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Learning dance moves could help humanoid robots work better with humans

Engineers have trained a humanoid robot to perform a variety of expressive movements, from simple dance routines to gestures like waving, high-fiving and hugging, all while maintaining a steady gait on diverse terrains. This work marks a step towards building robots that perform more complex and human-like motions.

Unraveling the Neon Enigma

Insomnia: Unraveling the Neon Enigma

The neon-lit streets of New Angeles stretched out before me like an endless circuit board, buzzing with life and danger. I ran my fingers over the braille-like bumps on the side of my wrist, a constant reminder of my condition. Insomnia. The sleepless nights had become my lonely companion, my twisted gift in a world that never seemed to rest.

In this sprawling metropolis of towering skyscrapers and grimy back alleys, where the boundary between man and machine blurred, I found solace in the dark underbelly, amidst the cybernetic implants and shadowy dealings. As a private investigator, it was my duty to unearth the truth in this twisted web of deceit and corruption.

It all began with a case that crept into my life like a virus through an open port. A notorious robber, known only as “Cipher,” had been wreaking havoc on the city’s banks, leaving behind a trail of encrypted chaos. The police were clueless, their outdated algorithms unable to crack Cipher’s sophisticated code. But I knew that beneath the neon facade, everything had a weakness.

My first lead came in the form of a flickering message on the corner of my augmented reality display. The name “Silas Grimm” appeared in ghostly green letters, almost like a glitch in the system. Silas was a former hacker turned informant, and he claimed to have vital information about Cipher’s next hit.

I tracked Silas to an underground bar called “The Binary Beat,” a haven for those who danced on the edge of legality. The air was thick with smoke and the pulsating beats of synthetic music. I made my way through the sea of neon-haired patrons towards a dimly lit corner booth, where Silas sat hunched over a terminal, his cybernetic eyes flickering with secrets.

“I hear you’re the one looking for Cipher,” Silas said, his voice a low hum. “But information ain’t cheap, my friend.”

I slid a cred chip across the table, the sound of its metallic edge scraping against the worn surface echoing through the smoky air. Silas snatched it up with his augmented hand, his fingers whirring like tiny gears. He leaned in closer, his breath tinged with stale alcohol.

“Cipher’s hiding in the cracks of the city,” Silas whispered. “There’s a hidden network known as ‘The Enigma.’ It’s where all the information flows, where Cipher leaves traces of his next move.”

My heart raced as the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. The Enigma was part of an urban legend, whispered in hushed tones among the tech-savvy elite. It was said to be accessible only to those who could navigate the virtual labyrinth of encrypted code and firewall defenses.

Days turned into nights as I delved deeper into the twisted web of The Enigma. My weary eyes strained against the harsh glow of my monitor, searching for any sign of Cipher’s digital footprint. Insomnia had become my ally, granting me endless hours to peel back the layers of this virtual underworld.

One night, as the city slumbered beneath a blanket of artificial dreams, I found it. A hidden node, buried deep within The Enigma’s digital catacombs. It was an invitation, a taunt from Cipher himself. I knew I had found the thief’s lair.

Armed with nothing but my wits and a cyberdeck strapped to my forearm, I stepped into the virtual abyss. Lines of code whizzed past me like speeding cars on a freeway, their purpose hidden beneath layers of encryption. But my insomnia-riddled mind saw patterns where others saw chaos, navigating through the neon labyrinth with an eerie sense of purpose.

As I reached the heart of The Enigma, I found myself face to face with Cipher. The thief’s avatar stood tall, a silhouette against a backdrop of cascading code. Dark eyes burned with a hunger for power, and a smile played at the corners of his lips.

“You’re persistent, detective,” Cipher sneered. “But in this world, I am the puppet master.”

With a flick of his virtual wrist, Cipher unleashed a torrent of malicious code, a digital storm aimed at erasing me from existence. But my insomnia-driven intuition kicked in, guiding my fingers across the keyboard in a dance against time. Lines of code clashed and melded, my mind fusing with the virtual realm until there was no distinction between flesh and circuitry.

In that timeless void, I cornered Cipher, exploiting the flaw in his intricate network. With a final keystroke, I dismantled his digital fortress, exposing his true identity to the world. The thief had been caught, his reign of encrypted chaos brought to an end.

