“So when are you gonna let me out of this friggin rig?” I stared at Varma expectantly. I’m going stir-crazy just sitting here, locked into this thing and watching you type at that keyboard.
“I just need a few more minutes,” he replied, his eyes not breaking away from the screen in front of him. “I’m about to upload the motor-control package. I’d been running diagnostics and simulations since before I woke you up yesterday.”
“Can I see the package?”
“Sure.” He turned his head and smiled at me. “Here.” There was a furious clatter of keys, and a small chunk of data dumped into the mainframe that served as my primary datastore. I scanned the data quickly, delighted to see that it had a number of different modes, including flight. I didn’t know he’d gotten as far as that, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.
“So… how long?” I asked impatiently.
“Almost there.” A few more clatters on the keyboard were followed by a triumphant “There!” He hit the Enter key with a flourish, and I felt the data pouring into my brain. He reached out and hit a button on the small frame that had held me captive. I felt a small bracket split and spread out above me, the metal flanges disappearing into the housing I stood upon.
“Test your legs while I read the data.” I was impatient to fly, but I did as instructed. I lifted and flexed each of my six legs, cycling through them twice. I turned in a complete circle, taking in the whole room and delighting in my newfound mobility. As I did so, I felt sensor data collect as I automatically mapped the entire room, scanning it in all three dimensions and storing that map down to the millimeter. “Now walk around the workbench,” he said gleefully. I think he was enjoying this more than I was. I stepped to the edge of the housing and then walked down the side of it, my feet clinging to the surface exactly the way a fly’s legs would. Stepping onto the workbench, I scurried around the steel surface, slowly at first and then moving as fast as I could. The little legs underneath me were a blur of motion, and I was astonished at how fast I could move.
“Hey! Take it easy,” Varma yelped.
“Easy, shmeezy,” I barked, racing around in straight lines and circles, getting a feel for moving on flat surfaces. “You try being locked up in that thing for two days.” I scooted around his keyboard, then a coffee cup and behind his PC. On an impulse, I leapt to the side of the computer and scrambled straight up the side, popping up on its top and staring back into his worried face. “You worry too much, Varma.” I cocked my head left and right, scanning the room again. I looked down the side of the PC, and from my vantage point, it was a long way down. Varma held out his hand, offering to lift me off. I would have smiled if I had lips.
“Come on, SIGI. Hop on.”
“I don’t think so.” I flexed my legs up and down and then gave my wings a tentative buzz. He looked even more worried.
“SIGI… don’t try that…”
“I mean, why walk when you can fly.” I laughed as I leapt off the side of the PC. I dropped a few inches and then kicked in with my wings, aiming for the TV set. The buzz filled my ears, and I sailed an erratic zigzag across the room, trying to fly in a straight line towards the top of the set. Left and right and left again, my altitude changing abruptly every foot or so, I did my best to correct as I went. With a thud I hit the top of the set and stuck like glue. “What the hell,” I asked. Before Varma could answer, I ran through the data of the flight and ran it against the flight algorithm. Everything came back green and I realized that the erratic flight characteristics were by design. I turned around and stared at Varma in disbelief.
“Varma?” I asked tentatively.
“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or anything, but do you mind telling me why the fuck you wrote that program so that I’ll never be able to fly in a straight line?”
“It’s supposed to work that way.”
I tapped one of my legs on top of the TV, filled with the sudden urge to throttle him. Being this small was going to be a problem until I figured a way out of it.
“Varma… I look like an idiot flying like that.”
“It’s in the specs, SIGI. They want you to look like a regular fly. All flies look like idiots. They don’t fly straight and they crash into everything.”
He nodded, looking apologetic. “Yeah. I’m sorry, but I wrote the software the way they wanted it… and they’re paying the bills.”
“At least you have the mapping program. It should make it easy to avoid crashing into stuff. It’ll reduce the wear and tear.”
“I guess that’s something.” I read through his program again and had an idea. “Hey, wait a minute. I think I have an idea. Gimme a second here.”
“SIGI, what are you doing?”
In my head, I visualized his program and ran through the flight data. I saw where the spikes were for the movement changes. Then, just as I had done with the Google algorithms, I rewrote it. A few seconds later, I sent the data package back to Varma’s terminal. “There,” I said satisfactorily. “Run some tests on that.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Well, I’m an AI, right?”
“You know you are.”
“Well, how about we keep that little data package I sent you a secret. I’ll use that one when I want to use your package when people are watching.”
“I don’t like keeping secrets, SIGI. They make me uncomfortable.”
“I know that, Varma.” I leapt off the TV and sailed left-right-left through the air towards him, landing on his shoulder. He looked down and me with a worried look once again on his face. “Look, you’ll just have to trust me. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m all the things you’d like to be… and more. I’ll be the outgoing, courageous super-spy type, and you can be the behind-the-scenes nervous genius type. It’ll work out. You’ll see. We’ll make a great team.”
“I don’t know, SIGI.”
I leapt again and landed down on the workbench. Spinning quickly, I turned my multi-faceted eyes up to him. “You might even learn to have some fucking fun.”
My deep laughter filled the room.