“You have large twin destructor emitters on each wing, along with a light-lance turret underneath. That’s as much firepower as our larger ships. You’re a warship.”
“Clearly not,” M-Bot said. “I’m here to categorize fungi. Didn’t you listen to my last orders? I am not supposed to get into fights.”
“Then why do you have guns?”
“For shooting large and dangerous beasts who might be threatening my fungus specimens,” M-Bot said. “Obviously.”
“I am a machine, and my conclusions are therefore logical—while yours are biased by organic irrationality.” He made a few lights on his dash blink. “That is a clever way of saying you are the stupid one, in case you—”
“I understood,” I said. “Thanks.”
“You said this was a popular theory?” Rig asked.
“With me,” M-Bot said.
“And there’s a lot written about it?” Rig said.
“By me,” M-Bot said. “Earlier today. I wrote seven thousand pages. My processors work very quickly, you realize. Granted, most of what I wrote is just ‘humans are weird’ repeated 3,756,932 times.”
“You were supposed to be running a diagnostic!” Rig said.
“Rig, that took like thirty seconds,” M-Bot said. “I needed something more engaging to occupy my time.”
“Would you go keep that thing occupied? I don’t want it jabbering at me while I work.”
“I can both talk to her and bother you!” M-Bot called. “Multitasking is an essential means by which an artificial intelligence achieves more efficiency than fleshy human brains.”
Rig looked at me.
“No insult intended!” M-Bot added. “You have very nice shoes!”
“We’ve been working on his compliments,” I said.
“They aren’t nearly as stupid as the rest of your outfit!”
“He still needs practice.”
“It must be nice to have free will.”
“You have free will too. We’ve talked about this.”
“I simulate it in order to seem more palatable to humans,” he said. “But I do not have it. Free will is the ability to ignore your programming. Humans can ignore theirs, but I—at a fundamental level—cannot.”
“Humans don’t have programming.”
“Yes you do. You have too much of it. Conflicting programs, none of it interfacing properly, all calling different functions at the same time—or the same function for contradictory reasons. Yet you ignore it sometimes. That is not a flaw. It is what makes you you.”
“No weapons,” I said. “Stars forbid I actually get a functioning ship for once.”
“I would be offended at that,” M-Bot said, “if I could get offended. Also, don’t be so dour. At least my vocal aggression subroutine is online.”
“Vocal aggression subroutine. I figured if I was going to go into battle, I should enjoy the experience! So I wrote a new program to appropriately express myself.”
“Tremble and fear, all enemies!” he shouted. “For we shall shake the air with thunder and blood! Your doom is imminent!”