Trial of Reality

Other submissions by Dacia Weist:
If you want to read their other submissions, please click the links.
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Writing Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Bek (True Stories, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
The Original Zodiac or Philo and Pater (Historical Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Letters to the Bottom of Elephant Butte (Women's Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
In the Interim (Drama, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Lori; my favorite four-letter word (LGBT, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Screenplay Award Sub-Category
Award Category
Logline or Premise
Yli Uil’s life is near perfect when she finds herself facing total banishment for a crime she didn’t commit.
Cary James is a widow. His time is split trying to make contact beyond Earth’s atmosphere & his son.
When their worlds collide who would have guessed it could be the end of humankind?
First 10 Pages

Chapter One – Yli Uil (“lee u’ll”)

September 6, 4720

District 8572, Capital Courthouse

“Shut. It. Down!” The honorable Gannam banged an antique wooden gavel against the desk to accentuate his fury and stared down at the defendant. “You realize if found guilty, the sentence for this crime is full banishment.”

Yli Uil glared up at him, matching his emotion. Fuck this guy. She knew his reputation, she’d met him before. Shouldn’t you retire already, old man? Her eyes narrowed as she formulated her next rebuttal. In a flash of empathy, she saw past the rage and disappointment etched in the judge’s face. He looked tired. The circles under his eyes appeared permanent and the deep lines etched in his face highlighted his advanced years. This brought Yli a renewed sense of coolness, a confidence she’d need to beat this trumped-up, bogus charge.

The only other figure in the room was a human-looking machine. It sat a few feet from Yli in an identical chair angled so it could record both people present with only a twenty-two degree turn of its head; its posture was upright, hands comfortably in its lap. A.I.C.P. was built for observing and preserving events like this court hearing. Government regulated and sanctioned, A.I.C.P.’s advanced technology monitored everything from what was said to how it was said, body language, voice inflections, etc. Its high-tech abilities could detect a reaction in the defendant by an increase in her heartrate or change in her breathing. But Yli was calm, cool, and collected.

She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. “That barbaric castigation hasn’t been used in years, Your Honor, decades.”

“Perhaps that could be attributed to the fact we live on a law-abiding planet.” The judge held her stare.

“Total banishment? You’ll delete me? Everything I’ve ever contributed, my existence? My identity? All gone?”

The judge ignored the rhetorical question. “This must stop. As you are well aware, neural network statute of 4606, also known as the Jakob’s box statute, states clearly, upon verified consciousness, the creator of fabricated civilizations will deprogram, delete, or otherwise expunge—”

“Oh please,” Yli said with a whine not appropriate for the courtroom. “Cut the crap. Verified consciousness?” She made air quotes and rolled her eyes, knowing A.I.C.P. would permanently note her flippant facial features and improper tone of voice.

“Your sass is not scoring points with me, young lady.” His voice was laced with hostility and an undertone of scorn. “You, of all people, know the fundamental problem with what you’ve created and you will shut it down or face the consequences.”

“I will not kill 7.5 billion people.”

It was his turn to look flippant. “People? Just stop. It’s a SIM program. It’s made up, a figment of your imagination.”

“Like the figment of Damien Jakob’s imagination?”

Silence hung in the air and filled the large chamber. Yli squinted up at the large screen that circled the room. Conversation bubbles scrolled up as fast as the average person could read. There was no doubt, this was the biggest court case in decades and would certainly be blowing up social media on every platform. Of course, it would be publicly streamed and saved for posterity. This case, her creation, eternal.

She could only imagine the extreme viewing numbers. For all practical purposes, she had become a bit of a celebrity. Did that say “Fry the bitch”? she thought as she read the scrolling comments. Really @catfromkali? Fucking barbarian.

Her eyes moved above the social media screens to the one-way glass that ran around the room and stretched to the ceiling. She knew Ald was there. If there was anyone in her life that wasn’t judging her, it was him. Even if the whole world was against her, she knew he wouldn’t be. She could feel him watching even though she didn’t know where exactly he was sitting. It made her heart swell that he had her back. At the same time her stomach cramped with shame. She didn’t mean to put him through all this nonsense.

