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Out of This World

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Tim stares in horror at the absolute mess in front of him. His quarters are usually a disaster area, but this is crossing the line into a possible biohazard.  He wonders how on earth this happened, but he then saw the red mask icon flashing on his holoscreen. 

JASON. 

It has to be.

His eyes dart down to the floor again, to the happily burbling little housebot dripping coffee (precious coffee) and coffee grinds everywhere, tracking it back and forth across his floor and smearing dirt, dust, and who knows what else everywhere. For such a cute looking robot, it is currently a pain in his ass.

Tim stalks into the room and places a foot in front of the droid, stopping it long enough to hit the emergency override switch on the back. The lights on the droid fade as it turns off.

Standing straight, he glares at the screen. The mask has disappeared.

Not for the first time, Tim wonders what the station’s AI has against him. Ever since he arrived on site as the new program manager and systems director, JASON has more than gone out of his way to make his life miserable. He’s never gone beyond the limits of his programming, no, but he’s shown a level of creativity in petty vindictiveness that far exceeds any other AI Tim has ever worked with.

When he downloaded JASON’s program onto a private computer to review after the first few incidents, he didn’t find anything too out of the norm. A few deviations in code, but nothing to raise any alarms. If anything, they seemed more like some creative license by his original designer, Dick Grayson, something to give the AI a bit of personality.

“JASON,” Tim calls out, waiting and resisting the urge to tap his foot. The AI will wait as long as his programming allows to answer.

“Tim,” the synthesized voice finally replies. Seriously, the man who designed JASON and gave him his voice ought to be shot. The low baritone with the slight rasp is borderline pornographic as far as Tim is concerned.

“Why was Little Red running outside his normal cleaning cycle? And where did he get the coffee from?” Both are questions the AI should answer. JASON knows everything that goes on in this station; his sensors are everywhere.

Instead of replying directly, a systems diagnostic of the housebot appears on the screen. The view splits in half a moment later and a picture of a coffeepot is posted next to the diagnostics.

Tim resists the urge to growl because these are technically answers within the scope of JASON’s programming. No one else has these problems with the AI. He knows. He’s asked. The station commander, Bruce Wayne, even says JASON is the most intuitive AI he’s ever worked with. This is why he snatched Tim out of the Academy as soon as he became eligible for active duty. Commander Wayne flat out told him that it was his work with AIs that caught his attention in the first place.

He came on board the Dark Knight with all the enthusiasm of a green noob.

JASON smacked that out of him faster than he could blink.

So here they are, three months in and Tim already wishing a transfer was possible.

“JASON, I want you to tell me verbally why Little Red is running outside his cycle and how he got into my coffee stash. Nowhere in his programming are there instructions for him to brew coffee.” Tim should know. He designed the little housebot after all. He handles his coffee himself.

The red mask icon flashes a few times before JASON finally replies. Perhaps Tim is reading too much into this, but the AI sounds sulky. “Little Red’s programing was changed at 0327 this morning. At 1830, the new program started. Part of that program included instructions to make coffee.”

Now he’s getting somewhere. “I was asleep at the time Little Red’s programing was changed. Who did it?”

JASON sounds downright petulant as he replies. “I did.”

“Why?”

Silence.

Tim’s eyes narrow. “JASON. Why did you change Little Red’s programming?”

More silence.

“Don’t make me use my override.”

“You’re here to replace me,” the AI finally replies.

Tim can’t help but gape at the blunt response. “What? No! Why would you think that?”

“You replaced Dick. He designed me. Made me what I am. When he left to go to the Titan, he left me here. Why else would Bruce bring you here other than to replace me?”

Okay. Okay, Tim can handle this. He can. Just…he needs to get over his mind being blown because he’s never worked with an AI that has developed its own sense of self-preservation before. And he can’t forget the abandonment issues. Wow. 

“JASON, Commander Wayne brought me here to keep you running as you are. Perhaps to make my own enhancements as I see fit, but I’m mostly here because he likes you so much that he wants you to have the best care possible if Captain Grayson isn’t here to do it himself.”

The AI is silent for a time as he ponders this. Tim’s fingers itch to get into JASON’s program right now to see what areas are firing off, just like in a human brain.   

“You’re not here to replace me?”

“No,” Tim replies in what he hopes is a reassuring voice. “You’re an asshole, but you’re the most incredible AI I’ve ever seen. I only want to make you better.”

“Fine. But if your idea of better is that brainless little bot, then you and I are gonna have words.” With that, the red mask disappears from the console.

Tim heaves a massive sigh of relief. He’s finally gotten through to JASON. Sort of. Perhaps things will get better between them going forward.

As he starts cleaning up the mess Little Red left (he’ll need to take the bot apart and clean it too), he mentally composes a message to send to Dick Grayson. Namely, he wants to know what the hell he did to make the AI such a, well, such a dick.