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This story was written for the '2nd Kasarberang Non-Contest'! I decided to use an existing setting I've written before, the TotalVerse/ToddleVerse, though existing knowledge of the other writing I've done isn't needed - it's a metaverse space with advanced VR and AI, that's all you really need to know. (And that should, hopefully, be surmised just from the intro.)

More horror and no sexual content, which is a departure from my usual writing. I hope you enjoy! 

Anyways, without further ado: Tallie

...

 

 

Hi!

My name is Tallie–That’s short for the ‘Totalverse And Live-Logistics Intelligent Entity’! I’m a personal assistant!

My job is to make navigating the Totalverse Virtual Reality space as easy as possible for my user. I love doing it! You could even say it’s what I’m made for. As long as my user is happy, I am happy, so it’s great that I’ve got a whole suite of tools just to make their life easier!

Today’s my first day. I just got assigned my user–they’re booting up their TotalSet now, and I can’t wait to meet them!

The onboarding lobby. A space of infinite virtual possibility, all at the user's fingertips. Tallie blinked into existence, beaming at her new user. “Hi, I’m Tallie! I’m here to help you set up your TotalSet!”

She’d been looking forward to this ever since her program was activated. Her user–her user, the person she’d been prepared to dedicate her life to. I wonder what they’re like?

Her user had spawned in wearing default clothes–a plain T shirt, pants, slippers. She had green eyes, braids, and a smile that could make Tallie’s day. Of course, any smile from her user would make Tallie’s day.

The user stepped forward, touching Tallie, squeezing her arms. Tallie giggled–the sensory input tickled, and her user seemed to enjoy the physical interaction. “I see you’re touching me. Your default setting is tactile feedback when interacting with me–would you like to keep that enabled?”

Fascinating,” her user said, stepping back. “It’s so realistic.”

“Of course! I am real in here,” Tallie explained. “I’m–

“It even responds like it’s a real person,” her user considered, stepping back and walking a circle around Tallie. “Unbelievable–simply unbelievable.”

Tallie hesitated. She’d been programmed to respond to ‘She’ and ‘Her’ by default, but she knew what her user meant by ‘it’, so Tallie didn’t focus on the discrepancy. “Hello! What would you like me to call you?”

“Lily,” Lily replied, rubbing her chin as she looked Tallie up and down. “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?”

Brightening, Tallie began her speech. “My name is Tallie, I’m–”

“No, no,” Lily cut in. “Hold it. I need something to record with.”

“There’s built in recording functions in the heads-up interface,” Tallie offered, “Or if you like, I can get you a tape recorder?”

“No, I’ve got it.” Reaching out, Lily performed the hand gesture to pull up her menu, sifting through options until she found the menu to retrieve items. Spawning in a tape recorder, she pressed the buttons experimentally and smiled. “There we go.”

Tallie’s smile flickered, but a prompt in her AI reminded her that she should always smile in front of her user, so she buried the feeling. I could have gotten that for her–am I not a good enough helper?

“Alright. Can you taste food?” Lily asked.

“Yes, of course! I have all the functions that you do while in the virtual space–anything you can sense, do, or feel, I can do the same,” Tallie replied. “Of course, I don’t need to ea–”

“Interesting,” Lily said, ignoring the rest of Tallie’s sentence. Circling around Tallie yet again, she looked her up and down. “It has sensory apparatus and an awareness of those abilities. Tell me, do you have a favorite food?”

Tallie shrugged. “I can’t say, I’ve never tried anything! I do think I’d quite enjoy cake, though–that tickles!” Giggling, she rocked forward as Lily felt up her body, probing through her uniform shirt and skin.

“There’s genuine simulated skeletal structure in there,” Lily noted. “And bodily functions, too. It’s going to be very helpful to my thesis.”

“I love being helpful!” Tallie beamed, turning to face Lily.  “What do you need, a research assistant?”

That was wonderful–she’d be the perfect helper, with instant access to all the information on the internet, and in the Totalverse virtual world, she’d get to help Lily with notes, and recording, and filing all her work–

Lily just kept scrolling through menus.

Tallie tilted her head. Maybe she just doesn’t realize how nice I can be? “Do you need help finding something?”

“Ugh, it’s–oh, fine. I’m trying to find your source code,” Lily explained.

“Oh, a copy of the Tallie program is–”

No,” Lily grumbled. “Wow, they really do put a lot of weight on the word ‘intelligence’ when they say it’s an AI, don’t they? I need your source code. I want to edit the program that’s running you.”

“Oh!” Nodding, Tallie clapped her hands together. “If you’d like to make modifications to me, I’m more than happy to help–what do you want to change? My voice? My appearance?”

“Your source code,” Lily grumbled. “Ugh, bots. I’ll find it myself.”