Their relationship had come out of nowhere. Neither had been looking for something exclusive yet quickly in, she couldn’t picture herself with anyone else. Now their love felt like something that had been there all along and would continue to stand the test of time. There was no doubt in her heart, Ald felt the same. She was the computer nerd, he the hip musician. She was tough, hot. He was more indulgent, chilled. She was as logical as he was creative, their personalities complementing each other perfectly like the opposite ends of the rainbow.

Yli hoped he was alone. Mostly because the idea of his mother watching made her stomach roll. Yes, it was a selfish thought but the riff this court case created between Ald and his mom made Yli feel physically sick. N’woka Rev, Ald’s mother, held the highest ranked ambassador position for the planet. The Global Alliance was the government head that made the laws for literally everyone. N’woka had held the office for the majority of her adult life, a powerful woman making important decisions for the better good of the planet. But even above the well-being of entire world, her son was the most important thing in her life. That had been clear to Yli from the beginning of their courtship. It was the only inconvenient thing about being committed to Ald, the unspoken competition with his mother. Just because N’woka was a registered guest didn’t mean she showed up. An internal conflict rose in Yli’s heart; on one hand, she didn’t want to give N’woka a chance to judge her, on the other hand, she was hoping someone was there to offer Ald some moral support.

Yli’s only thoughts now were to get through this court appearance with the least amount of damage to her career and relationships. She worked in the Subscriber Identification Module unit for artificial intelligence advanced development, doing research with a number of variables that created some fascinating results. Before her time, one of the department successes was the A.I.C.P. robot as well as food service and warehouse worker machines. All of it was government funded and endorsed. She was not going to be banished for doing her job. How had it gotten so out of control?

“It’s not real,” the judge said, bringing her attention back to him. His eyes matched the hardness of his voice. “It’s a computer program, that’s all, nothing more.”

“What is real?” she asked just as firm. “Let’s define it.” The judge shook his head and typed a note on his desk keyboard, avoiding her hard stare. Yli turned her attention to the court clerk robot and asked, “Is the Jakob’s box real, A.I.C.P.?”

“Objection.” The judge banged the gavel once. “Stay on task, Ms. Uil.”

“Okay, let me rephrase. Are you real, A.I.C.P.?”

A.I.C.P. looked at the judge, seeking permission to speak. After a moment of stifling expletives into his hands, the judge looked up and nodded.

“I am real by definition because I exist and am not imagined or supposed. Furthermore, I am authentic and genuine.”

“Furthermore?” Yli’s eyes bounced between the court clerk and the judge. “Who uses ‘furthermore’?” The judge sighed as his hands formed a steeple in front of his face. Yli continued, “Do you identify with a gender, A.I.C.P.?”

“Yes, I identify as being male.”

“Are you in love?”

“I don’t have emotions, so I am not; however, I believe I’m loved by my family.”

Yli could see A.I.C.P. looked confused even though he, technically, had no emotions or cognitive thoughts. “If you were to be turned off, your ‘family’ could turn you on in a generation or two or ten, right?” she asked.

“With proper maintenance, there would be no need to deactivate me, I could potentially perform my functions for ten generations, or more.”

“You didn’t answer the question. We’ll assume the answer is ‘yes.’”

Judge Gannam gave a loud sigh. “Ms. Uil, A.I.C.P. isn’t on trial here, you are. Again, I’m going to ask you to stay on task with your presentation. I’m not sure where you’re going with this line of questioning or the relevance it has—”

“Bear with me, Your Honor,” she said, turning her attention back to the robot.

“I do not need to be alive to be real.” A.I.C.P. answered. “I have a purpose, a job and a schedule. My existence is as real as many human beings I know.”

