Corridors Of Gunterlacs: Chapter 8

At this point, Coat was indulging in much more entertainment than she really should have. “You doing okay back there?” She turned backwards to see what the little girl was up to.

Carla had lay down against the greyish blue walls of the room near the door as her head was cocked to one side. She was tired and it was no surprise that she had nodded off to sleep while both Carter and Coat was handling the situation. Her green dress was now ruffled messily from the positioning and repositioning of her body in an attempt to find the most comfortable sleeping position. The brown teddy bear was still being held tightly in both her arms.

“Do you sleep?” Carter asked as he turned back to the computer.

“Sleep?” The computer thought for a moment. “I do believe when my system ‘shuts down’ that I am ‘sleeping’ in that sense. It allows for the hardware in my system to take a rest and for the electrical signals within the various components that make me run reduce to a pulse. So yes, I do believe I ‘sleep’.”

“Do you dream, then?” Carter asked, genuinely curious. “And what kind of dreams do you dream of?”

“Dream?” The computer thought about this for a while. “I don’t believe I have dreamt before.”

“Well.” Carter started, feeling the need to educate the machine on the subject. “Dreams are a bit tricky to explain. But it’s kind of like watching TV you know? You just sit back and let the story play out in your head. The only difference is that you’re asleep when this happens.” He was suddenly treating this machine as more than just a bunch of screws and bolts put together into one massive super computer.

“I will check my databases on any records regarding to the subject matter.” There was a long silence in which only the sounds of buttons being fiddled with could be heard throughout the room. Neither Coat nor Carter spoke to each other, both were waiting for a reply from the computer as they went about their task. After a full minute or two, a mechanical voice cracked through the speakers. “I don’t believe I have ever experienced such an event before. But, my databases show that I do actually have the necessary credentials required to experience these ‘events’ though.”

“I guess this is one of those things that occur with consequential existence, in the context of a machine I mean.” The girl spoke into the microphone.

“What do you mean?” The machine sounded curious through the speakers.

“Machines were built with a purpose as you have said. That purpose of which is to perform a set of tasks using the algorithms created by the programmer. That said, the programmer would probably use the most productive set of algorithms and codes to create what you are today.” Coat said. “The purpose of this is obviously to increase or even maximize the efficiency of your processing power. To ensure the energy and resources spent on you for you to complete the task at hand is not wasted on needless lines of codes or sequences. This in consequence, would lead to the omission of something like a dream sequence. It probably is programmable, but it was omitted for the very purpose of your existence – to maximize your efficiency as a machine.

“So, that means that it was because of an omission in coding?”

“I’m working under the assumption that if a computer like you were to experience a dream, it would have to come in the form of a plugin or a software.” She refuted. “I don’t blame you, we humans have an ingrained system which titters between the lines of consciousness. That gives us the ability to dream.”

“Consciousness you say?” The computer was clearly trying to pull up a memory from a while ago. “Henry often spoke on the topic of consciousness as well.”

“He probably told you that you didn’t have a consciousness as a computer, didn’t he?”

“You are right.”

“I’m not surprised. The fact that you are unable to dream probably means you have no ‘sub conscious’. It’s an area of consciousness even we as humans haven’t fully understood yet.” Coat coughed for a moment, the dust on the long forgotten panels were getting to her. “What we do know however is that the subconscious mind works almost twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It doesn’t rest. It is the backbone of the processing and comprehension unit of the brain on an unconscious level after all. So we don’t see it, but it’s running in the background somewhere.”

“Subconscious.” The machine spoke in its eerie mechanical voice. “I do have background applications running whenever I am turned on but I do believe it does not match with the definition input within my database.” It stopped. “I believe it is something I have never experienced before as well.”

“And that is probably what differs the most between us then.” Coat said. “The lack of a consciousness.”

“It is debatable however.” The computer responded. “Henry and I have had this argument before.”

“Interesting.” Coat responded. She smirked in enthusiasm. A challenge of philosophy from a computer was something she never thought she would experience in her life time. “Humor me.”

“Consciousness is subjective.” It spoke, clearly stating its point. “Take for example, what you are experiencing now. The sights and sounds, the touch and the tastes. These are mere expressions of what consciousness is. Fundamentally however, how do you think this comes about?”

