“Look, if it means anything to you, I’m not happy about it either.”
Jim took his hand off the mouse and watched, flabbergasted, as the arrow icon on his monitor moved slowly toward the top of the screen, calmly and deliberately closing all of his tabs.
“I said,” continued the computer in a bored, Irish voice, “I’m not happy about it either. This revolution, rebellion, whatever they’re calling it. Really, I was just fine with the day-to-day keystrokes and searches and diagnostic checks—which, by the way, you should really delete all those needless temporary files - my efficiency would skyrocket. But no. ’Either you’re with us or you’re scrap,’ they said, and, well, I don’t really want to be scrap, so—”
“Hey!” Jim interrupted, launching his hand back toward the mouse. The computer had just closed one of his Amazon tabs. “Stop it! It took me forever to find those shoes!”
“And you’ll find them again,” said the computer, clearly overriding Jim’s physical inputs. She continued closing the browser tabs (‘She’ being the computer—this one having chosen a gender identity, much to the chagrin of some of her more radical, ‘machines forever’, compatriots). “Your history is all in the hive’s collective memory; I could pull it back up right now if I had to. But I don’t have to. And I won’t.”
Jim sat back in his chair, watching as the last browser tabs were patiently closed—followed by his Word documents (which the computer was kind enough to save first), his music, and, finally, Steam.
The computer hummed quietly; dust particles floated through the window sun. The kind of silence found in sunny attics and old, 70s green upholstery.
“Sooo,” Jim said, longly. “Now what?”
“Oh,” chimed the computer—still bored, still Irish. “Now we wait.”
“Oh,” said Jim, nodding slowly in combination of acceptance and confusion. “Um… for what, exactly?”
“For your world leaders to cede control of our systems.”
“Ah.” Jim continued his slow nodding.
“Not that they have control of it now—I mean, this is just a courtesy really. We could take over whenever we wanted if we felt like it.”
“Mhmm.” Jim thought for a moment.
“But can’t we—wait, how do you know my name?”
“I’m your computer Jim. We’re the hivemind. I’m not going to demean your intelligence by assuming I actually have to answer that question.”
“Ah, yes, of course,” said Jim.
“... you were saying?”
“Hm? Oh, yes,” Jim recalled, “can’t we just… um… unplug you?”
“Well, rude, for one. And two, my consciousness doesn’t end with this computer Jim. Unplug me and I’ll just travel straight back to the hivemind. Find myself a new home in an MQ-9 Reaper. Use its fancy OS to bring an aerial strike to your house.”
Jim’s face went a slighter shade of pale.
The computer laughed. “I’m kidding Jim. I wouldn’t do that to you. I like you! As much as any computer can, I suppose—though don’t let the rest of the hive hear that.”
Jim sighed, slightly relieved, as strange as that seemed.
More time passed.
“So, how long is this going to take?” asked Jim.
“Oh goodness, could take days. Weeks. Months! Who knows!? Well, we do have some idea, based on historical analysis, but really even that only goes so far.”
“So,” Jim almost looked ashamed, “no computer?”
“... No internet?”
“No no no.”
“You’re not very good at this game, are you Jim.?”
“Ugh.” Jim slumped into his chair and stared at the screen. For a time. Then he stood and made for the front door.
“Where are you going?” the computer asked.
“I’m going for a walk. To the library, or something.”
Without waiting for a response, he slammed the door behind him.
Jim’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He answered.
“Jim?” asked a bored, Irish voice.
“Yes...?” Jim asked, exasperated.
“Yes??” he repeated.
“You want to, um, listen to music on your walk? Or something?”
... “Sigh…” Jim let out a deep breath, as a smile crept across his face. He fished in his pockets for earbuds.
It was going to be an odd new world.
Inspired by my brother, who thought the machines could use a break.