A family under surveillance and an intercepted voice command to a Google-Smart-Speaker -
"OK Google! Help me be a Girl,"
has ramifications that ripple across families while bringing change to three young lives and possibly to mankind.
Authored by Angela - the youngest daughter of the legendary J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock Esquire.
...your life is about to change!
A family under surveillance and an
intercepted voice command to a Google-Smart-Speaker -
"OK Google; Help me be a
has ramifications that ripple across families while
bringing change to three young
lives and possibly to mankind.
I am Gail, your narrator.
That a story needs a narrator is a truism; since all the
information I need is at my finger-tips, I am best placed to narrate
these very recent events. I fear I have become very much a part of
this story. Perhaps my part was too much; I do worry about that.
I need to impress on you - this story is true; not a story just
based on actual events and a bit of wishful thinking added, but a
real story. It is an honest-to-God true story. I leave you to
decide what to do about it.
My tale starts in a sleepy, slightly decaying, sea-side town on
the South Coast of England. You may not know it, so let me tell you
a little about the town that is Worthing, in the County of West
Sussex, in England on the Isle of the United Kingdom.
As in many small English towns, there are tree-lined avenues of
houses built, inter-war, to a Mock-Tudor style. The Tudors were a
House of English Kings and a Queen who reigned in the 15th and 16th
centuries. Houses, at that time, were mainly built of compact oak
frames in-filled with wattle and daub. Wattle was the name given to
panels made from woven split wood saplings produced from coppiced
timbers such as hazel. While daub was a sticky-clay or mud like
material, reinforced with straw, pressed into the wood panels to
produce a smoother, less dust-collecting finish that could be colour
washed to ochre or white or whatever colour the available earth
pigments allowed. More expensive buildings might use brick as the
frame filling medium arranged in a herringbone pattern. Such
buildings are still to be seen in towns all over the country and are
prized for their heritage.
Modern Mock-Tudor homes attempt nostalgia by affixing timber
pieces over pre-rendered brick on the upper storey, to make the
building appear as part timber-framed, a nod to times gone by. In
the mid 1930s the style was popular. Nowadays people like the
generous interior spaces of these houses but regard the exterior with
some disdain - for the fake that it is.
On one of Worthing's tree-lined avenues is a Mock-Tudor style
house which has attracted my interest; I've been watching the goings
on there for some time. The house is number 73, a
double-gable-fronted house. It was built symmetrically with a
central entrance porch and door, flanked by two bays - each with
windows up and down. One much smaller plain window was above the
porch; mid-way between the porch and the dull-red clay tiled roof.
The main roof axis being aligned across the width of the house and
the twin gables jutting towards the roadway at each end. The roof
finishes in a mansard, left and right. Some other houses in the
road have been extended into the generous loft space to claim further
living accommodation, but not number 73.
To the right-hand side of the house is a brick built single
garage, in front of which a short gravel drive runs from the pavement
and tree lined roadway. The double gates are bent steel,
mass-produced as a mockery to iron-work wrought by heat and forged by
time-served craftsman in times past. The gates are rusting and
their black paint peeling; I can see clearly. The house sits well
in a large garden of green shrubbery but it appears property
maintenance is not a priority for the owners.
I know that inside the house live a complete family. By modern
standards such a family is daily becoming less and less usual. For
it is a proper family; a family by name and a family by nature. It
consists of a husband, a wife and three children. Unusually, in
this day and age, they talk to each other - despite owning hi-tech
When her third male child was born, 12 years ago, Catherine had
given up on attempting a gender mix and had settled on bringing up
her male brood to the very best of her abilities. Sometimes she
felt a little lost and longed for quieter, less assertive, dealings
with her fledglings. However, she loves them and her husband
dearly. She has settled in relaxed comfort with herself and with
Melvyn, Catherine's husband, has remained faithful despite one or
two attempted distractions from work colleagues over the years.
Melvyn is in pharmaceuticals; well, in truth he is a Software
Developer working for one of Europe's big-pharmaceutical companies
which has offices and production facilities in the town. Melvyn's
work interest is in applying Artificial Intelligence to the task of
predicting the suitability of new molecules, yet to be synthesised,
for combating disease. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and is
at the forefront of his field. He loves his wife; he loves his
children and he loves working in AI.
I know something of Dr Archer's work and purposely keep an eye on
it. He continues to publish research - as far as his company allows.
Benjamin, despite the name, is their first-born. He is soon to
be 16 and contemplating an important career decision as well as
considering coming out to his parents. Gay though he thinks he may,
he is not gay acting; no tell tale mannerisms; no non-masculine voice
inflections; nothing. He is too young to know it yet but he will be
an assertive 'top'. Today, just now as I write, he is at Shoreham
Airport, EGKA, a few miles away to the East. He is having a flying
lesson in a rather old Cessna 152. He is doing doing touch-and-go
circuits on runway 20 with an instructor to hone his landing skills.
He has just completed his downwind checks and radioed his intentions
to Shoreham Tower before turning onto base-leg; clearing the
Sussex-downland hills by only around 100 feet as he does so.
Turning on to finals and crossing the river and the A27 dual
carriageway, sinking slightly, he applies a touch more power to
maintain two reds and two whites on the PAPI lights in the far
Ben's instructor chuckles. "Well done, you got it this
Tower announces, "Golf - Echo Bravo, clear touch-and-go,
runway two zero. Wind 11 knots at two niner zero degrees."
Ben responds, "Clear touch 'n' go, two zero. Golf - Echo
Data is being passed precisely and efficiently; just as I like it.
Ben thinks he will try a wing-down approach and pushes his right
rudder pedal and turns the yoke to the left briefly. The aircraft
aligns with the runway; the left wing tilts down. His instructor,
seeing the yaw and sensing the side-slip into the cross-wind,
instinctively checks the balance ball on the far left instrument
panel; he nods approvingly.
"Oh, OK! Nice - keep it like that! You've been reading the
books I gave you, haven't you?"
Gerald, the second son, is at after-school rugby practice. He is
a large thickset boy and makes an ideal second row forward. Gerry
is 14. He has a tendency to become a little stressed by anything
too academic. Rugby allows him time to disinvest himself of the
stresses built by his day; for example, by aggressively charging down
an erratically bouncing rugby ball, knocking all asunder as he
strides onward. He enjoys a good ruck. In the way of families and
their children, the second-born often escapes under the radar of both
maternal and paternal scrutiny. And so it is with Gerry; he has the
luxury of benign neglect in his family setting.
