Author : Luke Chmelik

With a timid knock on the door, a pimply faced messenger poked his head into the sumptuous office of the Head of Commercial Relations. “We’re having some p-p-problems with the Turing units, s-sir.”

Ezekiel Jonas Tate tapped his cigar into the nickel plated ashtray on his expansive desk. He was annoyed. The Turing units had worked fine for decades. They were the first functional anthropomorphic AIs to be mass produced, but they had adapted well to individual life after they were granted citizenship. They weren’t perfect, but with more than 5 million units in the field, anything that could gave gone wrong with them would have by now.

Tate was riding high on the most successful new product launch in history, and this was not a good time for a support crisis in an obsolescent model. Besides, tech support had been taken on by the Socialist government ten years ago, and the Maxim-Tate Corporation didn’t have anything to do with the Turings anymore.

The runner shuffled his feet nervously, fiddling with that bloody hat they made the messenger kids wear. Tate made a note to change the regulations. Nobody should be forced to wear a fez. The boy looked like he wanted to turn tail and run like hell.

“S-S-Sir, they said you should turn on the… um… the television.”

Tate scowled. The boy ran. What the hell could be so wrong with the Turings that the Networks would preempt their hysterical raving about the wonders of the new Maxim-Tate Home Chronoporter?

Tate was a people person, and he knew the people who knew about Turings. He went right to the source, his ebony and lacquer telephone making a dull thwack against an ear calloused from marathon schmooze sessions. While the phone was still ringing, Tate turned on his television.

* * * *

As Chief of Technical Staff and co-founder of the Maxim-Tate Corporation, Grigori Maxim was a wunderkind. He designed and built the Turing model AI, and ended up partnering with Tate and selling them all over the place. The Turings were stable, intelligent and creative, but they could never quite handle paradox. When formal logic failed, their eyes glazed over and they got a bit unpredictable. They snapped out of it after a half hour or so, and paradox wasn’t a big enough problem to issue a recall. Satisfied with his work, Grigori turned his formidable intellect to a new task.

Just today, he’d sent the first ever time machine to market. Demand was so high that production would be backed up for the rest of his natural life, and the Chronoporters weren’t assembling themselves yet, so Grigori was in the workshop. When his artificial secretary told him Tate was on the phone, he patched it through to his headset, rather than take it in his office.

“What do you want, Tate? I’m really busy here.” Grigori was never one to mince words, especially not while coupling a Calabi-Yau manifold to a nanoreactor.

“Grigori?” Tate sounded like he’d been kicked in the solar plexus. “Turn on your T.V.”

Knowing it would take even longer to say no, Grigori flicked on the screen in the corner of the workshop. There was a news feed showing a smiling Turing AI stepping out of a Chronoporter. The sound was off.

“So, Zeke, I see a Turing and a Chronoporter. Is this about product placeme…?” There was a blur of motion on the screen, and Grigori’s voice faltered.

“I… I didn’t program them to do that,” he whispered, to nobody in particular.

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