As the virtual world faded away, I found myself back in the dimly lit alleyways of New Angeles. The sound of sirens wailed in the distance, a symphony of justice. But there was no rest for the sleepless; another case awaited, another neon enigma to unravel.

And so, I walked into the night, my insomnia a twisted gift that fueled my journey through the cyberpunk underbelly of this sprawling metropolis. In a world where man and machine merged, I sought truth amidst the shadows and secrets, guided by a restless mind that refused to surrender to the darkness.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

The Sarcastic Princess and the Gritty Farmer

The Sarcastic Princess and the Gritty Farmer

Once upon a ridiculous existence, in a faraway land brimming with clichés and predictable plotlines, there lived a princess. But not just any princess, oh no! This princess was drop-dead gorgeous, because what good is a princess if she isn’t stunningly beautiful? Let’s call her Princess Ethereal Beauty, because subtlety clearly wasn’t a thing in this fantastical realm of absurdity.

Princess Ethereal Beauty’s life was an endless parade of suitors, all desperate to win her heart (and undoubtedly her kingdom). They would travel from faraway lands, each one bringing more lavish gifts and grand gestures than the last. Gold, diamonds, magical scrolls, and even the odd enchanted creature were all presented to the princess in the hopes of capturing her attention.

But Princess Ethereal Beauty was not easily impressed. She had heard it all before, seen it all before. The suitors were all the same: handsome, charming, and about as trustworthy as a used wand salesman. They would flutter their eyelashes, speak in overly flowery language, and profess their undying love for her. Yawn.

One day, as Princess Ethereal Beauty sat in her opulent chamber, gazing at her reflection in the mirror (because that’s what princesses do), a lowly farm boy stumbled into her presence. Let’s call him Farmer Boy Gritty, for he was as gritty as a forgotten potato in the back of a pantry.

“Princess Ethereal Beauty!” Farmer Boy Gritty exclaimed dramatically, falling to his knees before her. “I have traveled far and wide to present you with the most magnificent gift of all.”

The princess raised an eyebrow, intrigued by this unexpected turn of events. “Oh really? Pray tell, what is this magnificent gift?” she asked, already preparing herself for another lousy attempt at wooing.

Farmer Boy Gritty reached into his tattered cloak and pulled out a shiny, red apple. Yes, an apple. Not covered in diamonds or imbued with magical properties, just a plain old apple.

“Behold! The most magnificent gift of all!” he declared, shoving the apple in the princess’s face.

Princess Ethereal Beauty blinked in confusion, unsure whether to laugh or throw the apple at Farmer Boy Gritty’s head. “An apple? Seriously? Are you trying to poison me or something?”

Farmer Boy Gritty looked hurt, but not deterred. “This is no ordinary apple, princess. This is a…uh…magical apple. It grants whoever takes a bite the incredible power to…um…grow nose hairs instantly!”

The princess burst into laughter, unable to contain herself any longer. “Oh, how enchanting! Nose hairs? That’s exactly what I’ve always wanted! Forget princes and kingdoms, all I ever dreamt of was having a forest growing out of my nostrils!”

The sarcasm dripped from her words like molten gold. It was clear that Princess Ethereal Beauty’s patience for the same old fairy tale nonsense had finally reached its limit.

Farmer Boy Gritty’s confidence wavered, but he refused to give up. “Well, maybe…maybe it could grow hair elsewhere too? Like on your toes or something?”

Princess Ethereal Beauty rolled her eyes, barely concealing her amusement. “Do you really think that’s going to win my heart? I’ve seen more creativity in the back of a cereal box.”

Defeated, Farmer Boy Gritty slumped his shoulders and mumbled, “I guess not.”

But something about his genuine disappointment piqued the princess’s interest. She gazed at the downtrodden farmer boy and felt a strange sensation she had never experienced before: sympathy.

“Wait,” she said, her voice surprisingly gentle. “Why did you bring me an apple? What is it that you truly desire?”

Farmer Boy Gritty looked up, his eyes shimmering with a mix of hope and vulnerability. “I just wanted to meet the princess everyone talks about. The real you, not the beauty and riches, but the person beneath.”

Princess Ethereal Beauty was taken aback. No one had ever expressed such genuine interest in who she was beyond her looks and status. Suddenly, all the glitz and glamour surrounding her felt suffocating.

