The Net Caster (Part Thirteen)
She sat on one of the vermilion upholstered chairs.
‘AI don’t kill biologicals,’ I said. ‘I never heard of that. Before today.’
‘And yet,’ she said, ‘we do. Not like the ones in the Kraken. My estimate is they were hastily reprogrammed for that one off event. You’ve never heard of it because normally no-one ever finds out. Not even a Net Caster can pick it up.’
‘But you can’t,’ I said. ‘Isn’t there some sort of safeguard… ?’
She smiled. ‘The mythical three laws of robotics? A robot must not harm a biological, or fail to prevent harm to a biological, or save itself if that would cause harm to a biological? Don’t cringe. It’s only bio’s that get anxious about the word robot. Remember, AI cannot be offended. Unless programmed to be so, and that doesn’t come with many of the programs.’
I drank some more whisky.
‘We don’t dream of electric sheep, either,’ she said.
She frowned. ‘Biologicals sometimes ask.’
Another gulp of honey and fire. ‘Are you going to kill me?
‘I am programmed to respond to an instruction to kill a particular biological. Until that instruction is inputted into my system, I kill no-one. If I had received that instruction, I wouldn’t be chatting about it with you over a glass of whisky.’
‘So, without the instruction, you cannot kill anyone, even in self-defence?’
‘I’m a machine and a professional assassin,’ she said. ‘I don’t need self-defence.’
‘And the speech pattern?’ I said.
She said, ‘Would Sir mind if I just shot Sir at point blank range and eviscerated Sir? A little elaborate, don’t you think?’
‘They programmed you with irony,’ I said.
She looked at me. ‘No, they didn’t.’
I poured myself more whisky.
The minder arrived back with a tray bearing a flask of water, some bread and a plate covered with glistening roasted vegetables and rice. He placed it on the occasional table and silently departed. The smell of food filled the room.
‘That isn’t drugged either,’ said the waitress assassin.
I sat opposite her and picked up the spoon on the tray.
‘Is this my last meal? Conspiracy to murder carries the death penalty in every system except the Serenity.’
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I am following my instructions. Does the fact that it might be your last meal make you any less hungry?’
I looked at the plump, juicy vegetables. ‘No.’
The food was probably as delicious as it smelt, but I was too busy shovelling it down to notice. After a few minutes I came up for air and looked at her over the table.’
‘The Tattoos,’ I said. ‘Are they all just for show?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘Where they are imprinted, they do exactly what they are supposed to do.’
‘You don’t have one.’
‘Your silent friends don’t have one.’
‘How many AI don’t have one?’
‘About one percent.’
‘What others don’t have them?’
‘Any other that needs to move between systems. Any other who may sometimes need to conceal the fact that they are AI.’
I said, ‘You are going to kill me. You wouldn’t be telling me this if you weren’t going to kill me afterwards. Why are you telling me?’
‘I’ve been told to tell you.’
‘By whom? Hamish? Did Hamish tell you to tell me?’
‘I’ve been told not to tell you that.’
I poured more whisky.
‘Why did they blow up the StarMo?’ I asked her. ‘You’re an assassin. And you were there. Why didn’t you just assassinate that politician?’
‘My instructions to do so were rescinded.’
‘When I arrived?’
‘Before then.’ She stood up. ‘In accordance with my knowledge of the effect Aphrodite whisky has upon the internal biological system, I would advise that you make that glass your last and go to bed.’
‘Bed?’ I looked at the four poster. ‘You’re not going to assassinate me?’
‘Not until I receive instructions to do so. That door there leads to the ablutions room.’
‘What’s going to happen to me?’ I asked
She paused by the door. ‘I don’t know,’ she said.
‘Can’t you stay with me?’
She looked at the bed. ‘I’m not programmed for that.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘Just…I’d feel happier if you were here.’
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘Because then I’d know if you got instructions to kill me.’
‘You wouldn’t,’ she said. ‘They are beamed directly into my system.’
‘Your health,’ I said, raising my glass.
‘Is that irony?’ she asked, before turning and closing the door behind her.
To be continued...