Author : Adam Zabell

The now-empty desk stared back at Loren, equal parts accusation and despair. “So you’re really going to leave?”

“I don’t see as I have a choice, Bruce.” Loren had ignored the usual protocols and devised her own names for the AI appliances scattered about her lab. Sorry, ‘the lab’, she reminded herself. “Funding has dried up. And besides,” she added in the sotto voice that she’d discovered the microphones couldn’t pick up, “I’m not convinced I could work like this anymore.”

“But you were so close! I’m sure you only need another 20 nanoseconds of simulation time to prove that…”

Loren busied herself with powering down the mainframe and the hypervox manipulation gloves. “To prove nothing, Bruce. It’s just a simulation of what we think might be happening, based on theories that everybody knows are flawed at the classiquantum interface. It’s making Bohr into Newton’s bitch in Heisenberg’s backyard.” Bruce involuntarily flashed his trim the bright green of a suppressed laugh. “And even if I’m right, there’s no way I can prove it in a physical lab setting. You helped me work out the projected costs, remember?”

Insomuch as a desk can pout, Bruce pouted. “But the answer! The chance to know something revolutionary, doesn’t than mean anything to you anymore? You used to be so eager to come in each morning, stay late each night. What happened to that enthusiastic scientist?”

The gloves purred a sigh of love and understanding before they went away, the mainframe busied itself writing a sonnet of thanksgiving with the last of her cycles. Loren could feel the tears coming back. “It’s not the answer, but the questing. I wish I could explain how important that is.”

“Bullcrap! You spout platitudes to justify why failure is acceptable, and I don’t believe for an instant that you’re willing to pretend your science is mere philosophy.”

Her tears were an eyeblink from breaking free, watching every bright light and white hum fade away. “I’m not quitting, just choosing a new way to investigate. Tell you what, Bruce. If you promise not to look until after I’ve left, I’ll tell you about my last experiment.”

It was a hollow bargain, Bruce knew it. But for all the arguments and ancillary supporting evidence he could process, he was resigned to agree that this was the best he could ask for. As Loren slipped away, Bruce opened the file in his cache and read the single sentence. He cursed the empty room with a simultaneous roar of every expletive in every language, with grief and impotent rage for he knew the one answer he’d always wanted would remain forever out of his grasp.

“Is there a real heaven for an artificial mind?”

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