Friday, 4 April 2014

Friday, April 04, 2014 -


by John Benson
Published: Feb 28, 2014
Words: 24,753
Category: fantasy
Orientation: M/F
Click HERE for further details and purchase options.

"Oracle 12.2 restarting... ready," the Old Thing said in a young woman's calm but thrilling voice.

Finally. Finally it had absorbed enough sunlight into its decrepit power cells so she could try again. Brianna swallowed hard. "I'm tired of my life," she said. "Tired of being a party girl. I want work. A sense of purpose. But when I bring it up to Papa, he brushes me off. He doesn't think I'm ready."

Why did she bother, really? The last time the Oracle had rebooted she'd told it the self same thing and it had said 'How nice for you,' and turned itself back off. But still she waited, breathlessly, heart pumping double time. And this time the Old Thing answered.

The Wizard paced the three by three meter hovel he called an office, hands behind his back. "It's somewhat of a misnomer, you know," he said. He reached a hand's breath of the far wall and wheeled. There was something a bit disreputable about the Wizard, but there aren't any reputable Wizards left, these days. And the Oracle had been quite clear: you know what it is you're missing, it had told her. Go tell it to a Wizard.

"Beg pardon?" said Brianna, trying to be polite.

"An artificial conscience," the Wizard said. "Conjures up the idea of some great moral calculus we could embed inside your head so you'd become an expert in philosophy. Isn't that way at all. More just self-awareness, really. You won't have any moral qualms you wouldn't have had otherwise. Merely be more aware of them. Have to come to grips with them, couldn't pretend they weren't there. Are you sure that's what you want?"

What she wanted was to convince Papa she was ready. "I think so," she said. "Help focus the mind, at least."

"There's side effects to self-knowledge," the Wizard said. "You could become so indecisive you were dysfunctional."

That made her smile. "If I'd started out too thoughtful," she said. "But people say I'm impulsive. Slowing me down a bit isn't going to hurt."

"And you sure there's enough credit in your account to pay for the process?"

"Not a problem," Brianna said, now grinning from ear to ear.

It was dark. She felt a tickling inside her mind. "Pass one complete," a woman's voice said. "Calibration complete. Please select mode." It was the same voice as her Oracle. The voice of the Old Things.

"Default mode," she heard the Wizard say. "Give her what she needs most and don't be gentle."

"Commencing pass two," the Old Thing said, and Brianna smelled fear and tasted regret and felt helplessness and lust.

"A Wizard?" Papa said. He was looking straight at her and hadn't touched his wine. For once she had his full attention. "You went to see a Wizard? What, cure your lack of a love life, finally?"

Brianna flinched. "No. An augmentation of conscience, Papa. I want work. You think that I'm not ready. Well, dammit, I'm trying to make myself ready, okay?"