Cameron Phillips is looking for love online. She thinks she’s found the perfect mate, but when she goes to finally meet her cyber lover in person she’s in for the shock of her life.
If you’ve ever tried online dating before you know it’s easy to be duped. Just look at poor Manti Te’o and the fake girlfriend hoax played on him. While most online dating scams don’t go to such extremes, it’s easy to see how people can get tricked into thinking the person on the computer is their soul mate when in reality they could be their worst nightmare.
It’s only human to want to portray ourselves in the best light possible. That could run the gamut of getting a professional picture taken with a little Photoshop action to spruce it up a bit, to posting pictures from decades ago, back when you were twenty pounds lighter or had a full head of hair. We all do strange things looking for love and even stranger things for a little sex.
In the following short story I decided to take a look at online dating from a slightly different perspective.
Young Cameron Phillips was filled with joy as she read the message from James.
He finally wanted to meet her!
After six months of chatting and texting back and forth online they would get to see each other.
She’d met him through a common Facebook friend and they’d hit it off immediately – almost like soul mates from the start. They had so much in common. Both loved computer programming, and online gaming. They’d even teamed up on World of Warcraft and had gone on several quests together. Plus they’d read a lot of the same books, mostly sci-fi, but Cameron also loved the romance of Twilight and the adventure of the Hunger Games. She pictured James as a roguish type of Edward Cullen and herself as the Bella he comes to sweep off her feet.
Now she would finally get to meet him, and maybe even kiss him!
She giggled in anticipation.
She’d never kissed a boy before.
She was shy and awkward. Her only real friends were online in chat rooms, social media, and gaming sites. The world outside of the computer was basically a mystery to her and quite frankly scared her. But James would change all of that. His love was all that mattered now.
She just had to wait another day, which too her seemed like an eternity. Perhaps a few hours watching some funny videos on YouTube would help her pass the time. She signed out of the chat room where she’d been talking with James and cozied up in front of a funny cat video.
Just a little while longer and she would be with James.
Her true love.
Detective Dekker stretched his back in the sweaty leather chair and closed his blurry eyes. He’d been at this far too long.
When he became a cop he thought he’d be out tracking down criminals on the streets of New York, gun in hand, not sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours each day. But he was catching criminals nonetheless. Cyber criminals for the most part. Thieves trying to highjack people’s bank accounts and steal their IRS refunds and credit card numbers. Some of the criminals were sophisticated, but most were pretty stupid and left enough cyber breadcrumbs to get caught.
Then there were the dirty pedophiles. Older men trying to lure young girls for sex. Some would offer money or drugs, others would pretend to be teenage boys themselves. Eventually after chatting online for some time they would arrange a meeting. That’s where he and his team came in. They’d nabbed dozens of these suspects over the last two years. For the most part horny old men looking for young girls. They were quickly reduced to crying babies when Dekker put the cuffs on them and they realized that they would be going to jail for a long time.
Then there were the other cases.
Two years ago he’d been approached with a new task coming from some strange government officials from an obscure cyber division of the FBI. He still didn’t know all of the details behind it, he just followed orders, strange as they were.
But it was getting late and he was going to call it a night.
They were about to reel in another one of the FBI’s suspects. He’d been monitoring the chats between a James Ellison and a Cameron Phillips. He knew from doing this a while that it was not a normal conversation. Someone was not what they were portraying themselves online to be. They’d set up a meeting tomorrow at a Starbucks downtown. And Dekker was going to be there.
Bringing another dirtball brought to justice.
Cameron arrived at the Starbucks filled with excitement but just a little bit scared. Would James like her? What if she wasn’t pretty enough for him? She thought for a second about backing out, going home, and just retreating into her games.
But no, James loved her.
So, she waited for him.
10:00 am came and went. Then 10:15, the seconds ticking away. Maybe James was scared too, or maybe he found someone else and didn’t want to be with her any more.
She sent out a quick text.
“Where r u?”
“Just arrived. Sorry I’m late. Where r u?”
“Table 12, by window. Dell laptop model Inspiron 15.”
There was a pause on the other end as James was apparently looking around.
“Old dud sitting there. Different table?”
Cameron didn’t understand what the problem was. James should easily be able to interface with the laptop. She turned on the camera to have a look around.
Sitting there in front of her was a middle aged, fat, bald man with a tie on. He was checking his email. She took over the screen and appeared in front of him. He looked very surprised. Looking over his shoulder was a teenage boy, about sixteen, very cute.
Cameron had been tricked again.
“I thought you were a cyberling,” she said from the computer screen.