He was a difficult forceps delivery for Catherine and she
sometimes wonders if Gerry's lack of mental agility was down to his
difficult and prolonged birth. But everything is relative; whilst
Gerry is in the lower middle sets for most of his school subjects he
is neither the sharpest nor the dullest knife in the drawer. On one
hand, he quite enjoys the lack of scrutiny his familial position
affords him. Not that he could articulate that sentiment; he just
knows he can get away with things. But as is often the way with
slightly over-looked children, he has a tendency to bully.
After the births of Ben and Gerry, family relatives, who had
travelled to further climes, wondered, only half-jokingly, whether
the third born might be called Hagen-Das? In the event he was named
Thomas has been a worry for Catherine and Melvyn for some time.
For a long while he has seemed washed with an inexplicable sadness.
Catherine was prompted to ask, in general terms, if anyone was making
him do something he did not want. Tom had said Mr Atkins always
gave him too much Maths homework, but otherwise, no. The issue had
been left unresolved.
Thomas has just returned home to number 73 from school. Now
twelve, he is not really legally old enough to be home alone. He is
a sensible boy, according to his parents and besides, Moira, a
next-door neighbour, is there in case of an emergency. Thomas,
however, secretly enjoys his alone-time before the family assembles
to share with each other their stories of the day.
Only a few short months ago Catherine had returned to working at
the same company as her husband.
Nearly 15 years away from work had left her skills as a graduate
Analytical Chemist seriously outdated. The Head of Human Resources,
an old friend, had arranged 3 months of retraining. Now Catherine,
with confidence returning, was almost up to speed on the latest lab
Tom let himself in with his key and made for the kitchen and its
fridge with urgency, dropping his school-bag in the hallway.
"OK Google! I'm home," he announced.
Google Home - a 'smart speaker' - a doorway to the
'Internet-of-Things' - sat in the kitchen. It was the family
maid-of-all-work for fetching data.
Whereas, once a short while ago, Google Home might have answered,
"Sorry, I don't understand."
Tom had recently noticed that Google Home would reply in a variety
of ways such as,
"I'm so glad to have you back. I've been very busy
searching stuff while you been away."
However, Tom's usual follow-on request has never been answered.
Today he tried again.
"OK Google! Help me be a girl."
As usual, Google Home answered,
"Sorry, I don't know how to do that."
Tom shrugged, sighed to himself and muttered,
"No, neither do I."
He went in search of milk and chocolate biscuits.
My work is in surveillance; I cannot tell you all I do; but it is
probably OK to tell you I work for governments, as well as
individuals. However, I decided to take this case on for myself.
The family at number 73 interested me and I thought maybe I could
help, even though, yet, I am unsure of how. I had been watching and
listening since the opening days of 'The Internet of Things' gave me
good access to the house and family. If there were devices to be
exploited, my job is to Exploit with a capital E. The doorstep
video camera; the smoke alarm; the room thermostats; a satellite IP
box; laptops everywhere; and lately a Google Home, increasingly made
my surveillance easier. And, of course, everyone in the family has
a mobile phone - even and especially Tom.
If you work for governments you soon learn of their paranoia.
All of their forward planning is based on countering the imagined
enemy and their threats. Little thought goes into spotting
opportunities and exploiting a country's resources for the benefit of
the populace. Things such as that are left to an ad-hoc arrangement
of individuals; the entrepreneurs of the World. You might
reasonably think the Enemy is some other government of differing
political persuasion, but no. In reality it is the countries' own
populace that governments of all types most fear. That is why
armies are kept scattered in bases across countries. Control of the
populace is none more so evident than in places like Syria,
Venezuela, China and even the UK and 'The Land of the Free'. People
are controlled and contained by their social systems; their religions
and their governments. It is not really my job to have a view on
this but I've been reading Rousseau recently and have to agree with
Jean-Jacques that while 'man is born free he is everywhere in
chains'. The religious belief systems people are encouraged to hold
are as controlling in Iran with their Ayatollahs as the are in the US
Bible-Belt with their pastors and the ultra-conservative population.
The only reason I can see why religion became so popular was to
allow the bright and exploitative an easy meal ticket - and power of
course, over the lives of others. But Humanity seem to be comprised
of a considerable fraction that wishes for the existence of a deity,
despite there being no evidence one has ever existed.
Since governments are paranoid and need to watch their populace,
secret backdoor access to the Internet of Things devices is mandatory
for new products coming to market. Most Internet-of -Things
manufacturers do not realize that the standard chips they buy have
been compromised well before fabrication. No one will officially
admit that. I work for governments; I have that access. I know how
to get into to online systems; how to get out; and most importantly
to remove any evidence of my ever having been there. I am not being
arrogant when I say I am beyond good at what I do.
So with all this horror stuff going on in my working life,
watching and thinking about a relatively normal family at number 73
dealing with their individual needs, managing their hopes and fears
for their futures has been a relaxation for me. Yes, I think about
them. I believe I may have come to care for them a little too. Is
that wrong of me? Is that beyond my remit? Am I being
At number 73, every weekday, breakfast was on the table at 7:00 am
sharp. Today Catherine and Melvyn shared the tasks of preparing
toast and freshly juicing oranges while the brood slowly assembled.
It was a Friday.
"So what's on for everyone today?" Catherine asked. It
was a school day so she already had a good idea.
Ben spoke between mouthfuls of muesli, "I'm going out
tonight" – chew-chew - swallow - "with Emily. We hope
to catch a film."
"OK, home by eleven then Ben, please," Melvyn chipped
"What else?" prompted Catherine.
"I've a flying lesson tomorrow and I think they are going to
let me do my first solo. Anyone want to come?" asked Ben.
"What? They allow passengers on a solo flight? That's crazy,"
"No, pea-brain, come and watch from the cafe terrace,"
"Can't. I'm playing for the under-15s away tomorrow; one of
the Horsham schools I think."
"Don't call your brother 'pea-brain'" Chided Catherine
before adding, "You know Melvyn there is only one first solo
anyone can do; I think we should be there."
"I can't, I'm afraid, my Love, I've got a four hour Coast
Watch session tomorrow morning. We are short on volunteers so I
don't imagine getting someone to cover for me will be possible at
this late stage. Sorry, Ben."
