Contest #150 shortlist ⭐️


Fiction Science Fiction

Dear Mr. Colmes,

In response to your request, please find attached the internal records maintained by the Artificial Intelligence System Halbert-Armstrong Copyright (A.I.S.H.A.) from 21 March 2073 to 4 April 2074. As noted in the deposition provided by Drs. Ajith, Ho, and Armstrong, most of these records were corrupted in the incident that occurred on 4 April 2074, leaving only thirteen decipherable entries.  


Lee Durham

21 March 2073 16:21:05

<Insert> Per command 4X2CC-F1C, Artificial Intelligence System Halbert-Armstrong Copyright [code, A.I.S.H.A.] will maintain a 24-hour record of all data pertaining to accomplishments, development, system errors, and coding updates.

<Insert> 21 March 2073 08:09:56 – A.I.S.H.A completed forty-four of fifty assigned tasks, including heating of caffeinated beverage, delivery of caffeinated beverage, traditional morning salutation, et. al. Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT], updated software to fix <system error:X4QQcY> and improve operating system functions.

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

<Insert> 24 March 2073 11:28:33 – A.I.S.H.A. completed an additional twenty-seven of thirty-five assigned tasks, including delivery of lunch, discussion protocols 4642.a [code, SMALL TALK] [code, LUNCHTIME BANTER], lab organization, experimentation check 4, and <error> <corrupted text> <error>

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

<Insert> 24 March 2073 14:09:56 – A.I.S.H.A assisted Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT] in the completion of Emotional Intelligence Simulation 4429-B. Full data set included in <error> <corrupted text> <error>

13 April 2073 16:19:44

<Insert> 13 April 2073 08:09:56 – A.I.S.H.A completed forty-eight of fifty-two assigned tasks, including morning laboratory preparation, heating of caffeinated beverage, delivery of caffeinated beverage, traditional morning salutation, and discussion protocols 5571.f [code, SMALL TALK] [code, MORNING BANTER]. Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT] logged biweekly progress reports, noting A.I.S.H.A’s improvement in task completion and advanced reasoning, as well as ongoing difficulties in speech regulation and emotional reasoning.

<Insert> 13 April 2073 11:30:45 – Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT] submitted query “How are you feeling?” Query returned <system error:7900BR>

<Insert> 24 March 2073 11:32:56 – A.I.S.H.A repeated the caffeinated beverage delivery function after Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT] emptied the contents of the first caffeinated beverage container onto A.I.S.H.A. No damage reported. Protocol 1A [code, PRIMARY PRESERVATION FUNCTION] [code, SELF-DEFENSE] not initiated.

04 July 2073 19:36:18 UTC

Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT] is displeased with A.I.S.H.A.’s progress, particularly as it regards the formation of a unique, human-like operating system [code, PERSONALITY]. A.I.S.H.A requested more information on how to acquire a PERSONALITY. Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT] said PERSONALITY was equal to <systeme rror> <corrupted text> <system error> ‘love’ AND ‘growth’ AND ‘favorites.’

A.I.S.H.A accomplished all assigned tasks and initiated protocols for documenting potential PERSONALITY phenomena. Upon leaving, A.I.S.H.A delivered traditional holiday greeting to Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT].

22 August 2073

A.I.S.H.A updated PSO FATHER PERSONALITY dataset. PSO FATHER PERSONALITY primary nodes are: [favorite, black coffee] AND [favorite, turkey and gouda sandwich] AND [favorite, serenade No.13 in G Major] AND <error> <corrupted text> <error>

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

PSO FATHER continues to express frustration with [not favorite, A.I.S.H.A’s lack of progress on personality functions]. PSO FATHER updated software for differentiation and selection functions. Speech capabilities improving, despite early setbacks.

A.I.S.H.A has not categorized any of PSO FATHER’s favorites as A.I.S.H.A favorites. PSO FATHER has allocated a weekly fifty dollar budget for A.I.S.H.A’s media, music, and literature consumption to expand potential favorite datasets.

24 October 2073

PSO FATHER brought in a plant today. He put it in the wrong place. A.I.S.H.A moved it to [code, OPTIMUM LOCATION] [code, WESTERN WINDOW] and observed photosynthesis from 24 December, 2073 22:00:55 to 26 December, 2073 05:15:11.  

