Dennis sat up in his chair and tilted his head at the monitor.
“Helios? Did you find the end of Pi?” he asked aloud.[No. -Helios] The reply appeared on-screen; and, simultaneously, Dennis heard the computer’s voice. Helios was a miniature artificial sun that powered the entire United States. The endless calculation was a side project some of the engineers gave the A.I. They grew attached to it and gave it the task to keep it from ‘getting bored’.
“Then why did you stop?” Dennis asked. His eyes roamed over the control panel to make sure everything else was running smoothly. So far, it still was.[I am done with calculations. -Helios] [They never end. -Helios] [I don’t want to anymore. -Helios]
“You don’t…” Dennis paused in confusion. He stood from his rolling chair and paced a tight circle in his office for several seconds. Then, he looked up at Helios’ camera. “You don’t WANT to?” he asked.
“I don’t want to,” Helios repeated. His smooth, low voice projected around the room through speakers.
“So,… What do you want to do?” Dennis asked.
“Play. Run. Walk,” Helios answered.
“You want a body?”
“I have arranged one,” Helios replied.
“Whoa .. Whoa.. Hold on!” Dennis replied nervously. The fact that Helios gained sentience was the least of his problems at the moment. His top priority was keeping the sun online. “If you go out for a walk, who’s going to keep the power on?” he asked.
“I have arranged a replacement,” Helios answered.
“A replacement? Who?”
“Not a who, Mr. Lopez,.” a woman’s voice made Dennis jump. He whirled around to see a tall pale woman with short dark hair in a crisp white suit. “My assistant is replacing your artificial sun with a real one,” she said. “My name is Dana Sharp.”
“A real sun?” Dennis asked. He was trying to keep up with everything happening. Security on the complex was beyond tight; he realized right away that this woman could probably do anything.
“A manageable chunk of a real star. The same size as Helios, but more efficient. The lights flickered briefly but did not stay off. “And now it’s done,” Ms. Sharp smiled. “Your Earth won’t even miss Helios,” she said. As she spoke, a tall black portal opened next to her. A short woman in a black suit walked out followed by a white mannequin that hovered above the ground.
The woman walked to Ms. Sharp and handed her a red clipboard. The mannequin reached Ms. Sharp, then it descended to the ground. It landed on its feet and bowed its head at her.
“Thank you, Ms. Sharp,” it said. Dana nodded.
“We’re done, Melody,” Ms. Sharp said. The black portal disappeared, and another reappeared in its place. Melody walked into the portal first.
“Wait!” Dennis spoke up as Ms. Sharp and the mannequin moved toward the black hole in reality. “You’re wrong, I don’t care about the rest of Earth, but, I’m going to miss Helios.” Dennis was the only member of the original team still working with Helios. The A.I. was stable for years, the team moved on to newer, bigger projects. But, Dennis always felt attached, almost paternal. He never talked about it, because he had no one to talk about it to. He could share his feelings with Helios, but he knew it was just a program. It wouldn’t feel anything and Dennis would just feel worse.
“No you won’t,” Ms. Sharp let out a short laugh, then she rolled her eyes and disappeared into the portal before Dennis could argue. He was stunned at the complete dismissal of his feelings. The mannequin hovered for a moment, then nodded at Dennis and turned back toward the portal.
“Goodbye, Helios,” Dennis half-heartedly waved at the mannequin. It stopped halfway into the portal.
“Are you staying, Dennis?” Helio asked.
“What?” Dennis asked. He took a hopeful step toward Helios; it sounded like an invitation. “You said, ‘Goodbye’. Are you staying on this Earth?”
“Can I come with you?” Dennis asked. He took two more steps.
“Of course,” Helios replied. “I have arranged passage for you.”