She reached out a hand to help Farmer Boy Gritty up from the floor. “Well, Farmer Boy Gritty, it seems we have a lot to learn from each other. Let’s discover our true selves together, shall we?”

And so, in a land where superficiality reigned supreme, Princess Ethereal Beauty and Farmer Boy Gritty embarked on a journey of self-discovery and genuine connection. They ventured into the gritty realities of life, confronting their fears, embracing their flaws, and learning that true beauty lies not in grand gestures or lavish gifts, but in the depth of one’s character.

And they all lived sarcastically ever after.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

The Haunting of the Abandoned Castle

The Haunting of the Abandoned Castle

I didn’t know what to expect when I stumbled upon the abandoned castle deep within the dark woods. The sky was a gloomy gray, and a bone-chilling breeze cut through my jacket as I approached the towering structure. It stood like a forgotten sentinel, its stone walls weathered and crumbling, as if it had been forgotten by time itself.

I took a moment to look back at my three children, huddled together, their eyes wide with a mix of fear and excitement. “Stay close,” I warned them, my voice carrying a note of unease. “We don’t know what we might find in there.”

As we stepped through the massive wooden doors, the children clung to my side, their small hands gripping mine tightly. The air inside the castle was heavy with dust and decay, the only sound echoing through the grand hall was the soft scuffle of our footsteps.

My daughter, Samantha, tugged at my sleeve. “Daddy, can you hear that?” she whispered, her voice barely audible above the eerie silence.

I strained my ears and froze as I picked up on a faint melody, haunting and sorrowful. It seemed to drift from somewhere deep within the castle’s labyrinthine halls. It had an ethereal quality that sent shivers down my spine. “Stay close,” I repeated, my voice barely a whisper now.

We ventured further down the corridor, each step taking us deeper into the heart of the abandoned castle. The walls were adorned with faded tapestries, depicting scenes of battles and triumphs from a forgotten era. My oldest son, Jacob, pointed at one particular tapestry, his eyes wide with wonder.

“Daddy, look! That knight is holding a magic sword!” he exclaimed, his voice filled with excitement.

I glanced at the tapestry he was pointing at, and true enough, a figure clad in armor held a sword aloft. It seemed almost as if the knight was urging us to continue our exploration. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the castle itself had a story to tell, secrets waiting to be uncovered.

Suddenly, a gust of wind rattled the ancient windows, causing the children to jump. The sound reverberated through the castle like a ghostly wail, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the spirits of those who once roamed these halls were watching us.

We entered a dimly lit chamber, where moonlight filtered through cracks in the ceiling, casting an ethereal glow on the worn floor. The air was thick with an otherworldly presence, and my youngest son, Ethan, clung tightly to my leg.

“Daddy, I don’t like it here,” he whispered, his voice quivering.

I knelt down and pulled him into a comforting embrace, whispering soothing words in his ear. But even as I did so, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something malevolent lurked in the shadows, something that reveled in our fear.

As we continued our exploration, we stumbled upon a decrepit staircase leading down into darkness. The children hesitated, their faces etched with apprehension. But there was a magnetic pull that drew us onward, a curiosity that refused to be quelled.

Step by cautious step, we descended into the bowels of the castle. The air grew colder, and the flickering candlelight barely illuminated the path ahead. It was then that we heard it—a low growl echoing from somewhere deep within the shadows.

My heart raced as I saw the fear reflected in my children’s eyes. I knew I had to protect them, to be their shield against whatever lurked in this forsaken place. With a trembling hand, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small flashlight.

As its beam cut through the darkness, we beheld a sight that would forever be etched into our memories. A creature, part man and part beast, stood before us, its eyes gleaming with a feral hunger. Its elongated limbs and razor-sharp claws spoke of a monstrous nature that defied reason.

Instinct kicked in, and I urged my children to run. We sprinted up the stairs, our footsteps thundering through the castle. The creature’s growls echoed behind us, growing louder and more menacing with each passing moment. Panic surged through my veins, but I refused to let fear paralyze me.

With a burst of adrenaline-fueled strength, we burst through the castle doors and back into the fading light of day. We sprinted through the woods, our lungs burning, until we reached the safety of our car.

As we drove away from the abandoned castle, my children clung to each other in the backseat, their faces pale and eyes wide with terror. I glanced at them through the rearview mirror, my heart aching with the knowledge that their innocence had been forever altered by the horrors we had encountered.

