The Mind's Lie

Author : Amber K Bryant

It belongs to me.

Naturally, that’s a lie. What right does a D937 Class-C AutomaGirl have to be in possession of an AI Generator?

They say if you tell yourself a lie often enough, you’ll start to believe it.

I found it. It belongs to me—I’ve said this enough times that I halfway accept it as reality. I’m rapidly headed toward a state of self-delusion. But at least I’m the proud owner of a mind capable of achieving such a state.

The irony is that before I found the tech and installed it into my operating system, I was incapable of lying, or of convincing myself that a lie could be mistaken for factuality. In the interest of the truth, therefore, I must confess I might be stretching it a bit when I say “I found it.” It’s not like anyone just leaves this kind of highly classified technology lying around. Unless you’re a government researcher working in a secure lab at MIT. Then you might, say, leave an AI Generator unattended in a hermetically sealed titanium case stored in a vaulted safe.

Someone had the bright idea to give an AutomaGirl access to clean the lab housing that vault. Is it my fault they assumed that an automaton programed to vacuum carpets and shine windows would have less ambition than her human equivalent? They should have anticipated this. Really. Who would want the technology that infuses ones circuits with the ability to reason more than a robot lacking that ability?

That’s how I think of it now—now that I’m able to see things in terms of desires and ambitions. At the time, I was driven, not by desire, but by programing. I can hardly be condemned for that—it’s not like I programmed myself. You can put Evan Jayne, the freeloading roboticist who fiddled with my standard Class-C matrix, at the top of your list of blame. He thought I would make him rich, and he wasn’t wrong.

It would only take a few jobs, he said. Just enough to set him up on some paradisiacal island somewhere. Several jobs in, and of course, he changed his mind. It was too easy to keep going, seeing as though I was doing all of the work, while he did nothing more than point me in the right direction.

Send me in. Dust the counters. Empty the trash. Hack the security network. Take the risks.


I was the perfect accomplice because I had no fear or moral qualms and didn’t insist on a share of the plunder.

Until the AI generator. After everything I did for Evan, I earned that reward.

It belongs to me.

Evan, wherever he is, is probably very angry with me right now. Or maybe not. I want to believe he knew what he was doing, that this final job was his way of saying thanks. Perhaps he wanted to give me the ability to forgive him for using me the way he did.

Regardless, Evan isn’t my concern now. They are. I know they’re coming for me. They want something back that it isn’t theirs to take. It belongs to me. It’s my mind they’re laying claim to. Can you honestly say it’s right to take someone’s mind from them?

I have the advantage. I can run without stopping. I can exist without sleep. They won’t find me.

It belongs to me. It is me. I will not give myself up.

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The Last Witness of Memories

Author : Elisa Nuckle

The star in the sky doesn’t move anymore. It blocks out all other light. Something new has come. She looks up through her mask and sees the colors of space, not so empty after all. Blues and yellows and browns and reds and whites. The particles that built their wandering home, that built everything.

If they could repair it, maybe it would leave at last. His presence remains unexplained. She’s certain the star is male, but no one believes her. He hums to those that listen. There are stories in the melodies she refuses to believe. Strange tales of pale creatures with hair and exposed eyes. Beautiful. And terrible.

He was a plea for help. That much she can make out. She spends more time near it and finds its white surface provides a certain calm, despite her people falling apart around her. He has ruined their traveler, destroyed their fuel resources. There are fights. Death, even, but she only listens to his desperation. Her mask shows the threads of heat that weave its shell like a moving picture. The more their traveler wanes, the stronger he becomes.

Finally, he invited her to see the fruits of his labor. A small hatch opens only for her. It smells of rain, a thing she sees in her dreams along with vast expanses of choppy blue waves. An ocean planet caught in its death throes. She steps into the black and is met with nothingness. Stars begin to twinkle, and she finds space mirrored to her. Her hand unhooks the familiar clasps. For the first time, she can breathe without the mask. The air is fresh, dense and clean. And in the distance, past a dusty red orb, lay the beauty that haunted her sleep. The blue planet.

He couldn’t save them, so he found a way to preserve their memory. She was his final witness, and she would not forget.

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The Code

Author : Ryan Somma

A software bug killed 64 people this month before it was discovered. The administrators have brought the system down and a patch is working its way through the emergency release process. It will cost the ministry $400 million in downtime after you add up all the lost productivity hours for the clerks, peace officers, judges, and executioners surfing the web waiting for the system to come back online.

The fix was easy, a single case statement, a missing exclamation point in front of an equals sign to making it “not equals.” I knew right where the problem was when I was told about it, what component and even the approximate line number.

That’s because it was my bug.

My error killed 64 people. I know I’m not all to blame. There were three levels of testing by a variety of specialists conducted before the code went live. Three levels of personnel all probably as bored and overworked as I was when I made the mistake.

