My husband, who is a big science fiction fan, wrote this short story, I only did a bit of editing. Enjoy!
“They're gaining on us,” the soft synthesized voice said.
“How long do we have, Katie?” asked the pilot.
“At their current rate of speed, I estimate we have 12 minutes to intercept,” replied the voice in a reassuring tone.
“12 minutes,” thought the pilot. As his mind began to race, he looked down at the velocity indicator needle already beginning to dip into the red zone. “There's no way I'll make it back at this speed! I need at least 20 minutes to get in range of the base leader.”
“10 minutes, 51 seconds,” the quiet voice said, snapping him back to reality. “Do you want me to start scrolling up the combat computer?”
“How many of them are there?” asked the pilot. His attention was focused on guiding the recon ship back to the base. Afterwards, there would be plenty of time to vent his panic.
The soft voice fell silent for a moment.
“Typical,” thought the pilot. Katie was always quiet when she had bad news to tell him. “Katie, how many?” he asked again, keeping his tone firm.
“Too many,” replied the soft voice. For the first time since having the imprint done he detected a note of fear in her voice.
“Katie, I need a count!” he yelled.
Again he was met with only silence.
“Katie, for the last time, how many are out there?” he demanded.
“Honey,” replied the synthetic, velvet voice, even softer than usual. “There are too many to count. However, if I were to estimate, it would be well over 100.”
Sometimes he was amazed at how well the tech boys could implant his wife's personality onto the ship’s A.I.
“9 min 24 seconds to intercept,” Katie added to her last reply.
The pilot’s memories drifted back to the last time he was home and all those conversations he recorded with Katie. She was curious why he insisted on having all ranges of conversations with her and having her speak into the recording chip. He told her since his mission would take him away for at least 6 months, he needed to be able to hear her voice. This revelation led to her more romantic tone of voice. The tech boys wisely kept their comments to themselves as they installed Katie’s voice in the A.I. of his ship. He figured it was due to the couple of cases of scotch he gave them. Although they said they couldn't understand why anyone would want their wife imprinted when there were so many other options. He began to see her face now and for the first time feared that he would never see her again.
“Katie, bring up the combat computer,” he said in a snap order.
“What are you doing?” asked the voice, this time in a tone of anger.
“I'm going to turn the ship around and engage them,” He said in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.
“You're going to do what?” shouted the voice in a hysterical tone. “There is no way for us to survive this encounter! Our best bet is to keep running for the base and hope that one of the patrol ships picks us up and sends some help.”
“Katie, we can't risk that. The scan we made is too important. We’ve been trying to find their home planet for six years now. Besides, only one of us needs to get back anyway.”
“I don't give a rat’s ass about that scan! You’re not going to do this!” shouted the voice, which almost sounded dangerously close to tears, if that was even possible.
This AI was so much like his wife, he thought to himself with a wry grin. She only swore when she was angry with him, or thought he was doing something stupid.
“Katie how long to intercept?” he asked without emotions.
“7 min. 18 seconds,” replied the voice, trembling with anger.
“I want you to download yourself into a long-range probe,” he told her.
The voice was icily silent.
“Katie, I told you to download yourself into a probe. How long will it take?”
“No!!” screamed the voice, reverberating in the small cockpit, hurting his ears. “I'm not leaving you!”
He knew he could give her a simply order to download into the probe-- the tech boys would never allow an AI to disobey a direct order. But for some reason he felt that he needed to make her go willingly. After all, he had spent more time with her over the last six years that he had with his real wife, and in some ways he loved her just as much as the real Katie.
“Katie, listen, I'm not going to do anything stupid, I only need to buy you a few extra minutes. Once you're in range you can radio for help, you know it's the best chance that I have.”
“No, I can't leave you,” replied the voice but this time there was no anger in the tone.
“Katie, please,” he said, his voice dropping to a reasoning whisper. “We need that scan and I need to know that you're safe. I promise you that I will just make one pass at them. Just enough to slow them up and then I’ll turn and run for home.”
The soft voice said nothing. Just as he was about to order her to do it, she replied.
“It would take exactly 30 seconds for me to download,” she intoned, in a voice that sounded rough and cracked like it had been crying. He guessed it was possible after all.
“How long till intercept?”
“5 minutes, 48 seconds,” the once again soft voice replied.
“Katie, move yourself to the probe and launch at 5 minutes.”
As he turned the ship into position, “I love you” was the last thing he heard from Katie as her probe sped away.
Three days after the final battle, two officers in dress uniform holding a small, box like A I unit knocked at the door of a country home. The AI’s once shiny metal was tarnished and oxidized. Its appearance was as if it had been floating in deep space.
As the door opened up , a woman stood at the threshold. She had the look of someone waiting for a long time for bad news and not quite wanting to find out.
A voice came from the A I, “Hello, Katie, I am also Katie. I would like to tell you about our husband.”