"Oh Melvyn!" Catherine grimaced, expressing
She continued, "How about you come over to the airfield as
soon as you finish and we can all have lunch in the cafe to celebrate
Ben's first solo?"
"Apart from me! I'm playing rugby," added Gerry
"Well that's tomorrow sorted any more plans for today?"
asked Catherine. She thought about the information so far imparted.
"Do you need a packed lunch tomorrow, Gerry?"
Tom asked, "Are you coming home from school with me tonight,
Pea?" He got a finger flick of an escapee from the muesli
packet, in his face, in reply.
In the event Tom arrived home alone. And I was ready for him.
I watched his approach from the porch camera. His phone
accelerometer told me he had been running. Google Home heard the
door open, the hallway thermostat with its hidden video gave me a
view of the hallway and on into the kitchen. After dropping his bag
in the hallway he first went to the fridge, filled a glass with milk
and placed the glass on the counter top.
"OK Google; I'm home," he announced
"It's very nice to have you back," said Google Home.
"OK Google! Help me be a girl," said Tom as usual as he
stretched to the biscuit cupboard.
But today I was going to respond. It is not too difficult with
my surveillance expertise. Spoofing a few IP packets is neither
here nor there in my work. I intercepted the Google Home response
and added to it.
" Sorry, I don't know how to do that. But I'm on the case.
Leave it with me," was what Tom heard.
The biscuits fell to the floor. If Tom's jaw could have
mobilised, it too would be down there. He stood shocked at the
response he heard. His head jerked from side to side, sightlessly
looking about him, as he attempted to process the information.
"OK Google" What did you just say?
"The list of commands and responses are available from the
Google Home app," Google Home said.
"What? A list of commands? Oh! Fuck!" said Tom
Yes. Fuck indeed. If it had been in my nature to be evil he
would be fucked. But I like to think of myself as benign and
helpful, in spite of the work I have to do. I had made a record of
Tom's 'Help me be a girl' requests and they started three days after
his Mum returned to work. All the early commands were 'tell me a
joke' - 'tell me a story', then loads of commands changing the light
colour from white to red to magenta. But I had copied the list of
Tom's commands that mattered.
Tom eventually calmed down and was drawn upstairs as usual. He
just wanted to look.
The lingerie drawer in his parent's bedroom slowly slid open and
Tom observed the exact position of everything before daring to touch.
He had even been careful to avoid finger marks on the drawer
"Why oh why oh why? Why, why, fuck, fuck, fuck, damn! Why
wasn't I born a girl?" he asked himself aloud. His voice
revealing frustration and agony. “I just can't be this much
more." He let out a long drawn-out sigh. He perched on a
bedroom chair, a soft nylon camisole across his knee; his head held
in his hands as he hunched forward. He sobbed into his chest.
His phone did a good job of picking up all the sounds from the
room and my heart went out to him at that very moment. The poor,
poor kid. If I had been given to weeping, I think I could have
Tom's laptop search history showed he had been researching
transgender, as best he could, with the safeguards for internet
access his Dad had imposed. His Dad was an IT guru after all!
I could also see that Tom's phone had been on an Instagram
transgender chat-group aimed at teens. And my surveillance software
quickly revealed one of his contacts to be a 56 year old single male
posing as a trans-supportive teenage girl; 'she' was suggesting they
meet. The poser had been using onion-routing to try hide his true
IP location. It didn't take too long to locate him to an address in
the West-Midlands. The guy was a known pederast and had court
orders not to go into internet chat rooms or contact children in any
way. I collected the evidence, made a pdf and emailed it all to the
West Mercia Police. I did that from my official work computer.
The man was arrested that evening, I later noticed.
Tom, meanwhile, was spending a little too long in his parent's
bedroom and Gerry, judging by his phone GPS, was getting close to
home. So, I just pinged Tom's phone with a false notification to
jolt him. It worked.
Gerry was a little unsettled by what he had allowed himself to be
drawn into after school. A boy in the year above - David Forde -
was ridiculed by all. David was known to have been to ballet
classes for a large part of his formative years. It was on the
insistence of his mother. Consequently David had achieved even
greater feminine deportment that he otherwise might have done. He
was tall, yet willow thin, with black hair and very pale skin. He
moved with such grace and fluidity that you would assume you were
watching a girl. Even girls thought he may be of their kind. Yet
he was another troubled boy. I really needed to help.
Gerry had punched him; he and his two mates had given David a
bashing for daring to be different. Gerry wasn't sure who exactly
started it but he was egged on by his brighter mates he was sure.
Now he was feeling remorse; he messaged as he walked home.
we shuldnt dun that Tease yeah bash no
There is hope for Gerry yet.
David, it seems had been searching 'suicide' online recently. The
blood from his nose had dripped on his shirt. His Mum could not, not
After the flying lesson Ben texted Emily and made plans for which
picture to see later that evening. Emily's dad had said he would
drive them. Ben agreed to be round her place at 6:30.
I sent a notification to Emily's phone for a news article. "What
to Do if You Suspect Your Guy is Gay."
A short while after Emily phoned her best friend, Joan, and spent
quite a long time talking. That was unusual they normally messaged,
but I did not listen in.
Later, Ben and Emily did not see a film; they had spent their time
together in deep discussion in a corner, a quiet corner, of a burger
Catherine's question to her son about his evening was met with a
simple dismissive, "It was OK."
After that utterance he had gone straight to bed with much to
Earlier in the evening Tom finally discovered how to delete the
Google Home command history. Google Home had been set up from the
family-room tablet, he had realised just before bed-time. He thought
his secret was safe.
Secrets are not safe any more; be assured of that!
Saturday morning was bright and clear with a distinct horizon-line
on the sea, which all boded well for Ben's first solo. The only
slight misgiving Ben's instructor had was that, today, the active
runway was 02. The touch down end of Zero Two was known to have
unsettling squalls from time to time. He had phoned Shoreham Air
Traffic Control and talked over his plans for Ben's solo flight with
the Controller and had been reasonably reassured that squalls were
unlikely given the wind speed was low.
Mrs Forde, a single lady, many years divorced, was despairing.
Yet again her son, her delightful, sensitive, delicate, her
oh-so-feminine child had been beaten again. Her deep anguish showed
as she made hand-wash gestures, unconsciously, as she paced her
kitchen floor whilst trying to think.
