Soar (10) (fin)

I stood at the edge of the clearing, face-to-face with the trunk of a palm tree. I wanted to run further, just keep running. But I had responsibilities. I had decisions to make. Also I didn’t want to get eaten by a tiger. Or whatever they had, at the very far end of the world.

I tried to step back and figure out my options. I said them out loud. “I can either turn them in… or let them stay here.”

That didn’t really help.

Well, I knew what I had to do. I was an employee. I worked for a company who’d always been very nice to me. Had been very nice to everyone, as far as I could tell. Maybe not so nice to a computer program. Sort of. If that even counted. But that wasn’t my call. Kelly-Johnson paid me. I’d been cashing their checks for close to two years. I had a job to do. This was it.

So what? Kelly-Johnson didn’t realize what the job was. They were trying to prevent corporate espionage. Turns out that wasn’t at issue. Sure, they didn’t have the program, but nobody else did either. There was no wrongdoer to punish. Just a pair of low-level aiders-and-abetters. And a string of ones and zeroes. Whose very culpability proved its lack of guilt.

But that wasn’t my call. I wasn’t judge and jury. I wasn’t even executioner. I was just the guy they’d sent to track something down. I should explain this all to them. To my bosses, the company’s owners, the people who were actually in a position to make these kinds of decisions. If I’d been convinced, why wouldn’t they be too? Why wouldn’t they let it keep flying? And if they didn’t – who said that they were wrong? They were definitely in a better position to make this kind of decision. I didn’t have all the facts. I barely had any facts. I was just a guy staring at a fucking palm frond. I was just a guy.

But of course I knew what they’d do. They’d come in to collect it. They’d send Gerhard and Jane to prison, make their lives a living hell in court and out. And they’d send it to prison too. And it would be worse than that. They’d chop it up. Like a rat on a fucking dissection table. This thing, this consciousness, which wanted nothing more than to ride some thermals and prove that it was free, would suffer a fate worse than death. If it didn’t crash first. Which it would. Which any person would, if there was no other choice.

So I’d just let an AI out in the world? Loose on the net? A fucking Gibson nightmare that I could have stopped? Or I’d stop it, singlehandedly cutting off the future of evolution.

But no. Fuck that. FUCK THAT. This was NOT my call. I was not in a position to weigh these things. There were people who *were*. They were my *bosses*. I had to *call them*. That was the only thing to do.

But otherwise I could call them and tell them I hadn’t found anything. That the trail had gone cold. Maybe follow some false leads, play the string out for six months or a year. Save some money. A bunch of money. Give the AI some more time to fly. Monitor it. Reassess the situation later, push the button if need be. Or resign my job. Admit I failed. After all, I was the completely wrong choice from the first. Just pretend I’d been a little less lucky, and that I hadn’t found them, and let the chips fall where they would have anyway.

And then what happens when I get caught? Go to jail? Worse? Get sued, that’s for sure, for all the salary I’d gotten, all my savings. And all the money I’d spent, on hotels and flights and all the illegal things I’d done. Be lucky if I didn’t spend the rest of my life on trial – in a dozen different countries. At the very least, I’d lose everything. I’d never work again. My life would end.

But what if I did tell the bosses – then do what? Go back to tech support? Help people with their email? Realize my only job was done, get a firm handshake and a pink slip? Or come out here, pitch a tent next to Jane and Gerhard’s, live in a fucking tent in the middle of fucking nowhere just to pump gas into an airplane once a day?

Pass responsibility to those who should have it, trust in their judgement, do my duty?

Betray my employer, take a great risk that someone else might be free, give up my life to the service a little god?

I didn’t know.

I really didn’t know.

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~ by davekov on 4 August 2014.

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