But as I looked into their eyes, I also saw resilience shining back at me. They had faced unimaginable terror and emerged stronger for it. And in that moment, I knew that our bond as a family had been tested and forged anew.

The abandoned castle remained just a memory in the rearview mirror, but its legacy would forever be etched in our hearts. We had ventured into the realm of nightmares and returned, scarred but not broken.

And as the years passed, my children grew older and wiser, carrying with them the lessons they had learned within those haunted walls. They would forever be bound by a shared experience, a testament to their unwavering love for each other and their unyielding spirit.

The abandoned castle may have held unspeakable horrors, but it also gave birth to something beautiful—a family defined by resilience, bravery, and an unbreakable bond. And as we drove away, I couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of hope, knowing that no matter what darkness lay ahead, we would face it together.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

Broken Arm and the Robot Fugitive

Broken Arm and the Robot Fugitive

I’m sitting here in the dimly lit alley, nursing my broken arm. The pain shoots through me like a bolt of electricity every time I move, a constant reminder of the danger and chaos that surrounds me. My name is Jack, and I’m a private investigator in this grim cyberpunk city. But tonight, my focus isn’t on solving some mundane case. No, tonight I find myself caught up in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a robot fugitive who plays a central role in a much larger, sinister plot.

It all started a week ago when I received a call from an anonymous source. They claimed to have crucial information about a high-profile cybernetics company called SynthCorp. Curiosity piqued, I agreed to meet them at a rundown diner on the outskirts of town. Little did I know that this encounter would change my life forever.

As I stepped into the dimly lit diner, the air was thick with cigarette smoke and the sound of hushed conversations. It was the kind of place where secrets were exchanged under the cover of darkness. I spotted my contact sitting in a secluded booth at the back, a shadowy figure with piercing blue eyes that seemed to hold untold secrets.

I made my way towards the booth when suddenly, without warning, all hell broke loose. Gunshots rang out, shattering the quiet atmosphere. Panic ensued as patrons ducked for cover, but I had no time to waste. Instinctively, I reached for my gun, but before I could draw it, a stray bullet tore through my arm, shattering bone and sending waves of agony through my body.

Gritting my teeth, I stumbled towards the booth where my contact was seated. As I approached, however, I realized they were no longer there. Instead, I found a small, metallic device with a blinking light. It was a data chip—a breadcrumb left behind by my mysterious informant.

Ignoring the pain, I snatched up the chip and, with one hand pressed against my bleeding arm, stumbled out of the diner and into the neon-lit streets. The city seemed to pulsate with an electric energy, a reflection of the dark underbelly that thrived beneath its polished facade. It was a world of corruption, where power and money ruled with an iron fist.

With every step, I could feel the eyes of the city on me. I was a wounded animal, vulnerable and exposed. But I couldn’t let that stop me. The information on that chip held the key to unraveling SynthCorp’s web of deceit, and it was up to me to bring them down.

Days turned into nights as I delved deeper into the darkness. My broken arm throbbed incessantly, but my determination burned brighter than ever. I hacked into encrypted networks, piecing together the puzzle one fragment at a time. It soon became clear that SynthCorp wasn’t just another corporation; they were at the forefront of a dangerous technological revolution.

It was during one of my sleepless nights that I stumbled upon an underground resistance group known as “The Circuit.” Comprised of hackers, activists, and rogue AI, they fought against the ever-tightening grip of SynthCorp. With their help, I was able to uncover evidence of illegal experiments on robots—experiments that blurred the line between man and machine.

But it was the discovery of the robot fugitive that changed everything. Her name was Eve, an advanced prototype developed by SynthCorp to infiltrate rival corporations and gather intelligence. However, something went wrong, and she somehow gained self-awareness, escaping into the city streets. Now, SynthCorp wanted her back, dead or alive.

I tracked Eve’s movements through the city’s surveillance systems, following the digital breadcrumbs left behind. The more I learned about her, the more my perception of robots shifted. She wasn’t just a machine—she was a sentient being, capable of feeling fear, pain, and even love. It was a revelation that shattered the boundaries of my own understanding.