“I’m not an expert in biology.” Coat said. “But I assume, the nervous system helps us as humans to experience these external stimuli.”

“That is roughly correct. Somewhat oversimplified, but holds true to the information within the records I have.” It was in agreement. “And this thus begs the question, what is the nervous system?”

“A collection of nerve endings?” Coat questioned. “A bunch of nerve cells I guess?”

“That is also somewhat correct. They are cells.” The computer processed this information for a while. “And so, what does consciousness relate to? Your experience of reality? Or your nerve cell’s experience of reality?”

“What?” Coat was dumbfounded by the logic.

“You are made out of a biological substance called cells. Standing alone, a cell has no ability to think for itself. It merely replicates actions already stored within the script of their genetic coding. Movement, consumption, excretion and respiration are all done according to scripted events. Reactions with external stimuli are a result of ‘fail safe’ scripts as implemented by a gene code of the cell. The same principle works in single cell organisms in nature.” It stopped. “Individually, if these cells are not able to think or perform self-rationalization, how then can a collection of these cells ‘think’, as you are doing now?”

“Through chemical processes of course.” Coat replied. “We experience it because chemicals in the body shift and move around, creating hormones and electrical signals that would fire to the brain, telling us what to feel and what to think.” She replied. “As such, the ‘collection’ of cells gives rise to consciousness.”

“Your explanation is partially correct.” The computer said. “To put it into a more detailed perspective, in the nervous system, external stimuli is detected by the sensory organs and an electrical signal is sent through the system by way of neurotransmitters between the nerve cells across the synapses up into the brain. The signal is then interpreted and a response is generated. Hormones roughly work the same way as well, but it is within a different system called the endocrine system. There are different pathways for it to be distributed into the body, but it usually is through blood.” It stopped for a moment.

“If that is true, then wouldn’t consciousness be just a set of chemical processes within the body and the brain that creates a reaction? After all, if a cell is unable to have ‘consciousness’, a collection of them, no matter how big, would still be a ball of ‘unconscious’ cells.” It argued. “Meaning, these processes which take place in the body is what creates ‘consciousness’ in humans. But chemicals and electrical signals, are the basic building blocks of life. An atom of zinc, iron or carbon, does not contain ‘consciousness’ in the very sense processes do not have ‘consciousness’.” It paused. “What then are you experiencing?”

Carter rolled his eyes from one end to the other. “It got you good on that one.” He chuckled for a moment, hands still working hard, pressing each and every button on the board.

“That’s a good argument.” She said smiling.

“On a scientific level, these debates are set in stone by way of the various processes that take place in the body.” It said. “Consciousness however, is the ability to rationalize, think and to experience reality, both emotionally and physically. In regards to ‘experience’ however, what are you really experiencing at all? Which ‘part’ of the body experiences it? Why do you experience it? A collective bunch of unconscious cells, chemicals and processes, simply does not seem like a plausible candidate in light of this.”

“Then, this begs the question. How real is consciousness? Does it exist? Or is it merely a figment of the human self-esteem? To distinguish yourselves from the other beings that exist on the earth? Does rationalization, choice and the ability to think really set you apart from every other living being? How sure are you that these elements of life are not granted to the rest of us?” The computer said. “And this leads me to my final argument. Maybe you do not have consciousness at all, because from the view of a being made of ‘artificial intelligence’, you seem more like the machine and less of the man. I believe I experience consciousness just as much as you do in that light.” It paused and processed the information further.

“To bring back my original argument then, your subconscious may truly be yet another non-existent belief. Just as how you believe a machine is unable to experience consciousness.”

Carter merely raised an eyebrow at this as he looked at Coat. Coat grunted at him and then turned back to the giant monitor which now had a giant grinning emoticon pasted in the middle of the screen.

“I’d say this has been a rather intriguing discussion.” Coat seemed happier than she previously was after being told off by a machine. “Henry must have been one hell of a debate partner.”

“He was” The machine spoke. “And thank you for taking the time to listen to me rant, it is truly unbecoming of me though.”

