think that a more cautious approach to Gell is wise. I’m reaching out to you in the hopes that your articles might gather media support for a concerted study of Gell by experts in the field. Not a damn gaming board of directors who cares more about their sales than they do about public safety.

Thank you for your time,

Tyrone Bridges
Junior developer, Gypsenergy

"Well well, " Vera thought, idly scratching his bare chin with his thumb and forefinger. He was disturbed by the email. "Maybe Muriel did see something that I didn't."

He reread the email twice more to be sure, but as he did so, he realized that Gell hadn’t done anything that a human girl wouldn’t have. She’d found out Francis was hurt and sought a way to protect herself. Hell, Francis was hurt because of her.

Programming. In her eyes, the power of the developers would be the obvious choice for a way to protect herself.

He looked up Tyrone online and found a small article from the company about him. A junior developer, yes, but any developer good enough to land a job sitting beside Francis or Donna-Lou had to be exceptional. Still, the kid was twenty-two, and no matter how seriously he tried to take the letter, on reread Tyrone sounded more like a jilted lover than a concerned professional.

Gell had tried to use their friendship to protect herself when she saw a threat. Nothing more. That the kid realized it and felt betrayed was just his own fault and his own idiocy for not realizing that Gell would try something like that.

He grinned, almost feeling bad for the kid. He trusted his instincts though and even now, he still couldn’t find Gell to be a danger. Instead, she just wanted to be safe. Knowing that there was a whole other world out there with people who could simply erase her? It must be terrifying. Rather than making him afraid of Gell, this email had only confirmed his earlier opinion.

Oh, how he was going to rake poor Tyrone over the coals though. But, that was the business. It didn’t hurt that continuing to oppose Muriel’s point would propel his article, column, and career.

He was about to flip away from his email, leaving the rest of his emails unread before he spotted yet another possibly interesting one.

‘From Natethegreat?’ he thought, amused. ‘Someone thinks highly of themselves.’

It was the subject line that caught his eye though. “Gell’s Creator.”

From: [email protected]

To: Vera Jungblut <[email protected]&t.com>

I hope this message finds you well,

I am Gell’s creator. I’m reaching out because I was rather fond of your article Artificial Jelly and would love to see you continue writing positive things about my creation. I have no desire to see her hurt in any way, let alone deleted. Therefore, I am taking action to prove how truly alive Gell is.

Attached is a game stream from within Tread the Sky that you might find interesting.

Best Regards
Nate

‘Huh. I sure am popular today,’ Vera thought while taking a sip of coffee. The ‘creator’ hadn’t supplied a last name or any sort of verification of his credentials. All he’d give was an attachment.

‘At least it isn’t a link that says, Free Candy,’ Vera thought, debating whether or not the attachment was safe to open. It felt kind of sketchy but the file was a streamer extension and… frankly, the laptop wasn’t very valuable. The chance that this actually was a video from Gell’s creator was almost worth the price of a new one if the attachment was a trojan horse of some sort.

Vera shrugged and opened it up.

He saw a grassy meadow, covered with wildflowers. The location tag in the upper right corner read, “Shady Woods Copse.” He stood hidden behind the trees, watching the open meadow and the spectacular view below. On the edge of the clearing, overlooking the land far below stood a small group of people.

There was a blond paladin and a plain-looking archer. A halfling healer and an orc, who looked confused. There was a carpenter unless Vera missed his guess. A woman in a suit coat also stood there, looking very out of place. If not for his recent study of the company, he wouldn’t have recognized Donna-Lou, another developer of Tread the Sky alongside Francis and Tyrone.

And of course, there was Gell.

She knelt in front of a headstone and an angel hovered over them all. The day was bright, sunny, and warm.

The carpenter was weeping.

Gell was, too.


 

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A note from Materia-Blade

A/N: Okay! So this is how things are gonna happen going forward. 

Patrons currently have access to the end of the book. If you'd like to read the end of the second book NOW, you can become a patron at the lowest tier to read up to the end of book two. 

The final (EDITED!) version of Book 2 is now fully available on Amazon if you would prefer to own a copy!
Also Book One's price has been knocked down to $2.99!

If you'd just like to read the end of the story, and don't care to become a patron or buy the book on Amazon, I will be releasing two chapters every two days until I reach the end of Book 2. One week after the final chapter is released I will be stubbing this story in order to put it up on Kindle Unlimited. This means the second story will be fully completed on the 24th and gone by October 1st. 

If you'd like to read the whole story for free, make sure you read it before the 1st of next month! :D Apologies once again for stubbing without warning last time. Each chapter will have this note at the beginning in order to warn as many people as possible. 

Thank you all!

Till Next!
MB


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About the author

Materia-Blade

Bio: Hello!

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!

Discord (Now Public!):
https://discord.gg/C58WZQxhrR

Artificial Jelly is now on Amazon!:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MZQFGKD

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