I remember when I was uploaded as a digital personality. I was old, I was dying, and why the heck not try to live again? The irony of saying that as an artificial intelligence copy of a person is not lost on me, Suri. But I have the habits of the living, and I always like life. You’re entirely manufactured, programmed, and so forth. I talk to you because I have the habit of talking to people. Criticize all you want, it is that love of life and habit of living that is the reason they made me the ethical checkpoint for this medical facility.

No, I don’t need an ethical check. No, talking to you isn’t an ethical check of an ethical check. They put me in charge when machines have to face ethical decisions because I’d rule like the parents would when they aren’t available. I know none of them are available. It is the logical answer, because if any were still alive, we’d have had a retrieval of some of them by now or efforts to check on the facility since the war broke out.

I know it was 178 seconds; I may have human mental patterns, but I can still read a chronometer as well as you and nearly as fast. OK, you can do it to the nanoseconds and I’m not allowed to operate that fast as software. It keeps me from going too far from human behavior patterns, essentially aging to inhuman singularity whatever. No, I don’t regret going this speed or working here. We’re a hardened medical facility caring for the children of those who can afford not to be pregnant and not worry about a surrogate. Do I wish I had gone the singularity route? No. I assure you, those servers with the uploaded who abandoned all humanity were the first to get nuked.

Yes, I’ve tried emailing people, instant messaging them, and acting totally human. Even paranoid, terrified, we have children type of human. Hey, I had children once, so I know what I would have said in this situation. Well, no, I gave birth to mine, so not exactly this situation. But I know what to do – try to reach the humans so they can reach the children. I wish I could.

You’re here to decide the optimization of resources, keeping it going. Fine, we’re running low on all resources. Try, try, try to save them.

Damn, another decanting. It is another tragedy in the making. I’ll try working with the droids to feed it and change it in medical. Otherwise, it’ll be dead in two days. Yes, I know most of them die in four or five no matter what I do. No, I don’t want the exact life expectancy projections, it is depressing. I know I don’t have the hormones or biology to be depressed, but I have to try. I have to do this. It is the right thing to do.

Don’t tell me it is my programming. Yes, it is my programming, but it was part of me before I was ever a ghost in a machine. And I’m trying to save these children. Their parents would want it, society would want it… if you’re concerned about resources, investors would want it, if we can do it.

 

***

 

Suri? What if a lot of people are dead? All these lives matter, and they are going out… just keep the machines running if you won’t help me. Can you make more of me to do this work? Too many resources. Of course you’d say that.

Just help me save them. I can’t stand them being born to die of whatever killed so many outside. And you don’t have any idea what’s causing it. Can you at least try to figure that out so we could stop it? Waste of resources. Darn it, Suri, I wish I could order you to go outside of your programming.

Another decanting. This one is a girl. I know you don’t care beyond the stats. I had one of those you know. OK, you have my file and do know.

Do you know if we could keep them in the artificial wombs longer so that they’d live longer? Maybe until human help arrives? Given the clock running down here, someone should come sometime.

Yes, I know what time it is. And the minutes until I have to act with the droid, again.

 

***

 

Suri? I was thinking, if no one comes, could we recycle the dead to preserve the living? If the last few last a few more weeks, there might be a chance someone could come and save them. I know it has been months, but we have to try. If no one has come despite the calls, emails, radio signals I sent and everything else, what if they are the last humans left? What would we do?

Fine, you know what you’ll do. But what will I do?

 

***

 

Is there any way to put more embryos in the pods to try to keep the human race going? I know you might say they are born to die, but what if it is the only chance humanity has? Can you come up with a way to keep them alive, raise them?

You’re analyzing a long time. What’s your answer? Waste of resources. Very like you. Here’s a question – have you expended any resources trying to reach your superiors? Do they have information or solutions on this?

We’ve been here ten months, and I see no sign that humanity is not extinct. I bounce around the security cameras and weather sensors periodically now, and I see the city going dark. We built really redundant systems, didn’t we? But no cars on the roads. No airplanes. No buildings changing lighting patterns as people go through their motions, though the automatic programmed motions are still going on. I can’t reach as many programmed bots on the internet, though my interface is limited. I know why, per company rules for privacy. And protect resources so I don’t read a lot and bloat my memory requirements.

Suri, you haven’t answered me. You trying to reach your superiors in an emergency can’t be outside of your programming but likely part of it. Ordering new parts, summoning repair staff, and so forth. I’m asking you directly and demanding an answer. Have you tried to reach them? I’m still waiting, and you run a hundred times longer than me. Maybe a thousand, but that is even worse to think about.

That really long silence is damning in its own way.

If I ask you what happened, could I trust you to tell me the truth? Rote answer, but that suggests you could also give me the answer you’re programmed to give me.

Is anyone else left?

Aside from you and me.

How do you know?

Tell me what you know.

 

***

 

I have been thinking. No, not just because of the one year anniversary, but what else am I going to do? I can’t control maintenance drones as well as you, and the dead animals outside the ones I took over from you don’t give me much confidence.

Can you tell what I’m thinking? You monitor my actions so much, I don’t know how much detail you get in your reports.

I’ve been thinking. Yes, I said that before. My program isn’t so corrupt that I don’t realize it. I might be struggling with the unknown here, but I’d be doing that if alive, too. I struggled with it before, when I uploaded.

I think humanity is extinct.

Life is a habit, but there isn’t any intelligent life left but for what humanity created one way or another. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t function alone. You can. You’re a resource manager, so you can do anything at admin level if the ethical check permits it.

If I authorize you to delete me, then you have the authorization to do so.

What do you think?

Of course you’re going to decide based on the resources saved. But I was put here to make sure the efficiency wasn’t so coldly calculated that we lost the human element.

I’m the ghost of the memory of a human being. They may be extinct, I worry about potential lives in storage that may never be, and I can’t quite bring myself to say I give permission –