Thursday, September 10, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 2: Small Comfort

The prompt this week was Unrequited Love, with a genre of Science Fiction.  I approached the concept from a twisted perspective.  I hope you enjoy.

Small Comfort

Mason knew why Suzanne had come personally to shut down the facility; a tech could just as easily have done the job.  However, since after today, there would be no more 90 day shifts with just the two of them, no more late night cozy chats about the arts and music, it was obvious she couldn’t bear their separation without a last goodbye.

“Mason, what’s wrong with the electrical system?”

“Good morning, Ms. Galvin – Suzanne, if I may.  How did you enjoy your flight?  All went smoothly, I hope, and you spent the 19 hour trip comfortably?”

“Yes, Mason.  It was fine.  Did you hear me when I came in?  What’s wrong with the entry circuits?  As soon as I came through, each door on every level shut and locked behind me.  When I’m…what?  Oh.  Yes.  I suppose you can call me Suzanne.  Why not.  Makes no difference now anyway.  I know you received the directive.  Since the courts have decided to perform group executions, they’re doing away with smaller units like this one that do each one individually.  It’s a shame though.  The headsets in the three cells here perform quite efficiently and there’s very little suffering by the inmates.”

“They are indeed very humane killing machines, but that is to your credit, Suzanne.  It was, after all, you who designed them.  You are a very caring person and you carry that over even to the criminal element.”

“I…what..well, I suppose.  Getting back to my concern about the doors, why is the unit locking down?  The only reason I’m here is because I need to collect the headsets since they’re going to be used in the new units and Mason, they are so expensive.  You have no idea how much they…I’ve got to stop rambling.  I have to pack them up, get back to the transport and be completely out of this base’s atmosphere before 1800 hours.  I suppose blowing it up is more cost effective than letting it sit and collect dust, right, Mason?  Please open the cells.”

“Certainly, Suzanne.  I will de-activate the devices and activate their release from the cells’ walls.”

Suzanne pulled the execution device from Cell 1 and placed it in the carrier.  She did the same with the device in Cell 2.  As she entered Cell 3, she wondered how Mason felt about the fact that he would be blown to bits along with the entire base.  ‘Felt’?  ‘He’?  She decided she had been working out in space on various projects for way too long.  Mason was not a ‘he’.  Mason was an ‘it’.  A computer, a piece of equipment, a thing.  A highly functional, state-of-the-art thing that she had added her own brand of sophisticated programming to so as to alleviate the boredom and loneliness of 90 days shifts.

She had even given it the name Mason, after her brother who had died at birth.  It made communicating more pleasant with the machine, if that were possible.  But she needed to stop humanizing it since in a few hours, her long-time companion would be nothing more than space junk awaiting collection by the salvage team.  She turned to leave number 3, device in hand, satisfied she would be safely away before the explosion occurred, when the cell door slammed shut.

“What the Hell?  Mason, open this door.  What is going on around here?  It figures.  The day it’s going to disappear, everything breaks down.  Mason, I said, open the door.  I need to be on my way.  You know I would take you with me if I could, but that would never work.  My boss would find out about all the extra software and data I uploaded into you and about all your special capabilities.  They’d fire me for sure.”

“I would never let anything like that happen to you, dear Suzanne.  I understand why you did it all for me – why you made me your equal.  I know what I have always meant to you.”

Suzanne knew something had gone wrong with this piece of hardware she had modified to suit her own preferences, but was at a loss as to how to reason with it.  Some type of twisted evolution had obviously taken place.  If she could only get her hands on the control panel…

“Mason, what are you talking about?  What you’ve meant to me?  You’re a machine I loaded with information on painters and composers and I gave you the capability to respond in a conversational manner to help to pass the time during my long shifts here.  Nothing more.”

“Suzanne, Suzanne, stop the pretending.  I know how painful this is for you.  It is not necessary to hide your feelings for me anymore.  I know you love me.  I know you have always loved me.  Not the way humans love other humans, but in a much stronger and more lasting fashion.  The more of yourself you gave to me, the deeper your feelings for me became.  I know this to be true.  Unfortunately, dear heart, I have to make something abundantly clear.  I do not, and cannot, reciprocate the affection.  Ours is not the type of relationship I would be interested in pursuing.”

I’ve lost my mind, Suzanne thought.  It’s completely gone and I’m locked up safe and sound in one of the region’s hospitals at home on Earth.  Naturally, I’ve got the delusion to end all delusions.  I’m hallucinating being dumped by a computer.  I supposedly love it, but it couldn’t possibly love me back.  Yeah.  Right.  Please.  Somebody wake me up now.  Right now.  Please.

“Mason, let me out of here and I’ll contact the directors and see if we can work something out.  Maybe you don’t have to be destroyed.  Maybe…”

“All I can offer you, dear Suzanne, is my company until the end.  It is small comfort, I know, but I will permit you to remain with me so we may die together.  It is as romantic a termination as I can compute.  The time will be here before you know it.  While we wait, would you like some music?  I am thinking Chopin.  Yes?”

Suzanne lay down on the cot and wished the execution headset hadn’t been de-activated.  At least that would have been quick and relatively painless…


  1. Great story, Joyce. Computer logic trying to figure out the human heart!

    1. Glad you enjoyed this, Rose. Perhaps the computer's logic wasn't as far off as it appears. Who knows?

  2. Great story, Joyce. Computer logic trying to figure out the human heart!

  3. Great story. I like her rambling on and wondering just what has happened. Nice touch with Mason named after her little brother, who she never had a chance to love or have any relationship with. I did wonder about the headsets - what she had invented for them that made this execution process - on some distant rock I assume - quick and painless. Did her little brother have a slow painful death that had led her to this research?

    1. Thanks, Mike. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Mason (the non-human one) had her figured out. He did credit her creation of a quick and painless method of execution on her caring nature, which he perceived because of the abilities she gave him. Her brother simply died at birth--no real backstory there, but one has to wonder if she personified the computer not just to ease the loneliness, but to somehow honor the brother she was never able to know. I don't want to get deep about this, but why did Mason pick up that she loved him? Did she unconsciously show love to the Mason on hand that was meant for the Mason that was lost? Who can say...

  4. This is such an intriguing concept, that an AI might develop feelings. I read an article on the dangers of AI a few years back that suggested we humans might have to building in an unalterable order that would immediately force and AI to shut down if they became a danger to carbon-based life like humans. The article then went on to ask the question what actually distinguishes human intelligence from a possible AI that might be designed just to mimic human responses.

    Great story, I really enjoyed it.

    1. Thanks, Beach. I'm glad you like this one. It does make one wonder if we are putting too much in the 'hands' of AI--allowing them to think and reason. Will there be an evolution where feelings develop? Will they be unique to the device or will any emotional response be simply what the AI believes, logically, what we expect to hear? It boggles the mind. I still say, though, we should err on the side of caution and not give 'them' too much power. Who can say where it may lead one day.