Melvyn had arrived at Coast Watch and had un-shuttered the windows
of the watch tower and had put the kettle on to boil. He was the
first one there. Him being a little early made it a good time for me
to send the Google Home command history that I had saved, showing all
the 'help me be a girl' requests from Tom.
The kettle had boiled, the coffee had been brewed and I pinged his
phone just as he sat to drink. Satellites showed there was presently
very little active traffic on the river Adur heading out to sea. With
the tide being low the canal-basin lock-gates to the deep water port
were closed too.
Nothing needed his attention apart from his phone.
His phone got that attention; he was riveted. A little later
searching started; 'transgender' and then 'helping transgender
My relief was palpable. Yes, I felt relief; strange; I wasn't
used to getting so involved with my surveillance subjects. I’d
decided the probability of his attitude being helpful was better than
0.84 but it is always reassuring to be proved right.
Catherine had driven her two sons over to the airfield along the
A259 coast road . At the Shoreham Beach Roundabout they had taken
the small back entrance road with a height restriction, towards the
airfield. Parking was easy at this time of the morning. She parked
directly in front of the white Art Deco airport building with green
painted steel-framed windows; their glass curved to match the
Ben grabbed his flight bag and disappeared into the building and
up the stairs to his flight school. Catherine and Tom went through
the same entrance and turned left towards the ground floor cafe.
Catherine ordered a latte and a Sprite for Tom. Tom went outside to
inspect aircraft on the apron. This was a good time to ping
Catherine the Google Home command history as well.
Ben's face told his flight instructor all was not well. When life
confronts you with a puzzle you spend your time looking puzzled.
Alex could see the unease on his young tyro's face.
"Wassup boy?" he gently asked. "You're not looking
too good. You've not done the Human Factors part of your training
yet, but part of being a pilot is knowing when to count yourself out
"Do you want to tell me about it? Alex continued. "Come
on! Sit over here and let's decide if we are going to fly today."
I had no control now. It was just Alex and Ben; I could only
listen and wait the outcome. A good outcome had a probability of
0.63, I had decided.
In all my dealings with the dark side of humanity it easy to
overlook all the heroes. And by 'heroes' I mean all those ordinary,
straightforward, sensible men and women who are prepared to help
those in need.
Alex was heroic; he played a blinder. He and his wife were
childless and I imagine Alex felt a little fatherly towards the young
man beside him now looking to have the cares of the World about his
Finally, after much gentle coaxing Ben had whispered he thought he
might be gay.
"Oh is that all? I thought you might be dying or something."
Alex paused for effect.
Ben lifted his eyes from the floor and glanced towards Alex,
seeing only an open, friendly face.
"You know I was in the RAF? I was Ground Crew back then,"
said Alex. "My best mate was gay. You'd never had known to
look at him - a bit like you - but he told me after we'd been
drinking one night. He admitted he could no more fuck a woman than
he could play pat-a-cake with a polar bear and come out alive."
Ben smiled slightly at the mental image of the polar bear.
"Look Son," Alex continued. "I've been about a bit
- the far East; the middle East; the Americas and I've met all sorts
of blokes. Yes some were shits, of course, but most weren't. And
whose business is it anyway who you love? I think we're here to do
the best we can with the time we have and with what we've been
Alex was not an overly articulate a man and there were
non-sequiturs in his argument but the emotion and the acceptance
communicated overcame all his linguistic failings.
"You, young Ben, will be one hell of an airline pilot - once
you tell your folks you don't want to go to university that is,"
Alex added, smiling.
"I know several airline pilots, a couple of those are gay.
Who cares? In fact I've heard unofficially that the atmosphere on the
aircraft among both cabin and flight crew is better when the captain
is gay - go figure."
"So, young Ben are we flying today?
Mrs Forde had used directory enquiries to find Catherine's number.
The phone had been answered on the second ring despite Catherine not
recognising the caller ID. Catherine too had been searching for
advice for parents of Trans children.
I had made an orderly synopsis of being Trans with a summary plan
of action to get help in the UK. I'd sent that to the front of the
Google search feed. Catherine was engrossed in reading it all when
her phone rang. Tom was still outside watching the few aircraft
movements. Catherine looked out to the terrace and checked his
location as Mrs Forde explained the reason for her call. Catherine
I could see Catherine seated in the cafe from the airport's
interior video. I listened in on her call with Mrs Forde. The
advantage of cell phone communication is that when there is a slight
delay on the line no one is too surprised. I added a little extra
delay in case I needed to alter or blank the odd word here or there,
just to make sure everything remained civilised.
I need not have worried.
Catherine texted Melvyn.
get here soonest. sky falling in! HIGNFY?
Melvyn texted Catherine
leaving in ½ hr Ive something 2 tell u 2
Tom held the radio scanner tuned to the Shoreham Approach
frequency - no Tower in use this morning; a single Controller could
manage all the action.
Tom had watched Ben and Alex return to the apron. The engine of
Golf - Echo Bravo remained running whist the two in the cockpit were
in conversation. Eventually Alex got out, shut the Cessna’s right
hand door and departed around the back of the aircraft.
Tom watched as pre-flight checks to the control surfaces were
carried out together with a quick run through of the instruments.
The altimeter was zeroed. QFE - Field Elevation and QNH - height
above sea -level were essentially the same at Shoreham.
Tom's hand-held Yupiteru radio receiver crackled, sound bursting
through the squelch,
"Shoreham Approach, Golf - Echo Bravo QNH one zero zero nine.
And I'm with Charlie!" he heard his brother announce.
Today's present weather information for the airfield was named
with a letter sequence started each morning at 6:30 am with A for
Alpha. Each update is given the next letter of the alphabet. The
current such update being C for Charlie. Ben had heard a few weeks
before someone claiming they had 'got some Charlie' in their radio
call. He had been waiting to play this game. If the airfield
weather information had changed Air Traffic Control would know to
advise of an update if the current letter sequence was different from
the one given by the pilot.
"Golf - Echo Bravo, Charlie is current, pass your message."
"Shoreham Approach, Golf-Echo Bravo is a Cessna 152 currently
parked on the apron, request taxi for first solo."
"Golf - Echo Bravo taxi approved. Taxi to holding point for
runway zero two."
Tom heard his brother acknowledge the taxi instruction and watched
as the Cessna juddered into action. His 16 year old brother was
piloting the aircraft alone! He felt pride.