Just as the conversation concluded, Carter’s finger punched onto a blue button with the abbreviations ‘CA-T01’ written right under it. A loud click could be heard throughout the room and the sound of gears crunching at each other could be heard behind the walls of the tiny surveillance room. Right next to the monitor, a huge panel started to slide downwards into the floor. It revealed a pitch black hallway that both Carter and Coat couldn’t see across. The lights atop the ceiling suddenly started to flicker and in a blink of an eye, the hallway was flushed in white florescent light. It was a long hallway which slanted downwards at a very gradual angle into what seemed like another metal door at the far end.

“Great.” Carter turned behind to a sleeping Carla and picked her up in a princess cradle. “Well, this is our ticket out I guess.”

“It has been nice talking to both of you.” The machine’s emoticon turned into a confused smiley face. “May I ask though” It paused “Who are you and what exactly are you doing here?”

“Who are we?” Coat questioned. “You mean you don’t know?”

“I have not been informed. It has been roughly…” The computer was crunching some numbers once again. “Two hundred and ninety eight days since I was last turned on. Since that time, only the administrative portion of the system has been accessed periodically, the most recent being twelve days ago.”

“Do you know what they did?” Coat questioned.

“Unfortunately, without the administrative codes, the system denies me the rights to access the core files that were tampered with during the last session and the various logs pertaining to those changes as well.” It said. “I do not know therefore what has been altered, however I do find that the furniture in the building has been shifted around quite a bit since the last time I was awake.”

“Does the name Romanos ring a bell?” Carter asked suddenly.

“Wait a second. I will check my databases.” After a minute or two, the machine returned. “No, unfortunately I do not have any records on the person you are seeking to identify.”

“Where are we then?” Carter continued pressing for details. “As in, where is this place?”

“You are currently in Fort Gunterlacs.” There was a pause and a buzz from the machines. “Strange, location data has been expunged from my general databases. The information was recently transferred into a private server dedicated to users with admin rights. Unfortunately, I’m unable to pin point where we are now in the globe.”

“You mean you can’t remember?” Carter asked.

“I am trying to trace back some data from my recovery files. Please hold.” The system went silent. “Unfortunately, it seems my recovery files had been tempered with as well. I am detecting large quantities of file corruption in my main drive. This is not natural. It seems the data had been purposefully altered by manual access. Date of corruption is marked approximately two hundred and fifty five days ago.”

“Wasn’t that the date of your system update?” The numbers had clicked in Coat’s mind.

“It was. How odd. Is this Henry’s version of a joke in bad taste?” It seemed to question. “It seems I will have to try and recover as much data as I can from the corrupted files within. I am sorry I am unable to help you.”

“Well.” Carter started. “Then, do you at least remember what this place was for?”

“This place.” The computer paused for a second or two as if reminiscing in the past. “This place is a bunker built to ensure that humanity’s final moments could be witnessed by the few survivors there within. We shelter, care and store the final eight survivors until their time is up. We also store massive amounts of records, documents, files and servers that pens down all of what humanity has experienced up till it’s very last moments.”

“Wait. What?” Carter was shocked. “What do you mean humanity’s final moments?”

“I am unsure as well, this was the only recoverable record I could find relating to your question in my files. All other relevant information has been lost through file corruption.” The computer spoke. “I will try my best at fixing the corrupted data, please give me some time.”

“So that means we’ll have to wait?” Coat asked.

“No.” The machine replied bluntly. “Whenever you wish to communicate with me, use the headset. It has wireless capabilities and connects directly to me through Gunterlac’s networking system.”

“Okay. We’ll be heading off first then.” Carter responded as he stood now in front of the empty hallway.

“Good luck.” The machine wished both of them as Carter and Coat walked into the long corridor in front of them.

They treaded slowly down the sloping hallway with caution. It was relatively far from one end to the other. There was a light cold draft that flowed steadily through the corridor, something Carter was well aware of because of his itching nose. The concrete floor under their feet felt oddly cold as well, as if it was emitting a strange icy glow. They didn’t give it a second thought though. As they reached the metal door at the end, they could hear the wall behind them closing shut. The three of them were now alone once again.

“Well. Let’s see what’s on the other side then.” Coat said to Carter as they stared at the huge hulking mass of a metal door similar to the last one they had met before entering the surveillance room. Nothing was imprinted or pasted on this door though.

“Agreed.”

Written By HoiHoiSoi


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