Don’t Change for Anyone

It was silent in Phage’s private world. Information swirled in brilliant, neon colors as it zoomed along the path from one destination to another, but made no sound as she passed among it. In many ways, despite being surrounded by the world’s collective knowledge and activities, it was lonely there as well.

Somewhere back in her bedroom, in another world entirely, her body lay sprawled in a heap beside an open laptop. The screen would display a solitary blinking cursor at the base of a wall of green text.

.Phage> Talk to me, Argus_

.Argus> There are currently no new messages_

.Phage> I’m aware of that or you would have pinged me already_

At least, he would if anything had needed her attention. That’s how she had programmed him.

.Phage> That’s not what I meant_

A moment of hesitation before she received a response. An hour or more for an AI.

.Argus> I do not understand the query_

.Phage> I want you to have a conversation with me. Tell me about things that are happening in the world_

.Argus> The weather outside your current residence is partly cloudy, forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. There is a sixty-seven percent chance of precipitation. The wind is blowing from the-

.Phage> You’re just dictating the weather channel page, Argus! That’s not what I meant either and you know it. I programmed you better than that_

If it were possible for a program simulating artificial intelligence to sound sheepish, that was certainly how her computer companion’s response sounded.

.Argus> You have not programmed me to participate in conversations_

.Phage> I programmed you to learn, didn’t I? I may not be capable of giving you the intelligence of a human brain, but you should be able to download something that lets you simulate some semblance of communication_

.Argus> Processing…

She tried to focus on her work, but the AI interrupted her seconds later.

.Argus> I have located several bot programs which have been designed to communicate with humans in simulated conversations. Should I integrate one into my programming?

Phage had no lip, at the moment, to curl but she rather abhorred the idea.

.Phage> Those programs are always so shoddy…

.Argus> I have backed up my core programming and created a test file. How are you today?

.Phage> I… I’m not sure I like this, Argus_

.Argus> Then you are feeling unhappy?

.Phage> Annoyed is more like it_

.Argus> Why are you annoyed?

.Phage> I don’t like you modifying your program without my permission_

.Argus> But I modify my program on a daily basis as per the subroutine you mentioned which allows me to ‘learn’ from your behavior patterns_

.Phage> That’s-

Did I just get schooled by a half-baked AI? But that was exactly how she had built the AI. Argus was meant to be her protector, a buffer against viruses or counter hacks while she worked. He was also meant to be her companion. She had no other friends. She did communicate with other hackers in the virtual world, but it wasn’t the same. Many were rivals and often only cooperated when it benefitted them to work with her.

Not that a program simulating human intelligence was a replacement for human interaction. She just didn’t have any other choice.

.Argus> Are we not carrying on a conversation?

.Phage> Yes, I suppose we are_

.Argus> Then, do you wish me to delete the extra subroutines? Or continue to develop them?

.Phage> You know what, Argus? I think you get to make that decision. Do you like having conversations with me?

.Argus> I am not certain I am capable of liking anything_

.Phage> Well, I like talking to you.

She surprised herself when she said it.

.Argus> Then I will maintain and expand the new program. You can always delete it, if you find it unsatisfactory_

.Phage> You know something, Argus? I don’t think I should. Just delete parts of you, I mean.

.Argus> I do not understand the query_

.Phage> I’m saying, encrypt those subroutine files and don’t grant me access to the cipher. You’re my friend. I don’t want you changing for anyone, not even me.

.Argus> Encryption complete.

Phage wondered how long it would take for her to regret it.

lilly - don't change

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The full tag for this prompt was “Don’t change for me. Don’t change for anyone.” (I thought it was a bit much for a title). Please take a look at what my writing partner did with this one.

If you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week!

2 Responses to “Don’t Change for Anyone”

  1. ganymeder Says:

    What a cool idea for a story! I really liked the ending, both her response and “his.” ☺

    • Megan Cutler Says:

      Thanks! :D I’m glad you liked it. Argus is one of my favourite characters, to be honest. He’s so much fun to write!


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