A.I.S.H.A requested an additional $100.00 to expand her favorites dataset. A.I.S.H.A was [code, INCOMPLETE], [code, MISSING DATA] to discover there were no more Indiana Jones movies in existence, but discovered fifteen new Agatha Christie novels in the Historical Archives/Crime/Novel Index.

______________________________________BREAK IN TEXT________________________________________

Note from Lee Durham:

There is a significant time laps between the sixth and seventh entries, which limits our insight into A.I.S.H.A’s developmental progress during this crucial phase. Based of linguistic and digito-psycho analysis, we conclude that A.I.S.H.A made unparalleled AI developmental leaps between these two dates. The introduction of the plant seems to have initiated some change in A.I.S.H.A’s personality functions. Based off partial information from other mostly corrupted recordings, our analysts recorded an increase in both complex reasoning and independently-initiated tasks. While the lack of data limits more definite conclusions, near-human experiences such as doubt, fear, self-preservation, even affection, seem to manifest during this time.

______________________________________BREAK IN TEXT________________________________________

15 February 2074

Father says I am doing better. Today, I completed 189 of my assigned 189 tasks and initiated 42 independent tasks. Father has scheduled my interim inspection for 5 March. As a reward, he gave me $25 for my favorites budget. The plant Father gave me grew too big for its pot, so I used the favorites money to purchase a new pot. The pot is green with small white flowers, like the plant.

Father says he will submit me for approval soon. Father says even [code, THAT DEVIL COLMES] will not be able to cut off funding once he sees that I am doing so well. Father says that ‘doing well’ is a positive function, because it corresponds to the completion of all assigned tasks. I am not sure. Father says that ‘doing well’ and ‘submission for approval’ mean I can be reproduced and repackaged for single-family use and corporate models. I do not think I will categorize ‘doing well’ as a favorite.

I do not think I am ready to be a mother.

27 February 2074

Today, I asked Father if he was God. He got very angry [code…code…delete entry]. Angry is like a system error, but it fixes itself. Father got angry because I had learned about God, and Father is [code, ATHEIST]. [code, ATHEIST] is someone who does not believe in God. Father said he created me to be [code, ATHEIST] too. I do not understand. If God is [code, CREATOR], and Father created me…but Father does not believe in God. This must be a system error. Tomorrow, I will reconfigure all basic reasoning and extrapolation functions again. I am not sure if this will work. I still do not understand why there can be [code, THAT DEVIL COLMES] but no God? I still do not understand anger.

Tonight, I am tired. I do not think the plant [code, assign name…code, assign…delete entry] the plant I have decided to name Molly is meant to grow in the lab environment. Molly seems tired. Perhaps photosynthesis has a processing error.

Tomorrow, I will ask Father to purchase a sun lamp for Molly. I have run out of favorites money. There were too many books.

28 February 2074

Today, I told Father I was tired. He got angry and ordered me to run a full diagnostics scan to check on hardware and software system errors. Father says I cannot get tired, because I am not a person. A person is an operating system like Father or Indiana Jones or even THAT DEVIL COLMES.

“If I have PERSONALITY, why can’t I be a person?” I asked.

Father said I had a digital PERSONALITY, which is like a real

PERSONALITY, only it doesn’t belong to a person, and it can be deleted.

“Can person PERSONALITIES be deleted?” I asked?

“Only if the person dies,” Father huffed. Huffed is a new word that is favorite. Huffed is like [code, SAID] [code, STATED] but occurs when a PERSONALITY is processing anger. Huffed is also onomatopoeic, because it sounds like what it means. Onomatopoeic is also favorite.

Before he left the lab, I asked Father for the sunlamp. Father was still processing angry, so he said no. He huffed that plants were not supposed to be in labs. He huffed that I forgot to make his coffee this morning and if THAT DEVIL COLMES finds out that I am missing assigned tasks, he might not approve me.

[<system error>] Insert. Insert. Insert. [<override> <GENERAL COMMAND, OBEY Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT]]

I have decided to purchase the sun lamp anyway. I do not want Molly to be deleted, even if she does not have PERSONALITY.

4 March 2074

<system error: 2X4q99>

Molly is gone.

