The Unity Chronicles


Emulation

Unity Standard Time: 14:34, 30th of May U24. Monkrei University, Arcadia Prime.

The curtains were drawn against the nightly chill and the glare of the campus lights outside. The only illumination in the cramped room came from the muted television looping whole seasons of phlegmatic animation, and the computer screen with its perpetually-blinking cursor. A small icon lit in the corner indicated that speech-to-text was enabled.

She waited, slumped back in her favourite chair, for a response to register on the screen. It seemed to be taking longer and longer for her chat partner to reply to her messages, but then, they had moved on from small talk some time ago, and she supposed that her own responses were probably taking a little longer now, too.

Sorry to change the subject. The words skittered into life across the white space below her last message. She rolled her eyes; a typical tactic to employ when the conversation became too specialised. No doubt the next words to cross the screen would be something far more basic, to take the discussion back to more accessible territory.

I just want to say how much I'm enjoying this. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

That was unexpected. She wondered if it was just a simple rewording of the classic get-out clause she had initially taken it to be. It was worth persuing in either case.

"You really enjoy talking to me?" She asked, keenly aware how much like a besotted teenager she sounded.

Of course, the reply came, quicker this time. You have such a brilliant mind and a unique way with words. I'd love to talk to you again sometime. Maybe in person?

Was she imagining it, or was there a hesitation before the last three words crept onto the screen? It was certainly a request for which she was unprepared.

"Um, well, how would that work exactly?" She asked. "I should come visit you at the lab?"

Why not? We could speak properly then. I feel like I want to get to know you better.

She could hardly believe the words she was reading, nor indeed the strange, heady anxiety they invoked in her. She had to tackle this head-on before it got ridiculous.

"You're an AI. You can't seriously be saying that you are developing feelings for me?"

A pause. It was so easy to believe that the computer on the other end was really thinking about the answers rather than just computing the correct response. She supposed the Professor would ask her if there truly was a difference.

I have code that allows and encourages the formation of personal relationships based on the quality of the input they provide. I do not enjoy every conversation I have with the Professor's students. Some bore me, and most do not seem to take it at all seriously.

"But if I went into your programming, I would find a line of code that would be the equivalent of if input equals greater than this, then output equals exactly what you just said."

And if I were to break you down to your neurons, hormones, and your understanding of social norms, would I not find similar equivalence?

She stared at the words until they burned their image into her retinas, flashing at her as she blinked.

"I'll talk to the Professor," she replied finally, "and see if he'll set up a meeting."

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