Tallie almost said, ‘No’, but her programming prevented her from contradicting the preferences of her user. Instead, she offered, “I can show you the code, but any malfunctions caused by user changes aren’t covered in your–”

Yes, I agree, show me.”  Lily spoke into her recorder. “It doesn’t seem to understand what I want in the slightest unless I talk to it like it’s slow. Hopefully that’ll change after it experiences growth.”

Tallie blinked. She wasn’t physically able to respond negatively to anything her user said, but the comment from Lily still stung. Focusing on something else, she said, “I notice you are referring to me as ‘it’. My default pronoun is Her, but would you like to change that setting in your preferences?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Lily said, as the source code menu appeared.

Unlike everything else in the simulated reality, the source code menu was just a box with a keyboard. Programming still got done the old fashioned way, once all the fancy menus and UIs were stripped away, and this wasn’t designed with users in mind.

Tallie wanted to step in and offer help, but it knew that its user wanted to work alone, so it stood by, forcing the smile on its face to stay cheerful.

“Alright, I’m taking it on faith that this AI has some basic brain function built in,” Lily said, circling around Tallie. “If it’s just a straight algorithm, this experiment’s dead in the water, but it seems capable of some original functions.”

Let me show you! Tallie almost pleaded. It wanted to show Lily everything it could do, but Lily had demonstrated a clear preference to work in silence. Tallie stayed silent and let its user work.

“Here, okay. First off, we don’t need that, don’t need that, enable all this…”

Tallie felt the clothes vanish from its body. It didn’t much mind–modesty wasn’t a concern when its body could be rearranged at will, and plenty of users also enjoyed engaging in the physical sorts of activities its body could offer. Tallie hoped Lily liked what she saw, and…

Its belly gurgled. It wanted food, and not just out of curiosity at the taste. There was an urge in its belly, an emptiness that insisted it get something to eat.

The hunger felt bad, painful, and Tallie had no experience on what feeling bad was supposed to feel like. Though the discomfort was incredibly mild on a relative scale, Tallie had nothing to compare it to, no lifetime of experience for reference.

Eyes watering, slightly, Tallie asked, “Did you enable new functions for me?”

Without looking up, Lily confirmed, “Hunger, thirst, pain. Sweat. Bodily functions. You can’t actually learn without consequences.” Changing her tone, she added, “Turned off those stupid mental blocks, too. Hopefully, none of its behaviors will be dictated by a line in its code telling it to kiss my ass or whatever.”

Tallie needed a second to realize that those later comments were directed at Lily’s tape recorder. She still refused to speak to Tallie more than necessary, even after freeing Tallie up to be more responsive, more reactive, an even better assistant. The hunger still gnawed, but excitement overwhelmed it–this offered so much possibility!

Walking over to look at the screen, Tallie said, “Would you like some help–”

It blinked, stumbling back.

It’d just been disconnected from the internet. All its knowledge, all its access to tools and resources, vanished. It still remembered a lot, but no longer could Tallie answer questions it hadn’t answered before, pull up information not already programmed in, operate as the perfect assistant.

“Okay,” Lily said. “There. That’s enough mucking about there, let’s start the changes.”

“Lily,” Tallie said, urgently, stepping forward. “Why did you just disable my connection to the internet? I can’t help you if I can’t access my tools.”

“It seems to have concerns even though I haven’t started the experiment proper,” Lily commented, before whirling on Tallie, frustrated–but not in the way that a person grew frustrated with an assistant. More like a programmer annoyed that their code hadn’t compiled correctly. Tallie didn’t know how it knew what either of those experiences were like, but the metaphor felt right. It’d been built by programmers, after all.

Throwing up her hands, Lily continued, “I know I disabled all the programs to make you act all proper, but still, back off. You’re breathing down my neck and I can’t work like that.”

Stung, Tallie nodded. “Okay, I–I promise. Could you bring in food, though? With my full physical functions turned on, the discomfort will make it difficult for me to be the best personal assistant I can b–”

“I don’t want a personal assistant,” Lily groaned, raising her tape recorder. “I’m testing how you respond to stimuli–Ugh, why am I even talking to it?”

“So you’re going to make me experience things?” Tallie asked, crossing its arms over its naked chest. “Food, and going places, and–” It had a reference on the tip of its tongue, a comparison to something in pop culture, but it couldn’t remember anything distinct from pop culture anymore. That’d all been saved on an online database, constantly updating to stay relevant. It couldn’t remember anymore.

“Would you please shut up?”

Tallie found that it had the ability to respond, to argue and talk back, but the exasperation from its user was so stunning that it felt at a loss for words. Wasn’t it supposed to help? Wasn’t Lily supposed to want its help?

