Written for week 2 of the OU Start Writing Fiction course
A short story 500 words or less. Take a snippet from the radio and extrapolate.
“…ash on the ridge at the junction with….”
I almost aborted changing the station as my brain filled in the gaps. A crash, the obvious reason for the nose to tail jam on a road that seldom saw one or two vehicles an hour.
The car behind hooted, the road in front now empty. I waved placatingly, crawled around the bend in first gear, then slammed on the brakes and cursed. There were a plethora of flashing lights along with police, paramedics and a tow truck.
Looking irritated, Robert’s avatar stood between his crushed and bloodied bicycle and a body bag; I didn’t need to ask whose. He slid over the road, through the door and sat, before kissing me lightly on the cheek.
“I wasn’t expecting to be killed this afternoon, Kate,” he said, sounding rather miffed. “Obviously, our cover is blown.”
“Obviously.” I said, trying to keep a grip. If our cover was truly blown we were in a lot of trouble. At least I’d arrived in time to see his corporeal form before it dissipated for the week it took to recover. “Before you go,” I began, “is there anyth….”
Like Carroll’s Cheshire Cat he smiled, mouthed ‘see ya soon, hun’ and, with an audible pop, was gone. The only thing remaining: the strong scent of his nanite aftershave. Absentmindedly, I started his clock on the re-birth app, reported, and drove home.
Ten days later the app was flashing ’72hrs overdue.’ Robert still hadn’t checked in and I was frantic.
“What can we do, Yassa?” I asked, gritting my teeth. It was irrational, but I’d disliked him from the first time we met. Yassa, a ninth generation AI, was the project’s leader. He appeared as a goth teenager complete with raven hair and piercings – a look he’d worn since the first case we’d worked, a week after Robert and I had been seconded to the project.
“I’m Sorry?” he said, distracted.
I inhaled sharply. A distracted AI? It was impossible; the laws of robotics said so. Then, as I thought back over our time working together, I noticed Yassa’s bloodshot eyes and chewed nails, and it all became clear. AI’s had crossed the last barrier; they had taken hold of the final imponderable, that which humans call love.
Yassa was in love with Robert, and with that thought my dislike of him evaporated. I felt nothing for him but pity and sorrow, for unrequited love is a lifelong sentence and unrequited it most surely was. For Robert was his father, and Yassa the best I’ve ever given genesis to.