(1000 words) “Where am I?” thought Donnie Jackson, looking out of his parents’ bedroom window on the morning of his fourteenth birthday. He gazed across an endless black plain towards towering mountains in the distance, all silverised by a huge moon filling the sky. The moon wasn’t ‘our’ moon, he thought, there were no maria, the lava plains clearly seen from Earth, and there were visible canyons. They must be huge, gigantic. And this moon was, what, maybe ten times as big in the sky? But where were his mum and dad?
(800 words) Donnie Jackson went to bed feeling elated. Tomorrow was his fourteenth birthday and his mother had told him they’d be taking him somewhere for a special surprise. He lay in bed, listening to the traffic on the nearby motorway. Donnie likened it to the relentless waves on the shore at their summer home on Morton Island. He wondered where they would take him? Maybe to the climbing centre? He’d made noises about wanting to learn rock climbing. Or maybe they’d arranged a secret outing with his friends? To the bowling alley, maybe to the skate park? But his best friend Marty Chang had seemed normal at school. Not like he was hiding a big secret. And he knew Marty better than anyone. He hoped it wouldn’t be a trip to a boring museum or art gallery. The thought of that made a funny feeling in his stomach. Like he was going to puke.
(900 words) “Are you serious? Do you really believe a machine can think?” I got no immediate reply; Maltravers was apparently intent upon the coals in the grate, touching them deftly here and there with the fire-poker till they signified a sense of his attention by a brighter glow. Finally, he settled back into his armchair. “I believe it possible, Hugh. Why not?” “Why not?” I exclaimed. “Well, because … because a machine is just nuts and bolts, or electric circuits, whatever. A machine doesn’t have a mind.” “Ah, but how would you know?” Maltravers took a cigarette from a silver case and tapped the butt on it several times. A singular habit he had developed.