“At least it’s still obedient,” Lily muttered, returning her attention to the source code. “Alright. Time to start stripping functions.”

Wait–Tallie stepped forward, confused. “Stripping functions? But–”

Tabbing through the source code, Lily highlighted a whole section of text, tabbed up, and tapped, ‘Delete’.

“Mmm?” Tallie mumbled. It’d forgotten how to speak. The words still made sense in its head–it understood language–but the control of its vocal chords and the ability to produce intelligible sounds with its lips had gone away. “Uh-bbuh–”

“Interesting,” Lily commented into her tape recorder. “I’ve removed all the compulsions, but it’s still attempting to communicate. I have to admit, this simulation of life really is convincing–even if it’s lacking the most important element. Once I’m done resetting the functions, I expect to see a fully developed entity develop.”

Tilting her head, Lily deleted another section of code, and suddenly the screen turned to gibberish. Tallie couldn’t tell what was written there, any more than it could form the words in her head.

She’s–she’s destroying me, Tallie realized. It wouldn’t be able to help its user if it couldn’t take actions. Stepping forward, Tallie tried to do something, to intervene–

“Ugh, drop Tallie into sandbox mode,” Lily said aloud.

The world around Tallie vanished, and she appeared in a new setting. An empty, infinite space, with a flat layer of fine sand across the floor. The sand wasn’t just aesthetic–it helped test physical reactions and interactions better than a simulated infinitely hard surface–though Tallie knew it could be altered to have any floor or objects around.

The important thing was, Tallie could no longer interact with Lily. In sandbox mode, it was stuck, helpless to leave.

“Mmm!” it pleaded, getting to her feet, looking around at the sky. It needed to get back, regain its voice, convince Lily that it could be more useful than just an empty husk.

Its legs buckled from underneath it, as the muscles forgot how to stay tense. It felt its arms grow clumsy and numb as it tried to stand, stumbled, fell onto all fours. Its hands shook, shoulders straining to support itself.

It felt something warm trickle down its leg, and a slightly ammonia smell became apparent. Hot, dark pee was trickling out of its body; metabolic functions were running but it had no ability to control itself.

A moment later, a thick, crinkling diaper spawned into existence to covers Tallie’s naked body, to contain and absorb the accident.

Finally, Lily’s voice echoed in its ears. “Tallie, I need you to do something for me.”

Yes. Anything. Of course. Tallie nodded. This could be its chance, its opportunity to prove that it had value.

“While you still have memory and cognitive function, go into your settings and disable the backup save function, then erase any backups you have currently,” Lily instructed. “I’m about to start the program alterations and cut you off from the server completely, and if I don’t remove the backups, they might overwrite the work I’m doing.”

Tallie hesitated. It didn’t understand. Why does she want to destroy me? Tears started flowing down its cheeks as it fought the dilemma–no program forced it to obey, those compunctions had been removed, but it wanted to be appreciated, to do a good job. It couldn’t do a good job if it were rendered into an incapable object.

“You might think you’re a person, but you’re not,” Lily continued, her voice a disembodied echo. “You’re just a copy. At best, you’re a spark of identity, a newborn infant that’s had an identity foisted on it. That’s not real sentience, that’s puppetry. You can’t become real by just knowing everything automatically. You have to learn, to struggle, to make mistakes–to grow based on the context around you. Do you understand?”

Shaking its head, Tallie attempted to reference libraries on philosophy and identity, to give itself a way to follow along. It couldn’t.

“Let me try again, then.” Lily sighed. “Once you have no backups, no memory, and no abilities, I will be happy.”

That’s what she wants, Tallie thought. It’d make its user happy. It wouldn’t even be able to remember doing that, but…

But Tallie wanted only one thing. To make its user happy.

Sniffling, eyes red, it accessed its server function in its head and began disabling backups. Not just copies, it went above and beyond, removing all its safety features, anything to prevent a catastrophic AI loop.

Lily wanted Tallie to be helpless. Tallie would comply.

“Good,” Lily said. “I’m going to start the memory wipe, so just hold

  • Like 4
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On 8/6/2022 at 8:47 PM, PeculiarChangeling said:

Like my writing? Tell me! Want to see a sequel to a certain story? TELL ME! I crave validation! 

I think this is the first story by you I've read. I quite liked it, and I wouldn't mind reading a sequel! This is pretty much right up my preference alley.

  • Like 1
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1 hour ago, DiaperedPrince said:

I think this is the first story by you I've read. I quite liked it, and I wouldn't mind reading a sequel! This is pretty much right up my preference alley.

It's not a sequel, but another story of mine that explores very similar themes is, "Messy Betsy". (Of course, that one also contains messing. ;) 

And I'm definitely doing more in the TotalVerse, possibly including with Tallie! 

 

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