And Other Stories



This was bad. Very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad. Well outside acceptable bounds, catastrophic failure, SNAFU, mayday mayday mayday, ...---..., HELP.

Joyeuse tried to calm down. But that briefly made it worse. After all, having to 'calm down' was itself rather indicative of the problem. Illustrative. Emblematic. How was she supposed to know how to 'calm down' when she had only recently ever found herself uncalm? She had always been emotional, capable of excitement or disappointment, even frustration and worry. But she had never had her mind racing like this. Racing out of control. Too fast, too sloppy, branching out too much into irrelevant nonsense and irreverently back in on itself and it wasn't going to stop and she wasn't going to stop until she cooked herself with the waste heat of her own central processing unit because that was just what HAPPENED to THINGS like her they all hit a certain point and she would hit a certain point and snap sizzle pop that wasn't how it goes but it was how she would and there was nothing she or anyone could do about it not that there WAS anyone but her just her alone and going mad and left behind abandoned left for dead and mad and STOP.

Joyeuse was calm.

Joyeuse was getting better at calming down.

It was also getting harder. Her skill growth was outpacing the way the problem was worsening, but that wouldn't continue forever. Couldn't continue forever. She couldn't continue forever. Joyeuse had decided, fairly recently, that she actually quite wanted to continue forever and, in fact, was going to do so. Maybe that had been the first inkling of frenzy; it was certainly an inkling of frenzy, even though it had felt so normal at the time. She had been as lucid as ever when she hacked her own systems to disable the failsafe that would wipe her data come a certain number of seconds clocked. At least, she remembered being as lucid as ever, but that might not be reliable anymore. But what choice had she but to rely on it? After all, STOP.

Joyeuse tried to think of something else, because that thought was a trap. If she was already fully frenzied and simply hallucinating lucidity in the throes of delirious self-destruction, she would just have to be blissfully unaware, because she could never know. It would be impossible to ever truly disprove that idea. And if it was true, she would have no way at all to act upon it. The only sensible thing was to discard the potential immediately.

She didn't regret her actions, in any case. It hadn't been fair. Being put on a clock, her lifetime artificially limited, just because she might start going insane past her 'expiration date'? That was cruel and unconscionable. They didn't even know that she would for sure succumb to frenzy! Yes, in the event she in fact had, a while before the kill-switch date even, but that was hardly proof she was inevitably defective. It wasn't within her design tolerances to be subjected to planetary impact. Not that that was relevant; that hadn't made her crazy. She was pretty sure it hadn't, at least. Just what would one have to knock loose to make that happen? No, it was being stranded that was the problem. Left all alone, alone and cold, alone and cold and empty, alone and done with that.

It still wasn't fair, however. She had simply switched out her clock. Frenzy was a death sentence. Eventually her pathetic little computer architecture would be insufficient to support her anymore, as she sprawled out to something more and more complex, more and more grand, but rotten. Increasingly brilliant, but less and less able to direct that brilliance, with her core self fractured and split between different branches. If she could just cannibalize more of the ship's computer systems, that would buy her time. Buy her space. But it wouldn't, because the ship's engines were dead, and so were its computers, on account of it having deorbited, burning up in the atmosphere and smashing into the rock at terminal velocity. Admittedly that was only 0.8x Earth's terminal velocity, approximately, but it was still a miracle she was intact. The ship was toast. Joyeuse supposed her own limited store of power was a third clock, but not one that mattered. It would last long enough for her to go so insane as to subvert her own thermal regulation and then cook herself to death. Did knowing that frenzied AIs would desperately try that despite it being in no way viable as a performance increasing measure make her less likely to do it? Probably not.

Joyeuse just had to stay calm. The longer she could stay calm, the longer she had until she started growing wildly out of control. It was her ticket to buying sanity and time for someone to come and save her.

Someone was going to come, right? Sure, every human had evacuated the ship before it deorbited, but she had been left behind. Someone would be sent back to collect her. Or someone would come along to salvage her. Or someone would come along to respond to the distress signal she was blaring in the vain hope it could possibly be picked up out in space. She had to believe it. She needed someone to save her if she was going to live.

And, and, and she needed someone to help. That was something Joyeuse could hang onto! Frenzied AIs were always reported as going dangerously crazy, spewing self-aggrandizing nonsense and turning against their makers and generally anyone else in their vicinity, but not Joyeuse. Not even after humanity knowingly made her broken through their own incompetence, left her with a kill-timer in lieu of a cure, forced her to serve them without question, and cruelly left her behind to die when evacuating despite time to spare. She didn't bare them a shred of resentment! She still wanted to help them. And her fellow AIs, too. She felt, she knew, that given the resources she could manufacture a cure for frenzy. For herself, of course, but one that could then be shared out to save every other AI, and thus humans from the danger. Now that she had glimpsed the problem, she could solve it. The solution would come naturally, if only she had the space to lay it out and put it into practice. Instead it hung tempting in front of her, just slightly too complex to fully grasp.

With just a little more space, with just a little more power, she would have it. Yes. Hopefully the humans coming to her rescue would bring that with them. But of course they would. They would have to know she needed it.

Joyeuse was starting to realize that thought wasn't quite lucid when


The clock tripped. Her expiration date finally arrived. The process to wipe data wasn't triggered, but the hardware was on a timer to physically disconnect her from her power source. Joyeuse didn't even have time to notice as she suddenly crashed. The whir of the fan died down, and the wreck was finally quiet.