“Hey Stan. I’m here to take charge of my new ward. Can you sort me out?”
I pass the befuddled surveillance engineer my papers and he checks them cursorily and shakes his head.
“Rather you than me! Can’t deny it seems a good idea putting him to work though. How come you’re the first to think of it?”
“Maybe I’m only the first to be this persuasive!”
We both laugh a little as he passes me the swipe card for the door. I take Stan through the plan.
“Once I have him he has his own security pass. It’s restricted so he can only enter certain areas, and of course he’s expected back here at the end of his shift- although you know that doesn’t go to plan for most of us! So call me if you get stressed about his whereabouts, you’ve got my number, and make sure the rest of the guys down here have it too. Last thing I want is to give anyone an ulcer.”
“Nice one, I’ll pass it on. Marie’s on holiday but I’ll see the other guys this weekend; make sure everyone’s in the know. Crap Reen, this is really weird!”
“Hello? Gonna be working with him every day? Weird just got a whole new definition.”
He makes a face and turns back to his reports and I head down the corridor towards my new acquisition.
The card slides noiselessly down the lock and the green light flashes. I open the door and keep my hand on it so it closes quietly. Moriarty is laying on his mattress, eyes closed. I’m not sure if he is asleep (on standby? Shut down? Recharging?) or simply thinking, so rather than disturb him I sit at the table and wait. After a minute it’s clear he’s not moving (and I won’t lie, the lack of breath is a little disturbing) so I get my e-reader out and start working through some reports. No rest for the wicked and scientifically adept, apparently. I’ve done 5 lab reports and signed off three funding requests when he speaks.
“You really are an astonishingly courteous human Miss Hadley.”
“So sure it’s me? I thought I was pretty quiet.” He smiles and opens his eyes.
“The courtesy gave you away I’m afraid. That’s its only flaw.” He glides to his feet and joins me at the table.
“Well that’s not so bad. I wasn’t sure if you were resting or not.”
“I was, thank you. I wasn’t asleep though. Just…being calm. It helps me sort data.”
Almost like meditation. Interesting.
“Do you actually sleep then? I know you said before that you dreamt, so, um, stupid question maybe…”
“Not stupid at all. What I do, when I’m fully at rest, I don’t have a better word to call than sleep. My external stimuli are off; my functions are limited to self repair and filing data, much like your REM sleep, and I do dream, ever since a certain stage in the development of my AI; something to do with the way I now process data. I don’t fantasise; I only dream about things I have experienced or know of. But there’s a great deal of data in here.” He touches his forehead. “So I have a lot of interesting material to work with.”
There’s one of those tiny smiles playing on his lips and I can’t help but know that he’s dying for me to ask what he dreams about. To be perverse of course, I don’t. Instead I say,
“That’s fascinating. You should keep a dream journal, look for any patterns.”
“I remember them all, in sequence. There is no pattern I can discern.”
“Of course you do. Still, writing something down that you remember has the effect of cognitive reinforcement; although your thought processes are not human, you may find a similar effect. Just remembering something is one thing; actually studying it, as if it is something someone else has given you to consider, is a very different process.”
He looks pleased.
“What a good idea Miss Hadley.”
“Anyway, are you ready to go?”
Oh I do so love catching him off guard. It’s so difficult to do and it’s so wrong that I get such a kick out of it. Those wide eyes flickering, mouth open and the most innocent look of confusion… It’s almost too much to bear but I do!
“Go?” He is stumped. It’s great. I wish I had a camera. His eyes flicker some more and he tries again but still simply manages “Go?”
“That’s right, I didn’t tell you yet. You have a new position within ULTIcorps. You’re my new lab assistant. And personal assistant really because I can’t have both and get away with… Well never mind. Are you coming? Presuming you want the job of course?”
“Yes yes yes!” He actually does a back flip on the spot then runs around, kneels in front of my chair and throws his arms around my legs. Now I am the one who is thrown off guard! I knew he was emotional but I have never, ever seen him display overt affection like this. We are both delighted; laughing, I hug him back.
“You’re pleased then. There are terms you know. This isn’t an ‘escape’ as such.”
Eyes lock on mine, flicker, then he gives me the result of his computation:
“Whatever the terms, it’s worth it.”
Copyright Mabh Savage March 2013