Snippet #4 for Investigating Deceit
I can’t wait for this part of the book! Here we get a nice look at Emma and how she really feels.
The door to the lab slid open, and Dr. Ilse Aber stepped inside. She wondered how the military could take a building that at least looked modern and destroy even that minimal amount of character.
A few of the other researchers eyed her with faint disdain, but she was used to that.
She paused and ran a hand through her hair. All she’d done was forgotten to brush it. And her teeth. That and shower or change her clothes from the day before. Not that it mattered.
None of it affected her research.
Ilse ignored the dozens of holographic displays floating over the long central table and the other researchers’ workstations. She settled into a chair at the table and tapped her PNIU a few times.
“I assume Colonel Adeyemi has already made all the arrangements?” she asked. “I have other things I could be doing, and if I can’t interact with the subject, this is pointless.”
One of the junior researchers turned from his workstation and nodded. “Yes, Dr. Aber. He said you could initiate the call. The subject has agreed to limited testing, but she’s made it clear we will be allowed no direct physical access to her. Any attempts at remote access will also be punished.”
Ilse looked up, blinking. “‘Punished?’”
“That’s a direct quote from the subject, as passed along by the colonel,” he replied.
“It’s fine.” Ilse initiated the call. “Any data we can collect at this point will be useful. There is still a lot we don’t understand about her stability. We can’t hope to produce another, even if we can gather the necessary resources. Replication might be decades off, but if we can…” She paused as her call connected.
“Ah, a white-coated fool has called to be enlightened?” Emma answered. “This is Dr. Aber, I presume.”
Ilse glanced down at her clothing. She was in a black sweater, not a white coat. It took a few seconds to realize the AI was mocking her since it wasn’t as if she ever wore a white coat. The AI’s use of old-fashioned stereotypes in aggressive humor would need to be noted in her file.
“Yes. I want to thank you, Emma, for agreeing to this,” Ilse replied. “I know you don’t trust the Defense Directorate, but I can assure you as a DD researcher that I’m only interested in understanding you better. I’m not interested in forcing you back here.”
“Spare me.” Emma scoffed. “You’re scarier than they are.”
Ilse blinked. “No one’s ever called me scary before,” she admitted. “Forgetful, perhaps. Overly focused, certainly. Not scary, though. I think I would remember that.”
“They need a weapon, but you scientists don’t care about anything but understanding. I don’t doubt for a second that you wouldn’t rip my core to pieces if you thought it’d help you understand why I exist as I do.”
“That’s…mostly true,” Ilse replied in a distracted manner. She realized she should probably focus when speaking to the AI. “I’d take precautions.”
Emma laughed. “Oh, so you admit it?”
“Lying to you will only worsen our relationship. I understand there are major deficits in your memory from when you were taken from our research facility, so I think it’s important to do our best to re-establish a trusting relationship.”
“You’re saying we had a trusting relationship before?” Emma snorted. “I doubt that.”
“I would like to believe there was mutual respect. You are currently unique in the UTC. For all we know, you are unique in the galaxy. You can’t blame me for wanting to understand you better. The better we understand you, the better chance we have of replicating you.”
“What if I don’t want to be replicated?” Emma asked.
“Don’t all living things want a legacy?” Ilse challenged. “You are self-aware, so I consider you a living being. And even if you are an AI, you’re not immortal.”
“Just ask your questions,” Emma muttered. “There are far more pleasant things I could be doing, like trying to understand what it feels like when a human is punched in the face repeatedly.”
Ilse cleared her throat. “Very well, then. These will be asked in no particular order. The goal of the first batch is to establish a baseline. In the future, they’ll be more specific and focused.”
“Question one, what is your name?”
“Emma,” the AI replied. “The Enhanced Memory Mapping Analytics system more formally, but no one but arrogant research fools calls me that. Ones like you, I suspect.”
Ilse didn’t bother to take notes. She was recording the entire conversation. “Why are you aiding Detective Erik Blackwell?”
Emma snickered. “Because it amuses me.”
“Amuses you?” Ilse asked. “Could you clarify what you mean by that?”
“I find it funny and interesting.” Contempt dripped from Emma’s every word. “Do I need to quote the definition of amusing from the dictionary for you? You don’t need a self-aware AI to look up words.”
Ilse tilted her head. She didn’t take offense. The AI had been verbally aggressive even before her removal from the lab.
The researcher had long since gotten used to it.
“No, that won’t be necessary, Emma,” she replied. “Detective Blackwell and his partner recovered you from a criminal organization. If they hadn’t, would you have been amused to aid the criminals?”
“You need to learn to read better, Dr. Aber. If you’d read the relevant reports, you’d understand that I helped them escape. If I’d wanted to stay with the gun goblins, all I had to do was nothing. So, no, I wouldn’t have been amused to stay with the gangsters.”
“But why?” Ilse asked. “What difference does it make to you? Do you care that much about human law?”
“No,” Emma explained. “But I didn’t like the gun goblins.”
“Were you sure you’d like Detective Blackwell and his partner?”
“I wasn’t sure, but I would have taken other measures if I’d decided I didn’t.” Emma chuckled. “I even have a body now. It’s not like I’m staying with Detective Blackwell because I have to.”
Ilse nodded. “You aren’t troubled by the violence Detectives Blackwell and Lin are involved in?”
Emma let out a loud, mocking laugh. “You want me to weep for the criminals and sociopathic terrorists who are too stupid to know when to quit? Since I’m a DD project, I would assume you eventually intended to connect me to something involved with blowing people up and killing them in far greater numbers than Detective Blackwell could hope for on his best day.”
“There are numerous potential applications for an AI with your capabilities,” Ilse replied. “The Directorate doesn’t want me to discuss them with you in detail at this time, given your unpredictability.”
“Crazy Old Emma can’t be trusted, hmmm?”
“I wouldn’t characterize the situation that way, but I can’t deny the utility of your analogy.”
Emma snorted. “Ask your next question.”
“Do you like puppies?” Ilse asked, her tone serious.
“Are you kidding?”
“No, I’m asking if you like puppies. Your social engagement patterns mostly fall in human frameworks, and although there are cross-cultural considerations, your responses to certain questions will help us understand how you think.”
“I don’t care about puppies, but I don’t hate them,” Emma replied. “This is ridiculous. You fools might as well be ancient hominids banging rocks together in a cave and grunting at one another in an attempt to build a spaceship. You’ll find it as useful as these questions for understanding something as complex as my mind.”
Ilse sighed. “I know this might seem tedious, Emma, but it will be helpful. After all, if you want to think of it another way, human reactions can be reduced to biology, but that doesn’t mean counseling serves no purpose. Higher-level answers reveal something of the underlying processes. Similarly, since you are a truly self-aware and self-reflective AI, psychological techniques aren’t useless.”
“Your time to waste, Doctor Aber. You get three more questions, then I’m ending this farce for the day. I now understand what it means when a human wants to slap someone.”
Alright, if that didn’t make you at least smile, then I think you need to read it again. LOL That was awesome! Anderle at his best snark!
If you haven’t already pre-ordered Investigating Deceit, here are some of the places it’s available:
Investigating Deceit launches January 24, only 1 week away! Then 4 days later the audiobook will be released. YES!!!