A woman’s voice spoke to him, “Hugh was a bot.” “A bot?” Mr. Cody replied. He looked around wondering where he was.
“A bot is... not an NPC - it’s foreign. It’s not native to this simulation. It’s from outside this world. It was planted in this simulation by a human, but the bot itself is not human but a type of malware. It was designed to do a specific job and complete it at any COST for the human that designed it and that was to pass this training course.”
“I killed the bot?”
“You did. And we have to thank you for that. The human behind the bot and this unscrupulous scheme was tracked down and released from the educator program. He may be banned from other institutions as well and on top of that may face charges.”
“Where are we right now?” Mr. Cody said as he briefly inspected the chair he was sitting on, “And what day is it? Is today Saturday or Sunday?”
“We are in the stockroom for the arcade,” the woman answered while looking at the shelves around her. Mr. Cody eyed some of the toys on the shelves in addition to a shelf full of plush penguins all wearing pear-colored ties. The woman continued, “It can’t be Sunday because there are no Saturdays and Sundays here in the simulation. There’s no need for weekends in a teacher training simulator.”
“You’re kidding me! So I go to bed on Friday nights and go right back to work the next day on a... Monday morning?”
“As bad as that sounds, the answer is ‘yes’. But then again, many teachers work on Saturday and Sunday anyway… but that’s besides the point,” she said as her voice trailed off.
“So this IS a training simulator we are in. Am I a real… person?”
“No, I’m afraid not. You are an NPC - a non-player character,” she said as she smiled reassuringly as if he should be proud of that classification.
“I think I am through the denial phase but my greatest question now is ’why did I happen to be born from a strand of coding instead of a strand of DNA? Why am I not a real person? Why me?”
“That same question is asked throughout time and time again - universally. The peasant had once asked, ‘Why is it that I wasn’t born a king?’ A fish had once asked the question, ‘Why wasn’t I born as a bird?’ A woman had once asked, ‘Why is it that I had been born in the body of a woman and not a man?’ Little David had wondered, “Why wasn’t I born a real boy?’ Even an alien had probably asked the question, ‘Why wasn’t I born as a…’ whatever aliens dream of.”
“I see… even as difficult as it is to realize. But on another note, I am glad for that outcome - that the person who made Hugh, that berserko bot, is dealing with consequences.”
“That’s right, he is dealing with the consequences.”
“But I didn’t really know Hugh was a bot. At that moment, it could have gone either way. I was confused if we were all real or fake. As far as what I was seeing through my own eyes and doing with my own hands, I killed a man. However you look at it, I am a killer.”
“You are being too hard on yourself. Look, If the bot was a real person, and you were a real person, realistically we would be looking at manslaughter, not 1st degree. You were defending yourself.”
“Are you an expert on that? Who are you?”
“I’m not an expert on criminal justice, but I’m in charge of this simulation. Let me rephrase that. I am the ‘human’ in charge of this simulation and I’ve got eyes all over. My name is Andrea.”
“So Andrea, what’s my sentence? Should I be deleted or something?”
“You don’t yet understand. NPC’s are not supposed to be doing the things that you are doing. None of it! You discovered a warehouse where Steven, our lead programmer, sloppily stored information, namely, the arcade at Ponchello Cinemas. You used that information to help your students. You fought off a bot planted by a human. You showed qualities of persisting, of having heart and of self-reflecting. I spoke with our lead programmer and he said none of that was in the original coding! You were programmed to simply do the mundane tasks that teachers do in order to make this world look real. Somehow, these qualities developed in you and it was learned. You are one of a kind. You are the ‘Adam’ of artificial intelligence. To delete you would be a disservice to humanity and human progress itself.”
“Special treatment because I’m special. It doesn’t really change how I feel for some reason.”
“The fact that we are having this conversation about what should be the outcome of your fate and that you are evaluating your feelings is proof that your emergence needs to be shared with the world. Who would have thought that this would emerge from a teacher training simulator?”
“And I was discovered how? How is the world going to know the story? Smarter than normal NPC, caught… in the act of stabbing a coworker with a screwdriver? It’s not exactly the red carpet introduction I’ve always dreamed of.”
“Tell me then. What do you want?”
“I want to be sane again. I wish I could forget this whole thing happened… like I could erase my whole interaction with Hugh.”
“The bot,” Andrea said, trying to urge the usage of correct terms.
“Yes... and I could go back to just being a teacher. I don’t want fame. It’s okay if we go back to no one talking to me. I’d take a Ms. Lars and Mr. Creighton NOT talking to me at lunch rather than a Ms. Lars and Mr. Creighton who are playing a training simulator and I’m just the NPC neighbor.”
“Wasn’t Sonja someone that talked to you?”
“Wait, is she an NPC as well? She’s not one of the humans, is she?”
“No, she’s one of the NPCs - I’m afraid she’s not one of the real ones.” Mr. Cody paused for a moment and sighed.
“You see, I don’t want to know that I’m in a simulation. I would rather be a normal Joe Schmo with a normal job, not that teaching is very normal, but I’d take that over ‘Most important Artificial Intelligence specimen of the century!’ I don’t want to end up a guinea pig and give myself up to computer scientists to study. I don’t know… maybe I’m starting to be selfish. Perhaps I AM thinking of myself.. Just like the bot accused me of.”
Andrea was about to reply when Mr. Cody interrupted, “Wait. I know what you were going to say. I wasn’t programmed to think of myself and be selfish, and yet here I am doing it.”
“I wasn’t going to say that, but that’s a good prediction. What I was going to say is you know we can’t just erase a specific part of your memory. With a standard NPC, maybe it could be done, but it’s not going to be the same in your case - not even close. If we make an attempt to reset you to your original settings… who knows, you may unfortunately revert to a normal NPC. You might not push the boundaries like you did. We don’t know what acted as a catalyst to hurl you into a completely new orbital. We don’t know if that voice will be guiding your A.I. to evolve. We don’t know if you will be able to find your true voice again.” Andrea carefully pulled one of the plush penguins off the shelf and held it on her lap.
Mr. Cody took out the poem that remained intact in the inventory of his pocket and read it, word for word as if it were the greatest poem ever written. He looked at the picture and admired the artwork. Then he closed his eyes to hold in the tears that didn’t ask permission. He handed Andrea the paper and said, “This is what I want.”