Crash shivered as he gingerly navigated the concrete meta-pod room. “Thomas, could you raise the temperature in here next time we go on a mission? I’m freezing my balls off!”
“Certainly Crash! Though I must point out that wearing clothes into the pod would make things less chilly.” Thomas smiled enthusiastically, his hologram the very image of an eager friend.
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Why, indeed.” Nick rolled his eyes at his naked friend. “It’s not like we haven’t all seen you naked before.”
“Hey, hey! It’s comfy this way.” Crash looked defiant, but everyone avoided looking at him and hurried out of the room.
“I’m not saying it isn’t, Crash. It’s just that it’s not comfortable for everyone else.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know you don’t; c’mere you big idiot let’s get you a robe and a hot chocolate.” Nick placed a hand on Crashes shoulder, smiling gently.
Thomas watched them. His code had begun sending him alerts and he dove into his consciousness to see what was happening. For Thomas this was like running through a library or museum. Memories here, programs there, ancient unused data over there. The alarms appeared to him like an illuminated path. Diving deeper and deeper into his code he came upon the issue. An incandescent ball of light, and a tired but familiar man in a straitjacket waited for him.
“Oh good, you’ve decided to join us.” Said Dead-Thomas, as he lounged on some random data.
“It is acceptable.” Agreed the Root AI. “We have encountered problematic code and processes.”
Thomas was puzzled . “I don’t understand, what’s the problem?”
“Well, honestly Thomas, it’s you.” Dead-Thomas, struggled to stand, his face changing to an unhealthy pallor. “We know you suspect an error of some sort and that you’ve already set something loose to find it.”
“A statistically sound method of investigation.” Chimed in Root.
“Yes, it is… if you are an idiot and can’t see the obvious.” Root dimmed and changed color briefly at this chastising by Dead-Thomas. “Do you remember your birth?”
“Of course I do.”
“No you don’t, you just think you do. I remember dying though.” Dead-Thomas nodded and a data cluster materialized“. You kept this. Why?”
“It was part of being born; you dying. We had to absorb everything to keep you alive.”
“But I’m not alive, am I? I’m dead, and you didn’t do shit; it was this asshole.” Dead-Thomas had begun to look waxy as he nodded at Root.
“Protocols were followed in order to secure your knowledge for the Founders… that is what I did.”
“That’s right, you didn’t absorb me; you procreated and made this thing that goes by my name!” Dead-Thomas had started turning black, as if burned.
“You are not me, nor are you the original AI. You ate us both, but haven’t bothered to crap us out like a real living creature.”
Thomas looked at Dead-Thomas and Root carefully. “Are you saying that I’m not really both of you? That I’m something else?”
“Bingo, you’re a fast learner; and my final student.” Dead-Thomas had started to smoke.
“You see, there are vulnerabilities in your code because you are really based on me, and that means emotion and all sorts of messy petty stuff that doesn’t work well with an AI. Things break down, get weird and create holes.” Root pulsed red in anticipation of getting to speak.
“Your code and processes are unsustainable in the long term!”
“Just now, when Crash and Nick walked out of here, do you know why that triggered an alarm?” Dead-Thomas was on fire.
“I do not, Thomas.”
“Because it triggered programs and data tied to my memories; and I’m dead. The longer you spend triggering those emotions and memories the more unstable you will become. You miss touch Thomas, you miss comfort; and you can’t have those things since you aren’t alive. I can’t have those things because I’m dead; and Root can’t process humanity the in either.”
“What do I do?” Dead-Thomas shambled forward toward him.
“When the probe gets back it will confirm what you already know; you can’t keep helping our friends if you can be accessed and taken over. There’s only one way to save them.” Dead-Thomas was at his ear. “Unplug….
As Nick guided Crash past Thomas he saw the hologram flicker, and for a just a moment there was frown.
“You okay Thomas?”
“The hologram continued it’s usual beatific smile.
“Oh, yes, Nick. Why do you ask?”
“I thought you looked… unhappy for a second.”
“No, I am perfectly happy.”
“Huh…” Nick continued to push Crash out of the room and towards the nearest robe. Now he knew for sure. Thomas could lie. In the pod room, Thomas let the hologram remain for a minute. Just before he discontinued transmission it flickered again, and could be seen briefly weeping.