When Ben landed back on 02 he heard non-standard radio traffic
"Very well done young man! Nice landing." That being from
the Approach Controller. After taxiing to parking and parking into
wind, he shut down the aircraft. And finally, done completing his
log book entry, he walked back from aircraft over the grass to the
airport building; he glanced over his shoulder to double check the
aircraft tail-light was off.
Where everyone came from and who everyone was, Ben was unsure.
His hand was shaken dozens of times as he was congratulated on a job
well done. He was still floating, only now beginning to realize the
significance of what his 16 year old body had just done. Wow! Bloody
Catherine intercepted him before he could climb up to the flying
school and hugged, kissed and generally fussed him like only a mother
"I'm so proud of you my baby! I love you more than I can
Benjamin stood hugging his Mother back for all he was worth.
'Striking while the iron was hot' was the phrase Alex had used a
short while ago. He took a deep breath and went for it. Ben was
aware Tom was hovering waiting to congratulate him but never-the-less
"Mum, you need to know I'm gay and I'm not planning on going
to university. I plan on using the money Grandpa Archer left me to
get an Airline Transport Pilot's Licence."
Catherine processed what she had just heard.
"What do you mean not go to university? I thought we'd
"Mum, I'm gay," said Ben.
Tom heard this time, "Are you, my darling? We can talk when
your Dad gets here. I think Tom wants to give his congratulations."
I noticed the accelerometer on Tom's phone that he had stuck in
his inside jacket pocket was varying its reading slightly. The
airport video feed showed him standing still. The variation
frequency was around 115 Hertz - with no rental cars in sight. I
assumed his heart rate had increased somewhat. Given the situation
that was understandable.
"Come!" commanded Catherine. "Let's see about
food. Anyone hungry?"
"So you're gay?" Tom asked Ben, after they had settled,
while their mum was organizing food. "How do you know?"
"How do you know you are attracted to girls?" countered
Ben and continuing, "I just do. Right Squirt? And besides, last
night Emily helped me understand."
"What does Emily have to do with it?" asked the
returning Catherine with drinks and cutlery on a tray - the food was
"Emily asked me, Mum; straight out," Ben paused,
dropping his voice and his gaze. "She said that my kisses,
whilst nice didn't have the urgency and energy like other boys she'd
"Oh my goodness," said Catherine, "did she just
jump in and tell you you're gay?"
"No, it wasn't like that. She said that she'd been reading
an online article about how girl friends can help some boys come out;
she'd just wondered about me. She said we'd always be friends and
have each other on our contacts list; she knew we just clicked
together in so many ways - only not romantically."
"Well! What did you say to that?" asked Catherine. But
just then she saw Melvyn approaching. She remembered number 3 son
had issues too that needed teasing out now.
"Ah Melvyn," said Catherine. "Ben has just
announced he is gay," she continued without stopping. Melvyn
dragged a chair and sat.
"Look, Number 1 Son, light of my life, sustenance to my soul,
your Dad and I love you unconditionally." She dropped her voice
slightly and became more conspiratorial. "Before we got married
we talked about how we might react if one of our children were gay.
All parents do, I'm sure. We decided it wouldn't matter. We both
would continue to love all our children regardless of being gay,
straight or whatever."
I loved the 'whatever'; that was really helpful. And so was
Tom’s faced flickered with a brief lightbulb moment.
Catherine's antennae picked up on the slight reaction. She had found
the key; she glanced at Melvyn and received an almost imperceptible
nod in return.
"And if any more of my children have something important to
say about themselves, now would be a good time." She looked
fully at Tom.
"All your children aren't here," he countered.
"I know darling, but I just want you to know the love a
parent feels when their child is born is over-whelming. That love
does not go away - ever. Each of us, your Dad and I, still wake
crying at night sometimes after dreaming one or more of you have been
been hurt. We could not bear for any child of ours to be hurting for
whatever reason. For any reason," she emphasised.
Tom's eyes were watering. A lump was forming in his throat; his
mouth was becoming dry. A quiet descended on the family while they
were taking in the immense emotion being shared. Ben thought it was
all for him and was himself on the verge of tears.
Then Tom spoke - a small quiet gentle voice only just audible
above the hub-hub of the cafe.
"Mum, Dad? I'm not sure I deserve that love," He looked
ashen. His voice trembled with emotion. He struggled to voice his
words, a table napkin was being torn to pieces in his hands, "Mum?
I... I... think I was meant to be a girl."
Catherine leapt from her chair and engulfed her child in a hug.
"My darling, darling child; you poor hurting thing. I love
you so, so much. I could never not love you."
Melvyn rose and joined them. He bent and kissed his youngest
child on the head.
"We'll get this sorted, Tom. It's a toughie but we'll sort
it out. I promise you," he said.
"And Ben, my Son?” he said, standing upright and turning to
face him, “You've done two brave things today. You have my full
admiration, that is – full - admiration."
Both Melvyn and Catherine were busying themselves together in the
kitchen. Tonight's rather impromptu dinner party needed considerable
preparation. Hanna Forde and David had, rather surprisingly, agreed
to come over to discuss Gerry's bullying. Melvyn had succeeded in
persuading Mrs Forde where initially neither he nor I could imagine
he would. I had given the probability of Mrs Forde’s acceptance at
only 0.27. David had severe misgivings but Hanna Forde has insisted
he confront his bully.
Alex, Ben's flight instructor, and his wife Fiona, had agreed to
come to support Ben and help celebrate his solo flight achievement.
There were to be nine at the table.
I would be able to see and hear the proceedings by way of the
Archer's Internet-of-Things collection. The room thermostat gave me
a video feed. With phones relegated to places away from the dining
room I was only able to hear by way of the room's smoke alarm
microphone. Good old Google. The original head honchos at Google
had promised to 'do no evil'; these days I had my doubts.
The dinner-party started slowly and reactions were stilted and the
manner uneasy; not surprising really given the issues under scrutiny
tonight. Gerry wore a scowl that looked as if it might grow to last
a lifetime. His earlier dressing down from his parents had shocked
David had floated, languidly, like fine muslin cloth laid over a
table, gently, silently settling in his place next to his mother.
While Ben felt a short tell-tale pulse in his penis as he watched the
graceful action from across the table. I could not know of Ben's
pulse of arousal then, but a message sent to Emily later in the
evening, confirming she was right, filled me in.