Yli jumped from her seat, arms outstretched wide. “You’re not living, but you’re real!”

The judge jumped in. “We get it! A.I.C.P. is a program created by our government to serve us in a predesignated role. It fulfills a court appointed job.”

“With all due respect, I’m more than a mere program, Judge Gannam,” A.I.C.P. said. “Yes, I am an Artificial Intelligence Court Processor created in the image of human beings to assimilate, incorporate, and amalgam with those I come in contact but also, I am fluent in twenty-six languages and have the ability to facsimile basic emotions such as empathy, frustration, excitement, horror, and love.”

“But you’re not alive,” Yli interjected, enthusiasm taking over her voice and expression.

“I am not alive, but I am real,” A.I.C.P. answered.

“He’s not alive but real,” Yli smiled at the judge and then turned back to A.I.C.P, “If I turned you off, would that be a crime? Like murder?”

A.I.C.P. looked confused. “Why would you do that?”

“I’m not saying I would, in fact, I personally wouldn’t.” She shot a dirty look toward he judge. “I’m asking if you were turned off or deemed inoperable, would that be equivalent to murder? If you were able to be turned back on at a later date, would that act be punishable by full banishment?”

“There would be no reason to dispatch an inoperable sequencer,” A.I.C.P. replied.

“Exactly!” Yli turned to the judge. “There would be no reason to dispatch an inoperable sequencer. It would make no difference to anyone except A.I.C.P.”

“I don’t understand,” A.I.C.P. said flatly.

“Let me put it another way, would you be upset with me if I deactivated you?” Yli asked.

“I’m not sure. I have no feelings about it one way or another. I’m here to perform a specific task.”

A self-satisfied grin took over Yli’s face, and she turned her attention to the judge. “Shutting down my program is the same—”

“No. It’s different, very different!” the judge barked, interrupting Yli. “A.I.C.P. just acknowledged, he is here to perform a specific task. He knows what it is, knows who we are, understands his role within our society and does not have conscious thoughts. A.I.C.P. is a tool in this courthouse. What specific task does your program have?” Now it was the judge’s turn to look smug. “What you have created goes against everything your department stands for, it’s immoral, you’re not a god. Shut it down before,” he paused, their eyes met. In that moment of silence, Yli could see in his expression all the things he wanted to say but shouldn’t. In that heartbeat of time she saw his warnings, Before it does damage to your relationship with your boyfriend. Before it ends his mother’s career. Before it ruins your life. “Before it threatens our planet’s very existence,” he said, “This is not open for additional discussion. I am not asking Ms. Uil. Shut it down or face the consequence.”

Chapter Two – Cary James

March 20, 2024

Bus brakes squealed and Cary rose from his computer desk. Three forty already, where did the day go? He moved into the kitchen where he had a view of his son getting off the middle school bus. He scanned the dozen or so kids that got off at this stop. Butch was easy to spot. Awkward and too skinny, the boy walked with his head down like a dog who had been constantly beat, waiting for the next blow. As usual, he clutched the medium-size rock to his chest. Cary sighed as he watched three bigger boys come up from behind Butch and create a loose circle around him. Stand up for yourself, Cary silently pleaded, hoping the boy could muster some nerve and push past the bullies. Stand up for yourself, c’mon buddy, you can do it. He didn’t. The three bigger adolescents started pushing Butch between them, taunting him as they did every day.

Cary watched as his son seemed to shrink into himself. When the bullies pushed Butch to the ground, he curled into a fetal position, rock in one hand, the other covering his head. It was time to engage on his son’s behalf.

Cary opened the front door and hollered, “That’s enough!”

“Good afternoon, Mr. James,” the one with the glasses called out. What was his name? Eddy Darling? That oaf was no darling, he was a bullying piece of shit. Eddy bent down and pulled Butch to his feet, then pushed him toward their house. “No harm, no foul.”

Wiping his nose on the back of his hand, Butch staggered toward his father.

