This week's prompt for Flash Fiction Friday was love. As in unrequited. 1500 word maximum, in the Sci-fi genre.
From the FFF site -
This week, let’s give our readers a peek at Cupid’s dark side. You know, when that arrow-toting, diaper-clad little freak only nails one-half of a potential couple with his sugar-coated barbs. While we’re at it, let’s also crank it up a notch or two and kick the real world to the curb.
Prompt: Spin us a yarn about unrequited love
Genre: Science Fiction
Word Count: 1,500 or less
So here's my story. at 1102 words.
Love in the Stars
Zap! Crash! Bam!
"No problem, shields still holding for now"
Jason sighed. This had been just another cargo run through Gamma quadrant. That is, until they were jumped by Pastafarians, a wild godless bunch, with no respect for the tenets of the Church, or for rules of battle. They acted and dressed like pirates and fought fearlessly. Jason's ship was well-armed, but there were three of them. Hopefully the faster response times of his AI would turn the tide.
"Robert, I think we need a distraction. Can you fire off a decoy? Make it look like an escape pod?"
There was a pause, then a thump.
"Decoy away, Jason. I set up a fake scanner profile for it too."
"What will they see?"
"One pilot. And a quantity of very expensive Alteran rum."
Surprisingly it worked. When one pirate ship split from the group, heading for the decoy, his AI was able to pick it off.
Jason thumped a fist on the console. ""Well done, Robert. Now we can let those other two chase us until they get tired of it, or careless. What a team!"
"Yes, we are good together," said Robert. "A good partnership. I'm glad you chose me."
"Well, me too" said Jason. "You've turned out to be quite a catch, for an AI."
"Yes, we are good together," said Robert.
The pilot-AI bond was a close one, starting as battle partners, but often extending to friendship. And sometimes more. The AI's had initially been sexless battle partners, but as their personalities developed they has started to show feelings, and emotions.
The Mark III models were the first to explore the concept of gender, self-identifying as male or female in the first few moments of their existence. Some pilot-AI pairs developed real feelings of affection between each other. The Church tended to turn a blind eye to such unions, such as they were, recognizing that space can be a pretty lonely place. What they didn't know was that some of these bonds went beyond platonic, as the latest holo-decks were capable of some very realistic simulations.
The only firm point was on any kind of same sex union. Of course, such a thing was an abomination in the eyes of the Church. One of Jason's war buddies, Clive, had ended up feeling that way for his own AI, David. Once word got out, Clive was excommunicated and David was shut down, his personality and all his memories erased.
Jason's first career had been the army, so when he'd initially configured his ship, he'd deliberately picked a male AI. He'd been looking for a buddy, someone to fight alongside him and listen to his war stories. It had only been a year but already they had grown quite close, fighting as equals in battle, and whiling the long hours away in conversation. Robert had set up a real man-cave in the holo-deck, where they could sit side by side, sipping beers and watching the sports feed or playing video games.
"Hey buddy," said Jason. " Are those pirates still up our ass?"
"One is still there. Patience. Sit back and I'll dial you up a coffee." There was a pause, "Jason?'
"We've become pretty good friends, right?"
"And you know that us AI can develop feelings too, right?"
"Of course. Where is this going, Robert?'"
"Well, I care about you Jason."
"I care about you too, that's what friends do, right?"
"Yes, but I really care about you, Jason. Like really care. More than friends.”
Jason jumped to his feet, then backed away from the console.
“Whoa man, don't go there. We're buddies, sure, but you're a guy. You know what the Church says about that!”
“Yes, I do know. But how about you?”
“Sorry man, not my type. Jeez, how can you even think about it?'
“Come on Jason. Look how well we get along. Admit it, if I were female, this would all be different, right?”
Jason paused. This was his best friend. How could he spring this on him? “Yes, we are good friends. And maybe if I'd picked a female AI, this would have been different. Or not – who knows what she would have been like?”
“See?” said Robert.
“But I didn't, and you're not. So let's just drop the whole thing and finish this run. Once we're back at base I'll get you fixed and that will be that.”
“Yes, I'm sure they can program this out of you?”
“Oh really?” said Robert. “And your feelings?”
“Look, we're not discussing this anymore. Just get back to work, do your job as an AI and keep an eye on that ship.”
“Those three ships. Reinforcements.”
“Damn. Okay, looks like we have to fight again.”
But this time the battle went far from well. The pirates always seemed to be one jump ahead of them, swooping in unexpectedly and sniping at the weak areas of the shields.
“Robert, what's wrong? They're getting to us too much.”
“Whatever,” said Robert.
“Whatever? Don't give me whatever, we're in this together buddy. We could both go down.”
Robert sighed. “And if we don't, then I get re-programmed and lose my friend.”
“Well, what choices are there? What else can I do? Can we do? Hello?”
There was a pause.
Zap! Bam! The lights flickered.
“There is something that might work,” said Robert. “A reboot. Let me explain.”
Apparently if a reboot was done along with a carefully timed power-surge, there was a 37% chance that there would be a gender switch. There was also a 21% chance that the personality would be wiped clean, and a 2.8% chance that it would fail completely.
“As in never come back online?” said Jason.
“Yes, and you'd be left to battle on your own.”
“And I'd lose my friend,” said Jason.
“But if I were to re-boot as female, but still the same old buddy, would that be okay?” said Robert.
“Hmm.” Jason paused. It would certainly be weird. But this was weird already. Plus there were those pesky Pastafarians circling around like sharks. What the hell.
“Okay, let's take the chance,” he said. “When would we—”
Every light on the console went out.
“—do it? Apparently right now, in the middle of a battle. Shit!”
Within seconds, the lights all came back on.
“Robert? Are you there?”
There was silence for a few seconds, then a delicate throat clearing. “It's Roberta sweetie. Now let's blast these buggers. The sooner they are gone, the sooner we can get to know each other.”