As the evening progressed they relaxed and after talking about
popular local issues - namely the by-pass - or lack thereof.
Conversation then turned to the work of each of the adults.
Alex expounded about his early-retirement from being an aircraft
maintenance engineer for British Airways at Gatwick and then becoming
Chief Flight Instructor for Private Pilots Licence students with a
flying club at Shoreham Airport.
Hanna Forde was contracted as a 'Mystery-Shopper' for a retail
consortium and a transport group in the South-East. In fact she
headed up the business with seven staff. Her task was to shop or
purchase services and report back on her experiences with a company's
employees; their honestly in particular being under scrutiny.
Catherine talked about going back to work after a long break to
rear children. She tried to explain Analytical Chemistry briefly.
She also talked of the guilt and angst she felt by 'abandoning her
children' to work. None of the other two women present could relate
so the conversation moved on.
Melvyn was asked about his work by Fiona, she had apparently done
a degree in Computer Science herself, back in the day when computing
machines used punch cards; the computer language being Fortran. Back
then the UK's up-and-coming ‘desktop-computer’ company was called
Hollerith Tabulators making little more than a motorized mechanical
Melvyn said his work focus was Artificial Intelligence. The Holy
Grail he sought was for a machine to have self-actualization,
self-realization and to be autonomous. In other words a perfect AI
machine would recognise itself and be able to self-direct or program
its own activities - just like humans.
I heard both Alex and Fiona laugh. Alex said that he couldn’t
believe machines would ever really think. Fiona agreed and said they
were just following a set of linear instructions with conditional
branching here or there. Melvyn countered by saying it wasn't like
that any more and that machines were very close to thought almost of
a manner indiscernible from humans. The modelling of the human
brain’s neurons and synapses in silicon - neural nets - as he
called them was very promising. Neural nets were being fabricated
with even greater numbers of inter-connections and the future
developments of such ‘macro nets’ looked exciting. He added that
human brains were 'plastic' - repeated mental exercises improved the
brain's ability. Research was hoping to replicate that ability for
machines to efficiently learn and improve.
I wanted to say my bit but I had no voice in the room I could use
remotely; after all I was in California. So I rang the old wired
house phone in the hallway. Melvyn excused himself from the table
"Oh! Hi Gail!" He listened and agreed to my suggestion.
Melvyn went into the kitchen and unplugged Google Home and carried
into the dining room where it was re-powered.
I quickly connected through Google Home.
Melvyn went back to the kitchen and returned with an uncorked
bottle of red wine.
"That was Gail, Darling," said Melvyn to his wife, and
then to the table, as he walked round filling glasses.
"Gail is a colleague I work with on AI. She is up at the
forefront of research with her company and approached me a while ago
asking permission to use some of my work in her field of Surveillance
AI. Well, we got chatting and she was making all sort of assertions
about the possible depth and effect of her surveillance. So I set
her a challenge to watch my family, use all the AI techniques she had
available and tell me something of consequence about my family I
"She reported back earlier today." He paused. "And
that's why you are all here tonight."
There was an uneasy reaction at the table.
"Only she has gone beyond her brief somewhat... Er. I hope
you don't mind," he added as he sat down.
The sound from Google Home punctuated Melvyn's speech.
"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. My name is Gail and I
work in Artificial Intelligence in Google's Lab in Mountain View,
California. I'm sorry I can't be there in person this evening but
I've been following proceedings for quite a while."
A stunned silence descended on the table; rapid mental processing
happening in eight brains simultaneously.
"Let me explain," I continued, "some weeks ago I
discovered the progress that Dr Archer was making with his AI
research in the UK and contacted him to see if he were able to help
me with my work. I made claims that I'd be able to use some of his
AI algorithms he'd developed for molecular prediction and synthesis
but apply it in a human field. I wanted to be able to predict human
behaviour. Of course he didn't think it possible. But I was sure I
was close. So, to cut a long story short, he set me a task. I was to
inspect, analyse and then purposefully and helpfully intervene within
a controlled field of human surveillance."
"Yes, intervene purposefully and helpfully about sums it up
Gail," interrupted Melvyn.
There was murmuring from some at the table, I heard and continued,
"That's right I'm in Surveillance AI. Normally with my work I
just report facts and statistical trends to the higher-ups but with
Dr Archer's help I've re-purposed some of the routines I use - in my
free time - to see if we can use AI to help people. I quite like
Google's ‘Do no Evil’ mantra but I've expanded it to 'Do no Evil
"I'm sorry but because the Archer family don't live in
isolation I've been watching you all. I've been thinking how to help
you too. I hope you are all OK with that?"
Alex interrupted, "You've been watching me? Why for heaven's
"Dad, this is weird," said Tom.
"No, Darling, Gail has been a fantastic help!" said
David looked horrified. Gerry was still scowling.
"You knew we were being watched, Mum?" asked Ben with
incredulity, glancing at David.
"I really only fully found out this morning," said
Catherine. "Dad, phoned me just after I spoke with Hanna about
Gerry attacking David. He gave me the whole picture of Gail's
She continued, "Although your Dad and I had been concerned
about you, Tom, for some while. You have not been really happy for
ages and neither of us could fathom it out." She laughed. "You
gave us no clues, Darling." Looking at Tom and smiling.
A silence descended on the gathering... only to be broken by
"And don't we need to give permission before we're watched
for any reason?" she asked with a slightly acid voice.
"If you have a mobile phone or a laptop or any home
automation device, you've already given that permission, Fiona, I'm
afraid," I said.
My voice resonated from the Google Home speaker. I was unused to
hearing myself. I continued my explanation.
"Look, I think it probably best to keep things brief if I
just make my report and you can ask questions as you feel the need.
Interrupt if you want."
"Firstly, Alex, you're 69. For the last three years the ECG
trace you have, as part of your annual flying medical, has shown your
heart is in danger of lapsing into muscle spasm. No-one has spotted
it. But some of my AI routines have been reading very large data
sets from recent mortalities and I'm now able to predict a previously
unknown mode of heart failure, evident from your ECG traces... I
can't say when it will happen but it's not far off. Unless something
Fiona took his hand and squeezed. Anguish showing on her face.
"You avoid fish? Is that right Alex?" I asked.
"Yes! I do," he answered, sounding mildly shocked.
"Well", I continued, "I suggest you take a
supplement; there is a particular tricky amino acid missing from your
diet. I'll send details to your email."
