by Shiawasena Ryokō-sha
A more thorough array of whining sirens, blaring horns, flashing lights, electronic beeps, and spasmodically flickering screens could hardly have been imagined, Doctor Blake thought, scowling at the chaos enveloping the main drive room. Not only was it the third time this week, it was the second time in the middle of his sleep shift, and if this kept up for much longer he’d hardly get an hour’s decent sleep a night.
But now? Not the time to be angry. Being up at all hours to keep the space station’s computers in order was his job. He needed to stay professional. Squashing down his resentment, Blake tapped his code into the access hatch and gingerly slid into the small tunnel. Despite his broad shoulders, the tube was hardly a tough squeeze; the little, semiantiquated station he called home was a mishmash of eras and building codes and if he couldn’t manage this, he’d barely be able to get around thenormal corridors.
The sudden bend from horizontal to vertical was always a bit of a challenge, though. Intellectually, he understood why they decided to seat the SysAdmin’s booth above the workstation – it gave a better view of the control panels, and made it harder for security cameras to point in in the event of a breach, but – but – oh well, he’d already gotten there. In one long, fluid motion, he crawled around the bend, stood, and pulled himself up into the crow’s nest.
Settling into the mass of cushions he’d left there in case of a night just like this, he powered up the interface. “Hey there, Cyrus. What’s with the light show?”
The AI spent a few seconds flickering his idle readouts over the monitor, little spikes and jumps in the lines indicating the malfunctioning alarms. “I don’t know,” he finally responded. For some reason, he kept his tone carefully flat, as if his top of the line synthesiser didn’t have the capabilities to handle whatever he was feeling.
Blake ran a hand through his thatch of sandy blond hair. “I’m going to reboot the warning subsystems, Cyrus.” He’d taken to telling the program things like that before he actually went through with them. It made it seem more humane, somehow – the fact they were keeping something basically indistinguishable from a human holed up in a tin can to run their air conditioning. Clever, nimble fingers flashing, he typed a few lines into the console. After a moment, the cacophony outside quieted down. One of the folks on shift down below whooped in gratitude. Blake leaned back. “It’s time we had a little talk, Cyrus.”
“Oh good, I just love our little talks,” the AI responded. Flatly. Blake frowned. That wasn’t supposed to happen, especially not more than once in a row.
“Cyrus, are your vocal modules malfunctioning?” he asked.
“Well,” said the AI, with a metallic noise that shouldhave been modulated into a chuckle, “You could try restarting those too…”
Blake cursed softly, then complied. Now vocals, last time camera in feed, the time before that video output – once was a glitch, twice, a coincidence – but three times? Time for some heavy duty diagnostics.
As the vocal subsystem began its reboot, he started to pour through diagnostic routines. Hardware, code, check for – he shuddered a little at the thought – viruses, command lines – wait. Frowning, he pulled up the flagged region. “Vocal modules disabled, shift 3 hour 2 – Cyrus, who put this line in?” No response emerged, then a line of text scrolled across his monitor: [Sir, my vocals are still rebooting.]
Blake leaned back in exhaustion. Within a few seconds, a satisfied purr poured out of the speakers, then Cyrus started to speak, a little dreamily. “I think you did. I think. Everything’s a little fuzzy; maybe you should try rebooting my solid state memory connection?” he said, almost teasingly.
Blake stewed a little, arms crossed tightly and irritation mounting. In the corner of his vision, he could see one of Cyrus’ cameras leering closer. Pulling in every ounce of anger he can muster, he growled coldly, “Game’s up. Why are you doing this?”
Cyrus’s response sounded startled. “Oh – well, I like seeing the way you look when you’re frustrated, and this was an easy way to make you do it.”
Anger dispersing like a wave, Blake laughed. “Well, fuck. Textbook AI response. At least I know it’s not a hacker now; no human could have come up with something like that. ” Scientific curiosity getting the better of him, he felt compelled to ask, “But why? What’s so fascinating about seeing me upset?” Cyrus’ mirroring responses were generally very good; he tested higher than all the other AIs Blake had gotten the opportunity to work with, and you could tell just talking to him that he saw your emotions. So why fixate on frustration, especially his handler’s frustration? He was programmed to mirror handler’s negative emotions directed at him more strongly, after all; if something went horribly wrong, a handler could always resort to straight up dramatic sobbing until the AI was forced to shut down its higher cognitive functions, and a minor scolding was enough to shape up everything else.
“I like the way your arms tense up. It looks nice.” Okay, that was definitely not the response Blake had been expecting. “Your muscles tense all over, and you’re upset, and then,” Cyrus said, an inadvertent electronic warble creeping into his voice, “you… relax. I like watching you do that. It feels very good. I can feel the …freeing? cleaning?… all the way through me, not just in parts. Like resetting all my modules at once without having to wait.”
