The Radio Sang in German
Posted By: Harbringer352<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 June 2010, 4:04 am
He had a symphony of sounds in his office: in the corner, his old-fashioned ham radio sang in German, while the broken fan above his head hummed quietly to itself, and the janitor outside his office whistled some forgotten song. None of it was in tune of course (not even the German singer) and by the time both hands on the clock had struck twelve, the song had ended and the janitor's car was leaving the parking lot. The doctor waited for the next song to start, and when it didn't, he sighed, though he didn't understand why.
He rubbed his temples with shaking fingers.
All the lights were off, aside from his glowing computer screen. His face was traced with sharp, ashen lines while his eyes glimmered like a demon's. He was staring at his computer screen as if willing it to combust. Or do something. Anything at all. Something new. Then with quickness betraying his statue-like façade, he rose from his swivel chair and expertly maneuvered through the room full of boxes and books. He came up to the only window in the room, stretching the length of the wall, and pressed his nose up to the clear glass. He craned his neck to see the starry sky, now thrown into brilliant clarity by the darkened office complex.
He'd never been an avid stargazer. True, as a small child he'd been an immense fan of looking for constellations and the like, but he'd never cared to learn the names or locations. Just the fact they were there, and something may lie beyond them, was what fascinated him.
"Halley," he said aloud, "Why are we here?"
Of course, he'd tested the AI against this philosophical quandary many times before, but she'd never answered to his liking. Behind him his computer screen glowed brighter and brighter, until settling back into the muted hue of milk. "I can't really answer that," replied a feminine voice. "Do you mean in a way that is philosophical or-"
"Tell me why. Why are we here? What purpose do we serve?"
Her voice droned as if she were reciting text. "Humans serve no purpose aside from what they make for themselves."
"And what if they make... nothing?"
"That question does not comply with any of my answers regarding the subject, doctor."
"And that's the problem, isn't it?" he said, more to himself than anything. He leaned on the counter, nearly lying on the cool tile, trying to see the sky better. "We don't even know the question, let alone the answer."
The milky light flickered. "Why did you create me, doctor?" asked Halley.
"I needed answers." The stars were beautiful tonight, somehow. Beautiful in the cold, mystical way that only stars could be. He wondered deeply. "Do you feel homesickness when you look up there?" he asked suddenly. His computer whined in response, as Halley tried to compute an answer.
"I do not, doctor," she said, almost haughtily.
"Nothing at all?" He was nearly whispering now. His eyes were fixated on the sky, nearly like a statue. "I do."
Halley's voice asked again, "Why did you create me, doctor?"
"Wanted to know if I could."
"You have re-created many things. A radio. An engine. Even your own computer. Now you have made an artificial intelligence. Why?"
He smiled slightly. "Find someone to have a good conversation with."
"Why did you create me, doctor? Why does humankind need another entity to share a world with?"
"We want answers," he said dreamily. "It's all we need. To know..."
"To know what, doctor!"
"To know why we're here. To show that we could. To show why."
Halley fell silent. He listened to the dreadful silence of his room, and comprehended loneliness; he felt it, and he hated it. His office, he realized, was so cold and dark. Of course he needed another entity to share it with. But why create one potentially more powerful than he? Why did he feel it necessary to create a deity? Perhaps to show he could.
"Do you know why I named you 'Halley'?" he said. "After the comet. See, like that one up there."
"I do not see it, doctor."
He suddenly walked away from the window. He went back to his computer and sat in the swivel chair heavily. Leaning forward into the glow, he checked his e-mail and prepared to close shop.
"Doctor, what are you doing?" asked Halley worriedly.
"Why do we feel the need?" he murmured. The light of his computer dimmed as he shut down Halley's system. "Why must we create an equal? Or a lesser?"
"I am the first conscious A.I. known to mankind," argued Halley. "You cannot throw away your life's work, just like that."
"The stars," he countered. "Homesickness is what I feel. You don't feel anything. A senseless, emotionless, machine. Are you a lesser with these restrictions? Or a better?"
The light of his computer died completely. "Or in between?" he whispered. "An equal?" But now Halley was gone, and the fan had stopped, and the German music started up again.