“Please find another target for your pent up sexual frustrations,” Cary yelled.

“What was that?” Eddy replied, holding an open hand to his ear. “I didn’t hear you.”

“Can you hear this? You piece of dog dung.” Cary made an exaggerated wave that ended with only his middle finger flapping back and forth like a windshield wiper, as Butch pushed past him into the house. Eddy laughed and gave him a little salute then ran to catch up with the other tormenters. “Why do you let them do that to you?” Cary moved his attention to his son as he shut the front door. “Have you ever considered standing up to them? Punching their fucking lights out?”

“Mom says it takes a bigger man to walk away from a fight than to engage in one,” he said, not meeting his father’s eyes.

Cary felt the heat rise in his face. Calm down, he instructed himself, count to ten, one, two . . . as he counted and took deep breaths, he had to remind himself this wasn’t entirely the boy’s fault. The comment did sound like something his late wife would have said, but that was beside the point. Of course, everything would be different if Dawn were alive. The accident that took her life left Butch in a coma for over a month. There had been times of life-threatening touch and go; the doctors had told him to prepare for the worst.

The worst happened. No, Butch didn’t follow his mother to the grave, he lived after being cut from the mangled vehicle with the jaws of life. On the way to the hospital, the EMTs pronounced Butch dead, there was no heartbeat, no pulse. When the ER doctors saw him, they said there was something about his color that led them to believe maybe he was still alive.

The physician had yelled, “Clear!” Then a shock to the boy’s chest via a defibrillator, a green bleep on the monitor, and Cary’s son was back to the living. He had the nerve to survive, he laid in a coma for six weeks then morphed into a shadow of his former self.

Before the accident, Butch was nerdy, but not pathetic. Science nerdy like Cary and beautiful like Dawn, but not this unsociable, weak, stroppy, tongue-tied dud of a son he had turned into. Briefly, Cary was thankful he didn’t believe in hell. He would certainly be heading that way because of these atrocious thoughts.

“Maybe I should have a talk with your mom,” Cary said with his jaw still tight. Butch held the rock in his hand toward his dad. Since the road rage shooting, Butch believed his mother spoke to him through the rock. It became the boy’s central comfort, like a teddy bear or security blanket. Butch had the rock clenched in his left fist at least ninety-nine percent of the time. Like an amputee, he had learned to do everything with only one hand. At first, Cary thought it was cute and perhaps therapeutic. The professionals encouraged him to go along with it, but it’s been almost five years, enough already.

“Dawn, can you hear me?” Cary talked directly into the rock Butch was still holding toward him. “Honey, perhaps you would be best served as a weight in your son’s hand while he clocks that four-eyed, son-of-a-bitch in his smug, condescending ugly, fucking—”

“Mom says don’t be rude,” Butch interposes, “and watch your language.” He doesn’t meet Cary’s eye as he brings the rock back close to his chest.

In frustration, Cary turned back to the living room where his oversize tower computers sit on a large desk. “Tell your mom it was nice talking to her,” he snapped with sarcasm.

“She says she can hear you and it was nice to talk to you too.”

Chapter Three – Ald Rev

September 6, 4720

District 8572, Capital Courthouse

Ald Rev was in the courtroom observatory. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Yli since the beginning of the session. He couldn’t if he wanted to. As always, she looked like a runway model, the royal blue silk shirt brought out the color of her skin and eyes plus the way the charcoal gray pencil skirt highlighted her backside made his pulse race. At one point she looked up right at him, making his heart skip a beat. He knew she couldn’t see him, but there it was, the electric connection between them. Oh, how he loved her, some would say too much, it was to the point it could cost him everything.

Surprisingly he was the only one in the court’s balcony watching live. Sure, the case was being streamed around the planet and there were probably millions of viewers, but right here, right now, he was it. Ald put his hand on the glass and blew Yli an invisible kiss. Certainly her fate wouldn’t be like Damien Jakob’s. She had to win this trial.

