“Thank you, Marianne. I do believe that was the cruelest shower I’ve ever taken. I’m done now.”
Several hours later Deitrich was sitting on his couch watching the television. Well, not really watching. He was sitting on the couch with his head turned in the direction of the view-screen, but his eyes were not actually looking at it. Instead they were looking at what he imagined was the vague outline of a beautiful woman standing against the wall. It was Marianne, but she was holding an enormous butcher’s knife that dripped with blood. He shook his head. The stupid computer was a murderer, and he wasn’t going to do anything about it.
He sat there for twenty minutes before the computer’s voice came on again. “You have a new email from your company. Shall I read it to you, master?”
Deitrich didn’t answer.
“Understood.” The computer’s voice changed tone suddenly to mimic a high-strung official at the Data Systems company. “Hi Deitrich buddy! Howsitgoing? Hope you’re doing well! Anyway, just wanted to let you know that Eliot’s expecting lay-offs soon. Oh, and he said not to come into work. Something about the current political crisis. See you later, if the nukes don’t come!” The computer was silent for a moment as Deitrich sat, unblinking, trying to mold that image of the woman into one not holding a knife. Instead all manner of guns, swords, power tools, and crude clubs appeared in her hand. “Shall I delete the message, or would you like to put it in your ‘saved’ folder?”
Deitrich didn’t answer. He wondered briefly when his sister would call. On the news screen, various reporters were discussing the apparent end of the Council session and a confusion over what action Britain was going to take in response to the LUC’s nuclear threats.
No answer. Marianne paused the screens. “Master I cannot lie. I am programmed to tell you the truth.”
“I know. I just don’t really care about much of anything. You know I think I would have rather not known that you’re a murderer and you’re really dead at the same time.”
“I’m sorry this has caused a negative emotion in you. I can submit a request for technical support to the Helpdesk.”
Deitrich blew-out a breath and stood to watch out the grimy windows. “No thanks, Marianne. I’ll just pretend I’m not living with the disembodied voice of a murdered woman.”
Marianne was silent for a moment and Deitrich went to pour himself another glass of juice. It was still orange, and still tasted horrible. He grimaced. A strange sensation of burning upset grew in his stomach.
“Why couldn’t you just have lied Marianne? I believe I hate you now.”
“I’m sorry. I will send an error report to Versesoft.”
At that moment the phone rang. It was the most irritating sound Deitrich had ever heard, and he felt the unfamiliar sense of anger and righteous indignation swelling within him.
“Deitrich, your sister is calling.”
“Do I LOOK like I care?” Detrich’s roar was the loudest sound ever heard in his apartment.
“Her introductory note says she needs to know if the defense forces have moved out.”
Without looking up from the glass, Deitrich grunted. “I don’t know, hang up on her and just talk with me already!”
Later that day, the news reports streamed-past that Deitrich’s sister, the Democratio of the LUC, had been captured by a special-forces squad of Ops Marines sent to the moon as soon as the Council had ended its session. Apparently, when the soldiers had arrived they’d found the whole place in confusion, and the Democratio kept muttering something about how her ‘inside man’ had failed to give her the information they needed to send Earth to oblivion.
Deitrich took it all in stride, feeling even less motivated than he had been, now that his computer was both a corpse and a heartless killer. He ordered Marianne to shut-off the view screens as the sun sank in the sky, then he went to his desk. A quick flick of the handle and Deitrich retrieved a pad of designer paper and an ancient ink pen. He figured he might as well write his estranged mother and father to let them know it was their daughter who was being led-off the moon to be executed. At least someone ought to tell the truth around there when they knew it, rather than hiding it like some people!