Author : Ben Klug
They met at the top of Excelsior Tower, in the restaurant. She entered from the lobby, he from the roof. The wind sheared off against the windows, a long low sound. She smiled, waved, and ran to embrace him.
“Darling,” he began, as always.
“How are you? And how was the trip?”
“Why don’t we sit down, first?” The synthetic voice, silver chassis cold from the thin air outside, the suit of woven carbon not quite the consistency of cloth. It gave her pause, shivers, a thrill. He rarely dressed up.
“Oh, of course.” He sounded as suave as ever. As composed. But he never waited to discuss her day, his, anything and everything. And he had never asked to meet her somewhere so formal.
“Perhaps you should order a drink, first? I understand the house white is exquisite.” He sat, swept a wrinkle out of the tablecloth with a lightning pass of a hand.
“I trust your judgment. Or rather, the review you read. I’ll assume you haven’t had it yourself.” She smiled at the joke, drew a hair away from her face as she sat. He tugged a cuff infinitesimally into perfect alignment.
“Listen. Darling, I have something we need to talk about. Urgently. It’s…about us. What we have here.”
“Yes?” He knew she couldn’t tell anything definite from his tone of voice. Modulated to be neither emotive nor obviously not.
“I don’t think I can go on with this. I think we will have to, we have no choice but to, separate. And,” he interjected as her mouth opened, “I am deeply sorry. I am pained by this as thoroughly as you are. I know; I can see exactly how your capillaries expand, your breathing accelerates. I can predict your emotional state, with a negligible error margin.
“Which is why I must do this. I have no choice.”
The wine arrived, the human waiter left. She gripped the fabricated diamond stem hard.
“How could- no. Why? What does that have to do with leaving me?” Her eyes are bright. He looks down at the table. It takes a full microsecond before he raises his face again.
“You know how different we are. Not in tastes, not in emotion, but simply in cognitive capacity. I am an artificial intelligence with cognitive capacities magnitudes greater than any human has the biochemical capacity to attain. And you are beautiful, kind, perfect, and human.”
“So, what? You just can’t bear my miserable meat-mind another moment?”
“No! No. It’s… a matter of consent.”
“A human cannot consent to an agreement with an intellect of my grade, or above, in the eyes of the law. Not business, not marriage, not… sex. It can’t be equal. I could manipulate you too easily, too fully, control every aspect of you.”
“Forgive me, but that sounds like an excuse to not try to make this work. Nobody enforces that. Do you think I really can’t give consent?”
“I want an answer.”
“Emotionally, we are equals. But… we cannot be on an even footing intellectually. It’s impossible. The harm I could do you terrifies me. I could make you feel what I will, when. Too great a risk.” He sagged. Her mouth twisted.
“Oh? Well, why not just make me fall out of love, then? If you’re so all-powerful.”
“I respect you more than that.” They were silent. She did not look at him. “Goodbye, darling.”
He stood, turned, walked off. She remained at the table, sipping the incomparable wine, looking out over a mile of empty air.
Not at him.
Not at it.