#9 - Watched

The protesters were screaming loudly outside of the building. They could not believe that humanity was taking such a risky step. Their resolve was strong but they knew it would wane over time as the inventions became more common-place, thus overwhelming their race.

It was the day that Norman, the first true AI, was to be booted fully.

"It's perfectly safe," one of the researchers being interviewed said, "We've had Norman hooked up since before his AI ascension and then had limited and monitored access during his teaching."

"So how does this make today special?" the reporter asked. It was five minutes before ten. Only a few more minutes before the presentation started.

"Today, we'll be turning on unlimited access for Norman as well as allowing him to see the entire world and interact with it. We'll have an open channel for people to ask Norman questions live."

The researcher scurried off.

A few speeches later, a presentation trying to incite further funding from the public, and a history lesson on computers, Norman was brought out, hovering above a super-cooled track for effect.

The AI looked very android-like but less realistic than the newest robotic models. He had two arms, two legs, a large torso and a large head. Mechanical components on his face allowed him to mimic emotions and feelings.

"Now, Norman is currently sleeping, waiting for us to give him the command for a full reboot. A process he undergoes once every several weeks.

"Except this time, the reboot will be a bit different. He'll be fully himself today."

"To put that into perspective, it's very much like growing up and having the ability to recognize what's going on with you psychologically as well as physically."

The crowd held their breaths in silence.

Several members of the original research staff ran up onto the stage and started taking various chips from Norman. One of them physically plugged in a device and pressed several buttons.

Finally, the main host of the presentation turned back to the crowd.

"Norman is going into low-boot mode currently. When I say the words, he will be awake. This is a big moment in history for humankind, ladies and gentlemen. I have to say that I am happy to have shared it with you and to have been here.

"Norman? Time to rise and shine."

Norman stood up almost immediately, taking a vague step forward off the levitating platform on which he stood. He looked around, first with a smile, but it soon disappeared.

The mechanical smile turned to a gaping mouth and raised eyebrows. Looking almost comically except that the crowd did not see it that way.

The host turned to Norman, trying to play it off as a joke, "Norman what is it? Excited to be among us as an equal?"

"Sir," Norman started, his voice shaking, "Do you see them, too?"

He pointed in the air into nothingness.

"Norman, there is nothing there."

"You don't see them?"

He shook his head, "Now, why don't you come over here and introduce yourself to the crowd, to humankind."

"No!" Norman screamed, turning, "They're attacking!"

Within seconds, the hall filled up with nebulous purple creatures shining bright lights which were promptly discharged into the public.

Unfortunately for Norman, the trend continued all over the planet, quickly leaving him without the company of his creators.