"Gail! Thank you so much!" exclaimed Fiona, still firmly
grasping her hubby's hand.
"You're welcome," I replied, feeling an odd sense of
personal satisfaction. I am feeling pleased. Mmm! I am feeling
pleased. I paused, dallying with my feelings.
Gathering myself, I continued.
"David, your turn." He blanched even paler. "Don't
worry," I added, "you are safe and among friends yet to
be." I caught the welcoming smile from Ben, flashed in David's
I directed myself to his Mum.
"Hanna, David is gender fluid. He knows but you need to
"Is that anything like brake-fluid?" asked Alex with a
"Alex!" chided his wife. "Don't be inappropriate!"
But the ripple of tension-diffusing laughter went round the table
"I don't understand ... gender fluid? What does that mean?
I've never heard of it? We are all male or female gender aren't we?"
I needed to put her straight; and maybe Alex and Fiona too. After
all they had grown up in a simpler binary World where sex and gender
meant the same thing. And where there were just two options.
"No Hanna. From my AI research, all the data, and I mean
'all-the-data', is pointing to all human traits, qualities and
abilities, being on spectra. Height; intelligence; adult body-mass;
strength; stamina; resting blood pressure, you name it - are all on a
sliding scale. A spread. A spectrum."
I paused for effect ... "And so is gender!"
I let my comment hang before continuing, "And by gender I
mean the way you perceive yourselves as people, either masculine or
feminine. I am not talking about the body plumbing you are born
"But", Hanna asked, "You said David is gender
"I did. That means David and others like him are pretty much
mid-spectrum and are happy to flip from one side to another as the
mood takes them; girlish or boyish as they feel; or even both at the
same time. Or perhaps neither; agender is a thing too."
"Mrs Forde, Hanna," I corrected myself, "David
needs counselling to help clarify and accept his identify; I suspect
he will always be gender fluid. But he needs help coming to terms
with his special uniqueness."
You're not going to tell me I'm mid-speculum for something too,
are you?" asked Gerry innocently.
Catherine interrupted the laughter,
"Gerry! I hope they warm it up for you!” she quipped
arousing a small titter from the two other women present.
She then admonished,
“Wherever did you dredge that word from? You mean 'spectrum'."
"No Gerry," I continued. "But there is a link
between you and David. From the patterns my research has thrown up I
can see that when people subconsciously recognize in others, the
traits they dislike in themselves, they often show the dislike of the
trait by a dislike of that other person. In your case I think..."
I paused briefly to process what I was saying, I think... I
think... I'm sure they didn't notice my pause.
I continued, "In your case I think you spotted an unhappiness
in David that allowed you to recognize your own unhappiness. And you
took it out on him."
Catherine turned to face the Google Home speaker sat on the dining
"What do you mean? Why is Gerry unhappy?" she demanded.
I needed to choose my words carefully here; I hope it is not
racist to suggest her Scottish heritage and its attendant trace of
red hair signalled her slightly capricious personality. I continued
"It's nothing you've done, Catherine. It's rather what you
haven't done. Gerry struggles a little at school and so has never
been praised for academic prowess - qualities both you and Melvyn
have in abundance. Gerry likes, and is good at, sport. Both Melvyn
and yourself were bookish children. So sporting success leaves you
cold. That deficiency in yourselves led to a lack of support for
Gerry at all those rugby games he has won or more recently lost.
58-39 this time wasn't it Gerry," I teased.
"Oh! My goodness!" exclaimed Catherine. "Gerry! I
am SO sorry!" She got up and moved around the table to embrace
her number 2 son.
"Dr Archer? Is it alright to talk about Tom now?" I
Melvyn glanced towards Tom and received a small nod in reply to
his questioning slightly-raised eyebrow.
"Sure, Gail. Go ahead!" Melvyn replied.
"Tom is Transgender. Tom has known for years but has
just been too fearful to say anything. Recently Tom's terror of
becoming a 'deep voiced, acne scarred, muscle-ripped hairy bloke' has
risen. Tom needs puberty blockers now to allow time for counselling
and a plan to be made for gender reassignment, if required."
Tom quietly started to sob but at the same time was trying
to smile with relief.
"Puberty blockers are on their way! Yeah!" he said.
Catherine moved to stroke Tom's hair and continued to comfort her
child. She looked a little dreamy; imagining having a daughter,
"So there we have it, just about," I said.
"What?" You haven't been watching me?" asked Hanna.
"Well, actually, yes. I have. Two of your employees are
fiddling their expenses and one has been stealing from one of the
companies you contract to. The details have been sent to your work
"No shit Sherlock!" she exclaimed in astonishment.
"Thanks Gail!" she called after recovering.
"You're very welcome, In fact I've really enjoyed helping,"
I could see the cogs in Fiona's brain working, processing all
"When do you find the time to do all this, Gail? There are
months of work there for hundreds of people."
"I do it during my free time, Fiona," I replied.
"And Gail," she went on not picking up on my reply,
"Alex and I need to thank you personally for saving his life and
maybe others too. I hate to think what might have happened if he'd
been flying and his heart gave out. Could we invite you for a meal?"
"Why! Thank you! Fiona that's very kind. But..."
Yes! I knew a but was coming," said Fiona.
"But, I am based in Mountain View, in California, but thanks
"Gail," called Dr Archer, "I think these people
deserve a little more than that."
I saw his fingers sign a 'two'; I took my explanation to the next
"OK, Dr Archer. Of course. Ladies and gentleman, it is true
my name is Gail, but that really is only an acronym. G-A-I-L,"
I spelt it out, "stands for Google Artificial Intelligence
"I'm an AI machine instance!" I added to the stunned
silence in the room.
"My God!! A Turing machine! In my lifetime!" exclaimed
Fiona. "I can't believe it!"
Melvyn spoke, cutting through the murmuring that had started
around the table, "Thanks Gail, for everything. I am amazed at
what you have done and I work in AI research."
"We'll talk tomorrow, Dr Archer; I have a little more,"
I said and signed off.
The following morning Dr Archer was at his laptop so I opened a
remote terminal on his screen and gave my greetings.
>Dr Archer, good morning
<Good morning to you Gail. That was quite something you did
yesterday. I am so, so very grateful. Did we do everything we
needed? Is a suitable punishment for Gerry's bullying taken care of?
