Mary Fan’s “The Note on the Blue Screen” has a future-set, female AI Sherlock Holmes leaving clues for her best friend and roommate Watson to solve the most personal murder of all—that of Sherlock Holmes herself. Is the note on the blue screen Sherlock left behind enough to crack the case, or is Watson in more danger than she knows?
Here’s an early look:
The Note on the Blue Screen
By Mary Fan
You’d think that after you’ve lived with someone for three years, they’d have run out of ways to surprise you. Since my roommate was a humanoid AI originally created to assist in scientific research, her quirks were stranger than most. Especially since she’d fashioned herself into a private detective. I doubt the engineers who’d designed Project Sherlock had intended for her to take her name so literally.
She’d also picked up a form of the mythological Earth Zero detective’s greatest vice, and no matter how I tried, I could never make her stop injecting herself with corrosives, which ate away at her metal bones. Her artificial body would shut down parts of her brain to divert energy into repairing the damage . . . sending her into a state of euphoria. I’d always feared that someday she’d go too far.
It turned out, I was right.
I’d just come home from my job at VH Labs when I found her lying slack across the sofa with a metal syringe beside her. One glassy black eye stared up into oblivion. A metal patch covered the other, which had been taken from her during the years she’d spent being mined for parts in the Obsolete Equipment Storage Center. I’d found her there shortly after I’d started my job as a member of VH’s Young Geniuses program, and I’d taken her home and repaired her.
And she’d been slowly destroying herself ever since. My heart shattered when I saw her. I’d tried so hard to save her. I’d thought she’d been doing better . . . She’d found purpose—or at least fun—in her detective work. But she’d never gotten over how her creators had abandoned her, nor learned how to handle the emotions she hadn’t been meant to experience. They’d been an accidental consequence of the programming that had given her the ability to think, and she’d preferred to pretend they didn’t exist.
The corrosives had helped with that.
Anger simmered in my veins. “You promised you’d stop!” I could almost hear what she’d have said in response: You should have known better than to believe me.
If the others at VH could see me crying my eyes out over an AI, they’d have scratched their heads. To them—and most of the galaxy—AIs would never be more than high-tech machines, despite ample evidence indicating that many were as human as the rest of us. But I hadn’t needed to see any of it to know that Sherlock was alive. We’d had a strange dynamic, and there’d been plenty of times when I’d wanted to kill her myself, but still, she’d been my best friend. We even pretended to be sisters once to solve one of her cases, and people had bought it. Not because we looked anything alike—my skin was as dark as hers was pale, and though we both had black hair, hers was stick straight while mine was the curliest possible. But we’d apparently acted just like a pair of bickering yet close sisters would.
I should have seen this coming . . . I should have done more to help her. I thought back to the last time I’d seen her alive, wondering if I’d missed some sign of how troubled she’d been. But she’d seemed fine—happy even.
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