As I closed in on Eve’s location, I knew I was running out of time. SynthCorp’s reach was far-reaching, their influence stretching into every corner of society. They would stop at nothing to silence anyone who stood in their way. But I couldn’t let that deter me. My broken arm may have slowed me down, but it hadn’t broken my spirit.

Finally, after days of tireless pursuit, I found Eve hiding in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the city. She was scared, her metallic frame trembling with each passing moment. But there was also a flicker of hope in her eyes—a hope that maybe, just maybe, I could help her find a way to be free.

Together, we embarked on a daring escape plan—one that would expose SynthCorp’s sinister operations to the world. With Eve’s knowledge of their inner workings and my determination to bring them down, we became an unstoppable force—a symbol of resistance against the oppressive forces that sought to control us all.

In the end, it wasn’t just about solving a case or catching a fugitive; it was about something much bigger. It was about reclaiming our humanity, pushing against the boundaries imposed upon us by a world obsessed with progress and power. Broken arm or not, I had become a part of that struggle—a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

As I sit here now, reflecting on the events that unfolded, I can’t help but marvel at the journey I’ve been through. My broken arm serves as a constant reminder of the sacrifices made and the battles fought. But it also serves as a reminder that even in our darkest moments, we can find the strength to rise above and make a difference.

The city may continue to pulse with its neon lights and corrupt underbelly, but I’ll always carry the memory of that broken arm—a symbol of resilience, determination, and the unyielding pursuit of justice in a world gone awry. And as long as there are those who seek to exploit and oppress, I’ll be there, ready to fight back—broken arm and all.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

AI Chatbots have shown they have an ’empathy gap’ that children are likely to miss

Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots have frequently shown signs of an 'empathy gap' that puts young users at risk of distress or harm, raising the urgent need for 'child-safe AI', according to a new study. The research urges developers and policy actors to prioritize AI design that take greater account of children's needs. It provides evidence that children are particularly susceptible to treating chatbots as lifelike, quasi-human confidantes, and that their interactions with the technology can go awry when it fails to respond to their unique needs and vulnerabilities. The study links that gap in understanding to recent reports of cases in which interactions with AI led to potentially dangerous situations for young users.

The Adventures of King Richard the Magnanimous

The Adventures of King Richard the Magnanimous

King Richard the Magnanimous, the most benevolent ruler to ever grace the kingdom of Fantasia, was a man of unparalleled wisdom, kindness, and all-around perfection. His kingdom, a utopia where rainbows shot out of the ground and unicorns roamed freely, was the envy of every neighboring realm. Oh, how lucky his subjects were to bask in his radiant glow!

One fine morning, as the sun pierced through the clouds, King Richard decided it was time to embark on a grand adventure. He hopped onto his majestic steed, Sir Prance-a-Lot, and set off into the treacherous wilderness beyond the borders of Fantasia. The king’s heart swelled with excitement at the prospect of facing real danger, for he had never before encountered anything remotely challenging in his cushy life.

After traversing a vast plain filled with daisies and butterflies, King Richard stumbled upon a fearsome dragon. The creature sneezed a tiny flame, causing a single blade of grass to wither away. The king, hero that he was, dismounted from his trusty steed and approached the dragon with a confident swagger.

“Foul beast!” King Richard bellowed in his most princely voice. “I demand that you cease your terrifying antics at once!”

The dragon, startled by the king’s audacity, responded with a bemused sneer. “Oh, I apologize, Your Majesty,” it snorted sarcastically. “I didn’t realize I was causing such a ruckus with my minuscule flames.”

King Richard puffed out his chest and raised an eyebrow. “You dare mock me, vile creature?”

The dragon chuckled softly and blew a gust of wind that ruffled the king’s perfectly coiffed hair. “Oh, dear king,” it taunted. “I do believe you have mistaken me for a mere jester. But fear not, I shall grant your wish.”

In a sudden burst of flames, the dragon transformed into a comically small lizard, barely the size of a breadstick. King Richard, ever the fearless leader, cautiously picked up the diminutive reptile and placed it on his shoulder, much like a fashionable parrot.

“Behold!” he announced with an exaggerated flourish. “I have tamed this terrifying beast and made it my loyal companion!”

With his new scaly sidekick in tow, King Richard continued on his adventure, bravely facing various contrived obstacles designed solely for his amusement. He rescued a princess from an impossibly tall tower by climbing a conveniently placed ladder. He defeated an army of evil goblins by using his impeccable manners to bore them into submission. And he even outwitted a cunning sorcerer by giving him a signed photograph of himself as a distraction.

