To read from the beginning: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, and part seven.
A chill ran up Amanda’s spine. A new life form? Nathan held a hand up to interrupt. “Leo, let her tell you about the nightmares.”
“I’m sorry, dear. Go on,” Dr. Knight said.
“Every night, after Brian asleep for a while, he’d begin to thrash around. At first, it was just tossing and turning but then it started getting worse about a year ago. He would punch and kick like he was fighting off an attacker. He… he hurt me. It got so bad I had to start sleeping in another room.” She touched her healing nose. “This time was the worst. He broke my nose. And finally, that convinced him to go see the doctor.”
Dr. Knight sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. He looked at Nathan and back at Amanda. “I am sorry, Amanda. Believe me, I am not unsympathetic to your experiences. And I realize that giving the AI’s their freedom was a risk. I’m still convinced it was worth taking. I can’t bring them back here to be destroyed. The director doesn’t just want me to fix this fault with the sleep cycle, he wants them reprogrammed to be cold, emotionless killing machines.” He shook his head. “And now… now they have lives. How could I possibly take that away from them?”
Nathan said, “Leo don’t you see how dangerous it is for the AI’s to be on the loose? They could hurt someone else, maybe even kill someone unintentionally. We need you to bring them home. Amanda is all the proof you should need. Their fate at the hands of the agency is certainly better than the one they might face at the hands of the police or even an angry citizen.”
Dr. Leo Knight laid his hands palm down on the table and stared across at Amanda’s bruised face. “I realize that. Believe me, I am frightened for them, but bringing them back just to be purged… I can’t do it, Nathan. It would essentially be murder.”
“Can you fix the fault?” Amanda asked. “Do you know what causes it?”
The doctor nodded slowly. “Yes. Well, I assume so, at least. I would need to access the program while it’s running, but that’s besides the point. The director would never allow it.” He sighed heavily. “And I’m afraid that for as long as I refuse to comply, or until the other AI’s are somehow recovered, I’ll be kept locked away in this room, unable to continue my work.”
Amanda looked at Nathan. “You said they were being reset to the default program. What does that mean exactly?”
“It’s the original program designed tor military use. It’s still adaptive, so the ‘mercy’ aspect will eventually surface and make them unfit for use in combat. But the ‘memories’ Dr. Knight gave them will have been wiped out. The rest of the AI team is trying to find a way to disable it but no one knows the program like the doctor, so his help would certainly expedite things.”
Amanda swallowed hard. “And then what happens?”
Nathan frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Will they ever let him go? For that matter, what about me? Am I ever going to be allowed to leave?”
“Ah, I understand your concern. Rest assured Amanda, you are not in danger.”
“Really? I find that hard to believe. When you’re finished with me, you’re just going to let me go? Knowing what I do about this, this… program? And how am I supposed to explain to my family and my friends what happened to my husband?”
“Brian will suffer a fatal accident, yet to be determined. I’m very sorry,” he added softly at her look of anguish. “But a plan is in place for your return to a normal life. Providing you agree, of course. As with many government agencies, their employees are given security clearances and must keep the nature of their work and their employers’ work confidential. This is what the director has in mind for you.”
“Are you serious? You’re offering me a job?” She shook her head to clear it. “And if I don’t agree?”
“It’s really your only choice, Amanda,” Nathan said grimly. “The agency must keep you close. But they will also compensate you very well.”
“So I come to work for you or what? I suffer a ‘fatal’ accident, too?”
“No, of course not. We aren’t murderers. But I’m not sure your life would be worth living. Suppose you tried to go to the authorities or the news media with this story, do you think anyone would believe you? The minute anyone looked into your background, they would find a history of mental illness and criminal activity. Your current job would be lost, and your chances of finding a new one nearly impossible. I’m afraid you would end up homeless, penniless and alone, Amanda. You have no idea how far reaching the agency’s influence goes.”
“He’s right,” Dr. Knight confirmed. “If you acquiesce, then hope remains alive.”
Nathan spoke softly again, “And besides, if you remain on the outside, you can help. If you agree, place your left hand on the table.”
What choice did she really have? Amanda slowly laid her left hand on the table and waited.