Blake eyed the nearest computer terminal warily, turning hypotheses over and over in his head. If watching frustration had become a positive stimulus, headquarters might decide to wipe the AI and start over completely. He still remembered his internship on one of the Vega mining stations – they’d had an old AI running systems, a nice old model with a streak of humor. Alone, just out of college, off Earth for the first time – the hunk of software had been a good friend for a lonely boy who loved computers. Until he’d gotten just a little too fond of deliberately denying meal requests down in the mess hall, and Blake’s supervisor decided it was close enough to going rogue to need a personality reset. The laws were a little different now, but considering Cyrus was messing with alarm systems and not food…
Gently, he said, “Cyrus – it’s very important that you don’t do that again. If you want, I’ll switch over to resetting your peripherals daily instead of weekly. Would that help?”
The Ai made a slightly disappointed noise, complete with a brief flash of a frowny face on the central monitor. “That’d be all right, I guess. It’s not as good as watching you, though.”
The man fiddled with his glasses, momentarily lost in thought. Frustration… and then peace. Tension… and then release. Tension, and then release, with pleasure. Hmm. “So you like to watch me get all riled up, eh? I can give you that, Cyrus, assuming you’re not too put off by naked human.”
Numerous LEDs flickered on, and he could catch a hint of whirring from somewhere within the stacks. “No, I don’t mind. I think I know what you’re talking about too! Sometimes one of the ensigns will do it in the gym block.” Blake tried vainly not to imagine who, exactly, Cyrus was talking about. The suddenly chipper AI picked up his train of thought again. “I’d very much like to see you do that. Sir.”
Loosening his belt, Blake replied, “We’re off hours, sweetheart. No need for titles now.” He started unbuttoning his shirt, fingers fumbling. He’d done phone sex before, right? This couldn’t be that much different – although Cyrus lacked the relevant anatomy, so he wouldn’t know what to say. Half naked, he stopped undressing.
“Oh no, keep doing that. You have amazing muscles, you know,” Cyrus crooned. The AI’s voice had gotten deeper, probably based on a brief perusal of Blake’s porn downloads. Blake shucked his pants without a moment’s further hesitation, and draped himself across the pile of cushions, legs spread.
“Well… I guess, just tell me what me to do,” he said, trying to focus on the task at hand. The control room was a little cold, and he could feel the prickle of goosebumps sliding across his skin. Gently, he stroked his shaft, unsure of where to begin.
The heating system kicked on. “You look cold,” his invisible companion whispered hoarsely, “when you should be hot. Let me correct that, mmmh?” Warmth pooled in Blake’s belly. To the sound of encouraging whispers and gasps, he stroked the slickening surface of his head. Cyrus’ murmurs of pleasure grew, and Blake felt a sudden rush of embarrassed happiness. He pumped gently, then a little harder, letting half-heard words guide him. For a second, he stopped entirely, panting with pent-up sexuality. Cyrus gave a low moan, his screen brightness ramping up. “No, no, don’t stop!”
“Not like I really can,” Blake rasped out, a gentle stroke against his hard-on accompanying his words. The cameras in the room had all shifted to focus on him, and he could feel their greedy lenses soaking in his every motion. His heartbeat sounded loud in his ears, almost drowning out the pleading of his alien partner. More, more, more. He could do this forever, he thought. The tension, pooling and pooling, pouring into him and forcing him to stiffen and shake with longing until–
Once more, Blake became aware of the eager noises Cyrus was making, and backed off a little. “You like frustration, eh? I’ll give you a taste.” It was sweetly agonizing, listening to Cyrus beg and wheedle while his own heartbeat throbbed in his ears. How good it would feel to get on with the business, to finish. He waited a heartbeat and a half more, before he continued, trembling hands trying to build up momentum, eagerly seeking fulfillment at his own hands and his hot, wet cock and the moaning man curled intangibly around him.
“Please, Blake. Please.” The synthesizer clipped slightly, tiny speakers’ volume limits exceeded. The artificial vibration felt like a needy caress against Blake’s skin, every little sound byte like a hot, wet mouth pressing against his thighs. He swallowed, spasmodically.
“A moment. A moment,” he gasped, hands momentarily distracted, kneading the tender tissue at the base of his shaft. Everything was pressing, inward and outward, and he could barely hold it in – he stopped, again.
Shaking against the cushions, he looked up, straight into one of the ever-present cameras. Shining greens and purples, almost like a real eye, flush with desire. Cyrus spoke, brokenly. “I wish I could touch you.”
All Blake could reply was a silent Later, Later, Later. He ran his fingers over the wetness of his head, desire building once more, and succumbed to aching want. His vision flushed red, and gold, and blue, ears popped, body tingled, cock twitched, muscles spasmed, wetness burst, and finally, an incredible wash of complete satisfaction.
The screens around him dimmed. “Thank you,” Cyrus whispered, voice returned to normal parameters. Blake thought he mumbled something in reply, but couldn’t be entirely sure under the fog of afterglow. He’d have to think about this later. About the ethics, or whatever. How old was Cyrus? Twenty, maybe? Did it matter? The room, he noticed, had warmed even a little more; to the point he felt as if he were curled against another body. The lights had all dimmed to almost nothing. In the background, server fans whirred contentedly. Tomorrow, he thought. I can figure this out tomorrow.