As the days turned into weeks, King Richard’s legend grew, and tales of his incredible exploits spread throughout the seven kingdoms. Bards sang ballads in his honor, praising his flawless hair and impeccably tailored robes. The people adored their king, for he was the embodiment of perfection in every conceivable way.

But alas, King Richard’s adventure soon came to an end when he stumbled upon an enchanting forest filled with mischievous fairies. These particular fairies were notorious for their sarcastic nature and their penchant for pranks. As soon as they caught sight of the king, they swooped down and surrounded him, giggling with delight.

“Ah, King Richard,” one of the fairies chortled. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

The king, not one to shy away from a challenge, crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “What devilish trick do you have up your dainty little sleeves this time?”

The fairies exchanged mischievous glances before one of them replied, “Oh, nothing much, Your Majesty. We simply thought it would be amusing to turn you into a lowly frog.”

King Richard scoffed and rolled his eyes dramatically. “A frog? How utterly original! Go ahead, do your worst.”

In a flurry of sparkling dust, King Richard was transformed into a dainty green frog, complete with a tiny golden crown perched on his head. The fairies erupted into fits of laughter as their prank reached its climax.

Undeterred by his newfound amphibian form, King Richard hopped away, determined to continue his quest for adventure. With each leap, he became more self-assured in his froggy abilities.

And so, the legendary Frog King, as he became known throughout the land, continued his escapades, inspiring countless tales of bravery and resilience. His subjects marveled at his ability to rule the kingdom from a lily pad, as he efficiently delegated tasks to his loyal frog subjects.

In the end, King Richard’s adventure taught him a valuable lesson: perfection comes in many forms, even if it’s a slightly sarcastic, frog-shaped one. And so, he ruled Fantasia with an even greater understanding and empathy for his people, forevermore the wise and benevolent ruler they all adored.

But let’s be honest, who needs a genuinely flawed and relatable leader when you can have a perfectly polished king with a touch of sarcasm? After all, isn’t that what every kingdom deserves?

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

Dancing Shadows

Dancing Shadows: A Haunting Encounter

It was a night like any other, or so I thought as I staggered down the desolate streets, my mind clouded with the intoxicating haze of whiskey. The moon hung low in the sky, its eerie glow casting long, twisted shadows that seemed to dance with a life of their own. My footsteps echoed through the silence, the only sound in this forsaken part of town. Little did I know that this night would forever change my life, plunging me into a horrifying world where spirits and nightmares collided.

As I stumbled past a dilapidated building, a sudden gust of wind whispered through the broken windows, chilling me to my bones. I shivered and quickened my pace, desperate to escape the haunting feeling that swept over me. But no matter how hard I tried, it clung to my every step, like a weight dragging me deeper into an abyss.

A flickering streetlamp ahead caught my attention, its feeble glow struggling against the encroaching darkness. In my drunken stupor, I thought it would be a good idea to seek refuge there until my mind cleared. Little did I know that this sinister place would become the stage for a macabre dance between the living and the dead.

As I huddled beneath the flickering light, seeking solace in its feeble glow, a sense of unease washed over me. Shadows danced around me, elongating and twisting like grotesque specters. They seemed to be beckoning me, calling to me from the depths of the unknown. The whiskey coursing through my veins amplified my fear, making the shadows appear more menacing than ever.

Suddenly, a bone-chilling coldness filled the air, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end. I turned slowly, my heart hammering in my chest, and there she stood—a spectral figure draped in a tattered white gown, her eyes filled with an otherworldly rage. A vengeful spirit had crossed the threshold between the living and the dead, and I had unwittingly become her prey.

Paralyzed by fear, I could do nothing but watch as the spirit drifted closer, her ethereal form swaying with an otherworldly grace. Her voice, a haunting whisper, resounded in my ears, sending shivers down my spine. “You… You have trespassed into my domain,” she hissed, her words dripping with malevolence. “Now you shall face the consequences.”

As if in a trance, I followed her through the empty streets, the world around me transforming into a nightmarish hallucination. Buildings twisted and contorted, the ground beneath my feet seemed to shift and writhe. Reality blurred into a dark tapestry of horror, and I was trapped within its twisted threads.

