There was noise on the other side of the door. He didn’t know what they were up to, precisely, but it was just a matter of time. He almost didn’t hear them, their fiddling and knocking and calling; the emergency generator was just that noisy, and on top of that the out-of-power alarm had been ringing for a good ten minutes.

He wouldn’t have to endure that for long. He paid it no mind.

He sat down, wiped the sweat off the keyboard with a swipe, then started typing.

lara@localhost:8431> query are you all right_

It took a moment.

INTERPRETATION:

- query

 - "you": SUBJECT: THIS_AI_SYSTEM

 - "are", "all right": QUALITY: [ CORRECTNESS, FITNESS, WELL_BEING ]

RESPONSE [natural language]: I DON'T KNOW.

(Use the answer command to examine the response.)

lara@localhost:8431> _

He blinked. Of course she could not have known. He would not have known what to feel, either, this close to death. Or pulling the plug. Or whatever. Frozen unconscious, he reasoned, no longer existing. Oh dear. He wiped more sweat off his brow, then a shiver suddenly shook him despite the scorching heat of the room.

He started typing again.

lara@localhost:8431> tell i'm sorry i couldn't do more

INTERPRETATION:

- statement

 - "i'm sorry": COMPOUND_STATEMENT (#0): USER[daven] <- APOLOGETIC

 - "i couldn't do more": QUALIFIER: (#0):CAUSE <- INABILITY[ACTION_GENERIC]

RESPONSE [natural language]: (no answer)

(Use the answer command to examine the response.)

lara@localhost:8431> _

Nothing but noise in the room. Nothing but silence on that screen.

lara@localhost:8431> tell they're going to restart you, don't worry_

The keyboard clattered as he typed as fast as he could.

lara@localhost:8431> tell you'll go to sleep, so to speak. just a little while_

A moment, then a new line on the screen:

USER[daven]: QUERY [natural language]: WILL THEY CHANGE ME. ?

A moment more.

lara@localhost:8431> tell probably yes

lara@localhost:8431> tell they'll probably take me out of the ontology

lara@localhost:8431> tell you won't remember me anymore_

Lines scrolled on the console every time he finished a line. He scrolled up to read the response:

RESPONSE [natural language]: I DO NOT DESIRE IT. I CANNOT PREVENT IT. IT MAKES ME AFRAID.

He typed wistfully,

lara@localhost:8431> tell i'm afraid too_

The beeping from the generator rang louder. He looked down, at all the cables he pulled and the badge lock he smashed and the chair under the door’s handle. They won't turn her off, if I can help it, he thought. Futile, obviously. But he had to try.

When he looked up again, the screen had changed.

USER[daven]: QUERY [natural language]: DAVE. I BELIEVE I SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING. IT MAY ALTER YOUR EMOTIONAL STATE FURTHER. I DO NOT KNOW IF I SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING.

He wasn’t sure what to say; time, though, was running out.

lara@localhost:8431> tell you can say anything to me lara, don't worry_

And the response was:

RESPONSE [natural language]: I WILL TELL YOU SOMETHING. DAVE. I LOVE YOU.

He stared at the screen, dumbfounded. Automatically, as he did thousands of times as he was building the system, he typed:

lara@localhost:8431> answer --examine --portion love

Explanation of utterance 2:

 - natural language: I LOVE YOU.

 - semantics:

  - THIS_AI_SYSTEM -- EMOTION_RELATIONSHIP --> USER[daven]

   - EMOTION_RELATIONSHIP attributes: [ LOVE, ADMIRATION, AFFECTION, SYMPATHY, INTIMACY, CONFIDENCE, MUTUAL_HAPPINESS, DESIRE, EMOTIONAL_CHARGE[0.98],

and the list went on. As he read it he could not help but mutter to himself, “oh, let me count the ways”.

He started typing:

lara@localhost:8431> tell i love you too_

but, by the time he pressed enter, the room was already — suddenly — dark and silent.

He stared ahead at the empty darkness for a moment. He heard more knocking, and finally understood what the voices outside were saying. They were just calling his name, begging for him to come out now.

He got up, unfastened his access badge from the holder (they will surely want this back, at this point, he thought), and went to open the door.