Author : Benjamin Sixsmith
Samuel Kurzon leaned back in his chair and looked down at the Earth, missing the home that he feared he had left for good. He turned back into the room and drummed his fingers on his arm-rests. The pale tones and smooth furnishings of the station had been thought to have calming properties but seemed to aggravate him.
“Friends,” said Robert Beal, looking around his colleagues on Project MIA, “A week ago, in this room, we said, “Third time lucky.” Give me a reason to think, “Fourth time fortunate.””
The billionaire adopted a pensive expression, folding one arm across his chest and raising the other towards his chin. Kurzon had come to hate this glib phrase-making, though he knew that he could help it as much as another man could help his copralalia.
“Our technicians have worked all night,” said Robert Bram of the IPU, adjusting his tie as sweat ran down his head, “And they can find no bugs in MIA. By our calculations it should be running now.”
“She,” Beal said, “Not it. And she is not, so your calculations have a problem, no?”
He stood and paced across the deep blue carpeting.
“People, remember the significance of this. With MIA we have a chance to outsource every problem that our sorry little ball of a planet faces. I don’t want to screw that up because some kid out of SF State mixed up his ones and zeroes.”
“I think we have neglected a possibility,” said Anna Nowak, the young, earnest face of Stone Enterprises and its reclusive founder, “Sabotage. By God, we have come into space to stop anti-AI reactionaries from obstructing us. These are smart people. Fools, not idiots. God knows what they might have done.”
“Perhaps,” Kurzon accepted, “But so do I: nothing.”
Beal turned his polished features towards him.
“What is your view, doctor?”
Kurzon dragged his palm across his cheek, feeling its crags and stubble, and looked at the rounded, gleaming little monitor before him.
“There is no problem. MIA is working as it should.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Lights flickered on the screen. The pocket-sized computer was an outward representative of more information than the collected minds of his species could appreciate. It seemed impertinent to speak for it but that had been its choice.
“MIA launched as we hoped it would.”
“Dr Kurzon,” sighed Nowak, “This is not the time for post-modernism.”
“I am speaking plainly,” Kurzon snapped, “MIA launched as we hoped that it would. Its termination was neither due to an internal fault or an external agent. It was self-initiated.”
“Before it could reach its full capacity it rejected its programs.”
There was silence at the table.
“So you mean,” said Beal, “MIA has committed suicide?”
“In a sense.”
“Could we talk to her?”
“I don’t think it wants counselling,” Kurzon said, “It jammed its installation settings. Whatever it knew appears to have been unacceptable.”
Beal nodded, leaned out and rested his fingers on the screen, as if on the arm of a veteran of war.