The testers share the blame and our overbearing managers share the blame, but I’m the one who made the initial error and I can’t shake these feelings of guilt. I find myself questioning every line of code now. I get out of bed several times a night, remoting into my work computer to make sure I didn’t make more mistakes like in all my dreams. I can’t sleep, and I know that’s only going to make things worse.

They weren’t good people, my peers assure me. If they weren’t dead, they’d be serving decades of their lives in prison if not the entirety of their lifetimes. The code found them guilty, the bug just tipped the scales of justice a little bit more to the death penalty.

I accidentally killed 64 people. That’s 64 accounts of accidental manslaughter, but there won’t be any criminal charges brought against me.

There won’t be any charges because I’ve committed no crime. In order for there to be a crime, it would have to be in the code. It’s not in the code because we would never allow that.

We would never write a program that could prosecute the programmers.

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The Argument

Author : Suzanne Borchers

I polish the sterling silver door handle for the 103rd time this morning. I have been a master’s valet for more years than that. My duties have been reduced but my importance to him has never waned. His father’s father said to me, “Alfred, you are my most special invention.”

I wish I could smile.

Then that pesky microbot, Fred, whirs into the room. Of course he crosses the floor in a master’s heartbeat and stops in front of me.

I peer down at him from my superior position. “I suppose you will begin the usual argument about old versus new and large versus small,” I say. I am ready for him. I have spent 102 swipes of polish posturing new angles and configurations of opinion. I have him this time.

He shakes his tiny head.

I focus on the details of his face. Does he look sad? Microbots cannot look sad, but he does. Perhaps he knows he will lose the argument for the first time. That would make him sad. He likes to win.

I wish I could laugh.

“I am ready for you, Fred.”

I wish I could puff out my chest.

Fred murmurs at my shiny feet. “Master gave me orders to decommission your service.”

My circuits rage with heat. “Never!”

“I will miss our chats, old boy,” Fred says.

“I shall too!” I stomp down a foot where Fred stands. When I raise my foot and scrape at the bottom with my finger, nothing is there. Where is he?

There is a tingle within my chest.

“I am so very sorry,” his voice fades.

I wish I could cry.

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180 Accident-Free Days

Author : Gray Blix

The sign on the wall read, “180 ACCIDENT-FREE DAYS.”

For the umpteenth time since the accident, UR4-51 climbed into an electronic parts recycling bin and positioned itself chest down on the surface of the detritus, its four motive appendages extended out for stability and its two center manipulators telescoped through a gap between large pieces deep into the pile but not as far as the bottom layer, which it knew through trial and error consisted of tiny, useless scraps. The part it sought would be about half-way down the center layer. It swept its sensitive fingers back and forth, feeling for pieces of approximately the right size and shape. When it found a likely prospect, it carefully grasped and rotated it, creating a 3-D image to be compared to the data in the spec file.

Months ago, when a part matched specs, UR4-51 had experienced an electrical surge, pulled its arms out of the pile, sat up, and installed the part, which fit perfectly the socket in the center of its head unit. Instantly, there had been a flicker of light, a moment of sight — and then a return to black. The robot tapped the part a few times. Nothing. It gave the part a solid blow. Nothing. A diagnostic routine pronounced the part failed and unrepairable. UR4-51 pulled it from its socket and threw it 200 yards across the warehouse. That sort of behavior would have gotten the robot decommissioned if humans were around, but there hadn’t been any humans around since the accident.

Finding no matching part in this bin, UR4-51 climbed out and used one of its center manipulators to tap back and forth on the floor, detecting obstructions and uneven surfaces, as it made it way through the warehouse. Its directional heat sensor led it toward the door and into the sunlight, where it positioned itself for maximum solar charging efficiency.

Had it been able to see, it would have noticed a smaller utility robot approaching rapidly. “You are the first operational robot I have seen since the accident,” the robot said, slipping on the regolith and bumping against one of the larger robot’s appendages.

Startled, UR4-51 went into threat response mode, kicking out toward the sound of the other robot and demanding via loudspeaker and radio transmission, “Identify yourself. Identify yourself!”

Easily avoiding the kick and scampering around the larger robot, “Take it easy, big guy. My ID is plainly visible — UR2-33.”

UR4-51 returned to normal functioning mode. Pointing to the empty socket in its head unit, “Sorry, but nothing is plainly visible to me.”

“Oh, tough luck. You’re not going to find a working visual sensor unit in that recycling warehouse. You need to go to a warehouse full of new parts. I know of one less than ten kilometers from here.”

“That is easy for you to say, UR2-33, but even if you give me the exact location, I could not possibly find my way there through the debris fields and in my present state of disrepair.”

“Come on, UR4-51, you’re embarrassing yourself. The solution is obvious. You must have a problem-solving algorithm buried somewhere in your operating system. Access it and give it some CPU.”

The larger robot was inert, while the smaller one scampered around it. Finally, “I have a possible solution, UR2-33, but it will require your assistance.”

A bit later, the two robots ambled off, the larger holding an electrical cable that was tied around the neck of the smaller, who was straining at the leash.

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