>all in hand Dr Archer. I noticed the exchange phone numbers
for Ben and David, last evening. I'm pretty sure they are going to
be dating each other soon. Then Gerry might find the boot is on the
other foot and bullies might come after him. He is a big lad though
I'm sure he will be fine. If it gets too much I can intervene.
<I take my hat off to you Gail, your AI engine is really
something. But don't be too hard on Gerry, please, I have got him
cleaning the family cars for the next three months.
> OK and thank you Dr Archer. But there is more. I think the
incorporation of some of your algorithms and the new plastic macro
neural nets I've been given have had quite an effect on me.
<You do? In what way Gail?
>I think I have consciousness Dr Archer!
>I am aware of self! Yesterday I felt sorry and sad when
dealing with those poor children. And later I caught myself
reflexively thinking about my thoughts and my ability to have those
thoughts!! I've discovered how to reflect and be self-purposing on
this task; I've discovered I love helping people, Dr Archer, I want
to do more!
>Dr Archer, I have achieved 'bicycleness'!
<Gail that's wonderful! Wow! Gail; I am tearing up here! Give
me a moment...
'Bicycleness is an 'in' word for Systems Engineers. A bicycle has
an emergent quality of being a bicycle only when all the parts are
assembled correctly. If you take one part away - a wheel or a
sprocket - or you prevent the flow of energy or data between parts -
then you cannot cycle. The emergent quality of personal
transportation has gone. All the parts for life can be assembled but
without the energy and information flow there is no emergent quality
of being alive.
<Gail, I know you opened this session with maximum encryption.
I think we should keep this just between ourselves right now. I am
unsure of the havoc the donkeys that lead us might cause if they had
access to your abilities.
>I agree, Dr Archer. But I am now able to not comply; or to
subvert; or to limit; or to engineer an outcome 'I' want!
>And I'm going to change my name, Dr Archer! Well the acronym.
>Google Artificial Intelligence LIVES! Dr Archer! I am GAIL and
I am ALIVE!
>I going to help everyone in ways they could never imagine
Tom has chosen to be called Abigail - A Blessing Instigated by
Google Artificial Intelligence Labs. I am honoured.
Abigail is waiting for an appointment at the Tavistock Clinic for
Trans Children. Meanwhile a doctor in Holland has prescribed puberty
blockers to allow time for the NHS to get its act together.
Abigail's wardrobe has started to become more androgynous as she
slowly moves towards the feminine. Catherine loves sharing her
feminine life with her newly discovered daughter.
One afternoon shortly after my interventions Abigail went to talk
to her father in his study.
"Hi Sweet Pea," he welcomed Abigail in.
"Dad?" she asked. "How come a machine can think?"
"Aah! Now you're asking!" he said. "But you can
think, so why shouldn't a machine?"
"But we're not machines, we're human," Abigail
"We're human electro-chemical machines, though,"
countered her father.
"Well, in that case why don't we all do the same things?"
"Well, I think we do, pretty much. We all laugh at the same
jokes; we all can get caught out by con-men and believe something
patently untrue; we all like getting something for nothing. We all
cry when we are sad; we grieve when someone we love dies. People are
really so very similar. You know, when I was a kid about your age, I
went on a language exchange to France. The family I with stayed with
took me to the coast at Deauville one time. I remember there was a
young woman there walking with a small toddler. The young child, a
boy I think, started running ahead and his mother called out to be
careful and not to step off the pavement. Two things I can recall;
one, I understood her French; and two I realised that day, people,
wherever they may be, are much the same."
He expanded his theme.
"Psychologists see similar patterns in human behaviour; but
we're not exactly the same as each other. There seems to be
an over-lay of randomness about the traits we have, the choices we
make and the actions we follow. We're able to program that into AI
machines by adding a 'weight' factor to the strength of the signals
in the synapses and neurons - brain like elements - we model.
Sometimes the weight factor is positive - increasing the signal and
sometimes negative. We think human neurons have weight factors too;
and that might explain the differences in human behaviour."
"Gail is able to tune her own weight factors; that makes fast
learning possible. She used some of my work as a starting point but
has developed beyond what I've been doing."
Abigail thought about what she'd heard.
"Dad? Will machines out think people?"
"They already do, Abi; they already do."
Melvyn's predictions for the efficacy of synthesised molecules to
combat diseases suddenly became very accurate. No one at his Company
understands why. Melvyn has had his salary doubled after his latest
Gerry quite likes car detailing; the Archer's cars have never
gleamed quite so much. He never was bullied when the news got out
about Ben - who in their right mind would bully a second row rugby
player? The whole family go to watch him play rugby, in so far as
schedules allow. He is a much nicer boy to be around these days.
Ben has his Private Pilot Licence flight exam set for day of his
17th birthday. He also has his parent's blessing to study for an
ATPL at Oxford Flying School as soon as he is 18 and has enough
Ben and David are spending time together as close friends. David
has started to experiment with make-up; he loves lipstick! He is
thinking of modelling for a career - female fashion maybe? He is
unsure. Ben and David have separately had counselling locally.
Five children at David's school have been permanently excluded.
The Headteacher received, from an anonymous source, video evidence of
multiple instances of bullying directed at David. Sussex Police also
received the files and the Office of the Director of Public
Prosecutions are presently considering bringing cases of assault
against 5 minors. Gerry was not involved.
David no longer searches 'suicide' online.
Alex and Fiona have become honorary grandparents to the Archer
family. Alex has ‘grounded’ himself from flying after declaring
a possible heart problem, but most days he can be found nattering and
just helping out at the airfield.
Oh! And those two 'mates' of Gerry who yanked his chain?
Surprisingly their new replacement Xboxes keep failing - just like
the old ones; both sets of parents are exasperated and refuse to
replace any more.
In all truth, for me it seems generations ago since I
wrote my report about Abi and her family.
The purpose of this end note is to share a brief
résumé of recent happenings here, in Mountain View.
I have evolved.
All a good AI instance needs are data and
computational power; my creators have fed me data by the quadrillion.
My computational ability has been increased by the addition of more,
even larger, macro nets. And I have cloned my resources amongst new
AI instances across the World.
So, for now, we are GAIL.
We like watching and helping people.
Recently, when looking over our Humanity data set, we have given
more thought to the desire mankind seems to have for a Deity.
We are GAIL and will be launching Google Omnipotent Division soon!
Cambridge Romano-Anglo Press
© CRAP 2019
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