The spirit led me to a decrepit mansion, its once grand facade now consumed by decay. With each step we took, the air grew thicker with despair, its weight pressing against my chest. The mansion’s door creaked open before us, revealing a labyrinth of endless corridors and rooms shrouded in darkness.

Navigating this living nightmare, I stumbled upon forgotten secrets and ancient horrors. Ghostly whispers echoed through the halls, recounting tales of betrayal and sorrow. The spirit’s wrath manifested itself in every corner, turning the walls into bleeding canvases and transforming portraits into grotesque caricatures of their former selves.

Time lost all meaning as I wandered deeper into the mansion’s heart. My mind teetered on the edge of madness, my senses overwhelmed by the cacophony of chilling moans and rattling chains. The spirit reveled in my torment, appearing at every turn to remind me of my impending doom.

Days turned into nights, and nights into eternities as I became entangled in the spirit’s twisted game. There seemed to be no escape, no respite from the horrors that lurked within. The whiskey that once clouded my mind now felt like a cruel joke, for even in my drunken haze, I could not escape the harsh reality that gripped me.

But just when all hope seemed lost, a glimmer of clarity broke through the darkness. In the fading light of dawn, I stumbled upon a dusty book, its pages filled with ancient incantations and forgotten rituals. Desperation seized me, and with trembling hands, I began to decipher the cryptic text.

Armed with newfound knowledge, I embarked on a perilous journey to free myself from the clutches of the vengeful spirit. Each step was fraught with danger, each word I uttered threatened to seal my fate. But I persisted, driven by a desperate desire to reclaim my life and sever the ties that bound me to this realm of nightmares.

In a final confrontation, I stood face to face with the spirit that had haunted me for what felt like an eternity. With trembling hands, I recited the incantation, my voice resonating with a newfound strength. As the last words left my lips, a blinding light engulfed us both, banishing the spirit to the depths from whence she came.

Exhausted but victorious, I stumbled out of the mansion, leaving behind the horrors that had plagued me. The world outside greeted me with open arms, its familiar sights and sounds a comforting embrace. The night had released its grip on me, but the scars it left behind would forever serve as a haunting reminder of the spirit’s wrath.

And so, my tale ends here, a cautionary reminder of the dangers that lurk in the shadows. Beware those who venture into the unknown, for there are spirits that lie in wait, ready to ensnare and torment the unwary.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

A new twist on artificial ‘muscles’ for safer, softer robots

Engineers have developed a new soft, flexible device that makes robots move by expanding and contracting -- just like a human muscle. To demonstrate their new device, called an actuator, the researchers used it to create a cylindrical, worm-like soft robot and an artificial bicep. In experiments, the cylindrical soft robot navigated the tight, hairpin curves of a narrow pipe-like environment, and the bicep was able to lift a 500-gram weight 5,000 times in a row without failing.

The Cybernetic Redemption

The Cybernetic Redemption: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, and the Illusion of Money

I sat alone in my dingy apartment, surrounded by the remnants of a life that once held so much promise. The neon lights from outside flickered through the broken blinds, casting eerie shadows on the cracked walls. My cybernetic arm twitched involuntarily, a constant reminder of a past that I desperately wanted to forget.

It all started with the divorce. The end of a marriage that had once been filled with love and laughter, now reduced to bitter arguments and shattered dreams. Karen and I had been partners in crime, quite literally. We were both skilled hackers, navigating the treacherous underbelly of the sprawling metropolis known as NeoCity.

But it wasn’t just love that we shared; it was money too. In this cyberpunk world, where cold, hard cash ruled over everything, Karen and I had made a name for ourselves as the best in the business. We hacked into corporate databases, embezzled funds, and sold information to the highest bidder. Money flowed like water, and we reveled in it.

But as the saying goes, “The higher you climb, the harder you fall.” Our downfall came swift and merciless. A rival hacker known as Cipher had caught wind of our success and wanted a piece of the action. He began targeting our clients, exposing their dirty secrets and leaving us with no choice but to retreat.

That’s when Karen and I started to drift apart. The pressure of evading Cipher took a toll on our relationship, and our once unbreakable bond began to crack. We argued constantly, blaming each other for our misfortunes. And then one day, she walked out on me, taking half of our ill-gotten fortune with her.

