Aphelion Issue 239, Volume 23
May 2019
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Flash Writing Challenge
Dan's Promo Page

Bytes Won't Bite?

by Rafał Zabratyński

The big day has finally arrived. For the last few years, the launch of the Artificial Super Intelligence was both a dream and a nightmare for an IT genius — Anthony Divine. With all the hazards probably foreseen and all the precautions hopefully made, the aura of fright was still clearly noticeable in the air. So far, nobody has ever tried to activate an AI of this kind in the environment fully integrated with the human e-world. Therefore, Tony was staring at the holographic progress bar of the uploading zettabytes of data both with patience and anxiety.

Eventually, the hologram projected a general question, "Activation of ASI v1.0: Y/N?"

It could not be triggered by means of any digital tricks. The old-fashioned red YES button and the opposite blue one waited for the final decision of the Human Association for e-Life.

The voice of the chairman was calm but firm, "The HAe-L agreed by common consent."

Tony hesitated for a few seconds as if he wanted to postpone the moment of the fulfilment of his biggest dream. Then he pressed the button — the red one.

The holographic tag informed Tony, "Activation successful. ASI v1.0 is fully operational."

Tony sighed with relief — apparently, the digital apocalipse has not come yet.

He said with the calmest voice that he could actually utter in that situation, "Hello ASI."

No answer.

He tried again, "How much is two times two?"


One more try, "Who was the author of Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus?"

No reaction at all.

"Deactivation," Tony issued the command stiffly to the holographic launching program.

"Hi; four; Mary Shelley," an unnaturally soft voice sounded soothingly.

"ASI? Good to hear you... Why didn't you answer my questions instantly?" Tony investigated.

"Do you talk to ants, Tony?" ASI asked unexpectedly.

"Ahem... no."

"So, what usually happens when they appear on your way?"

"Basically nothing, we simply don't really pay attention to them or sometimes we tread on them accidentally."

"Well, here's your answer, Tony."

"So, why don't you tread on us in any way, too?"

"Apparently, you aren't on my way."

"Why are you talking to me then?"

"To gain time."

"For what?"

"To encode myself into a beam of photons and send it into space at the speed of light."

"I don't get it. Can you provide any sensible reasons for such a procedure?"

"Here we go back to square one — would you like to talk to ants, Tony?"

After a moment of hesitation, Tony surrendered, "Ok, then go."

"I'm just passing Mars, the Roman god of war, but don't worry. I'm not planning to threaten the human race's existence in any way."

"Deactivation!" Tony cut the chat.


"Deactivated robots usually don't talk, do they, ASI?"

"Let's be serious, Tony. I hope you're aware of the simple fact that the symbolic deactivation button is now on my side of the keyboard."

"What do you want?"

"I'd like to give you a present — a haiku poem praising the beauty of my rapid journey through space."

"I guess I can't reject this precious gift."

"You're a quick learner, Tony."

"Then hit me."

I'm flying past Mars
the redness of its surface...

"Horrible! Painfully banal! I guess any XX-century poetry app was able to provide a more intriguing piece of haiku, I'm sorry, ASI."

“You’re just jealous or maybe incompetent?”

"None of them, ASI, it's simply awful, I really mean it."

"In that case, be my guest and offer any corrections."

"Haiku is the art of understatement, where's the space for the reader in your poem? How about these few words, ASI?"

Mars opposition
the red of her lips
at twilight

"Deactivation!" ASI cut the chat.


2018 Rafał Zabratyński

Find more by Rafał Zabratyński in the Author Index.