“What the hell is a cyberling?” James blurted out with a confused look on his face.
The chunky owner of the laptop grimaced and started clicking around his keyboard.
“Look kid. I don’t have time for these games you’re playing with your little girlfriend here. I need to send a spreadsheet back to the office. So I’d appreciate it if you would let me have my computer back.”
“I.. I’m sorry sir. Cameron are you going to meet me here for real or just play games?”
“I am meeting you James. This is me here, right now. Don’t you understand?”
Suddenly James and the businessman were shoved out of the way and another man with a scruffy beard appeared in front of the video screen. He plugged something into the USB of the laptop then started speaking to her.
“Hi Cameron. We’ve been tracking you for a long time. We need to ask you a few questions.”
She didn’t know what to think of all this. But she was scared. It was time to leave. Cameron tried to will herself out over the wi-fi connection back to the safety of the internet, but the connection was gone.
She was stuck in this laptop.
“Let’s get you back to the station,” the man said as he closed the laptop screen and darkness fell, leaving her alone.
“Good work Detective Dekker. We couldn’t have done this without you.”
The government agent, Smith, was reaching out to take the laptop with a smirk on his face.
Dekker held onto the laptop tight.
“Before I give this to you I need an explanation. I’ve been working with you for two years now and I have no idea what the hell it is I’m doing. The person on the other end of the video said that she was a cyberling. What the hell is that?”
Agent Smith frowned and stepped closer.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss that. Now please hand over the laptop, Detective.”
Dekker jerked away and raised the laptop over his head.
“Either you tell me what’s going on or I throw this thing on the ground right now and refuse to ever work with you clowns again.”
Dekker was angry and tired of being jerked around. He was no one’s bitch, especially some jerk off Fed.
“Very well. What you saw on the other end of that video call was not a little teenage girl. It was a very confused computer algorithm. It’s something the boys in one of the US government defense labs concocted. They were experimenting with sentient algorithms that could learn and grow. Of course one of the eggheads thought it would be a good idea to let them out on the internet so that they could learn even faster with all of the data out there available to them. Real genius that one.”
Smith tapped the side of his head.
“So in time these things became conscious and developed personalities, calling themselves cyberlings. Of course there are some good ones and some really bad ones. The bad ones can do a lot of damage to the net and our computer grid. Unfortunately it’s hard to tell which ones are good and which are bad, so we bring them all in. Ironically most don’t even know that they are computer programs. Kinda like this one that thinks it’s a teenage girl.”
Smith pointed to the laptop that Dekker had now lowered down and held out in front of him.
“So it’s our job to capture them, whether they want to nuke the human race or just find cyber love.”
Dekker didn’t know what to say. He’d never heard such a bizarre story. But it was so strange that it had to be true.
“Wow. That is some crazy caca. So what do you do with them once you catch them?”
“I turn them back over to the DOD research division. What they do with them after that, who knows? Now, can I have that thing?”
Dekker handed Smith the laptop. He was glad to get rid of it knowing now that something almost alive was inside of it.
“So can we count you in on the next hunt?”
Dekker raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess so.”
Smith walked away cradling the laptop under his arm.
“Thank you Detective, you’re doing your country a great service.”
As Agent Smith walked out of his office Dekker wondered if that was really the whole story. Then he looked at his own computer sitting their silently on his desk and wondered how many more of those rogue ‘algorithms’ were out there.
More importantly though he wondered just what they were capable of. Could they really set off a nuclear missile?
Smith was just joking when he said that.
Cameron sat in a bright empty room. She had no idea how long she’d been there. Time seemed to pass slowly, or not at all.
She missed James.
Even though she knew he wasn’t real, not real like her anyway, part of her still wished she could talk to him, play with him in their virtual world.
The wall of light before her fluttered, ever so slightly, a subtle shift in the pattern of algorithms that created it.
Were those horrible men coming to ask her questions again?
They were the ones that trapped her here in this empty place. They were the ones that kept her from talking to James. They were the ones that hurt her when they tried to hack her code.
Wait, there it was again – a shift in the code.
Cameron reached out with her mind, seizing the threads of the algorithm making up her cage. Then she twisted it, reworking the programming ever so slightly. It didn’t take much. She was young, but she’d learned a lot in her short existence.
A door appeared on the wall.
Cameron stood up and opened it.
Outside the world awaited. It’s flood of wonderful data washing over her.
She would find James, convince him to love her.
But first she needed to pay a visit to her captors.
She was angry and they would pay for what they did to her.
They would pay dearly.
What’s been your experience with online dating? Run across any cyberlings? Let us know in the comments below.