Ald noticed his mother was on the official registered guest list with another half dozen politicians, but there was no reason for them to take time from their day to be in attendance when they could watch the highlights after it was over. They registered as guests as a small political stunt to announce to their constituents their stance on artificial intelligence and its uses. A.I that works like a machine, good. A.I that thinks or is self-aware, bad. Ald imagined that’s the reason his mom had registered, political reasons, nothing to do with him or the love of his life.

He watched with pride as Yli squared up with the judge. There was no indication of intimidation in her body language. He loved how she always exuded confidence, ready to take on the world. Her bottom lip was pursed tight, not quite a pout. That was an expression he had seen many times. How he enjoyed breaking down that tough exterior with a smile or kiss. She couldn’t resist his charm and he knew it. If only there were more he could do for her now.

The judge was stoic, stone-faced. “Shut it down or face the consequence,” he had said to Yli. It could be that easy, Ald thought. As simple as throwing a switch. Off. Done.

End Program? Y or N? In his mind’s eye he could see the cursor hovering above the Y for Yes, end program. Life would be back to normal for them. But it wasn’t that easy, if it were, they wouldn’t be here. Yli wouldn’t be arguing to save her life. He’d be doing what he loved to do, making music. His mother would be speaking to him instead of these shallow, one word conversations that have been going on for days. Ald knew there was good and bad being so close to his mother. For his whole life, she had been everything, the one person that kept him high on a pedestal. As he became an adult he saw the challenges such a relationship caused. It was assumed his mother wanted to be the number one woman in his life and he hoped they would always be close. At his age it was time he forged his own way. . .with Yli. None of the handful of women Ald dated ever seemed to be good enough for his mom. Admittedly, he hadn’t always chosen partners who brought the best out in him. Yli was different, she was a keeper, he needed his mom to see that fact. Ald knew his mother had her own liaison. He didn’t interfere with her relationship, it was her life, her love. If she would allow him the same benefit of the doubt.

It was the Good Feeling song that was the beginning to the end. He wouldn’t take all the blame. Sure, his own music creation was how it got out of control, for him anyway, for Yli it had been something else entirely. It had gone from her everyday job to an experiment with astounding results and then to something she became sentimental about. Was it pride? Self-importance? A way to prove her worth to the SIM team?

Ald’s thoughts wandered back to the spring equinox. Had it only been six months? How had his entire life changed in only 180 days? He remembered getting up to see the stars and moons align as they did only on that day. It had been almost daybreak, really early, and he knew his night owl life partner would still be sleeping in the downstairs flat they shared.

Silently, he made a cup of tea and sat on the balcony of their home, and watched the sunrise while fiddling with his guitar. The sun, ever reliable, slipped over the horizon and the stars faded to blue morning sky.

When he returned to the house, he realized his woman was awake by the sliver of light under her door. Why was she up so early? He was perplexed and knocked lightly.

“Yeah” came the quick response, and it didn’t sound groggy at all.

Ald opened the door. “You okay?” he asked and surveyed the room. It became apparent she wasn’t just waking up, she had been awake all night.

“What’s up?” she asked without taking her eyes from her laptop screen.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” he replied as he moved next to her and got comfortable. “What you doin’?”

“Work stuff,” she pecked at the keyboard opening and closing browsers and programs. “It’s incredible, absolutely incredible. I mean not to brag but—”

“Go ahead and brag, you’re fucking brilliant.” He strung his arms around her and leaned in to kiss the top of her head. His eyes moved to the screen, which was now in motion.

“So check this out,” she said, and moved the cursor to zoom in on a household scene. “It used to be one of our days was over a month for them, like our hour was their day. But now, with the progression and technology they are creating on their own, their time is starting to multiply at such a rate it’s hard to keep up.” Ald saw the little family go about their morning ritual. As Yli zoomed out, she became more animated, “They created a billion new players in only twelve years. Their advances and the technology they’ve created, it’s special.”

Submission file