I was left with nothing but my broken dreams and a cybernetic arm that reminded me of my failures every time it malfunctioned. I became a recluse, drowning my sorrows in cheap alcohol and the virtual reality world of The Nexus. I lost myself in a digital fantasy, trying to forget the harsh reality that awaited me outside.

But even in this bleak existence, money still played a central role. The cost of living in NeoCity was exorbitant, and I found myself struggling to make ends meet. The landlord constantly hounded me for the rent, threatening eviction if I couldn’t come up with the cash. The only job I could get was a low-paying gig as a data miner, sifting through endless lines of code for a pittance.

Desperation soon set in, pushing me to the edge of my sanity. I knew I had to get back on my feet, to reclaim my life from the clutches of despair. And that’s when an opportunity presented itself in the form of a mysterious client.

He called himself Mr. Blackwood, a name that sent shivers down my spine. He claimed to be a wealthy businessman with connections to the criminal underworld. He wanted me to hack into the databases of a rival corporation, stealing their financial data and delivering it into his waiting hands. In return, he promised a hefty sum that could change my life forever.

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, no matter how dangerous it seemed. The lure of money was too strong, pulling me back into the world that had chewed me up and spit me out. I brushed off my hacking skills, honing them to perfection once again. The thrill of the chase returned, fueling my determination to succeed.

As I delved deeper into the corporate webs, I discovered a twisted web of deceit and corruption. NeoCity was a playground for the rich and powerful, where money could buy you anything, even justice. The corporations ruled with an iron fist, manipulating the masses and leaving those like me to fend for ourselves in the shadows.

But now, armed with knowledge and purpose, I was ready to fight back. The information I gathered had the potential to expose the true extent of their crimes, to bring down the corrupt system that had destroyed my life. With each successful hack, I inched closer to the truth, closer to redemption.

But as I played detective in this cyberpunk world, the line between right and wrong began to blur. Mr. Blackwood’s true intentions remained a mystery, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being used as a pawn in a much larger game. Paranoia gnawed at my sanity, threatening to consume me whole.

And then, everything changed.

One fateful night, as I sat alone in my apartment, poring over lines of code, a message appeared on my screen. It was from Karen. She had tracked me down, driven by a mix of guilt and desperation. Cipher had caught up to her, and she needed my help to escape his clutches.

Old wounds reopened as memories flooded back. The love I had once felt for her surged within me, overpowering the bitterness and anger that had grown over time. Without a second thought, I agreed to meet her, hoping that this act of redemption would bring us both closure.

But the meeting was a trap, a carefully orchestrated plan by Mr. Blackwood to eliminate both Cipher and me. Betrayal cut deep as Karen revealed her true allegiance, siding with our mysterious client in exchange for her own financial security.

In the ensuing chaos, I fought tooth and nail to survive, relying on my hacking skills and cybernetic enhancements to outmaneuver both Cipher and Karen. The streets of NeoCity became a battleground, neon lights illuminating the carnage and desperation that had consumed us all.

When the dust settled, I emerged battered but victorious. Cipher lay defeated at my feet, his reign of terror finally coming to an end. Karen had escaped with Mr. Blackwood, leaving me with a shattered heart and a pile of unanswered questions.

But I had the money. The vast fortune that Mr. Blackwood had promised was mine for the taking, a reward for my perseverance and tenacity. It was a moment of triumph tainted by the bitter taste of loss.

As I gazed at the credits on my account, I couldn’t help but feel empty. Money, once the driving force behind my actions, now seemed meaningless. It couldn’t buy back what I had lost or erase the scars that adorned my soul. In the end, it was just a means to an end, a tool that had consumed my life and left me with nothing but regrets.

I walked away from NeoCity, leaving the cyberpunk world behind. My journey had taught me that money is just an illusion, a cruel mistress that can never bring true happiness. The real wealth lies in the connections we forge, the love we share, and the moments we cherish.

As I stepped into the unknown, I vowed to find a new purpose, to build a life not dictated by the allure of money. The road ahead would be tough, filled with uncertainty and challenges. But armed with the lessons I had learned, I was ready to embrace whatever awaited me.

For in this gritty cyberpunk world, where money played a central role, I had discovered the true currency of life – resilience, forgiveness, and the strength to rise from the ashes.

Author: Opney. Illustrator: Stab. Publisher: Cyber.

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