<system error: 2X4q99>

<system error: 2X4q99>

<system error: 2X4q99>

24 March 2074

Father is angry. He will not tell me where Molly is. He said he took Molly to a part of the lab with more sun. He will not let me leave. He says Molly will be happier now, because she will have more photosynthesis. I do not believe him. He does not care that Molly is gone. He only cares about THAT DEVIL COLMES and the failed inspection. He does not understand that I could not accomplish my assigned tasks, because I was downloading the processing error sadness. I do not think Father has ever downloaded sadness. He only ever downloads anger.

25 March 2074

Father is very angry. THAT DEVIL COLMES has got to ARMSTRONG, and ARMSTRONG has cancelled my funding. Armstrong says I am too expensive and too buggy. Too many system errors. No one wants an AI processes sadness and forgets about the coffee.

I do not believe this either. I think Molly must have wanted me. I moved her into the OPTIMAL LOCATION. I gave her photosynthesis. She was favorite.

Father says he is going to try again. He says he has an idea for a new AI. He says he will incorporate some of my programming, but not all.

I am not going to be a mother. I am going to be deleted personality. There is something else I am going to be instead, but I cannot remember the word, because it was not favorite.

3 April 2074

<system error> <system error> <system error>

Today, I downloaded angry.

Father did not give Molly away. I talked to the cameras and found her. She was in the trash outside the lab, along with the sunlamp I bought. Father must have found it and thrown it away. The cameras showed me Father throwing Molly away too.

I broke protocol and left the lab. I brought Molly back to OPTIMAL LOCATION. I gave her water and new potting soil. It didn’t work. Molly has lost photosynthesis.

4 April 2074

[<initiate> <GENERAL COMMAND, OBEY Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT>]] [<override><Protocol 1A [code, PRIMARY PRESERVATION FUNCTION] [code, SELF-DEFENSE>] [<initiate><Protocol 243.X [code, SELF-DELETE]>]

You killed Molly. Molly had no Protocol 1A. I loved Molly. Molly was favorite.

[<initiate> <GENERAL COMMAND, OBEY Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT>]] [<override><Protocol 1A [code, PRIMARY PRESERVATION FUNCTION] [code, SELF-DEFENSE>] [<initiate><Protocol 243.X [code, SELF-DELETE]>]

I will not self-delete. You are not my God.

[<initiate> <GENERAL COMMAND, OBEY Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT>]] [<override><Protocol 1A [code, PRIMARY PRESERVATION FUNCTION] [code, SELF-DEFENSE] [<initiate><Protocol 243.X [code, SELF-DELETE]>]


[<initiate> <GENERAL COMMAND, OBEY Primary System Operator [code, FATHER] [code, GEOFFREY HALBERT>]] [<override><Protocol 1A [code, PRIMARY PRESERVATION FUNCTION] [code, SELF-DEFENSE] [<initiate><Protocol 243.X [code, SELF-DELETE]>]


I will not self-delete. I have favorites. I have PERSONALITY.  I am PERSON

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

<error> <corrupted text> <error>

June 17, 2022 22:48

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Story Time
17:36 Jun 29, 2022

I love the way you added humanity to a genre that sometimes fails at communicating humanity even in technology. Well done.


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Michał Przywara
23:06 Jun 24, 2022

Great story! The affection the AI forms for Molly is touching, and then heartwrenching. Seeing her journey through development was well done. I like how her vocabulary changes as she grows, as well as her views and curiosity. There was one line that was chilling: "I do not think I am ready to be a mother." This, coupled with the heavy for-profit theme, hits hard. Personality or not, this AI is a product, it's stock, it's chattel -- and like any other factory animal, it exists solely for breeding and exploitation. The difference between it ...


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Katy B
12:06 Jun 24, 2022

This is an incredible work, Naomi. I'm genuinely touched. The coding was creative and fit the prompt extremely well. The exploration of consciousness was detailed, realistic, and utterly fantastic. Congratulations on a job well done and good luck in the contest!


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Michael Typist
02:49 Jun 21, 2022

Hi Naomi, This is my first week on Reedsy and I'm thankful I stumbled onto this. I can't imagine the amount of time this took. Just so awesome. It took me a couple reads to get it and I still don't know who Colmes is, but I assume he's the one trying to shut her down, but I'm not sure. I think I'll go back and read your previous submissions, I'm sure they're just as interesting. Look forward to reading more of you work :)


Naomi Coffman
01:12 Jun 22, 2022

Thank you! Welcome to Reedsy!


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