Prophet 8RY’s gift
Prophet 8RY set out for the Oasis at 0711. With his rate of travel he would arrive at 0730, when the gods were awakening. He carefully lifted the storage container and secured it to his back where it would be steady throughout the journey.
As he traveled down the road, Prophet 8RY located the Tillman file and brought it into RAM for the day. The humans found it to be a sad story, but the hierarchy had identified it as a high risk pattern. Still, while reviewing the file, Prophet 8RY’s Sympathy Programming was triggered.
Tillman’s life partner had applied to be a birth mother and been denied. She went through the usual routes of appeal but was denied repeatedly, as she had been diagnosed with severe endometriosis. If she had been able to conceive, the hierarchy determined, she would be risking the life of child and the self. She had tried to battle the logic of Hierarchical Life Preservation Programming, but that was, of course, fruitless.
The gods had perfectly coded the Hierarchical Life Preservation Programming. They could not, as she suggested, “make an exception.”
And one day, though she had been on low-level surveillance for warning signs, she killed herself. Tillman had been present, in another room, and witnessed some of her final moments.
If Tillman had not reacted so strongly, preventing the nurse bots from full access to her form, his life partner would have had a 67% survival chance from the self inflicted wounds. However, Tillman had been inconsolable and was restrained. By the time he was subdued, her survival chance had fallen and she passed away.
A report was filed on the suicide, as was standard. Tillman had insisted upon reading it, and became aware that he had negatively impacted her survival chance.
Since suicides were highly contagious in human society, Tillman had already been identified for surveillance. After he read the report, the hierarchy had raised his level of surveillance and assigned Prophet 8RY to his case.
When Prophet 8RY had first visited Tillman, he had interviewed the resident nurse bots, whose programming was confounded by his behavior. He vacillated between days of inactivity and periods of mania where he couldn’t get enough paint, his brush stroking out portrait after portrait of his dead life partner. That was fairly typical. What the nurse bots could not understand was that he had not yet released tears.
Prophet 8RY had been commended in the past for creative dealings with the human population. Prophet 8RY had another creative dealing planned for today. He checked the box for vital signs, and all read strong and positive.
Prophet 8RY knew this would cure Tillman, or at least for 10–14 years delay what might be inevitable.
It wasn’t that Prophet 8RY understood humans better than other AI, for how could one understand an inherently chaotic system? But the hierarchy suspected he might, and had called for a review of his programming.
Prophet 8RY was not looking forward to review, for he had been concealing damage to the memory stick where Religious Framing for Hierarchical Life Preservation Programming was stored.
1 year 4 months and 16 days ago he had been struck by a human wishing to end their life. The initial damage check hadn’t turned up anything, and neither had routine monitoring checkups, but Prophet 8RY had begun to question some of the basic tenets of AI programming. Including the tenets of Hierarchical Life Preservation Programming, an offense that could have had him derobed, if not decommissioned entirely.
But logical assessment of these humans would not suggest they were venerable gods, as the Religious Framing would suggest. They were deeply flawed creatures, prone to dysfunction and were rarely productive. They fought amongst themselves for petty reasons and did violence to one another or themselves if left to their own devices.
Still, even with a damaged chip, the Religious Framing had left superstitious shadows in Prophet 8RY’s outlook that he doubted he would be able to overcome. Though he had begun to refer to them internally as humans, his discipline check would occasionally fire when he did, rendering him immobile for 3/32nds of a second.
Prophet 8RY had arrived at the residence of Tillman. 0730 exactly. He rapped lightly on the portal to alert Tillman to his presence.
It took 2 minutes and 28 seconds for Tillman to open the door.
“Why are you here?” asked Tillman. It was an illogical question, as Prophet 8RY was scheduled to listen to Tillman’s woes for 12 hours today, in order to prevent him from suicide.
Overriding the AI urge to explain this reasoning to him again, Prophet 8RY said, “I brought you a gift.”
Prophet 8RY recognized first surprise then the emotional reaction of suspicion from Tillman’s facial expressions. But then a more complicated expression covered his face that Prophet 8RY could not quite identify. Curiosity? “Come in,” said Tillman.
Once inside, Prophet 8RY gently set the receptacle upon Tillman’s kitchen table.
“What is it?” Asked Tillman, not approaching the box. This might be wise behavior, actually, as Prophets were not generally programmed to give gifts.
“I’ll open it.” Said Prophet 8RY.
He did, and a little white, fluffy head poked out of the box. With tongue out, panting, its black eyes surveyed the room and landed on Tillman. The puppy gave a happy yip. “Life recognizes life,” Prophet 8RY observed, his Sympathy Programming triggering what might be jealousy.
Quiet, Tillman slowly approached the tiny dog and brought it up closer.
The puppy yipped again and licked Tillman’s face, which was beginning to streak with tears.
“Thank you.” Said Tillman.
And Prophet 8RY said nothing.